A woman who dropped her baby off at a hospital after giving birth at home aged 15 has had an emotional reunion with the nurse who helped her decide to raise her son after all.
Cherish Coates, 29, was 15 when she gave birth to her son Allen inside her bedroom in Rockford, Illinois. The high school sophomore, who was living with her grandparents at the time, had started ‘suspecting that something was wrong’ prior to giving birth.
‘I started feeling nauseous, blacking out, and dizzy a lot,’ Cherish, who had been dating her first boyfriend since the age of 13, said in a new episode of The Doctors.
Mother and son: Cherish Coates (right), 29, was 15 when she gave birth to her son Allen (left), now 13, inside her bedroom in Rockford, Illinois
Symptoms: The teenager (pictured in an archive shot), who was living with her grandparents at the time, had started ‘suspecting that something was wrong’ prior to giving birth
Safe Haven: After Cherish gave birth, she and her boyfriend decided to drop off the baby at a hospital. They placed him in a shoe box, wrapped in towels, and wrote a note
Hospital: Later on, Cherish (pictured with the baby) visited her son in the NICU and met a nurse named Jeannie, who had been taking care of Allen
In April that year, on a Friday, Cherish got home and started feeling ‘really sharp pains’ in her stomach. They progressed throughout the night, but the mom said she ‘kept it quiet’.
‘About midnight, something was coming out of me. Within minutes I had the urge to push, and I ended up delivering my son on the bedroom floor by myself,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know what to do at that point. I had never even held a baby before holding him.
‘I called my boyfriend and told him, “I just delivered the baby,” and he said, “I’m on my way over.” I went over to my desk and got a pair of old metal scissors, and I cut the umbilical cord.’
When Cherish’s boyfriend arrived at the house, he was ‘in shock’ and couldn’t believe she had just given birth. Cherish, meanwhile, was scared to tell her grandparents and remained unsure what to do.
Her boyfriend eventually mentioned the concept of a Safe Haven, referring to jurisdiction that, in Illinois, allows parents to surrender an unharmed baby up to 30 days old to staffers at specified locations.
Trio: Jeannie (pictured) was reunited with Cherish and Allen in a new episode of The Doctors
Emotional: The nurse held Cherish in a tight hug, telling her: ‘I’m so proud of you’
Finally: Jeannie also got to meet Allen for the first time since taking care of him in the NICU
Safe Haven laws exist in other states, and details of each legislation are publicly available.
Cherish and her boyfriend resolved to leave their baby at a hospital, hoping that personnel would then find him a home.
‘I found a shoe box, had it wrapped in some towels from around the house,’ Cherish recounted. ‘We wrote a note, we wanted him to be named Allen Cory. [We wrote] that we loved him so much and wanted him to have the best future possible.’
Her boyfriend was the one who took Allen to the hospital because, Cherish had to go to work just a few hours later and was ‘trying to play this off [as if] nothing had happened’.
A couple of days later, she took the bus to the Swedish American Hospital in Rockford to visit the baby, where a nurse named Jeannie, who had been taking care of Allen in the NICU, took her to Allen’s incubator.
‘He was three pounds three ounces,’ Cherish recounted. ‘He had hypothermia, different infections, and I remember her telling me how I had saved his life by making sure he got to the hospital.’
Moved: The nurse wiped tears of emotion as she settled next to Cherish on set
Health: When Allen was born, Cherish said, he had hypothermia, suffered from infections and weighed three pounds and three ounces
Crucial: Dr. Travis Stork highlighted the importance of Safe Havens for parents who cannot take care of their children, saying that taking Allen to the hospital was key in saving his life
In addition to caring for Allen, Jeannie had a crucial discussion with Cherish and helped her make a difficult choice between placing the baby up for adoption or raising him herself.
‘Jeannie talked to me like I was a parent and not just, like, a stupid teen,’ Cherish said. ‘I remember sitting there in a rocking chair with Allen against my chest, feeling so much love for him, thinking about “What am I going to do? Am I keeping him, or am I giving him up for adoption?”‘
She decided to raise her son, who is now 13 years old. The mother and son both visited The Doctors’ set, with Allen saying he felt ‘really shocked’ revisiting his story and looking at photos of his mother as a teenager and himself as a baby.
Cherish, who now lives in Arizona, explained what a key role Jeannie played in her life, telling Dr. Travis Stork: ‘She was very understanding and very generous and she shared advice with me, and also encouraged me to tell my family about what was going on.
‘She really encouraged me to continue on and go to school and do something with myself. She was great.’
The mother was then overcome with emotion when Jeannie made her entrance on the set to meet Allen for the first time since he was a newborn.
‘I’m so proud of you,’ Jeannie told Cherish between tears as the two shared a tight hug.
Grateful: Cherish took the reunion as an occasion to thank Jeannie for her support, telling her: ‘I feel so blessed to have even run into you. You really made an impact on my life’
Group: Allen, Jeannie and Cherish posed for a photo with the show’s team during their visit
Jeannie then turned to Allen and embraced him before telling the boy: ‘You’re so handsome! You look just like your mom.’
The nurse wiped tears of emotion off her face as she settled between Cherish and Allen. She said seeing the mother and son together after 13 years was ‘unbelievable’, adding: ‘I’m speechless.’
Jeannie then showered Cherish with praise.
‘She’s an amazing mama and she was an amazing teenager,’ the nurse said. ‘I’ve never met a 15-year-old like her that was so brave and just amazing.’
Cherish took the reunion as an occasion to thank Jeannie for her support, telling her: ‘I feel so blessed to have even run into you. You really made an impact on my life.’
Jeannie told Cherish the feeling is mutual, adding: ‘Well, you made an impact on my life too.’
Travis highlighted the importance of Safe Havens for parents who cannot take care of their children, telling Cherish: ‘Regardless of how this had all turned out, the reason that Allen is safe, sound, and healthy is because you made the decision to take him to the hospital despite not knowing what else to do.
‘And for anyone out there who may be in similar circumstances, understand that is the most important first step.’