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First Bambino in Baby Drop-Off Box


Late Saturday night someone, most likely the mother, placed a healthy, well-cared for baby boy in a high-tech foundling wheel in Rome and walked away.
It is a recovered trend: until about 100 years ago, many Italian churches and hospitals had kiddy wheels.
These worked more or less like an infant lazy Susan (pardon the pun) – the child was placed outside and, with a push, wheeled round into the hospital or convent where it would be cared for, no questions asked.

Florence’s historic baby parking box

About a year ago, I wrote about the return of drop-off boxes here in Northern Italy. Instead of mewling to wake up the nuns on duty, the new versions are state-of-the-art heated cribs with alarms. They were on my radar since Marco, the handsome art prof with an ice-a-box-a accent in English, enlightened me on them years ago in Florence.
He painted an empathetic tale about these women (“servant girls? imprudent contessas? beleaguered wives?” he wondered) stealing away after dark to leave infants they either couldn’t or didn’t want to raise. It was an interesting human blip in an otherwise rational construction of the foundling’s hospital by Renaissance great Brunelleschi.
Florence’s window was cemented up in 1875, but the legacy lives on. The place with the wheel is called the “hospital of the innocents,” and the ancestors of those park-n-go kids had variations on the name of innocent (Innocenti or Nocentini) that are still common in Florence’s phone book.
So the wheels have made a comeback in hopes of reducing the number of babies that aren’t dropped off into safety but thrown out of windows or left in trash cans, steady news items here. (One recent example, unfortunately with semi-comic auto-translation.)
It’s an interesting moment. Of the 10 or so new baby boxes installed throughout Italy so far, this seems to be the first time someone has actually used one. Hospital officials were quoted as saying they hope the mother has second thoughts and comes back for the three-month-old boy they’ve decided to call “Stefano.”
That seems a little beside the point, but then again the hospital is within easy excommunication distance from the Vatican, at a time when Church bigwigs are preparing an official bellow about the rapidly increasing number of civil unions and children born out of wedlock.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:34 AM | Permalink

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