I came across a heartbreaking story the other day. I warn you before you continue reading, it might ruin your day.
So that’s it. A homeless and drug-addicted woman gives birth in a subway bathroom. The sight of blood leads employees to the baby. “When they went into the restroom, they found a placenta in the trash and an umbilical cord hanging from the toilet.” They call 911. An ambulance goes to the child. The police seek out the mother. They follow the trail of blood to the woman who was in an alley behind a Pep Boys just down from the sandwich shop.
The reporter states: “What I find so disturbing is that we’re just a few feet away from a fire station, which is a safe-surrender site, but instead, the mother decided to not just give birth in the toilet but to leave the baby partially submerged in the toilet water here at subway.”
“Decided.” What a strange word to use here.
She has been arrested on charges of child abandonment and attempted murder. Her bail is set at $2 million. I wept when I heard this, but not for the child, who is fine. I’m sad because of the reaction.
“What Kind of a Person Does Something Like This?”
That question is a natural reaction: What kind of a person does something like this? But don’t react. Be better than that. Reflect. Think. Answer the question. What kind of a person actually does something like this?
She was in the bathroom at 8:07. She left the bathroom at 8:17. What kind of a person, in the midst of labor pains, chooses a subway bathroom as a place of refuge? How destitute must one become before doing that?
She asks for a cup for a drink from the drink fountain before pretending to approach it, and only then moves to the bathroom. What kind of a person not only seeks a bathroom in labor pains, but has to pretend to be a customer to even access the toilet?
She was just down the road from a firehouse, but she chose a Subway bathroom and toilet instead. What kind of a person is so ashamed, confused, or hopeless in her labor pains that she cannot scream to someone – anyone – that she is pregnant, having a baby, and needs an ambulance?
She quickly leaves, trailing blood, not stopping for the employee who questions her. What kind of person runs, bleeding and stooped over from the exertion, not stopping to talk to anyone, so that she can lie down in an alley in the strip mall in order to recover?
The thing that makes me sad is not that this woman did this. What makes me sad is that someone could be so hopeless, friendless, money-less, option-less, ashamed, fearful, and destitute that this event even took place. What kind of a person does something like this?
My mind wanders to other things, too. I think of the relationship between homelessness and mental illness. Was this woman mentally ill? Did she even know what to do? I remember from television that as surprising as it sounds, you do not even have to be mentally ill to be completely caught off guard by a birth.
What Kind of People Do Something Like This
I am also sad by the reaction. A trail of blood usually leads to someone we consider a victim. This time, police followed the blood, which led them to the woman, and arrested her on child abandonment and attempted murder.
I have had difficulty expressing what I want to write here. It muddles into a bland expression of what the law is, about the level of suspicion of breaking that law, and why such an arrest is improper based on what you must suspect. Every crime has a mental element, and attempted murder and child abandonment involves intending to kill and intentionally abandoning. But to legally explain that minutia would destroy what I really want to communicate.
The real thing is this: Is this just? Is this right? Is the story right? Is your reaction right?
Does your shock move to anger? Why? Is your anger satisfied by arresting her? Is it right to assume that a horrific situation must be caused by a single horrible person? Do we look at all the questions about how a woman could have a baby in a Subway bathroom and run out and only say, “Because she must be a horrible person.” Do we ignore everything else? Are we blind to things we do not normally see? What kind of people does that make us?
Can we not see her as a person in serious need? Is it so sad that we cannot accept the sadness? Do we have to block it out with a scapegoat? Do not feel satisfied with scapegoats.
I am not blind to the possibility that unsavory facts could come up. I know she has a criminal record and is wanted on a drug charge. I will leave it to you to decide if that makes her less deserving of our pity or more in need of our help. I wonder seriously about her mental capacity, and I wonder if that will make her less sympathetic if a camera ever gets to her person, or worse, if dozens of them swarm her entire self.
However, I will point out how some of the facts from this short article are more suggestive than they should be.
I read that she abandoned her newborn. If you run less than 100 yards from something in abject fear, does that mean you intended to abandon? The poor baby was “partially submerged” in the toilet water. Is that enough to show that she intended to kill her baby? Additionally, is there any other way that a baby can lay in a toilet other than “partially submerged” in the water?
What kind of a person has a baby that we find in a toilet at a Subway sandwich shop? Perhaps it’s a person poor enough, money-less enough, friendless enough, desperate enough, and helpless enough to have a baby alone and on a toilet in a bathroom at Subway. Perhaps it’s someone pitiful enough to be found lying in an alley in a pool of her own blood.
What will we do to her now? Arrest her and hold her on $2 million bail? How should we feel about her now? As an attempted child murderer?
Have mercy. Please. Have mercy.
What kind of people will we be if we don’t?