Andrea Ott-Dahl of San Fransisco agreed to be the surrogate mother for two of her friends, a lesbian couple, who were having trouble getting pregnant through artificial insemination. But just two months into the pregnancy, in Jaunary 2013, doctors informed Ott-Dahl and her wife, Keston Ott-Dahl, as well as the couple seeking to have a child, that the baby girl, whom they had already given the name Delaney, was going to have Down syndrome.
"When the doctor came in, the four of us, I would say we were in shock," Keston, 50, told ABC News. "We were devastated. Andrea was catatonic. The doctors made it seem like Delaney was going to be blind [and] have autism. They said the fluid build-up on the back of her neck, it would either kill her or there would be a severe deformity that would look like another head. They told us she had a 5 percent chance of surviving up until birth."
Andrea, 34, told ABC that she had agreed to donate her own eggs for the pregnancy, making her Delaney’s biological mother.
"Our hearts went out to these women because we knew the joys of having a family," Andrea said, who has five children. "Finally, we got pregnant and everyone was happy, but at the 12-week ultrasound, the doctor noticed the buildup of fluid behind the baby's neck. He told us this would be Down syndrome, or worse."
Keston told ABC that after hearing the diagnosis, Delaney’s intended mothers told Andrea they didn’t want to move forward with the pregnancy.
"They successfully scared those two intended moms into wanting to terminate," Keston said.
But the Ott-Dahls, who had already bonded with the unborn child, decided that abortion was not an option. On Jan. 20, 2013, they informed Delaney’s intended mothers that they were going to keep the child and raise her as their own.
"They said, 'The decision to terminate is our decision alone,'" Kenton explained. "We decided we loved her [Delaney] and that she was ours."
Keston said that the other couple briefly threatened a lawsuit if Andrea refused to abort the baby, but they never followed through.
According to Lori Meyers, a lawyer who has 20 years of experience with surrogacy law, a lawsuit wouldn’t have gotten far in this case anyway.
"There’s not a court of contract in the world or a judge that would force a surrogate mom to undergo a termination of a pregnancy simply because of something they sign," Meyers told ABC. "We’re not going to get a judge to demand an abortion because a woman has control of her own body. There may be financial ramifications because of that decision, but she has the right to control her own body under Roe v. Wade."
After deciding to carry out the pregnancy, the Ott-Dahls began preparing for the challenges they knew were ahead of them.
"Andrea and I sat for countless hours watching these videos," Keston said. "We saw kids that are actors, entrepreneurs, they get married ... they do things that any kids can do."
Delaney Skye was born July 2, 2013. And aside from a heart defect that required a surgical procedure, Delaney was a healthy baby.
Now, at 2 years old, Delaney’s mothers say their toddler is progressing beautifully.
"Delaney is amazing," Andrea said. "She's like any typical 2-year-old. She likes getting into mischief and making messes. She loves to dance, all things Elmo, she loves playing with her siblings."
"She hits every milestone,” Keston marveled, adding that Delaney is already speaking in five-word sentences — a huge feat for someone with her condition.
“A lot of the time kids with Down syndrome don't talk until they're five, or sometimes they don't talk at all,” she explained.
The Ott-Dahls' experience with Delaney inspired a memoir titled “Saving Delaney: From Surrogacy to Family,” which the couple co-authored.
"We just want to show parents out there — you don't have to lose hope," Andrea said. "You don't have to terminate your child. Down syndrome is a label and that's what society does. It determines what people can and can't do based on that label."
As for Delaney’s intended mothers, the Ott-Dahls shared that they bear no grudges.
"From their perspective, I have to be kind of sensitive to them," Andrea said. "When you're trying to get pregnant for so long, it's hard to be optimistic and see things with a fresh set of eyes.”
"Honestly, we hit the lottery with Delaney," Keston added.
Andrea and Keston told ABC that they receive messages all the time from other parents of children with Down syndrome saying that Delaney's story has emboldened and inspired them.
Despite the unexpected circumstances under which Delaney became their daughter, the couple told ABC they wouldn’t trade their experience, and certainly not their daughter, for anything.
Watch the video message from Delaney and Andrea: