Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there
-- Last verse, "Away in a Manger"
This is a Christmas message for every mother in crisis who has abandoned a baby -- a tiny bundle delivered in secret, stashed away in shame, and disposed of somewhere, anywhere, to survive or die alone.
This is for the mother of Baby Liberty, a newborn girl found alive wrapped in a white cloth at a construction site near Laytonsville, Md., on July 4.
And for the mother of Baby Tyler Doe, a newborn boy found alive in a cardboard box in the back of a car in Swansea, Mass., two days after Halloween.
And for the mother of Baby Catherine Hope, a newborn girl found dead in a plastic shopping bag on a Brooklyn church's porch the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
And for the mother of Baby Noel Christmas, a newborn girl found alive wrapped in a towel on a bench behind a hospital in Easton, Md., two weeks ago.
And for every mother-to-be who is thinking of doing something similarly unthinkable with their unborn sons and daughters.
As a mother who has just joyously brought a baby boy into the world, I cannot imagine your despair. I cannot fathom your horror. Those of us with healthy children, happy marriages and doting families often take for granted our bountiful blessings. It would be so easy to condemn you, to pontificate about your recklessness, to attack your selfishness, to mete out blame and shame. But not now.
During this Christmas season, in which we commemorate the birth of the Savior, please know that you are not alone. Whether you are 14 or 40, rich or poor, black or white, abused or confused, know that there are countless strangers across the country praying for you and the souls of your children.
Witness the outpouring of compassion when Baby Liberty was discovered lying in the grass, dehydrated and bug-bitten, but otherwise healthy. When the news broke, hundreds of people called offering to take her into their homes. Witness the outpouring of grief when Baby Catherine Hope was discovered on the doorsteps of the Resurrection and the Life Church. Some 200 mourners -- cops, congregants and strangers -- turned out for the newborn's funeral complete with honor guard and bagpipe marchers.
"Any one of us in this church -- or this entire neighborhood -- would have done anything to help that mother and child. People have to know this, that they're not alone, so this doesn't happen again," parishioner Elizabeth Dodd told the New York Post.
You are not alone. That is also the message the Newborn Lifeline Network is trying to disseminate. The non-profit group operates a 24-hour, toll-free hotline (866-694-BABY) (866-694-2229) and a Web site at www.newbornlifeline.com "to prevent newborn abandonment by providing one-stop assistance for birthmothers in crisis nationwide." Volunteers have fielded more than 600 calls. They provide counseling and information about infant safe haven laws that allow parents to leave their babies in safe arms at hospitals, police stations and other designated areas without fear of prosecution.
The first such law was signed in 1999 by George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, after 13 babies were abandoned in the Houston area within a year. Once the law was advertised, four babies were turned over at safe havens in Harris County within 12 months. In Idaho, five babies have been left at safe havens since a similar law was passed in the summer of 2001. In New Jersey, 14 newborns have been left at police stations and emergency rooms since a safe haven law was passed three years ago.
Supporters of safe havens are asking public officials, private businesses and the media for more help in saving the lives of innocents by spreading word of the laws. What better time to do so than during the celebration of a sacred event, some 2,000 years ago, when a newborn babe found wintry refuge in a barn under the stars.