Saturday, September 29, 2012
Rape victim doesn't want the baby... what does she do?
How do you get in front of the “baby dumping” curve? Who does a pregnant mother turn to in a time of great distress BEFORE she decides to dump or kill her baby?
Last Saturday I was invited to attend a march, which was encouraging people to stopping aborting babies or dumping them in the pit latrines or ditches. We stopped for a time of prayer near some reeds where more than 40 fetuses and birthed babies had been found dead. It was a chilling moment.
During the event I was chatting with a senior member of the Child Protection Services department of the police and I asked him if there was a way for us to get ahead of the dumping? Is there anywhere a woman could feel safe to go and share her fear? He told me about a young woman who had gone to the police because she had been raped and absolutely did not want the baby nor could she care for the baby. Ah ha! There is one who we might be able to help BEFORE she makes a bad decision out of hopelessness.
Last Thursday I met the her face to face at the police station. She is 26-years old and a lovely young woman. She is a single mom with two-year-old twins. She is now 39+ weeks pregnant and the baby is due on October 4th. I will call her Nomsa, but that is not her real name.
Nomsa rents a tiny room on the outskirts of town where she lives with her boys. She walks more than an hour to work each evening after dropping the twins off at a neighbor to care for them while she works the nightshift. Her dishwashing shift starts at 6PM and goes until 7AM. When she finishes her 13-hour shift she walks back and picks up her sons and takes them to the small room. During the day she must rest, do laundry, feed them and care for them before leaving again for work.
One day, 39 weeks ago, Nomsa was walking through the forest to go and visit a friend when a man jumped out of nowhere. He grabbed her and started beating her trying to force her to the ground. She screamed for help and he stuffed a cloth in her mouth to silence her and beat her more. When she continued to struggle to get away, he pulled out a knife to silence her, and then he raped her.
Nomsa was distraught, but told no one out of fear and shame. When she realized she was pregnant she sought help from her church community and they sent her to the police. She wanted to abort the child, but when she explored that option she found out that it was too late, the child was too far developed. And so she was stuck. She couldn’t possibly care for another baby. She was doing her best to care for her twins, but a third child would be impossible. What could she do? While Nomsa knew that baby dumping was wrong, maybe that would be her only choice once this child, conceived during a violent rape, arrived. She had no family who could help and she was very alone.
Our meeting on Thursday was so sad, but in a way I was encouraged by the action and care the police had taken in this situation. When the police told Nomsa that we could provide a home for her baby if she promised not to dump it or harm it, she was overjoyed! She was hopeful. She knew disposing of the baby was wrong, but El Roi (the God who sees) heard her cry and saw her pain and sent help to her this week.
So now we are awaiting a phone call. Nomsa has agreed to go to the hospital to give birth and she believes the baby will be here any day. I have mixed emotions (again). We are able to prevent this child from possible death or injury and can help this mother not have to live with guilt and shame, but I wish we could help her in a way that she can care for this little one. But that is not what we are called to do right now. Maybe one day we will be able to provide housing and employment that would allow this woman to care for all three of her children, that would be great. But for now, we do what we can with what we have and we give thanks.
Now for an update on the prison baby. After a week of advocating at the highest levels of several government departments we have been told that the 5-month old baby must stay in prison with the mother, even though the mother is begging us to take the baby so that he will not die of malnutrition. We have tried everything and everyone and our friends involved in child safety are frustrated, enraged and discouraged. Today I must go to the prison and tell the mother, face to face, that we are not allowed to help. Bureaucracy wins and we pray that the baby doesn’t lose because of it. We will take her the socks and underwear she has asked for as she only has one pair of each, and we will take her a compassionate smile, a word of encouragement and a scripture of hope stuffed in her socks. I don’t look forward to the drive today, but I trust that His plans are better than our plans and that they are in fact perfect.
Finally, an update on the 16-year old mother from a few weeks ago. She is still living on the street or in a brothel or wherever she can lay her head. She told us she wants to nurse her baby until he is 6-months old and then give him to us. We are not sure what her thinking/logic is in this? Sadly she is HIV positive and refuses treatment so she likely passing on the HIV to her baby through her breast milk. Again, our plans are not His plans and we continue to pray that El Roi sees that young girl and the baby and that His plan for them is fulfilled.
Live from Swaziland … this journey is filled with ups and downs.
PS - I took this photo while at the police station last week. It was a large poster on the wall of the office we were in. I asked if I could have a copy and they said it was a poster from the year 2000, but it was still a good message so they keep it up.