CLARE FOGES: Chilling case that shows abandoning new mums can be fatal

CLARE FOGES: Chilling case that shows abandoning new mums can be fatal

  • Clare Foges reflected on the case of Lily-Mai whose mother killed her
  • Guest columnist says we need to not abandon new mothers
  • Says that women also need more help at home after birth

Dazed and exhausted, I left the house for some much-needed fresh air. Putting my three-week-old baby in a sling on my front, I clicked the buttons to secure her in and checked my pocket for the house key. There followed a moment of pure horror.

One side of the sling had not been closed properly. My tiny darling fell, seemingly in slow motion, sideways out of the sling, down on to the hard paving stone. I can still see her lying on her side in her pink woollen hat and matching cardigan, silent and still, in a second of sickening terror that seemed to stretch into minutes. Then, thank goodness, she screamed.

How had I been so stupid? Made such a basic mistake? Because I was deliriously, absurdly tired. The kind of tired that has you falling asleep mid-conversation or bursting into tears at the theme tune to EastEnders. On two or three hours’ sleep a night my brain was firing on no cylinders at all.

I rushed to A&E. Waiting for the doctor, my eye was caught by posters on the walls instructing parents of new babies to take a ‘time out’ if feeling stressed, to breathe deeply and to never, ever shake their baby.

Claire Foges writes that ten-week-old Lily-Mai suffered sickening injuries at the hand of the person who should have cared most for her, Lauren St-George, pictured

Claire Foges writes that ten-week-old Lily-Mai suffered sickening injuries at the hand of the person who should have cared most for her, Lauren St-George, pictured

I remembered those posters when reading the awful story of Lauren Saint George, who this week was found guilty of infanticide over the death of her newborn daughter. Ten-week-old Lily-Mai suffered sickening injuries at the hand of the person who should have cared most for her. A serious brain injury, eighteen rib fractures, two breaks in her leg, severe bruising. Lauren shook her daughter so violently that the baby died three days later.

But the judge decided she would not serve prison time on account of her state of mind, saying, ‘it is quite clear to me that you were depressed, still suffering from the effects of the birth of Lily-Mai at the time’. Lauren was noted to be volatile: swearing at social workers, blaming her daughter for not allowing her to sleep.

It all begs some obvious questions: why on earth was Lily-Mai discharged into the care of people who were clearly not up to it?

When there were ‘grave concerns’ about the parents, why wasn’t this poor little baby taken to somewhere safe? This horrible case raises a wider question about the raising of babies in this country: when did we forget that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’?

All over the world that old saying is a blueprint, the raising of kids seen as a communal endeavour.

Lauren, pictured, was noted to be volatile: swearing at social workers, blaming her daughter for not allowing her to sleep

Lauren, pictured, was noted to be volatile: swearing at social workers, blaming her daughter for not allowing her to sleep

In Croatia, Romania and Hungary, women stay in hospital for five days on average after a birth. The first 40 days postpartum is known in Latin America as la cuarentena, a time for mothers to rest while other women in their communities support them.

In Japan, women stay with their families for a month, allowing weeks of bed rest to bond with their baby. In Nigeria, the baby’s first bath is given by their paternal grandmother, a symbolic act to show the mother won’t be alone.

In parts of the developing world the mother is surrounded by wise elder relatives. And, yet, in the ‘developed’ West, the motto is not so much ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ as ‘over to you, Mum’.

The UK has the shortest maternity stays of any developed nation, with women discharged from hospital an average 1.5 days after giving birth. They are then handed a couple of leaflets on breastfeeding and launched into the alien and sometimes brutal world of looking after a tiny human.

Essentially, you’re on your own, with your husband or partner back at work after a fortnight’s paternity leave.

Some lucky mothers are surrounded by family to lend a helping hand, but many are not. Take a walk on any street and you’ll often see a woman pushing a pram on her own, staring vacantly ahead, lonely and overwhelmed.

Clare Foges, pictured, says we have got to get better at making sure no-one slips through the cracks. It should start with longer stays in hospital, ten days or so to teach new mums the basics.

Clare Foges, pictured, says we have got to get better at making sure no-one slips through the cracks. It should start with longer stays in hospital, ten days or so to teach new mums the basics.

I’ve been there. When my first daughter was eight months old we moved hours away from family. I had not a single friend or contact. With my husband out all day, I spent hours wandering with the pram, achingly lonely. At supermarket checkouts I’d be the one yabbering to the lady on the till, desperate for adult conversation.

This is not to mention the nights, when reason can escape you completely, your baby crying and crying. ‘Please!’ you want to scream. ‘Just shut up!’

I’m one of the lucky ones, with a hands-on husband and a mum who has been the ultimate sounding board, so I shudder for all of those without help. Some, like Lauren, may snap — with tragic consequences. I cannot help but wonder whether her situation could have been different with more support.

We have got to get better at making sure no-one slips through the cracks. It should start with longer stays in hospital, ten days or so to teach new mums the basics.

We need more help at home, too — at the very least the Sure Start centres that were closed should be re-opened.

This might all sound expensive, but what could be more valuable than ensuring the best start in life for every child?

J-Lo nude at 53 is sad, not empowering  

Baring all: The singer stripped off to promote her new beauty cream

 Baring all: The singer stripped off to promote her new beauty cream

In honour of her new ‘Booty Balm’, J-Lo released this ‘empowering’ naked photo of herself. I find it sad that such stars are still obsessed with looking amazing. Past beauties had new interests as they aged — think Audrey Hepburn with her UN work. Now it’s all about proving your bits are as perky as ever. Says rather dispiriting things about modern priorities, doesn’t it?

 Liz is right- cheap jewellery rocks

Clare says she agrees with Liz Truss for wearing £4.50 earrings. She says she cannot fathom spending so much on earrings when you can get equally sparkly ones for £6

Clare says she agrees with Liz Truss for wearing £4.50 earrings. She says she cannot fathom spending so much on earrings when you can get equally sparkly ones for £6

 Another week, another gaffe by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. This time she was praising Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss for wearing £4.50 earrings from Claire’s Accessories — before it was swiftly revealed that Dorries herself wears £6,000 diamond earrings. More fool her and all those who are taken in by the twaddle about a diamond being ‘for ever’. I cannot fathom why you would spend so much on a couple of sparkly rocks when you can get a pair of equally sparkly ones for £6. As Marilyn Monroe didn’t sing: cubic zirconia is a girl’s best friend.

 Want to spend less? Carry cash!

How easily the pounds leave the bank account through the medium of a bank card, especially in the days of tap-and-go technology. Tap! £3.45 on an iced mocha. Tap! £20 on a vase. Tap! £35 on a pair of shoes.

It feels like free money. So I was interested to learn millions of people are planning to shop with cash to save money.

This is the only budgeting strategy I’ve found to work. Take out enough for the week and you are much more careful with it.

If I attempt to spend on anything frivolous with cash I sense Her Majesty frowning up at me from the banknote. Those feeling the pinch should try it.

 Prompted by scenes of 20-hour queues at Dover, transport chiefs should revise their advice on what to keep stowed in your car for emergencies. Not just bottled water, a high-vis jacket and a blanket — now motorists should stash: tinned vegetables, a gas stove, a chess set, dumbbells, DIY surgical equipment, a copy of War And Peace . . .

 Guilty Ghislaine is heading out of her high-security, rat-infested New York prison for a low-security jail in Florida. Although porridge is porridge, there at least the sun will shine and the food should be free of maggots. And given her crimes involved a lot of very powerful men who have never been named, I can’t help but wonder whether strings were pulled to ensure that Maxwell sees out the rest of her sentence in relative comfort.

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