When Jessica Allen signed up to become a surrogate, she thought it would be an easy way to help out someone in need. Allen, who was already a mother of two sons, knew the ins and outs of pregnancy. She followed the rules and the surrogacy seemed to go off without a hitch...until the delivery room when things got messy.
The months that followed led Allen to share her story with the world. She told People, "I'd never do it again. I'm not the only one with a nightmare story, but I am the only one with a story like this." Read onto see what happened in the delivery room that changed everything.
Jessica Allen Thought The Couple She Was Helping Meant Well
Jessica Allen, a California mom of two, thought she was doing a nice thing by signing on to be the surrogate of a lovely Chinese couple. Since surrogacy is illegal in China, the couple came all the way to the U.S. in order to find a surrogate that would have their baby.
Anyone who has struggled to conceive is likely familiar with the emotional and physical trauma the Chinese couple must have gone through to resort to surrogacy. There's no doubt that what Allen was doing for them was a wonderful thing.
She Followed All The Rules
Allen worked with San Diego-based Omega Family Global, who paired her with the hopeful couple. Allen had the couple's single male embryo implanted in her uterus through in-vitro fertilization.
Surrogates are required to take estrogen and progestogen in order to prepare their wombs for a successful implantation. Allen was careful to follow the IVF doctor's instructions both before and after implantation so that the pregnancy would be a success. Six weeks into the pregnancy, however, the doctor found something that would make Allen pretty concerned.
The Doctors Couldn't Believe What They Saw
At her six-week scan, the doctors told Allen that she was carrying two babies in her womb. The doctor explained that the chances of a splitting embryo were rare, but that it does happen. Everyone assumed that that was the case and Allen was relieved to know that the couple was excited to be getting twins.
Allen was paid $30,000 plus expenses for volunteering herself as a surrogate. When it was discovered she would be having two babies, her monthly paychecks increased by $5,000. Things were going along just fine until it was time to deliver.
Allen Noticed Something Odd About The Babies
At 38 weeks gestation, Allen delivered the two babies via C-section. Because the operation was performed behind an opaque screen, Allen didn't get the chance to see the babies as they were immediately taken from the operating room.
Later that night, while recovering, Allen received a visit from the intended mother, who showed her a picture of the babies on her phone. "One looked full Chinese, the other didn't look full Chinese. It was clear they were not identical... but I didn't ask questions," Allen told People magazine.
The Message That Changed Everything
After the delivery, everyone went their separate ways and Allen returned home to recover. She and her husband used the money they were paid to purchase a brand new home. Almost a month later, they were getting ready for move-in day when Allen received a text from the intended mother.
The mother sent Allen a picture of the babies and expressed doubt that one of them belonged to her. Allen told New York Post that the intended mother asked, "They are not the same, right?" and "Have you thought about why they are different?"
It's A Rare Medical Phenomenon, But It Happens
The following week, the babies were subject to a DNA test with unexpected results. As it turned out, one of the babies wasn't the twin of the implanted embryo. Instead, it was actually the biological son of Allen and her husband! Both embryos even had differing gestational ages.
A medical phenomenon like this is called superfetation, in which a woman continues to ovulate during pregnancy. This means that Allen conceived another child in her womb while she had the implanted embryo of the couple growing inside her. For their part, Allen and her husband were shocked that this happened.
They Thought They Were In The Clear
Allen and her husband were dumbfounded to discover that one of the babies she delivered was theirs. Per the IVF doctor's instructions, they waited to get intimate again until Allen herself was confirmed pregnant with the implanted embryo for several weeks.
"As per my contract, Wardell [Allen's husband] and I did not have intercourse until we were given permission by the IVF doctor, who recommended the use of condoms," Allen told New York Post. In this case, it is also believed that his phenomenon happened as a result of contraceptive failure.
Allen And Her Husband Didn't Know What To Do
Nonetheless, Allen and her husband were hit with the news that they had a third baby. They were shocked, to say the least. "I was panicking. My husband and I were panicking. We had no idea how this came about and we had no idea how we were going to prepare for a child over night. We just moved into a new house, we didn't have any more money," Allen told People magazine.
While they scrambled to figure out how they were going to handle their unexpected blessing, they were in for a far worse surprise.
Things Took A Turn For The Worse
With the new knowledge that one of the babies was theirs, Allen and her husband did what they could to bring him home. At this point, however, things started to get a little messy and bringing home their son wasn't going to happen without a catch.
Shortly after they found out one of the babies wasn't theirs, the Chinese couple allegedly wanted nothing to do with him. Allen was told someone from the surrogate agency was looking after her son and that the Chinese couple demanded up to $22,000 in compensation!
The Outrageous Demands That Came Their Way
"We'd already spent most of the money we earned from the surrogacy contract, but now we were apparently on the hook for thousands of dollars," Allen told New York Post. In addition to the $22,000 compensation the intended parents demanded, the agency also demanded several thousand dollars for the caseworker who was looking after their son.
Having just moved into a brand new home, Allen and her husband were in no position to pay the money they supposedly owed to the couple and to the agency. Allen was then told her baby was going to be put up for adoption.
The Agency Was Looking For Parents To Adopt Allen's Son
Allen tells New York Post, "To my disgust, a caseworker from the agency lined up parents to adopt him and 'absorb' the money we owed to the [couple]. Or, if that didn't work out, the [couple] were thinking of putting [my son] up for adoption, as they were still his legal parents."
Allen and her husband were truly in a messed up situation. It should have been as simple as handing her son over to her, but the agency and the couple apparently wouldn't let that happen without getting what they believed was owed to them.
"They Wanted Me To Buy Or Adopt My Own Child"
After hearing the news that the intended mom wanted to put the other baby up for adoption, Allen and her husband started to lose hope.
"I thought I wasn't going to get him back because they were pressuring me to pay this money back first. Then they were saying that the intending mom was thinking about giving him up for adoption... I thought I had a child out there that I was gonna be forced to let go of all because I couldn't buy him or because I couldn't adopt him," Allen told People magazine.
Who Was In The Wrong Here?
It was then that the real battle began. Allen and her husband put themselves in debt trying to get their son back, but after hiring an attorney they were left to negotiate with the surrogate agency.
There was question over whether anyone was in the wrong in this situation. Some believe that Allen and her husband should have abstained completely, while others believe the IVF doctor is to blame for giving the go-ahead. Others believe the intended parents were in the wrong, but at the same time, they were forced to pay more on the notion that they were expecting twins.
Allen Thinks The Agency Was Manipulating The Couple
Allen and her husband hired an attorney to get their son back from the surrogacy agency. She doesn't blame the Chinese couple for the drama and believes that the agency was manipulating them.
Allen told People of the intended mother, "It's not her fault... The agency put it in her head that I was going to try to sue her. I never said those words. Since she was scared that I was going to sue her, she starts sending me all kinds of text messages."
The Agency Kept Making Excuses
After a lengthy legal battle with the Omega Family Global, Allen says they finally owed nothing. Still, physically gaining custody of her son was like a game of cat and mouse.
"We tried to get him on numerous occasions, but one excuse they gave us was the intended parents didn't want to sign over the power of attorney, so we didn't get him... We got another call and we were supposed to get him, then we didn't because they were thinking about giving him up for adoption," Allen told People magazine.
The Surrogacy Agency Was Tightlipped
It's a wonder why Omega Family Global put Allen through a painstaking process to get her son back, when all parties knew that he was biologically hers. Not only did Omega Family Global refute some of the claims Allen made, they issued their own statement.
"By it's very nature surrogacy is a complicated journey which necessitates the support and care of agencies, parents, surrogates, psychologist, lawyers, and a host of other professionals. As with any pregnancy, issues do arise which require great care, attention to detail and respect for the process and the emotions of all involved," they told New York Post.
It Took Almost Two Months To Meet Her Son
Allen delivered the babies, and after three failed attempts to get her son back, she finally held him in her arms for the first time almost two months later.
"And so, [3 months later], I finally met a caseworker from Omega in a Starbucks parking lot in Menifee, [California], where she handed over our son, whom we've renamed Malachi. The moment was incredibly emotional, and I started hugging and kissing my boy," Allen told New York Post. For her part, Allen wants her story to be a cautionary tale.
She Wants Others To Learn From Her Story
Allen has expressed that she will never become a surrogate again after what has happened to her but doesn't regret this particular moment.
"[My husband and I] weren't planning to expand our family so soon, but we treasure Malachi with all our hearts. 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," Allen told New York Post. Though they got their son back, Allen and her husband are still fighting.
They Now Have To Deal With The Financial Aftermath
Though the custody battle over their son is over, Allen and her husband are still engulfed in legal battles and are in enormous debt.
"It's very stressful financially, it's put us in debt. We're barely getting by right now and it stressed me out emotionally because this agency turned their backs on me... Knowing that for the first two months of [Malachi's] brand new life that he was in the arms of strangers, that breaks my heart. It's really heartbreaking," Allen said to People magazine.
Malachi Is Living His Happily Ever After
On a more positive note, Allen and her family are just happy to have their baby with them. Allen's story came to light almost a year after the ordeal happened. By the time Allen was talking to media outlets, Malachi was thankfully well-adjusted into his rightful home.
"He's a little man. He's like 10 months going on 10. He's walking around already. He's trying to talk. He has an attitude and he's funny and his personality is just goofy and bossy all at once. He walks around like he runs the world," Allen told People.