Could this week get worse for mothers?

From an Austrian horror house to an 8-months-pregnant woman arrested for DUI, this has not been a pleasant week for moms in the news.

By James Hannaham
May 2, 2008 2:41AM (UTC)
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Next week we'll celebrate Mother's Day, but this week may have been the worst motherhood has seen in years -- especially if you watch CNN's video news. Really, it's enough to make one question the whole parenting thing. Let's start with the Fritzl case in Amstetten, Austria, in which a twisted patriarch kept his daughter imprisoned for 24 years, forcing seven rape-children on her. As if that were not gruesome enough, the case took on increasingly Holocaust-y overtones during the week, as it came out that Fritzl had incinerated an infant who died at birth, and Fritzl threatened to gas his victims/family if they told on him. This outrageous crime made a mother give birth to her siblings, her children into their own feral aunts and uncles, and a grandmother into a scorned and clueless mother. We all make excuses for our mates, but it's dumbfounding to imagine that a mother could be restrained from searching for her daughter -- What? One letter is all it took? -- or that her neighbors could have remained ignorant of the Jane Eyre-meets-John McCain situation going on right under their feet. Fritzl's tenant bought the Daddy-monster's story that the noise in the basement was a malfunctioning gas heater -- since when do furnaces scream bloody murder? Stockholm syndrome nothing. They're going to have to make up some new syndromes for this one.

The jaw-clenching terror of the Fritzl family's revelations made nearly any other story seem quaint -- like the Tampa, Fla., resident Nicole Vanneil, picked up for a DUI while eight months pregnant. Later came the revelation that Vanneil may not have been drinking but toking from a pot pipe. Maybe she heard that medical marijuana eases the pain of labor -- which could happen at any time. Maybe she wanted to increase her likelihood of giving birth to a crunk star. But here's hoping she gives birth to a healthy child of at least 3 kilos.


Then there's Susan LeFevre, who describes, as calmly as a PTA mom at a soccer game, how she escaped from prison after receiving a 10-15-year drug sentence, and remained on the lam for 32 years, during which time she became suburban California mother of three "Marie Walsh." LeFevre was captured at her home this week. "At any moment," she counsels, "anyone's life can change. You just can't take anything for granted."

Changing was exactly what a 1-year-old boy from Fort Pierce, Fla., needed. His teen mom, Mary E. Fasnacht, was arrested for keeping her home a biohazardous tornado of filth and body fluids -- that's enough to make me excuse the occasional prenatal blunt. To top it all off, the Texas polygamists with the Blade Runner hair had their children confiscated and today came word of investigations into possible sexual abuse of young boys on the compound, too. And Rob Lowe's nanny accused his wife of sexual harassment. Geez, Ma, don't just take Mother's Day off. Take a month ... in rehab!

James Hannaham

James Hannaham is a staff writer at Salon.

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