Mom of 2 Dies During Childbirth While Being a Surrogate for Another Family

Michelle and Chris Reaves
Vintage Glass Photography

Some say surrogacy is the greatest gift you can give a couple that desperately wants to start a family. That was likely what Michelle Reaves of San Diego, California, believed. The mom of two had already given that gift once before to a loving couple, but her second experience as a surrogate ended in tragedy because of labor complications. While giving birth January 15, Michelle passed away -- but miraculously, the baby she was carrying managed to survive.

  • After Michelle and her husband Chris decided they were done having kids of their own, they decided it was time to help others.

    This was the second surrogacy for the same family, her friend Jaime Herwehe explained on a GoFundMe page. But when the 36-year-old went into labor the morning of January 15, "one complication led to the next," and she wound up fighting for her life.

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  • Sadly, Michelle didn't make it.

    "I can’t even begin to imagine what her husband Chris and her two babies are going through," Herwehe wrote. "So I want to start this page to help raise money for help with the kids, for Chris as they all adjust, funeral services, or anything at all to make it as easy as we can on them."

    Michelle "will always be known for the love she had for her family," Herwehe continued, praising her friend for having "the best, most sarcastic, funny personality" and always keeping her loved ones laughing.

  • According to a friend, Michelle began to hemorrhage while giving birth to the baby girl.

    Andrea Axelson told Today that the stay-at-home mom has left behind a grieving husband, who is still reeling from this shock. “They had a great marriage. They were that Facebook couple that you envy,” Axelson said. “He’s completely lost without her. It breaks my heart.”

    Axelson added that Michelle's two kiddos, Gage Monroe, have lost "the best mom ever" after this tragedy. “There wasn’t a day when Michelle wasn’t posting photos of her kids or some kind of relatable story,” she said. “She was just awesome.”

  • Michelle's brother-in-law shared that she started losing blood, and once at the hospital, had to have an emergency C-section.

    Jeff Romero, Michelle’s brother-in-law, told People that as she rapidly lost blood, doctors revived her multiple times. For a few hours, they were even optimistic that she would pull through.

    “She died a couple of times on the table, and they brought her back, and then for a couple of hours it was, ‘that was really a close one, she’s in for a long recovery,’ and we kind of thought that things were going to be okay,” Romero said. “And then she coded and they said she had just lost too much blood, they couldn’t bring her back.”

  • As the news spreads, friends are heartbroken for Michelle's kids who "won’t grow old with their mama," Herwehe shared.

    Michelle's passing has been as shocking and traumatic for the family as one can imagine.

    "You hear about these things happening all of the time but never in your life imagine it will happen to you," Herwehe said.

    And yet, they do -- all too often. In fact, the U.S. maternal mortality rate has been on the rise for quite some time. The death rate has significantly increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016, according to American Action Forum. Most disturbing of all, the data suggests that more than half of these deaths are preventable.

  • The GoFundme has currently raised over $72,000 for the grieving family.

    Even if those who read her story are unable to donate money, Herwehe noted that simply spreading Michelle's story and raising awareness is also helpful.

    "This all doesn’t even feel real," she wrote. "Let’s be there for Michelle’s family like they would for us. No one deserves to lose their mama so young, or the mother of their children."

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