As many of you know, Ryan and I lost our surrogate-carried twin babies, Julian and Aria, last January 29th, late in the second trimester of the pregnancy. Sudden premature birth at 21 weeks caused the near-immediate death of our tiny, fragile children. In fact, our surrogate’s husband held Julian and Aria as they died in his arms, while Ryan and I drove frantically to meet them at the hospital. The day we met our beautiful twins was the day we said goodbye to them, along with our dreams, our life savings and the joy, the zest my husband and I used to feel for life in general. The death of our twins is nobody’s fault; we know that much. There is no blame to be placed, and no particular event caused this loss. Ryan and I did our best, our surrogate did her best, the doctors did their best. We tried to do everything the correct way; we went through what we thought was a reputable surrogacy agency, we used a healthy surrogate and most of our legal contracts were done professionally and correctly, as far as I can tell. To read my letter to my babies and the story behind their existence, please visit: http://jenningspaige.com/2015/02/a-letter-to-my-babies/
Our child loss has been compounded by the agency owners, Jon and Christy Anderson, who have repeatedly made and then retracted promises of good faith to continue helping us realize our dream of a living baby. Jon and Christy Anderson did all of this for us and and three other Surrogacy Together couple in the name of charity. As Jon explained to me in person back in April of 2014, Surrogacy Together’s goal is to bring awareness to the community, to help four couples a year who could not otherwise afford surrogacy and make it affordable by getting professional services donated to the four couples. One of those professional services to be waived was the agency fees. It only makes sense for a non-profit company to NOT profit off agency fees, right? It does to me. So. Ryan and I agreed to be paraded by these people as one of the four Surrogacy Together couples online, in print, while speaking at an event they held, setting up fundraising accounts in our name, putting our story in magazines and on all of their websites to promote themselves, etc. Like the other three couples, all of this was agreed to via e-mail, text and talk or in person. Because all professional fees were supposed to be waived under Surrogacy Together, none of the couples were asked to sign an agency contract before entering into their charity arrangement with Surrogacy Together. To my knowledge, the other three Surrogacy Together couples were never even asked to give anything back to the agency, although I was asked to trade plenty of free photography to their companies. Seems to me, Christy and Jon are a little confused by what charity means. We clearly did have a trade agreement in place (see emails below), and we were most definitely one of the 4 Surrogacy Together couples from 2014-2105.
It is also my opinion that the contract they made us sign was put together hastily without any attorneys to explain what we were signing, unlike all the other legal documents we signed. I feel like we were coerced into signing their contract. Why? Because Christy and Jon waited until we had a surrogate ready to cycle, embryos created, paid for and genetically tested, legal clearance was in, surrogacy contracts were in, medical clearance was done, and we had already taken a loan for $50,000 and placed it in escrow with another $8,000 good faith money for our baby, not to mention deeply emotionally invested once we had crossed all those hurdles. The way the agency came up with this contract and had us sign it at the last minute is just immoral if you ask me. Wrong. Bad. Mean. Greedy. We didn’t want them to delay our IVF cycle with our surrogate, so we signed the stupid contract literally days before our surrogate began medications to prepare her body for the transfer of our embryos. I feel the timing and legitimacy of the contract we signed with Expect Miracles Surrogacy was and is….shady as fuck, just like its owners. That is why I feel my husband and I were absolutely coerced into signing this document to prevent huge delays in our IVF cyle with our surrogate.
However, this “Special Consideration” appeared at the time to have me and Ryan covered. We signed this assuming the writing meant the same as what we’d agreed to with the Andersons months before. We thought this paragraph meant that after we got our baby (or babies) home, and all bills were paid for them, the agency would get to keep any leftovers in the escrow account if there were any money left over. I feel like the wording in the whole contract is confusing and conflicting, but the EMS owners assured us our agreement was in place and it’s all outlined in this paragraph:
Ryan and I had no reason to suspect the Andersons had any bad intentions at that point. We just thought it was strange how they asked for it at the last second and didn’t have a lawyer review it with us before signing. Had we not signed this contract though we would have had to start over with our surrogate’s IVF cycle, which would alter everything about the process. The costs go up and the success rates go down the more you mess around with a woman’s body and hormones and stress and timing with her job, etc. I’ve been through this so many times, I am very familiar with statistics and facts surrounding fertility. You don’t delay an IVF cycle over some small personal matter like the agency all of a sudden wants you to sign a contract before completing your IVF cycle. You just don’t.
Everything went all fine and dandy after that, though. Our cycle was not delayed over the contract because we signed it quickly enough. Our surrogate got pregnant on the first try with healthy twins. She and the babies grew beautifully, and to our knowledge, all professional services had been donated and most were already complete. We paid the remaining balance to our escrow fund due for twins by 20 weeks gestation, and we watched Julian and Aria grow into beautiful, perfect little human beings with little unique personalities we could see on ultrasounds every couple of weeks. The only thing left to do before finishing their nursery and throwing a baby shower was to establish our parental rights in court. It wasn’t done.
By the end of 2014, I had completed 12 different photo shoots for Expect Miracles Surrogacy and Surrogacy Together, and delivered hundreds of carefully retouched, high-resolution digital images to them to use however they liked. The value of these services under my normal business costs totals over $40,000. None of that was ever credited toward our journey in any way. Not one dollar, not one parking fee, not one tank of gas was ever reimbursed or credited as promised.
Our embryos were well along the way in the process of being created at the fertility clinic with IVF. Our surrogate started medications for the cycle, embryos were transferred in September, and we had a confirmed hearbeat by October 1st, 2014. Clearly, the contract was done hastily at the last minute, and that has been the biggest hurdle ever since. Money. Of all things, we finally got shut down by money, even though we’d spent $75,000 to have these babies. Can you blame me for thinking Expect Miracles Surrogacy is the worst surrogacy agency on Earth? I think it’s a pretty fair conclusion to draw.
When the twins died, Ryan and I, the biological and in every other way REAL parents of these two babies, were not even allowed to have our names on their birth certificates. Legally, they weren’t ours yet, and we were told by an attorney that the process to establish parental rights for deceased babies was tedious, expensive and basically pointless. So, our surrogate and her husband are in fact the legal parents of our twins, and that means we have no rights to the medical records involved, although we still got to pay for all the burial/cremation expenses. It’s a cruel world sometimes. The grief, the loss of our twins was unspeakably bad. Everything you’ve ever heard from a grieving parent is so true it rattles your bones when you have to join the awful club of bereaved parents and you start reading some of it, hearing some of it. It’s forever a burden to us and to our surrogate that something tragic happened and there was nothing we could do to stop it, make it better or change it.
Months after our loss, we were all starting to heal a little and move forward. We decided with the blessing of our doctors to start trying again for a baby, using the remaining embryos we still had from the original IVF cycle. Our surrogate wanted to try again, and we wanted to give her the chance. Our subsequent embryo transfers all failed, and we ran out of embryos by the end of 2015. Ryan and I didn’t know what to do at that point, except to see what we had left and see if we could scrape up enough to make new embryos on an even tighter budget.
Sometime around the summer of 2015, Ryan managed to get a copy of the accounting from our escrow account, showing us what was spent and when. Most of it looked legit to us, but then one thing stuck out like a sore thumb from two different escrow accounts – the first one we had when the twins were alive, and the second one we opened after they died. It was that day that Ryan and I discovered several payments had been made, all payable to Expect Miracles Surrogacy, for thousands and thousands of dollars, during the pregnancy and after it ended as well. Cue the eye bulge. WHAT?! WAIT WHAT??? $5,000 taken out here, $3,000 there, $5,000 there, $5,000 over here again, etc. See below. The green ones came from the first escrow account when our surrogate was pregnant, but their dates are still way off. Heartbeat was confirmed October 1, but they didn’t withdraw the fee until December 10th? We were already in the second trimester when they claimed they were owed a fee due at HB (heartbeat). The second green one is a withdrawal they seem to have made randomly and without good reason. The white ones are from the second escrow account. NONE OF WHICH WE SAW UNTIL LATE 2015, which was roughly 17 months after Jon asked US to be one of THEIR Surrogacy Together Couples and promote THEM! In my opinion, this right here showed us that the people we trusted actually screwed us over really badly, and that makes them bad people who should be avoided like a nasty STD. In my opinion, it is completely unreasonable to expect us to have a crystal ball and see what they were doing with our money. We trusted they were doing the same thing for us that they were doing for the other Surrogacy Together couples. We had no reason to suspect or look for anything like this:
We were particularly peeved when we saw that the largest of the deductions were taken against our knowledge or consent AFTER our babies died! They died in January of 2015, so why were we billed an additional $14,000 in March, April and November 2015? Why is that important, you ask? Because it shows, at least in my eyes, BAD FAITH. My husband and I, my children, my surrogate were all being advertised to the world as a charity case but still paying their full normal agency fees the whole time? How the hell does that make any sense? And for a pregnancy that was only halfway done and babies that had a 0% chance of survival? Our surrogate certainly wasn’t paid her entire compensation fees, but EMS felt like the full amount was rightfully owed to them? And totally unlike the other Surrogacy Together couples’ arrangements? WHAT??? In my opinion, these “do-gooders” straight up scammed my family out of $22,000, and they’re standing behind a bullshit contract to defend themselves. It just doesn’t sit well with me. I believe that while Jon and Christy Anderson originally did intend to help us have a baby, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to profit from our situation when it turned sour. I believe they failed to provide invoices throughout the pregnancy and to this day in a weak attempt to deliberately hide their wrongdoings with our money. I also believe they lied to us for a very long time to avoid being sued or exposed by the truth about all of this.
Back to our story! When we found the huge money withdrawals, Ryan contacted Christy right away to ask her what that was all about? First, Christy claimed the withdrawals were a mistake and would be corrected:
Later, Christy seemed to change her mind. She sent a follow-up email:
In conversations between Christy and Ryan over the phone, she assured him (and he then assured me) many times over the next several months that the full amount was still credited toward our “journey” to bring home a baby. Our first surrogate was ready and willing to give up her pregnancy compensation completely to help us, and Ryan and I made the mistake of believing Christy when she said she was going to help. We were never comfortable with them moving $22,000 of our dollars from the escrow account that was set up to monitor that money. At the same time, we felt powerless to change it and bullied in an already awful situation. We believed the best chance of having a baby was to move forward with the agency and hope they used our money to do it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were comfortable or happy with the new arrangement; by then, we trusted them about as far as we could throw them. Actually, I stopped wondering if Expect Miracles Surrogacy and Surrogacy Together was shady to KNOWING they were. That sucks. Just when I thought I was getting better picking out the jerks from my life and avoiding them!
Not too long after we spent another $15,000 creating new embryos and we had no money of our own left in escrow, it was finally time for EMS to start paying for our expenses from our $22,000. The very first bill was rejected, and an employee of theirs told us to talk to Christy about it again. Again, my husband contacted her asking for more clarity. We thought you said this, now you’re saying that, which do we believe now? That time, Christy didn’t respond, even when Ryan let her know in writing that we would take legal action if she didn’t respond. She didn’t.
Based on the following email from Ryan, I so badly wanted to trust EMS so that we could move forward again. We were down to just the $22,000 “invisible credit” of agency fees and they appeared not to budge on it. I cut all ties with the agency and began seeking legal counsel at that point.
What does a person do when she feels so wronged in such a situation? I don’t fucking know, but here’s what I did. I wrote bad reviews about their agencies on Facebook and on my photography blog and on Yelp. I told the world I believe these people are scam artists disguising themselves as surrogacy advocates. I said, and I still believe, that their actions were at least immoral and possibly even illegal. I shared this story. Within a few hours, I had a huge response from other people who felt they had been wronged in some way by the same couple – former employees, friends, surrogates and intended parents. I contacted a well known and respected specialized attorney and shared our story with him. He was so compelled by it, he offered to represent our case against Expect Miracles Surrogacy completely pro bono (that means free). SWEET! I wrote down his name in my bad reviews about Expect Miracles Surrogacy and Surrogacy Together, because I thought that spoke volumes for our complaints. I believed for the first time in over a year that someone good was going to fight some evil on our behalf. He asked me to remove all of my bad reviews in an effort to show good faith while we try to work something out with the Andersons, out of court. I did it right away and have not posted anything about it since.
Now Christy and Jon Anderson under Expect Miracles Surrogacy have hired an attorney and are now threatening to sue me for libel unless I go online on every social media platform and tell the world I lied and I regret every negative thing I ever said about Christy and Jon Anderson, Expect Miracles Surrogacy and Surrogacy Together. Ha! So much for my good faith efforts to shut up about this big fat freaking elephant in the room! Their demand letter is so ridiculous to me, I just laughed and laughed when I read it. Hilarious! Here’s the funniest part:
Christy and Jon will do whatever they do. Sue me for libel or don’t. I really don’t give a shit anymore. I’m not afraid of the truth like they should be. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions based on emotions since losing Julian and Aria, but I haven’t lied to try and bring down some super great company that helps people create families. I’m not worried one bit about a libel case against me for telling my story. I’ll post my negative reviews of them right back up on all the social media platforms I can. The Andersons probably won’t like it, but if they really want to spend thousands trying to prove that a negative review is the same as libel and defamation of character, I say go ahead. I also think if they had thousands to burn in court, they probably wouldn’t have needed to take our money in the first place. The burden of proof is on them in a case like this, not me, but I have the proof and the truth I don’t think they have. It makes me wonder how many attorneys are getting rich off of bullshit libel and defamation lawsuits made against reviewers on Yelp and other consumer-reviewed websites. Is there some law I’m not aware of that says companies are allowed to do anything they want and can sue you if they don’t like your review of it? I suppose anything is possible – after all, Donald Trump is the freakin President!). I just think telling the truth about our experience is a good thing, no matter how unfavorable the outcome may be for the business being reviewed. I think potential surrogates or intended parents have the mental capacity to read reviews like mine and make their own decisions. If you’ve read this far, congratulations. I know I am long-winded, forgetful and repetitive. Thanks for hangin in there with me.
I strongly feel that it would be incredibly risky (and stupid) to trust, befriend or do business with the Andersons or their many companies, ESPECIALLY if it’s about Surrogacy. In my opinion, if you see Expect Miracles Surrogacy or Surrogacy Together, RUN. I think they are greedy bastards and their for-profit company needs to go down in flames, kinda like how their non-profit status got suspiciously suspended this year (hmmmmm, makes ya wonder…..).
If I can save one more person from being victimized by, in my opinion, the biggest couple of players in the surrogacy community, then it’s ALL worth it.