by KELLY BURKE, The Daily Telegraph
THE teenage parents who sparked panic after fleeing a Sydney hospital with their newborn baby have claimed they only ran off because they desperately wanted to spend Easter with their daughter before she was "taken away" from them by Child Protective Services.
Jayden Lavender, 14, told Seven News he just wanted a few extras days with baby daughter Aria Jayde Tanya when he and 15-year-old girlfriend Jenifer Morrison smuggled her from Nepean Hospital yesterday.
"All we wanted to do was spend Easter with her, we're a Christian family, that's the one thing I love - we go to church and everything," Jayden said.
"I don't know what I did wrong, all I did was try the best for my baby ... we had everything we possibly needed for her."
Jenifer fought back tears as she spoke and said she felt "broken" after being separated from Aria.
"I would be a good mother for her, I just want her home and safe," she said.
Jayden's mother Tracy Lavender has been keeping a bedside vigil over the infant in Nepean Hospital.
"While she's in hospital I'm going to be there by her side," Ms Lavender said.
She said Jayden and Jenifer made the decision to smuggle their baby out of hospital after they were told they would not be able to take Aria home with them.
"You're talking about two kids that have just had a baby, that just wanted to stay with their baby - that's all it comes down to," Ms Lavender said.
With their baby swaddled in a blanket, the young couple left Nepean Hospital just after midnight on Thursday, caught a train to Mount Druitt and bought a tent, sleeping bag and camping supplies from Kmart.
They then spent the rest of the night camping in Willmot, in Sydney's west, while police mounted a massive manhunt.
They were found yesterday afternoon in Captain Cook Dr in Willmot, and Aria, unharmed, was taken back to Nepean Hospital.
The teens were interviewed by police but no charges were laid.
When the search was mounted, police said they believed the teens were travelling with an unknown man, but Ms Lavender said that person was merely a stranger in the hospital who helped Jayden with his bags after seeing him in tears.
"That tells me he knew that it wasn't the right thing to do," she said.
"But he had to do what was right for his baby and his girlfriend."
A few weeks after learning of the pregnancy, Jenifer and Jayden became engaged and planned to marry before the baby arrived.
They couldn't because they were under 16, despite Ms Lavender declaring she would have signed her consent for them to wed.
"They're young, yeah, they made the mistake of being young," Ms Lavender said.
"(Jayden) had a choice to be a proper father and support his child or walk away.
"He was at the birth and he hasn't moved from her (and) that baby since she was born."