Claudia and Bernice, decades apart, but not so different

A couple of weeks ago I worked on a story about postpartum depression as part of a case I have been covering in McHenry County.

One morning just a few days before Christmas, Claudia Mejia stabbed her 9-month-old baby boy, in the throat with a knife.

Her husband was home and she was supposed to be laying down with their infant son -the youngest of their four children- for a bit before they were going out Christmas shopping. Her husband then heard a shrilling scream from their room. He ran in to find the baby bloody and his wife catatonic,  saying only that she had no idea what happened.

She was arrested, held in jail on $2 million bail, and charged with attempted murder.

That was about two years ago, today in court her lawyer said that a doctor determined she was in fact insane at the time.

In a couple of weeks there will be a bench trial where it is expected the judge will sentence her to the Illinois Department of Human Services until she is found to be stable, instead of sending her to prison. She will eventually return home to her family. Her son survived and is a normal almost 2-year-old toddler. Doctors say he will not remember the stabbing.

Claudia’s story and two others on postpartum depression, written by Chicago Tribune reporter Lisa Black, ran on Jan. 9  in the Chicago Tribune.

A few days later the editors received a letter from an 89-year-old woman named Bernice. She thanked us for the article and shared a painful story that she had never before spoke of. A story decades before Claudia, yet somewhat similar.

She wrote of how one night when her husband was away on a trip she was desperate to get her crying baby to sleep. It had been five days and the baby cried incessantly and she was “exhausted,” she wrote. She had planned one night to turn on the gas in her apartment so they both would “sleep.” That is how she worded the sentence, but if we read between the lines, I think we know what she was saying, but could not bring herself to write it.

She continued that luckily, a neighbor invited her over for dinner that night and somehow helped her to get her  baby to fall asleep.

No one ever knew of her deep depression and frustration as a young, lonely, first-time mother, nor did she ever tell her husband or anyone, until now.

She also wrote of the wife of a friend. This woman jumped off of the top of the hospital building within days of her baby being born.

Both of these women were married to ministers. One would think these men, men of God, would have been more  sensitive, more in tune with their wives. Or that these women would somehow have had a stronger grasp on life and stress. (Link to Bernice’s letter is below),0,4300176.story

Bernice’s story made me think of the movie The Hours. There was one character, played by Julianne Moore, a “perfect” 1950s, housewife and mom with the perfect husband and house, but she is depressed and lonely and in the end she kills herself. There is another movie Revolutionary Road, with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Kate Winslet also plays a 1950s housewife who is so depressed, feels trapped, wants to move away from their idyllic suburban life and travel. But she finds she is pregnant. Gives herself an abortion and she dies.

These movies and Bernice’s story took place decades ago. TV tells us it was such a wonderful, blissful time back then, when women relished in being married and having children. They wore dresses everyday and pearls around their neck. Their houses were always clean and their lawns manicured. They cooked, really cooked, three perfect meals each day. Right?

Today, thank God, there is awareness of women and the unique issues we face with depression, anxiety, postpartum depression, and so on. Obviously we don’t catch all the cases in which women might harm themselves, or someone else, or their own baby, but I think we are in a somewhat better place than when Bernice was a young wife and mom. I don’t think we try to appear perfect. I know I don’t. I mean look it’s 6:30 p.m., I  have laundry to be folded and have not even thought about dinner yet!

Life is so hard and it is long. There needs to be awareness for those in heartache and deep distress.

Maybe Bernice’s neighbors sensed something bad was about to happen. They stepped in and helped this young, lonely mother. Maybe they just heard an angel whisper to them.

I thank God for them, whoever they are, as I’m sure Bernice is grateful to them. I’ll never meet this woman as she declined anymore attention from the newspaper.

But I can  only imagine how she works through that time in her life, now that her baby is a grown woman, maybe she has grandchildren.  What made her sit down at almost 90 years old and share that dark, sad time with the newspaper?

What made Claudia Mejia do what she did to her baby?  She loves her baby, her other three children and her husband, and they love her. Her husband  only asks that his wife comes home to them and that they can be a family again.

I hope she gets the right treatment and can go home as well. I hope her story and the others that Lisa Black wrote and Bernice’s letter catch the eyes of the right women.

You never know what is going on in someone’s head and heart.

Until next time love each other.

Please read, share “like” and comment. Let me know you stopped by!

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