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A recent tragic event: Mother accused of killing three children in Massachusetts
The Culture War angle: Following this event some TikTok accounts have released videos in support of the mother and voicing concern over mothers and their mental health, leading to discussion. Examples: https://postimg.cc/NKpX61ty, https://postimg.cc/vxT8d6jK, https://postimg.cc/CnnyNC9w, https://postimg.cc/8FvttKzK, https://postimg.cc/TK6wKhWK, https://postimg.cc/K3cXXSKv
Considering the nature of the crime I find the wording in the TikTok's off putting. This isn't phrased as something the mother, Lindsay Clancy 'did'. It's something that 'happened to her' and that she 'needs support'.
On a tangential note: This reminds me of an older sex war question surrounding female violence towards children and how women are treated in society. Specifically the terminology of SIDS. Sudden Infrant Death Syndrome. Which became a notable issue when multiple women who murdered their own children ended up, after a few years, being released scot-free. Neven Sesardić, a Croatian philosopher, wrote a very interesting article published in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Specifically relating to Sally Clark, a woman in the UK who was accused of murdering two of her children, and some relevant statistical analysis that cast aspersions on the validity of SIDS as it was relied on by expert witnesses to defend Clark in court. Along with leveraging statistical critiques against the Royal Statistical Society.
The tangential relevance here is whether or not Lindsay Clancy will be afforded similar legal leniency on top of everything else. Though with the hellish nature of the crime, one could only really hope for punishments that far exceed all the comforts that a lifetime in a women's prison will afford her.
This reminds me of another recent tragic event. A new mother in Italy fell asleep while nursing her baby. She had been left alone in her hospital room with no one allowed to visit or help. While asleep, she crushed and killed her newborn.
This tragic event has lead to a large number of Italian mothers talking about how they had been in similar dangerous situations. When they asked for help from medical staff, they were told that other mothers are able to take care of their newborns after childbirth, the mothers need to stop being lazy. This was after major abdominal surgery (C-sections), medical complications of blood loss, etc.
Pregnancy and the post natal period is really hard on a woman. The hormone changes are immense. Mom Genes is a good book to read on the topic, but to give it the personal angle:
The first night we brought my first baby back from the hospital, I remember her staying awake all night, eating. I couldn't put her down. I had trouble getting out of bed. I sat there in the long hours of the night, my husband asleep next to me, and sobbed as quietly as I could manage. I didn't want to be a bother and wake him. I didn't know how I could live another moment without sleep. I had just gone through a physically exhausting and torturous experience. I had torn myself while giving birth to the point they had to cauterize my clitoral hood. I needed rest and healing. I was mommy now and had to do it alone, like all the pioneer women before me. I felt like I had made a huge mistake. My husband needed to rest. He had stayed up at the hospital the night before. I wasn't ready to be a mom. I didn't want to be a bother.
In the morning my husband took the baby away from me and we settled into sleeping in shifts. Nursing meant that I never got more than a couple hours of sleep at a time, but eventually I began to heal.
There was a moment several months later when my daughter choked while drinking milk and I just kind of sat there, staring at her. "She's not breathing," I said aloud, emotionless. I didn't move her into a better position or do anything. My husband came over and held her on his arm, whacked her back like the baby heimlech. She cleared her passage and started eating again like nothing was wrong. My husband thought I panicked and froze. I can't actually remember what I was thinking at the time, but afterwards I connected the event with my thoughts and emotions on the second day of her life - that I wasn't ready for a kid, that I should have waited for a better time.
The next time my daughter choked while nursing I held her on my forearm, jaw between my finger and thumb, and firmly wacked her on her back with my other forearm, just like I learned in lifeguard training a decade prior. I didn't freeze. I didn't ponder deep thoughts. I was her mother and her only defense against a harsh biology that wants infants dead.
My second child was much easier the first three months, though I became depressed the second three months (a depression that went away by eating fermented food. What's up with that?). My third child also went well and I was actually filled with immense energy the two weeks after his birth. Then I noticed that I had lost both all religious feeling and all belief in the legibility of the universe, rationality itself. Both senses came back around his first birthday.
The point isn't that the Boston woman was correct to kill her kids, or does not face some sort of culpability for killing her kids. My point is that the post partum period is weird and has unpredictable effects on a mother's brain. We can probably find better ways to make not killing kids attractive to psychotic mothers. Does society have a responsibility to do so? I don't know. I don't think that the threat of being locked up in prison is enough incentive to someone whose mind is already in their own circle of hell.
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