A San Diego mother acting as a surrogate gave the gift of life to another couple, only to lose her own during childbirth.
Michelle Reaves, described as the matriarch of her family, gave birth last week to a healthy baby via an emergency C-section, but lost too much blood in the process, according to her family. Doctors fought to save the 36-year-old woman, but were unsuccessful.
The "compassionate" and "very direct" mother of a young son and daughter encountered multiple complications after going into labor, her brother-in-law, Jeff Romero, told People.
Reaves was serving as a surrogate for the second time for the same family, her relatives said. She had felt fine during her initial months of pregnancy, but was put on bed rest about eight weeks ago after doctors determined her pregnancy was high risk, Romero said.
"So there was some indication going into it that it might not be seamless," he said. But no one expected the worst.
In the delivery room, Reaves began losing blood and doctors performed emergency surgery to save the baby. Reaves was twice resuscitated, Romero said, and medical staff thought she was out of the woods.
"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 OK," he said. "And then she coded and they said she had just lost too much blood, they couldn't bring her back."
She may have suffered a placental abruption, a condition in which the placenta pulls away from the uterus and amniotic fluid enters the bloodstream, according to Romero.
A GoFundMe page has been established for the heartbroken family, and as of Wednesday had taken in more than $69,000 for her husband Chris Reaves and the couple's two children, Gage, 7, and Monroe, 3.
"For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Michelle, she will always be known for the love she had for her family. Michelle has the best, most sarcastic, funny personality and always had you laughing," wrote friend Jaime Herwehe on the fundraising page.
"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," Herwehe said.
"No one deserves to lose their mama so young, or the mother of their children," she wrote.
Reaves was one of those folks whose greatest pleasure came from helping others, her brother-in-law said.
"She wanted to do something that could be helpful to some people," he said. "She felt this was a way that she could contribute."
She and her family had planned a trip to Hawaii, a place she'd never been, to celebrate the end of her pregnancy, Romero said.
"It was really very sudden. Not something that anybody was anticipating," he said. "So ... the family is still in shock and not sure what to do next and kind of reeling from it."