I was intrigued the other day, when reading the Sydney Morning Herald online's headline "Japan opens baby drop-off box". I'm a bit annoyed with the way papers put up misleading or overly dramatic headlines to get me to click through to their stories and this article would probably be about how Japan had started an easier way for people to donate clothes and food for orphaned children or something. But for a change, this paper hadn't misled me, the drop box the article was about was *actually* for dropping off unwanted babies.
I thought it must be a joke at first - even though it was no longer April. As it dawned on me this wasn't a joke I was appalled at the idea of dumping babies at the hospital anonymously - like an unwanted puppy at the local RSPCA wasn't bad enough. Then as I read Japan wasn't the only country that had started such a scheme, I realised that there must be a genuine need.
"The baby drop-off, called "Crane's Cradle," was opened by the Catholic-run Jikei Hospital in the southern city of Kumamoto as a way to discourage abortions and the abandonment of infants in unsafe public places. The hospital described it as a parent's last resort."
The young girls, because I would imagine those who abandon newborns are most likely to be relatively young, must be so incredibly alone and afraid. Too afraid to reveal their pregnancy to many, if any, people because of cultural, religious and relationship restrictions within their family they feel they have no one to turn to. Bearing the stress of hiding their situation through the pregnancy then giving birth to their first child alone and afraid is a heartaching thought. Having a child is supposed to be a joyous, wonderful event within a family, and to think the girls are alone somewhere, with little or no support and often no idea what's happening, is not what any of us would ever want our own daughters to go through.
In this morning's Melbourne's The Age newspaper, there is a story about a newborn baby being left in a cardboard box outside Dandenong Hospital, wrapped in towels but "doing remarkably well" considering the cold Autumn morning. Stories like this crop up in the news from time to time - thank goodness in this story the mother left her newborn baby somewhere where the child could be found. Sometimes that's not the case and those stories where the mother's desparation and fear leads to devestatingly sad outcomes, don't need to be repeated.
We talk about a woman's right to choose. We talk about the right to life. We talk about options when we find ourselves with an unplanned pregnancy - about abortion, about adoption, about raising children alone, about trying our best for our children and for ourselves. Any one who has been involved with any woman who has had to face these choices know just how incredibly hard and personal these decisions are to make and, apart from the very graphic imagery the anti-abortionists have at hand on placards on the street corners by our hospitals, how very little information dealing with how to make these decisions, and then dealing with the consequences of those decisions is available to any of us, let alone unsupported, frightened pregnant girls.
I just hope that the mother of the wee baby girl dropped off at Dandenong feels strong enough in the next few days to let herself be known to hospital staff so they can help and support her with her recoverery from this traumatic event, and present solid options to make the best of the situation for herself, and her child.