TOULON, Ill. -- A Toulon woman will spend the next three and a half years behind bars for abandoning her newborn baby in a ditch last fall. Now, she and family members must find a way to move forward.
On September 27, 2012 Kendra Meaker dumped her three-week-old daughter in a ditch along a rural Stark County road, then told authorities the baby was kidnapped at the post office. Meaker's other daughter, 11 months old at the time, was with her at the time and was unharmed.
An amber alert was issued and, 12 hours later, the infant was found alive lying in a ditch.
"It didn't hit me until I actually got home that she did it," said the children's father, Tim Thompson.
In January, Meaker plead guilty to obstructing justice and endangering the life or health of a child.
Still, no one knows what lead Kendra Meaker to abandon her child that day. In an emotional statement to the court Friday afternoon, Meaker said she was stressed and scared, but even she didn't know why she did it.
Ultimately Judge Scott Shore sentenced Meaker to three years in the department of corrections, to be followed by 364 days in county jail with credit for the 163 days she already spent in jail.
Now, family members are coming to terms with that sentencing.
"(what does it feel like to see your daughter go to prison?) I can't explain it," said an emotional Ken Meaker, Kendra Meaker's father.
Kendra Meaker's grandfather, Larry Meaker said, "We accept what they prescribed. I don't like what's going on, but when you do wrong you gotta pay the price."
Meaker's two young daughters, now 17 months and 6 months, are in the custody of her parents.
Tim Thompson is the supposed father of the girls, but courts are looking into questions of paternity.
Thompson and Meaker's family members said the girls are doing great. Yet they know a difficult conversation is ahead for the entire family.
"I just hope they grow up and really understand what happened when they get older. Whenever they're ready to know I'll let them know," said Thompson.
Ken Meaker said, "I want it to be a family thing, we'll cross that bridge when we get there."
Family members said many lessons can be taken away from this but perhaps the most important, they say, is that parents who are overwhelmed have another option.
If you are not ready to take care of a newborn and do not have anyone to ask for help, you can take your baby (30 days old or less) to a safe haven.
That is any hospital, police station or fire station to ensure his or her safety and health no questions asked.
Unfortunately, family members said Kendra Meaker did not know about the Safe Haven Law.
If you are a parent in need of help you can call all the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation's crisis line 24 hours a day for confidential information, (888) 510-BABY.