Cathleen Hachey’s first try as a surrogate mother took a heartbreaking turn when she was abandoned via text message last spring, 27 weeks into the pregnancy she’d initiated to help another couple start a family.
The young New Brunswick stay-at-home mom was carrying twins for a British couple. But three months before Hachey’s due date, the couple declared their marriage had ended and they would not be coming for the babies.
Hachey, 20, who was already the mother of a 1- and 2-year-old, delivered the twins — a boy and a girl — on June 28. She was able to find the twins an adoptive home, but experts in the field say the episode is a lesson on the need for better safeguards for both surrogate mothers and the intended parents.
Without a lawyer or a fertility doctor to advise her, Hachey was left vulnerable and outside Canada’s fertility laws. “Here’s a lovely, trusting young woman who should have taken care of herself,” says Sherry Levitan, a Toronto-based fertility lawyer. “The law is there for a reason.”
Hachey, who lives in Bathurst, N.B., tried to do what experts say all surrogate mothers should do before she agreed to carry a child for the couple in Hertfordshire, England, whom she met through the website Surrogate Mothers Online.
She spent about six months getting to know them, speaking with them daily by phone. She met the pair when they flew to New Brunswick in November. The three signed a surrogacy contract prepared by the couple that declared them the child’s legal parents and granted Hachey $200 per month for expenses related to her pregnancy.
The trio decided Hachey would be a “traditional” surrogate: she would use her own egg and the husband’s sperm to conceive the child because the wife suffered from polycystic ovarian syndrome and was unable to conceive or carry a baby.
Surrogacy advocates frown upon this approach, and few fertility clinics will agree to inseminate women who choose it. So Hachey performed an “at home” insemination using a medical syringe and semen from a cup.
“Traditional surrogacy is too fraught with issues,” says Toronto fertility lawyer Nancy Lam. The child is genetically connected to the surrogate, unlike in a much more common “gestational” surrogacy, in which the surrogate mother carries a baby conceived with a donated egg and has no genetic connection to the child she delivers.
The traditional surrogacy complicated Hachey’s situation, leaving her even more vulnerable when the couple backed out 27 weeks into her pregnancy. The intended mother sent Hachey a text message stating the couple had separated and she wouldn’t be taking the unborn boy and girl because she felt that as a single mother she couldn’t care for twins.
“It said she mentally couldn’t handle herself right now,” Hachey recalls, “so she didn’t think she can handle two other human beings.” The expectant mother was stunned: “They were my biological children so they were my biological problem.”
With the help of a friend, Hachey did find a Nova Scotia couple who had been waiting several years to adopt and were overjoyed to take the twins. “It was hard,” she says. “If I was in a better position, I would have kept them.”
But she had to care for her two children alone because her fiancé left 18 weeks into her surrogate pregnancy. Faced with the prospect of sole breadwinner for a family of four, he said he couldn’t cope with the financial stress. They have since reunited.
The Star was not able to reach the intended parents in England.
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