Anderson woman recalls own story of being abandoned as an infant

Barbara Joe Mahoney Hamblin's birth made headlines in Alexandria when she was found abandoned in an alley.
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ANDERSON, Ind. (WTHR) - The story of a baby abandoned in a plastic shopping bag in Seymour hits close to home for an Anderson woman.

"How could anybody do this thing?" asked Barbara Joe Mahoney Hamblin when she heard about the baby girl abandoned on the side of the road in Seymour Tuesday.

"I hope it never happens again, but I know it will," BJ, as her friends call her, said.

For this mother and grandmother, what happened in Seymour earlier this week is more than a news story.

It's deeply personal.

That's because 63 years ago, a woman hanging laundry found another baby girl in a trash can in an alley in Alexandria.

That baby girl was BJ.

"It was June, but it was cold. It had frosted that night, so I had hypothermia," BJ said.

She said the woman called police and she was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Six weeks later, an Anderson couple adopted her.

At 22, the Lapel High School graduate learned the story behind her birth. All of it was documented at the time in the local newspaper, the clippings now in BJ's scrapbook.

"They nicknamed me 'The Trash Can Baby,'" she said.

In those newspaper clippings, she learned police found her mother hours after her birth.

"They did a door-to-door search," said BJ, explaining her biological mom was a young woman, 22 years old, who was from out of state and staying at a boarding house in Alexandria, hiding her pregnancy.

"They said, 'If you'll sign over your rights, give the baby up for adoption and agree never to come back to Indiana, this will go away,'" BJ recounted.

Thursday, BJ retraced her mom's steps. The boarding house where she gave birth to BJ is long gone, but the alley is still there.

"I wanna see what my mama saw," said BJ, walking slowly. "I'm thinking of how frightened she probably was of how dark the alley probably was."

BJ was also thinking of the baby girl in Seymour and of her mother.

She's got a message for both.

For the baby's mom: "You gave a gift to a family that wanted a baby."

To that little baby: "I want that baby to know someone walked this route before."

A route, BJ said, can lead to many blessings.

"That baby's going to have a good life," she said. "She will have a purpose."

BJ has found hers, advocating for Indiana's Safe Haven Law, which allows someone to anonymously give up an infant at a hospital, police or fire station, without fear of prosecution.

She also support Safe Haven baby boxes.

"It's an extension of the law itself that gives a mother an opportunity to place that baby in a safe place not in an alley," BJ said.

An alley where BJ's story could have easily ended, but didn't. Instead, 63 years later, new chapters are still being written.

"I can say goodbye to the pain," said BJ, looking around the alley where she had lay, hours after her birth.

"I wanna live to dance at my grandkids' weddings," she added, smiling.