What Happens to Lebanese “Bastard” Children?

Here’s an interesting fact for you: if a medical case qualifies as untransferable, a hospital cannot refuse to admit it. A woman in labor is one of those cases.

It so happened to be my luck that I had night duty on a day that a woman came in labor. Of course, this is not out of the ordinary for any healthcare establishment and the hospital I was at was more than equipped. This woman, however, had already delivered the baby whose color was slowly turning blue, asphyxiating as the placenta remained inside his mother’s womb.

The Red Cross personnel rushed her in. They had already been refused entry at a previous hospital despite their pleading. They carried her over to our floor. She had no known physician. She said she was married but neither her husband nor any family member for that matter were anywhere to be found. She didn’t know her due date. She didn’t know she was pregnant until very recently. She had no idea what the baby’s gender was going to be. She had no idea what her blood type was. Asking questions was deemed futile.

We cut off the baby’s umbilical cord, effectively severing his connection to his mother. A midwife took care of bringing the baby’s vitals up to par while the obstetrical team handled the mother. They delivered the placenta, stitched whatever needed stitching and made sure her risk of any postpartum bleeding was minimal, while double checking everything they needed to check to avert complications.

Bureaucracy started next. We managed to get a phone number to call. It was her father. Let’s say he wasn’t very pleased to be told he had become a grandfather. We asked about her husband again, now that there was nothing wrong with her and her baby was safe and sound. She dodged the question. It was getting late so the medical team figured they’d call it a day while the logistics section of the hospital staff panicked over what to do with this patient. It wasn’t every day that you’d get such cases.

It was discovered the following day that this woman was not married. So here’s another interesting fact for you: most Lebanese hospitals have a rule not to allow unmarried and pregnant women to deliver. The exception is when they cannot refuse them, as in this case.

The story then got better. This was a woman who was molested by her father when she was fourteen. She worked as a prostitute. She also didn’t want the baby.

As I learned of this while looking over her baby in the nursery, I felt sad for the little premature-born boy in front of me. His mother didn’t want him. He had no family that would take him in. His only hope was the convent to which he would be given.

I asked around to see what would happen to that kid. No one knew. They also didn’t care. I guess it comes with the territory of maybe seeing such things often when you’ve been doing your job for as long as they have. ┬áSomeone told me he would actually be registered as a “bastard” child in the country’s registry books. But with his mother not wanting him, who would register him? With no proof that the father is Lebanese, since we don’t know who he is, how will this baby be nationalized? How will he build a life for himself?

Pregnancy out of wedlock in Lebanon is not as rare as many want to believe. I’ve seen many women come, wanting to keep everything hush-hush, in order to see what they can do with the fetus growing inside them. As a country, we’re still not willing to discuss this. For many, those women are whores and those children don’t deserve to live. But those women are not. And those children deserve life if their mothers want to carry on with the pregnancy. Not everyone lives in the narrow moral code that many people have set forth for themselves and expect everyone to abide by. Lebanese regulations, however, don’t think like me.

What happens to the bastard children of Lebanon? I saw how bleak that little boy’s future would be as the elevator doors closed on his mother’s non-caring face.