Crystal Kelley ran through the calendar once again in her head.
It was August, and if she got pregnant soon, she could avoid carrying during the hot summer months -- she'd done that before and didn't want to do it again. There was no time to lose.
But there was one problem: She had no one to get her pregnant.
Kelley picked up the phone and called a familiar number. What about the nice single man who'd inquired before -- would he be interested? No, the woman told her. She hadn't heard from him in weeks.
Disappointed, Kelley asked if there was anyone else who would hire her. She'd had two miscarriages herself and wanted to help someone else with fertility problems. In return, she'd get a $22,000 fee.
Hold on, the woman said, let me see.
Yes, she said, there was a couple who wanted to meet her. Was she ready to take down their e-mail address?
Absolutely, Kelley answered.
A playground meeting
Most surrogacies have happy endings, and this one should have too -- with a couple welcoming a new baby into their home and Kelley enjoying her fee, plus the satisfaction that she'd helped another family.
Instead, it ended with legal actions, a secretive flight to another state, and a frenzied rush to find parents for a fragile baby.
After speaking with the surrogacy agency, Kelley, then 29, arranged to meet the couple at a playground near her home in Vernon, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford. When she arrived, she liked what she saw. The couple was caring and attentive with their three children, who were sweet and well-mannered and played nicely with her own two daughters. The couple desperately wanted a fourth child, but the mother couldn't have any more babies. Yes, Kelley told them right then and there. Yes, I will have a child for you.
CNN made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the couple by phone and e-mail.
The couple had conceived their children through in-vitro fertilization and had two frozen embryos left over. Doctors thawed them out and on October 8, 2011, put them in Kelley's uterus.
About 10 days later, a blood test showed she was pregnant -- one of the embryos had taken.
Kelley and the parents were thrilled, and over the next few weeks, the mother was attentive and caring. When Kelley had morning sickness the mother called every day to see how she was feeling. She gave Kelley and Kelley's daughters Christmas presents. When Kelley couldn't make rent, the mother made sure she got her monthly surrogate fee a few days early.
"She said, 'I want you to come to us with anything because you're going to be part of our lives forever,' " Kelley remembers.
'There's something wrong with the baby'
"Congratulations! You made it half through!" the mother emailed Kelley on February 6.
It was one of the last friendly e-mails between Kelley and the woman who'd hired her.
A few days later, Kelley, five months pregnant, had a routine ultrasound to make sure the baby was developing properly. The ultrasound technician struggled to see the baby's tiny heart and asked her to come back the next week when the baby would be more developed.
At that next ultrasound, the technician said it was still hard to see the heart and asked Kelley to go to Hartford Hospital, where they could do a higher-level ultrasound.
Apparently, there was more to it than that.
As Kelley was driving home, her cell phone rang. It was the baby's mother.
"She kept saying, 'There's something wrong with the baby. There's something wrong with the baby. What are we going to do?' " Kelley remembers. "She was frantic. She was panicking."