StoryCorps: Born In Custody, A Girl Finds Answers With Someone Who Knows Best: Mom Savannah Phelan, 8, recently discovered a video that revealed her mother had been in jail — all while still pregnant with her. So, well-equipped with questions, she took her mom to StoryCorps.
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Born In Custody, A Girl Finds Answers With Someone Who Knows Best: Mom

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Born In Custody, A Girl Finds Answers With Someone Who Knows Best: Mom

Born In Custody, A Girl Finds Answers With Someone Who Knows Best: Mom

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/488570379/488793505" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps. And today, we have an interview between 8-year-old Savannah Phelan and her mother, Kellie. Savannah recently came across a video online of her mom talking about being pregnant while she was in New York's Rikers Island jail. That left Savannah with a lot of questions, which she asked her mother at StoryCorps.

SAVANNAH: Why did you go to jail?

KELLIE PHELAN: Because I started using drugs when I got into an accident and I broke my knee. And that caused me to start taking pills that was prescribed from a doctor. But then mommy kind of got out of control with them. And I wound up getting arrested.

SAVANNAH: What was it like to be pregnant with me in jail?

PHELAN: It was kind of lonely, and it was very scary.

SAVANNAH: When you were in jail and I first came out, who was I with?

PHELAN: You were born in a real hospital, like every other baby that's born. But then you came back to Rikers Island with me. So you stayed with mommy because there's a part of the jail for mommies and babies there.

SAVANNAH: What went through your head when you first saw me?

PHELAN: Oh, my God, I loved you so much (laughter). And I just wanted everything in the world to be perfect for you.

SAVANNAH: I wanted to know why you never told me this stuff. Why didn't you?

PHELAN: I guess I would've told you when I felt you were old enough to understand. But I think that I was afraid to tell you because it breaks my heart. And I get very sad when I talk about it. In the hospital, here I was walking into the nursery to see my beautiful baby, and there were other mommies and daddies seeing their babies. And here I was in this big, orange jumpsuit and shackles, and I was really, really embarrassed. So after you knew the truth, how did that make you feel?

SAVANNAH: It made me feel very sad because I don't want you to be lonely. And I will never walk away from you. Mom, it feels good to be talking about this. It makes me understand why you went to jail.

PHELAN: You know, mommy had it a little rougher than you. My education wasn't great when I was young. And that's part of the reason I failed later on in life. But I don't ever want you to be embarrassed or ever feel like you should be ashamed of where you were born because you are my angel. You saved my life. And I will forever be grateful for you. Not everybody gets to save their mom's life.

INSKEEP: That's Kellie Phelan with her 8-year-old daughter Savannah, for StoryCorps in New York City. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress.

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