When Crystal Kelley agreed to carry a child for a Connecticut couple, she was expecting a happy ending. The 31-year-old (29 at the time), who had been a surrogate before, enjoyed helping couples with fertility problems. The couple’s frozen embryo was implanted into Kelley’s uterus and the pregnancy took. Everything seemed to be going as planned until Kelley went for her five-month ultrasound. Tests confirmed that the baby had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality. This is when everything went to hell in a hand basket.
Considering the findings, the parents felt that the most “humane option” would be for Kelley to consider “pregnancy termination.” Kelley adamantly opposed the idea of terminating the pregnancy.
“They said they didn’t want to bring a baby into the world only for that child to suffer. … They said I should try to be God-like and have mercy on the child and let her go … I told them that they had chosen me to carry and protect this child, and that was exactly what I was going to do … I told them it wasn’t their decision to play God,” Kelley said.
When Kelley refused to terminate the pregnancy, the parents told her that if she proceeded with the pregnancy, they would not be the parents of the baby. When Kelley still didn’t agree, the parents offered her $10,000 (on top of her $22,000 surrogacy fee) to have an abortion. She asked for $15,000 to reconsider. The parents declined. That’s when both parties lawyered up. Follow along now, because this is where it gets really complex.
The parents decided that if Kelley wouldn’t abort the pregnancy, that they would sue for guardianship of the child. Kelley didn’t know if she could raise a special needs child herself, but she didn’t feel comfortable with her other options — placing the baby in the custody of the state or relinquishing guardianship to the genetic parents. So, Kelley packed up and moved to Michigan, where the laws for surrogates are more favorable. She put the baby up for adoption in Michigan and found a couple to be the unborn child’s parents.
That’s when the genetic parents filed for custody in the Connecticut Supreme Court. But there’s a twist. The legal papers included the admission that the wife was not the baby’s genetic mother — they’d used an anonymous egg donor.
When Baby S* turned out to have far worse defects than initially suspected, she barely survived child birth. Soon after, the adoptive parents and the genetic parent (the father) struck a deal. He agreed to give up his paternal rights as long as he and his wife could keep in touch with the adoptive family about the baby’s health. Since then, the couple has visited the baby, who all parties involved understand may not live very long.
Kelley has been blogging about her surrogacy insanity to mixed reactions from supporters and critics.
“I knew from the beginning that this little girl had an amazing fighting spirit, and whatever challenges were thrown at her, she would go at them with every ounce of spirit that she could possibly have. No matter what anybody told me, I became her mother,” said Kelley of the experience.
There are so many twists and turns in this story that I feel dizzy. Surely, this will be made into a film. All I can say is that we as a society may be underestimating the complexity of surrogacy.
What do you think of Kelley’s decision? Discuss.