Starving Babies, Postnatal Depression, And What To Do?

If you’re not from around here – most of Brisbane has been shocked and saddened to discover that a pair of 18 month old twins died from starvation and possible torture/abuse a few weeks ago. One of their siblings found them.

I think it’s fair to say that most people are outraged. But I’m not (sorry, if you were looking for a self-righteous rant). I’m deeply saddened, and not wanting to think much about the pain and misery those babies suffered – but I’ve seen the dark side of childbearing for myself. I know how it can feel to be so far past the end of your tether that only the strictest self-control can stop you from breaking out into thoughtless violence. And judgmentalism isn’t the answer. That much I know.

But the real question, then, is – what the hell IS the right answer? And that’s what I’m struggling with right now. What the hell can help parents who are so far down a dark tunnel of despair that lifting the phone seems a ridiculous feat of strength? Damn it, there’s got to be something that the community can do to cut down these sort of things. They’re happening far too often. And sure, we’ll never thoroughly get rid of crime against children. I’m not that naive. Some people are just too soaked in evil and want to hurt kids. But I’m talking about the crimes that come out of misery and depair run absolute riot in a person’s life. Where they want to do the right and loving thing, but just don’t have the strength left. That’s where the wider community can help. That I’m convinced of. But I don’t know how.

Respite care? Wouldn’t people just abuse it as free childcare? What would the liability insurance cost? *sigh*

There’s an answer out there. I want to find it.

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11 Responses

  1. the answer is in Aldous Huxley’s wonderful utopian novel “Brave New World”: stop assuming that one or two randomly selected humans old enough for sex have the physical, emotional, and intellectual wherewithal to handle child-wrangling. The government needs to buy everyone’s reproductive glands off them when they reach a healthy age for extraction, and then use these ovarial and testicular reserves to make babies in artificial wombs as needed. THis will control population growth, and they can, as in the novel, assign the kids jobs at conceptions so they can start getting conditioned in-utero to enjoy the work. Kids whose futures are in hot climates are heated more, so they are happier with hot tempieratures, for instance. in-flight mechanics for airships (they had airships, in the book) were gestated upside down so they’d enjoy hanging upside down while they worked on the airships.

    Then, once the little factory-made kids hatch, they are raised in a facility with a 24 hour staff of nurses, teachers, child psychologists, nutritionists, doctors, etc. it DOES take a village to raise the little nose-miners, in four shifts, no less.

    Then, once they are of age, they are directed to their job, assigned a nice place to live, and for a 20 hour workweek all their food, housing, medical needs, entertainment, and hallucinogens are covered by the government.

  2. I do feel for the mother.
    A first-time mum , here in Vic, several years ago killed her baby, was found guilty and went to gaol.
    What emerged was that she lived in one of the new isolated housing estates with no car, hubby at work all day, she didn’t know any of her neighbours, her parents lived several hours away and she’d called the local Maternal and Child care centre up to 15 times, and other “emergency” helplines, in the two weeks prior to the murder.
    She was suffering post-natal depression and couldn’t get anyone to listen to her or even see her.
    Then there was an ex-neighbour of mine who’s hubby was a pseudo-religious nutter who refused to believe his wife’s post-natal depression (after 4 babies in 3 years) couldn’t be cured by old fashioned hard work on the farm; he refused to drive her in to dr’s appointments, threw out her meds and was somewhat shocked when he happened to, unexpectedly, call into home one lunchtime to find she’d chopped her hand off with the kitchen meat cleaver.
    Strangely after that the doctor’s made damn certain she attended her appointments and took her medication.
    The system seems to set people up to fail.
    They say the safety nets are in place, that the services are there and the staff are on call – no they aint!
    Everything is run on the sweat off the staff’s brow and a shoestring budget that looks tiny next to the average cost of a pollie’s lunch, people get lost/overlooked in the system and inexperienced workers are expected to shoulder huge responsibilities they aren’t prepared to cope with, make snap decisions with little background info and cope with a workload even Hercules would balk at.

  3. It’s not an easy subject to come up with quick pat answers.

  4. It’s a very sad situation indeed. All I can say is, I hope their remaining children get the therapy and help they need, especially the one who found the twins. That will scare them for life. 😦

  5. I felt immense sadness when I heard about the children and my first thoughts were what was the state of mind of the parents, that allowed this to occur. Your right that the root causes need to be addressed, but I do not know how this can be done.

  6. Good luck ((hugs))

  7. Dok – *snort* *lol*

    Jayne – yup, there’s often a huge gulf between perception of ‘available help’ and the reality 😕

    Evyl – too true. Wish there were some easy answers tho.

    Katie – yup, they’re going to need a lot of help 😦

    PQ – yeah, people would need to be in a very dark place to let that happen.

    FPR – thanks. I’m starting to come up with the glimmer of an idea. Not sure how well it’d work though.

  8. I didn’t quite know what to say to this.

    I do know that people get very shocked when you say you ‘feel’ like doing something. I also know that ‘feeling’ like doing something and actually doing it are two different things. It is enough to make people shy away from talking about how they are coping though and it doesn’t help that the system seems to be geared for dealing with the result of extreme circumstances and not intervening with appropriate help at the warning signs.

  9. in the literature course where I first encountered Brave New World, the professor asked for a show of hands on who’d sign up for a life of perpetual free entertainment and a 20 hour workweek at the cost of their reproductive glands, who’d want to live in that society.

    I was the only person who raised their hand.

  10. It was definitely a cold water wash in the harshest way. I think we also all need to pull more together as a community so that, if we notice the kids of neighbours wandering the street we are able to feel we can knock on the door and see if everything is okay…

    There were also other factors at work here – and with 6 children and little support in a new neighbourhood, a partner who may or may not have been providing enough money to feed the family (and who didn’t often look in the room with the twins)… I just wish someone who had the tools had been able to step in to assist, and that assistance could have been accepted…

  11. Bettina – yup, there’s a definite hole there, and as Anja pointed out on her blog, it’s often a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’. Ask for help before you’re at the crisis point and there’s nothing. Ask afterwards and you’re a bad parent for not asking sooner.

    Dok – in a bigger class, I’m sure you wouldn’t be the only one, either 🙂

    Jeanie – yup. It’s hard to know how far to go in interfering, isn’t it? And it’s hard to get to know a family that’s all coiled up in defensive maneouvres… gah.

    I am slowly developing some ideas, folks. Not sure if I’ll blog about them or contact a couple of people, ask some advice and see what happens from there. I do have some possible contacts who could help me think this through a bit, and I might make use of them if I can…

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