It was an obsession that some who know her say included a so-called phantom pregnancy — a rare medical phenomenon in which women who are not pregnant experience physical and emotional changes similar to those of expectant mothers. It continued through two miscarriages and a difficult breakup with a boyfriend.
Finally, police say, Parson — posing as a hospital worker — took a newborn girl from a maternity ward in Texas, placed the infant in a handbag and fled on March 10.
She and the baby, who was unharmed, were found the next day about 100 miles away, in New Mexico.
Parson, 21, was being held without bail on federal kidnapping charges. She confessed to police but has not entered a plea.
CBS affiliate KLBK in Lubbock, Tex., reported that Parson was moved to the Lubbock County Jail where according to court papers she tried to commit suicide. Now her family wants her moved to a mental facility in San Diego.
But on Friday, Lubbock Federal Judge Nancy Koenig denied that request. Parson will remain at the Dickens County Correctional Facility until her trial.
In testimony given on Friday, Dr. D.W. King, a jailhouse psychologist, seemed to dispute suggestions that the defendant was suicidal. Parson told Dr. King she never had any intention of killing herself and denied rumors she swallowed a rubber glove and part of a notebook.
Parson's family disagrees with Dr. King's determination that Parson is neither suicidal nor clinically depressed.
Rayshaun Parson's great-aunt, D. Taara Williams, said the woman who stole baby Mychael isn't the same Rayshaun she knows and loves.
"I really expected Rayshaun to be released and I think she will be. It's just a matter of time," says Parson's attorney, Helen Liggett.
Court documents reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with people who knew her suggest a troubled young woman whose love of children and motherly ambitions had grown into a compulsion.
Conchita Davis, the mother of Parson's former boyfriend, Malachi Johnson, recalled the changes Parson underwent in 2002 when she was mistakenly believed to be pregnant with what would have been Davis' grandchild. Parson's breasts swelled, her abdomen distended and she experienced cravings common to pregnancy.
"Rayshaun wanted the baby so bad that she got the symptoms," Davis said. "She was the perfect vision of a pregnant woman."
False pregnancies — also known as pseudocyesis — are usually linked to underlying emotional and psychological issues, said Dr. Cornelia deRiese, an assistant professor in Texas Tech University's department of obstetrics and gynecology. More common centuries ago, she said it is rarely seen in an era of modern medicine that includes early neonatal care, ultrasound tests and over-the-counter home pregnancy test kits.
Several months after that episode, Parson did become pregnant in 2003, according to Davis. But she suffered an early miscarriage.
"We got through that, but I'm not sure Rayshaun ever did," Davis recalled. "I don't think she ever recovered."