A male couple who were desperate to expand their family have been almost bankrupted by a legal battle with a surrogate who refused to hand over their twin girls unless they paid her more money.
Steven and Marc Winchester-Horscraft, of Baschurch, Shropshire, claim they were banned from seeing their baby daughters while they were in intensive care, while the surrogate gave them alternative names and claimed her boyfriend was the father.
The couple already have a son to a previous surrogate and claim they befriended their new one before they tried to get pregnant, even inviting her and her partner to their wedding.
They discovered they were expecting twin girls in April and the pregnancy was smooth sailing until their surrogate went into labour at 28 weeks in August.
The men drove three-and-a-half hours to the hospital and made it in time to see their daughters being wheeled into neonatal intensive care, where they remained for several weeks.
They say they paid their surrogate the remainder of her pregnancy expenses at her demand – almost £17,000 ($22,317) in total – before she was discharged.
However, several weeks later, while the twins were still battling for their lives in hospital, they claim they received a visit from their surrogate’s partner, who allegedly asked for an additional £3,000, ($3,938) which nurses Steven and Marc could not afford after buying all the equipment for their newborns.
When they refused, their surrogate then reportedly texted them to say they would not be putting Steven – the biological father – on the birth certificate and refused to sign a parental order giving parental responsibility to him and Marc.
The couple took legal action and have taken out loans of up to £26,000 (34,132) on top of the £17,000 ($22,317) they paid the mother of their little girls to cover their fees.
They are now desperately fundraising to help pay off their debts and have launched a GoFundMe page for donations.
‘We have had to endure many legal hearings where the surrogate has said she wants to keep the twins,’ Steven explained.
‘She claimed her boyfriend was their father and registered them under completely different names to what we had chosen, and was calling them [those names] for the first six weeks of their lives.’
The girls are now living with Steven and Marc with their original names, after a DNA test confirmed Steven was the father – but the emotional and mental trauma has taken its toll on the couple.
‘All of this has come at a huge financial burden,’ Steven said. ‘Before the first hearing our surrogate called the hospital and put a ban on us seeing our girls or knowing anything about their care.
‘Imagine not being able to know anything about your sick, premature newborn children. At this point they were extremely poorly so we did not even know if they were alive.
‘We are both nurses and have spent our working lives caring for others. I guess I am just hoping for some help from others in order to get us out of this awful situation.
‘Due to our surrogate’s actions we have not been able to enjoy the time we have had with our girls. Both having to try and work as much as we possibly can to break even and get us out of this downward spiral.’
Steven and Marc told how they have been part of the surrogacy community for seven years and the process went ‘so smoothly’ when they conceived their little boy, who was born in 2015.
They had matched with several surrogates over the years, and experienced miscarriages and ‘many failed attempts’ at getting pregnant – though many of their past surrogates have become ‘life-long’ friends.
They decided to go down the same route in 2018 when their son began asking for a little brother or sister, and fell pregnant in February.
‘We were absolutely overjoyed,’ Steven said. ‘Having done a previous surrogacy journey to get our son we had little concerns.
‘We did not jump into doing another journey lightly, we took our time getting to know each other and ensured this was the right decision. They became good friends of ours and we even invited then to our wedding.
‘We have been involved in the surrogacy community for over seven years so we did know what we were doing. It goes to show that even experienced people can find themselves in a difficult situation.’
They have so far raised £1,350 ($1,772) of their £26,000 ($34,132) goal.