Surrogate still caring for baby year later due to China’s COVID travel rules

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Emily Chrislip, an Idaho woman who served as a surrogate mother for a couple in China, is still caring for the baby nearly one year after giving birth due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We still have her,” Chrislip, 25, explained to ABC affiliate KIVI-TV.

“Initially, we were like ‘four weeks, we will take care of her and she’ll go home.’ ” But as travel restrictions remained in effect, “it’s turned into nine months.”

Chrislip, who has a son of her own with her husband Brandon, served as a surrogate for a couple who live in China. They originally planned to hand the baby girl over to her biological parents immediately after giving birth at a Boise, Idaho, hospital on May 18, 2020. 

But COVID-19 restrictions barred the parents from traveling to the US to retrieve their daughter. Since her birth, the couple has only met and interacted with their child through FaceTime video calls.

“At the time of birth, my job was supposed to be completed,” Chrislip told People back in September. 

She became a surrogate in 2018 after witnessing friends and family struggle with infertility. In September 2019, she was chosen by the couple in China to carry their baby. 

“We were going to let them be in the delivery room to see her be born,” Chrislip said of the original surrogacy agreement which was thwarted due to the global health crisis. 

“Then they would have had their own room at the hospital with her, and my husband and I would have had our own room.”

Now, as the baby’s first birthday approaches, Chrislip says the girl’s biological parents are still unable to safely bring her back to China — despite the fact that most COVID-related travel restrictions have abated in the recent months owing to the vaccine’s successful rollout.

“The biggest concern is the restrictions,” Chrislip told KIVI-TV this week. 

“I don’t think they’ll have a problem getting to the US, but getting back into Asia, they might have problems,” she continued. 

“So we’re trying to wait and see what happens with all the restrictions.”

For the biological parents, the entire process of traveling to and from the US to collect their baby could take up to three months, according to Chrislip. 

“I just don’t know if they can take that amount of time off of work,” she said. “I know some people would be like, ‘Well it’s their child,’ but for us, too…our job is our livelihood, and that’s how we pay for things, so we have to work around that for ourselves, too.”

She also noted the couple’s concerns about certain laws and restrictions in their country, as well as potentially exposing the baby to COVID on the multiple flights they’ll have to take between Idaho and China. 

“Something that I have to remember is they live in a whole other country, and it’s a whole different kind of government than we have,” Chrislip said. 

“In the US, we’re very free to speak our mind, do what we want, and in China, that’s not the case. If they’re told, ‘do something,’ they do it.”

The office of Idaho Senator Jim Risch has been helping Chrislip get the traveling documents “expedited a little bit.” But until a safe transportation plan is in place, she and her husband are happily caring for the child. 

“On a day-to-day basis, we just get through it and keep going on about our day, and so it doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary anymore,” Chrislip said. 

“We’re hoping that they will be able to get here before her first birthday in May.”

She did say, however, that she doesn’t see herself serving as a surrogate again — unless it’s for the same couple.

“I think if this pandemic didn’t occur, I would consider it more,” Chrislip explained. “I don’t know if I could go through something like this again.”

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