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Surrogate cares for baby while parents are stuck in China amid pandemic

"She’s not our child. She belongs with her parents. We want to get her to her parents.”
/ Source: TODAY

A couple in China has spent four months separated from their daughter born via surrogate due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Emily Chrislip, who lives in Idaho, gave birth to a healthy baby girl on May 18, and has been caring for her ever since at the request of the intended family.

“The mom and dad asked if we would do it,” Chrislip, 25, told TODAY Parents. “They were like, ‘We understand if it’s too much.’ They didn’t pressure us.”

Though Chrislip said her husband, Brandon, 25, was a “little bit hesitant,” he wasn’t comfortable with the other option.

Emily Chrislip poses with her husband, Brandon, and their son, Camden. BreAna Thomas Photography

“If Brandon and I couldn’t do it, she was going to have to live with a nanny full-time,” Chrislip explained. “We knew the right thing to do was to care for her. We knew we could give her a loving home."

Chrislip has found it helpful to create boundaries to avoid getting overly-attached. She pumps instead of breastfeeding and didn’t do skin-to-skin after the baby was born because it promotes bonding.

“Staying in the mindset that we’ve had since the beginning of the journey has been helpful,” Chrislip revealed. “She’s not our child. She belongs with her parents. We want to get her to her parents.”

Surrogate mom Emily Chrislip (with her family) gave birth to a baby girl for a couple in China. BreAna Thomas Photography

Chrislip’s 2-year-old son, Camden, understands that the little girl is not his sister.

“Brandon sat him down and was like, ‘Her parents live where Kung Fu Panda lives and we’re just babysitting her until her mom and dad can get here,” Chrislip recalled. “We told him she’ll always be a special part of our lives, but she’s not ours.”

The Chrislips speak regularly over FaceTime with the intended parents, who have been sending care packages. Recently, they shipped baby clothing and teething toys.

“I can’t imagine what they are going through,” Chrislip said. “They tried to have a child for so many years and now they can’t be with her.”

Chrislip doesn’t know when the baby will be united with her parents.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “They are so excited to her meet her.”

The coronavirus epidemic has posed challenges for many parents in China using carriers in the United States, according to Steven Snyder, an attorney in Minnesota who specializes in surrogacy law.

“Parents living in other countries can apply for travel exceptions, but Chinese embassies are not responsive for reasons unknown,” Snyder told TODAY Parents. “Then this situation occurs.”

Though Snyder, a former chair of the American Bar Association, commends the Chrislips kindness, he doesn’t recommend that carriers act as guardians in the interim.

“It may cause emotional or psychological distress,” Snyder said. “The favored alternatives are to find other people who are licensed caregivers and have been vetted. But it’s really under control of the parents and what they want."