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Monday, January 24, 2011

baby snatchers

(If you're looking for the update on my doctor's appointment, click here.)

This morning, Ann Pettway appeared in federal courtroom and confessed to kidnapping Carlina White some 23 years ago from a New York hospital.

You've heard the story by now - daughter doesn't think she belonged to her mother, daughter does a Google search for missing children, daughter finds her baby picture and is reunited with her parents after decades apart.

The story of set off red flags for me the moment I heard it and the moment the media began to speculate as to why Pettway took this baby from that Harlem hospital back in 1987. Today, the speculation ended when Pettway revealed why she took Carlina: after suffering several miscarriages, she grew frustrated with her inability to stay pregnant. So, she took Carlina out of her hospital crib, brought her home, and raised her as her own daughter.

Almost every comment posted on every article on every media outlet exemplified my concern and fear over this story: my fear of ignorance.

"A determined/ desperate person will find a way to get an infant if they want. This was by far, not the first, and probably not the last incident of a newborn being abducted."

"i always thought that if one was unable to conceive a child on their own, that normally reasonable people adopt a child. obviously, this woman was not reasonable."

"She's full of it! So since im never gonna be rich I should just go rob a bank then? There is such a thing as adoption which would be an option if SHE was really worried about not having any children of her own. But nobody in their right mind would let her adopt because she is a mental case and most likely on drugs."

"From the pictures she looks like she might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which makes conception/pregnancy difficult or in some cases impossible."

"really, we're going to blame her behavior on emotions after miscarriages? Was she having those chemical imbalances and emotional issues for 23 years?"

It was only a matter of time before the conversation turned to baby snatchers, women DESPERATE to be moms, infertile nuts, etc. Because that's what we are, right? Crazies. Women who dress as nurses and lurk in hospitals, just waiting for the opportunity to take your baby and run.

This woman, Ann Pettway. I don't know her, but from what I read, it sounds like she had a lot of issues. Drugs, alcohol, mental illness. Combine these things with the emotional trauma suffered from infertility and repeat loss, and it creates a recipe for disaster. What she did was against the law, yes. But what she did is not the mentality of every woman in this country who cannot have children or have lost their children. We are not all paranoid freaks. We are not all baby stealers. We want to be moms, yes, but not like this.

My post isn't meant to elicit sympathy for Pettway. She kidnapped a baby that was not hers, and as a result caused a lifetime of pain for the White family. I cannot begin to imagine the heartache that the White family went through these past 23 years. I am sad for them, that they were forced to miss 23 years of Carlina's life.

Yet, I am also sad for those people who left comments like the ones above. Ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred. Can we not go down the road of railing on the women who have nothing to do with this situation? In a world where we are eager to place the blame on something or someone, we shouldn't be so quick to place the blame of all kidnapped babies on those women who have lost or desire motherhood. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the hate and the blame, we can educate ourselves on miscarriage and repeat loss, on mental illness and drug addiction. Perhaps, instead of focusing on anger, we can focus on the happy reunion between a girl and her family.

Perhaps I am asking too much. Because I know this story will fade into the background and we will have discussed none of those things. Instead, we'll just be more angry and ignorant about a group of women who are already so misconceived.


Doogie said...

And who hasn't at some point fantasized about robbing a bank, to use one commentator's example? Some people do rob banks. Most people don't. The advantage bank robbers have, generally, is that they're hard to marginalize since they can be any color, race, or age.

Still, we'd be surprised if we read of a female bank robber, although there have been some, and we'd look for an underlying cause (or make up one that blames her femaleness, DESPITE the fact that most women, even those in similar circumstances are not robbing banks.)

Once you have a demographic for someone, you can marginalize or generalize your target. Witness the Arizona shootings the other week. Without having all the fact, people immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a right-wing nutjob inspired by Sarah Palin. Then they had to back-track, or justify that opinion when it turned out he was actually a misogynistic LEFT-wing nutjob. In our rush to classify people and to explain the world according to our own rules of what makes sense, we condemn others out of hand without ever stopping to determine what the root causes are.

Instead of, "This woman went too far because she had serious issues." the statement becomes, "I always knew those obsessed crazies would go to far." By classifying her as representative of her group, it becomes a distancing action, something that only THOSE people would be capable of. Not something that *I* would be capable of.
No one asks to be crazy or desperate. But for those of who fight off the crazy and desperate, we can ask to not be considered as crazy and desperate.

Rebecca said...

Well put as always, Katie. Since this story broke I've been waiting for the inevitable backlash, too.

Krystal said...

It does amaze me as well and frustrate me. I also noticed it pointed out her struggles of miscarriage. I've also read articles where there's been people who abduct pregnant people and will try to cut the baby from the mother's body to kidnap them. Sorry for the graphics, but along with this they also mention the statics show it's usually a female who has had infertility, pregnancy loss or infant loss. It infuriates me they need to take into considerate their mental stability and other factors.

I really dislike how infertile/miscarriage people have been labeled like that. I know I would never do that, my next option was adoption not kidnapping. Desperation to have a child is one thing, but what she did was completely off.

Patience said...

I just saw this story on the news and simply cringed at the mention of her reasoning having to do with miscarriages. Your post is so very well written- thank you for so very eloquently putting into words what many of us feel.

I am so frustrated by many of the tv shows that show the crazy infertile woman as the villain in whatever scheme the show outlines. I hate that the media perpetrates this perception of those of us who have struggled with infertility.

Kelly said...

I think you are asking too much.
There are just too many stories of things like this (and worse!) happening and infertility is too often involved.
I'm glad that you are not one of the people who lets the crazy overtake them but the reality is that it is happening more and more to the point where women who struggle with infertility are actually attacking and killing pregnant women for their babies.
It's sick and wrong but infertility does play a part and that simply can not be dismissed.
Online there are many blogs that express rage and hatred towards those who are fertile ("STFU Fertiles" comes to mind). If anything, I fear that those hate blogs are going to encourage more violence down the road.
We are living in very scary times.

Ashley said...

Very well put. Just because I was struggling to get pregnant doesn't mean I would ever steal a baby/harm a pregnant lady. Just like not everyone with financial problems would rob a bank.

amiracle4us said...

Ignorance can be bliss or it can be evil. Us infertilites are just woman/men looking for a way to make our dreams come true. Are we desperate; ummm yea, but not to the point of baby snatching! Also, something else must have been up if the child began looking at missing children reports...hmmm

S.I.F. said...

Thank you! I've been cringing every time I hear any updates on this story at all... You took the words out of my mouth!

manymanymoons said...

I have been struggling to put into words how I felt when I heard this story. Thank you for doing it for me!

Crossed Fingers said...

Those comments are the worst - they are people who don't understand how it feels to travel that road. To believe that adoption is just the simple fix all to everyone's problems.

Christa said...

I figured as soon as this story broke that we'd hear how the kidnapper had some IF history and as a community we'd be stereotyped as desperate women who kidnap babies. I didn't see any IF stuff about her yet....

Also, I know stuff for you is rough right now and I read about your appointment and I wish there was something I could do.

In the meantime, I awarded you so if you want it, come on over to my blog and check it out.

Doogie said...

I think a venting community like STFUfert actually helps release some of that tension in a safe space rather than letting it bottle up.

I've seen studies that show how violent actions rather than bleeding off violent emotions help to further them, but I've not seen that extended to venting with words, rather than actions. I know after I rage for a minute about an insensitive fertile/infertile interaction, I feel much better and I can go back to my fertile friends and be a proper friend and show loving compassion to what they're going through, which is also hard, although different.

Kim said...

I hadn't heard this story yet, but your briefing and review were well put. Of course the media and ignorant people are going to make a good story of it....whatever. Although I must admit the other day at the grocery store some women left her newborn in the baby seat of the cart and walked away to shop several hundred feet away in the produce. I looked at her , looked at the cute baby and thought hoe lucky they both were that I wasn't a crazy IF - it seemed all too enticing for a moment. But of course I would never steal someone elses baby...

erika said...

Sometimes I wish people wouldn't be so blindsided and ignorant. Gosh. Thanks for this post and sharing your thoughts on it! I also enjoy reading the comments on here. Thought provoking subject.

Lex said...

I can only applaud. I was also disturbed by people's reactions to this.
I will say that if people only had more compassion to those of us who have repeated losses, then perhaps those with underlying mental problems wouldn't be pushed over the edge. Perhaps the fairly "normal" people the rest of us are wouldn't go through horrible depressions.

sunnymama said...

In July 1994 I got my IF diagnosis and in that same month there was a baby called Abbie Humphries abducted from a maternity hospital in the UK and missing for 17 days before being found. The case had huge media coverage here for several weeks and I was kind of obsessed with the case while it was constantly in the news. I think my obesession at the time was out of an identification with the loss and intense uncertainty her parents were going through more than an interest in the abductor's motives. As it turned out the abductor had been faking a pregnancy for nine months to keep her boyfriend and was actually 3 months pregnant at the time of the abduction. I remember watching a documentary some time later about that case and others. They had studied the statistics of baby abductions and found that in the majority of cases the motive for stealing a baby is to keep a boyfriend/partner (not infertility/miscarriage). I don't know if they were just using UK statistics though.

Lori said...

Hey! It's ICLW and was just droppin' by to let you know I just gave you a blogging award- go and check it out! :)

Trisha said...

You're exactly right. While she had no right in what she did, it doesn't mean that every person who can't have a biological child is going to go snatch up a baby!

A said...

i totally agree- it is really sad that IF is being blamed and painted as even worse than it already is in social culture. when will people learn?

(answer: when they deal with it themselves)

Kakunaa said...

I avoid comments on articles because I can't believe the ignorance and hatred that come out of people for someone they DON'T KNOW and can't possibly (usually) understand. No, she shouldn't have done it, but do I understand her deperation? Absolutely. Ugh.

kayee said...

Hey lady ... I'm dropping by to let you know that you got yourself an award! xo

Erin said...

Once again you have managed to put what I was thinking so eloquently. Now we will all be considered crazy and desperate.

BTW you have an award on my blog!

foxy said...

Ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred.

I think that says it all, Katie.

Adele said...

I heard that story and my heart kind of sank. It's an awful story but miscarriages happen to good people. And they happen to people who are not so good. It makes me uncomfortable that her actions would be pinned on that.

AL said...

Very well said, as always, Katie. I haven't been keeping up with the news lately, so I hadn't heard the details of the story at all, thanks for writing about it.

@Kelly - There have been news stories of fertile mothers who murder their children. VERY FEW. Should we also be scared that all mothers will harm their children? Using your logic, we should since there have been a few cases despite the OVERWHELMING majority of mothers who love their children, just like the OVERWHELMING majority of infertile women who DON'T steal babies.