Peggy Hilt wanted to be a good mother. But day after day, she got out of bed feeling like a failure. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t connect with Nina, the 2-year old girl she’d adopted from Russia as an infant. The preschooler pulled away whenever Hilt tried to hug or kiss her. Nina was physically aggressive with her 4-year-old sister, who had been adopted from Ukraine, and had violent tantrums. Whenever Hilt wasn’t watching, she destroyed the family’s furniture and possessions. “Every day with Nina had become a struggle,” she recalls now.
As the girl grew older, things got worse. Hilt fell into a deep depression. She started drinking heavily, something she’d never done before. Ashamed, she hid her problem from everyone, including her husband.
On the morning of July 1, 2005, Hilt was packing for a family vacation, all the while downing one beer after another and growing increasingly aggravated and impatient with Nina’s antics. “Everything she did just got to me,” Hilt said. When Hilt caught her reaching into her diaper and smearing feces on the walls and furniture, “a year and a half of frustration came to a head,” Hilt says. “I snapped. I felt this uncontrollable rage.”
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