A woman in Idaho, who served as a surrogate for a couple, decided to care for the baby for almost half a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Just two months before Emily Chrislisp was scheduled to give birth, COVID-19 became a global pandemic — pausing all travel and putting up strict restrictions to stop the spread.
And while those exact travel restrictions were designed to keep people safe, they have also become a barrier to Emily and her husband, Brandon Chrislisp, from giving 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, shared with 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 decided to become a surrogate in 2018 after giving birth to her son Camden and wanting to help others 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.”
And in February 2019, she began to officially start the surrogacy process. 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 shared with 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 due to the pandemic, 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.
While the Chrislips did have the option of leaving the baby with a nanny agency after Emily’s delivery on May 18, they decided to personally take care of her after the biological parents asked for their assistance.
“When they [asked], I wasn’t super surprised,” Emily reveals. “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.”
And over the last four months, Emily says it has been bittersweet raising a baby knowing that they will have to eventually, 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.”
And while the Chrislips patiently wait for the baby’s parents to arrive, a date that is still unknown, she states “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 discusses the chances of her working 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.”
And despite the challenges, Emily says the experience has given her so many valuable lessons, including how, “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.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.