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How can anyone abandon a baby?; Analysis THE story of the British couple accused of abandoning their three-month-old baby by the roadside near Faro airport in Portugal has shocked the nation. What could drive a parent to dump their baby?

Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

PICTURES of dishevelled 24-year-old Katherine Penny shielding her face behind a denim jacket while holding a cigarette have been splashed on front pages across the land and have left us wondering how could a mother do such a thing?

The young mother and her partner 29-year-old Mark Beddoes gave themselves up after leaving the child in a baby stroller near Faro airport in Portugal and flying to Britain.

The reasons why Katherine Penny dumped her baby abroad are not clear, but she is not the first or last to have turned her back on her offspring. In September 1997, a Bridgend teenager was reunited with the newborn son she abandoned on scrubland in Brynna.

Detective Chief Inspector Martyn LloydEvans said she had been in huge emotional turmoil for many months as she concealed the pregnancy from her parents.

The 5lb 14oz baby boy, named Alan after the officer who found him, was discovered opposite the White Hills Golf Club wrapped in a Tshirt following an anonymous 999 call.

One baby girl was not so lucky. She was found abandoned in a plastic bag in a conifer tree in June 1996 in Ferndale, Cardiff. It is believed she was stillborn and had been dead only five hours when a gravedigger found the bag containing her body.

Funeral director Derek Jones, who bore the cost of the funeral, named the baby Angel.

The tiny coffin was lowered into the grave and white carnation petals thrown - white for purity and flowers for freedom.

Mr Phillips said at the time: "One must feel sorry for the parents of this child. They are not to be blamed, but to be helped. There are people ready to help them." But what leads to mothers leaving their babies near airports or in cemeteries?

Huge emotional and physical changes occur to a woman when she has a baby.

For most, these feelings soon pass, for others they often give way to despair and depression.

About one in 10 women are estimated to suffer from post-natal depression, although campaigners say up to a third may fall victim to the condition.

It can lead to neglect of the child, family breakdown and even suicide, as well as emotional and behavioural problems among the children of depressed mothers.

A teenager who suffocated her crying fivemonth-old baby while suffering from postnatal depression was shown mercy by an Old Bailey judge in July 1999.

Karen Brown, then 19, of south London, was placed on probation for three years after admitting the infanticide of baby Lauren.

The Recorder of London Michael Hyam QC told her: "There can be no doubt that at the time you were unbalanced mentally as a result of childbirth." And closer to home a mother of four suffering from post-natal depression walked free from Cardiff Crown Court in October 1997 after admitting killing the man with whom she lived by stabbing him through the heart with a knife.

Mary Mullins, of Merthyr Tydfil, was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of 50-year-old jobless Ronald Griffiths.

The judge said she had been provoked, was suffering from post-natal depression and only a few days before had attempted to take her life.

The couple had lived together for three years and had a baby daughter of seven months.

Tara Davies of Cardiff suffered with postnatal depresssion when son Jack was just two weeks old.

''After the initial excitement of the birth itself and visits from relatives calmed down the realisation that I was responsible for this tiny baby set in. I felt tired and emotional and would cry at the simplest thing, I also found it hard to bond with Jack.'' Broadcaster Esther Rantzen, model Jerry Hall and Coronation Street actress Denise Welch are among other celebrities who have suffered post-natal depression.

Jackie Llewelyn-Bowen suffered so badly with the condition, she feared she would drop her newborn daughter out of an open window.

Jackie, who is married to Changing Rooms guru Laurence, went public about the emotional nightmare she suffered after the birth of her first child.

She suffered in silence with depression for 18 months after her first daughter Cecile's birth and her deep anxiety, tears and emotional mood-swings put pressure on her marriage.

Jackie, speaking about post-natal depression, said: "After the birth of our first child, Cecile, I immediately became down in the dumps and felt very tearful and emotional.

"The more and more exhausted I became looking after Cecile, the less and less I felt in control and I began to sink into a deep depression, despite the fact I so wanted a baby and she was fit, healthy and beautiful.

"I knew I was suffering from depression but I told nobody. Laurence sensed there was something wrong because I was crying all the time and shouting at him for no reason but I couldn't open up to anyone because I felt that would make me look a failure." She had not been advised about post-natal depression which lasted 18 months.

Recognition of the condition has improved vastly in recent years and family doctors, health visitors and community midwives are now trained to spot the signs.

A special centre is being planned for mums who suffer mental health problems - including post-natal depression - following the birth of their child.

The new mother and baby unit - costing nearly pounds 100,000 - will be created at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales, Heath, and provide round-the-clock care for the patients.

The centre will include special security measures providing a safe haven for mums and their babies up to 12 months old while care, treatment and support are provided by expert staff.

It will cater for post-natal problems which include risks ranging from infanticide or suicide to a delay or poor bonding between mother and child.

Men can also feel blue after birth of their baby

POST-NATAL depression is no longer a woman's preserve - men can also suffer post-birth blues, according to a survey.

The symptoms of tiredness, irritability and loss of sex-drive are normally presumed to be a strictly female complaint, but apparently men get it too - they just do not admit it.

According to a NOP poll carried out for Bella magazine, half the population agrees it is possible for the father to get depressed after he has wet the baby's head.

Four per cent of the men surveyed nationwide said they had suffered post-natal depression.

The article says some experts believe that one in 10 dads could be suffering in silence, equating to 7,000 distressed new fathers.

They attribute it to men taking a more active role in the birth and the stress of adapting to parenthood.

For help and advice contact The National Childbirth Trust on 08704 448707.


ABANDONED The baby left by Katherine Penny being cared for in an orphanage in Portugal.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 17, 2002
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