The fate of Melissa Stern, the infant long known as "Baby M," rested largely on the testimony of psychiatrists, who debated which of two women -- biological mother Mary Beth Whitehead or adoptive mother Elizabeth Stern -- could best rear the child.

Ultimately, of course, the infant was awarded to the Sterns, who had contracted with Whitehead to bear a child conceived with William Stern's sperm.

The psychiatrists, hired by both sides, offered opinions on a wide variety of topics. Patty-Cake Dr. Marshall D. Schechter, testifying for the Sterns, said Whitehead seemed to misinterpret the baby's needs -- for example, trying to give her a bottle she did not want. He also faulted her for shouting "hooray" instead of "patty-cake" in a hand-clapping game and diagnosed her as having "mixed personality disorder." Suicide Threat Before the trial, Whitehead fled to Florida with the child and threatened in a phone conversation with Stern to kill the infant and herself. Experts hired by the Sterns said this was evidence of her mental illness. However, Dr. Donald Klein, a professor at Columbia University hired by Whitehead's attorneys, said Whitehead was neither homicidal nor suicidal but that her statements were "goal-directed attempts" to "force Mr. Stern to do something he didn't want to do." Joint Custody Harold S. Koplewicz, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York who testified on behalf of Whitehead, said William Stern and Whitehead should share custody. This would give the child the Sterns' financial resources and Whitehead's extended family -- "the best of both worlds." Whitehead as Mother Psychologist Lee Salk, on behalf of the Sterns, said Whitehead had a "serious deficit in {her} capacity to parent." He referred to Whitehead as a "surrogate uterus and not a surrogate mother." Psychiatrist Allwyn J. Levine said Whitehead's "bonding becomes excessively tight . . ." The Surrogacy Contract Psychiatrist Dr. John J. Vetter, testifying for Whitehead, said: "A woman cannot possibly know how she is going to feel until the baby is born. There's no way of predicting what kind of bond will be formed."