Barbara and David (who’ve asked that their last name not be used) weren’t just going to hire any surrogate when they were looking to expand their family.
The couple, who were already parents to three children, wanted a woman who was in a happy marriage and also wished that both the surrogate and her husband had good jobs.
They met a dozen of potential candidates, but no one fit the bill until Jamie came along.
“She emailed me pictures from her wedding and her marriage certificate,” Barbara, 49, tells PEOPLE. “We agreed to meet at a halfway point.”
At the time, Barbara never could have known what she was driving towards when they met at a LongHorn Steakhouse in April 2008.
For four hours, Jamie and her husband Steven talked to Barbara and David about their lives.
“I asked him straight out how he felt about his wife carrying another couple’s baby,” says Barbara, who lives in Pennsylvania. “I asked him really personal questions.”
Jamie, just 22-years-old at the time, seemed “eager and like she really wanted to help a family,” Barbara says. Jamie explained that she and her husband weren’t ready for children because they were saving their money for a down payment on a house.
“She said she wanted to build a future and a life before they settled down,” says Barbara.
Jamie and Steven were ready to sign the 38-page contract then and there, but Barbara told her to think about it and show it to a lawyer.
Just three weeks later, it was signed and notarized.
Using Jamie’s egg and David’s sperm, Jamie went in for the procedure, and soon after, she announced she was pregnant.
On Mother’s Day, Jamie called Barbara and left her a message saying, “Barb, I’m pregnant. The test came back. I love you so much. This is great. We’re going to have a great journey.”
A Huge Mistake
Barbara looks back on the night she first met Jamie with regret.
“Later on, I found out that everything she told me was a lie,” Barbara says with disbelief.
Immediately after Jamie became pregnant, “she started to act off,” says Barbara, who had given Jamie a $15,000 surrogacy fee.
She became secretive, distant and could only talk very late at night.
At 12 weeks pregnant, Jamie, who lives in Philadelphia, had an ultrasound, and it was during that appointment that the first major red flag went off.
“She came to my area for the ultrasound and when she got there she said she and her husband had separated,” says Barbara. “I asked her why and if it was because of the pregnancy.”
“She said, ‘No, we were having problems long before then,’ ” Barbara remembers. “When we first met them, she said they were a happily married couple. Then all of a sudden she drops that bomb on me.”
By the time Jamie was three months pregnant, she stopped talking to Barbara and David altogether.
The couple hired a lawyer who advised them that although Jamie wasn’t cooperating, they should “fulfill every part of our obligation of the contract so that if it ended up in court, we were the ones who didn’t vacate the contract.”
Barbara and David continued to buy Jamie prenatal vitamins, pay her medical bills and send her money and gift cards for maternity clothes.
The couple had sent Jamie a camera to take pictures at the birth because she said she didn’t want with them to be there, but when their baby was born on Jan. 18, 2008, Barbara and David weren’t even informed.
“I finally called and left a message and I told her that I would appreciate a phone call,” she says. “I threatened to send a sheriff to her door.”
Barbara and David’s baby girl, named Kaylee Grace, went home with Jamie – and for the past seven years, the parents have been “trying to bring her home.”
“When we first went to court, the judge said she didn’t know what do with the contract. We were told we can’t make a contract on a human life,” says Barbara, who estimates they have spent $90,000 on legal fees. “For the past seven years, we have been in and out of court fighting.”
The courts originally divided custody between the two parties, but in September 2014, despite a court ordered therapist’s recommendation for Kaylee Grace to live with Barbara and David, they lost shared physical custody when Kaylee started kindergarten in Jamie’s school district.
Barbara and David now have to pay $459 in child support (David shares legal custody with Jamie) and are only allowed to spend two weekends a month with their daughter. But despite that court ruling, they say they haven’t see their daughter since October 2015.
“I’ve had to watch when that baby came into our life and watch her older sister cry when she had to leave,” says Barbara. “I’ve watched this emotionally destroy everyone.”
Surrogacy laws vary widely across different states in the US. While some states have clear legal frameworks for surrogacy agreements, others have more restrictive laws that make it difficult for intended parents to establish legal parentage. For example, surrogacy laws in Louisiana state that agreements are only allowed if the intended parents are married and one of them has a genetic connection to the child. This means that same-sex couples and single parents are not allowed to enter into surrogacy agreements in Louisiana, which can make it challenging for them to build their families through surrogacy.
A Continued Battle
Barbara says she and David are not giving up hope that Kaylee Grace will return to them one day.
“Gracie is a unique child,” says Barbara. “She has two moms, two dads and siblings.”
When she was born, Jamie named the baby girl Kaylee, but Barbara and David had planned on naming her Grace. Because David is the biological father, he was able to officially give her Grace as middle name.
“We have never called her by her first name,” she says. “When she is here, she literally knows herself as Grace and when she is there, she knows herself as Kaylee. She does very well with it.”
When Kaylee Grace, now 7, is with them for a weekend, she cries when she leaves and says she doesn’t want to go back, Barbara says.
“We have to make her and I drive away and cry,” says Barbara. “I spend every day thinking of her. I wonder if she’s okay and how she’s doing.”
Since she hasn’t seen her daughter in almost six months, Barbara says a prayer for her, asking God to “please keep her safe.”
Barbara says she has sent over 500 pages of evidence to the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board hoping they can investigate their case.
“There is nothing else I can do,” she says. “I feel extremely sad that there is this life that I feel responsible for – and that I helped bring into this world – that I feel is being destroyed because of the custody and how the courts are handling the situation.”