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