I’d like to talk about the feelings evoked when the topic Baby Boxes are brought up, a hot topic right now in the adoption community due to the movie “The Drop Box” which is being called a stunning pro-life documentary. The problem with talking about my feelings is hard because the reaction I have to any mention of them, or the way Safe Havens are set up, causes my stomach to churn and my words to slip away. The feelings start with the assumptions made about what the new mothers want, but without any research about what they actually want, the assumptions of wanting confidentiality, not wanting their child, and so many others are without merit, without the voices of the mothers.
As to the feelings that come with not knowing who you are, and where, and who you came from, are something I struggled with for a good four decades. Most of the unknown, I now know, but there are still parts I will never know. Not knowing was hard, painful, and left me feeling like a big chunk of who I am, was missing. The wondering never went away, despite pushing it into the farthest reaches of my soul so I could be present in my daily life. That worked for short periods of time, until it didn’t, and the hurt, pain, anguish of not knowing rose to the surface like a wound that never quite heals, so I pushed it down again, and again. It’s also not something another can speak of if they haven’t experienced it. It’s all good and wonderful to assume (that word again) that the person who was abandoned would be forever grateful they were left with no hope of knowing, what you, the one assuming, has always had the benefit of knowing. You can’t know how a person will feel about something so big. It is also stunning to me that people who think this is such a wonderful idea, take so little time wondering the impact on those who have this as their beginning story of their life that will affect their entire life in ways no one can imagine. If you care about ‘saving’ the life of someone, you should also care about how that saving impacts the actual lived life of that person, and consider, what other steps could be taken instead, to mitigate the losses.
I wrote about revolving cradles and foundling wheels several years ago after I stumbled upon a report written in the late 1800’s. Snippets from that report are below, I encourage you to read the full report which can be found in the link below, and by clicking under the subtitle noted below found in the index: […] indicates more not included here. Note the first solution they found to be better, at the end.
In 1869 this was written about Revolving Cradles in Europe
The Fifth Annual Report of the Board of State Charities of Massachusetts, to which are added the Reports of the Secretary and the The General Agent of the Board January, 1869. Under the subtitle “Foundling and Deserted Children” it delves into the subject of the history of Foundling Hospitals and finally the Revolving Cradle. “the history of Foundling Hospitals – their origin in the earliest times, their wide popularity, rapid extension, abuses, disfavor, and decline, furnish an instructive lesson for the student of sociology.”
“Government, therefore, by letters patent, directed that foundlings should be left to the care of private charity.” It appears to have been customary, from very early times, to place some of these infants in beds at the entrance of churches; and for those in charge of them to stand and cry to passers, “Help, for these poor innocents.[…]
But the popular sentiment of charity, unguided by wisdom, called for more foundling hospitals; and they were multiplied, and came to be considered as essential features of every Christian and civilized community.
They were encouraged by governments, and by the religious orders; and grew, by endowments, in wealth and size, until there are some which count their children by thousands, and reckon their income by millions of dollars.
The priests, nurses, officers and employees grew to be an army, with all the vices, peculations, and abuses which such armies engender. […]
Such is the consequence of being led blind-folded by the beautiful sentiment of mercy, into wholesale measures, without the use of reason.
One of the most interesting features of the Foundling Hospitals is the Revolving Cradle, placed in a niche in the street wall of the building. Indeed it is a type of the establishment. Born of the same tender sentiment, it produces, when not regulated by reason, the same evil consequences.
A person could approach this Revolving Cradle, at any time, of day or night, place a child within its warm blankets, pull a bell, and flee away unobserved; or, watching a moment, could see the light stream from the opened wicket, the infant tenderly removed, and the Cradle swung out again for the next comer.”
These Revolving Cradles were multiplied extensively over Europe. In France alone were two hundred and fifty-seven hospitals or asylums for foundlings, of which two hundred and seventeen had the Revolving Cradles. Most of these were so placed that any one could deposit an infant without being seen. in a few cases they were watched; and whoever left a child was obliged to make himself known.
After it became to appear that the multiplication of these establishments increase the number of foundlings, wise men called for their abolition; but, like all rooted institutions, they found ardent defenders. Arguments and even stubborn facts, could not meet sentimental appeals, like that of Lamartine, who said of the Cradles, that “they have no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no tongue to betray the unfortunate mother, but they have welcoming arms for her babe.” […]
The church, which found in these establishments a source of influence, and an employment for her servants, resisted all attempt to lessen their number and extent.
But the numerous evils and abuses engender in such un-natural families, and their unfavorable influence upon public morality, became so manifest, that great foundling hospices are no longer in favor. Three-quarters of the hospitals of France have been closed; and most of the Revolving Cradles abolished. Their place is being taken, their work is much better done, and their principal evils avoided,
First, by small establishments, calculated to lessen the temptations to abandonment of children, such as the crèches of France and Belgium; establishments which take charge of infants during the day while the mothers are at work.
Secondly, by societies for the care of orphans and abandoned children, the leading principle of which is opposed to the vicious one of aggregation, and favors separation and diffusion by boarding out the children among ordinary families….
Third, by temporary asylums, or transient homes, of which one of the best specimens is the Massachusetts Asylum, established last year at Dorchester, and now located in Brookline.” […]
So well over a hundred years ago they determined the resolving cradle and foundling hospitals were wrong, and found that small establishments which take charge of infants during the day while the mothers are at work was the better solution.