Local organization remembers infant left in dumpster

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POSTED: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 6:31pm

UPDATED: Monday, January 30, 2012 - 6:33pm

Nurse Debbie Fowler remembers the day a newborn infant was found in a dumpster on Iberia Street in north Baton Rouge. That was nine years ago.

"She had tiny little bruises all over her body," she says. "That tells me she bled a lot."

It was December in 2002. A group of workers found the baby inside a garbage bag.

"Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to her head," Fowler says. "The bar that pulls the garbage forward came down on her head and shoulder. It tore the garbage bag open and that's how the workers saw her."

An autopsy showed that the baby had been alive when she was thrown in the dumpster.

"She was so little and it was so cold. She couldn't have lived long," Fowler says.

Fowler was among a group of people who wanted to make sure that the tiny baby girl got a proper burial. They named her Christina Noel Love, and made sure that she was well taken care of, even in death.

"I can't help the mom. I can't help the baby, but I can do something to honor that child's life and treat that child with dignity. That's what we did," Fowler says.

She's part of an organization called Threads of Love. The group makes blankets, clothes, and other handmade gifts for stillborns and miscarries. They're also often known to take care of abandoned babies.

"You see a little life that's gone. You see a battered baby that's only been in the world a few moments and all it's known is pain and suffering," Fowler says through tears. "That's hard."

Last week, Joanna King, 28, was charged with leaving her baby to die so long ago. Police say she confessed to the crime. She's now facing First Degree Murder charges.

Fowler says this isn't the first time she's seen or heard about a new mother disposing of her child.

"It's usually a young woman or a young girl and they're very good at denying things and they deny to themselves that they're pregnant and they're usually alone and they're poor. They have no resources. When the baby comes out, the next thing they want to do is deny it. They want to pretend it never happened," Fowler explains.

"I don't really think of them as mothers. They're more like victims to me. They're a victim of themselves. They're a victim of their situation, so I feel sorry for them."

Fowler says it just doesn't have to be that way. In 2000, the Louisiana legislature passed the Safe Haven Law. Under that, a mother can leave her newborn at a hospital, a police station, or a fire station up to 30 days after the child's birth without being prosecuted.

"At least you know that the baby's being taken care of," Fowler says. "You know there's an option and you don't have to put that baby in a garbage."

Fowler says if a mother decides to leave her baby in one of those places, she doesn't have to say anything, and no questions will be asked. She says the law isn't well-known, but it should be.

"[Women] need to know about this law before they get pregnant," she says. "It should be taught in middle school and high school."

Fowler says she just wishes that Christina Noel's mother had made that choice.

"She be in a happy, loving home instead of dying by being crushed by the arm of a garbage truck," she says.

Now, it's Fowler's hope that more women will learn about the laws that are there to help them, so that no more babies are left to die alone.

"Just give that child another chance," she says. "I don't want to have to go into another embalming room and take a  battered child and dress it for a funeral."

Learn more about Threads of Love at http://threadsoflove.org/

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