Baby found alive in Calgary dumpster, mother faces charges

CALGARY—Police say the mother of a newborn boy found alive in the garbage dumpster at a housing complex says she didn’t know she was pregnant until after she gave birth.

The baby was allegedly found in a garbage bag by his father, though police say the man didn’t know at the time it was his son.

The child appeared to have been born within hours of being abandoned and was stable in hospital Wednesday.

The 29-year-old mother was found and taken to a Calgary hospital about an hour after her newborn was discovered. A psychological assessment was to be performed on her and police said charges were pending.

“There are so many places that you could leave the baby or contact to get help immediately,” said Staff Sgt. Leah Barber. “Obviously EMS being the biggest one, but the fire department, the police department, churches, neighbours. There are so many people out there that would be willing to help.”

Child abandonment, failing to provide the necessities of life and attempted murder are among the charges being considered, Barber said.

The baby’s father had come home early to check on his girlfriend because he thought she wasn’t feeling well. When he walked by the dumpster he heard a baby crying and jumped in to help.

The distraught man told CTV News he also had no idea his girlfriend was pregnant and didn’t learn the child was his until after police questioned him.

“The first thing that came to my mind was that the first picture that I will always see of my baby is covered in garbage,” said the man.

He has arranged to visit the baby in hospital. Asked what he will do when he sees the child, the man wept.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

He said he is holding out hope the three of them can start their own family, but allowed there is a chance he and his girlfriend might not be permitted to keep the child.

“My biggest priority is to make sure she gets the help she needs and the baby gets the things he needs.”

The man’s brother also told CTV that he didn’t realize the woman was pregnant, either.

“I didn’t know at all,” he said. “She didn’t show. In the past year she maybe gained five pounds, or something, but nothing overly unusual.”

He broke down as he explained that his brother’s girlfriend gave birth in a bedroom, alone and scared.

“I’m 100 per cent shocked,” he said. “For all of us, it’s a little groundbreaking, so I really can’t say anything further.”

James Patton was one of the people who found the baby and wrapped it up to keep it warm.

“This fellow over there was in the garbage can,” Patton said. “He tore a garbage bag open and he found the baby. I tore my shirt off right away and he ran down to his truck to get some blankets.”

Police say they have received a number of phone calls from people offering to care for the baby.

Internet health sites are peppered with stories of women who missed subtle signs that they were expecting a child. The television channel Discovery Health broadcasts a show called I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant that features re-enactments of stories from surprised mothers.

Some jurisdictions have developed programs that allow women to drop off unwanted newborns to authorities anonymously. South of the border, states have passed so-called “safe-haven” laws that decriminalize the abandonment of a child if it is left with the proper authorities.

The Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness issued a news release Wednesday calling for more legislation to protect newborns.

“Had it not been for passersby hearing the cries of the baby, which was completely sealed in plastic, it is too gruesome to imagine what would have happened,” said group spokeswoman Ellen Campbell.

A program called Angel’s Cradle in Vancouver allows a parent to place an unwanted infant in a crib at St. Paul’s hospital. Thirty seconds later, an alarm sounds, giving the parent enough time to leave, but letting hospital staff quickly tend to the infant.

The hospital has taken in one abandoned baby since the program began in May.

One of the most prominent recent instances of a newborn being left by its mother happened in Prince Albert, Sask., in 2007.

April Halkett said she didn’t realize she was pregnant until she gave birth to a baby boy in a Walmart bathroom. Scared, she left the newborn in the toilet and ran away. He was saved by a store employee.

Halkett was found not guilty of abandonment in a trial in June 2009, but the Crown is appealing that ruling.

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