The Short of It
A family's surrogacy journey ends in a nightmare when the intended parents are kept from their daughter.
Pennsylvania parents Barbara and David, who had three other children when they began their surrogate journey, prefer not to share their last name, but they do want others to hear their story.
They started out with the best of intentions, choosing to be highly selective about who they used to carry their baby. The couple wanted a woman who was happily married and had a stable job, and when they met Jamie, they thought she was the one. A four-hour meeting at a steakhouse confirmed their hopes that 22-year-old Jamie could act as their surrogate.
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Jamie's husband, Steven, was also present for the initial meeting. "I asked him straight out how he felt about his wife carrying another couple's baby. I asked him really personal questions," Barbara explained to People magazine.
The would-be surrogate couple shared they weren't ready to start their own family and hoped to put the $15,000 surrogacy fee toward buying a home. Soon a contract was signed, and the process moved forward, with Barbara's egg and David's sperm being implanted in Jamie.
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Jamie shared happy news in a voicemail, on Mother's Day of all days, saying, "Barb, I'm pregnant. The test came back. I love you so much. This is great. We're going to have a great journey."
That was the last time things were normal. Soon Jamie began to act strangely, according to Barbara, and announced she had separated from her husband, even admitting they'd been having problems for a long time. Other red flags started to appear too. She could only talk late at night, and then she ceased communication with the biological parents all together.
A lawyer advised Barbara and David to "fulfill every part of our obligation of the contract so that if it ended up in court, we were the ones who didn't vacate the contract." So the well-meaning couple continued to financially support the pregnancy, purchasing prenatal vitamins and maternity clothes.
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Unfathomably, Jamie didn't even inform the parents when the baby was born. Little Kaylee Grace is now 7 years old and lives with the surrogate mom. But that doesn't mean her parents haven't been fighting to get her back. They've spent just shy of $100,000 on legal fees.
The heartbroken mom told People, "When we first went to court, the judge said she didn't know what do with the contract. We were told we can't make a contract on a human life." But eventually a shared custody agreement was worked out; that ended when Kaylee started school where Jamie lives.
The current situation is unimaginable: they pay over $450 in child support monthly, and despite being entitled to see their daughter two weekends a month, they haven't laid eyes on her in almost six months!
The family still hopes one day the little girl they call "Gracie" will return to them. Barbara explains, "We have never called her by her first name. When she is here, she literally knows herself as Grace and when she is there, she knows herself as Kaylee. She does very well with it."
But I have to imagine this is very confusing for this child. She admittedly has two moms, a dad, and siblings she rarely sees. And according to Barbara, she doesn't like living with Jamie and cries when she leaves, which rips her mom apart.
"I feel extremely sad that there is this life that I feel responsible for—and that I helped bring into this world—that I feel is being destroyed because of the custody and how the courts are handling the situation," Barbara says.
All I take away from this is that if you are looking for a surrogate, clearly you can never be too thorough. Using someone you know, like a family member or friend, is probably the best, if at all possible.
Here's hoping this family's story has a happy ending.