WE ARE ONE

Lasha Morningstar

October 3, 2011

A sound like a cat crying came from the dumpster. The passerby stopped. He turned to walk away, but the cry came again.

So he went to the dumpster, hoisted himself up, looked into the mass of black and green garbage bags to see if he could find the yowling animal.

He froze in shock. A whimpering newborn baby wrapped in a blood-stained towel lay just below the dumpster's rim.

Reaching down, the Good Samaritan grabbed onto the edges of the towel, lifted the babe up, tucked the bloody bundle under his arm and jumped down to the ground.

A sprint to the corner store. Call 911. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars. And the screaming ambulance rushed the babe to hospital.

The shaken rescuer, because of the part he played in saving the little one's life, was privy to what happened after. Only a few hours old, the abandoned baby girl suffered from mild hypothermia because of the cold but was in comparatively good health, said the doctors. Next step — Children's Aid, a foster home and probably adoption if they could not find the mother.

LEFT FOR DEAD

Yes, it was a happy ending. But too many babies born to mothers in distress end up in dumpsters and are not found, buried in remote fields, hidden in backpacks in the mountains — left to die.

Remember the Carpenters' song, "Bless the beasts and children, for in this world they have no voice, they have no choice."

The choice we can give these unwanted babes is by giving their desperate mothers a choice to save their infants.

Silence any condemnation that so easily springs to mind and lips. These women are distraught, scared, cannot handle any anticipated censure of family, hospital staff, government workers.

But what if they could go to the outside of a hospital, press a button on the side of the wall, an opening appears with a waiting bassinet. The anguished woman could tuck her baby in, press the button and know the little one would be cared for, given safe haven. That bell would have a 30-second delay so she could leave undetected.

No names. No blame. No shame.

In fact that's the motto of California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law. All of the 50 United States have some form of safe haven laws. Some dub them Baby Moses Law. In Canada, St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver's Angel's Cradle welcomed a two-day-old baby last fall. They gave her life.

Edmonton needs a safe haven cradle. Sure, critics say it is just another example of our disposable society. Try walking in the mother's shoes.

One social worker, fresh from holding a surrendered newborn in her arms, described the bureaucratic dance a mother must go through before giving her child away.

"So many questions. Pages of questions. Some, by the time they get part of the way through, give up and take the baby home. But to what?"

Sadly, that little one could — and some do — come into care a few years down the road because the mother could not care for him or her. Then it is foster care and the toddler is caught up in the child welfare circle.

And when asked if Edmonton should have a safe haven cradle, every social worker around the table at a recent gathering shouted "Yes!"

RULES APPLY

Know that this is not the end for the mother. The states have various conditions with their laws regarding accepted infants such as age limit and physical condition. (Provision too is made at some surrendering states for mothers or fathers to supply medical and racial information with the baby.)

But all have clauses that give the mother a time limit when she can return to the hospital and say she wants her baby back. Should that happen, a support network kicks in to assess her needs, link her into agency help and make sure that baby is going to a safe, nurturing home.

Naysayers too say this is just giving the mother an easy way out. Give your head a shake. This is about the baby. Women who are this desperate believe their only "way out" is to get rid of the baby. Better for the child that she choose a safe haven cradle instead of the stinking deadly dumpster down the lane.

Babies, born and unborn, have no voice. We do.

(lasha@wcr.ab.ca)