Don’t let stress drive you to abandon children, mom urges
A traumatic pregnancy, isolation from her family, and mounting debt drove 31-year-old Alicia* to take her days-old baby to a Corporate Area children’s home last year in an attempt to break ties.
“I just left the baby there and just walked away,” she said, explaining her reasons for a decision she now regrets. “The bills were piling up and things were going downhill. My blood pressure was high, my blood count dropped, my sugar count dropped, everything dropped, so I was, basically, stressed out.”
Alicia said that she had a very difficult pregnancy and her baby wasn’t breathing when she was born at just 20 weeks. After giving her CPR and oxygen, doctors were able to resuscitate her and nurse her to good health.
Alicia herself required medical attention, and since her family was not aware that she was pregnant, the mother of two lacked support.
“It was really stressful. I felt like to just give up, let go of everything, just walk away. To how I felt, I didn’t go back straight home. I was saying, ‘All right, nobody knows’,” said Alicia, who had broken the connection with everyone in her circle.
She remembers leaving the hospital with her two-week-old baby, getting into a taxi, and instructing the driver to take her anywhere he wished. He was immediately concerned, and after realising that she was overwhelmed, he gave her his number and encouraged her to take the baby to the Maxfield Park Children’s Home.
Alicia left the baby with a worker at the home, and while it seemed like the best thing, it didn’t take her long to realise she had made a bad decision.
“During that time, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, nothing at all. I went back to the home, and I said, ‘OK, I think I need to bond with this child. I think I need to get her back,” the mother said as her now one-year-old daughter nursed from her breast during an interview at The Gleaner’s North Street offices in Kingston.
She began visiting the home after work to bond with the child. During one such visit, she met the chairman of the home, Emprezz Golding, who encouraged her to take her child home. The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) soon gave her the nod.
“Children are better at home, so we really have to just try and encourage parents to look after their children the best that they can,” said Golding, who would like to see more persons encouraging and supporting parents in distress.
“My first baby I loved, I think he was found at Spanish Town Hospital. He was dumped there. I think it was a policewoman [who found him]. We gave him the policewoman’s last name,” she said, adding that the child has since been adopted.
CPFSA Public Relations and Communications Manager Rochelle Dixon noted that there have been cases where children, some with disabilities or heart conditions, were left behind at hospitals by their mothers.
“A mother who is unable to take care of her child or children should seek assistance from the various social agencies such as the CPFSA, National Parenting Support Commission, and PATH (Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education), among others,” she urged.
“We are imploring parents who are having a difficulty, feeling overwhelmed or frustrated during these times to seek assistance early,” she said.
Dixon noted that since the pandemic, the agency has been witnessing even more social-welfare cases while working in communities.
“These cases are usually referred to our Children and Family Support Unit, which serves to divert children from state care through the provision of counselling support, parenting training, and connecting families with other social-welfare entities such as PATH and Food For the Poor,” she explained.
With the COVID-19 pandemic placing undue stress on many families, Alicia is also encouraging mothers to reach out for help when circumstances seem unbearable.
“Just seek advice. Talk to someone, a family member, friend, stranger. Just talk to someone or have a group where someone is there in a corner praying for you, someone is there to encourage you not to give up,” she said.