Carrie Mathews of Windsor, Colo., said she became a surrogate because she just wanted to provide a couple with children.
Despite that simple desire, Mathews said she nearly died after giving birth to the twins she carried for Theresa and Rudolf Bakos of Austria, and her family now finds itself entangled in a legal and financial imbroglio.
According to NBC Colorado’s 9News, which originally reported the story, Mathews contacted the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, which introduced her to several families looking for a surrogate.
She chose the Bakoses, an Austrian couple in their 50s, who had been trying to have a child for 20 years.
“I feel like they became my family,” Mathews told 9News. “They adored me and I adored them right away.” Calls made to Mathews at various numbers by ABCNews.com were not returned.
Mathews, who has four children of her own, ages 2, 4, 6 and 8, said all her pregnancies had gone smoothly. She told 9News she “loved being pregnant.”
And there was no indication this pregnancy would turn out otherwise.
Mathews and the Bakoses signed a contract more than 30 pages long, which outlined payment for all possible scenarios during pregnancy. She would get paid $25,000 to carry the child — $2,000 per month, to be placed in an escrow account.
But Mathews’ pregnancy was anything but smooth. After undergoing in vitro fertilization at a clinic in Cyprus (recommended by the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center), she became pregnant with twins. She told the news channel she was “extremely sick” throughout the pregnancy, experienced severe swelling, developed preeclampsia, followed by HELLP syndrome, which causes low platelets and elevated liver enzymes.
Even after Mathews delivered the twins back home in Colorado via Ceasarean section, she still experienced physical problems. She was rushed into an emergency operation for internal bleeding only hours after giving birth.
“While I was in the OR, I died and had to be resuscitated,” she told 9News. Mathews spent 20 days in the hospital after delivering the children for the Barkoses.
In the meantime, the Bakoses brought their new babies home to Austria, but Hilary Neiman, an attorney for the National Adoption and Surrogacy Center, whose website is no longer functional, told 9News that the couple still owed Mathews more than $14,000. Mathews said Neiman could not reach the couple in Austria.
Mathews now owes more than $217,000 in medical expenses that stem from her pregnancy complications. She and her husband are reportedly still waiting to find out how much their insurance company will cover, and how much they will have to pay out of pocket for children they won’t even raise.
But there’s still more to this story. In August, Hilary Neiman pleaded guilty to playing a role in an elaborate baby-selling ring. Neiman, along with Theresa Erickson, a prominent reproductive lawyer, said they created a ruse in which Erickson would recruit women to act as surrogates. The two women would travel to Ukraine, where surrogacy laws are more lax than in the U.S. Surrogates were implanted with donated sperm and eggs, and once the women hit the second trimester, Erickson would put the babies on the market, falsely claiming that that the original intended parents had backed out of the agreement. They’d sell the babies to new couples for $100,000 to $150,000.
Sherry Smith, program administrator for the Center for Surrogate Parenting, an agency that has functioned for 31 years, said it’s important for both parties to do the proper due diligence before getting involved with a surrogacy agency.
At the Center for Surrogate Parenting, intended parents must enroll in an insurance program, so that their new children are sufficiently covered, Smith told ABCNews.com. The surrogates must also have medical insurance that will cover her pregnancy when she herself is the patient.
“We expect intended parents to be honest and forthright to take on this responsibility,” said Smith. “The surrogate is putting her life on the line and delivering their dream.”
Surrogacy is not regulated. There is no licensing board, so “this really allows people to put their shingle up and say, ‘I’m a surrogacy agency,’” said Smith.
“Do your research, talk to other people who have used the agency, ask fertility clinics for recommendations,” continued Smith. “If something doesn’t seem right or there is a short cut, there’s a good chance you’ll be paying for it later on.”