• Erin DiMaggio

The Baby Next Door

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My husband and I were standing side by side after the delivery of our first son. I was barefoot in my hospital gown excitedly examining our new baby boy’s first bowel movement. We stood hovering over our little guy, giddy with admiration for this gorgeous baby that came through us. The neonatal nurse was with us, too. She carefully inspected the first of many poops to come. Then, she insured us that the black, sticky meconium looked healthy. She explained to us that meconium is made up of amniotic fluid, bile, and old cells. We knew all of this from our childbirth education class and from all of the research we had done beforehand but both of us were relieved and happy to hear that our little guy had a healthy set of intestines. We smiled knowing that he was clear for future blast offs. As she was starting to clean our little guy’s booty, I said, “Hold on, don’t clean it yet. Let’s get a picture.” She looked at my husband and me, choked back a giggle and said, “Really?” I was like, “Of course.” Then I asked, “Don’t ALL parents get excited about their baby’s first poop?” She politely said, “No, not usually.” Then she finished the examination and headed down the hall to the next room.

Listening to baby's lungs

We had spent forty weeks preparing for this day. We were ready to give all of our heart and soul to this little magical being. Then, suddenly, wailing from next door erupted like a hurricane invading a tropical oasis. We knew that crying was normal and should be expected from all newborns especially in the early phase while the baby is attempting to clear fluid from his or her lungs. But then we heard the thunder of a violent voice, “Someone shut that baby up!” I looked at my husband in disbelief. “Did you hear that?” I asked. He sadly shook his head, told me not to worry about it and we said nothing more. I sat there quietly as I held my newborn son but inside I felt rage surge through every cell of my being. I resisted every natural motherly instinct to run next door and snatch that baby away from whom I assumed must have been the father. “How could he say that?” I wondered. I heard it again and I could not stop the flood of thoughts about this world that I had just brought my baby in to. “Shut that baby up!” hit me one thunderous assault after another. I sat listening through the thick hospital wall for some indication or sign that they were all going to be ok.

Man in sweatshirt on beach

We thought we had safeguarded my son against all of the cruelties in the world by talking to him in the womb, eating leafy green veggies, reading to him, and even being vigilant about the shows we watched while he was in utero. Now, a new unexpected neighbor had just moved in. Hopelessness set up shop in my now empty womb.

I did not physically witness anything. I heard, “Shut that baby up!” I had an intuitive vision and sixth sense of this child’s future life. And it was not pretty. The words I heard from his father would have little weight or legal significance for me to take any sensible action. I was filled with a deep feeling of unbearable compassion for this baby that entered the world so differently than ours and on the very same day and at the same hospital as our son. All I could do in that moment was take care of my child and myself. I attempted to find some comfort in the Spiritual teachings that say: We do not know what Soul-Curriculum is lined up for anyone. Nor do we know the karmic life that one has behind them when they enter into this present reality. We all come here to learn what need to learn in this lifetime and sometimes the whole purpose is to learn how to forgive. I changed my internal dialogue and repeated Gandhi’s words until they became my own internal voice.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.” Gandhi

Happy family

It is now nine and a half years later. I am the Mother to three children. I have always practiced parenting consciously and purposely. I now know I cannot build bricks around my children to keep the rest of the world out nor can I build them around my own heart. I have tried and failed. I continue every day to remake myself so that I may be of service in some way to the world. I do not know what happened to the baby next door but there is not a day that goes by where I do not feel a deep sense of pain for all the children who are living in the world without the basic needs of love, attachment and connection. The violence we see out there in the world starts at the moment of conception for every child. We can pretend it does not exist or impact us but that is a lie. We are all connected and what is happening out there is always a reflection in some way of the violence in our own heart. We cannot make the world a better place by attempting to only fix or throw away the broken pieces. Nor can we make the world a better place by only taking care of our own needs. We have to contribute in some way to serve the greater whole. Our world needs to start over and we have to start from the beginning by raising all of our children and our neighbor’s children with connection, empathy and love. For me, my path is to continue to be the best Mom I can be and to contribute in some small way to the world around me. Most of my days are consumed with the care of my own children and yet I feel a deep desire to contribute in some way to the movement in the world that is elevating the consciousness of our planet. I know I can teach my children the value of love. Small acts of kindness can and do make a difference in the world. I want to do something about the baby next door and so for now, I have a keyboard and computer and an open heart. And bringing this forward is my small act.

Facts from DoSomething.Org:

  1. Approximately 5 children die every day because of child abuse.

  2. 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18.

  3. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. 68% are abused by a family member.

  4. In 2012, 82.2% of child abuse perpetrators were found to be between the ages of 18- 44, of which 39.6% were recorded to be between the ages of 25-34.

  5. In the United States, more than 4 children die from child abuse and neglect on a daily basis. Over 70% of these children are below the age of 3.

  6. Boys (48.5%) and girls (51.2%) become victims at nearly the same rate.

  7. 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported every year in the United States.

  8. Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violence crime.

  9. About 80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

  10. 14% of all men and 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.

As I look at these facts, I realize how privileged my children and I am to be living in the community where we live. I have not always lived in a safe neighborhood nor did I grow up up in one. Child abuse exists everywhere and it usually happens behind closed doors.

We live in a safe little community where parents watch carefully over their children and go the extra mile to raise children with love and connection. I am grateful for this but sadly, I know this is not the norm for all children but it should be. What effects the periphery will effect the core. We cannot pretend that these numbers are not part of our reality. These numbers contribute to the violence in the world and history tells us that no child is exempt from that. That's why I feel a personal responsibility to do something. Change takes awareness and a willingness to see from someone else's perspective.

I want to do something to change these statistics...I am starting now.


1 ChildHelp. "Child Abuse Statistics and Facts." ChildHelp. Accessed March 3, 2015. .

2 The Advocacy Center. "The Facts About Youth Sexual Abuse." Accessed February 21, 2014, http://www.theadvocacycenter.org/adv_abuse.html.

3 U.S. Department of Justice. "Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics." Bureau of Justice Statics. Accessed February 21, 2014, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf.

4 Safe Horizon. "Child Abuse Facts." Accessed March 3, 2015. .

5 Safe Horizon. "Child Abuse & Incest." Accessed March 1, 2015. .

6 Safe Horizon. "Child Abuse Facts." Accessed March 1, 2015.

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