For more than two weeks, 17-year-old Shanta Clark kept a secret hidden among the blankets on her closet floor: her son.
She gave birth in her bedroom, then hid the infant in the closet for 21/2 weeks while she went to high school each day, feeding and diapering her 4-pound baby when she got home.On Tuesday, the ninth-grader was charged with endangering the welfare of a minor.
"Unfortunately, this is a criminal case, but our hearts go out to her," said Suffolk County Detective Sgt. John Twiname. "She tried to care for the baby as best she knew how."
On Wednesday, the little boy - born five weeks prematurely and small enough to fit in a policeman's hand - was in the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital. He was in stable condition and feeding normally, though underweight, said Margaret Parker, head of the pediatric critical care unit.
Authorities were considering whether he should be put in a foster home.
Shanta said she gave birth shortly after noon on Sept. 21, alone in her bedroom. "It wasn't painful. It wasn't scary," she told reporters in the living room of her home.
She told her mother she went into the kitchen and cut the umbilical cord with scissors. She fed the baby formula and kept him wrapped in blankets in her room. She named him Navorn.
The baby's father was a longtime boyfriend who apparently never knew Shanta was pregnant, according to police.
Neither did Stephanie Clark, Shanta's mother, who found Navorn on Tuesday while looking for a pair of stretch pants in her daughter's closet.
Clark, 41 - who has seven children ages 7 1/2 months to 19 years - said she was stunned.
"At first I screamed and ran out and left the baby in the room," she said. "Then I went back, called the doctor and police."
Parker said the weak, high-pitched cry of premature babies can be hard to hear. Stephanie Clark said her daughter's bedroom is on a different floor from her own, and she herself is usually out on weekdays, attending a drug rehabilitation program.
She said the child appeared to be well cared-for: "The baby was nice, looking like a baby, smelling good, pampered with a nice undershirt."
Questioned by police, Stephanie Clark realized the baby could be her daughter's. A few minutes later, the girl returned from school and told her story.