South Africa, we have a problem. Well, we have a few problems, but I’m not here to nitpick the state of the nation. I’m here to ask you guys how we are still finding newborn babies in rubbish bins when we’re (supposedly) putting all the preventative measures in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen?!
Now, teenage pregnancy rates and the sexual promiscuity of our young people aside (that is another topic for another day, when the very thought of not preserving innocence for as long as possible doesn’t infuriate me), I realise that our current problem of finding dead babies in rubbish heaps have become a shocking norm.
I mean, you guys, 65% of abandoned kids in South Africa are newborns. According to IOL, 90% of abandoned children are under the age of one years old. Read this and squirm: “The findings suggested that a child born in South Africa is at the highest risk of being killed during its first six days of life.”
What are we doing wrong? And, if the answer is “uhhh nothing, it’s not OUR fault, cheenie” then my next question is: Are we doing enough to stop this behavior?
I was mildly thrilled to read articles about new “baby drop safes” that had been installed across our metro. Yes, I used the words “mildly thrilled” because, honestly, it’s a great idea, but I don’t know how effective it’s going to be. (Well, judging by the fact that we’re still finding babies in dirt bins, I’m going to go on a gander and say “not very”)
Now, I know, gasp, how dare I say that the baby drop safe idea is not effective?! Surely it’s better than nothing, right?
But guys, hear me out, I’m not totally blind sided here. I’ve been a teenage mom. I know what it’s like to be the bearer of an unwanted pregnancy and wonder how the heck you can “get rid” of the problem. I mean, if I didn’t have a loving support system and a boyfriend who actually loved me and my baby, I’m not sure how our story would have ended.
But I do know that if I were a scared teenager, having just given unassisted birth in an undisclosed location, with no witnesses/help close by, the last thing I would want to do is take a walk/public transport with my “unwanted” newborn in my arms, hoping that no one sees as I drop him off in a baby safe.
There are just too many factors that will work against this. For starters, you’re bleeding, probably lactating already and surely you’re in pain. Secondly, you want to try to keep the baby quiet (because, yes even though it’s a precious life, at that point you are not in your right state of mind and the baby is evidence that you need to dispose of), so travelling with the child may seem like a really bad idea. And lastly, you might not even have the means to transport the child to safety… your clothes may be bloodied… your emotions all over the place. Suddenly dropping your baby off, at a baby safe, feels like the most difficult thing to do.
I mean, honestly, not that we want to make these things easy but, we kinda DO want to make these things easy. And as wonderful as a baby safe may sound (you know, like in Danielle Steel books and on Hallmark movies etc), when you’re a frantic new mother, not sure of what to do to dispose of the “evidence” of just having a kid, finding transport (and strength) to travel to another location, with baby, is the last thing on your mind.
We are often outraged by the very thought that a mother would want to dispose of her baby. And rightly so… it goes against our very nature, as human beings. But as I lay in bed last night, reading about another new life, snuffed out, before it even had a fighting chance, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have made it easier for the mother to get that baby to safety. What could we have done to help that
Perhaps an SMS/Whatsapp line, offering a veil of anonymity, where the mom could send a simple message to let authorities know where she left her baby? Perhaps a team of “baby collectors” who would be on high alert at all times, ready to find these abandoned babies, once they’ve received a message? Perhaps the opportunity for the mother to find help, should she be faced with guilt and regret a few days later… I mean, the SMS line could save a lot more than the baby’s life, yo.
I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that we need to start coming up with some, because our babies are dying before they’ve even had the opportunity to be loved, and that breaks my heart.
Disclaimer: Yes, Martha, I know, it is inhumane and cruel to abandon your baby and surely you could have enough decency to get it to a baby safe and blah blah blah. But this post isn’t here to solve the moral dilemma of moms who abandon their kids. This post is here to encourage conversation around how we can help to save those babies before it’s too late.