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Mothers of all races abandon their babies. And if social trends from incarceration to medical care are any indication insofar as African Americans are concerned, of the ones abandoned by their mothers, Black infants may be abandoned disproportionately. On the other hand, given the strong sense of family stemming from the days of slavery, this may well be a false assumption. Whatever the case, the phenomena of baby abandonment is not at all new-particularly among Africans and their descendents according to the book, Egyptian Erotica: The Essence of Ancient Egyptian Erotica in Art and Literature (2004) by El-Qhamid and Joseph Toledano. In it the authors say that "The Egyptian custom was to place infants that had been born to unmarried women...[or]...women from poor families" in an open field. Of course, children born to unmarried women were stigmatized as being bastards. The thought is actually a Scriptural one.
"But if ye be without chastisement," says the Good Book, "whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (Hebrews 12:8; King James Version) In other words, if your father truly loves you he'll chastise you on some level. Conversely, if you're a bastard (or illegitimate child), he probably wouldn't care as much. Whatever the culture of circumstance, the custom of abandoning babies dates back to ancient times. One needs only to consider God's instructions of Ezekiel when he had the prophet issue a message to the wayward Israelites:
"God's Message came to me: 'Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her outrageous violations. Say this: "The Message of God, the Master, to Jerusalem: You were born and bred among Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your umbilical cord was not cut, you weren't bathed and cleaned up, you weren't rubbed with salt, you weren't wrapped in a baby blanket. No one cared a fig for you. No one did one thing to care for you tenderly in these ways. You were thrown out into a vacant lot and left there, dirty and unwashed--a newborn nobody wanted.'" (Ezek. 16:1-5; Message Bible) Sounds familiar?
Thankfully, California law provides safe haven for young unwed mothers who may be tempted to abandon their babies. The Safely Surrendered Baby Law allows parents to confidentially turn their babies over to authorities within three days of birth, provided the infant has not been abused or neglected. A legal guardian can also bring the child in. The baby must be taken to a fire station or handed over to an employee at a Los Angeles County emergency room. In the event either parent changes his or her mind, both child and parent are given matching bracelets. Either parent has 14 days to reclaim the child. Over about a ten-year period in Los Angeles County along (1999 to April 13, 2009) there were 73 abandonments, 56 of whom died. Could abandoning these children and leaving them to die be a form of self-induced genocide?
Encouragingly, there were 71 babies that were safely surrendered to persons at county facilities. Of course, putting one's child up for adoption due to extremely extenuating circumstances is not the same as baby abandonment. This fact is born out in a more familiar Scriptural scenario where a loving, caring mother surrendered her child to safe haven under some rather extraordinary circumstances. The account reads:
"A man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and had a son. She saw there was something special about him and hid him. She hid him for three months. When she couldn't hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it with tar and pitch, and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile. The baby's older sister found herself a vantage point a little way off and watched to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh's daughter came down to the Nile to bathe; her maidens strolled on the bank. She saw the basket-boat floating in the reeds and sent her maid to get it. She opened it and saw the child-a baby crying! Her heart went out to him. She said, 'This must be one of the Hebrew babies.'
"Then his sister was before her: 'Do you want me to go and get a nursing mother from the Hebrews so she can nurse the baby for you?' Pharaoh's daughter said, 'Yes. Go.' The girl went and called the child's mother. Pharaoh's daughter told her, 'Take this baby and nurse him for me. I'll pay you.' The woman took the child and nursed him. After the child was weaned, she presented him to Pharaoh's daughter who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses (Pulled-Out), saying, 'I pulled him out of the water.'" (Ex. 2:1-10; MB) Yes, Moses' mother put him up for adoption in a valiant effort to save his life, and even followed through to ensure his safety and acceptance. In her case, she even was blessed with being able to provide care for the child that enabled her to bond with it. When possible, this certainly isn't a bad pattern for biological mothers to follow when circumstances called for putting a child up for adoption. (For more information on surrendering and adopting babies, please call the Department of Children and Family Services at 1.800.540.4000.)
Finally, any adult who has issues with begin a child of adoption--or was even abandoned by one or both parents--can take heart by acquiring the faith of Israelite King David who wrote: In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, Even Jehovah himself would take me up." (Ps. 27:10) Stay up. Stay strong. Keep the faith. Amen.