Police are calling what happened on the bridge above the Lehigh River in Allentown, Pennsylvania, an attempted murder-suicide. A 19-year-old mother was seen pushing her 1-year-old son across the Hamilton Street Bridge at about 1:45 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Witnesses say the young mother stopped, took her baby out of the stroller and threw him into the water, jumping in after.
Mother and Baby fell 52 feet to the shallow river below. With moments, police were at the scene where they found the mother conscious and washed up on the riverbank. Police officers Joseph Iannetta and John Leonard pulled the baby boy from the river about 700 yards downstream and used CPR to revive him. Both mom and baby were rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in critical condition but are expected to recover.
Allentown Police Capt. William Reinik said, “I commend these two officers for actually going into the river and pulling him out and doing CPR. That’s what saved this baby’s life in my opinion.”
According to Capt. Reinik, this troubling event looks like an attempted murder-suicide. Police will continue to investigate and charges against the mother have not yet been filed.
As onlookers, it’s almost impossible to imagine what this mom could have been going through. What made her think she had no other options than to attempt to end her and her child’s lives? Tossing a baby from a bridge may be extreme, but postpartum depression is real — affecting an estimated nine to 16 percent of mothers, according to the American Psychological Association.
The tricky thing about postpartum depression, or PPD, is that it is something we are just beginning to talk openly about. Many women still feel ashamed to share PPD symptoms with family and friends. And when we are too scared to talk about the overwhelming anxiety and depression we are experiencing after having a baby, at what should be the most wonderful time in our life, there’s no way we’re going to get help.
We can’t know for sure if this young mom has untreated postpartum depression, but it is clear she is in desperate need of help. And if she is suffering from severe PPD that made her feel like she was at the end of her rope, the truth is that she could have been any one of us. PPD is no respecter of persons.
Even more shocking is the fact that postpartum depression symptoms can occur up to 12 months after having a baby. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in postpartum women.
Hopefully, this rescue can turn a near tragedy into a turning point event. If this young mom can get the help she needs, she can heal and return to raising her son in a life that is worth living. And if you are out there silently identifying with this desperate mother, you can use her story as your cry for help. Postpartum depression is real. If at any time parenting makes you feel like you are out of options, please, please ask for help.