Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why Babies Shouldn't Have Babies

Here's what I found today when I was scoping out Court TV.com. Think of any infant you've ever met, and then any 18 yr old, and see if this makes you wince.

BOGALUSA, La. (AP) — A mother was booked on a charge of first-degree murder for allegedly placing her 3-month-old son in a clothes dryer and turning it on.
The infant had third-degree burns over 50 percent of his body and suffered blunt force trauma to the head, the St. Tammany Parish coroner said.
Police Sgt. Darryl Darden said Lakeisha Adams, 18, called police to her home on Monday to report that someone had killed her child. When officers arrived, they found Jailand Adams on a sofa. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Darden said Adams admitted during questioning to putting the infant in the dryer and turning it on, but did not say why.
Adams also has a 1-year-old child who was placed in state custody, police said.
If convicted, Adams faces death by injection or a life sentence. The first-degree murder charge is mandatory under Louisiana law because the victim was under age 12.

Now, before you all start thinking I'm just a sanctimonious old fart, let me share with you that I had my first child at the age of 20 years and 2 weeks. Oh boy, did I think I was grown? You betcha. I also remember resenting the hell out of that my plight within the first couple of days. Teenagers and young adults are notoriously self-centered. We know this. They, unfortunately, do not. Luckily I was surrounded by a wide support network in the shape of family and friends, who helped out tremendously.
And the funny thing is that I didn't realize quite how young, stupid and ignorant I was until I had my next two children, at the age of 27 and 29 respectively. Less selfish. Less irritable, and much slower to anger than I was in the early part of that decade of my life.

Now I don't know, because it doesn't make it clear in the article, what manner of support this young girl had in her life. The fact that it doesn't mention a husband or even a father sort of speaks for itself. And I've been a mother with children spaced 16 months apart, and even with the patience that came from being almost a decade older than I was when my first child was born, and even though I had a husband who could step in and take a little of the stress off, them was some TOUGH times, I tell you. I can't imagine what it must be like to be all alone at 18 trying to raise a 1-yr old and a 3-month old baby.

Do I think what she did was right? Of course not. Justified? Hell, these are babies, we're talking about...they don't know any better than to howl incessantly. Do I think that she was unprepared for and incapable of dealing with the stresses she was under? Hell yes.

In England's social medicine system, we have health visitors who come out to the house and pay unexpected visits on new mothers for the first few months of the child's life. These people are social workers, trained to pick up on clues that maybe things aren't going so well at home; that the mom maybe has too much on her plate and needs help. It's a shame this young girl was born in a country which prides itself on being the most wondrous country on the face of the planet, and yets babies have multiple babies without following up and making sure they're handling things okay.

I look at 'Lema, who is 16, and who, had she been this girl, would have already been pregnant with her first child, and think how ridiculous it would be to assume that she could be capable of taking care of an infant 24/7. Much as I love my dear, sweet girl, and no matter how smart she is, I've seen her anger rise like a skyrocket when her brother provokes her, as younger brothers will, and lash out at him without thinking. That whole 'thinking before you act' aspect of being a grown up has yet to completely mature. And in a situation with an older child who is still pretty much a baby in his own right, and a new baby who is nothing like those ads in magazines or TV where they smile and coo and never yell incessantly for hours on end for no cause at all, and nothing you do seems to be enough to shut it up, how many of us wouldn't feel the need to step out of the room and take some long deep breaths and count to 100 before going back in the room to handle the situation? A teenager acts and then thinks. A fleeting moment where the anger that has been building up towards this tiny tyrant - and please....we all know that that's all tiny babies are - explodes and she does something so heinous that she'll never forgive herself for it, but which she can't take back.

It's a tragedy all around.

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