A Pennsylvania nurse’s aide, Michele Kalina, has been arrested for murder after her husband and daughter found the bones of five newborn babies hidden in her closet.
Kalina is believed to have conceived the babies through an affair with a man who knew nothing of the pregnancies.
Resorting to murder as a means of birth control seems so unimaginably awful you’d think this case would be unique, but it’s chillingly like a recent one in France. There, another nurse’s aide, Dominique Cottrez, is alleged to have killed 8 newborn babies and buried them in her backyard.
These cases are so similar, and so awful, that it’s impossible not to wonder what connects them. There have been several cases of multiple infanticides in Europe in the past few years: a woman in Germany murdered 8 of her newborns and buried them in her parents yard; another French woman killed 3 of her own babies.
Not only is this kind of serial infanticide unthinkable to me, I’m in shock just imagining being pregnant 5, 6 or 8 times. And hiding all those pregnancies from everyone I knew and loved. And giving birth, multiple times, alone, in secret. These women must have suffered incredibly, in the process of committing these grotesque crimes.
One theory about serial infanticide points to “pregnancy denial”: a woman may refuse to acknowledge she is pregnant, and then kill her baby in a panic when she’s given birth and can no longer deny it. But to do so five or six or eight times? Surely that is a whole other level of madness.
Is there some unrecognized and blessedly rare mental illness that causes women to serially murder their own newborns?
As a psychologist commenting on the Cottrez case told MSNBC:
Even if we don’t know enough to put a label on it, I cannot imagine this occurring over and over again if this woman’s mental faculties were not impaired to some degree. Whether she is psychotic or an abuse survivor, or whatever, certain psychological factors contributed to these incidents occurring over and over again.
The Kalina case mirrors the Cottrez case to a truly frightening degree: both women were nurse’s aides, both were in their mid-40s when they were caught, both had two children they raised (though Kalina’s son died ten years ago).
What happened to these women? Were there warning signs their families could have watched for years earlier?
Our resident mental health expert, Heather, has some insights. Sadly, there’s little comfort there.
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