Darlene Straub, 45, and her husband Chris, 43, recently underwent the most bittersweet experience of their lives as their daughter, born in Kyiv to a Ukrainian surrogate, was stranded across the world during the pandemic
They made the three-day journey from Dallas to Kyiv, transferring numerous times and waiting through long layovers. However, the couple say that it was more than worth it to meet their baby. During this long trip, they had no idea if they would be allowed to enter the country, and they had heard of other parents who travelled to Ukraine to pick up their babies being denied at the border. Currently, there are more than 100 babies in this legal limbo.
Darlene said, “usually, we would just take a plane to Paris and fly straight to Kyiv from there.” But ever since Covid-19 travel restrictions have been in place, this simple travel route is no longer possible. Instead, the couple had to fly from Dallas to Atlanta, and then through Amsterdam, Sweden and onto Belarus. From Minsk, they drove four hours to the Belarussian border with Ukraine. They then walked over the border (only lorries were let through), even though they were carrying suitcases containing more than $14,000 USD in cash to finish compensating Yulia, their surrogate mother.
Yulia has two sons who are 8 and 13 years old, and lives in a central Ukrainian village
Her youngest son required expensive specialist medical treatment, and they needed to rebuild their home. As she makes $150 per month as a nurse and her husband earns $500 each month at a sawmill, the family ended up deeply in debt.
She made the decision to carry another couple’s baby to help her family
Her due date was May 30, but she gave birth in Kyiv 4 days early on May 26, the day that the Straubs crossed the Ukrainian border. The couple arrived at the capital and received an email that their daughter had arrived! They named her Sophia Faith Straub.
Ukraine is one of the world’s countries to still permit commercial surrogacy, which means that couples from all over the globe travel there to hire a surrogate at the cost of $30,000 to $50,000 USD. For this to be legal, the baby’s DNA must match at least one of the parents. In the Straub’s case, the baby was conceived using Chris’ sperm and a donor egg.
It seems like a miracle that the Straubs were able to sneak across the border, as more than 100 other babies are still stranded in the capital
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was turning a deaf ear to parents’ desperate pleas to enter the country. The US Embassy has been forced to step in, and have helped to facilitate seven families to travel across the border, and helped eight other babies to travel to the US.
An Embassy spokesperson says, “we have been in regular communication with a number of American parents anxiously awaiting the birth of their children due to be born to surrogates in Ukraine, and we are closely monitoring the situation.”
Despite all of the issues surrounding the birth and pandemic lockdown, Yulia is happy that she went through this process
“I can have children, but I can’t provide for them,” she said. “Those people have money, but they can’t have children. So, I think we help each other.” That said, she did cry when she handed the baby she carried over to Chris and Darlene. Darlene says she will see Yulia as a “friend for life.”
The couple are now back in Texas, and we couldn’t be happier for them
What do you think about using a surrogate? Have you gone the surrogacy route to become parents? We would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org