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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

83

The Modern Foundling Wheel

"At the end of that path, there is a stainless steel hatch with a handle. Pull that hatch open, and there are neatly folded blankets for a baby. The warmth is safe and reassuring. There is a letter, too, telling you who to call if you change your mind."

The baby box for anonymously dropping off unwanted children has been "making a comeback" in Europe the past few years, and unsurprisingly not everyone agrees about it.



83 Comments / Post A Comment

piekin

I've recently been getting Facebook "ads" letting me know I can anonymously drop off my baby at the hospital. It seems the internet has finally figured out that I'm an incorrigible slut.

TheLetterL

@piekin I get a lot of ads for being an egg donor or a gestational surrogate. Facebook, why you so obsessed?

sycofan

@TheLetterL Being 31 and single, I get ads for cat food. Fuck you facebook and your assumptions.

WhiskeySour

From the article: The boxes "send out the mistaken message to pregnant women that they are right to continue hiding their pregnancies, giving birth in uncontrolled circumstances and then abandoning their babies"

Yeeeeaaahhh, I kind of don't think women desperate enough to hide their pregnancies, give birth unassisted and give up their children think what they are doing is "right." I think they are mostly just desperate. I really don't think providing baby boxes is going to result in a sudden glut of women conscientiously choosing to go through that experience. Call me crazy, but I think I prefer an alive baby to a not-alive baby.

wharrgarbl

@WhiskeySour Don't be silly! Don't you know pregnant women are universally incorrigibly stupid and emotional and do things like abandon their infants on a whim without thinking about it? It's kind of like how squirrels just bury nuts and then forget about half of them--pure instinct! That's why large cities have special squads to comb through public parks and check public post office boxes and gas station restrooms before most people get up. So many women abandon babies all over the place that it was getting to be a nuisance!

As opposed to a handful of women in very desperate and dire straits who now have a safe spot to drop infants for whom they're incapable of caring properly at that moment instead of sneaking them into someplace they hope they'll be found in a timely fashion and running away.

jacqueline
jacqueline

@wharrgarbl I was going to keep my baby, but then I saw a metal box full of blankets and thought, "eh! what the hell. I've had it for long enough."

schrodingers_cat

@WhiskeySour Don't you know we're all just sluts who enjoy popping out babies and then abandoning them (when we're not laughing it up with abortions, that is)? Clearly these baby boxes will perpetrate this kind of irresponsible behavior.
ARGH, decisions about women being made by privilege men.

plonk

@wharrgarbl really, i love how there is NO acceptable solution for some people; how literally everything else, including the well-being of BABIES, can be thrown under the bus in the name of showing that we disapprove of sluttiness.
(NOT THAT SLUTTINESS IS EVEN THE ISSUE HERE!!)

wharrgarbl

@plonk But they care! "The one voice never heard is that of the mother who walks the path with the baby she bore secretly hours earlier, to return without the bundle. Her tears can barely be imagined." See how much they care? They're imagining the tears of the poor, I guess completely misguided, abandoning mother! Who would totally be in a rockin' place with a live, perfectly healthy baby if it weren't for those stupid boxes and their easy outs! Clearly the only choice here is between vapid women oopsing their babies down the adoption hatch and a social worker's miracle-turn-around showcase clients. Clearly.

EternalFootwoman

@WhiskeySour Speak for yourself. I am totally planning to get pregnant right now just so I can utilize the box.

Susanna

@wharrgarbl There's one about ten minutes from me. Every Saturday night I get drunk, eat a kebab, steal someone's baby and drop it off in the baby box at Sankt Hedwig's.

Such a kick!

PatatasBravas

@schrodingers_cat Indeed this would be me, if I were not cackling wildly and doing lines of ground-up Plan B whilst spiking all of the bottles of pre-natal vitamins at my local grocery stores with all-natural abortifacents.

and they call feminists humorless

nonvolleyball

@PatatasBravas off-topic, but oh my god I love your name! & also the cut of your jib.

Michelle LeBlanc@twitter

Massachusetts has been all over this for years: http://youtu.be/3NRNQmtUAUg
The "Baby Safe Haven" rap, anyone?

TheLetterL

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter YESSSS! Oh, God. I hate/love those ads so much. "If you have a baby, and don't know what to do..."

Genghis Khat

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter Oh my god. Baby! Safe Haven!

eiffeldesigns

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter I was just going to post this! Beat me to the punch.

It's a classic.

frigwiggin

Last night I was reading about serial killers in Japan, because I was curious as to how they're treated by Japanese media versus how American serial killers are treated by American media. I ended up reading about Miyuki Ishikawa, a midwife who neglected/murdered (probably) over 100 babies in the 1940s, which is awful and terrible, but her actions also indirectly led to the legalization of abortion in Japan. So interesting and makes me feel many complicated feelings!

RK Fire

@frigwiggin: Oh man, a wiki wormhole is about to begin..

Ophelia

@frigwiggin I really want to click on that link, but I am on deadline and I KNOW I will fall down an endless hole of Japanese murder if I do.

teaandcakeordeath

@Ophelia
Apparently Miyuki Ishikawa was also known as Oni-Sanba which means the 'demon-midwife'.

Ophelia

@teaandcakeordeath NO FAIR! You must wait until I have finished working. (Never going to finish working. Giving up.)

EternalFootwoman

@teaandcakeordeath This is not a nickname I am going to foster in my new job.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@frigwiggin I worked in a bookstore warehouse one summer, and read (when I should have been working, whatever) in a book that passed through that Japanese attitude toward abortion is way different than American. There's a practice of setting up a gravestone or a shrine marker to acknowledge the abortion/baby-that-never-was. I always thought that was really interesting. (Possible also that I've completely misremembered or misunderstood. I've never been able to talk about it with an actual Japanese person.)

nonvolleyball

@sudden but inevitable betrayal there's a play that deals with this (which I saw, but can't remember the name of). if I'm remembering right, they espouse an idea that the baby's soul kind of goes up into some kind of waiting area, to be reborn if & when the woman gets pregnant again--which is a nice idea.

this concludes, Complex Japanese Spiritual Beliefs about Abortion as Briefly Described by Someone Who Saw a Play About Them, Starring White People, at Least Twelve Years Ago.

teaandcakeordeath

@EternalFootwoman
Is your avatar a grass skirt wearing hula thumb because if so, I LOVE IT!
(New nick name, Hula Midwife?)

@Ophelia
Just think ... after the deadline ... WIKI-BINGE!!! (that name could probably be made to sound more enticing)

Inkling

@sudden but inevitable betrayal
That sounds about right! It's the same way the culture treats dead people-who-had-been-born. You can say hello and talk with them at their shrine and stuff. Americans are super evasive about it, like they hide death so people don't have to feel bad for them or something.

EternalFootwoman

@teaandcakeordeath It is a thumb in a skirt! Hmmm...hula Midwife is way better than Demon Midwife.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

The fire station on my walk to the train has a sign reminding you that you can drop off babies there.

What? Can you imagine how firefighters would respond to being handed a baby?

MmeLibrarian

@josiahg They'd probably feed it chili.

wharrgarbl

@josiahg I think they usually break out the baby drop-off kit, wrap it in the blanket, and transfer it to the nearest appropriate hospital. Fire stations are also designated as "safe places" for abused/neglected kids to report and seek protection until CPS shows up in a lot of communities. If I had to guess, it's because they're also first responders and usually have basic medical personnel on staff?

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@wharrgarbl
Real talk: that's quite comforting, thanks.

MmeLibrarian

@wharrgarbl Yeah, that is true, but the chili thing is funnier. Plus, I have a newborn and I don't even want to talk about the number of fire department jokes that have been made around here in the past six weeks.

Genghis Khat

@josiahg They immediately adopt it and raise it in their bro pack.

TheLetterL

@Genghis Khat @MmeLibrarian There would also be a scene of a firefighter trying to figure out disposable diapers (HOWDOTHEYWORKAGAIN?!) and having the pee leak out onto his lap, right? Because then we've got ourselves a movie.

MmeLibrarian

@TheLetterL SAD TROMBONE.

Luckier

@josiahg I'm working on a treatment now. It's Three Men and a Baby meets Backdraft. I'm thinking Gyllenhaal, Donald Glover and that werewolf guy from Trueblood - hijinks ensue as they try to hide the baby from Rosie O'Donnell as the fire captain. Christmas release.

Ophelia

@Luckier It is truly a testament to Hollywood that you have described a movie that would definitely get produced.

jacqueline
jacqueline

@Luckier I would watch the shit out of this movie.

themegnapkin

@Ophelia but then, because it's Hollywood, the mother who dropped it off would come back looking for her baby, and fall in love with one or all of the firemen.

Genghis Khat

@themegnapkin First she would fall for the jerky hot fireman, and then she would realize that the kind slightly less hot fireman who took the best care of her baby was the real One. Obvs she doesn't actually have sex with the hot mean one, but there is a misunderstanding.

TheLetterL

@Luckier Working title: "FireDads," with the tagline "The only blaze they couldn't put out was the one she ignited in their hearts" (Also, the baby's name is Blaze. GETIT?)

Genghis Khat

@TheLetterL It's pronounced Blah-zeh!

whateverlolawants

@Genghis Khat Somewhat related: At the firefighting museum in Memphis (pretty cool, go see it), there's a story about a mentally handicapped boy who showed up at a fire station there about 100 years ago. No one ever figured out where he was from, although it seemed his parents had gotten sick and died. He lived at firehouses for the rest of his life, which was a long one, and seemed to really enjoy it.

Here's the relevant passage from this article on Memphis firefighting (which has several interesting/sad anecdotes):
But one of the more fascinating stories of fire fighter kindness started at Memphis Fire Station 4. 1904 was still the era of horse drawn fire engines when John Connor, a developmentally disabled boy walked into the station which was about where I -40 crosses Main. The fire fighters took him in. They fed him clothed him and cleaned him. They even issued him a uniform, which they had to take away when he started directing traffic, but let him keep the hat. He rode engines to calls. He would take collections from the firefighters on payday never accepting more than $1. But most importantly they provided him with a family. His last station home was at Station 8 now at Mississippi and Georgia where a pumper was named in his honor. When he died November 8, 1979, firefighters were at his bedside in St Joseph’s Hospital, gave him a fire department funeral and paid for his burial. Obituaries generally mention family left behind and this one was no different. “He leaves 1,600 Memphis firemen.”

Genghis Khat

@whateverlolawants Wow that made me full of emotions. I was not expecting that! Thanks!

Miss Maszkerádi

@Luckier It could be a modern hero legend. Opening scene: a desperate young woman, nineteen at the oldest, is running frantically in the rain towards the fire station to leave her newborn baby in a safe place, because "home" is anything but safe: it's a hell of poverty and abusive boyfriend and no future. The all-male bro pack of gruff tough firemen are startled to find a baby on their doorstep, and even more startled once they realize the infant is a girl, but all sorts of protective-father instincts kick in and they raise the child as a member of their "family."
Cut forward eighteen years and the baby has grown up into a kick-ass, wise-cracking, street-smart tomboy with a heart of solid gold. (Because I'm writing this movie, all of the firemen see her purely as a beloved daughter and good buddy, and are not creepy about her being a lovely young woman now. Maybe one stock villain character is but nothing awful comes of it.) She wants to become a proper firefighter and save lives together with all her honorary dads, but the big gruff firemen aren't so sure of her abilities (she's short, she's skinny, she's a GIRL, etc.) So some rebellion and drama ensues and the girl briefly runs away. But at the climax of the film, Blaze (sure, why not) (I think she also has fiery red hair) shows up back at the station just as they've gotten a call to a catastrophic house fire across town: "Well, come on then kid, you in this with us or not?" All Our Heroes and Heroine pile into the fire truck and speed across town to the fire. It becomes apparent that someone is trapped inside the burning building, screaming for help, but only Blaze is brave enough (and small enough! huzzah for short people!) to crawl into the collapsing house and save the day. She emerges leading a shaken and coughing but alive woman in her mid thirties....who, once the smoke clears from her eyes, immediately recognizes her rescuer as the baby daughter she was forced to give up eighteen years ago....
It turns out that far from being shattered into helpless emotional oblivion by the awfulness of having to give away her newborn, the mother (her name is Mary or Demeter or something vaguely mythical and mother-goddessy) turned her despair into steely resolve: "I was gonna turn my life around so that when I came back to find you again, I'd be someone you'd be proud of." She left her abusive boyfriend (at great personal-safety risk), worked long hours in crappy menial jobs, and has now made enough money that she's putting herself through school. "But you came and found me first!"
Blaze, ever the tomboy, is trying not to break down bawling, and says gruffly, "Aw, shucks. You saved my life when you brought me to the firemen, seems only fair that now it's my turn to pay it forward and save yours."
Closing montage: Mary Demeter joyously graduating from college, Blaze joyously getting her firefighter's certification, and all the big rough gruff firemen joyously bawling like babies in the audience. Mary Demeter is probably also beginning to fall in love with the one of the (hot) firemen who was most devoted to taking care of Blaze as the daughter he never had, and because I'm writing this movie it will be a totally healthy and happy relationship but we don't end with a wedding montage because it's been done too many times.

....I got way carried away with that. I'm going to go be productive at my ACTUAL WORK NOW :-D

Genghis Khat

@CountessMaritza Maybe Blaze is a lesbot and it is totally not a big deal!

whateverlolawants

@Genghis Khat Aww, you're welcome!

@CountessMaritza "Well, come on then kid, you in this with us or not?" GUFFAW.

sony_b

I think these are great, and should be available in the U.S. The idea that it might be pimps or unhappy fathers who do this is horrible, but it's still probably better for the baby anyway. I would expect that they could do a genetic ID on the babies so if a woman reports a kidnapped baby they could reunite them immediately, and provide services if they are necessary. The thing that horrifies me about abandoned babies, especially with the economy what it is now, we hear about them being found in dumpsters and trashcans. How many never get found?

wharrgarbl

@sony_b They're available (or a similar program is available) in a lot of states. It's pretty easy to just pass a law stating that if you drop the infant off in a responsible, designated location, you won't be prosecuted, and then issue those places guidelines for dealing with surrendered infants. And nobody (who admits to it) likes babies dying preventably.

themegnapkin

@sony_b also, the article says that people are worried that pimps are dumping prostitutes' babies into the baby boxes in an effort to control them. Which is absolutely horrible, it's still better for the baby to be dumped in a baby box, rather than a trash can, right?

wharrgarbl

@themegnapkin It's better for both the mom and the baby. If the mother has been coerced into giving it up or the baby's been stolen, it's hardly going to be easier on her to hear that her baby froze to death in a parking lot because it didn't get found in time, or died in a dumpster, or was never found, than to hear that it would have been cared for properly and adopted out after so long with no contact from her.

themmases

@themegnapkin That worried me when I first read it, but it also kind of reminds me of American anti-choice rhetoric about mean (male) doctors and boyfriends pressuring women to abort their precious baybeez... So the way to protect those women is definitely to prevent all women from having a medical procedure they may need.

Not to, you know, get pimps and abusive partners away from women long before their abuse is allowed to spiral to such depths of bone-deep evil.

I think the more legitimate point in that article was that women who do this are clearly in a really distressing situation, and need support services that they are not going to get from an anonymous baby box. That part is true-- in general, giving up born children for adoption is much more traumatic for most women than having an abortion.

themmases

@themmases My remembered source for that last part is The Girls Who Went Away, btw. If I find anything I can actually link to, I will.

stonefruit

@themmases yes, me too. That book was something else, I tell you what.

wharrgarbl

@themmases It sounds like support services are, to one degree or another, available. It's a question of not being able or willing to access them for whatever reason. The one stat they give has 40% of the babies' mothers contacting them afterward and a third of the babies' mothers taking their children back. Small sample size, yeah, but it looks like a fair percentage of them are able to take the time the baby-boxes give them and get themselves into a better situation, be that mentally or physically.

themmases

@wharrgarbl Yeah, clearly the translated letter in the article is not the whole thing. It would be great if, in addition to information about how to reclaim a child, the reverse included information about other social services. Maybe it does-- my only point was that it's the only concern mentioned in the article that seems like it is even kind of in good faith. Actually, my hospital is a Safe Haven and I have no idea what information is given out to parents, if any. Some, I hope?

megsisbestest

@wharrgarbl Every state has a safe haven law. The time limits just vary - dramatically in some cases. North Dakota gives you a year while there are some states that only give you three days. I'm not super fancy with the links -- http://www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org/states/

Lustful Cockmonster

@megsisbestest I'm pretty sure one of the states had to revisit their law because, as passed, parents were allowed to drop of teenagers and were actually doing so. Which is hilarious. (Or maybe this was just an SNL skit?) Off to the interwebs to check...

Lustful Cockmonster

@Grumplestiltskin Haha, yep. Nebraska. They were dropping off 12 and 14 year olds. Which I can sort of understand. Middle schoolers are the worst.

Snicker-snack!

@themegnapkin Yeah, in those circumstances, I really don't think the baby box is the problem that "concerned" folks should be focusing on.

wharrgarbl

@Grumplestiltskin I think it was mostly kids with developmental and mental problems? Like, the families didn't have the resources to deal with the kids' needs, but they weren't in a negligent or abusive situation, so social services basically kept bumping them down the needs list?

Lustful Cockmonster

@wharrgarbl Oh probably so, which is obviously way less funny...one guy dropped off NINE of his children. NINE.

wharrgarbl

@Grumplestiltskin ...did he keep a couple, or was that all of them?

Springtime for Voldemort

@Grumplestiltskin I thought it was really sad that they stopped letting the parents of teens drop the kid off. Because, I mean, sure, the foster system is a giant pile of dung, but that point where you're actually dropping your talking child off at a safe haven is also the point at which that kid has an insanely shitty home life that isn't going to get better just because the parent now has one less resource.

Springtime for Voldemort

@themmases Can I ask - The Girls That Went Away, is it a really rough read? Do I need to be in a "good place" to read it? Because I got it from the library, but haven't really been able to pick it up.

themmases

@papayalily I read distressing nonfiction a lot, so I probably have a high tolerance for it, but I would say it's not the most distressing thing I've ever read? (it took me months to stop talking about Medical Apartheid, by contrast) It's upsetting, so definitely don't be in a bad place, but I think it's safe to read in a neutral or stressed but not upset place. Sorry, I don't know if this was very clear. :/

Springtime for Voldemort

@themmases No, it was clear. I also read lots of distressing non-fiction; I recently went to the library, got 1 book that was a lighthearted novel, and then 6 books on rape, domestic violence, and institutionalized child abuse, and realized I'm a strange person. (Really, whenever someone asks if I can recommend a "good book", I have to remind myself that they probably mean "a good book that won't bum me out a bit, and is easy to read right before bed".) If it's like reading Project Unbreakable, then I'm golden, if it's like reading American Gulag: Secret POW Camps for Teens, yeah, definitely gonna have to plan for a night of hot packs and chamomile tea first.

Officedronette

@papayalily I thought it was a fascinating read, but I also had a very personal interest as the daughter of a mother who was adopted in '61, so square within that demographic of children born to the "girls who went away." Some parts were tough, but I thought it was so important that the stories of these women, who in so many ways had been silenced, were being told. Also, fun fact, that book inspired me to find my mother's birth mother, which I did fairly easily, partially because of what I had learned from the book.

noReally

Or instead of the box, they could just have a bulletin board with clippings of all the LOVING WHITE CHRISTIAN FAMILIES GIVE $$$ FOR BABIES ads.

rosaline

Is anyone else seeing the last two comment threads all in bold writing?

rosaline

@rosaline Mine is in bold too, for some reason!

EpWs

@rosaline Someone forgot to close their taaaaaaaaaaags. (Not you!)

Springtime for Voldemort

@rosaline YES!!!!! (Phew, this saves me the trouble of having to close out my browser).

whateverlolawants

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher It was ME! (I had no idea that could happen! Cool.)

stonefruit

Let's see, does this help close the tags?

Dale Edmonds@facebook

Unintended Consequences is a US-centric research overview of why safe harbor laws do more damage than good for babies. Basically, someone who was going to abandon their baby in a bathroom or kill the newborn is not going to go to a safe harbor baby box, anonymous or not.

There are huge social and psychological costs to growing up without an identity, and the baby boxes' anonymity doesn't seem to increase the number of drop-offs over a baby box where some contact is given - and a chance to offer the abandoning parent support and access to services as an alternative.

They're a distracting band-aid over the huge lack of social support needed by families and pregnant women in crisis. Baby shelters yes, anonymous baby boxes, gah no.

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