I’m sure some of you will have heard about the defence doctor who has testified about her version of “shaken baby syndrome” and the effects it can have on a child being accused of unlawfully misrepresenting other scientists work, and facing disbarment. Basically, there are three main indicators that are widely accepted as results of a baby being vigorously shaken and she goes against the majority and beliefs that these injuries could be caused by other incidents too. The dr has testified to this in court of behalf of people accused of shaking a baby, so now that she is facing disbarment it raises questions about these trials and future ones.
I was watching a news piece on the whole topic the other day when a young woman came on to say that she had seen first hand the effects of shaking a baby and wanted to raise awareness for the symptoms and getting better help to prevent any child being shaken. Her point was that we need to make it so that people can admit they have shaken their child and seek help. It needs to become less of a taboo.
The problem with that is it will never become “less taboo” to admit you want to hurt your baby, or in some instances you have. Who wants to admit that?
Well, I will. Here’s the thing, I can 100% understand how someone can accidentally harm and shake their baby. There, I said it.
I really, truly can. Thankfully I have been blessed with a wonderful support network, help in many forms and I am lucky enough to have been taught that there should be no stigma around asking for help, or needing it if you feel you aren’t coping. If you feel that you are slipping into a stage of postnatal depression or severe anxiety, then you need to ask for help. I don’t like asking for help anymore than the next mother, but if I feel I could become a danger to my kids without it, I would ask and I would seek it out. Fortunately for me I have never hurt any of my children in a moment of unspeakable rage or despair, I’ve never shaken my baby. I’ve wanted to, I’ve sat for what felt like hours listening to her scream in my face, bite my nipples and pinch me, I’ve cried with her. I’ve tried to help, I’ve tried to do my best by her, but sometimes there is nothing I can do and I have felt this overwhelming frustration, this panic and this desire to make her Just. Stop. Fortunately for me I have been lucky enough to feel this emotion building, put her down and walk away. Even at 2am, go away, splash my face with water or make a drink and then go back to her when I’m calm.
But not everyone is as lucky as me.
Sometimes you are very much alone. No help, no support network and you have been raised to believe in the “suck it up” attitude. Your baby has colic, you’re so sleep deprived you can’t think straight and in that one moment of frustration and over whelming despair, you lose your shit. It’s not always as simple as “put the baby down, walk away and calm yourself down” – sometimes mental illness doesn’t allow for that thought process. We need to try and provide better after care for women who have little by way of support, and even for those that have a tonne of support because being a new parent is hard. Really hard.
What I want to get across in this is that I’m not excusing harming your baby. There is no way to excuse it, and I genuinely think any parent who had done so would agree with that. In fact they will most likely never excuse themselves for their actions, especially if the results are serious and the baby has long term injuries or dies. I can’t imagine the horror that must pass through the mind of a parent who has accidentally harmed their child in a moment of insanity. But the truth is, neither can you unless you’ve been there.
I got what this woman was saying – though it will never be less taboo, even if we talk about it. The truth is, we need to change things. We need to make it easier for women to say “I’m not coping” without the judgement and the stigma. Don’t you ever feel parenting is one big X-Factor scenario and you are constantly being judged?
What are our thoughts on the topic? Please be kind in your comments – it’s a subject that is so sensitive and emotive, so think before you type.
Footnote: this post is in reference to “Shaken Baby Syndrome” which I’ve included a link to the foundation if you feel you need help. Please, always ask for help. Someone, anyone – please. Also, this is in reference to accidental harm, not child abuse – they are not the same things. Statistically men in their 20’s are the most common perpetrators of deliberate SBS, and I want to make sure it is crystal clear this is NOT aimed at them. Rather at encouraging mothers to seek help if they feel they are struggling and may shake their child.