A mother with a baby and a three year old

Israel Hernandez returned home from a business trip on Sat. When he walked into the home he found a dark messy apt. But no sign of his wife and two small children. Something he saw made him reach out to a nearby officer for help searching the apartment.

Police found the 9 month old baby wrapped in a sheet on top of a sink in the bathroom. The baby girl had sustained mutiple slashing injuries.

They found Lizet Hernandez in a closet. She was holding the 3 year old little girl and both were covered in blood. The toddler had several stab wounds. She was rushed to the hospital and is in serious condition.

Lizet Hernandez confessed to the murder and the stabbing of the toddler. She says that 'demons' made her do it. She has been charged with 1 count of murder and one count of aggravated child abuse. It is not known at this point if Lizet has any previous history of mental illness or if she was taking any medications.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-513baby,0,5473146.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-infant-dead,1,100492.story?coll=sns-ap-nation-headlines

Hearing of a mother who killed her child or children makes people angry. They have sympathy for the child or children, sympathy for the other parent. But a lot of anger for the mother.

A mother is the one who is usually charged with the most of the care of the children and for giving most of the love and attention. And when they break that charge and harm the children, it betrays everything we believe about a mother.

Looking at the age of the children, hearing that she claims that 'demons' made her do it, makes me wonder. I wonder about post partum psychosis.

Now some people will tell you they don't believe in post partum psychosis. I do. And the reason I believe in it, is because mothers have been found with this disorder- who have never killed their children. They were taken to a doctor, diagnosed and treated without ever harming the children. But some people don't believe. And when a new mother acts overwhelmed, may make some odd remarks, may not  seem to bond with the baby or may just seem to not care about anything- she is just seen as 'lazy' or 'struggling' or just 'unnatural'.

The talk of 'demons' just seems too outrageous to be true. Everyone knows there are no demons running around telling mothers to kill their children. But yet demons, God, the devil and even space aliens are common delusions in the mentally ill- even in those who have never killed anyone.

Was this a case of post partum psychosis? I don't have the knowlege to make a diagnosis. But from what I have heard so far, it does make me wonder.

Is it an 'excuse'? I am conflicted about people who have killed due to a mental illness (and again, I have no way of knowing if this murder was due to mental illness). In some ways I believe that any person who murders should be punished. But in some ways I wonder if they have any more culpablity than a three year who strikes and kills their younger sibling. Both may have committed the act. But did they really know what they were doing?

For myself, I usually lean to the side that a person who has committed a murder due to mental illness should be punished. But the punishment should be arrived at through a hospital or institutional setting other than a prison. Because I believe that with close supervision, treatment, and medication these can be rehabilitated. People who kill knowingly I am never real sure about.

Sunday was Mother's day. Somewhere there was a father and a three year old. The three year old is in pain struggling to survive, but without a mother to comfort her. She may or may not be aware she has lost her baby sister. But she is most likely aware of who caused her pain. A father is grieving over his baby, and fearing for the well being of his three year old. And trying to make sense of why a mother would harm her children.

But there is also a mother, who may at some point be brought to a realization of what she has done. There will be enough guilt and self condemnation at that time, she doesn't need mine.

For a discussion on post partum psychosis, here is a start:

http://www.nmha.org/infoctr/factsheets/postpartum.cfm

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