Jennifer Parson, who served as a gestational surrogate for a couple, cared for the child she carried until the parents could travel to the United States. Jennifer Parson/@jennparson/TikTok
Jennifer Parson, a teacher’s assistant and mother from Arizona, recently went viral on TikTok after sharing her unique experience as a gestational surrogate.
Parson, who chose to be a surrogate as a way to help a couple complete their family, gave birth to a baby girl on June 9th.
However, thanks to COVID-19 and international travel restrictions, the new parents were unable to make the trip to Tucson from Shenzhen, China — so Parson and her family cared for the newborn for nearly three months.
On August 30, the new parents finally traveled to the United States and met their daughter, who they named Jennifer, in honor of Parson.
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When Jennifer Parson signed on to be a gestational surrogate in 2019, she thought she knew what to expect — but after the coronavirus pandemic hit, she took on a lot more than she bargained for.
Traditionally, the undertaking includes a matching process with a compatible family, an embryo transfer, a pregnancy, a birth, and, just a few hours later, the rewarding moment when the newborn is placed in the arms of proud parents.
“When surrogacy was brought to my attention, I just loved the idea of being able to help complete a family,” Parson told Insider.
After giving birth to twins for a German couple in 2014, Parson, a teacher’s assistant from Tucson, Arizona, looked forward to bringing the same joy to a couple from Shenzhen, China that she was matched with through a surrogacy agency. Growing numbers of Chinese parents, NPR reported, have hired American surrogates to navigate the country’s ban on surrogacy and birth limits.
“You get matched in a way that’s very similar to an online dating profile. And when I saw them, I loved everything about them,” she recalled. “So we got on a Skype call, and it was an instant connection. We knew we wanted to move forward in the process.”
But thanks to COVID-19, the experience was very different from the first time around.
After a successful embryo transfer, a healthy pregnancy, and the birth of a baby girl on June 9, Parson was not able to pass the newborn along to ecstatic parents.
International travel restrictions rendered the couple unable to make the trip from Shenzhen to Tucson, and they were not permitted to travel to the United States until August 30 — over two months after their daughter’s birth.
Ultimately, Parson and her family cared for the child she carried until the parents could make the trip from China
As Parson reached the final months of her pregnancy, her family, the surrogacy agency, and the parents-to-be began to discuss what would happen under the unique circumstance in which the parents could not travel to meet their child.
“We eventually started saying, ‘Okay, we have to think about the reality of what happens in the event that they can’t be here.’ Because at first, that’s not where your mind wants to go,” Parson said. “You’re automatically trying to think of a more positive outcome. But it was out of our hands.”
She was told she could place the newborn with a nanny provided by the agency until the parents arrived — but when the couple asked about another option, Parson and her husband didn’t hesitate.
“When the parents reached out to us personally to ask if we’d be comfortable [caring for the baby], it wasn’t even a question for us,” she said. “It was an immediate response. We already felt like they were our family, and we wanted them to be able to lean on us for any support they needed.”
After the baby was born — and named Jennifer, in her surrogate’s honor – she went home to join Parson, her husband, and their four children.
The transition, Parson said, was smooth.
While remembering how to install a car seat wasn’t “quite like riding a bike,” she recalled, the entire family adjusted to their new roles seamlessly.
“Embracing another baby into the household just seemed very natural for everyone,” she said. “And [baby Jennifer] made it easy on us. She was such a good baby.”
When baby Jennifer’s parents arrived in the United States in late August, they stayed in an RV outside Parson’s home for several weeks while they adjusted to their new roles as parents.
“It was a pretty emotional process,” Parson said. “But I think that after the fifth day, she definitely started to understand and acclimate to her parents and she got some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen when they were talking to her. So it was definitely one of those where it really puts it into perspective that this was the right thing to do.”
After three weeks of getting to know each other, the two families said their goodbyes and the new parents brought their baby girl home to Shenzhen.
The story, Parson would discover, was meaningful to a much wider audience than the two families involved. After posting about her experience on TikTok, she went viral.
On October 3, exactly one year after the initial embryo transfer, Parson posted a video chronicling the two families’ journies
In the clip, she recounted the surrogacy process, explained the travel obstacles, shared photos of baby Jennifer’s first few months, documented the infant’s first meeting with her parents, and shared the footage of the families saying their goodbyes as they parted ways.
To date, the video has racked over 730,000 views on TikTok and inspired thousands of comments from emotional viewers.
“How completely selfless,” one commenter wrote. “I would have such a hard time letting go after taking care of her!”
“What a beautiful thing you did for them,” another said.
Parson said she posted the video just after saying her goodbyes at the airport and was trying to process the emotions of the day.
“At that point, I told myself to just feel everything because it’s important to process what you’re going through,” she explained. “And with everything we’d documented, I just wanted to put it out there. It just felt like an expression of everything we’d gone through.”
The amount of positivity she and her family have received, she said, has been overwhelming.
“There was so much love that surrounded the situation. There was just this outpouring from people,” she said. “It’s been so nice to be able to share our experience — and I think this is the kind of story people needed to see out of this year.”
Parson is continuing to share updates on baby Jennifer, and she hopes to continue a relationship with the family
Baby Jennifer and her parents, Parson reports, have made it through their mandated quarantine period post-travel and are adjusting to life back home.
“We’ve kind of flip-flopped because at first, I was sending them daily updates, and now they’re seeing me daily updates,” Parson said. “And I can tell that they have the same type of excitement to share all the new developments with me.”
Eventually, she hopes the two families can reunite in China for a visit.
“They’ve actually said, ‘You guys need to come here,'” Parson said. “I hope that we can have a lifelong friendship. I’m super excited for them for all these new milestones and for everything that’s coming.”
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