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Lisa Belkin

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How Could Anyone Hurt A Baby? You Know How

Posted: 10/03/2012 11:12 am

Child abuse is on the rise, the journal Pediatrics tells us this week. Hospitalizations for serious injury to children at the hands of adults -- fractures, brain trauma -- increased 5 percent between 1997 and 2009, while hospitalizations of the youngest and most vulnerable, those less than a year old, increased at twice that rate.

How could anyone hurt a baby?

You know how they can.

When the crying goes on so long that you will do anything to make it stop. When you are too young to have had this baby, and too alone to handle the responsibility. When the stress of life breaks you so that you literally break someone else. When you need help with demons of alcohol, or drugs, or mental illness, and there is no help to be found. When there isn't enough money to meet the needs of yet one more.

My older son had colic. He cried endlessly and I cried along with him. Exhausted does not begin to describe how I felt, and late one night -- or was it early one morning -- he wailed for hours while I tried absolutely everything to get him to sleep. I sang, I rocked, I paced, I begged. Then there was a moment when I started to shake him. I started, but I didn't finish. Instead I put him in his crib and walked away.

I stopped because I had a college education and I knew the damage one shake could do to a newborn brain. Because I had a husband asleep down the hall who I could wake and tell I couldn't take it anymore. Because I had the money to hire someone to stay with my baby during the day so I could take a nap. Because I was not in the grip of addiction, as so many abusers are. Because I had the insurance to ask my doctor for help with what I had come to see was more than just postpartum blues, which many abusers do not.

The Pediatrics report doesn't speculate about the reason for this 10.9 percent jump in hospitalization for the youngest victims. It focuses instead on the fact that when you measure abuse by hospital records the numbers are higher than when you measure by cases reported by social workers.

Still, we can guess some of the reasons. Those social workers are a place to start as their caseloads have increased while staffing has decreased. Economic stress is another known trigger, along with addiction and mental illness. All those have jumped in recent years, as the economy has faltered and resources for health care have declined.

10.9 percent. It's a number buried in a study, but one that translates into 3.3 million reported cases a year. A number that hints at the black mix of rage, desperation and despair I felt, and the fine line between me and danger. A number that measures what any of us could do, if not for buffers so many of us don't have.

As Dr. James Anderst, chief of the section on child abuse and neglect at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., told NBC News, we can reverse this number "the same way we get people to quit smoking. It is the same way we get people to wear seat belts. It is a combination of laws, and enforcement of those laws and also supporting people so they can be better parents."

ALSO ON HUFFPOST PARENTS

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  • 1. New York

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $14,009 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $25,852 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $88,189

  • 2. Minnesota

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $13,579 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $26,123 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $87,271

  • 3. Oregon

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,079 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,250 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $72,166

  • 4. Colorado

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $12,621 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $26,366 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $83,063

  • 5. Hawaii

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $12,876 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $29,466 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $87,430

  • 6. Kansas

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,023 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $23,446 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $75,086

  • 7. California

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,823 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $27,534 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $80,796

  • 8. Illinois

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $12,199 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $24,833 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $84,779

  • 9. Massachusetts

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $14,980 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $27,922 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $105,537

  • 10. Indiana

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,880 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,178 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $73,270

  • 10. Wisconsin

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $10,775 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $23,568 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $79,589

  • 12. Michigan

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $10,114 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21, 385 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family:$76,712

  • 12. Washington

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $10,920 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $25,731 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $82,870

  • 14. Rhode Island

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,830 State Median Income for Single Mother family: $25,607 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $91,065

  • 15. New Hampshire

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,995 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $28,756 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $92,823

  • 16. Maine

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,256 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21,940 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $72,196

  • 16. Nevada

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,413 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $29, 245 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $73,563

  • 16. North Carolina

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,185 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21,344 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $72,022

  • 16. Pennsylvania

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $10,504 Single Median Income for Single Mother Family: $23,472 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $82,141

  • 20. Arizona

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $8,946 Single Median Income or Single Mother Family: $25,682 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $70,563

  • 21. Vermont

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,612 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $25,336 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $76,965

  • 22. Montana

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $8,307 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $20,333 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $68,574

  • 23. Connecticut

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $12,844 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $30,795 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $106,847

  • 23. Maryland

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $12,878 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $36,580 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $107,756

  • 25. Iowa

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $ 8,859 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,809 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $75,581

  • 25. Texas

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $8,323 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,705 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $71,308

  • 27. Missouri

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $8,580 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21,748 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $73,880

  • 27. Virginia

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $10,670 State Median income for Single Mother Family: $28,965 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $92,212

  • 29. Tennessee

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,748 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $20,254 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $68,223

  • 30. Florida

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $8,009 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $25,286 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $71,051

  • 30. Utah

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,848 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $27,626 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $69,638

  • 32. Oklahoma

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,288 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $20,272 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $65,458

  • 33. West Virginia

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $6,932 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $16,921 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $62,854

  • 34. Delaware

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,620 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $30,675 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $88,825

  • 35. New Mexico

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $6,843 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21,742 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $64,842

  • 36. Alaska

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $9,336 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $31,134 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $89,794

  • 37. New Jersey

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $11,135 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $30,732 State Median Income for a Two-Parent family: $107,663

  • 37. Wyoming

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,727 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $25,824 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $75,169

  • 39. Nebraska

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,639 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $23,601 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $74,787

  • 39. Ohio

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,889 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $20,765 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $77,032

  • 41. North Dakota

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,705 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $21,545 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $77,544

  • 42. Kentucky

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $6,594 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $18,735 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $67,998

  • 43. Georgia

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $7,030 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $23,602 State Income for a Two-Parent Family: $74,939

  • 43. Idaho

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,834 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,486 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $62,051

  • 45. Arkansas

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,437 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $18,683 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $62,035

  • 46. South Carolina

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,855 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $20,769 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $71,480

  • 46. South Dakota

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,947 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $22,989 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $72,264

  • 48. Louisiana

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,901 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $19,853 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $77,089

  • 49. Alabama

    Average Annual Cost of Infant Care: $5,356 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $19,492 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $70,657

  • 50. Mississippi

    Average Annual cost of Infant Care: $4,591 State Median Income for Single Mother Family: $17,796 State Median Income for a Two-Parent Family: $65,668

 

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