DIAMOND LAKE, Mich. (WOOD) — A man walking his dog in the Diamond Lake area Monday morning came upon a newborn baby abandoned on the side of the road by a young mother.
The baby, who is recovering at the hospital, was discovered on the side of a dirt road around 10:30 a.m. in the area of Marion Road, north of White Cloud.
Jeff Kopp said he normally doesn’t walk along Marion, but his dog Bobby seemed to be on a mission Monday morning, pulling him down the road and toward a satellite dish.
“He brought me over to about here, and there’s when I saw what (looked like) a rabbit at first,” Kopp said.
Bobby sniffed at something near the satellite dish, which is about three feet from the road. Kopp came closer, and that’s when he realized what that “rabbit” actually was: A baby.
“Then it moved. That’s when I started yelling,” he said.
He called out to his neighbor to call 911 and shouted for his wife and daughter.
“He hollered for myself and my mother to get a blanket or a towel because he just found a baby,” Kopp’s daughter Cathleen Neal said.
She said the baby was lying on her side in the fetal position. There where leaves on her face.
It was chilly, and the family was worried for the baby. They wrapped her in a towel.
“Once the women picked her up and wrapped her up, then eventually she started to cry and we knew that she was OK,” Kopp said.
“She wasn’t crying or moving until I picked her up,” Neal said. “It was a relief to me because I knew she was alive.”
The newborn was conscious and breathing when emergency responders arrived, though she had some bruises and scrapes. Her umbilical cord was still attached.
An ambulance took the newborn to Gerber Memorial Hospital in Fremont, according to Lt. Chad Palmiter of the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department.
Later Monday, authorities were able to find the child’s mother. She was taken to the hospital for evaluation, the sheriff’s office said.
Neighbors say they believe the mother is a young teen from the area.
Neal said that the teen believed to be the mother came outside after the baby was discovered.
“When the young lady came out and asked us what was going on and I told her, she just made it seem like she didn’t know what was going on, but yet she was the one who had the baby,” Neal said.
She thinks the teen was probably “scared to death” and didn’t know what to do.
“There are other options,” Neal said.
Michigan has a “safe haven” law that allows a person to anonymously surrender an infant within 72 hours of birth to an Emergency Service Provider, like a hospital, or police or fire station. In 2013, 11 infants were surrendered, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services.
“I know she’s a young girl, but she’s not stupid, so it really makes me wonder why,” Neal said of the baby’s mother. “It’s just really hard to believe. It’s really hard to believe that someone would do that.”
Sandra Recker, who helped create the Safe Delivery of Newborns Act in 2001, said not enough teens are aware of the law.
“It’s frustrating to some extent, but it really isn’t about my frustration as much as it is about the community helping young people to know and understand what options they have,” she said.
Tuesday, authorities with the Newaygo County Sheriff’s Office said they were still working to identify the baby’s father.
Criminal charges against the mother — if any — have not yet been determined.
Child Protective Services will determine who will have custody of the baby when she is released from the hospital.
Kopp said he thinks it was an act of God that brought him and Bobby to the place where the baby lay.
“I feel that we were led to that place, OK, because it was out of the ordinary for me to come in this direction,” Kopp said. “I tend to think it was God led us this way, that all life is precious to Him.”