Heather Regan, a proud mom of two, says she was excited to help others struggling to have a child by becoming a surrogate for a couple from China. But then came COVID-19.
"I never thought this was going to happen, having a baby during COVID," said Regan.
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Neither did the agency helping her, the Egg Donor & Surrogacy Institute or EDSI in Beverly Hills.
"Nobody wants to be in this situation. It is not easy for anyone," said Parham Zar, EDSI managing director.
The Arizona resident remembers the phone call from the baby's parents.
"They weren't going to come and it was devastating. Because the whole reason I wanted to do it was so they could be there when I had the baby. To hear his first cry...all of that," said Regan.
Regan gave birth to a baby boy named Jasper in June. His intended parents were still in China because the pandemic closed international borders.
"It was awful. To go through this whole experience and not to be there when your baby is born," said Regan.
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EDSI says it's seen more than 25 babies born since the start of the pandemic. Many are parents from China, where surrogacy is banned. Zar says foreign parents face a range of challenges in trying to unite with their U.S.-born babies. He also says pre-COVID, they would never consider a surrogate taking care of the child because of bonding issues. Some have become temporary guardians. Others are being cared for by nannies through EDSI.
"We make sure they are fed, held, touched they are loved," said Zar. "Until they can be united with their parents."
A nanny cared for little Jasper in Los Angeles until his parents managed to get here a month and a half after his birth.
For the others: uncertainty.
"I really hope and pray that they can reunite with their children as soon as possible," said Zar.
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