Jessica Allen already had two children with her partner, Wardell Jasper, when she decided to become a surrogate. The 31-year-old and her family live in Perris, California, where surrogacy is legal, which is not the case in all states. Allen reached out to San Diego-based Omega Family Global and was matched up with a couple referred to as the “Lius,” a pseudonym. The Lius are from China, where surrogacy is illegal.
The $30,000 fee that Allen would receive for carrying a child for the Lius would allow her to be a stay-at-home mom, save money to buy a new home and have the added feel-good benefit of helping another couple realize their dream of having a baby.
All went well with the in-vitro fertilization treatments and in April 2016, Allen became pregnant with the Lius’ baby. Six weeks later, she learned that not only was she still pregnant, she was carrying twins.
“I was a bit scared, but I heard the Lius were thrilled to be having twins,” Allen told the New York Post. “My $30,000 payment, including expenses—which I received in installments by check each month—was increased by $5,000 for the second child. Not once during the pregnancy did any of the medical staff provided by the agency say that the babies were in separate sacs. As far as we were concerned, the transferred embryo had split in two and the twins were identical.”
Uh-oh, can tell where this story is going?
In December, Allen gave birth to both babies via C-section. Even though her contract with Omega Family Global stipulated that she would get to spend an hour with the newborns, Allen says she didn’t “even get a look at the babies when they were pulled out because it was done behind an opaque screen,” and then the babies were promptly whisked out of the operating room.
While the hour she was promised with them never happened, Allen says that the day after their birth, she got a 10-minute visit from Mrs. Liu, who showed her a cellphone picture of the twins. “Wow! They look different,” Allen remarked as the twins looked nothing alike and were obviously not identical twins.
Cue the foreboding music ... because things were about to get complicated.
About a month after the babies were born, Allen says she received a picture of the twins and a text from Mrs. Liu that read, “They are not the same, right? Have you thought about why they are different?”
The babies were given DNA tests and it turned out that one baby was biologically the Lius' child and the other baby was a biological match for Allen and Jasper.
How could this happen when Allen and Jasper didn’t have sex until they were cleared by the IVF doctor, who recommended they use condoms? It is the result of an extremely rare condition called superfectation, where a woman who is already pregnant manages to get pregnant with another child.
“I was heartbroken knowing I carried a baby I didn’t know was mine and that he was taken from me without my knowledge and was in the arms of other people where he did not belong,” Allen told the Independent.
What followed for Allen and Jasper was an expensive, emotional and convoluted legal battle to get custody of their son. Allen alleges that even though the Lius did not want to keep the child that wasn’t biologically theirs, they were asking for somewhere between $18,000 to $22,000 as compensation for the child and a case worker from the agency was also claiming that another $7,000 for incurred expenses would be needed.
So, how did it all end? Demands for financial compensation were eventually dropped and on February 5, Allen was reunited with her son when a case worker handed him over in the parking lot of a Starbucks.
Despite the nightmare that Allen went through she says, “I don’t regret becoming a surrogate mom because that would mean regretting my son. I just hope other women considering surrogacy can learn from my story. And that a greater good will come out of this nightmare.”
And what could that greater good possibly be? Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that if you're going to be a surrogate or use a surrogate, you have to make sure that every possible circumstance—the expected and the unexpected—is accounted for in your contract.