Thursday, 12 July 2012

Baby hatches- the abandonment of not only babies, but our fighting spirit

Children are said to be a gift from God; with so many couples today unable to conceive naturally, people blessed with children should count their lucky stars and be grateful for what they have.  In recent years this concept has taken a bruising and battering as so many girls in their teens have carelessly got pregnant, many of those girls having abortions so casually like they were going food shopping, this being a mockery to those that desperately want children, but are unable to have them.  However, society has not stopped at this level.  Earlier this week, I was horrified to hear in the media about ‘baby hatches,’ a hatch that allows mothers to abandon their newborns anonymously outside a hospital or social centre if they are struggling to cope with motherhood.  Whilst some deem this acceptable, I sat there in dismay, unable to comprehend that people are being encouraged to take the easy way out and abandon their newborn babies so abruptly after birth.  What was even worse was that although baby hatches are illegal in the United Kingdom, there is every possibility that in the upcoming years they could be judged as legal.

Baby hatches have existed in one form or another for centuries.  From 1198 in Italy, a foundling wheel that women could leave their child in secret was set up so that they wouldn’t have to kill their babies.  A foundling wheel was a cylinder set upright in the outside wall of a building, similar to a revolving door so that mothers could place the child in the cylinder, turn it round so that the baby was inside the church, and then ring a bell to alert caretakers.  In modern society, baby hatches were originally created when mothers had their children out of wed-lock, but today they are primarily aimed at women who find it difficult to cope with having children and want to give them up without exposing their identity.  Currently, baby hatches are legal in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan and Belgium.
Usually consisting of a door or a flap that mothers can leave their babies in, a carer will be immediately notified when a baby has been placed in a baby hatch so that it can be collected and taken care of.  My first concern when I heard about this was that the babies could easily get ill if the hatches were outside, newborns immune systems not being anywhere near as strong as ours are.  However, my mind was put at ease when I read that the babies are placed on a soft, warm bed that has a sensor so that the carers are alerted immediately when a baby is in the hatch. 

Although I am aware of the positives, the ‘Negative Nelly’ within me is struggling to avoid the downsides of these hatches.  One of these is that after birth, women often experience post-natal depression and whilst they may want to give up their child there and then, in a few weeks time they could realise the mistake they made but not be able to do anything about it as their child would have a new home.  After the first ever baby hatch was created in Germany, by 2010, 14 of the 38 babies left in the Hamburg baby hatch had been reclaimed by their mothers- as babies can be reclaimed within the first 8 weeks of being left in the hatch in Germany- demonstrating how decisions can be so easily regretted.
My main concern though, is that baby hatches are a way of saying to people ‘GIVE UP.’  Some of the pregnant teenagers around the world will look at them and think ‘This is my escape plan.’  They will forget that all important concept ‘Children are a gift from God,’ and will instead see the baby hatches of the way to quickly get rid of their child without having to go through the pain of abortion or adoption.  Yes, you could argue that the baby will go to a loving home, but I look at baby hatches and I think that society is encouraging women to give up.  Be it young mothers, women that thought they would cope, or simply women that don’t know what to do, society is telling them that they can quickly but safely abandon their babies in the hatches so that they will never have to see them again.  What happened to having a fighting spirit? What happened to the motivation and inner drive that made people want to carry on when times were tough? Is it the fact that people have become lazier since times of struggle, when carrying on was the only option?

We are all built differently.  I know that some women will cope with motherhood, whilst others won’t, but I simply don’t believe that baby hatches are the way forward.  Letting women who have only recently given birth make such a life changing decision isn’t the answer.  It is a way of announcing to the world ‘Give up when times get tough,’ and I see it as an insult to people that can’t have children, as they are trying so hard but are seeing the ones lucky enough to have children, giving up. 
I can’t change the fact that baby hatches exist, but I just hope that the government don’t make what I see as a catastrophic decision to make them legal in the United Kingdom.  There are better ways of giving your child the opportunity of a good life by saying goodbye to them and putting them in a baby hatch.