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Monday, May 25, 2015

Benjamin deserved a better and more private start in life

To know you were rejected by your mother must be devastating, says Judith Woods, even more so under the gaze of the public eye.

How heartbreaking to see baby Benjamin, the unwanted child of a Slovak mother, being returned to his “home” country. Now six months old, he was presumably passed over to social workers at, or shortly after, birth; his mother decided long before the labour ward that she couldn’t or wouldn’t keep him.

Although she and her Slovak partner are entitled to stay in the UK, any babies born to immigrants from the European Econonomic Area only gain citizenship when their parents have been living in the UK for five years prior to the birth. And so Benjamin, who has been living with foster carers in Liverpool, has now been flown - effectively deported - to Bratislava where, initially, a place in a children’s home awaits.

It’s hard – well nigh impossible - not to judge. Who can fail to wonder why a mother would turn her back on her own baby? There is surely some painful story there, not least because handing over your newborn never to see them again is no easy thing to do.

The Slovak authorities say he will be passed to a surrogate family before adoption. A lot of turmoil for such a little boy.

Because Benjamin’s photograph has been published in newspapers and online, his sorry fate has been made public, which was, I feel, a terrible, humiliating breach of his privacy. I pray he goes on to a secure and happy home and somehow overcomes this terrible start in life. After all, no matter how loved we were subsequently, which of us would want the world to know our mother rejected us at birth?

Quote Breast is best. We’ve been told it for years. Babies thrive on mother’s milk and there are few sights more natural, more reassuring, more life-affirming than a woman feeding her baby. Unless, that is, a court decides that the baby belongs not with its mother but with the man who fathered it – and forcibly removes the infant despite the fact it is still nursing. It’s a violent, dramatic image – all the more so because there’s no intimation that the woman is an abusive or even neglectful mother.


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