Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Foundling at Columbus Circle

It is hard - so hard - to imagine.

Stepping off a train, pushing a stroller - with your infant strapped inside - onto the platform, and then stepping back onto the train as the doors close. And leaving.

Leaving your baby behind.

And the woman who watched it all happen. Who stood there on the platform in disbelief as the train left the station. Who looked down at this small human being in the polka dot stroller, and realized that this child was indeed alone. The woman who had the decency to believe - to hold out hope - that the child was not abandoned intentionally. Who waited there, with this child, watching over her, scanning the crowds pouring off each subsequent train until enough time had passed to assure her that no one was coming back.

I cannot imagine being in that place - either one.

I can't imagine a desperation and darkness so deep that I would leave my child to the fates, alone on a subway platform.

I can't imagine waiting there with this child - this foundling - and then finally pushing the stroller over to the call box to notify the police.

It's not that it is inconceivable. Postpartum is a time when anything and everything is possible. New motherhood can lead a woman to choices that are really not choices at all. And as for discovering a baby on a subway platform, well. All I can say is that every infertile woman has dreamed of that very thing. The only difference being that they might not have notified the police. Because infertility can also lead a woman to do desperate things, and make choices that are not really choices at all.

Every time I read about an abandoned child, my heart goes out - not to the mother, who was obviously existing in a crush of fear and confusion that led her to that point - but to every woman who cannot have a child, who reads the story and wishes that the baby had been left on her doorstep.

I spend a lot of time dreaming that there was some way to connect these two women - women who both cannot be mothers for one reason or another (or for many, many reasons all at once) and who make choices that are not really choices. Then children would be passed from one set of arms to another, seamlessly. No subway platform required.

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