A young girl named Seraphina lived a short but meaningful life after her surrogate mother chose life for her while she was still in the womb.
CNN reports the little girl, who later was adopted into a loving home, died on July 15 just a few weeks after she turned 8 years old.
Years ago, Seraphina’s life became the subject of national attention when her surrogate mother, Crystal Kelley, was pressured to abort her.
According to The Mirror, the couple who hired Kelley to carry and give birth to Seraphina offered her approximately $10,000 to have an abortion because they did not want a child with disabilities.
The couple said they didn’t want Seraphina if she was going to live a life of suffering. But Kelley was determined not to give up on her. She told the couple: “You don’t know that she is going to suffer. You don’t know yet what’s really going on. All we have is this ultrasound and the one before, which doesn’t really give us any answers.”
Seraphina was diagnosed with multiple health problems, including heart and brain defects; but Kelley remained strong for her unborn daughter.
Kelley moved from Connecticut to Michigan, where laws provide better protections for surrogate mothers and unborn babies, and gave birth to the baby girl, according to the report.
A large family in Massachusetts adopted Seraphina a short time afterward. Rene Harrell, her adopted mother, told CNN that Seraphina lived a happy, full life.
“What I heard over and over from so many of her doctors was they could never imagine that someone with Seraphina’s level of need could do as well as she did or be as joyful as she was,” she said.
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The little girl was diagnosed with heterotaxy syndrome, in which many of her organs were located in the wrong positions in her body, the report states. She also had a brain disorder called holoprosencephaly.
She could not walk or speak, but she learned to use a wheelchair and to communicate through American Sign Language. Her parents said her favorite sign was “I love you,” and she had a strong, determined personality.
“What drove the conflict when Crystal was pregnant with her, was whether or not she’d have a meaningful life. And I think without hesitation, the answer to that question is yes, she did. Seraphina had a very, very meaningful and happy life,” Harrell said.
Along with her parents, Seraphina left behind seven older brothers and sisters, some of whom also have disabilities, according to the report.
“They all miss her terribly. She was the centering part of our family. She was our heart and soul,” her mother said.
According to her obituary, Serpahina died from an infection and other complications after a necessary surgery.
Her father, Thomas Harrell, mourned his daughter’s death, saying, “She had a lot of joy in her life and gave a lot of other people joy in ways that sometimes weren’t expected.”
Though her life was short, she made a huge impact on many lives, including her birth mother. In a 2016 interview, Kelley described her happiness in her decision to protect Seraphina’s life.
“You have to listen to your gut and by listening to my gut, I was proven right,” Kelley said. “Everything that I believed she would be, she is. She’s alive, she’s capable, she’s growing and learning and doing things that normal toddlers do.”