An Idaho woman agreed to serve as a surrogate for a couple, but the coronavirus pandemic has left her caring for the baby for close to half a year.
Two months before Emily Chrislip was scheduled to give birth, COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic, putting a halt to almost all travel and causing strict restrictions to curb the spread.
But while those travel restrictions were meant to keep people safe, they’ve also become the very thing that has prevented Emily and her husband Brandon Chrislip from handing off the baby girl to her new parents, who currently live in China.
“At first, we thought it would be a max four weeks, and then it kept getting longer and longer,” Emily, 25, tells PEOPLE. “At this point, we’ve just accepted that we don’t know… but we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is so loved and right now, we are the constant in her life.”
Emily first decided to become a surrogate in 2018 after giving birth to her son Camden and wanting to help someone else become a mother.
“I have watched family members and friends struggle with infertility and trying to get pregnant and my husband and I were blessed to have no trouble ourselves,” Emily shares. “I could not imagine not being able to have my own biological child, and my pregnancy and delivery were very easy and uncomplicated, so we decided to start looking into it.”
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In February 2019, she officially started the surrogacy process and by September of that year, Emily was chosen as a surrogate for the couple in China, according to ABC affiliate KIVI-TV.
“The initial plan was for her parents to be here for the birth,” Emily tells PEOPLE. “We were going to let them be in the delivery room to see her be born and then they would have had their own room at the hospital with her and my husband and I would have had our own room. At the time of birth, my job was supposed to be completed.”
But that plan was flipped upside down by the pandemic. As a result, the parents were prevented from coming to the U.S. to meet their baby.
“I think when President Trump decided to shut down the borders is when reality hit me and I realized that they probably weren’t going to make it for the delivery,” Emily recalls.
Though the Chrislips had the option of leaving the baby with a nanny agency following Emily’s delivery on May 18, they decided to personally care for her after the biological parents asked them to step in.
“When they [asked], I wasn’t super surprised,” Emily admits. “Brandon and I talked about it a lot and we talked to our family about it, as well. I wasn’t hesitant, but Brandon was at first… we decided that the right thing to do was for us to take care of her.”
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Over the last four months, Emily says it’s been bittersweet raising the child while also knowing they’ll eventually have to give her away one day.
“I think that it has been easier for me than Brandon. He loves babies and kids and is a big softy,” she explains. “I try to keep some of my barriers up, but I don’t know about Brandon.”
“We definitely love her and will always care for her but we understand she is not ours,” Emily adds. “We just treat her as our own because at this stage in life it is so important to have the proper attention and love.”
While the Chrislips wait for the baby’s parents to arrive — a date that is still unknown and pending travel documentation — she says “we will just keep doing what we are doing day to day and continue to care for her until her parents can get here.”
She also notes the likelihood of her serving as a surrogate again.
“I think if this pandemic didn’t occur, I would consider it more,” Emily explains. “I don’t know if I could go through something like this again. I would consider it for the same parents, though, if they ever wanted to have more children.”
Despite the challenges she has faced, Emily says the experience has taught her many valuable lessons, including how she “can love someone that is not biologically mine as much as I can my own child.”
Adds Emily: “I have also learned the limits of my mental and emotional strength. I am such a planner in everything I do, that not having a plan was difficult at first. But I have learned to accept that what will be, will be, and to just live in the moment and take it a day at a time.”
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