Friday, February 01, 2008

When Crime Collides With Writing

Friends and family often send me articles about mothers who kill. Why? At one time, when I was learning about infanticide and its causes for my book, this was depressing research. Now it is merely depressing. The story is almost always the same. Only names and dates are changed.

A mother killed her x-month old child today.

Relatives were stunned and shocked.

Her spouse/boyfriend said he noticed she seemed more withdrawn lately but attributed it to “hormones.”

This is the xth tragedy of its kind in the U.S. this year.

According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for children under four.

Eleven women are on death row in the United States for killing their children

Today, someone forwarded this article ( ) to me that included one exception: a solution. A solution for those family members who feel helpless about ways to care for a new mother in crisis.

The solution: Crisis Nursery Centers

Here’s what the Sacramento Crisis Nursery center featured in this story says of its organization:

"The Sacramento Crisis Nursery offers a safe haven for children 5 years old and under whose families are facing a crisis. The nursery provides both emergency daytime care and overnight stays for up to 30 days.

Many of the clients who utilize the crisis nursery's services do not have extended family in the region and feel isolated in their situation ... "We think a parent is a hero to children when they can identify that they need support and help," Roy Alexander [Chief Financial Officer of the Sacramento Children's Home] said.

The crisis nursery would like to reach out to new mothers and groups that deal with postpartum depression. "We encourage mothers if they feel like they really have the blues and they're concerned about their ability to continue to take care of their child that they'll call us very quickly," said Alexander.

Can I get an Amen?


For me, I am thrilled today to not only emphasize the need for families to be vigilant in observing and helping mothers suffering from post-partum depression or other illnesses that might cause a mother to harm her child. Today, I can also offer information that might save a life.

Here’s a link to a list of all known centers nationwide. Share it.


Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY: the story of one man's struggle to understand his wife's sudden descent into madness and murder.

1 comment:

Cheryl Tardif said...

This kind of service is long overdue in the US AND Canada. Not only do the kids need to be cared for but new mothers should be monitored more closely. Fathers too. And people need to be educated more about post-partum depression--how to recognize it.

If I had known, I could have saved a life. I have carried this with me and buried it for many years.

Almost 20 years ago, I was good friends with a woman. We shared a blossoming friendship and our husbands worked in the same field. When she had her first child, I visited her many times. Some days she seemed happy; other days she seemed sad and tired. I had no idea what post-partum depression "looked" like, so I accepted her excuses.

My friend seemed to get upset when her son cried. Many new mothers do. Often while I was visiting, she'd bring him down for a short time. But once he started fussing, she'd take him back to his room.

One day I noticed she had a metal contraption in his crib. She told me that the doctors had suggested she strap her baby's legs into it to keep him from kicking and hurting himself. What did I know?

It was many years later that I learned of this boy's horrible death. I think he was three. But he didn't look like a three-year-old. He had been repeatedly beaten, often kept tied down and muffled with a sock in his mouth, and starved to death. By BOTH of his parents.

People I had known. People I had had dinner with, gone shopping with, had baby days with (my daughter Jessica was born just before John).

I read this post of Karen's when she first posted it. I felt so much shame I could not respond. I read it again tonight and felt compelled to comment.

This "friend" of mine and I parted as we each moved around a lot. I don't think I was there when her son had his first birthday. I never kept in touch with her after we left.

I knew her husband too. He seemed like a hardworking man--"normal". But my "friend" sometimes made me shake my head. Soemtimes she would say things that just didn't sound like a loving mother should.

I think she had post-partum depression and it led to a complete mental breakdown. I won't excuse her. I can't. I know what it's like to lose a child. I lost my first child--a son. He only lived for 4 hours and then died from a brain aneurism. No warning. I was devastated.

How anyone could willingly sacrifice a young life in such a horrible way is beyond my comprehension.

So I have to could this woman do such horrible and cruel things to a baby, a baby who was deprived of love, caring human contact and the basic needs of human life? How could she continue to do this for 3 years? How did she get away with it? Why didn't someone else know? Why didn't another friend come forward and get her help?

Any form of depression is such a deadly insidious beast. And I think it can turn insane...inhumane. Was this woman rational in what she did?

Both she and her husband were sentenced to prison. That's when I found out. Living on the opposite coast I came across a new report and just about passed out when I heard the names. And then the guilt set in.

That poor, poor baby boy.

I'm so sorry, John.