Chinese families must navigate a confusing maze of laws and COVID regulations in order to give birth in the United States.
‘width=100%’, ‘height=290’, ‘frameborder=0′, and’scrolling=no’ Expand this image, title=’NPR embedded audio player’ NPR’s Sally Deng NPR’s Sally Deng FOUNTAIN California Valley Auntie Wang is holding a 2-week-old newborn girl named Echo inside a three-story pastel villa in this peaceful neighborhood south of Los Angeles.
According to Auntie Wang, who immigrated to the United States from China seven years ago, “the more time you spend with her, the more devoted she is to you.” She responds to you when you hold her, play with her, and interact with her.
The 58-year-old displays obvious joy as she coos and clucks at the infant. Despite all the love, she is not the mother of the child or even a related. She is a hired nanny whose responsibility it is to look after Echo and other children who were born via surrogacy, in which a woman carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of another couple or individual.
Because surrogacy is sensitive and illegal in her country, Auntie Wang does not want to use her full name.
She works for a company called Fat Daddy that specializes in these services for clients in China, where it is effectively illegal to do surrogacy.
The business is a component of a well-established Californian sector that also offers the divisive ‘birth tourism’ service of bringing Chinese moms to the country to give birth to their offspring.
But for almost three years, the entire sector has been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak and China’s extraordinarily severe travel regulations. Beijing totally closed the nation’s borders in 2020 in order to contain COVID-19, and it has never fully reopened them.
As a result, Chinese parents are unable to go to the United States to meet or interview their surrogate in person. Instead, in order for the surrogacy to take place, clients have had to submit their reproductive samples—eggs, sperm, or both—via special delivery to the United States.
The ‘zero-COVID’ regulations in China and recent passport restrictions have also made it very difficult for many Chinese parents to pick up their newborn children in the United States.
Thus, that has resulted in significantly more work for nannies like Auntie Wang. Prior to the pandemic, she cared for the infants for up to six weeks, but now that she is caring for them for several months, the Fat Daddy agency is working to arrange the flights and Chinese residency documents necessary to send the infants to China.
AMERICA, WHERE SURROGACY IS LEGAL IN MOST STATES, IS WHERE THEY’RE COMING, One family affected by the red tape is that of 1-year-old Lucy and her Chinese-born parents, who were born in the United States.
It took Lucy’s mother four months to obtain a U.S. visa, according to Sunny, a Fat Daddy staffer in charge of the residence where surrogate children and their parents reside. Since conducting surrogacy is prohibited in China, she only wishes to use her first name in the narrative to avoid being recognized. But she keeps having her flights from China cancelled.
Expand this picture NPR’s Sally Deng NPR’s Sally Deng Chinese couples can easily spend over $100,000 on surrogacy in the U.S.; these exorbitant costs include hotel, food, and transportation.
There are less expensive solutions in Thailand , Cambodia, India, and Russia. At least 19 surrogate infants bound for China were left stranded after Russia invaded Ukraine, which had recently emerged as a significant hub for the industry.
Several Chinese parents seek surrogacy services are available from unlicensed providers in China rather than searching outside. Up to 500 enterprises were running covertly a decade ago, according to one study estimates .
However, if the provider did not turn over the child or if the biological parents decided to split custody , those using the services had minimal legal rights.
The United States, where surrogacy is permitted in most states, continues to be a popular choice for Chinese parents who have the financial resources.
“America has it all.” As long as you know what you want, America is a fantastic place, according to a Chinese birth tourism agency headquartered in California. Because offering such services is prohibited in China, he does not wish to share his name. Because America is a nation of immigrants, having children there will always be advantageous.
It is challenging to estimate the number of Chinese couples who use surrogacy services in California since, according to the state’s health agency, no statistics are kept. However, NPR spoke to many organizations who claimed that the state saw hundreds, if not thousands, of cases each year.
Clients employ Fat Daddy’s services for a variety of reasons, according to Zheng, the co-founder of the business.
According to him, wealthy families used to have their second or even third child in the U.S. because China used to only allow couples to have one child (today the limit is three). Another factor is that single women and non-heterosexual couples frequently struggle to legally adopt or have children.
A kid born in the United States, even through surrogacy, also receives the coveted citizenship. Unexpectedly, according to Zheng, the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China has actually increased the appeal of American citizenship for many families.
China and the United States will undoubtedly be the two most powerful nations in the globe in the near future, he predicts. If the United States is not the first, then China undoubtedly will be, and having both of these nations will undoubtedly benefit your children in the long run.
According to Zheng, the demand for surrogacy and birth tourism services in China was so great before the epidemic that he used to rent out entire apartment complexes to Chinese families.
Another agent claimed that many of her clients were “high-level Communist Party officials and celebrities” with money and power who desired for their children to be citizens of the United States. She only went by the name Lulu out of fear of retaliation for speaking openly about Chinese politics and surrogacy. Dual nationality is forbidden for Chinese citizens.
MANY PEOPLE ARE CHOOSING DIY BIRTH TOURISM These days, only the most committed of prospective Chinese parents are making their way to the United States.
Lily, an attorney from Baotou in Inner Mongolia, is one of them. Due of the delicate nature of the birth tourism issue in China, she did not want to use her entire name.
Do-it-yourself birth tourism is what the industry refers to as Lily’s experience. She is renting her own home and employing a full-time nanny to take care of her toddler Gordon, who was born in the United States.
Lily had a second child on the way when NPR first met her in May. After the birth, the family intended to stay in the country for a further six months before leaving for their country of origin.
She explains her choice by stating that living in the United States has many benefits, like freedom of speech and a feeling of security. “If my child has these possibilities, they will undoubtedly be better off.”
She also half-jokes that another reason she moved to the United States was to give birth without suffering. She complains that full epidurals are hard to get by in China.
But not everyone is as fortunate as Lily. When employing a surrogate, parents will have to wait a long time to meet their children.
Expand this picture NPR’s Sally Deng NPR’s Sally Deng Nowadays, many of the infants are transported back to China while being watched over by a committed nanny that the agencies provide.
Seeing the infants she has cared for so many months usually brings Auntie Wang to tears.
Oh, we cry when we part ways with these kids! It hurts to say goodbye to them. According to Auntie Wang, they resemble our own. All nannies experience it in the same way. You feel an emotional connection to them after even only one month.