A San Clemente woman accused of trying to drown her twin babies pleaded guilty to child endangerment Friday and was given probation by a judge who called it a case of postpartum depression.
Paula Thompson, 46, entered the plea under a deal that will keep her out of prison.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Pamela Iles placed Thompson on probation for five years. She said the mother will be allowed supervised visits with the twins and her third child, a 3-year-old boy.
"This is not a child abuse case. This is a postpartum depression case," the judge told Thompson. "We want to walk you through this nightmare you've been through."
Thompson appeared composed in court. In her purse was a magazine carrying the headline "I Killed My Children," a reference to Andrea Yates, a Houston mother charged with drowning her five children last month. Yates' husband said she was suffering from postpartum depression.
"I pray for her every night. I know how she felt," Thompson said. "It's an illness."
Thompson was arrested Dec. 12 after her mother-in-law found her in a bathroom with the twins, who were wet, fully clothed and crying. The twins, a boy and girl, were 4 months old at the time.
Orange County sheriff's deputies said she told them she wanted to kill the children. She was sent to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, where she is still undergoing treatment.
Iles also ordered Thompson to perform 160 hours of community service, submit to psychiatric care and notify the court if she changes her physician.
"I would like nothing more than to get in my car, drive home and see my children," Thompson said outside court after her sentencing. "But they want to make sure I'm well. I want to make sure I'm well."
Her husband, John, who has custody of the children, said they have joined a postpartum depression support group and are trying to put their family back together.