The safety mother opening her home to hundreds of abandoned babies
Marilyn May read the headlines – yet another infant abandoned. This is the fate of thousands of babies every year in South Africa. In many cases, they’re born to mothers who are in vulnerable positions themselves, and out of fear, shame, or confusion, choose to leave their children. It’s a growing crisis that requires intervention on multiple levels. The severity of the situation, coupled with the laborious foster and adoption system, can leave anyone feeling helpless. But when May kept hearing about it in the news, the registered nurse and doula yearned to help.
May became a trained safety mother – someone who has been screened by the Department of Social Development to provide immediate temporary care for children who’ve been found or rescued. She took in her first baby nine years ago. “To physically have this little abandoned infant on my shoulder was hard hitting,” May says. “As I looked after him, I felt that this was something I had been practising my whole life.” Gazing at the baby with all the tenderness of a mother who’d just given birth, she knew she had more to give. “I decided to open up my door and my heart to as many as possible,” May says.
In the past decade, she’s turned her home into a cosy haven filled with bassinets and blankets, nurturing and attention. Dedicated carers work alongside May. Newborns especially need a lot more than food and shelter. By having someone to hold their hand and cradle them, they learn to bond and attach from an early age. Over 100 babies have since gone to permanent homes through May’s organisation, Atlantic Hope. “It’s very hard to say goodbye,” May says. “But watching a little soul begin their new lives with a family, it keeps me doing what I do.” Every day, headlines continue to paint a bleak picture for children in South Africa. By protecting the most innocent, people like May are restoring hope.