Chris Smith: Reconnecting with homeless woman who gave her baby to a Santa Rosa policeman
It turns out I know the woman who got pregnant while living on the streets and feeding her addiction, and who gave up her newborn daughter for adoption by a Santa Rosa police officer she trusted and his wife.
Some years back, the woman and I spoke often and I visited her family’s home. Though getting by was tough for her and her partner and two sons, I wrote several times about exceptional goings-on in the life of one of the boys.
A week ago, she read my story about Officer Jesse Whitten of the Santa Rosa Police Department and his wife, Ashley, adopting a baby girl born to and surrendered to them by an unnamed homeless woman. She reached out to me to say she is that woman.
I didn’t recognize her when we met at a downtown cafe. She was dressed well and groomed, but since I last saw her she lost a great deal of weight and some of her teeth.
WE SPOKE for more than hour. I perceived in her some of the qualities that were evident years ago when she had a family and an inviting rented home: her kindness and motherly pride, and a desire to do what’s right.
But it was clear — and she didn’t try to deny or blame away or excuse — that her life has sunk deeply into the mire.
“I will hate myself for the rest of my life,” she said early on. She seems to regret foremost that she descended into so deplorable a state that her boys were removed from her custody.
“They both saw a lot things they shouldn’t have,” she said.
She recalled people she has camped alongside have asked why she goes to sleep and begins sobbing. “It’s because,” she said, “every time I fall to sleep I see my boys.”
“All I ever wanted in life was to be a mom,” she said.
She loves her sons, “more than anything,” she said. But she knows she deserved for them to be taken from her and that they are better off in the care of others.
“I never meant to hurt them,” she said. She anguishes to know that she did.
There’s a particular candy she likes, but when there’s money in her purse from her $837 monthly Social Security disability benefit, she won’t allow herself to buy it.
“I don’t deserve to have those things,” she said.
As bad as it sounded, she said plainly that for the longest time prior to her delivery of a girl this past February, she didn’t even know she was pregnant.
I’m not publishing her name, not for her privacy but for that of the children to whom she gave birth. How about we call her Kay?
SHE’S OUT OF PLACE on the streets, Kay said, but that is where she is.
She said to maintain a measure of dignity and responsibility by keeping herself as presentable as possible, cleaning up after herself and others, treating others with respect and trying to help fellow people living on the streets.
She said, “I’m sort of like Wendy and they’re the Lost Boys.”