Should We Be Sympathizing With Moms Who Murder?
It was very late the night I read about the little boy found dead on the side of the road. I had been checking my Facebook updates when one surfaced, a story about a little boy between the ages of four and six was found dead on the side of the road in Maine. Of course I clicked through to the story and as I read I cried for this child and his family.
Maybe it was the description of the clothes he was wearing, “He was wearing a gray camouflage hoodie, tan pants and black sneakers adorned with the character Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie “Cars,” or it was the way he looked, “He had blue eyes and dirty blond hair,” that made me weep for this boy or it was the fact that no one had reported him missing or that no one knew his name. Whatever the reason, I found myself crying over this child and what might have happened to him and what he may have been thinking in his final hours on earth.
Was he scared?
Did he know the person who did this?
Was he in pain when he died?
Did he suffer?
My first instinct was to pray that his family was okay and that they were found quickly. I wanted to help so I did the only thing I felt I could do at that hour, repost and share this information with all of my friends and make the information viral.
It never occurred to me that not only did little Camden Hughes (the boy’s real name) know the person who murdered him but he died at the hands of his own mother, Julianne McCrery.
Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Each one of those feelings ran through me as I read the developing details and first few accounts of the story. Julianne called him out of school and reported him sick so of course no one would notice the boy missing. She then went on a cross country trip from Texas to New Hampshire/Maine and checked into a hotel where it’s thought Camden was killed by his mom.
But this isn’t the first time that a mother took her child’s life.
I remember Susan Smith, who trapped her two sleeping boys in the backseat of the her car and then sunk it into a nearby Lake and then fabricated that she was car jacked and her boys taken from her. She lied about the truth for nine days before finally confessing.
The names of mothers committing infanticide keep coming though:
Marybeth Tinning – Over 14 years killed all nine of her children including an adopted son. She was only convicted of one of the deaths and was denied parole each time she was eligible, most recently in January 2011. She will be eligible again in 2013.
Casey Anthony – The trial for this 2008 murder just started. Little Caylee’s remains were found in a wooded area not far from the family home. Right now the defense is trying to (or was trying to, I’m not sure since I haven’t read the updates this week), plead that the death was an accidental drowning in a pool. I believe that there is so much to uncover in this case that when it’s all said and done, we’ll all feel a little more sick and robbed of our perceptions of mothers than we already do.
But there’s one murderous mom that stands out to me, more than the others that I’ve read about. Her story haunts because as it was unfolding I was just beginning to embrace motherhood myself:
Andrea Yates – drowns her five children, one after the other only hours after her husband left for work. In each death she held her child face down in a tub full of water until they were dead. When only her oldest, seven year old Noah, was left she called for him to come in to the bathroom where she was with his six month old sister who had only been drowned moments before. Once Noah realized what was happening, he fled the bathroom and Andrea chased him down and brought him back to the bathroom where she struggled with him, even hearing him tell her that he was sorry (for what I still wonder) and left him lying in the bathtub water filled with vomit, feces and urine.
What a way for a child to die. What a horrible, horrific way. When I think about Camden, I wonder if he apologized to his mother too? Did little Caylee cry? What about the Smith boys, did they wake up as the car filled with water? Were they scared when they realized that their mom wasn’t with them?
I have such mixed emotions on this subject. The maternal, mothering side tells me that these women, each and every one of them, should suffer the same fate as their children; in fact, I’m offering to hold Andrea under water myself and please let me release the brake in Susan Smith’s car while we’re at it.
Then there’s another side of me who can if not relate, at least understand what it’s like to experience postpartum depression, feeling as though you just want to vanish, be it by running away from the situation or the stress and I know I’m not alone with my experience of postpartum depression either. It’s because of those experiences that I know mental illness is real and it’s scary and it can take over your life. It’s because of my own experiences and the experiences of those that I’ve talked to since then can I say that it’s not unrealistic to believe that a mother could kill her own child.
But nonetheless, the rational part of me and the sympathetic depressed mother I have been in the past fight on a constant basis over if these women deserve my sympathy or my celebration when they are brought to justice; be it a lifetime prison sentence or their own death.
In reading some of the comments on the mothers who kill their children, I feel like I’m watching a train wreck, horrified at what I read but drawn to it and nodding in agreement nevertheless. Take for instance this woman’s remarks about the fact that mothers killing children is more common than we think:
“and you wonder why I’m pro-abortion. Better 1000 aborted fetuses than one abused child. Every child loved. Every child wanted. Every child eagerly anticipated by responsible parents.”
Even though I don’t have her same beliefs I can nod my head in agreement that every child that is born is wanted and every parent willing and able to take on that task. Yet at the same time I am nodding my head over this comment,
“It is hard to be a woman, harder to be a mother. Sometimes I just want to quit the life I live, quit my mom, my significant other who is a jerk sometimes, my demanding job, everything but then I stop and breathe and think to myself, my kids love me unconditionally and will always and they depend on me. Sometimes I want to run away but then I tell myself of course I have to take my children. Haha, then I am right back where I started. I don’t know what my purpose in this life is. I find myself thinking I need to change the world, somehow make an impact then dummy me I realize, I am. I am changing my children’s world/life so for now that is all that matters.”
Am I the only one who struggles with the need to feel sympathetic towards the moms who have claimed insanity or mental illness as their reasons for murdering their babies verses the urge to bring about the same horrific end to their life that they forced upon their own children?