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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Inmate gives birth in prison then strangles her baby - not making this stuff up

Yesterday Thabile and I had an appointment in Mankayane and left the farm early to make the 90-minute journey.  On our way we saw a newspaper headline which read, “Inmate gives birth, attempts to kill her baby”.  I pointed at it and asked Thabile if she had seen that and she said yes, and she had heard it on the news the night before.  I was shocked by the headline, but drove on.  When we finished our meeting, we stopped and bought a newspaper then headed home. “Coincidentally” the woman’s prison was right on our way, meaning we LITERALLY had to drive past it to get back, and I felt prompted to stop by the prison and ask how the baby was doing. 

We have a very good relationship with the leadership at the prison so I sent a text message and put in a call.  We also contacted Social Welfare and the police to make sure it was okay with all the stakeholders that we check on the baby.  They all said, “YES!  Stop in and we will meet you there.”  So we did.

We checked in at the front gate and walked down to the highly secured building and waited to be called by the head of the prison.  After a short time we were escorted up to her office and walked past a sad looking woman holding a baby.  We knew instantly who she was.

After greetings were made and formalities complete the girl was asked to come in and sit on the floor. I took the baby from her and started to unwrap all the blankets to see what lay beneath.  When I finally got to the baby I saw a plump (3.6 KG or 7.9 LB) baby girl with lots of hair. She was/is beautiful.  I looked to the mother and asked her what happened.  Here is what we learned.

The mother is 27-years old and has a 14-month old child. She is very poor and the father of the child has gone off leaving her with no support.  She stole R800 ($80 US) from an old Grandmother and was arrested.  She was charged with theft and given the choice of paying a R1,000 ($100 US) fine or go to prison for one year.  She had no money so had to choose the prison sentence. She and her 14-month old child went to prison on October 26th.   On October 28th she started treatment for HIV (although we learned that she had known before her first child was born that she was positive, but didn’t want to start treatment).

She did not mention to anyone at the prison that she was pregnant, and for some reason, no one noticed.

Early on the morning of November 7th the mother had stomach pains and diarrhea and stayed behind in her room at breakfast time.  She claims that she didn’t know she was pregnant (her story changed a lot over several hours), but suddenly a baby came out. She knew she was not allowed to have two babies in prison and the father of the new baby didn’t even know she was pregnant so she decided to kill the child.  

She didn’t have anything sharp to cut the umbilical cord so she torn it off with her bare hands, leaving the placenta deep inside her.  She put her hands around the baby’s tiny throat and squeezed to stop her from breathing, leaving deep fingernail marks on the baby’s tender skin.  Once the baby stopped breathing, the mother put her in the bottom of a trash bin and then piled garbage on top of her hoping that when the trash was emptied the baby would be done and no one would know. 

The mother started to bleed profusely and another inmate came to check on her and found the pool of blood. They screamed for help and a nurse and several officers came running.  The nurse immediately thought that the woman had tried to abort a child, but the mother said it was not true. Slowly the bleeding mother walked over to the trash bin and started pulling the garbage off the baby.  She reached down and pulled the newborn out by her foot.  The baby was grey by this time. 

The nurse and the officers were shocked and immediately went in to action. I am told that the nurse started CPR immediately and the officers around stood and prayed out loud. I can only imagine what the sound of their cries was like.  After a time, the baby took a deep breath and her heart started to beat again.  (No doubt the angel that was protecting her also took a deep breath too!)  The nurse brought this newborn back to life and then they rushed the baby and mother off to the hospital.  The mother was hemorrhaging badly and was in and out of consciousness.  The doctors were able to remove the placenta and the mother stabilized quickly.  By the next morning, the day we were there, both mother and child had returned to the prison.

So there we sat. We listened to her story as it was slowly and painfully pulled out of her.  She seemed totally detached from the baby and from what was happening around her.  I couldn’t begin to put myself in her shoes. She had just delivered a 7.9 LB baby (BIG) by herself, killed her child, almost bled to death and 24-hours later is sitting on the floor talking to us.  Surreal.

Thabile and I took turns holding the precious baby and praying over her, but she started to cry and wanted to eat.  The prison officials suggested that the mother nurse the baby, but because the mother is HIV positive we wanted to discourage that in case the child was going to come to El Roi where she would continue with bottle-feeding.  We didn’t want to chance passing HIV to the baby through breast milk if this was going to be a “one time” feeding (the mother did breast feed during the night and the baby has been put on Nivirapine as a HIV prevention method – we will have her tested in six weeks).  But we had nothing else to give her.  The nurse scoured to find a bottle and formula and finally found both, but could not find a nipple for the bottle.  The baby started to cry more.

I think this is my favorite part of the whole story.

I always carry a diaper bag in my car complete with bottles, formula, diapers, wipes and clothes. I just never know when I am going to get a call to pick up a baby.  But this time, I was in Ian’s car because mine was in the shop so my usually “prepared” items were not in the back.  As the baby’s cries got louder and started to think. I said to Thabile, “You know, if we had known that we were picking up a baby today we would have packed a diaper bag right?”

She said, “Yes, we would have, but we didn’t know”.

I said, “Right, but obviously Jesus knew that we were going to pick up a baby. I wonder if He packed a bag?  We know that He cares about the small details. I wonder if there is something in the back of Ian’s car?”

I handed the keys to Thabile and asked her to go check.  That is not an easy thing to do because we were inside the prison walls and she would have to get escorted back out through security, take the long walk to the main road, pass that security and go to my car parked on the highway.  She didn't want to go because it was a long way, and a hassle, but she was obedient and took the keys.  (I love that girl!). Twenty minutes later she walked back in the tiny room where we were sitting and had a FULL diaper bag with her complete with bottles, formula, diapers, wipes and clothes!  Jesus packed a bag and it was in the back of Ian’s car.  I later discovered that Ian had put it there two weeks prior when he thought it was needed for a trip to get Baby Isaiah, but Isaiah was not ready for pick up at that time, so it stayed in the car.  I love my husband!

At that time we were all overwhelmed by God’s provision for this little baby.  Not only did He bring her back to life, and then He had us right near the prison to drop in an check on the baby, He also made sure that we had all the supplies we needed for this little angel.  And that is what we have named her.  Angel.

After four hours at the prison we were asked to take the baby to the El Roi Baby Home. The mother will be charged with attempted murder and her time in prison will be extended.  I don’t know whether to feel pity for her or anger.  I guess I feel both.

We have received four newborn babies in the past week.  We welcome Mary, Isaiah, Glory and now Angel.  We thank all of the people who give to Heart for Africa on a monthly basis because without you, we could not continue to say “yes” when a baby needs a home.  We pray that funding will come in for these four soon.

Thanks for reading and praying.

Live from Swaziland … we have 45 babies living at Project Canaan.

PS - Now, for a bit of shameless self-promotion, my 50th birthday on November 19th and my friends at Heart for Africa asked me what I wanted for my birthday, then they put a “wish list” on the website. All of my birthday wishes are for the babies at Project Canaan or the women at the Kibbutz.  Feel free to buy a goat or a chicken or contribute to the next children’s home on Project Canaan to help me celebrate!

In the US: Click here

In Canada :  Click here

Thanks friends.

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