Airline chase suspect claims post-partum depression — (The New Orleans Advocate)

SSRI Ed note: Mom on Prozac speeds with baby in back seat, drives recklessly, hits another car, throws baby over barrier, caught by police, blames post-partum depression.

Original article no longer available

The New Orleans Advocate

Saturday, August 16, 2008

By Michelle Hunter

Woman arrested after car crash

A Metairie mother accused of speeding down Airline Drive in the wrong direction, slamming into vehicles while her toddler rode in the back seat of her car, told investigators she had been suffering from post-partum depression, authorities said Friday.

Christine Lorraine Bird, 38, was taken into custody after authorities stunned her with a Taser gun as she clutched her 15-month-old son in the bushes near Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, according to arrest reports. Bird, who was screaming at police officers, had already dropped the boy over a seven-foot barrier while trying to elude police, the reports said.

When questioned later, she told investigators she had been suffering from post-partum depression, said Kenner Police Lt. Wayne McInnis. “She claims that was the reason she was having problems,” he said.

Bird told police she was taking the anti-depressant Prozac. A search of her car, which she crashed into a concrete barrier in the 1000 block of Airline Drive, turned up marijuana, the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine and Stay Awake caffeine tablets, the arrest report said.

Neither Bird’s son nor any other motorist was injured during the wild chase, which began in Metairie Thursday after 3 p.m. near Transcontinental Drive and West Metairie Avenue, according to McInnis and a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office arrest report.

A deputy sheriff driving on Transcontinental spotted a tan sedan barreling down West Metairie against traffic, the arrest report said. The vehicle turned south onto Transcontinental, and the deputy tried to stop the car.

But the vehicle continued onto Airline, turning west and speeding toward Kenner, the report said. At some point, the car crossed into oncoming traffic in the eastbound lanes.

The driver continued to speed down Airline, forcing other motorists off the road, the deputy said. The car swerved back into the westbound lane and hit a vehicle at Wilker Neal Avenue. A few blocks later, deputies backed off, a spokesman said, because department policy sanctions chases only when there is a confirmed felony involved.

Kenner police began following as the car entered the city limits and saw it crash into another vehicle at Airport Access Road, McInnis said. The car continued for about half a mile before it slammed into a concrete barrier on the side of the road then swerved back into the westbound lane and struck another vehicle, McInnis said.

Bird jumped out of the car and dropped her son over the barrier onto the asphalt shoulder of Airport Access Road, the report said. She climbed over, grabbed the boy and ran across four lanes of traffic into the bushes, where she was hiding when officers arrived.

The child was taken to a local hospital and later released to relatives, McInnis said.

Authorities said they booked Bird with drunken driving, DWI-child endangerment, possession of marijuana, four counts of reckless driving, three counts of hit-and-run driving, cruelty to a juvenile, aggravated flight from an officer, failure to obey a police officer and illegally approaching an emergency vehicle, authorities said. No bond information was available Friday.

McInnis said it’s fortunate that no one was seriously injured.

“She could have killed herself, her child and God only knows how many other people,” he said.

Many new mothers feel down and have trouble sleeping and eating after giving birth, but most rebound within weeks, said Dr. Kathleen Schiavi, a Metairie obstetrician-gynecologist.

When those symptoms last longer, it’s deemed post-partum depression and can become a major problem if untreated. In rare cases, it can develop into post-partum psychosis, seen in women such as Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, Schiavi said.

Mothers with a history of major depressive disorders are especially at risk for developing post-partum depression. While some can be treated without medication, many women require drugs for the condition, Schiavi said.

She said the most important thing is for families to be aware of post-partum depression and call the obstetrician immediately “if you see someone not taking care of themselves, not taking care of their baby, not sleeping well and not eating well.”

Michelle Hunter can be reached at or 504.883.7054.