When we hear about a woman who tragically and horribly kills her newborn baby, we tend to think: Postpartum depression. We simply can't imagine that a new mother would kill her baby for any other reason than that she's descended into the dark abyss of postpartum. But what about men? Do they get postpartum? Since they don't have the baby, and therefore don't suffer from the hormonal seesaw that women do, you would think not. However, men apparently do get postpartum. They too can suffer from depression, anxiety, and dark moods as a result of having had a child. And sometimes that can spark the worst. Is that what happened when new father 21-year-old Joshua Petersen allegedly shot his 5-month-old son in the head?
Utah dad Joshua Petersen has been arrested after allegedly he lay his son, Ryker, down on the couch, loaded a single round into his rifle, and fired into his baby's brain.
Inconceivable. Who would do this? Why??
Petersen's family says that Joshua had suffered from depression his entire life. But they say he unequivocably loved his baby. In fact, his Facebook wall leading up to the day of Ryker's death was filled with loving remarks about his newborn. For instance, Joshua reportedly wrote: "It's a sad day, but not when I have my son, he makes me happy." Wouldn't comments like this connote a man who loved his child and must have only killed him out of acute mental issues?
Or could there be another motive? Reportedly, Joshua and his baby's mother, Amanda Pilling, had just broken up. Amanda's mother says that Joshua was abusive and that Amanda instigated the split. She told The Desert News:
Once a controlling person loses control how do they get back control? They take the thing that matters most. I can't even begin to think what might have possessed him to do this. That's what it feels like to me, to hurt her.
Certainly, Joshua wouldn't be the first parent to kill a child to get revenge on an ex. It happens all of the time. But even Amanda's mom says that Joshua loved his little boy. "I know he held him a lot and he cared for him," she says.
There are no easy answers here. He could have been depressed already and the combination of a new baby and a breakup was too much for him. I will never understand how someone could take it out on the innocent child, but perhaps his dark mind invented some twisted reasoning. This strikes me as something that Joshua probably already severely regrets.
Or he could be a controlling abuser who just wanted to hurt Amanda, the mother of his child.
Whatever the horrific motive, I hope that male postpartum gains more attention. If men who are feeling like harming their babies knew that this could be due to a medical condition, perhaps they would be more likely seek out help before it's too late.
Do you believe men can get postpartum? What do you think happened here?
Image via WeirdBeard/Flickr