Today is my birthday, and I’m very clear on what I want. I want to re-write a story, I want to fix it. I want to help a woman I know, who has found herself living in a devastated and destroyed world. Her world cannot be fixed though. That is because her two children are dead, and it was by her hand. They were five years old, and four months old.
Lisette Bamenga was a teacher at Roan’s school. This woman has one of those faces, the kind that when you call her up in your mind there’s a big grin, always. She is a teacher who Roan speaks of with a smile, recalling how he got to meet her baby when she brought her by for a visit. Ms. Bamenga was one of his favorites. And it makes no sense to anyone who knows her, how she has ended up as the villain in this story.
This is what I know. Lisette Bamenga didn’t get help at a time when she needed it. If there was a point where she asked for it, or if there was a point where she was denied it, I do not know. And because I do not have the fortitude to tell her story, I point to this well-written article, authored by one of her fellow teachers, Olivia Ramsey, and published in the Huffington Post:
For women who are not predisposed to postpartum depression and psychosis, we can push through, unhappy with the circumstances but knowing that this is what we have to do for our babies and our families. We suffer situational depression and lean on our co-workers, families, and friends to help us through. For Lisette and other women whose mental state is more precarious, the stress of juggling sleep-deprivation, caring for an infant and an older sibling, the demands of a full time job, and holding a marriage together is more than enough to trigger an acute postpartum psychosis. Lisette will never recover from this. She has killed her babies. Her life is over.
We don’t know the details yet about all that happened, or exactly how Lisette found herself in such a deranged state. But we can know with certainty that this country’s parental leave policies did nothing to protect those poor children. We should be ashamed.
When I had the difficult discussion with Roan about these events, the first thing he said was, “I want to help Ms. Bamenga”. His impulse amazed me and inspired me. And finally, last night he talked to me about it again. There’s a group of parents and friends who are constantly fund-raising to help pay for Lisette Bamenga’s defense fund. They will be having a bake sale and yard sale later this month. Roan asked if he could make something for it, and if he could donate some of his toys.
And then he explained to me that I needed to write about it, to ask people to help her. He told me this with the assertion of an adult correcting a child. And he was right. If there is anything good that can come from this tragedy, it’s the awareness and acknowledgment that this woman deserves our help now. It’s late. The damage is done for her family. But she deserves to be defended, and to have the care now that she didn’t have access to when she needed it so critically.
So for my birthday this year, I ask that you join Roan, me, and a handful of people who are trying to help Lisette Bamenga get access to an adequate defense and ultimately the best placement for her after this tragedy. She is a woman who fell critically and desperately ill, and it went unnoticed until it was much too late. Rather than horror, there needs to be sympathy. Rather than a gawking spectacle, there should be a circling of the wagons around a mother who was failed by a flawed system. Most importantly, we should all hold tight to our own children, and be so incredibly grateful that we can do just that.
Please give $5, $10, $100 – really anything you can. Donations will go directly to Lisette Bamenga’s Defense Trust. I will be creating a card with names of donors to give to Lisette, so she can understand that she is supported and loved. This does help. We should help now. Click here to donate using PayPal/Visa/Amex/MC/Discover.