Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

She Was Abandoned as a Child... Now She Saves Abandoned Babies

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2023 3:01 am

She Was Abandoned as a Child... Now She Saves Abandoned Babies

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 2131 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.


August 1, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Monica Kelsey took her own traumatic story and turned it into something truly beautiful for many. 

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

For each person living with myasthenia gravis, or MG, their journey with this rare condition is unique. That's why Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis, a new podcast from iHeartRadio in partnership with Argenics, is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Host Martine Hackett will share these powerful perspectives from real people with MG so their experiences can help inspire the MG community and educate others about this rare condition. Listen to find strength in community on the MG journey on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. There's a giant keychain that holds a special place in your heart. The iHeartRadio Electric Hyundai IONIQ 6.

Hyundai, it's your journey. And we return to Our American Stories. Up next, you're going to hear the story of a woman who took her own traumatic story and turned it into something truly beautiful for so many. Here's Monica Kelsey, the founder and CEO of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. I wasn't really told much growing up other than my birth parents were young and love and couldn't care for me, so they placed me for adoption. And that's what my parents were told when they adopted me, to protect me. And so my whole life growing up, I felt like I had this fairytale family waiting for me when I turned 18 and my birth records would be opened.

And, you know, they loved me so much, they placed me for adoption, and I didn't realize that that was going to be the farthest thing from the truth. I'm going to take you back to August of 1972, when a young 17-year-old girl was brutally attacked and raped and left along the side of the road. And she pressed charges against the man who had raped her and he was arrested and he was charged. And then when she was finally getting her life back to normal, she finds out she's pregnant and she was hidden for the remainder of the pregnancy.

And she gave birth in April of 1973 and abandoned her child two hours after that child was born. And that child was me. I graduated high school, I joined the United States military, I spent eight years defending my country. And then got out of the military, met the love of my life, started a family and then joined the fire service and became a firefighter and a medic. And having my own kids really kind of opened me up to finding my beginnings, finding out who I was, finding out my story. So I started the long journey of looking for my biological mother and I actually found her when I was 37 years old.

And that became the best and the worst day of my life because that is truly when I learned the circumstances of my birth. Being 17 and pregnant was looked at differently back in 1972. Your family was looked at differently. And so she had a lot of challenges. The answer to the problem of her being pregnant was her mother set up an appointment at a back alley abortion facility in October of 1972. But while standing in front of a man that was going to take her child's life, she changed her mind. She walked out of that facility, her mother was very angry with her and she never looked back.

And I'm very thankful for that. I spent about three years getting to know her and I got a call. I was on the ambulance one night as a medic and I got a call that she wasn't doing well. I immediately left work and headed to the hospital. And when I arrived, she was on a ventilator fighting for her life. This woman that was laying in front of me, the way we dealt with it was we called each other girlfriend. And so I kissed her on her cheek and I said, I love you, girlfriend.

You are my hero. And a tear ran down her cheek. She was there when when I took my first breath and I was holding her hand when she took her last. And how amazing is it for Christ to have allowed me to be there for her at her weakest moment? She was there for me and mine in 1972 when I needed her the most to to see my worth. But getting to know her really did kind of shape me because she gave me the empathy that I needed to do what I do today. About seven months later, I was asked if I wanted to go to a speaking tour to Cape Town, South Africa. I was still dealing with the aftermath of finding my worth and finding my purpose.

But I decided to go on the speaking tour. And while I was walking into this church in Cape Town, South Africa. Now, this is the only church in Cape Town that had what they call the baby safe.

And as I'm walking in and and it just looked like a mail drop, I was like, what is this and what is it used for? And she's the woman that was walking us and she said, women come here at night and they place their children inside and and they leave their children here, their infants here so that their child's life will go on. And then someone from the church adopts these kids. And, you know, being a medic and a firefighter, I always knew about the safe haven law in America where a woman can walk into any fire station, a hospital or police station and hand the child to a person and turn around and walk away and not be prosecuted.

But I had never seen anything like this before, ever. In America today, we are finding a baby every three days. And these are newborns. These aren't one year olds. These aren't six month olds. These are 30 days old or less newborns.

Some of them placenta still attached. And, you know, when we pass the safe haven law in 1999, this law was passed and it was a good law. It was something to keep babies out of dumpsters and trash cans. But the problem with it was is no one no one was doing education on it. There was no money for people to go around the country and educate kids, fire stations, hospitals. Basically, the lawmakers made laws in all 50 states and said, well, here you go.

Here's the law. You're taking kids now at fire stations. And firefighters were like, what?

And then you got kids in high school that never even heard about it because no one was ever talking about it. So, of course, abandonment continued to happen. And when I came along back in 2015, I started looking at the statistics of the abandoned babies. I started to find interest in knowing where these babies were being left, where were they being dumped.

And about half of them were being left at the doors of safe places. There was a baby that was left at the door of a fire station. This baby was in a duffel bag laid at the door of a fire station. Now, why would a woman take a baby to a fire station?

There's only one reason. So this baby would be found. This baby could be taken care of. Unfortunately, when the firefighters finally found this baby outside their door, this baby was dead. This mother clearly wanted something better for her child, but she didn't want to talk to the fire guys. She didn't want to go face to face with them.

She didn't want them knowing her identity. And so she left the baby at the door of the fire station thinking that someone would come out. Maybe she rang the doorbell. Maybe they were asleep.

Maybe she knocked on the door and ran off. I don't know. But what I do know is that this mother clearly wanted anonymity and she didn't get it. And now this baby died. Now, do we still have babies that are being surrendered by handing them to fire personnel and at hospitals?

Yes. And we encourage women to do that. But if they won't, if they won't walk into a fire station or a hospital and hand their child to a person, we better have something set up and available and ready so that we don't have a baby in a dumpster or a trash can because she doesn't want to face someone. And so I the more the more I looked at the stats, I thought, can we put these boxes in these fire stations, in these hospitals so that these women don't lay these babies at the doors of safe haven locations? And on the flight back from Cape Town, South Africa, on a Delta napkin, as I'm dealing with the devastation of my birth mother passing, it was almost like a light bulb went off and I found my purpose. And on this plane on a Delta napkin, I hand drew my version of a baby box and then came back to the United States and started the uphill battle of building a box and getting people to trust that this box was a better option than a dumpster was. And then if a mother didn't want to walk into a fire station or hospital and hand their child to a person and talk to them or look them in the eye, that if they couldn't do that, then then I was going to give them another option. I took this this napkin to a builder in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I said, I want you to build me a baby box. And he said, what? And I said, a baby box? I'm going to put these at fire stations. I'm going to save some babies. And he looked at me like I was crazy.

Now I look back and think, gosh, I probably did sound pretty crazy. Baby boxes never been in America before. And he looks at me and he says, well, I'll build you whatever you want for seven hundred dollars. And you've been listening to Monica Kelsey tell the story of how she started Safe Haven Baby Boxes. And we tell stories about entrepreneurs starting businesses. And my goodness, entrepreneurs also come in all kinds of shapes and sizes.

And some form nonprofits and churches and other organizations designed not to make money, but to do good. And my goodness, the good Monica Kelsey is doing when we come back. More of her story here on Our American Stories. For each person living with myasthenia gravis or MG, their journey with this rare neuromuscular condition is unique. That's why Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis, a new podcast from I Heart Radio in partnership with Argenics, is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Host Martine Hackett will share powerful perspectives from people living with the debilitating muscle weakness and fatigue caused by this rare disorder. Each episode will uncover the reality of life with myasthenia gravis from early signs and symptoms to obtaining an accurate diagnosis and finding care. Every person with MG has a story to tell. And by featuring these real life experiences, this podcast hopes to inspire the MG community, educate others about this rare condition and let those living with it know that they are not alone.

Listen to Untold Stories Life with myasthenia gravis on the I Heart Radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I think everybody has an interesting skin story. When people tell me why you have such beautiful skin for a second, I say, who are you talking to?

Because I never did. And now I found a way to really transcend that. And that's made a big difference, not only in just how I treat myself, but in how I see it reflect from the inside out. Nourish your skin, nurture your soul. Key Soul Care is created by Alicia Keys and a leading dermatologist to honor the connection between skin and soul.

Learn more at keysoulcare.com. In Denver, a girl's getaway to the city comes with a side of Rocky Mountains. Shopping in Cherry Creek turns into delicious Larimer Square eats.

Sunny days in Wash Park lead to sizzling nights in River North. And a concert at Red Rocks means dancing with a view. When you're planning your girl's trip, come to the intersection of life and however you like living it. Denver always welcome.

Plan your getaway at visitdenver.com slash summer. Sponsored by Visit Denver. And we return to our American stories and to Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. When we last left off, she had just taken a sketch to a builder of her version of a baby box that she drawn on the back of an airplane napkin.

Let's pick up where we last left off. Little did I know that that was probably the easiest part of the entire journey was handing over money to somebody to build me something and two weeks later I had a prototype in my hand, which is very basic and there was no electronics and it was just the shell of a box and I went to a legislator and I said, Hey, I want you to pass me a baby box bill and he said, What? And I said, Baby Box, I'm gonna put baby boxes and fire stations and save babies and again I get this deer in the headlight look like she lost her mind like what is she talking about?

And the more I told him about how many babies were being left at the doors of safe haven locations or in dumpsters and trash cans alongside highways, the more he understood my mission. And in 2015 we passed the very first baby box bill in America in the state of Indiana. And then we started to install boxes the next year. So in April of 2016 we launched our very first baby box at my firehouse in Woodburn, Indiana. Two days later we launched another box in Michigan City, but launching this organization and getting to where it is today did not come without heartache. It didn't come without pain. It didn't come without challenges.

30 days after I launched the very first baby box in America. It was two o'clock in the morning. And we got called to a vehicle rollover party pinned. This is a high priority call for any medic any unit. I walked into the ambulance and my driver jumped in. I'm trying to get my head in the game, trying to understand okay there's somebody underneath the vehicle, probably crushed. What am I going to need to do what what what gear am I going to need to walk in to this scene with about halfway to the scene.

I find out that it's my son and his best friend and one is dead and one is alive. It's like you're trained for every situation, even if you'd never think it's going to happen. I never thought I would ever work on someone I love. And so I arrived on scene. I didn't even grab any bags out of the truck I just went running. And I totally forgot what I was there for. I went into mom mode, not medic mode. And when I arrived on scene I was the first on scene and I seen my son doing chest compressions on his best friend Casey. He had blood dripping from his face and blood all over his arms. And as a mom your first responses to check out your son. And I kept asking him Are you okay and he kept saying don't worry about me, I need you to save Casey mom I need you to save Casey. I worked Casey for 18 minutes.

I put a helicopter in the air, but I could not save him. My son was at a high school graduation party where the homeowner bought booze. My son decided to get into a vehicle that he didn't own a Jeep four by four with his best friend on the windowsill of that Jeep and they decided to do donuts in a 19 acre field. While 50 kids were drinking alcohol nearby at a bonfire. And we all know that jeeps are known for flipping over.

Any sober person would know that. And those 50 kids when this Jeep flipped and landed on top Casey these 50 kids ran over and pick this Jeep up off Casey and then got in their vehicles and they took off. They thought they were going to get in trouble. So they left a dying kid on the ground. So when I got there, there was only two people there which was Casey and JJ. After we called time of death, I walked over to my son, and I put my forehead to his forehead.

And I said Casey's gone. And the tears just started to roll. You know, as a medic, this is any medic's worst fear but as a mom.

This is an absolute nightmare. My son was placed in a police car and taken to a hospital. My husband is the mayor of our city. And so you can imagine the headlines in our community. Mayor's son kills best friend in drunken accident.

30 days after we launched the very first Baby Box in America, this is happening. My son was charged with OWI causing death. OWI with a blood alcohol of.085 and underage consumption. You know, I was very angry with what happened up until that moment of that crash and the decisions he made. But I couldn't be more proud of the man that stood up and took responsibility for his actions afterwards. He stood in front of a judge on sentencing day, pled guilty, looked at Casey's family who adored him, who he adored, apologized to them, and then looked at the judge and said, I'm here to get my sentence. And he told him that he stood in front of him a broken man that wishes every day he could take back that one decision he made.

The judge sentenced him to four years in the Department of Corrections. And they handcuffed him and they took him away. And I stopped installing Baby Boxes. Most people don't realize the trauma that comes with being a medic and a firefighter and working on someone that you love.

But when it's you, it's devastating. So I took a six month leave of absence from the job and I stopped installing Baby Boxes and I tried to fix my family. I tried to be there for my son, visiting him every week in prison. Two months before he got out of prison, the very first baby was placed in a safe haven Baby Box in America.

And I don't think that's a coincidence. I think that's Christ's way of saying, Monica, it's time to start putting boxes in again. Your son is almost out. You've taken the time that you needed. Now it's time to get up and start moving and do your purpose.

Do what I've put you here to do. And so a few months later, we installed a third Baby Box in America. 18 months later, the very first baby was saved.

And five months later, the second baby. Now my son goes into schools and talks about underage drinking and driving. I've taken what a horrible situation was to turning it into something productive. Allowing Christ to use us to make something better for someone else. And every time my son speaks in front of an audience, I just sit back in awe of what we have accomplished.

I'm from Indiana, so that's where we started. We were finding about two babies dead a year in our state from abandonment. Newborn babies. I haven't found a dead baby since we launched Baby Boxes, and we've had 25 infants in Baby Boxes since we launched. These women are getting the anonymity that they've been wanting. And we talk to these parents, some of them before they surrender, some of them after.

Every story is different. The only thing that is the same is that these parents wanted the anonymity piece, and that's why they chose the Baby Box. When the Safe Haven Law was passed, it was to keep babies out of dumpsters and trash cans. It wasn't to force a mother to walk into a facility and give her medical care. That's not why the Safe Haven Law was enacted.

If we can give her medical care, of course we want to help her. But she can walk into a hospital a newborn can't. And so the Safe Haven Law was passed to protect the newborn.

And if we think that every person that wants to surrender is going to walk in and go face to face with someone, we're kidding ourselves. That is why abandonments continue to happen year after year after year in places where Baby Boxes are not. But in every state that we have launched Baby Boxes, abandonments drop. When I met my biological mother and I started to question my worth, the one thing that pulled me through was leaning back on my faith. You know, finding out that I was not only conceived in rape, but also abandoned at birth.

If there was a picture of an unwanted child, my picture would be on it. And so I had to pick up myself and find my worth. I fell back on my faith. And that was what my parents had instilled in me when I was growing up. Same thing with my son's accident. I went back to my faith. I always look at myself as not the victim in this story.

I look at myself as a blessing and someone that received a gift. You know, meeting my biological mother, I could have said, nope, I am never telling a soul. I am never I'm never talking about this again. I don't I don't want people to know that my biological father is a rapist. I don't want people to know that I don't know my ethnicity. I don't want people to know that I was thrown away like trash.

No, we all have a story and we all have pain. And taking those two and putting them together literally could change the life of someone that you may never even know. We now have one hundred and forty five active boxes in nine different states. Women are utilizing these boxes. Women are trusting us. Women are trusting me.

And it really does feel empowering to know that these women are basically looking at me saying, I know you have it from here and I trust you. You know, my birth mom's in heaven now and I know she's looking down on me knowing that the child that she saved is now saving others. I was blessed to have been abandoned because I wouldn't have the life I have if I hadn't been. And thanks to Katrina Hein for conducting the interview with Monica. And thanks, as always, to our own Madison Derricotte, who did a terrific job on the production, editing and storytelling.

Thanks also to Monica Kelsey. Her book, Blessed to Have Been Abandoned. The story of the baby box lady is available at Amazon or the usual suspects. To learn more about safe haven baby boxes or to help support their mission, visit SHBB.org. And that's why we love to do faith stories here on this show.

How it animates people to get through hard things. There are now nine states that have baby boxes. One hundred and forty five boxes saving dozens of infants lives, all while protecting the birth mother's anonymity. Monica Kelsey story here on our American stories. In Denver, a girl's getaway to the city comes with a side of Rocky Mountains. Shopping in Cherry Creek turns into delicious Larimer Square eats. Sunny days in Wash Park lead to sizzling nights in River North and a concert at Red Rocks means dancing with a view. When you're planning your girl's trip, come to the intersection of life and however you like living it. Denver. Always welcome.

Plan your getaway at visit Denver dot com slash summer. Sponsored by Visit Denver for each person living with myasthenia gravis or MG. Their journey with this rare condition is unique. That's why untold stories life with myasthenia gravis. A new podcast from I heart radio in partnership with our genetics is exploring the extraordinary challenges and personal triumphs of underserved communities living with MG. Most Martin Hackett will share these powerful perspectives from real people with MG. So their experiences can help inspire the MG community and educate others about this rare condition. Listen to find strength and community on the MG journey on the I heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

I'm Malcolm Gladwell. I don't know if you notice about me, but I'm a car nut and I will do anything to keep my cars happy, to make sure they stay running smoothly. I look for those things at eBay Motors with eBay guaranteed fit. When you see the green check, you know that part will fit. Get the right parts at the right prices. eBay Motors dot com. Let's ride eligible items. Only exclusions apply.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-01 04:21:13 / 2023-08-01 04:31:04 / 10

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime