May 22, 2009 — -- If actress Sarah Jessica Parker is getting motherly over the woman who is carrying her twins, it's understandable.
Since Parker and her actor-husband Matthew Broderick announced that they were expecting twins via a surrogate, Parker said the Florida woman, identified by Star magazine as Michelle Ross, has been hounded by tabloids and paparazzi.
"The most unsavory things have been done," she told "Access Hollywood." "She's had her phone hacked, her personal computer information hacked, she's had threats against her and true harassment. ... She's had friends threatened and family threatened and she's had family of friends threatened.
"It keeps me up every night," added Parker, who lives in New York City. "It's really incredibly upsetting to think of her so far away and me not being able to do something, beyond what I'm legally allowed to do."
Few would question Parker's concern or her desire to protect her surrogate. But when concern crosses the line to control, surrogate moms and the "intended mothers" they are carrying for will not only clash, but an experience that is often considered joyous can easily turn into nightmare.
That's what happened to Stephanie from California -– who did not want her full-name or location used to protect her privacy -- the first time she acted as a surrogate for a Northern California woman five years ago.
Only 24 at the time, Stephanie blames her inexperience for getting into a situation that still haunts her to this day. "I literally almost lost my marriage and my own sanity," she told ABCNews.com.
The first time Stephanie, who worked through an agency, met her intended mother, or IM, at a restaurant, the 40-year-old scientist burst into tears and hugged Stephanie. She told Stephanie about how she endured a stillborn birth and multiple miscarriages, and the younger woman agreed to be her surrogate.
"I didn't ask a lot of questions," she said, looking back. "I knew that I could possibly help her, that this was her last option, and I just jumped right into it."
Michelle (not her real name) from Missouri, believes most surrogate experiences are positive, but it's the bad ones you read about. An uncompensated surrogate for her husband's cousin, she said some surrogates set themselves up for a bad experience. "They don't do their homework, they rush into things too quickly and it's not the right personality fit," she said. "A lot of them are younger, so maturity could be an issue."
Surrogacy Turns to Nightmare
Stephanie's problems began with the transfer of four of the woman's embryos to Stephanie's uterus. Three of them took, and Stephanie says the IM flipped out, saying she couldn't handle triplets and the doctor would need to use selective reduction. It was the first time Stephanie, a devout Christian, had ever even heard about such a procedure and she was against it. Fortunately, by the next ultrasound, only two embryos remained.
Still, the idea of Stephanie carrying twins worried the IM, who lived two hours north. She called Stephanie and asked if she could move into her home during the pregnancy. "She told me she wanted to experience this as much as if she was carrying the twins herself," Stephanie recalled.
With her husband working nights and two young children of her own under the age of 3, Stephanie and her husband agreed.
Right away, the IM set about changing the family's diet. "She went to the store and came back with wheat germ, spinach, things I never knew anything about," Stephanie said. "She scheduled an appointment for me with a nutritionist to come up with a meal plan."
Even though she had already had two healthy children and the nutritionist seemed unconcerned, Stephanie said she tried to do whatever her IM would do if she were pregnant. But after a difficult amniocentesis procedure left Stephanie in pain and bleeding, the surrogate said her IM "freaked out." She insisted Stephanie not move, not even to go to the bathroom and threatened to sue her for breach of contract if she did.
When she finally allowed her to take a shower, she stood outside the bathroom with a stop watch and banged on the door when three minutes was up.
The lowest point, though, came one night when the IM, crying in the kitchen, confronted Stephanie. "She said, 'Those babies do not belong to you. They belong to me. They should be in me.' She just looked at me with a scary, crazy-eyed expression," Stephanie said. "I thought she could hurt me."
At the same time, Stephanie's husband had reached the end of his rope. "He looked at me and said, "I'm going if she doesn't go.'"
Is Sarah Jessica Parker's Surrogate Troubled Too?
Stephanie told the IM to leave.
Then, pre-natal tests showed that the girl most likely was to have Turner's Syndrome and be mentally disabled, and the intended parents opted for selective reduction. This time, Stephanie balked. Her agency said she would be in breach of contract and the IM threatened to sue her.
Over the pleas of their minister, Stephanie reluctantly agreed to the procedure, which involved stopping the baby's heart, although she would still have to give birth to her along with her twin brother. Her only condition was that the parents no longer have any contact with her until the birth of their son.
Stephanie did not see them again, she said, until they snatched their son out of her hands five hours after she had given birth. She has not heard from them since.
Wiser, she has had two other surrogate experiences, both positive, since then. With both, she switched agencies, asked questions and took her time deciding if the IM's personalities and expectations meshed with hers.
Although Stephanie's IM was an extreme example, Michelle from Missouri said some of the behavior coming from IMs is understandable. "IMs have no control," she said. "Some of them do get a little crazy. We feel for them, but we can never truly understand what it's like to be in their shoes."
Barb from Missouri, who also requested her last name and exact location not be used, said the problems can go both ways, with some unstable surrogates.
Recent tabloid reports about Ross, the woman believed to be Parker's surrogate, suggested that she might be troubled. Star magazine quoted her ex-husband Joseph Erker as saying she was a bisexual with a tattoo on her wrist and a checkered past.
ABCNews.com was unable to reach Ross, any of her family members or her ex for comment. Erker's sister refused to comment.
Parker did not seem worried. "I'm beyond comfortable with who she is," she told "Access Hollywood." "We haven't been reckless, we haven't been cavalier. She hasn't been reckless. ... Every single allegation that I know has been suggested about her is absolutely slander, and libel."
Bottom line for intended mothers and their surrogates, said Barb: "There has to be trust, it's all trust and communication."