This week's ultra awesome character assessment (meaning, the character was awesome, not necessarily the assessment) is courtesy of Steena. Her character works at a car dealership as a receptionish. She's a tad overweight, cheerful, friendly, always optimistic, and bubbly. She doesn't have close friends, but many acquaintances. Everyone believes she lives for her two children, a boy and a girl, age 4 and 3.
What they don't know is that her children are dead. Their bodies reside in a beautiful wood chest in a padlocked room in her house. But in her mind, her children, who died within days of being born at home, are the age they would be in the present day. She drives a minivan with 2 car seats. She's got toys all over her house and yard, 2 bedrooms, and kiddie clothes galore. Her neighbors often compliment her on how quiet her children are - they never see or hear them. She's got large shrubs that shield her backyard from people looking in.
Steena wants to know: Would it be right that she is dealing with postpartum psychosis? She carries pictures of 2 beautiful children on her, takes sick days for them, talks about them all the time...and at home she carries around 2 beautiful dolls. Can you help me with her?
[rubs palms in delight] Looking forward to this one, Steena!
What you've described sounds like the extremely rare Postpartum Psychosis...but according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (4th edition, text revision), the actual technical name for that is Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. She doesn't meet the more usual criteria for Brief Psychotic Disorder, postpartum onset, because of the time line her symptoms for 4 years. Nor does she fit with the Major Depression, postpartum onset, because of her cheery disposition and demeanor.
This disorder is very rare, usually considered to occur in about 1 of 1,000 births. The general mode of treatment would be antipsychotic medication administered until the symptoms subside, and then regular counseling. usually psychosis is accompanied by severely disorganized behavior, thought, and speech. Your gal doesn't have this (I assume), so one more reason to put her in the Not Otherwise Specified category.
My first question is why have one child 4 and the other 3? I assume you have the same medical problem that caused their death for each? Did she pretend the boy was alive during that first year? Or did she all of a sudden believe they were both alive after she lost the 2nd one? For reasons I go into further detail below, I'd consider twins.
You mentioned you were thinking of having her married or a single mother. I think it would make for a more interesting backstory if you had her married. When couples experience the death of a child, either through a stillborn or SIDS or some other health problem, it causes a tremendous strain on the marriage. The mother's body has all these hormones present to enable her to connect with a baby who is not present. The grief can be overwhelming.
It was be more than feasible that the husband could have left her due to her ongoing psychosis regarding the lost child....but that would only really work for the first child, I guess. This is why I would consider twins and her losing them both at the same time. But regardless of how you figure it out, adding that layer of a failed marriage would make her psychosis that much more believable. Her way of handling his deflection could be to hang on to these children with a fierceness.
One of the best Law & Order: Criminal Intent episodes I ever watched that you are definitely going to want to check out was from Season 4. "In the Dark" features a woman who believes her child is still alive, but the child actually is still inside her womb as a "stone baby," also called a lithopedion. Such an interesting phenomena, and of course very sad, but pretty much what you are describing as far as belief your character's belief that the child is alive and well. Check it out at this link.
This character sounds fascinating. If I had a blog award for one the coolest character I've done, you'd get it. Hmm...that sounds like a good idea! Maybe I'll work on that. Thanks for writing in!
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