|Surrogate Mom Flees to Save Baby|
|By KEVIN DOLAK (@kdolak)||Mar 6, 2013, 1:59 PM|
The travails of carrying a baby for another couple took an emotional turn for a Connecticut surrogate whose ultrasound showed a fetus with birth defects. Her life was turned upside-down as she coped with pleas and even a monetary offer from the intended parents to abort while discovering that legally she had no rights over the pregnancy in her state, leading to a secret flight halfway across the U.S.
Crystal Kelley was a single mother of two girls when she decided to become a surrogate. In late 2011 Kelley, 30, wanted to help a couple conceive and she could use the surrogacy fee – often upwards of $20,000 -- to supplement her income as she raised her girls. Kelley outlined her experiences on her blog, Surrogate Insanity.
Through a surrogacy agency, Kelley was able to find an established family in New York with three other children who wanted to conceive. According to her blog, the couple, who have not been named, said they had two frozen embryos, which were transferred to Kelley in October 2011. Soon, she was pregnant.
The pregnancy started off fine. Kelley said that she received not only the financial support that she had expected from the intended parents of the baby, but emotional support as well. The intended mother called her frequently to check in and even bought Kelley's daughters Christmas presents.
But everything changed with her surrogacy on the day of her 21-week anatomy scan.
As Kelley explained in her blog, she saw flickers of concern come across the technician's face during the scan. Then she starting getting alarming messages from the intended mom, Kelley wrote.
"This is not good, this is a problem," a frantic series of texts from the intended mother read, according to Kelly. "We have to do something right away."
The scan showed that the fetus, which they had discovered was female, had a cleft palette. The unborn baby also had a cyst on her brain, Kelley wrote. They suspected that the baby had Down syndrome.
As Kelley explains it, after she went for a maternal blood screening test to check the fetus for Down syndrome, the intended mother called her and said she wanted her to abort, saying that the couple "do not intend to bring a child into the world that has a significant disability and will require several surgeries to survive," according to Kelley.
She realized that the midwives, who had contacted the facility, told the intended mother of the baby that there was cause for concern, Kelley wrote.
Kelley wrote that she was shocked. She didn't think the couple were the "'baby's not perfect, let's terminate type." She checked the contract she signed with the couple, which stated that for an abortion/reduction, there must be a "severe fetal abnormality," she wrote.
Though she says she argued that the baby could live a happy life despite the abnormalities, she became convinced that the parents had given up on the fetus -- which she began to refer to as Baby S on her blog.
After a great deal of soul searching, Kelley wrote, she had decided that she would fight to keep her baby. Michael DePrimo, a Connecticut-based pro-life attorney, took on her case for no fee. DePrimo told ABCNews.com that Kelley retained his services in February 2012.
"They demanded that she abort," he said.
DePrimo guided Kelley through the Connecticut state law regarding surrogacy. In the state, a gestational carrier that is biologically unrelated to the child has no parental rights. After Baby S was born, in Connecticut, she would be placed in foster care.
For Kelley, this was not an option.
"She will be lost to me forever," Kelley wrote in a March 2012 blog post.
That was when Kelley says she began to contemplate leaving the state, according to her blog. DePrimo said he told Kelley which states where she, as the birth mother, would have parental rights to the baby.
"All I did was tell her the options," he told ABCNews.com. "She made a decision. I told her where you have rights as her mother."
Kelley decided to head to Michigan, where she could go to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan, which has one of the top pediatric heart programs in the country. Soon she picked up her kids and drove to Ann Arbor, where she set up a network of labor coaches and midwives for support.
In Michigan she also retained a new attorney, Herbert A. Brail, who specialized in adoptions. Brail told ABCNews.com that Kelley was "abhorred" by the actions of her Baby S' intended parents, and wanted to set up an adoption plan.
At one point during the lengthy proceedings with the intended parents, Kelley told CNN they offered her $10,000 to abort the baby. She first refused. Then, in what CNN called a "weak moment," she said she would, for $15,000. But, she told CNN, this tested her convictions, and she believes she would not have gone through with it and indeed she did not.
Kelley did not respond to requests for an interview placed by ABC News through her lawyers.
Brail said that, "Given the strength of her position, even with the higher amount there's no way that she would have gone ahead with it. She was very committed to facilitating the adoption of the child."
Brail said Kelley was sued by the Connecticut couple seeking to enforce the parenting agreement, and that's when she found out the embryos that had been used for the surrogacy were not those of the intended mother.
"An affidavit attached to that suit mentioned that the egg was from an anonymous donor," Brail said.
With the intended mother legally out of the picture, the intended father soon decided to waive his rights to Baby S. This left Kelley free to pursue an adoption.
"Michigan recognizes the person who gives birth as the child's mother," Brail said. "In cases where everyone's in agreement, you can get a parentage out of the courts, with agreement of all the parties."
Within hours of being born, Baby S underwent a number of tests. Many of the heart defects that were predicted while she was in the room were present. She had a cleft palate. She has a hypoplastic right ear, which she cannot hear from. She had holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to completely divide into distinct hemispheres. Baby S did not have Down syndrome, Kelley wrote.
Baby S will undergo a number of risky cardiac procedures in her infancy, as well as surgeries for her cleft palate. Even then, holoprosencephaly still brings the risk of early death, according to medical experts.
Kelley was able to find adoptive parents. Baby S was in good shape on July 11, 2012, the day that Kelley says that she went to relinquish her rights to the baby she had worked tirelessly to bring into the world, according to Kelley.
On her blog, Kelly described the adoptive parents, who remain anonymous, as "wonderful, fabulous people." She wrote that she knows that they understand the unique bond that Baby S and she share, and that she is happy that she can keep two promises to the child she carried.
" I will always be there for you, and I will never give up on you," she wrote.