Roselle family to safe haven birth mothers: 'You're our angels'
Christie Haack sobbed when she heard of Baby Hope, the newborn girl found dead, abandoned last month on a secluded roadside near Wheaton.
The tears came because of the waste of human life. She cried, too, because she knows -- even if Baby Hope's mother didn't -- that safe haven laws provide options to save unwanted babies.
But mostly tears came because another mother left a 6-pound baby girl at a DeKalb fire station two years ago.
And because of that mother's decision, Christie and her husband, Paul, were able to adopt the child, bring her into their Roselle home and give her a chance at the kind of life Baby Hope could have had.
They named her Trinity.
"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."
Using a safe haven is never an ideal situation, Paul says, but that doesn't mean it can't be turned into a positive.
Trinity's birth mom, he said, "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."
'There's a way out'
Gabriel Haack once told his parents he believed he was in heaven before he was born. It was there, he said, that he asked God to make Christie and Paul his parents.
"You know," Christie said with a smile, "your sister Trinity told God the same thing."
But Trinity couldn't come the "normal" way, Christie told her son, now 7. Instead, God sent an angel -- Trinity's birth mom -- to deliver her to the Haacks.
That mom, whose identity remains unknown, gave birth to Trinity at home on a cold November night, shortly before Thanksgiving. She clipped and tied the baby's umbilical cord, gave her a bath and twice attempted to feed her.
About noon, she brought the newborn to the fire station. There, she said goodbye to the little girl she knew she couldn't care for.
It was the 100th time a baby was left at a safe haven in Illinois.
Such havens were created in 2001 with passage of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. It says babies 30 days or younger can be handed off to staff members at any firehouse, police station, hospital or emergency medical care facility in the state.
No questions are asked. No explanation is required. And as long as abuse is not suspected, the biological parents can quietly walk away and 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 do this. And it's just sad the message doesn't get out more."
'Doe, Baby Jane'
A few hours after the mother walked out of the fire station, the Haacks got a phone call that would change their lives. There's a safe haven baby, available, their adoption counselor said.
When they started the adoption process 18 months earlier, the Haacks had some hesitation about adopting a baby they knew nothing about.
I'll tell you what I know, the counselor said. The baby is a girl. Her mother was white.
There was no information on the father, no medical records, no details about why the baby was abandoned.
Yet the couple felt a surprising sense of calm and quickly agreed the child was meant to be theirs.
"It just felt right," Christie says. "We didn't even think about it."
When they met their future daughter, Christie immediately noticed a tag around her leg. It said "Doe, Baby Jane."
"It saddened me because I thought, 'Oh my gosh. Shouldn't Baby Doe be in the morgue?' And then I rejoiced because she wasn't in a morgue, she was saved," Christie said with a smile.
Two days later, the Haacks brought Trinity home from the hospital, where she had received a clean bill of health.
Now, almost two years later, Trinity fits right into the family, both in her physical appearance and personality.
Strangers often tell Christie -- much to her amusement -- how much Trinity looks like her, with her bright blue eyes and blonde hair.
"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."
'A very noble thing'
The chance of the Haacks getting a safe haven baby was slim.
Since the state law was passed, 115 babies have been left at safe havens. In the same time, 79 were illegally abandoned; 41 did not survive.
For many prospective adoptive parents of safe haven babies, the roughly two months that follow the happy news a baby is available are filled with anxiety and fear.
The law allows biological parents 60 days from the time the child is left at a safe haven to regain custody. So, while the babies can stay at the homes of families hoping to adopt them, they remain in the foster care system until the deadline passes.
The Haacks say they were lucky because they brought Trinity home during the holidays. Amid Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, they didn't have much time to worry.
The deadline passed with no hitches.
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."