A Strange Box
The hospital was the busiest it had ever been. Nurse Jeannie Joseph had been working there for as long as she could remember, but she had never seen anything like this. She had no idea something amazing was going to happen that evening.
A young man walked into the hospital while holding a shoebox. She couldn’t contain her gasp when she saw what was inside. It was horrid. What kind of boy could carry such a thing?
The Perfect Scholars
Michael and Cherish both went to the same high school. He was only two years older than her, and they both excelled at school. Everybody knew that they had bright futures ahead of them. They both participated in sports and were well-rounded people.
It was destiny that had something in store for them that no one could have anticipated. The fate of their lives would change forever when they crossed paths.
Michael and Cherish met each other through a mutual friend, and from the moment they first met, they knew that they were soulmates. They shared many interests and spent a lot of time with one another.
Their love was unadulterated, and their motives were genuine. They were having the time of their lives, but something dreadful was about to happen that would put their love to the test.
Thick And Thin
As they spent more and more time together, they became more invested in preserving their relationship. Despite their young age, they couldn’t help but dream about their future together.
In the end, though, could they stay together despite everything? It was almost certain that the fates had something in store for them; their young love would be tested soon.
Ultimately, Cherish’s mother learned about her relationship with Michael, and she immediately opposed it. The mother felt Cherish was too young for a relationship.
This was not very good news for the couple. Her mother told her that she was no longer allowed to spend any time with Michael. She attempted to end her daughter’s relationship, but did it work?
Continuing The Relationship
Cherish continued her relationship with Michael in secret. She did not like having to hide their love, but she did what she needed to do. She loved him more than anything in the world.
She had to sneak out in the evenings to spend time with Michael, and they had to take extra precautions to avoid being spotted. Their main concern was what would happen if Cherish’s mother caught them.
Michael quickly got fed up with the situation. He couldn’t stand the deception and lies any longer. He suggested to Cherish that they escape together and start a new life somewhere else.
However, what would come next was beyond their control. Or at least it wasn’t simple. They didn’t know what to do.
To add insult to injury, Michael had a difficult life at home. He had no relationship with his father, and it was beginning to take a turn for the worst. It got so bad that Michael slept at friends’ houses because he did not feel welcome at home.
Despite this, the young couple quickly realized that their best option was to persevere through the difficulties, finish their education, and then relocate. However, something was about to unfold that would completely wreck their life.
A Horrible Day
Cherish began to experience the worst agony she had ever felt one dreadful day at school. She rushed home after feeling acute stomach cramps at the end of the school day. She shut herself away in her room, whimpering quietly until she gathered the strength to phone her boyfriend.
After seeing Cherish’s condition, he started trembling and almost fainted. His mind blanked, and he was at a loss for what to do.
Shortly after that, he fled, leaving behind his girlfriend. To get help, he jumped out her window and began walking toward the nearest hospital.
On a cold, rainy night, he walked eight miles in the hope of reaching his destination. His fear of what would happen to him or his girlfriend after he finally arrived was palpable.
Neonatal nurse Jeannie Joseph was on her usual shift at SwedishAmerican hospital in Rockford, Illinois, when something startled her.
After the longest walk in his life, a crying teenage boy walked into the hospital holding nothing but a shoebox. Jeannie approached him to ask if he needed help. But when he lifted the lid to reveal the box’s contents, her eyes grew wide.
Nurse Joseph couldn’t believe her eyes. Inside the box, the teenage boy was holding was a tiny infant, dressed in a doll’s onesie and wrapped in a dishtowel.
Nurse Joseph rushed the baby to the special care nursery, but time wasn’t on their side. The tiny baby, born prematurely, was immediately admitted to the NICU for treatment. .
Race Against Time
Michael watched as the baby was rushed into isolation. The medical staffs’ first priority was to get him warm.
Nurse Joseph told the teen that he didn’t have to give them his or his partner’s name, but any information on the circumstances of the baby’s birth would help them. With a body temperature of just 94.7, the baby was fighting for his life.
The infant was born six weeks premature and lacked the warmth and nutrients necessary to survive. Infants so young lack the fat needed to raise their body temperature, so time was of the essence.
Nurse Joseph and the medical staff treated him for hypothermia, dehydration, and an infection from the cut on his umbilical cord – which had been cut with kitchen scissors.
Dr. Martin Anyebuno, a MEDNAX-affiliated neonatologist at SwedishAmerican, treated the baby that night. The baby was too young to regulate his own blood sugar or even breathe on his own.
Nevertheless, this baby was a little fighter. “This is one of the cases I won’t forget,” Dr. Anyebuno said. “There was someone looking down on him.”
The medical staff at SwedishAmerican hospital worked tirelessly that night and, thankfully, the baby’s condition was finally stable. Nurse Joseph approached Michael, who had been sobbing uncontrollably for the last three hours, to give him the news.
She told him that if he gave the infant up there and then, she couldn’t legally give him updates on his baby’s progress. What did he want to do?
Once the baby was stable, Michael had a choice to make. Nurse Joseph told him he could either relinquish the baby or she could give him a pair of parental bracelets.
The bracelets would give him the right to see his baby again, and it would give him some time to speak to his partner to weigh their options.
He Couldn’t Just Leave Him
Michael needed to know what happened to his baby and if he would be okay. Although he was being taken care of, he couldn’t bring himself to just leave him there.
He decided to take the parental bracelets and wait so he could buy some time. The next day, the baby had another visitor. Michael never expected this to happen.
Mother And Father
It didn’t take long for nurse Joseph to realize that the parents of the baby were scared, not cruel. There was a note inside the shoebox, written by Cherish.
It read: “We love you, we are just not able to raise you. We want his name to be Allen Corey and we will hope to be able to see you again. God will be watching over you.” Now, she found herself face-to-face with the baby’s mother.
The nurse first saw the terrified mother the day after baby Allen was stabilized. The girl walked into the nursery, holding her head down in shame.
She just wanted to see the little one before relinquishing him under the state’s Safe Haven law. But once she held him, everything changed. The two connected, and thanks to nurse Joseph, baby Allen’s story changed dramatically.
Nurse Joseph comforted the scared girl and promised that she’d do everything she could to take care of the tiny baby. She also praised her for doing the right thing.
The Safe Haven law of 2001 was passed precisely for situations like this – it decriminalized infant abandonment and provided “safe havens” for struggling mothers to relinquish their babies, who are later put up for adoption. But nobody expected this.
Just A Baby Herself
Cherish fell in love with her baby immediately, but she was just 15 – practically a baby herself. She coudn’t stop crying whenever she thought about what would happen when she told her grandparents – whom she lived with – and her mom what she’d done.
Nurse Joseph was there for her every step of the way. She arranged for Cherish to speak to hospital officials about open aoption and helped her with a plan.
Secret Daily Routine
While Cherish explored her options and open adoption – which would allow her to help choose potential parents for baby Allen – she came up with a secret daily routine.
Every morning, her grandfather dropped her at school. She’d secretly leave and take a city bus to the hospital to see and feed her baby. She secretly pumped milk for Allen every night and hid it in her grandparents’ basement refrigerator. But how long could this go on for?
Cherish opened up to nurse Joseph during her secret visits to the hospital. She explained her fears about her mother and grandparents finding out about the baby.
She felt so ashamed, and she also worried about having to give up on school and her dreams because of her teen pregnancy. Cherish and nurse Joseph crew close during those weeks, but they couldn’t hide the truth forever.
According to Cherish, nurse Joseph “was not judgmental at all, just very nurturing and motherly. She encouraged me to tell my grandparents, but she didn’t talk to me like I was just some stupid teenager. She talked to me like I was a person.”
Nurse Joseph gave Cherish all the support she could, but she also tried to explain that she’d have to tell her mom and grandparents about the baby eventually.
After a month at the hospital, it was almost time for baby Allen to be discharged. Terrified, Cherish brought her mother to the hospital without any explanation as to why.
Standing in front of Allen’s incubator, Cherish froze up and her mother’s face paled. She had no idea how her mother was going to react.
Cherish’s mom reacted with pure love and without judgement. She immediately wanted to hold her tiny grandson. Her love for Cherish was unconditional.
She never showed any anger and was heartbroken that her daughter hadn’t come to her and had gone through this all alone. She was devastated that her daughter had kept such a big secret for so long.
The First Baby
Allen was the first baby to ever be received under the new Safe Haven law. Today, 120 babies have been received and put up for adoption in Illinois under the same law. Most of them are given up by their mothers at hospitals..
Nurse Joseph, who by then had been a neonatal nurse for more than ten years, knew of the new law, but had never seen anyone acting on it.
Making A Plan
Cherish’s mother was understanding of her situation because she had also had Cherish when she was just a teen. Cherish’s mom immediately wanted to hold Allen, and Cherish’s grandmother had the same reaction a few hours later.
Then, they came up with a plan as a family. They agreed that Cherish’s grandparents and mother would look after Allen until Cherish graduated.
Keeping In Touch
One day, after many years, nurse Joseph received a message on Facebook. It was from Cherish, now a 29-year-old mother of three who lives in Arizona working as a law clerk. The two hadn’t spoken for many years.
But neither had forgotten each other. And Cherish expressed her desire to rekindle their old friendship. And of course, Jeannie was more than delighted to oblige! The ladies haven’t yet had a chance to reunite face-to-face, but now they keep in touch online every day.