Everything we could hope for in hearing from Mary Beth Whitehead: an honest, clear, and complete account--remarkably free of...


A MOTHER'S STORY: The Truth About the Baby M Case

Everything we could hope for in hearing from Mary Beth Whitehead: an honest, clear, and complete account--remarkably free of vitriol--of her truly tragic saga. This has a deeply personal ring to it; Schwartz-Nobel (Pulitizer Prize-winner; investigative journalist for Philadelphia magazine; author of Starving in the Shadow of Plenty, 1981; Engaged to Murder, 1987) has, astonishingly, helped organize and tell Whitehead's story without imposing herself. And this Whitehead is an infinitely more sympathetic character than that portrayed during her trials. The account here of her disastrous surrogacy for William and Elizabeth Stern is no casual exercise for money or publicity: ""I wrote this book because there have been a great many misconceptions about what really happened and why I did what I did. . .Perhaps I could have continued to live with my own pain at being misunderstood and misjudged, but the suffering that my family has been forced to endure is more than I can accept."" So Whitehead tells all she knows--and we get the full picture of her nightmare. ""It wasn't until the day I delivered,"" she says, ""that I fully understood it wasn't Betsy Stern's baby. . .I wasn't giving Betsy Stern her baby, I was giving her my baby."" And from then on, the nightmare grew and grew. Whitehead goes on to chronicle her actions in trying to keep her child--and they are all eminently understandable, including her panicky and last-ditch measures like fleeing from the police to Florida, and approaching the media for help when she couldn't afford a lawyer (she was castigated in court for being a publicity hound). As detailed here, the pain of the ensuing forced separations from her baby and of the court trials is clear--and, importantly, Whitehead's husband, who was cast in court as an ""alcoholic garbageman,"" is shown throughout to be supportive and likable--and also suffering. In the end, Whitehead was vindicated by the New Jersey Supreme Court, but ""that theoretical victory was hard to bear,"" because she had already lost her baby (although she does retain visitation rights). Whitehead can rest assured that she has effectively and wrenchingly told her story. Of all the accounts and analyses that will surely be made of this case, this will probably be the most simple and straightforward. It will certainly be the most moving.

Pub Date: March 14, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988