Empathy not judgement

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  • Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013

When a 30-year old lady was charged in a magistrate’s court for murdering her five-year-old daughter recently, a lot of people posted nasty comments on the social media. She was harshly condemned for allegedly abusing her daughter, which supposedly resulted in the girl’s death. The accused was convicted before her trial even started.

Let me get this straight. I do not condone child abuse. Nor do I condone murder. But reading the news made me wonder if the mother herself is a victim?

The story made me question why she allegedly abused her daughter, reportedly a special child?

Did this woman suffer a postpartum psychosis after childbirth, or any form of depression, which was left, untreated? What if she had a medical condition, which was never attended to?

What about the people around her? Prior to the incident, did anyone notice any telltale signs? Like abusive or violent behaviour ? How about bruises or marks on her now deceased daughter?

How were the two other children treated? Had the two kids ever mentioned anything about their mother's behaviour towards them or the deceased before? Assuming the woman's husband was the closest person to her, did he ever notice any troubling signs? Did he try to intervene?

So many questions came to my mind after reading this story. I just  find it hard to believe that the situation got that far when perhaps something could have been done about it. I couldn’t stop wondering, if we were members of a more empathetic society, would those in trouble be more willing to seek help?

I believe empathy is what our society needs more of, not judgement.

When it comes to motherhood I think it’s sad that there’s a cultural stigma against discussing it in less than glowing details. Because of that, mothers more often than not suffer in silence when they should be comfortable about accessing the help and support they need. This tragic story made me wonder how many women like her are out there.

As a mother I do find rising kids challenging. In fact I think it is one of the hardest responsibilities I have undertaken. Being a mum was a lot easier for me the first time around. But I experienced a mild postpartum depression after my second child was born. I am lucky it didn’t last long.

When I gave birth to my second child, I didn’t expect to go through an emotional roller coaster. I had assumed it would a rerun of what we experienced with the first born. My husband had just started a demanding job and was hardly around. As it turned out, the maid we hired was unreliable. She came and went as she pleased.

My first born who had been an easy child at least until then, constantly acted up. I think she couldn’t deal with having to share my attention with her new brother. It didn’t help that my newborn was a challenging baby. There were days that he would cry for a good hour or two in the evenings, and there was nothing I could do to comfort him.

He was also a wakeful baby who needed feeding every three hours, round the clock. To top it all, everything that could possibly go wrong with breastfeeding, did. Some days, feeling really helpless, I’d cry along with him.

I was too uncomfortable to get help from my other friends then as they seemed to have it all together. Plus I had it easy with my first-born and it didn’t make sense that I couldn’t cope with motherhood the second time around.

I am lucky however that I have a friend who’d check on me every now and then to make sure that I was ok. She’d sometimes come to my place during her lunch break to cook and pack food for me. I think knowing that she was there for me, helped me not to plunge further into depression. Though we have different parenting styles, she was always supportive of my decisions.

Whoever we are and regardless of the role we play in the society, everyone should be allowed the freedom to do and be what they want as long as no one else gets hurt. It's not fair to expect anybody to conform to gender as well as social roles and norms.

In fact I think forcing people to conform against their will only lead to depression. Life is too short to be lived according to the expectations of others.

I had no idea what happened in the tragic case I have alluded to. However, I do hope that those in the social and welfare services do not take cases like this lightly.

I read that the court had ordered the mother be sent to Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta to undergo a one-month psychiatric evaluation. It is too late to bring back a beautiful child, but I hope that the mother be given appropriate treatment.

The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

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