RIVERVIEW ― Katie Faust says her career as a surrogate pregnancy case manager is more of a calling than a job.
That might seem cliche, but she backs it up.
Faust was laid off recently due to the coronavirus’ negative impact on her industry. But the Riverview resident chose to stick with her clients, working for free.
And when coronavirus-related travel restrictions kept clients from picking up their newborn at the hospital, Faust did it for them.
She flew to California and then drove back home to Riverview with the baby.
The parents live in China, so it might be a while before they can unite with their baby.
Until then, Faust and her husband, Brandon, will look after the newborn, along with their three children, all of whom are self-isolating at home.
“We are prepared to take care of her for as long as we need to and keep her completely comfortable,” Faust, 26, said. “It is very important that everyone comes together right now and helps one another out during this worldwide crisis.”
Faust’s Chinese clients used gestational surrogacy, when the parents’ sperm and the egg are combined outside the mother’s body and transferred to the surrogate. There are "absolutely no genetic ties between the surrogate and baby she delivered,” Faust said.
Out of respect for her clients’ privacy, Faust would not share either their name or their baby’s.
It is common for Chinese couples to seek surrogate mothers in the United States, said Bill Houghton, founder of the Las Vegas-based Sensible Surrogacy, an independent surrogacy agency.
He has worked with Faust in the past, but neither he nor his company is connected to the Chinese client.
“When China ended its one-child policy, there were suddenly millions of couples who wanted a second child but were often past the appropriate age,” he said. Surrogacy in China is “technically illegal but the government opened up a path to citizenship and family rights for surrogacy births. The result was Chinese couples flocking to the U.S. in droves to hire surrogates.”
Faust has been a case manager for five years, guiding parents and surrogates — located around the world — through the process and serving as their go-between.
But the spread of the coronavirus has hurt the surrogate industry. Families planning such a pregnancy or in the beginning stages have put it on hold, Houghton said.
“Couples are worried about the health of their pregnancy,” he said.
That’s why Faust said the California-based Global Surrogacy Inc. laid her off.
But, she added, she requested and was permitted to continue working with her clients.
The Tampa Bay Times could not reach Global Surrogacy via email or phone.
“I’m not doing this for the money,” Faust said. “I am doing this for the family so they can have the comfort of knowing their baby is getting the love and support she needs.”
She was informed on April 17 that the surrogate mother for the Chinese couple had gone into labor. The parents can’t travel here because of restrictions in both countries.
It was bad enough that they couldn’t be there when their daughter was born, Faust said, but without a legal guardian the child would have gone “into state foster care. I would never let that happen.”
The Chinese parents had already bestowed temporary guardianship onto Faust.
She then flew to California with her entire family, picked up the newborn at a Victorville hospital that she would not name, rented a car and drove home because “it is not safe for a newborn to fly," Faust said.
“She is doing wonderful. She is a very content and easy baby and all of my other children are adapting and doing great.”
The unknown: when the parents can meet their new baby.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Faust said. “But I am in touch with them all day, every day, sending them updates and pictures. I’m grateful I am able to take care of their precious baby. Some people say we are crazy to add to our family during this time. But it felt right for us to do this."
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them
UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits
CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus
BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.