Mothers who kill newborns tend to be ‘in deep denial': expert

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Mubashra Uddin, 19, was charged with first-degree murder. She’s accused of dropping her newborn baby out of an eighth-floor window of her family’s apartment in Uptown. | Cook County Sheriff’s Office photo

For months, 19-year-old Mubashra Uddin hid her pregnancy from nearly everyone. When she gave birth Wednesday to a 7-pound, 11-ounce girl, she was in the bedroom of the Uptown apartment she shared with her parents and younger sister. She apparently cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors and tried to clean up the mess with maxi-pads.

Moments after giving birth, she heard her mother approach the bedroom, Cook County prosecutors say, and Uddin did the unthinkable in hopes of keeping her secret: She opened the window and let the infant drop eight stories.

A neighbor found the infant, naked and bloody but still alive, beneath the Uddins’ window, in the 800 block of West Eastwood in the Uptown neighborhood. The baby died of massive internal injuries at Weiss Memorial Hospital about an hour after it was born, prosecutors say.

Uddin, described by her attorney as a straight-A student at DeVry University, is being held without bail on a single count of first-degree murder. She’s due back in court on Thursday.

But the charge of murder — a crime that requires premeditation — does not always apply in cases of infanticide, said Michelle Oberman, a law professor at Santa Clara University and the author of “When Mothers Kill.”


A memorial for the infant who died after she was dropped from an eighth-floor window of an apartment building in the 800 block of West Eastwood in the Uptown neighborhood last week. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

Mothers capable of killing their newborns tend to be isolated and in deep denial about their pregnancies, Oberman told the Chicago Sun-Times. Options such as putting the child up for adoption, or even just dropping the infant off at a church or hospital, may never occur to them, she said.

“Impossible as it might seem, they are in such deep denial that they don’t even associate the intense ‘stomachache’ at the end of nine months of pregnancy with giving birth,” she said. “When the baby actually comes out, they often are completely surprised.

Really, if you were capable of thinking ahead of time, you could hide [the birth]. You wouldn’t do it at home, with your parents and your family around.”

Infants 30 days old or younger can be left — no questions asked — at any police station, firehouse, hospital or emergency medical center, said Dawn Geras, who lobbied to pass Illinois’ “Safe Haven law” in 2001. Including Uddin’s baby, only two infants have been abandoned in the state illegally this year, Geras said, and 15 have been turned over to authorities at Safe Haven sites. Uddin’s apartment, in the 800 block of West Eastwood Avenue, was across the street from Weiss Memorial Hospital.

“I can only believe that she didn’t know about the law when [Uddin] did what she did,” Geras said.

On Monday, neighbor Saab Moshin carried his toddler son past the mound of stuffed animals and wilting flowers piled against a tree near where the baby landed. Moshin said he had lived in the building and knew Mubashra a “a great girl,” who was part of a devout Muslim family. Uddin’s conservative parents would likely have been mortified at the prospect of unwed motherhood, Moshin said.

“You would have to be so mentally tortured to do what she did,” Moshin said. “I know that the whole story is not out there yet, but I hope she gets the help that she needs.”

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