Chilean Woman Adopts Abandoned Dead Babies So She Can Bury Them

We’ve seen lots of stories of kind people who adopt children, but this is a first – a Chilean woman who adopts dead babies! Fueled by the strong belief that every baby deserves a proper goodbye, she officially adopts abandoned babies that are found dead so she can organize funerals for them.

It all started 12 years ago when Bernarda Gallardo read a story in a local newspaper about an abandoned baby in Puerto Montt. “They killed and dumped a newborn baby on the rubbish heap,” the article read. Bernarda, who was in the process of adopting a child at the time, was horrified by the report. She realised if the baby had lived it might have come to her for adoption. So she decided to do something about it.

“If you get a baby that is alive, you clothe it and feed it and put it in a cot,” she explained. “If your baby arrives dead you have to get a coffin and give it a decent burial.”



Even before she could get a hold of the baby, she had already named the child ‘Aurora’, after the Roman goddess of dawn – because she believed that the baby brought light into the darkness. Then she began the long and arduous bureaucratic process of getting hold of the baby. In Chile, the law states that if a body isn’t claimed by a family member, it is classified as human waste and disposed of along with other surgical waste.

Bernarda had to act quickly to stop this from happening to Aurora, and she managed to do just that. She had doctors examine Aurora’s body to determine that the child was indeed alive for a brief while, and not born dead. Once that was established, she had to formally adopt Aurora, which was not an easy process. The judge in charge of the case was skeptical – he thought that Bernarda might be Aurora’s biological mother, and only wanted the baby because she was feeling guilty of dumping her.



But Bernarda was able to convince the judge of her intentions, after which the adoption was granted. It was the first time in Chile, and perhaps also in the world, that anyone had ever adopted a dead child. Many months after she had initiated the process, Bernarda was finally given permission to take Aurora’s body for burial.

The funeral was a public affair, and surprisingly, attended by 500 people – children, doctors, nurses, local reporters, the judge himself, and people who were following the story’s progress in the local papers. Bernarda recalls the atmosphere at the ceremony that day – she says it was like a big birthday party and a celebration of Aurora’s life.


Photo: video caption

The very next day, there was news of another body – a baby boy this time – found dumped. Bernarda was devastated – she quickly adopted this baby as well, named him Manuel, and gave him a funeral too. She went on to do the same for two more babies – Victor and Cristobal – and is currently in the process of adopting another little girl named Margarita.

Over time, she came to realise that lots of women with unwanted pregnancies or women who are very poor end up dumping their babies. In fact, official statistics in Chile show that about 10 such babies are found each year, but the real number is expected to be much higher.

“These are young women, often no more than girls who are victims of rape and incest. If it is their father or stepfather who rapes them, they are too frightened to speak out,” she said. “The rapists are often the ones who are providing for the family.”


Photo: La Cuarta

Being a rape victim herself, Bernarda is able to relate to such women. She gave birth to a baby girl at age 17, shortly after she was raped, but was able to keep and raise her daughter. “After I was raped, I was lucky enough to be able to move on because of the support I got from my friends. But if I had been left on my own, perhaps I would have felt as helpless as they do,” she admitted.

So Bernarda decided to take it upon herself to educate her people about the issue. She started by sticking posters on walls, declaring: “Don’t throw your babies in the rubbish.”

“Why are babies being left to die when there are least four families ready and waiting and in the right condition to adopt an unwanted baby?” she questioned. “Instead of killing the babies give them up for adoption!”


Bernarda’s sole mission is to give these dead babies their dignity, and “for them to have somewhere to rest in peace.” Inspired by her unique story, Chilean filmmaker Rodrigo Sepulveda made a movie titled Aurora, which is currently being shown at film festivals around the world.

Meanwhile, Bernarda often visits the graves of the children she has buried, and is touched when she sometimes notices that other people have visited and left flowers too.

Sources: BBC,

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