I have a secret I rarely share. At the age of 20 I had a daughter. She was born severely abnormal and died within a few hours. The details surrounding her birth and death are something I rarely discuss, but with the swirl of attention devoted to the recent case of a parent possibly killing her child, I had a peculiar thought: had my child survived, would I have wound up harming her?
You see, I was a very sick and out-of-control young adult. When “Rebecca” died I mourned her passing as I still do today. When I had my second child six years later, I was in a much better place—a stable relationship with lots of support. Still, I found being a parent more challenging than I expected and I did better when the next one arrived.
There were times when the stress of raising two children drove me off my trolley so that I’d imagine picking them up and banging their heads against the wall. No, I never did anything like that, thank God. I merely had the thought on a trying day. But years earlier, at 20, I lacked the self-control that comes with age and experience, and I remember how it felt to be young, frightened, and burdened with responsibilities beyond my capacity.
While I really don’t think I’m capable of committing premeditated murder, I can still understand a parent becoming so exasperated that s/he’d lash out like a sneeze. And I believe that everyone, given the right circumstances with nowhere and no one to turn to can commit egregious acts. Who has not done something terrible? Something which would have gotten you arrested if you were caught? Yes, I know we have choices; unfortunately, we often chose unwisely.
I may be the only person who has sympathy (albeit a tiny amount) for Casey Anthony, but since I don’t devour tabloid news I know only the barest details. It seems, however, that she is painted as a monster. Maybe I would have been a monster too if circumstances were different; I’m glad I never found out.