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Mother acting as a surrogate for another family dies while giving birth

Michelle Reaves, described as "the best mom" to her two children, was on her second surrogacy for the same couple, friends said.
/ Source: TODAY

A San Diego mother of two who was carrying a baby as a surrogate for another family died from complications while giving birth last week, according to friends and local reports.

Michelle Reaves, 36, was in the delivery room on the morning of Jan. 15 when her condition took a turn for the worse, according to friends and a GoFundMe page that was set up for her family.

“One complication led to the next and she fought for her life,” Reaves' friend Jaime Herwehe wrote on the fundraising site. "Although the baby made it out safe, Michelle did not.”

Michelle Reaves with her husband, Chris Reaves, and their children, Gage and Monroe.
Michelle Reaves with her husband, Chris Reaves, and their children, Gage and Monroe. Courtesy of Lauren Schirmer/Vintage Glass Photography

Family friend Andrea Axelson told TODAY that Reaves "began hemorrhaging" while delivering a baby girl.

It wasn't clear which hospital was caring for Reaves when she died. Two San Diego hospitals contacted by TODAY, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns and Sharp Grossmont Hospital, said they did not have any records with Reaves' name.

Axelson said Reaves and her husband, Chris, met in 2010 and had a loving relationship with two children.

“They had a great marriage. They were that Facebook couple that you envy,” Axelson told TODAY. “He’s completely lost without her. It breaks my heart.”

Axelson described Reaves as “the best mom” to her son, Gage, and daughter, Monroe. She also said Reaves was a stay-at-home parent but talked about returning to work.

“There wasn’t a day when Michelle wasn’t posting photos of her kids or some kind of relatable story,” Axelson said. “She was just awesome.”

On the GoFundMe page, Herwehe said Reaves was known for her sense of humor and "for the love she had for her family.”

“You hear about these things happening all the time but never in your life imagine it will happen to you,” Herwehe wrote on the fundraising page. “No one deserves to lose their mama so young or the mother of their children.”

Chris Reaves, 33, didn't respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

About 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2017 analysis by Propublica and NPR found that the U.S. had the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.

Reaves was on her second surrogacy for the same family, friends said.

“Michelle just wanted to help people,” Axelson said.