It was May 16, 1998. A Saturday night. Azita Milanian, who lived near Pasadena, California, had been invited by friends to go dancing.
She declined, and instead went jogging with her dogs along the Altadena foothills. As she jogged across the scrubby California landscape, one of her dogs paused.
It dug a little in the dirt off the side of the path, and when Milanian took a closer look, she was shocked.
Sticking out of the dirt were two little feet. As if to punctuate the realization, at that moment the buried infant cried.
“Please don’t die,” Milanian said. “I will never leave you. I love you.”
The baby had been wrapped in a towel and not just abandoned, but buried. The intention in that act is hard to miss.
“He grabbed my wrist and stopped crying,” she said. “It was very emotional. What kind of sick human would do something like that? He still had his umbilical cord hanging from his stomach.”
The baby was rushed to the hospital, where he was cared for. His body temperature had dropped dangerously low, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but he survived.
Even though a search was organized and rewards were offered for information leading to the discovery of his mother, no one was ever confirmed as the mother. One anonymous woman did call to see what charges would be leveled at the mother and to find out how the baby was doing, but she never stepped forward.
Authorities believed that she may have been an underage girl who didn’t know what to do and ended up handling the situation poorly.
Milanian even considered adopting the child, but she worried that the case had been too public and the boy would not be safe with her. She kept in contact as long as she could, but when he was adopted she was no longer able to check up on him.
“I was hoping that he would find me, the same way we found each other that day,” Milanian said.
The boy that the hospital staff had affectionately named Baby Christian didn’t even find out he was adopted until he was 17. He didn’t learn his story until even later.
When he was asked by a radio show if he would like to take a DNA test and get the results live, he agreed. The producers learned about Milanian’s role and invited her, too.
The reunion was joyous, with Milanian finally getting the closure and assurance she needed to know that the fragile baby she’d saved had survived and thrived.
Baby Christian, now Matthew Whitaker, called Milanian his angel. He’s thankful for his family and knows the parent(s) who abandoned him would not have been good for him.
“I’m here today. I’ve lived a great life,” he said. “I was adopted into a great family. I couldn’t ask my parents for any more.”