LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Heather Regan says she wanted to be a surrogate because she knew what a gift the child would be to any family.
“I have just seen so many families come through and been trying to get pregnant for so long, and I just thought if I could just help one family, that would be amazing to do that,” she said.
She gave birth to a baby boy in June, through a Beverly Hills agency called The Egg Donor and Surrogacy Institute (EDSI).
According to the agency, 80% of their clients are from out of the country. Families from countries including China, England, Spain, Pakistan, and Nigeria work with EDSI.
EDSI is still having babies born to surrogates, including two this week. But, they are working with parents from other countries, where surrogacy is either illegal or very restricted.
The family that chose Regan are Chinese nationals. In China, surrogacy is illegal.
When the pandemic hit, many of these families — including the parents of the baby boy that Regan gave birth to — could not get into the country once their babies were born.
“I wanted them to cut the umbilical cord,” Regan said. “I wanted them to do skin on skin contact with him, because you can’t ever get those moments back with him.”
Regan said the family did not get to see their baby until six weeks after he was born.
Still, they were some of the lucky ones.
“Unfortunately, we have had some parents had everything in place, including their visas, and they arrive in L.A. and they are held up at customs and they were turned back,” said EDSI Managing Director Parham Zar.
Zar said six babies, some as old as six months, are essentially stuck in Los Angeles, unable to get to their international parents. In some cases, surrogates have opted to care for them. If the surrogate declines, EDSI hires a nanny to care for the child. So of the 30 babies born during the pandemic are being housed at an apartment complex.
“We have set up apartments, with cameras everywhere so parents can have access to view their child 24/7,” Zar said.
Surrogacy can cost anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 for medical costs, legal fees, agency fees, and surrogate compensation — which is usually around $35,000 to $55,000.
Regan said she did not care for the baby she gave birth to after she delivered.
“The psychological aspect was challenging for me because I didn’t get to see the parents take him and that was the whole reason for me to do it,” she said.
Zar said EDSI usually has up to 150 babies born to surrogates each year, but that number has declined drastically due to COVID-19 and the difficulty of reuniting babies with their international parents.
“We are hoping we can get the attention of someone in the authorities that at least will give these parents a priority or a means to be able to unite with their child,” he said.