Baby Newman

A moving story from 19-year-old tribe member Mary Finn, working on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean…

“On the 12th September at 7am, I was awoken by the words ‘it’s a boy’ over the radio.

For a few moments my mind was trying to process the information and work out what it meant.

Then I realised…

The previous day we had rescued 253 people from two rubber boats, 25 miles off the Libyan coast. Just hours later, a Nigerian lady called Faith went into labour during the night.

The birth was a smooth one, both mother and baby were fine and healthy. The MSF midwife Jonquil Nicholl, who delivered the baby, said it was “a very normal birth in dangerously abnormal conditions”.

Once Faith had recovered from the birth, she was bright and cheerful, telling us that her new son was a ‘very lucky boy’. She took him out onto the deck where his father, Otis, and two older brothers Victory, 7, and Rollers, 5, were overjoyed and relieved at the good news. The family sat together and proudly showed off their new addition to the other people on board. The captain of our ship even presented the family with an unofficial birth certificate for the baby.

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They named him Newman.

Just 24 hours earlier, Faith and her family had been nervously waiting on the beach in Libya. Faith said: “I was very stressed on the rubber boat, sitting on the floor with the other women and children. Panicking that I would go into labour. I could feel my baby moving, he would move down and then move back up again.

I had been having contractions for three days.”

Parents like Faith and Otis believe that if they make it to Europe, their children will have a better chance at life. For them, life back home is so bad that they have no choice but to take the risk.

Sadly, they don’t quite understand how extreme that risk is.

The chances of their rubber boat making it to Italy are almost non-existent. The chances of them getting rescued by an NGO ship like ours, or a navy ship, are slightly higher but still pretty slim. The Mediterranean sea is vast and treacherous, and spotting these rubber boats in the abyss of water around us is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

As we arrived in Brindisi on the North coast of Italy for the disembarkation of the 392 people rescued by the Aquarius, Faith beckoned me over to her as she stood in line with her family. She gave me a big hug and the two boys, Victory and Rollers hung onto my legs wanting to be picked up. “Thank you for your kindness” she said to me. Otis just grinned and couldn’t stop thanking me as I wished them good luck and goodbye. Baby Newman was deep in sleep, blissfully unaware of the situation that he had entered into this world in.

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In this moment I felt so overwhelmed with emotions. I was so happy for the family and felt proud to be here doing this work, but on the other hand felt a sense of sadness.

The future for this beautiful family is likely not to be the European dream that they expected.

This family’s story had a happy ending but in the back of my mind I can’t help but imagine the families whose didn’t. Our ship was a miracle for this family, but not everyone has a rescue ship spotting them on the horizon.

I think it is important to celebrate this extraordinary story, but we must also remember those that weren’t so lucky. We can help to minimise the tragedies, and maximise the happy endings, but we need support to do so.”

Amazing photos by Marco Panzetti / SOS MEDITERANEE Alva White / Medicins Sans Frontieres

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