One of the most frightening moments of motherhood happened when my son was about 20 hours old.
A woman came into my hospital room to give him a bath. It was around midnight, which even in my bleary-eyed state struck me as an odd time to clean an infant. I remembered a nurse told me to always check the badges of people coming into my room -- the implication being that even with a staffed-up security team, interlopers could sneak in the hospital. So I eyeballed the woman's badge in my near-dark room and it looked official enough.
Until a few seconds later, when all of a sudden it didn't. And she was already gone with my baby in hand. Even though the front desk assured me the woman was in fact a night nurse, I couldn't sit still until he was back in my arms. It was one of the worst 20-minute waits of my life.
So when I read about a California woman who waltzed into a maternity ward wearing scrubs and carrying fake babies, my heart dropped into my stomach. As ABC News reports, Tonya Whitney said she brought the dolls -- called "reborns" because they look an awful lot like a newborn -- to Mercy Medical Center in Merced, Calif., in the hopes of selling them to administrators for training or therapeutic purposes. She entered through the ER and a nurse there told her to go straight up to the maternity ward.
Thankfully, a security guard stopped Whitney and her stash of faux babies from entering and took a picture of her. (It appeared on a flyer later posted around the hospital warning staffers about her.) Police were called, and Whitney was charged with trespassing, though she swears her intentions were good. "I, in no way, tried impersonating a nurse," she told the ABC affiliate in Fresno, and attributed her very nurse-like attire to a recent weight gain. She also said, "I, in no way, ever thought or tried to steal a baby."
Still, officials were understandably troubled. Turns out, she's tried this before. "We are concerned because she did show up at the ER and attempted to get into the maternity ward not once but twice so that concerns us; we're afraid for the potentiality of abduction," Merced Police Capt. Tom Trindad told KFSN-TV. And it doesn't help Whitney's case that she and her husband were fawning over the dolls as if they were real. "They hold them and hug them and change their diapers," Mercy Medical Center hospital spokesman Robert McLaughlin told ABC News. "It's very odd."
I'm just relieved that security guards were on point that day and police are taking Whitney's unauthorized visit seriously. After all, a new mom's focus should be on bonding with baby and maybe even getting a little sleep before going home -- not worrying about whether someone is trying to snatch their infant out from under them.
Tell us: If you delivered at a hospital, did you worry about security at all?