Crystal Kelley first made headlines in 2013 when she refused to terminate her surrogate pregnancy, despite the biological parents’ demands.
In 2011, Kelley, who was 29 at the time, contacted a surrogacy agency and asked if there was anyone looking to hire a surrogate. According to CNN, Kelley, who has two young daughters of her own, had had fertility issues, along with two miscarriages, and wanted to help a couple grow their family.
The agency told Kelley there was a couple that was interested in meeting her. The couple and Kelley later arranged to meet at a playground near her home in Vernon, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford. The couple already had three children and desperately wanted a fourth, however the mother could not physically have any more children of her own.
“They offered to come and meet me near my home,” Kelley told People Magazine. “It was very nice when we met. I really liked them.”
She is a true hero – “US surrogate mother Crystal Kelley flees after baby’s parents order her to abort fetus” http://t.co/naxFNUs2bQ
— DeWayneHamby (@DeWayneHamby) March 6, 2013
The couple and Kelley spent a long time getting to know each other, and while she was there, Kelley watched closely to how they interacted with their current children; she admits she liked what she saw.
“They were interactive with their kids,” she said. “Their father was playing with them and they were all having a great time. Their mom and I were just standing to the side watching them and she couldn’t stop smiling.”
The mother then explained to Crystal that she only had two eggs left, and they were nearing the end of their five-year storage time. The couple needed to decide quickly whether or not to keep them or have them destroyed. After discussing it, the mother said, they decided to check into surrogacy. After hearing their story, and seeing the “emotion in their eyes,” Crystal contacted the agency and told them she would be happy to carry the couple’s child.
On October 8, 2011, the doctors implanted the two remaining eggs in Kelley’s uterus. A little over a week later, a blood test determined that one of the embryos had attached, and Kelley was in fact pregnant. Both Crystal and the biological parents were ecstatic. Over the next few weeks, the biological mother contacted Crystal frequently to check in on her, and even provided her with her monthly surrogate fee a few days early when she couldn’t afford her rent. However, that would all soon change. The joyful pregnancy Crystal thought she would experience, would soon turn into a nightmare.
At 18 weeks pregnant, Kelley went in for a routine ultrasound. At the time, the ultrasound technician said she was having a hard time seeing the tiny baby’s heart, and asked her to come in for another ultrasound the next week so they could do a higher-level ultrasound. Kelley and the biological mother knew something was wrong, but it wasn’t until Kelley received a call from her mid-wife that their worst fears were confirmed. The baby girl had a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in her brain, and serious heart defects, and her stomach and spleen couldn’t be detected on the ultrasound. The doctors told Kelley and the biological parents that the baby would likely need heart surgery after her birth, and although she would survive delivery, she only stood a 25 percent chance of having a “normal life.” Since the parents already had three children of their own, they didn’t want to go any further with the pregnancy.
— Christopher Mantei (@mantei4) May 15, 2014
“That was when I started to get really worried. I’m standing outside in the sun and then all of a sudden I got cold and clammy,” Crystal recalled. “It was all of a sudden, like everything switched. I told her, ‘Let’s remember we talked about this. I’m not willing to terminate a pregnancy for a child with a disability. I’m not terminating the pregnancy unless the baby is going to die.'”
Kelley’s daughter was born with a heart defect, and grew up to be happy and healthy. She said she wanted to give this baby the same chance that she gave her biological daughter. Even after the parents offered her $10,000 to get the abortion, Kelley said no.
Crystal never talked to the parents again, and then she decided to move to Michigan, 700 miles away, where she could have legal rights to the baby she was carrying. In Connecticut, she would have no rights, and once the baby was born, it would immediately be a ward of the state and would enter foster care.
“Once I realized that I was going to be the only person really fighting for her, that mama bear instinct kicked in, and there was no way I was giving up without a fight,” Kelley said at the time.
When she arrived in Michigan, Kelley found a summer sublet from a University of Michigan student and then applied for Michigan Medicaid to help with the pregnancy. Although she had grown emotionally attached to the baby inside of her, Kelley knew she couldn’t raise another child — she was a single mom with no job and no money. Therefore, she started looking at other options.
“My friend had a good friend who was a mom to three kids with special needs and she had adopted two of them. She told me she’d be a great resource for me,” Kelley said. “We became close and when I asked her if she would adopt her, she said yes.”
— People Magazine (@people) March 3, 2016
Baby S., the only name the adoptive parents felt comfortable using, was born on June 25, 2012, and did “amazing,” considering the circumstances. At the time of her birth, Kelley put her name on the birth certificate and left the father’s name blank. A few weeks later, Kelley and the biological parents came to a compromise: the father would give up his parental rights as long as he and his wife could keep in touch with the adoptive family about the baby’s health. Because the couple had had their eggs donated, the mother wasn’t actually biologically related and did not have to sign away parental rights.
“It’s pretty vindicating, I guess, because everyone else wanted to give up on her,” Crystal said. “She’s always been a fighter. She was feisty even when I was pregnant with her.”
Today, Baby S. is 3-years-old, and is doing better than anyone could have ever thought.
“She doesn’t let things hold her back. It makes me feel great, but I knew she was going to be like this,” Kelley, who gets to see the little girl twice a year in Michigan, said. “You have to listen to your gut and by listening to my gut, I was proven right. Everything that I believed she would be, she is. She’s alive, she’s capable, she’s growing and learning and doing things that normal toddlers do.”
Crystal Kelley later became known as “the runaway surrogate,” and later documented her story in a book titled Saving Stormie: The Baby S Story.
[Photo via Shutterstock]