Although it was many years ago, the image of a young woman with a tear-streaked face and blank stare is forever etched into my memory. She sat in front of the television cameras, shredding a soaked tissue, telling her story. Once a happy new mother, now distraught and on trial for the death of her baby — the infant died in her arms. The cause of death was starvation and malnutrition.
The first-time mother said she loved her baby and breastfed her regularly. She cared for the child to the best of her ability. She claimed that she had no idea the newborn failed to get the nourishment she needed. Nevertheless, the baby languished in her arms until she became too weak to suckle. It was only then that help was sought.
Of course the outrage came quickly. Bony fingers of blame pointed in all directions. Some held the hospital responsible, believing the first-time mother got released too soon. No doubt a direct result, others moralized, of the cold, cost-calculating insurance companies. Always pressuring hospitals for earlier discharge of maternity patients. Others cast the blame on social services. The government let this poor young woman slip through the cracks. Over and over, the resounding cries filled the airways.
Their haughty laments over that young mother’s fate still echo in my mind: “Where were the pediatricians? Where were the lactation experts?”
The answers were never found. Perhaps because no one asked the right question.
Where was her mother?