The ultimate selfless act
Cheryl and Jenny are two mothers who share a similar blessing. Each has brought a beautiful baby into their home thanks to Illinois’ Safe Haven law.
The law, passed in 2001, allows a parent to anonymously relinquish an unharmed baby (up to 30 days old) at a designated safe haven facility (hospitals, police departments and fire departments). Eight babies have already been safely relinquished at Advocate Health Care hospitals and 126 across Illinois.
“To give up your baby is the ultimate selfless act,” says Christie Haack, with the Safe Abandoned Babies Foundation. “It takes a very brave mother to understand that her child needs a stable and loving home; one she cannot, for some reason, provide.”
Jenny’s bundle of joy was Megan. For Cheryl, it was baby Riley. Both women remember the initial call that a baby had been relinquished. Both also remember pausing for a few moments to contemplate what taking the baby would mean.
“The decision to take Megan into our home was an easy one,” says Jenny. “But knowing that the birth mom had a small window of time to change her mind was frightening and emotional. We made the decision to go forward. It was a great decision.”
Both babies spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit before arriving at their forever homes. The new parents knew that they would take on any medical risks the babies might experience.
“When they put her in my arms, Riley was so tiny and long, the most beautiful, perfect little baby,” says Cheryl. “I looked at her and felt so grateful that her birth mother had given her a chance at a wonderful life.”
And life has been wonderful for both little girls. Little Megan, a toddler, talks like crazy and loves interacting with her big brother, Dylan, and dad, George.
“Riley is a fire cracker who loves to read, dance and sing,” says Cheryl. “At age 7, she’s already come in second in a youth national championship triathlon. She has been such a blessing to Shawn and me, as well as her siblings.”
And while both mothers are so thankful for their lovely daughters, each also has immense gratitude for the birth mothers who relinquished them.
“I so respect the decision Megan’s birth mother made to find her love in a forever home,” says Jenny. “It was such a sacrifice on behalf of her infant.”
“I think about Riley’s birth mom every day and am so thankful for her decision,” says Cheryl. “It was so selfless. She helped me have the beautiful family I have today.”
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!