Posts Tagged ‘amber hagerman’

Last week, Peoria made local news, and it wasn’t something to be proud of. Kendra Meaker, a 19-year-old mother of two young children from Toulon, Illinois, walked into a police department in the town in Stark County, which is about 30 miles northwest of Peoria. She claimed she had left her two children in her car while she went into the post office, and when she came out, the 3-week-old baby was gone. This launched an Amber Alert, which I received on my phone. (The Amber Alert was named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996. Recently, Amber has been used as an acronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response,” but it was originally named after little Amber and her community’s tireless but fruitless effort to bring her home). The Amber Alert is only used in the most serious child abduction cases, so as to not desensitize people to the serious nature of the alert. When Meaker changed her story and said she voluntarily left the child at the side of the road, it sent shockwaves through the local community.

The Amber Alert relies on communities to bring children home, and even though this wasn’t an abduction, it sure did make a difference. Two volunteer searchers found the child alongside a gravel road. Where, you ask? In a culvert. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), a culvert is a drain or pipe that allows water to run under an obstruction (in this instance, a road). Let that sink in for a minute. The child was stuck in a drain on the side of a road.

According to the couple who found the baby, they heard cries before they even got out of their car. Without food or any care for 12 hours, the baby had to receive treatment at a local hospital, but is expected to fully recover. Meaker’s other child (who is 11-months-old) is staying with a family member. The parents of Meaker released a statement that read “This has been a hellish twenty-four hours that our family has endured.” Those poor grandparents. Not only do they have to deal with the fact that their grandchild was harmed, but the person who did it was their own daughter. It’s truly heartbreaking.

Rumors abound that Meaker is suffering from postpartum depression, which is definitely a possibility after having two children so close together. Her hormones never recovered after the first one before being put through the ringer again with the second one. Illinois has a Safe Haven law that allows women to relinquish custody of their child up to a month after the birth with no questions asked and no prosecution. This was an easily avoidable situation, but if she is suffering from a mental illness, there is no “easy” involved. Personally, I hope the child never finds out what happened and is raised in a loving home with someone that loves him or her so much that they will never breathe a word about his mother discarding him on the side of the road like roadkill. It’s the kind of thing that makes me sick when I hear about it happening to a puppy; when it’s a baby, it’s just heartbreaking. Silver lining: the child is alive and well.

Today, a sad end came to a saga that started two years ago involving a different baby. Astria Pollard’s 2-month-old premature baby boy Javier died in her care. Coroner’s report named dehydration and malnutrition as the causes of death. Pollard was charged with first-degree murder and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Pollard waived her right to a trial by jury, meaning Judge Kouri decided her fate in a bench trial. He found her guilty of one count of first degree murder (for turning off the boy’s apnea monitor) and one count of endangering the life of a child (for not feeding him). She faces 20 to 60 years in prison, with sentencing being on November 30th.

Pollard claims what happened was unintentional and she treated the baby boy exactly as she had her other children. Problem is, her other children weren’t premature. She turned down help in the form of home health care visits and nurses, and she missed the child’s first well baby visit. At the time of the baby’s death, she lived with her boyfriend (not the child’s father) and his family, as well as with at least one child who was the boyfriend’s child. The boyfriend, Landrean Jones, claimed that he often had to remind her to care for Javier (who he claimed to have loved even though he wasn’t his son), and teenagers who were over at the house with Pollard the day he was discovered dead said that Pollard went upstairs to check on the child, and then came down with the lifeless child and apnea monitor, which was alarming, seeming to suggest she was trying to cover up the fact the monitor was off (according to prosecutors).

In this case, it wasn’t as extreme or intentional of an act as Meaker’s. The mother maybe didn’t care as much as she should have, but she did feed the baby the night before and could’ve thought the baby was sleeping. When my baby was two months, he would sometimes sleep through the night; but he wasn’t premature. Unfortunately, when you add up the lack of feeding along with turning off the apnea monitor, skipping feedings, missing appointments, and turning down help, it makes it seem like Pollard never really wanted to make the time for the baby. She undoubtedly discovered that premature babies take more time to care for and their health is more precarious. Pollard claims she didn’t know this, but that isn’t the case. There’s no doubt she would’ve been taught all these things upon discharge from the hospital, but she either didn’t remember or she didn’t care. The people she lived with claimed they often had to remind her to do things, and her friends claimed to be partying with her that very night while her 3-week-old son was starving and not breathing under the same roof.

Pollard was 20 and Meaker was 19, and these babies were not the first for either of them. Yes, maybe Meaker did have postpartum depression, and yes, maybe Pollard wasn’t aware that her premature son took a higher level of care than her other children. One thing is for sure: they were teen mothers. Teen pregnancy is associated with poor prenatal care and preterm delivery. Pregnant teens are also more likely to have gestational diabetes, poor weight gain, and anemia, all which have negative affects on the baby. Sure, it could be because their young bodies can’t keep up with all the changes, but it could also be because they don’t care like they should. And that’s not abnormal. Anyone with a teenager can tell you that they are positive that the world revolves completely around them. Whether it’s hormonal or environmental, the teenage girl is emotionally labile and extremely selfish (and probably, the teenage boy is just as much). Sometimes, the teenage girl might not’ve meant to get pregnant, but they decide to go through with it because of pressure from parents, religious or moral concerns, or sometimes because they think it might be “fun.” Some do mean to get pregnant, either because they “want someone to love them” or they want to keep their boyfriend interested. Still some get pregnant because they want the welfare check. None of these reasons are the right reasons to have a baby. You should have a baby because you want to celebrate the life of someone that is part of you and (hopefully) someone you love. That doesn’t mean single parents can’t or shouldn’t do it, but they need support from their families, their friends, and their communities. A lot of teenage moms don’t realize their friends aren’t going to miss the Homecoming football game to sit at home with you and read “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” and they sure as hell aren’t going to stay at home with you after the baby is born and is up all night screaming. Nor should they; they should enjoy their responsibility-free childhood. Teenage mom’s are often stricken with loneliness, the very feeling they were trying to avoid when they decided to have a baby. Ironic, isn’t it?

Comprehensive sex education programs are a fantastic start, but more teens need to realize the harsh reality of being a parent. These two stories are two examples of what can go terribly wrong when you have a child before you are ready to take on the responsibility. A lot of people argue over if MTV’s teen pregnancy shows (“16 & Pregnant”, “Teen Mom”) help or hurt the cause, but I personally think it’s pretty obvious what MTV is trying to say. Just looking at the original cast, you have Amber, who is serving a five year prison term and battling opiate addiction; Farrah, who childhood was turned upside down after she got pregnant and her boyfriend dies, and who also struggled with drugs and depression; and Maci, who is a fairly normal well-adjusted girl, probably because her family has been a huge help and has a lot of money to help her out. But even though she has it pretty well, she still is unable to maintain a successful relationship; in fact, none of them are except Catelynn. Her and Tyler will be getting married soon, and Catelynn is one of the only girls to be a full-time college student. How has she been so successful in her education and personal life, you ask? Well, she made the best and most loving decision for her baby girl Carly. She and Tyler gave her up for adoption. Not only are Catelynn and Tyler thriving, but so is Carly. Now, I’m not sitting here and saying teenage mothers can’t be successful. But I am saying they can’t do it alone. And until we can adequately figure out how to avoid the situations like what happened here locally, we owe it to the teenager in our communities to be honest about the difficulties of parenting. Because just like in these two cases, it isn’t the mother that suffers. It’s the baby who depended on their mother to survive.

Two mothers, two similar fates. Two babies, two very different fates. And it won’t be the last time we hear stories like either of these; stories of ruined lives and something very different from a teenage dream.

What do you think should happen to Kendra Meaker? Do you agree with Astria Pollard’s punishment? Was I way off with my beliefs on teen pregnancy and MTV’s shows? And finally, do you think Meaker suffered from postpartum depression? Answer these questions in the comments below, and subscribe(follow) while you’re at it!

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