This week we are running a five day series in honor of Child Abuse Awareness month. Today is the fourth part of the story shared 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. If you have not been following along, you may wish to read the Introduction, Part I, Part II, and Part III.
…the dark time, continued
I don’t take any of this lightly. It is with a very heavy heart that I continue to write. In my last post, I didn’t go into great detail of the nature of what happened to the baby, what I did. I simply said that I shook him. That is not inaccurate. I shook him. I don’t want for my vagueness to confuse anyone. You cannot harm a baby by bouncing them on your lap. It is a very violent act. The nature in which I shook him caused him great bodily harm. I later found out in more detail of what did happen to him. I injured him so greatly that he suffered a stroke, as well as a seizure. I threw him onto the bed and that caused a skull fracture. He has permanent brain damage. I don’t know all of the details of his recovery, which is for his parents to tell. His story is not mine. I only know mine.
After my three days of solitary confinement, I was released on bail, or so my family and I thought. My family was waiting to take me home from jail on that third day, only to learn that I would be admitted to the Psychiatric Unit, first at Mercy Hospital, then hours later I was sent up to the Psychiatric Unit an hour away in Cambridge, Minnesota. Mercy didn’t have enough beds. I stayed at Cambridge for four days. I was quickly losing weight; I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep. Being five weeks pregnant, I knew I needed to try to eat something. But I just couldn’t. It was here where I first met my current psychiatrist. She was the only one there I felt comfortable telling everything to. The staff was nice enough, but I just didn’t trust them. I don’t have a lot of memories of the Psych Unit. My memory of that place is very blurry. I missed my babies. My family was able to visit me briefly, but not my babies. I wasn’t allowed contact with anyone under 18. I cried a lot when I first learned that. The reality of it all was slowly starting to set in. I missed my babies so terribly much.
When I was released from the Psych Unit, Child Protective Services needed to be called immediately. I still wasn’t allowed contact with anyone under 18, but I was allowed a brief supervised visit with my children. Bill picked me up and he made the call. It was late in the afternoon, but they were willing to meet us so I could hug my babies. I remember being so scared that they weren’t going to remember me. Emmitt was old enough, but Elliot was still pretty young. I was frightened to see my own children. I knew Child Protection would be there, watching my every move. And that made me so nervous. I was nervous about hugging them…don’t hug them too tight, I remember thinking. It was wonderful seeing them again! I couldn’t help but cry. They were so beautiful, and at this point in my journey, I remember thinking that I had ruined their lives. My mistake would forever change them as well. I was allowed to help tuck the boys into bed that night, but after that I gathered my things and moved in to Bill’s parent’s home. I wasn’t allowed to live at home — another reality that hit me. No one could tell me how long my living situation would be like that, and that was so very, very painful.
Child Protection quickly determined that our families were decent people and that they could become my legal supervisors of me around my children. Which meant we wouldn’t need Child Protection there while I visited. However, Bill was not included as a supervisor since he was my husband. At that point, it was fine by me as long as I got to see my babies. Over the weeks though, that took a toll on us, never having that private family time together. Our home was not my home anymore. A few nights a week Bill was able to spend the night with me over at his parents. Most nights, I slept alone. I can’t even begin to explain how hard it was to sleep at night alone with my thoughts running wild. I would wake up in a sweat from nightmares. Some nights I would call Bill. Other nights I just stayed up all night, not wanting to wake him. But the nightmares kept coming. The sound of the steel door at the jail closing. Over and over again the image of me hurting the baby. h
There would be nights when I would go into a panic. I didn’t think I could go on. My heart would feel like a ton of bricks, and I would have troubles breathing. I was still having thoughts of suicide but knew I couldn’t go through with that, especially while pregnant with my baby. I think my dad was worried about that as well; he made certain that I was never left alone. He can be quite assertive when he insists on something! For that, I am so very grateful!
With all of this going on, I still felt so detached from everything. Yes, reality was sinking in, but very slowly. I kept telling myself that the baby would have a 100% recovery. At least, that’s what I prayed for. A dear friend came to visit me and she let me know that the baby’s family had started a Caring Bridge site. She said the picture and their words really made it real for her. When Bill and I finally logged on to read it, I still felt detached. I was numb. I think it was much too early for me to look at that picture of him. I could see him, all wrapped up in his turban like bandages, but I couldn’t connect.
I just didn’t have it in me to deal with the baby’s pain and my pain at the same time.
Part V will be published tomorrow, April 29th.
Update: To continue to read Tami’s story, please click the link below.