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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A tragedy in San Antonio

Otty Sanchez woke up Sunday morning, looked at her three and a half week old baby boy, took two swords and a steak knife, dismembered and ate parts of her child.

Is this the plot to a horror movie? Yes, a horror movie that a good percentage of postpartum women endure. Otty Sanchez is a troubled young woman who fell through the cracks of the medical system.

The stories are now emerging and are heartbreaking: she was on meds, she wasn't. She was hospitalized, she left without her medications. No one seemed concerned about her mental outlook-or the safety of her newborn. Her family seems to have known something was amiss, but stayed quiet out of guilt and shame. Her partner, himself a schizophrenic, says that she was allright since she was breastfeeding.

There was at least one incident with the police. Something was wrong, but no one thought that leaving an unstable mother in a house decorated with samarai kitana was not a good idea. When the horrific deed occurred, there were two people asleep in the next room, yet she was screaming and swearing and covered with blood.

Whatever the truth, the absolute fact is that NO ONE, not the maternity care team, the pediatrician, the family, the partner, the police, seems to have realized that Otty Sanchez had gone to a dark place of madness, where her psychoses multiplied and her baby was the target of insanity.

People knew what was going on, and simply shrugged, hoping for the best. Others were too busy to delve below the surface. Still others were not ready to accept what was in front of their faces.

As a mother, as a doula, I am truly horrified, horrified that once again a mother was allowed to be alone with a defenseless infant. Tears come to my eyes. The statistics state that there are some 14%-20% of women who experience some sort of postpartum reaction, from baby blues to a whole spectrum of postpartum disorders.

The partner of Otty Sanchez blames her, as the mother, says she should be executed. When in the grips of an altered mental state, people do not know, and/or do not care what they do, or say. This is why an outside observer is necessary to spot the signs that inadequate care and bonding are occuring. The mother may not notice, may think she is being rationale, or is beyond the beyond and cannot care.

As a doula, I screen every woman in my care for postpartum reactions-especially if there has been a history of depression or other altered mental state, including from drug/alcohol use. This is to the mother's benefit, as early and vigilant interventions can save both her and her child(ren) from grief and heartache.

Working together with the mother and the mother's care providers, as well as the pediatrician, and other support providers, the doula is a part of that care team who all have the goal of optimum mental health for the mother in mind.

Mothers suffering in this vulnerable state are not left alone, where guilt, shame and loathing compound the situation. All care providers are there to help, not compound the issues.
There was a tragedy in Texas, and the baby was only one victim, the smallest, the most vulnerable, the one who should have been uppermost in the minds of all.

1 comment:

  1. I actually heard about this yesterday. It's amazing how people don't realize that postpartum psychoses is real and can be treated if recognized.

    This could have been prevented, and it wasn't, and now this woman is childless and facing murder charges.

    We need to protect these new mothers and these little babies. Which is why I think doulas are so important. You need that shoulder to cry on and help you through the bad times.

    Great blog, btw! Can't wait to read more posts