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Her name is Verna McClain. She is a nurse and a mother of three who murdered another mother, Kala Golden, and kidnapped her three-day-old baby boy, Keegan. Vera was waiting when Kala and Keegan left his pediatrician’s office. Vera chose the pair at random, shot Kala repeatedly in the chest and then sped off in her car with Keegan. He was recovered within 6 hours of the event, unharmed, and has been returned to family.
When trying to decipher a motive for this random act, the media keeps mentioning that Vera McClain recently had a miscarriage. She’d told her fiancée that she’d given birth to the baby. Apparently, the murder and kidnapping was her attempt to produce a child for him.
Sigh. My heart is so heavy for everyone involved. I ache for Kala’s family, for her husband who will now raise three sons on his own, for her sweet baby boy who only felt his mother’s embrace for three days.
It would be easy to pass Vera McClain off as some sort of cold-blooded killer, some selfish monster who couldn’t have her own child so she decided to steal someone else’s. But this would be an inaccurate picture of this woman. Listen to the account of Vera’s mother who stated:
“I don’t know what’s going on- that’s not my kid,” McClain’s sobbing mother told KHOU-TV news. “But I’m sorry for the family.” She said her daughter has always been a good person.S he’s “Very nice, she’d give you the shirt off her back,” she said.”They said my kid did it, but I can’t wrap my head around it cause that’s my baby. But I grieve for the lady and her baby.”
Vera’s ex-husband stated:
“She’s not a violent person, so for her to shoot someone, it was shocking. This is all crazy to me.”
And Vera’s next door neighbor described her as a:
“very articulate, hard-working single mother” who claimed to work more than 60 hours a week. She said McClain told her she was going to cut back on her hours to spend more time with her children.
Shall I speculate as to what’s happened? Vera was pregnant and was far enough along that her fiancée believed she could have had a living baby. But Vera miscarried. She- a black woman- believed she could pass off a white baby as her own. Somehow, she believed that she would be able to adopt this baby and would be able to convince her fiancée the baby was his.
This is not normal- this is evidence of some kind of mental disorder. I think that Vera- and Kala and Keegan and both women’s families- are victims of post-partum psychosis.
I want to use this horrible event to start a discussion about Post-Partum Mood Disorders- what they are, who gets them, how we can recover. This kind of heart-wrenching pain has to be used for some good if any sense is to be made of the world. I encourage you to learn about the different kinds of PPMDs that can occur after the delivery of a child by visiting the following resources:
The Harvard Medical School’s Center for Women’s Mental Health has a wonderful page that gives good information about the three ‘basic’ kinds of PPMDs:
Postpartum psychiatric illness is typically divided into three categories: (1) postpartum blues (2) postpartum depression and (3) postpartum psychosis. It may be useful to conceptualize these disorders as existing along a continuum, where postpartum blues is the mildest and postpartum psychosis the most severe form of postpartum psychiatric illness.
It may surprise you to learn that there are other kinds of PPMDs, however. Postpartum Support International has excellent information about Post Partum Anxiety, Post Partum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Partum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It certainly surprised me to learn after the delivery of my last child that Post Partum Anxiety is actually a thing. Suddenly, my behaviors after my son’s birth three and a half years before made sense. When Alex was born, I had been unable to sleep unless someone was watching him at all times. I mean, my husband and I took shifts- he would sit and watch my son sleep and then I would sit and watch him. I couldn’t rest unless I knew someone was actively looking at my son. At the time, I thought I was just a nervous new mom, but I know now that this was not normal.
How do you know if you have a PPMD or if you are experiencing the normal ‘Baby Blues’ adjustment to motherhood? Baby Blues generally begin during the first week post partum. They come on as weepiness, irritability, sleeplessness, etc. These feelings last from a few minutes to a few hours for about two weeks. While you have the Baby Blues, you also have moments of laughter, lightness, and joy- the moods are very variable during this time. Check out this page by the American Pregnancy Association for further information.
If you have any question about what you are experiencing, take this test from Real Depression Help to help you decide if you should seek assistance from your physician or a therapist. But here’s the thing- if you are thinking you may need help, it can’t hurt to talk to someone just in case.
After a woman has a child (and especially if that birth is complicated by the death of the baby) we should all as a society be very aware that this is a time of immense change- socially, emotionally, and hormonally.While many mothers eventually make the transition through those ‘Baby Blues’, some women will need additional support. The sooner a diagnosis of a PPMD is made, the easier recovery will be for the whole family.
And there will be that very small percentage of women who have a genuine post partum mental health medical emergency. I’m not an expert, but I think that the compounded grief from child loss and a severe PPMD caused Vera McClain to break with reality and to behave in ways she normally never would have. She deserves all the mental help she can get.
*If you or someone you know has suffered from a miscarriage or stillbirth, please see HearthsideCare.com for resources to help.