Three weeks ago, I was overwhelmed when I laid eyes on Maley. She was eight months pregnant and apparently in a lot of discomfort. What really stood out was the fact that she seemed unaware of her condition, her protruding stomach.
Wrapped in torn garments and a brown rag over her unkempt hair, Maley stared deeply at the tarmac (coal tar) as if daydreaming. But when I got closer, I realized that she was very hungry.
“Do you want to eat and drink?” I asked
“Yes,” she replied.
Women selling food along the Ministry of Finance looked at me in awe because they had never seen anyone showing so much care for Maley, at least that’s what they told me.
“Is she your sister? Do you come to take her off the streets?” they asked in unison.
I was unsure of what to say, so I continued talking with Maley, forgetting that anyone else was even standing nearby. After 30 minutes talking about myself, I noticed that she never once begged any passerby for money or food, nor was she irritated by my plenty talking.
I didn’t know what questions to ask, because I know that many mentally disabled people tend to get agitated when they are asked questions they can’t relate to. I wanted to know who impregnated her.
“Ma, the men can see her and just throw her down and take it from her. Some men just want to get off and don’t care who they get off with. There is no father for her belly,” Princess of Camp Johnson road said.
A man claiming to be a relative of Maley’s late boyfriend Unesco, whom he said passed away last October, claimed that Maley was impregnated by his nephew.
“You see, all two of them were in the street. They first lived in an old building across from the fire station on Ashmun Street and then later moved under a house on upper Benson Street. Before his death, he used to clean up behind her, tended to her because she was always sick (mentally ill),” added Sando.
He also stated that he himself has spent a night or two sleeping in the filthy place where Maley sleeps at night. A place without windows and is ridden with feces, urine, old and rotten clothes and moldy dishes.
“Sometimes I go home late, I won’t lie. I have had to sleep there a couple of times. But most times when I want to sleep with her, she usually yells at me. She doesn’t allow anyone to sleep with her,” he assured. I asked him who would get the baby after the child was born and Sando made it clear that “anyone who is around when she delivers will get the child.”
However, Maley has not revealed who impregnated her. The first day I met Maley, I assured her that I would return in a few days to help take her off the streets and find her a safe place to deliver her baby. She laughed as if someone had told her a joke and proceeded to sit on the ground; she didn’t look my way as I took leave of her.
On Saturday April 9, 2016, I rushed to Mechlin Street to give her food, when I was told that she had gone into pain. I ran to find her. I was directed to upper Nelson Street to a clinic who denied upon my arrival that they had seen such a woman. I accused them of giving me false information because everyone had seen her walking towards the clinic to deliver her baby.
Meanwhile, Maley had never made it to a clinic but instead tried to walk to her abandoned building where she sleeps. It was right in front of it she knelt down and went into labor.
“She had the baby right on the sidewalk in front of a radio station and no one went to her aid, she did it all by herself. The market women who are always around her took off their lappers to shield her from the view of people passing by. She pushed by herself,” stated Princess, a woman who playfully calls Maley her aunt.
According to Edwina, all the people standing on the street were asked to volunteer to take the baby, but none of them offered. So when the opportunity seized itself, she picked up the baby and took him home.
“I was given US$25 by the manager of the radio station to buy food for him and also take him for his first vaccine. I made it clear that if any relative came for the baby, they could have him. So he is here with me for now, but I do want to keep him,” she stated.
Also, Maley, under the human rights law, has the right to her baby. In as much as Maley has been taken to a medical facility for a health check up and is undergoing evaluation, it is urgent she is placed in a mental home, one that could prepare her for her baby that she can one day get back.
For now, Maley has been cooperating with the path towards recovery and smiles when a picture of her baby is shown to her. She has said she trusts the judgment of those trying to help her get well, for her child’s sake.
“I trust you, yes,” she said as we walked to the JFK Medical Hospita