Watching a woman give birth to a baby girl, cuddling her, kissing her. The camera pans down and she has a thick chain and padlock on her ankle. My jaw dropped. The beautiful inspiring moment of her baby’s entrance into the world where she is placed upon her mothers chest and then the cold harsh reality of a child being born to a mother who is in prison. A mother who is holding her baby for a maximum of 48 hours then handing her over to authorities to place into foster care. The woman returns to her cell and continues to serve out her term having contact with her child at scheduled times. The baby girl settles into the arms of a stranger, yes a giving one at that, but my heart just broke into a tiny millions of pieces.
I cried, I sobbed. Yes I know I have a sensitivity to babies and their feelings at the moment (see here) but this struck a nerve. I wasnt particularly concerned for the mother. Yes I am sorry that she is not with her daughter and yes it would be upsetting for her having to give her daughter up. I’d be a raving lunatic if someone tried to take my children away let alone when they were a baby, a few days old even. My concern was for the precious little soul who had entered the earth only some hours early. Having to deal with birth whether it was smooth or not it is a traumatic experience for any baby to go through. Having to push its little way into this big wide world. Then being separated from the only heartbeat it knew, the only warmth it knew, its lifeline for the past 9 months. How can this not impact upon its psyche?
I am definitely a tiny bit cynical about the birth of babies while women are incarcerated. Why are they doing it? Is it to reduce their sentence, to show a different aspect to their personality that may reflect ultimately on decision making within the prison, did they just not use contraception, or like in this program where they can be relocated to a mother-baby unit within the prison is it to improve their stay. I dont think we will truly know many of their motivations. What I am distressed about are the children that are affected by this and their tiny souls that are irreparably tainted by this experience.
Some may have the school of thought that you choose the spirit you come through as and have made a contract to have this experience, others may feel that this child has chosen its parents so again having some unconscious knowledge of this hand of cards being dealt or you may be of the school of thought – these things just happen.
This program was based in a maximum security prison in Indiana, USA. The research they are completing is highlighting positives although no conclusive evidence has been drawn just yet. The health professionals who advocated for the introduction of this initiative claim that the parent-child attachment and bonding affects positively on the outcome of these women as both mothers and citizens. They believe it also affects the outcome of these women re-offending and their children partaking in criminal activity.
Would love to know your thoughts?