When do you lose the right to name your baby? Apparently even if you admit to attempted murder of the child, you still have the privilege to give it a name. This week Sydney was shocked by the discovery of a 6 day old baby found in a storm drain by the M7 motorway. Less than 24 hours after its birth, the mother left the hospital by public transport and took her baby boy directly to the drain where she pushed him into a hole, he fell 2.4 metres, and was left there to die.
So many thoughts ran though my head when hearing about this and reading into it. Once the screams of WHY? had settled down I wondered how did this happen? What was she thinking? Who was her support or lack there of? Of course, being a mum these are the first things we think about. The unthinkable – a mother who doesn’t want her baby – followed by the action of dangerous abandonment, begs the endless questions that follow.
The mother is a 30 year old woman which surprised me, my first step to fathoming this news story was that she must have been a teenager from an abusive family who was immature with hormones or even on the run, not so. This mature woman lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin, she has people around her every day that know her well. Even so, I guess someone who wants to hide a pregnancy can get away with it with enough bulky clothes to cover themselves. But how do you hide the back pain and numerous other symptoms pregnancy bring with it such as your breasts turning into melons and your waddle?
Before I had even read the fact, I guessed that she was trying to conceal the baby from her family. Experts say that shame and secrecy over a pregnancy are usually factors at play, but enough so that the ending of a life was the decision she made? Judgement will follow her wherever she goes now until the end of her days, she quite clearly was not right in the head. And as easy it is to join the shamers, what must be done here is investigate how she slipped through the support network for pregnant women, and how her mental health was not noticed.
There are so many support networks available to those who wish to use them. Antenatal care provided by the hospital and/or care by the local doctor, local church groups, counsellors, all at the ready to help guide a woman during the challenge of pregnancy. But what if an individual chooses not only to not accept this aid, but avoid it entirely? Next step, labour in hospital supported by staff, and lastly post-birth there are so many options for those who ask for help. But what about those who don’t ask? I can’t understand how someone can feel so alone in the world that they would hide something so big and life-changing. It could have been another beautiful baby in the world complete with happy new mum, but instead the actions of one woman would forever alter the course of history for everyone around her, mostly for her son and herself.
When considering the wide net cast by public health trying to take care of its charges, I can see how she may have avoided doctor’s appointments and registering with the hospital. I can imagine her bluffing her way though feigning surprise by the fact that she was pregnant and in labour at the hospital (if that is in fact what she did to conceal the suspicions the staff would have surely had otherwise). We are very lucky to have high quality medical facilities in Sydney, and nursing staff are generally very attentive. I remember when I was about 6 months pregnant with my second, at the end of a weekend of record hot temperatures, I went to the local hospital just to be checked out. During examination, talking to the doctor I suddenly felt so overwhelmed and started to cry. I don’t think 5 minutes passed before the hospital counsellor was in the room making an appointment with me for the next week. They specialise in gauging the mental health of their pregnant women and new mothers. So now I have more questions, how did she fool the midwives and doctors? How did she react when she saw that baby for the first time? And the worst, when did she decide that her only option was to end the new life she had brought into the world just hours before? This near tragedy has prompted Australian health organisations to discuss the use of baby hatches, used commonly in Europe. These hatches are built into the hospitals and offer a safe place for women to leave their babies if they cannot look after them themselves. Although I find it impossible to relate to the need for such things, if it means a newborn baby is left in a building full of people to care for it instead of being left on the roadside to die, then I’m all for it.
I’m still unsettled though. I’m convinced that the woman was suffering from mental stability issues, who in their right mind would make the same decision she did? That poor little baby must have cried for so many hours for so many days. My heart sinks deeper and deeper every time I think of it. But this baby perhaps is blessed. The Sunday that the baby boy was found, temperatures reached 40 degrees, but luckily he was discovered early that morning around 7:30am. If he hadn’t been found then, there is no doubt he wouldn’t have survived the day. I truly hope that he is adopted into the most kick-ass family ever, and I really hope too that he never finds out what happened to him. Who wants to know they started life in a drain at the hands of their mother.
Emma Eastman 2014