real life

"Why I cannot condemn the mother who left her baby in a drain."

There is a woman in Australia that I feel sorry for this week.

A woman who has been condemned as evil, vile, despicable.

A woman who has been described as an “unfit mother”.

A woman facing 20 years in jail.

This woman dumped her newborn baby, who was just 17 hours old, in a drain beside the M7 at Quakers Hill, Sydney. He fell 2.5 metres to the ground and lay there, close to death, for six days.

The images of the baby boy’s face, framed by a pink hospital blanket, made me shudder. All three of my children were wrapped in similar blankets.

Yours as well, probably.

I found it difficult to put any of my three children into a cradle for the first week, let alone throw them down a drain. Nurses couldn’t tear them off me, and I refused to allow them to be taken to the nursery without me by their side.

The drain where the baby was found on Sunday.

I held them tight, breathed them in and sobbed with relief into their downy hair - they were healthy and safe and beautiful. I cherished them.

This mother, who appeared before Blacktown Court on Tuesday, did not cherish her son. And yet I am not this woman, and so I find it difficult to condemn her.

Are you surprised?

I'm surprised by my reaction because most mothers I know feel anger towards this woman, but I don't feel the same.

I agree she is unfit to be a mother.

I agree she should be held accountable. And I agree she shouldn't be reunited with the baby that she abandoned down a drain.

But I don’t agree that the full force of the law should come down upon her. And I don’t think she deserves the hatred being directed her way.

"I held them tight and breathed them in and sobbed into their downy hair with relief that they were healthy and safe and beautiful. I cherished them."

I think she needs help. Not vilification.

There is so much we don’t know about this case. So many details that will eventually emerge from the courts. The woman made a calculated decision to deny the pregnancy. But who really knows why she made this decision.


Was it fear? Terror? Hatred that drew her to hide it? Was it shame, religion or a mental illness?

Some commentators have asked why she didn’t dump the baby boy somewhere she knew he would be cared for, at a Church, or a hospital – though Australia has no safe haven laws. They have written of the torment that runs through women who battle their fertility and how those women would give anything for a baby like this boy.

And yet, who are we to say that this mother does not battle torment, too?

"And yet who are we to say that this mother does not battle torment, too?"

There is a chance, of course that she simply “erased a problem” to draw a phrase from the judge’s findings in a similar case, that of Kelly Lane. There is a chance that this woman is cold, cruel, heartless and evil. But the fact is there's also a chance that she isn’t. There is also a possibility that she is deeply disturbed and needs compassion.

Maybe one day she is going to realise exactly what she has missed out on. She is going to dream of her baby son and feel a loss, an absence, a deep, distressing, heartbreaking soul destroying hole where he should be.

There are lessons to be learned here: How did a mother manage to leave a hospital without anyone picking up a possible welfare issue? Of course it is not the fault of the staff or the midwives, but you have to question what support services are in place for new mothers.

No matter what the outcome is for this mother – of which we will learn more when she appears in court on Friday – hopefully what can come of it is questions asked, and action taken, regarding postnatal support for new mothers.

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