Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Surrogate pregnancy is not uncommon, and it usually ends well for all involved. But a story out of Connecticut and Michigan is almost operatic in its complexity, drama, and high stakes. CNN.com tells the story of Crystal Kelley, who acted as a gestational carrier to a Connecticut couple who wanted a fourth child and had frozen embryos from previous in vitro fertilization cycles.
Kelley became pregnant, but a routine ultrasound uncovered a number of severe birth defects in the fetus, including brain and heart abnormalities as well as a severely cleft lip and palate. The biological parents, on hearing the news, wanted Kelley to terminate the pregnancy, but Kelley refused.
After a legal battle erupted–the contract Kelley had signed stipulated “abortion in case of severe fetus abnormality,” but didn’t specify what that meant–the biological parents said they wanted to take custody of the child at birth and then turn her over to Connecticut’s state-run foster care system. The case became even more complicated when it was discovered that the couple had used an anonymous egg donor to make the embryo.
Kelley, disturbed by all options on the table, fled to Michigan, where she would be considered to be the baby’s mother under that state’s laws.
While in Michigan, Kelley gave birth to the girl and found adoptive parents for her. From CNN:
Baby S. — her adoptive parents are comfortable using her first initial — has a long road in front of her. She’s already had one open-heart surgery and surgery on her intestines, and in the next year she’ll need one or two more cardiac surgeries in addition to procedures to repair her cleft lip and palate. Later in childhood she’ll need surgeries on her jaw and ear and more heart surgeries.
Her adoptive parents, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their family’s privacy, know Baby S. might not be with them for long. The cardiac procedures she needs are risky, and her heterotaxy and holoprosencephaly, though mild, carry a risk of early death, according to doctors.
If Baby S. does survive, there’s a 50% chance she won’t be able to walk, talk or use her hands normally.
In some ways, Baby S. looks different from other 8-month-olds babies. In addition to the facial abnormalities, she’s very small, weighing only 11 pounds and she gets food through a tube directly into her stomach so she’ll grow faster.
Her adoptive parents know some people look at her and see a baby born to suffer — a baby who’s suffering could have been prevented with an abortion.
But that’s not the way they see it. They see a little girl who’s defied the odds, who constantly surprises her doctors with what she’s able to do — make eye contact, giggle at her siblings, grab toys, eye strangers warily.
“S. wakes up every single morning with an infectious smile. She greets her world with a constant sense of enthusiasm,” her mother said in an e-mail to CNN. “Ultimately, we hold onto a faith that in providing S. with love, opportunity, encouragement, she will be the one to show us what is possible for her life and what she is capable of achieving….”
….Just as there are two ways to look at Baby S., there are two ways to look at Crystal Kelley, the woman who carried her.
In one view, she’s a saint who fought at great personal sacrifice for an unborn child whose own parents did not want her to live. In another view, she recklessly absconded with someone else’s child and brought into the world a baby who faces serious medical challenges when that wasn’t her decision to make.
Image: Pregnant woman in hospital, via Shutterstock
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abortion, adoption, donor eggs, gestational surrogate, in vitro fertilization, infant surgery, special needs babies, surgery, surrogacy, surrogate | Categories:
Must Read, Parenting News
Monday, November 19th, 2012
Twenty years after it first was practiced by thousands of American couples each year, or by celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker or Giuliana and Bill Rancic, gestational surrogacy–in which a couple’s embryo is carried by a woman other than the mother–remains a legal minefield, The Washington Times reported this weekend. The newspaper profiled recent cases in New Jersey and California:
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In late October, judges of the New Jersey Supreme Court were faced with yet another difficult question regarding surrogate parenting. Because the wife of a couple who wanted children was infertile, their baby was conceived with a donor egg and the husband’s sperm, then carried and delivered by a surrogate. The surrogate legally waived all her parental rights. The couple got a court order to name the wife as the mother on the baby’s birth certificate.
But after a nurse questioned putting the wife’s name down and got the state registrar’s office involved, the registrar refused to list the wife as the mother unless she went through a legal adoption process.
The couple challenged this decision in court, because when a baby is born to a married woman, her husband is automatically considered the legal father whether he is the biological father or not. But this is not true when it is the reverse.
An appeals court ruled in favor of the state registrar, and the New Jersey Supreme Court failed to reach a decision either way. So now, there is a child without any legal mother and the only option is going through the adoption process. This is a lengthy, expensive process and in the meantime there are all sorts of pitfalls that can happen.
This is the exact reverse of the situation in California a month ago. California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed judges to recognize more than two legal parents if it is determined to be “required in the best interests of the child.” It would have allowed a previous custodial or biological parent to have parental rights and take care of a child if the two current legal parents are no longer capable, as long as doing so is required to protect the child’s best interests.
The problems Governor Brown expressed concern about simply haven’t materialized the states where similar laws exist, including the District of Columbia, Delaware Maine, Louisiana and Pennsylvania.
Image: Couple talking to a doctor, via Shutterstock
Monday, September 10th, 2012
A Washington state family is joining the ranks of those who are having children through a gestational surrogate–a woman who carries and delivers a baby for a couple that can create a healthy embryo but cannot sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Tiffany Burke, a mother of 2, is carrying a baby for her brother and his wife, James and Natalie Lucich. The couple has a son, but Lucich required postpartum surgery in which her uterus had to be removed. CNN has more:
It took a week for the news to set in. Lucich could have no more children naturally. Her dream had always been to have three. She was crushed.
A few days later, Burke headed over to the Luciches’ house to take pictures of the new family. Lucich confided how conflicted she felt: She was grateful for Hunter but also mourning the loss of the children she would never have.
Lucich mentioned to Burke that she still had her eggs. She and James were considering using a gestational surrogate. An embryo, created in a Petri dish from Natalie’s egg and James’ sperm, would be implanted in the surrogate mother. None of the surrogate’s DNA is involved.
“I was pissed!” Burke recalled. She was worried: What if the surrogate drank or smoked or did something to harm herself? She didn’t want the Luciches to take that chance.
Suddenly, Burke blurted out, “I’ll do it!” Embarrassed, she immediately covered her mouth and apologized.
Lucich looked at her. “I thought you didn’t want any more children, you were done being pregnant.”
“Yes,” Burke responded, “we don’t want any more natural children of our own … but I have this perfectly good uterus!”
Earlier this month, a 49-year-old Maine grandmother served as the surrogate for her own grandson, and reality TV stars Giuliana and Bill Rancic welcomed a baby boy born via a surrogate who was not a family member.
Image: Hand touching pregnant belly, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
Now that’s babysitting! Linda Sirois, 49, gave birth last week to a 7 pound, 14 ounce baby boy named Madden Herbert, who happens to be her grandson.
Sirois carried Madden in her uterus for nine months because her daughter, Angel Herbert, 25, has a heart condition and doctors had recently advised her not to get pregnant, the Portland Press Herald reports.
Sirois had previously said that she’d be willing to serve as surrogate for her daughter. So when Angel and her husband Brian, 29, learned last summer that pregnancy wasn’t in the cards for them, the daughter approached her mom: Was she serious about that offer? From the Press Herald:
Her mother gave her answer by immediately calling fertility clinics around the area. Most rejected Sirois because of her age, she said, but finally the Reproductive Science Center in Lexington, Mass., agreed as long as Sirois passed some tests.
She did and became pregnant the first time her daughter’s egg, fertilized with Brian Hebert’s sperm, was implanted.
Sirois, the mother of four before Madden, including twins, said the pregnancy may have been her easiest, with no morning sickness or complications.
Angel says the baby’s birth by C-section was “an awesome, awesome experience.” But Sirois is unassuming about her role in the birth. “I just saw it as I was babysitting for a few months,” she told the Press Herald. “It was their child all along. It was just a room for rent.”
Image: Sirois and Madden family photo via Portland Press Herald.
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Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
A proposed piece of legislation before the California state legislature would allow children to have multiple–more than two–legal parents. State Senator Mark Leno says the bill would bring the state into the 21st century, where different kinds of families are becoming more commonplace. The Christian Science Monitor has more:
“The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today,” the San Francisco Democrat said.
Surrogate births, same-sex parenthood and assisted reproduction are changing society by creating new possibilities for nontraditional households and relationships.
Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst for the Traditional Values Coalition, blasted Leno’s bill as a new attempt to “revamp, redefine and muddy the waters” of family structure by a leader in the drive to legalize gay marriage.
“It comes as no surprise that he would try to say that a child has more than two parents — that’s absurd,” said Lopez, whose group calls itself a leading voice for Bible-based values.
Under Leno’s bill, if three or more people who acted as parents could not agree on custody, visitation and child support, a judge could split those things up among them.
SB 1476 is not meant to expand the definition of who can qualify as a parent, only to eliminate the limit of two per child.
Image: Family, via Shutterstock.
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