The mother of Baby M, fighting to keep the child she bore under contract, told a judge today in an emotional appeal that she and her family aren't perfect, but that despite their problems, she should be given custody of her daughter.
As she dabbed her eyes with a tissue, Mary Beth Whitehead also testified in state court about a July 15 telephone conversation she had with the child's biological father in which she threatened to kill herself and the child if she had to give up the infant.
"I wanted him to see that it was wrong, the whole thing, that it wasn't good for the baby for me to give her away," Whitehead said of her conversation with William Stern.
'Not His, Mine but Ours'
"I was trying to explain to him that it was our daughter, not his, not mine, but ours. And that the best interest for Sara is to stay with her mother," the 29-year-old homemaker said.
Stern and his 41-year-old pediatrician wife, Elizabeth, hired Whitehead for $10,000 to be artificially inseminated with Stern's sperm and bear them a baby.
After the child's March 27 birth, however, Whitehead changed her mind and refused to give the girl to the Sterns. She fled to Florida with the infant, and it was while there that she called Stern and threatened to kill herself and her daughter. Stern secretly recorded the conversation.
Comments on Criticisms
While on the stand, Whitehead responded to the numerous criticisms that have been leveled against her and her husband, Richard, during the non-jury trial before Superior Court Judge Harvey R. Sorkow.
She admitted that her family has financial problems, that her 12-year-old son has had problems in school and that her husband has had a drinking problem.
Whitehead also told the court that she and her husband were separated in the late 1970s for about eight months, that she had been on welfare for a short time and that she worked as a bartender, go-go dancer and baby-sitter to make ends meet.
"I did nothing I'm ashamed of," she said. "I did it for the family. We've had our problems, but not anything we haven't been able to deal with. We deal with whatever comes up, whatever it may be."