Many people have been wondering what kind of defense Angela Alexie and her court-appointed attorney would provide to explain the heartbreaking death of her newborn baby. The little boy, later dubbed “Henry” by employees at the medical examiner’s office, was found frozen solid and wrapped in an old T-shirt in amongst recyclables at the Roseville Recycling Center.
And the answer is: given the circumstances, she did the best she could. Alexie claims that she checked on him regularly and attempted to keep him fed while he stayed in the unheated garage where she had birthed him. Her attorney has explained that due to a lack of parenting skills, no family support network, and limited intelligence, she did what she could.
To any normal and rational adult, this sounds like no more than a pitiful excuse for selfish choices, and we can’t say that selfishness didn’t play a role in the outcome – after all, we weren’t there – but ridiculous as it may seem, there is some validity to this claim.
Science has widely acknowledged the effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the human mind, carving enormous fissures in rational thinking and the ability to comprehend cause and effect. But when you add to that the effects of homelessness, which include sleep deprivation, much higher instances of developing illnesses that go untreated, and a significantly higher percentage of mental illness, the picture becomes darker.
We know nothing about Alexie’s childhood, but her lawyer has implied that it was not a happy, protective or supportive one. Being homeless at 24 with no family members available to help her certainly implies that something was lacking in her upbringing. Who knows what tragedies and traumas she has lived through during the course of her life? Who can say what abuses and assaults she may have been subject to over the years?
But when you take into account all of these factors and then consider the fact that she had just birthed a baby, alone and without any medical assistance, one must take into account all of the many challenges that new mothers face – pain, wildly fluctuating hormones, depression, exhaustion, possible blood loss. Without any resources at hand, and without support or help of any kind, it is easy to see how she could have lost her way.
We are not in any way attempting to suggest that the choices this young woman made were acceptable or even justifiable. But with a little compassion, it is easy to see how they may be understandable. The death of a newborn baby is a tragedy, especially when that death was entirely preventable. But the fact that a young, lonely, homeless woman birthed a baby in an unheated garage without any help or medical care, and then felt so helpless as to make this distressing series of decisions in the days that followed, is also a tragedy.
We are not suggesting that what Angela Alexie did was not reprehensible. And we are not of the belief that there should be no consequences for the decisions she made. But we do believe that she was obviously in desperate need of help and saw no place to turn. We grieve both for her and for her little boy, who paid the ultimate price.