My name is Stacy. I am almost 41 years old. I’ve been trying to have a child for over five years now. I have lost five babies of my own body and then had to have an emergency hysterectomy.
In 2009, I decided to pursue alternative methods to motherhood and hired a traditional surrogate (this means she is egg donor and carrier).
I used my Ex as the known (sperm) donor, with the intention that I would be a Single Mother by Choice.
Heather (the ‘surrogate’) and I drafted and signed notarized contracts outlining every detail of the arrangement. Ironically, in that contract, it states that if she defaults, she will pay for legal fees… (HA!). She also signed and notarized a Last Will and Testament, leaving me custody of her son Jason, in the event that anything happen to her during her pregnancy or delivery. I can see in retrospect that this was probably just a ruse to gain my trust.
When I first matched with Heather, she lived in another state. After we met and signed contracts, and had the occasion to talk almost every day, it became more and more clear to me how dire and volatile her living situation was. No heat for her son. Exposure to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes for her and her son. Etcetera. Purely out of the goodness of my heart and concern for her, I opened my home to Heather and invited her to come stay with me for free until she got on her feet and got her own place. The plan all along was that I was going to give her a monthly payment during the pregnancy and pay the rest in a lump sum at the time of delivery. She was going to use the year that she was pregnant getting on her feet and getting job training and experience so that she could put herself through college and make a better life for her and her son. I took this agenda very much to heart and gave her every kind of support I could to improve her future.
After a month of living in my home, she expressed the desire to continue living with me through the entire surrogacy. We agreed that I would charge her a (well) below market rate for rent against her compensation. I also went out of my way in MANY ways to make her life as comfortable as possible during that year. All in all, Heather and Jason lived in my home for one year. I drove Heather and Jason to school and day care every day. I mentored Heather, counseled her, encouraged her, and gave in every way I could. I went with Heather to every doctor’s appointment she had for her or her son (not pregnancy related), to support her and advocate for her. I also loaned her other chunks of money throughout the year and counted only a small amount of them against her compensation. I also made it very clear to her that she was free to move out at any point and receive monthly cash payments against her compensation. I never coerced her into any part of our agreements. Everyone who witnessed us during this year could see very clearly that Heather was in charge and when she said “Jump” I answered “How High?” I was at her beck and call; after all, she was the angel who was making my baby dreams come true. Nothing was too much if it made her happy!
We attended child birth classes. I attended newborn care classes. I traded my sporty little car in for a wagon. I hired a live-in nanny. I shopped for baby gear and created the most beautiful baby’s room I could have ever imagined. I bought a Doppler and listened to my intended daughter’s heartbeat every few days. I took a picture of Heather every week as her belly expanded and gleefully posted them on Facebook, where all my many friends rejoiced with me that my dream was so close to coming true. I researched child rearing web sites every night, deciding on formulas, diaper choices, etc… I researched names endlessly and finally declared at my baby shower that my daughter would be called Selah Ruth; then all my sweet friends decorated onesies with that beautiful name on them.
On December 9, 2009, just three days after my baby shower, my world caved in on me when Heather instant messaged me to tell me she was keeping the baby. At my baby shower, she had stood in front all my family and friends and read a poem to me about the gift of motherhood. I had told attendees in the shower invitation to give her college money instead of gifts to me because I was already receiving the biggest gift I could ask for.
She never gave me an explanation for her sudden about-face. I still do not know whether she planned it all along or changed her mind at some point.
Heather never came home that night. I never saw Jason again; a child I had lived with for a year and had grown to love. She never even moved out of my house or disposed of her room full of belongings. She left all of that mess to me. Of course, she didn’t forget to take the cash gifts my friends and family had given her at the baby shower. She just disappeared and ignored all my attempts at mediation or discussion.
I crumbled that night. It might as well have been my daughter’s death. I was utterly heartbroken and it took every ounce of my strength to survive that loss. My friend came over that night to sit with me until my sister arrived from out of town. I just sat there, unable to speak, occasionally crying, trying to make sense of what had just blind-sided me. A few days later, my sweet 22 year old niece came to town to pack up the baby’s room while I was at work.
At first, I scrambled, for two months, thinking I could fight her. I called and emailed any attorney or district attorney or case worker I could. No one would help me for any amount of money that I could actually muster up. Social services had been told she was a refuge from a domestic violence situation (I never even threatened to hurt her, let alone actually hurt her… I do not have a violent bone in my body). Social services were also told that I was a potential adoptive mother, not an intended mother, who was trying to coerce her into giving up her baby. People closed ranks around ‘the poor sweet young thing’ and I could not make any headway.
In further vain attempts to turn this nightmare back into my dream, I married my Ex in a quick city hall ceremony in hopes of gaining more legal standing. We filed a petition to establish parentage without the guidance of a lawyer since we couldn’t afford one. Then, my Ex found out that filing such a petition might leave him vulnerable to child support demands and refused to show up for our court date. I have since finalized a divorce.
All I could afford to do was pay a lawyer to send her a demand letter but it went unacknowledged, like every other attempt I made to contact her, talk sense into her, mediate, discuss, or understand what the hell had happened.
For my own personal sanity, I made the decision to accept defeat, grieve the devastating loss, and move on. It was a long and painful year.
A year later, a summons was delivered to my house, for my Ex. It turns out Heather, Jason, and Baby Girl (that she named Lily) have been living off of public assistance and the county had decided to pursue my Ex for child support. Since my Ex has not lived in my house since long before Heather moved out, all I could do is call and inform him. But since he is unemployed, he decided to lay low and blow it off. There was nothing I could do to compel him to deal with the issue. There is a reason he is my Ex!
This past Friday evening, I came home to a summons with MY name on it. They have added me to the child support petition as a “Joinder” with the explanation, “DCSS was informed that Heather XX and Stacy XX entered into a surrogacy agreement regarding the minor child in this case. DCSS is requesting Stacy XX be joined so the issue of parentage can be resolved.” I called DCSS and they confirmed that it is possible that I could be ruled financially responsible for the child since it is in the best interest of the child to have financially responsible parties.
My court date is May 23. I need a Pro Bono or sliding scale lawyer who is knowledgeable in family law or child support or custody issues or surrogacy/third party reproduction issues, who can advise me how to proceed.
My finances are very limited, as I am still paying off the IVF I completed in a few months ago in the hopes of starting a new gestational surrogacy. Obviously, my dream of being a mother is now going to be further delayed. This nightmare just keeps coming back to life.
- Yes, I do have contracts! I have an abundance of evidence establishing me as intended mother. Without tens of thousands of dollars to give up front, I could not find someone willing to litigate this case. The landmark case in California Buzzanca v. Buzzanca would have been my best shot at winning custody but it might also be the thing that forces me to pay child support. See more about it at: Buzzanca v. Buzzanca: The Ruling and Ramifications (http://www.surrogacy.com/legals/jaycee/jayceesum.html)
- We tried to get Heather pregnant for four months; three of those months were doctor-assisted IUIs. The month we got pregnant was a home insemination.
- Her profile on SurrogateMother.com was advertising for new intended parents just four months after Baby Girl was born. It is possible she is already engaging in a new surrogacy agreement!
- She has garnered a lot of support from strangers, case workers, etc, by being extremely dishonest about the facts of the case.
- She was living in a homeless shelter when she delivered the baby.
- I had already paid her 80% of her compensation by the time she defaulted. I have never seen any money back.
- Heather was using Legal Aid and Pro Bono Project services at some point (probably still is); they have confirmed that they cannot help me as it would be a conflict of interest and she was their client first.
Thank you for listening. If you can help me in any way, I would very much appreciate it.