A Child Abuse Story: Tami’s Side

Next week we are going to be running a five day series in honor of Child Abuse Awareness month. The story that we will be sharing was written by a woman named Tami Revering. She is going to tell you her story of severe postpartum depression and how it led her to abuse a child; an infant.  She will share from her perspective how she tragically shook a crying infant and nearly killed him. It is a hard story for many to read and understand, and even harder not to judge Tami harshly for her terrible actions.  But for me, it is the story of a woman who could have been me or any other of my mom friends. You see Tami was just like many of us. A young mother, college educated, staying home with her children, and afraid to ask for help. What Tami did in the depths of anxiety-riddled depression is something that I believe many of us are capable of doing without help and treatment. And I know this because I know Tami well. Tami was my college roommate.
Boston.2006
She was always the one smiling and her laughter was easy to pick out of the crowd of her fellow cross country runners at the University of MN, Duluth. She loved the outdoors and being active and she was basically inseparable from her freshman year boyfriend, Bill Revering.  They were both cross country runners and began dating immediately after they met in the fall of 2000.
They were a fun couple, without a care in the world and their wedding a few years later reflected their personalities. We all danced the night away and had a blast!
The gang
We drifted apart after college but kept in touch through Facebook and occasionally we’d talk on the phone to catch up. Tami seemed very happy with her growing family and was interested in learning about natural birth and fertility awareness methods. All seemed well. And then I arrived home from a business trip on November 10th, 2010 and I went to pick up my kids from my mom’s house. My mom broke the news to me then that Tami had been arrested. I couldn’t — wouldn’t — believe it. Then my husband gently explained what had happened and that yes, Tami was indeed being charged with First Degree Felony Assault, against a baby. As soon as he said that she had shaken a baby I understood and I felt an incredible amount of sadness and empathy for what the baby’s family and Tami must have been going through. The horrific consequences of her actions would affect so many people for so many years to come.
While I was travelling home that night from a meeting with a large pregnancy center chain in the Midwest, I was unsettled and struggling with the direction that Guiding Star was going to take. There had been proposals made by powerful people that Guiding Star should be absorbed into the pregnancy center movement and that we “fall in line” with others who also cared about the sanctity of life and the promotion of motherhood.  My ideas and desires to make Guiding Star into whole life centers that focused on support long before and long after a woman’s years of fertility was not finding traction with potential pregnancy center partners. They did not share my concern for attracting people that were not in unplanned pregnancy situations. I wanted to make a place for moms like me to hang out at and reconnect with one another and they said that was not needed. I wanted a judgement-free place for women to receive care that was natural and holistic. Seeing Tami’s face on the news that night forever cemented the Guiding Star vision and mission into my heart as I knew that what I was trying to create could have helped my friend.
I barely recognized Tami in the mug shot photo that began immediately circulating. Her eyes were so swollen and puffy and her face reddened by tears that she looked like an entirely different person.  The comments on the news articles were awful and I could not stop myself from replying and defending my friend (and I am NOT a combox person). The immediate assumptions from so many that this woman must be a drug addict or a drunk who regularly beats her children made me furious! They knew nothing about her, and yet the gravity of her actions was so serious it gave license for so many to disregard her as a waste of space.
And I understand their anger. This adult nearly killed a child. A defenseless baby.
It is right that we are upset about the abuse of children. It is right that we are upset about the abuse of any vulnerable human being.
But it is wrong for us to close our eyes to the preventable circumstances that could save children from being hurt. It is wrong for us to assume that perpetrators are beyond repentance and forgiveness.
I wrote Tami a letter shortly after the incident. I think she may have still been in the Psych ward. I remember telling her that someday something good could come out of this awful situation.  That she was not the sum of her failures, that I knew she was a good person, and that I hoped someday she would be well enough to face her actions in the full light of day and warn other people about the risks of untreated mental illness. I told her that shaking the baby didn’t need to define her life; that she could grow from this tragedy into a strong advocate and protector for children. I am so proud that Tami is taking those first steps in speaking and writing about her experience. Doing this takes tremendous strength.
We will be monitoring our comment box and will not tolerate comments that demonize Tami. She struggles enough with not doing that to herself. She doesn’t need your help to remind her how awful her actions were. She is a human being, deserving of our respect and protection. Just like all of us.

To continue to read Tami’s story, see the links below.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

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16 thoughts on “A Child Abuse Story: Tami’s Side”

  1. As someone who fell victim to clinical depression (partly) triggered by post partum depression, I could not be more sympathetic to Tami. I look sometimes at my beautiful eldest daughter, who was 3 1/2 at the time, and my eyes fill with tears and I am flooded with guilt and remorse. Because I know that she suffered the most from the loss of her healthy mum. There was no physical abuse (thank you God) but I can definitely recall several moments of extreme frustration and anger(at myself but directed towards her) that make me die inside now to remember them.
    There was an Oprah show at one point, talking to a man in prison for killing his children and attempting to kill himself. As he explained what was going through his head, it frightened me (back then) that I knew what he was trying to say. That in the midst of this utter death of his soul, in the darkest pit of his despair and pain, he knew that he had to go. And that he did not want to leave the people he loved behind to suffer. Unless you have experienced this blackness, you will find these thoughts and words horrific. In my previous life, I would have also but knowing what it was like to be in so much pain, just existing, and yet… loving so incredibly these wonderful little ones, you are torn in two.
    I tell everyone who is interested that I am alive for two reasons. My absolute love for my children, and the dedicated, heroic love of my husband.
    As a society, as a “commune”-ity, we need to watch out for and watch over our mothers (and fathers). We need to get into each others lives… insert ourselves gently and lovingly. Mums need sleep, exercise and healthy eating. When our hormones (serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine) get out of balance, things can go wrong. Check on people you know, invite them out for a walk, go and babysit for a couple of hours so she can sleep or just invite them over for a cup of tea.Love them, and don’t let the recent trend of “minding our own business” stop you from doing what is right.
    My heart aches for Tami but I beg her to not give up and as this wonderful article said so well, something good CAN come from tragedy.

  2. Maryanne, thanks so much for your comment! It is refreshing to have other women “fess up” to these types of feelings and acknowledge that sometimes we might just need help. I said in this post that I understood when I was told that Tami had shaken a baby. I understood because I knew exactly what it felt like to have a screaming baby in your ear that was literally driving you crazy! I’ve heard that recordings of babies screaming are used as a form of torture on prisoners and I can believe it. There is a very primal response that happens in us to the make the screaming stop and if it doesn’t our adrenaline increases and we often lose our composure. I understood how this could have happened because quite honestly, but for the grace of God, it could have been me.
    Tami’s incident was a huge wake-up call for me to seek more rest and self-care in my own life. I was busy raising 4 babies born in under 5 years and was often a frazzled mess myself. After this happened I made a point to hire babysitters more frequently, put the oldest in preschool, and I even started taking some night classes for myself to just keep my mind engaged and active. I didn’t realize how exhausted and rundown I was becoming under the stress of constantly caring for babies. I didn’t feel at all like myself and I didn’t like who I was becoming.
    It’s my hope and prayer that as we share Tami’s story next week women who are in that position of being afraid to ask for help will see the danger in remaining silent and will find the courage to take care of themselves. Please come back on Monday and read part one of Tami’s story and help us spread the word about the dangers of PPD.

  3. Thank you Leah for your dedication to women and the Guiding Star! You are an inspiration to me and many others! May all our prayers give you the strength to continue this important mission!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing Tami’s story as well as your own honesty about the vulnerability and difficulties that many of us face at one time or another! And thank you Tami for your bravery to be so vulnerable and honest as I’m sure there are not always kind voices responding. Prayers for all involved. Women and mothers who are struggling need to know that they are not alone. Thank you Tami and GSP for all that you are doing to support families everywhere!

  5. Thank you so much Marilyn! It’s beautiful mothers/grandmothers like you that give me hope for our world. What you are doing by giving value to eveyone you meet (and your smile DOES do that!) humanizes our world and reminds people that they matter. Thank YOU!

  6. I think you will be blown away by Tami’s honesty next week in sharing her story. Her bravery and humility amazes me more each day. Thanks for your support Kristin! 🙂

  7. Victoria Gisondi

    “It is a hard story for many to read and understand, and even harder not to judge Tami harshly for her terrible actions.”
    See now, why is that? If it’s hard not to judge it’s because there’s still lacking in understanding.
    It’s not hard for me not to judge. I feel compassion and frustration at the lack of information regarding this. My own mother almost killed me as an infant. But this goes even beyond depression. We need a new word for what happens to some women. It’s more than depression– it’s almost like psychosis. They are not in their brains, they hear voices. They are in an altered state. They are very very sick. We desperately need to talk about this, study it, research it and remove the stigma.
    Thank you for doing this series. Can I help in some way?

  8. I second this. Thank you. You are doing something long overdue in our society. The Guiding Star Project offers articles that really (REALLY) need to be heard and they move me each time I read and reread them.

  9. Victoria, you are coming at this from a unique perspective and I would love to hear your story.
    It’s also interesting to hear you say that there needs to be another word for it than ‘depression’ because this is a common topic amongst victims and sufferers of extreme /clinical depression.
    My psychiatrist prescribed an anti-psychotic drug along with the antidepressant I was given but after consultation with my doctor I didn’t take it. I was hearing knocking/footsteps on the ceiling that my husband couldn’t hear. While driving with my little ones in the car, I saw a road that didn’t exist, and pondered driving along it. The word ‘depression’ does not convey properly to those outside what is going on inside. So on the one hand, I agree with you. But the flip side to this is that we start segregating depression sufferers. Who has “real” depression versus who’s having a bad day. There are times when I have had acquaintances be very dismissive of what we went through (“oh, yes… I had depression too, for a little while, but I was just too busy and had to get on with life”, or such).
    I’m at the point where I don’t care what they call it. Every mother of a newborn, every sufferer of miscarriage, every parent who has lost a child, every person in an abusive relationship, every child going through a transitional phase such as parents divorcing or final exams… we need to care for each other. We’ve moved away from ‘intruding, and people don’t know how or want to ask for help. So regardless of whether it’s just feeling blue for a day or two, or mild ppd, or extreme, we need to be mindful of each other and get past the politeness of minding our own business. Tragedies will keep on happening until we understand the potential danger.
    Articles like this one, (and others I have read here) are critical in bringing awareness to this topic.
    And I would so love to hear your story, Victoria.:)

  10. I’d be happy to share my story — which is really my mothers story. Let me know a good email where to send it?

  11. As a single mother to a very head strong child, I totally get how child abuse happens! I am lucky that I have a neighbor I can (and have) brought her to so I could calm down. I once called a friend to say “she is in her crib screaming, I am on the front porch. If she weren’t in her crib, I would be hitting her.” She came to pick her up for a few hours. Having support when you are on the brink of losing it is so important! Add in sleep deprivation with an infant, and post-partum depression/psychosis, and it is one tiny step to shaken baby syndrome! Mothers need support, not judgement!

  12. Amen, Single Mama! You hang in there. I had enough trouble keeping it together with a few of my stronger willed children, and I always knew I had my husband coming home at the end of the day to relieve me. I have so much respect for single mothers and for the tireless dedication you show for your children’s well being. We are working hard to make sure you’ll have a place in your community where you know you can drop your babies off in the drop-in childcare while you just relax and get a cup of coffee; judgement free!

  13. Amen, Single Mama! You hang in there. I had enough trouble keeping it together with a few of my stronger willed children, and I always knew I had my husband coming home at the end of the day to relieve me. I have so much respect for single mothers and for the tireless dedication you show for your children’s well being. We are working hard to make sure you’ll have a place in your community where you know you can drop your babies off in the drop-in childcare while you just relax and get a cup of coffee; judgement free!

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