By Maria R. Perez, MSSW
Recently, the topics of unknown ancestors, lost family members and estranged families have been highlighted by various television programs. These TV shows feature many factors causing family separations, one of which is infant abduction. When this takes place in the healthcare facility where the baby is born, a cruel abuse of power and trust may be at play. This type of broken trust – the kidnapping of their newborn infant leaves a deep, permanent wound in a parent’s heart.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, nonprofit organization established in 1984 by the United States Congress. Its mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation, and prevent child victimization. According to NCMEC data, a total of 327 confirmed infant abductions in healthcare settings were recorded in the USA between 1964 and October 2019. To date, 15 of those infants have not been located.
But, what of infants abductions in 1958? Back then, there were no security cameras, no way to prove an infant was stolen except for a parent’s plea. And to whom would a naïve Mexican immigrant couple tell their story in an unfamiliar United States? This was the case for many such individuals, and this was the case of my parents, and what ignited my journey into genealogy and DNA websites.
Around the first half of 1958, my mother (a former Red Cross nurse from Delicias, Chihuahua) gave birth to her second child–a son–at the Delgado Green Cross Hospital in the Ysleta community of El Paso, Texas. She remembers his birth, hearing him cry and holding him as she gazed over his tiny face, eyes wide open looking back at her. She also recalls being told that the baby had a weak heart and because the facility lacked adequate life support equipment, the baby was going to die. My mother remembers requesting assistance to baptize her baby and naming him Jesus Maria, after her oldest brother. She recalls that her baby boy was taken away from her and being told soon after that he died. She never saw the baby’s body again.
I was a toddler being cared for by my father in the “waiting area.” My father recalls becoming overwhelmed with grief and confusion upon hearing from Dr. Roger Delgado that his wife was well, but the baby had died. He also remembers the doctor saying he would take care of the baby’s body, since he customarily buried babies of such circumstances in the hospital garden. My father believes Dr. Delgado took notice of his low economic status and emotional state and said this to both appease him and prevent any further discussion. My father states that he never saw the baby’s body either. Upon my mother’s discharge an hour or two later, my parents were neither given a birth certificate nor a death certificate. They state that they never returned to the hospital to settle anything due to their grief and ignorance.
Today, I have concluded that my mother was nefariously medicated in a way that would render her helpless to act in defense of her child. Consequently, my parents had three more children. Yet, up until their death in 2017, this had been a highly emotional, confusing, and unresolved issue for our entire family. My siblings and I still believe that Jesus Maria was kidnapped, is possibly still alive, and may be wondering about his biological roots. For this reason, my surviving brother, our youngest sister, and myself have submitted our DNA to three different companies to broaden our search range. We do not assume this will lead to a happy reunion. We will be satisfied in simply offering our open arms and letting him decide. And even if we do not find him, we have done right by our parents in never forgetting him and continuing our search.
– María R. Pérez, MSSW, Somos Familía Genealogy Services, El Paso, Texas
María R. Pérez is an artist, a writer, and a retired social worker who also enjoys genealogy. She is a strong advocate for the dis-empowered and a founding member of The Tornillo Collective – Individuals calling attention to the plight of migrant families and children in US detention facilities through the arts. She is highly creative and imaginative. Maria grew up with a disability. Maybe her physical limitations made her mind nurture possibilities!