When Kerry Stevens met Ondrej Simecko at the care home where they worked, he jokingly talked about her being a surrogate for him and his partner.
But just six months later, Kerry, who has three of her own children, made the offer for real and fell pregnant with their twins.
Dads-to-be Ondrej and Abel Lantos were excited and so grateful to Kerry for what she was doing.
But at 36 weeks, Kerry suffered internal bleeding when her placenta sheared away from the wall of her uterus just moments before a planned caesarean.
She was rushed into theatre for emergency surgery to deliver the baby boys after their oxygen supply was cut off and Kerry, 38, was left in agony.
She was pumped with blood transfusions to keep her alive, while the twins were born.
Luckily, Kerry and the twins William and Arthur recovered from the dramatic birth – and she says she has no regrets.
‘It was a total nightmare,’ Kerry said ‘One moment we were all in the hospital smiling and taking pictures together before the planned caesarean and then I started to get excruciating pains in my left side.
‘I was screaming in agony and knew something wasn’t right. The placenta sheared away from the wall of my womb, meaning the twins could have died.
‘I’d wanted to help my friends have a family but when doctors said they couldn’t find the babies’ heartbeats and I was bleeding internally everyone was panicking.
‘I’ve had five babies now and this labour was by far the worst. It was scary but it was worth everything to see my friends holding their gorgeous babies.’
Kerry had never thought of being a surrogate before meeting Ondrej, 31.
But he’d mentioned it on the very first day they worked together at a care home for autistic adults in Torbay, Devon, where Kerry was the deputy manager and he was a support worker.
Kerry said: ‘At the time I laughed it off because I didn’t realise how serious he was, but over time we became close friends and I found out how much he and his fiance Abel wanted to have a baby.
‘They’d looked into surrogacy in America but it was too expensive and then adoption. But there was always a problem and they began despairing of ever being dads.
‘We’d celebrate birthdays and go out for coffee on weekends and became really good friends.
‘I could see how desperate they were to have a family and it played on my mind that I could help them have the baby they so badly wanted.’
Six months after they met, Kerry mentioned the idea to her husband, gas engineer Gary, 46, and their children Elliott 18, Taylor, 17, Honey-Louise, 13.
‘They all thought it was an amazing idea,’ Kerry, of Torbay says. ‘I asked my mum and sisters what they thought too and everyone understood and said they’d support me. I wanted to give my friends something they struggled to have for many years.’
In January 2018, she made the offer to Ondrej be their surrogate.
She said: ‘He couldn’t believe it. He was really emotional and crying down the phone asking me if I was serious and sure about my decision. I’d never been more sure of anything.’
Over dinner, the two couples discussed the terms of the surrogacy which would be put in a binding legal agreement. Fees for surrogacy, beyond basic expenses for things like travel and maternity clothes, are illegal in the UK so Kerry was not paid.
They agreed Ondrej’s cousin Katalin’s eggs would be fertilised by Abel’s sperm and an embryo would be implanted in Kerry.
She was artificially inseminated on 14 November 2018 at the IVF treatment clinic, The Centre for Reproduction & Gynaecology Wales, just outside of Cardiff.
‘I knew I was pregnant before I took the test as I started feeling really sick,’ she said.
‘I was so excited when the test was positive, I took a picture and sent it to the couple who were visiting family in America.
‘They couldn’t believe it and couldn’t wait to come back home.’
She went for her five-week scan at the clinic with Abel, 39, and was told that she was expecting twins.
‘Everyone was shocked,’ says Kerry. ‘They’d been so desperate and waited for so long to have one baby – and then two come along! They couldn’t believe their luck.
‘Abel went white and nearly collapsed – he had to be fussed over and sat down with a glass of water while I was left with a probe inside me!’
The fertilised egg has split, which had resulted in monochorionic twins – identical twins that share a single placenta.
Apart from suffering from severe sickness, Kerry’s pregnancy went smoothly and on 9 July 2019 went to Torbay Hospital in South Devon for her C-Section which was planned for 2pm.
But while everyone was taking pictures, Kerry started to feel sharp pains in her side and realised that something was wrong.
‘About a week before the birth I’d started to suffer from really bad back and side pain,’ she said.
‘I assumed that I’d pulled a muscle trying to roll over in bed, as it often took me three of four attempts to change sides.
‘Looking back now we know it was the start of the placenta starting to shear away from the wall of my uterus. Luckily, I was in the hospital when it came away completely.
‘Everyone was really panicked,’ added Kerry. ‘In theatre Abel and Ondrej were standing at the back in their scrubs looking terrified.
‘I don’t remember much because I had an epidural soon after I started screaming in pain, but everyone was worried because the babies had stopped receiving oxygen and I’d started bleeding internally.’
Minutes later William Leo and Arthur Leo Lantos were born at exactly the same time, weighing 4lb 9 and 5lb 6.
Kerry added: ‘It’s a terrifying thought that we could have lost them. Once the surgeon had got the babies out and he saw the mess inside me, that’s when he realised what had happened and told us how lucky we had all been to have survived.
‘We’re all incredibly lucky to be here. I was worried about the babies surviving but actually I might not have either.’
Kerry asked to be taken to a post-surgery ward rather than a maternity ward after birth, while the babies stayed with their dads.
‘I didn’t feel any maternal instincts after I’d given birth but I was worried about that changing,’ said Kerry.
‘I didn’t want to be surrounded by mothers and their babies so asked to be taken to the post-surgery ward instead.’
The twins were well enough to go home the next day but Kerry had to stay in hospital for three days because her bladder and bowel had been so badly affected by the operation.
Before taking the twins home, Abel and Ondjre took them to see Kerry.
After three days in hospital Kerry returned home and was looked after by her family.
‘Even when I returned home I continued to bleed heavily and Garry had to help me move around,’ she explained.
‘I hadn’t expected to be left so ill, but I was still glad I’d gone ahead with everything. It was a small sacrifice to make.’
When they were just over a month old, Kerry and her family went to meet the twins properly for the first time.
‘It was just like holding friend’s babies,’ she said. ‘There were no maternal urges or instincts.
‘Afterwards friends asked me how I could give the twins up. But they were never biologically my children.
‘I was just doing it to help friends who couldn’t have children themselves and needed someone to help them.’
Kerry has played an active role in the twin’s lives and tries to see them once a month as the couple lives close to them in South Devon.
Ondrej said: ‘We’d gone down so many roads trying to adopt and find a surrogate without it coming to anything. We were really disheartened. So when Kerry said she would carry our baby for us we were ecstatic.
‘And finding out she was expecting twins was unbelievable – she gave us our two little miracles.”
Abel, a payroll administrator, said: ‘What Kerry did was completely selfless. She put herself at risk for us when she had a husband and three of her own children to look after. Kerry will always be our hero.’
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