The Case of Andrea Yates

Conversely, the legalistic opposition to any use of any birth control and its devastating effects was the subject of much media scrutiny when allegedly Christian homeschool mom Andrea Yates murdered her five children by drowning them in the family bathtub. In 2002 Time ran a story detailing the life of Rusty and Andrea Yates, who are described as “a well-intentioned husband, strong willed yet seen as lacking empathy” and “a woman who had a vision of violence from the time just after her first child was born but who kept her demons secret to preserve the image of family and motherhood she and her husband treasured.”44 Even at their wedding in 1993 they expressed their plans not to use birth control; they wanted as many children as God would give them. They were pregnant within three months and eventually had their five children in six years.

The Yates family did not attend church but rather had family Bible studies three times a week because Rusty was leery of organized religion and had not found a church he liked. Andrea was on and off various drugs for her bouts of depression and multiple suicide attempts. Her doctor warned that if her illness returned, it could be more severe; but “Rusty and Andrea both believed, Rusty says, that if the depression were to return, Rusty could easily recognize the symptoms and seek early intervention.”45 Andrea became obsessed with the Bible. She finally succumbed to the voices in her head and played out her violent visions on the morning of June 20, 2001.

The kids were still having breakfast when she began. First was “Perfect Paul,” the 3-year-old who had been her most joyful and least trouble. He died in seconds, held violently underwater by the mother whose hands had carefully washed his hair so that the soap would not sting his eyes. She carried his soaked body to her bed, tucking him beneath a maroon blanket, his head on the pillows. After Paul, she drowned Luke, 2, and moved on to John, 5. Next she killed their baby sister Mary, whom she had distracted with a bottle so she wouldn’t scoot away and hurt herself while her brothers were being killed.

Noah, her firstborn, was the last to die. The 7-year-old left his half-eaten cereal on the kitchen table when Andrea summoned him. Walking into the bathroom, Noah saw his sister facedown in the water, her tiny fists clenched. He asked, “What’s wrong with Mary?” and then, according to the account Andrea would give police, he tried to run away. His mother chased him down, dragged the wailing boy to the bathroom and forced him facedown into nine inches of cold water in the tub, his sister’s body floating lifeless next to him. Noah came up twice as he fought for air. But Andrea held her grip. She then laid Mary in bed with her brothers, wrapping their arms around the baby. She left Noah in the tub . . .

Later she told jail doctors that nothing could mute the patter that said she was a lousy mother. The death of her children, she said, was her punishment, not theirs. It was, she explained, a mother’s final act of mercy. Did not the Bible say it would be better for a person to be flung into the sea with a stone tied to his neck than cause little ones to stumble?46

For those most overbearing, legalistic husbands who ignore parts of the Bible that teach about being wise and loving your wife, seeing the faces of the children before their troubled mother killed them might be helpful.47 Indeed, children are a blessing and so are prudent Spirit-led parents headed by a daddy who looks at his bride and sees a wife, not just a womb, who needs love and not just labor.

A Word to Husbands

Admittedly, I have hammered this nail hard. I have done so because I have met too many idiotic husbands who seem to think that birthing is akin to scoring points in a sporting event, and all they want to do is outscore their buddies, though they neglect to provide the kind of spiritual, emotional, mental, and financial support to enable their wife to be loved as Christ does his church. The result is often a wife who looks like a cash-strapped, exhausted, breastfeeding, homeschooling mom without any help—from a babysitter, housecleaner, decent home, or dependable car—detached from meaningful church community and kept under the thumb of her husband, who conveniently overlooks the fact that even the quintessential Proverbs 31 wife and mother had a husband who made an income sufficient for her to pay for help and invest what was left over.