When Christie Haack heard of the death of Baby Hope, the newborn girl who was found dead, in a backpack in suburban Wheaton, she sobbed. Not only did she cry because of the waste of human life, but she cried because she knows that Illinois’ Safe Haven Law provides options to save unwanted babies.
Tears also came, because another mother left her baby girl at a fire station just about two years ago. Because of that mother’s decision, Christie and her husband, Paul, were able to adopt that little girl (who they named, Trinity) and give her a chance at the kind of life Baby Hope could have had.
“I always think back to Trinity,” Christie says, her voice cracking. “What if her birth mom didn’t know about this law? She could have been the one in a backpack on the side of the road. It hits really close to home.”
Though using a safe haven to relinquish your child is not the ideal situation, her husband Paul said, it doesn’t mean it can’t be turned into a positive.
He also states, “Trinity’s birth mom doesn’t have to worry about hiding because she did something wrong. She doesn’t have to worry about being put in jail. She can rest easy knowing she saved a life and it’s made everybody in this situation happy.”
The 7 year old son of the Haacks, Gabriel, once told them that when he was in heaven, he asked God to make Christie and Paul his parents.
“You know,” Christie said smiling, “your sister Trinity told God the same thing. Only God knew Trinity couldn’t get her here the “normal” way. Instead, He sent an angel — Trinity’s birth mom — to deliver her to us.”
That “angel” gave birth to Trinity at home, shortly before Thanksgiving. She cut and tied the baby’s umbilical cord, cleaned her off and twice attempted to feed her. The next day, she brought the newborn girl to the fire station. There, she said goodbye to the little girl she knew she couldn’t care for. Turns out Trinity would be the 100th baby left at a safe haven in Illinois.
In 2001, such havens were created with passage of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. It says babies 30 days or younger can be handed to staff at any firehouse, police station, hospital or emergency medical care facility in Illinois. No questions are asked, no explanation is required and as long as abuse is not suspected, the biological parents can walk away to go on with their lives, with no fear of prosecution.
Paul says it’s crucial everyone knows about the availability of safe havens to save the lives of babies such as Hope and Trinity. “There’s a way out,” he says. “You don’t have to kill the baby you cannot care for. And it’s just sad the message doesn’t get out more.”
A few hours after the mother walked out of the fire station, the Haacks got a phone call that would change their lives forever. Their adoption counselor said, “there’s a safe haven baby available if you’re willing to take her”. When Christie and Paul started the adoption process 18 months earlier, they had reservations about adopting a baby they knew nothing about.
“I’ll tell you what I know”, their counselor said. “The baby is a girl and her mother was Caucasian.” There is no information about the father and no physical or mental history of the biological family.
Yet the couple felt a surprising sense of calm and quickly agreed the little girl was meant to be theirs. “It just felt right,” Christie says. “We didn’t even think about it. We just knew!”
The day they met their daughter, Christie immediately noticed the name tab around their daughter’s leg that said, “Doe, Baby Jane.” “I was so sad because I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! Isn’t Baby Doe the name of someone in a morgue?’ Then I rejoiced as she wasn’t in a morgue…she was safe here in a hospital”, Christie said with a smile.
Now, almost two years later, Trinity fits right into the family, both physically and personality-wise. “Strangers often tell me, how much Trinity looks like me”, Christie says with amusement. “We hit the jackpot,” Paul says. “I don’t think there’s anything I would change with the whole scenario. It’s made our family feel complete.”
Christie says she hopes mothers who have used safe havens aren’t ashamed of their decisions, instead realizing the joy they’ve brought to their child’s adoptive family.
“We don’t think of you as a bad person for handing your child over to a safe haven facility,” she says.
“Instead, you’re our angels. It’s a very noble thing.”