Motherhood. A state considered by all to be the most sacred of the female being. The word alone carries so many implications, such as infinite patience and understanding, comfort, nurturing and most of all, unconditional love. Ask anyone if he or she thinks that a mother would sacrifice anything and all to protect her children and they will reply, without any hesitation, yes.
Then why did Andrea Yates decide to drown her five children in a bathtub on that hot summer evening this past June in Houston?
Although the Yates case generated an overwhelming amount of media ruckus and national intrigue, horrific images of the World Trade Center crumbling into ruins quickly buried hollow-eyed photographs of the homely suburban housewife into the deepest depths of CNN.com's archives. But as Osama bin Laden makes the world wonder at how barbaric human nature can be, my thoughts can't help but revert back to Yates, 37, dressed in orange prison garb, trying to explain the reasons behind taking her small children with her bare hands, forcing their heads under water and watching them flail and suffer till they died.
Yates's plea is insanity, specifically, postpartum-psychosis, a rare condition experienced by fewer than one in 500 women. The condition goes far beyond the crying fits and ice cream binges of postpartum depression (commonly called the "Baby Blues") endured by over 80 percent of women who give birth. According to George Parnham, Yates' attorney, at the time his client committed the murders, she was highly delusional, consumed by her fragile emotional state and completely unable to discriminate between right and wrong.
I was actually with my own mother when I heard about it. We both said, "Bullshit, send this deplorable creature to the electric chair and let hordes of demons have their way with her from there." Whether or not a jury will agree with us has yet to be seen, but practically every Internet public message board on the subject seems to be on the same wavelength.
But then the facts unraveled. Yates attempted suicide several times since she first married her husband Russell. Although these attempts are certainly nothing Mr. Yates could have possibly prepared himself for, there are records of his wife having suffered from depression since she was much younger, forcing her family and close friends to cope with a woman who was generally described as an emotional and mental basketcase.
When assessing the facts of this case, one must also note that the ages of her children: Noah, 7; John, 5; Paul, 3; Luke, 2; Mary, 6 months. This means that this highly unstable woman gave birth to her five children in time spans of less than two years between each child. Thus, Yates's body and mind had no time to recover from the hormonal imbalances and physical trauma that accompany giving birth before she found herself pregnant once more.
In addition, Mr. Yates described his wife's behavior in the weeks leading up to the murders as increasingly "robotic" and "withdrawn."
Although I feel an overwhelming amount of sympathy for the grieving father who was forced to lay his pride and joys to rest I cannot hold back some feelings of anger. Mr. Yates knew that his wife didn't have all her screws in place and that she had proven to be, on more than one occasion, to be a clear and present danger to herself and those around her. Such a woman is highly unfit (for lack of better words) to have children, let alone five in such a short amount of time. Instead of coming to terms with these facts, Mr. Yates kept on pumping his wife full of babies, completely disregarding highly apparent signs that she was on the verge of another (and far more extreme) mental breakdown.
It's time to face the truth, America. Infanticide is not just about baby girls in China murdered in order to comply with legal birth limits or indigenous tribes in Africa and South East Asia ridding themselves of children whom they have no resources to feed or care for. Andrea Yates, along with Susan Smith, a woman who murdered by pushing a car containing her two sons into the depths of a lake in South Carolina in 1994, were white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant "soccer moms" from middle America.
We must learn to recognize that this atrocious black sore on human nature is present and prominent in what we call our modern, "civilized" society. In order to stop it, we must try to understand the factors behind it, however senseless and incomprehensible they may be and move forward to end this unspeakable act of violence and evil. By isolating these cases into the gaze of news camera lenses and then throwing them to the sleazy front pages of tabloids, we only do injustice to the victims of infanticide and those left behind to mourn them.