Debbe Magnusen Is Fairy Godmother
to Babies at Risk of
Abandonment by Terrified, Distressed Young Mothers!
By Kay Walburger
“No baby deserves to die before they have had a chance to live.”
“I save babies!” This was the reply from Debbe Magnusen to my question, “What is Project Cuddle?”
“You save babies? What do you mean you save babies?” I asked in disbelief.
“I save the babies that all too often get thrown away in trash cans, dumpsters, or left in brown paper bags in the park. I run a 24-hour Hot Line for young and desperate mothers-to-be offering them an alternative to baby abandonment. Many have hidden their pregnancy from their parents and friends, are close to delivery, terrified and unsure what to do. They don’t know anyone they feel they can trust to help them. Project Cuddle is the most loving and compassionate answer for them.”
As this was a chance meeting outside my supermarket and Debbe was busy loading her van (with the words Project Cuddle on the side) and needed to be on her way, she handed me a video and business card and asked me to call her. The video was clips from Opera, Montel Williams, Riki Lake, etc. — TV shows interviewing Debbe and some of the young women helped by Project Cuddle.
I made an appointment to see Project Cuddle’s operation where I met Angel, Debbe’s assistant in this neverending work. The phones were ringing as there had just been a baby left in a Los Angeles dumpster the night before. The media was calling and asking for interviews and information about the alternatives to this tragedy. She gave them a referral to a woman who had adopted a Project Cuddle baby a few years ago and was an elegant spokesperson. She then told me to watch the 5:30 pm news. (I watched the news and saw a very happy mother and beautiful baby she had adopted.)
I left with so many mixed emotions. This was a big story that needed to be told, revealing the depth of the epidemic sweeping our nation and the ray of hope to a frustrated world of good-hearted people who don’t know how to help. I was both amazed and inspired by one woman, Debbe Magnusen’s enduring love and commitment to help these unborn babies, and just like a fairy godmother, weave the magic of her love into miracles.
The Woman Behind the Miracles
“It all began with my father taking me on some of his many trips to Mexico to help orphans with dentistry problems. We lived in an affluent area of Orange County, where my father was a successful dentist. I was eight years old at that time, first seeing what it was like to be an orphan. I held a ‘spittoon’ where he discarded their pulled teeth. I helped sort socks and ate raccoon stew with them at night. I realized what it meant to be a child with no loving mother and father to provide for you or to cuddle you when you were lonely or afraid,” began Debbe’s story.
“One thing I knew at that tender age was that I wanted to help the so-called ‘underdog’! I could see by my father’s compassion and caring that one person can make a big difference in some-one’s life. I determined to follow in my father’s footsteps and be of service to humankind in some way. About that time I heard of a baby being abandoned and my heart cried out, “When I am grown up, I will take the babies no one wants and will love them and take care of them.” This dream of helping babies never left me, even when I met my husband to be.”
“I fell in love with him at once but it took him two long months to propose. I told him I wanted to have two children and then adopt or foster care orphans. To my delight he felt the same way. My first miracle to meet a man who supported this adventurous way of living. True to our plan we had two adorable children and after they turned five and six years old and were secure in our love, we knew it was time to share our home with those in need.”
“We did in fact foster care for 30 drug-exposed babies over the years. During that time we adopted five of them. We now had seven children in the house and there was ‘no more room in the inn’. We asked ourselves what we would do now?”
“A while back I had heard about baby Jesus who was found wrapped in a plastic trash bag and had died. I was angry but I didn’t know at whom to be angry. I said, “I don’t understand, why didn’t they bring him here to me?” ”
“The answer came back, ‘Hello! How are they supposed to know who or where you are??’ ”
“Oh, I needed a toll-free number and to tell everybody! Well it didn’t happen the way I thought, but it worked!”
On July 8, 1996, the 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline was unveiled to the public. Within 12 hours, Project Cuddle received its first crisis call. A frightened young woman called and said “I saw you on TV and I know the trash is bad for the baby. You better figure out what to do with this baby or I’m going to put it in the park.” The woman had no prenatal care and assumed she was due in the next week.
With only days to orchestrate a safe and legal alternative to abandonment, Project Cuddle was able to retain an attorney, a family willing to rescue and adopt the baby, as well as an obstetrician, hospital and social counselor. Debbe coached this woman through the delivery of a beautiful baby girl. After the baby was delivered into the arms of the adoptive parents, the birth mother said to Debbe. “I feel like I’ve done something good for the first time.” The woman did not break the law, the baby was safe and a rescue couple was overjoyed at having a new daughter in their lives. The young woman got counseling and got her life back on track.
The calls come from all over the country. Each person has a unique story, so a plan has to be designed for the individual. One size does not fit all. It turns out that about 63% of the young women keep their babies once they find help and discover their options. We go with them to tell their parents and they are often surprised that their families are more understanding than they ever thought. In cases of family abuse we move them to a safe home and coach them in this life-changing experience.
Some cases are extreme and for whatever reason the girl feels too young and unskilled to take on the responsibility. They want their baby to have the benefit of a stable home with an adoptive loving family. Some even choose the parents and stay in touch over the years. Others walk away knowing they did the best thing possible for this baby and they never look back.
We encourage the family to keep a photo of the birthmother and information that might someday be of interest to the adopted child when they grow up and ask questions. They will know that their birthmother was trying to do the best thing for all concerned.
“Only 3% of the pregnant women are drug users and we have special training for the adoptive couples on how to love and care for these special-needs babies. My husband and I foster cared for 30 drug-exposed babies and I can say they are wonderful — we adopted five of them ourselves.”
“Pregnexia” the syndrome of being in denial of pregnancy
“Many of the young women are in denial of their pregnancy because it creates problems they are not capable of handling by themselves. They do not know who they can trust. I understand this,” relates Debbe.
“When I was pregnant with my second child, I got very sick and suffered heart damage. The doctors told me I’d probably lose the baby. I could not bear to cause my babies death and started to believe that I was not with child. One day my water broke and when my husband called the hospital they said I was too calm, to go home and wait awhile. My intuition said go now! I told my husband take me now. Three hours later our beautiful baby girl was born. I had “Pregnexia” myself, that is how I know what they are going through. It is similar to “anorexia” where a girl sees herself as being fat. These girls see they are not pregnant. We have girls in labor saying they are NOT pregnant. They reason if they are not pregnant, they can’t be in labor.”
“This may explain why so many babies are thrown into the trash. If I’m not pregnant, then this is not a person. It is an altered state of consciousness. They are often in a trance-like state and don’t even feel the labor. They have to get to us so we can help.”
“We put the word out everywhere we can, because sometimes girlfriends give them our 800 number. There is so much work to be done to get out our 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline. We offer true compassion and show her choices she never knew she had.”
Our Big Dream is to Build Cuddle House
“We dream of building a home for some of these young women where they can stay before delivery and learn some living skills. One girl was pregnant but had a toddler already and was feeding him candy and soft drinks. It took time but we taught her to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. We taught her to prepare balanced meals for herself and her children. Then we took her to our office so she could learn the computer which would enable her to make a good living for her small family. It is shocking to see how much these young ones have missed in their personal living skills.”
380 Babies saved to date!
“We still have a crisis — Abandoned Babies is a national epidemic and we are learning that it may be global. Italy has asked us to bring Project Cuddle over there. England has made a similar request. It takes thousands of dollars to answer all the calls we get in the USA. We are always in need of responsible people to help us.”
Project Cuddle was incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit charity in 1994. A volunteer Board of Directors oversees the organization, which Debbe runs on a day-to-day basis with the assistance of volunteers and a minimal paid staff. Since its founding, Project Cuddle has successfully saved hundreds of babies from being abandoned. Project Cuddle is committed to helping any pregnant girl or woman regardless of race, creed, religious affiliation, financial status or HIV status.
“We feel that one of the most important things is to work hands-on with each girl or wo-man. She deserves to be treated with respect and TLC. Once she has delivered, Project Cuddle continues to assist her in establishing a plan for her future or re-establish family relations.”
24-Hour Crisis Hotline
1 (888) 628-3353
or (714) 432-9681
Fax (714) 545-6866
Fairy Godmother Guild
The Fairy Godmother Guild was inspired and created to help the kind of work being done by Project Cuddle. So many women watch the evening news and weep over the abuse and abandonment of children, especially babies, and they feel the pain of helplessness and hopelessness. They are often overwhelmed and unsure how to help the mother and child, who are now in an overburdened system.
What if these same tenderhearted women could become Fairy Godmothers and help Pro-ject Cuddle in its efforts? What if there were a simple, fun and lighthearted approach to helping? What if each Fairy Godmother could do a little something in her own special way? What if enough women all over the country raised a few dollars here and there, which would trickle in like many small streams becoming a river, forming a lake of love with the money to fund this magnificent dream of helping babies and their young mothers? This money would go directly to Project Cuddle.
“I love babies with all my heart and soul!” says Dr. Claudia Rose, founder of the Fairy Godmother Guild™. Dr. Rose is a teacher, holistic counselor, and a published author. She spent 10 years working in social services, including 7 years directing a non-profit, foster care agency in Los Angeles County. “This guild is my answer to President Bush’s call for Americans to take action.”
President Bush recently said, “Societies change one heart, one soul, one conscience at a time. Government can hand out money, but it cannot put hope in people’s hearts. This country has a fabulous future ahead of it, because the strength of the country is not in the halls of our government, but in the hearts and souls of our citizens.”
Fairy Godmother Fair
A Benefit for Project Cuddle
The event is an open house with exhibitors showcasing many interesting products and services that enhance and enrich the quality of life. Many artists and craftsmen are expected to have one-of-a-kind or limited edition works of art, jewelry, clothing, decorations, and other items with the emphasis on fairies, angels, and whimsy, for the collectors delight. Saturday, June 15, 2002 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, 3350 Avenue of the Arts in Costa Mesa. Gourmet luncheon served from 11:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are $22.00 each and include: buffet lunch, free parking, access to all exhibits, free samples, live entertainment, a free door prize drawing ticket and Souvenir Program listing sponsors, program, information and stories about the Guild and its mission.
For tickets or more information, contact Fairy Godmother Guild, P.O. Box 3519, Fullerton, CA 92834, call (714) 738-7751, fax (714) 738-6136, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their website at www.fairygodmotherguild.com
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