(CNN) -- Fate, police say, saved baby Grace from being tossed out with the trash.
Baby Grace was born aboard a Pacific Blue flight to New Zealand from Samoa.
Were it not for a cleaning lady who chanced upon the newborn waving a feeble arm from a blue trash bag in an airplane bathroom, Grace would have met the fate her mother apparently intended for her, authorities said.
On Wednesday, police in New Zealand charged the 29-year-old woman with abandonment and assault -- for giving birth to the child on an international flight and then leaving her, without alerting anyone, in a toilet bin amid bloodied paper towels.
The woman, whose name was not released, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
The case has made headlines in the island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
The woman is a kiwi fruit picker who was returning from Samoa when she walked off a Pacific Blue flight in Auckland on Thursday, reported the New Zealand Press Association, a cooperative of the country's newspapers. Watch more on incident
About 20 minutes later, a cleaning lady discovered the baby in a restroom inside the Boeing 737. Her fellow custodians wrapped the baby in a blanket and handed her to authorities.
About the same time, police spotted the mother in the airport, "looking pale and bloodstained" after she said she had mislaid her passport, said TV New Zealand, a CNN affiliate.
Su'a William Sio, a Kiwi lawmaker of Samoan descent, said cultural stigma and the shame of bearing a child out of wedlock were two reasons why a mother might abandon her child.
"This is mostly derived firstly by fear," he told the New Zealand Herald newspaper. "Fear that they've done something wrong and fear of shame of the 'unmarried' mother bringing to the family."
Grace did not suffer significant injuries or long-term damage, police told reporters. She is in the care of government officials who are looking at long-term arrangements that would be best for her.