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Tuesday, 01 December 2020 13:27

How a Texas couple claimed their baby from Ukraine despite the coronavirus lockdown

One cannot bear children, another needs money for her own family. A look at the joy and heartbreak of surrogate motherhood.

 It took the Straubs more than three days to travel from Dallas to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. But, arduous as it was, to them the trip was worth it.

A baby was waiting for them in Kyiv. Their baby. Waiting to come home.

Whether the Straubs would be able to enter Ukraine — or would be stopped by travel restrictions aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus — they did not know. Already, reports had emerged of parents traveling to Ukraine to pick up babies born to surrogate mothers, as the Straubs were doing, but being turned away at the border, leaving as many as 100 infants in legal limbo.

Still, the Straubs persisted.

“Usually, we would just take a plane to Paris and fly straight to Kyiv from there,” Darlene Straub said. But that was before various countries — Ukraine included — imposed travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

Instead, the Straubs — Darlene, 45, and her husband, Chris, who is 43 — hopscotched from Dallas to Atlanta, then on to the Netherlands, Sweden and Belarus. From Minsk, the Belarussian capital, they took a four-hour ride to the Belarussian border with Ukraine.

Then, because only trucks were being allowed across the border, they had to walk, carrying suitcases stuffed with $14,000 in cash to pay for the surrogate mother.

As the Straubs wended their way across Europe toward Kyiv, a 33-year-old Ukrainian woman named Yulia was nearing the end of a difficult journey of her own.

Yulia was already the mother of two sons, 8 and 13 years old. Her family lived in a village in central Ukraine. Her children were left with her husband four weeks earlier when she came to Kyiv to give birth.

As it happened, the timing worked out well. Yulia’s due date had been May 30. But the baby arrived four days early, on May 26 — just as the Straubs were crossing the border into Ukraine.

“We arrived in Kyiv on May 26. That same day, we got an email from our agency, and they said our baby girl was born,” Darlene Straub said.

“Oh,” she added, happily, “her name is Sophia Faith Straub.”

The Straubs are by no means the only ones to have made the difficult journey to Kyiv. Due to travel restrictions the Ukrainian government imposed in March, dozens of other prospective parents from all over the world remain separated from their babies, who have already been born to Ukrainian surrogate mothers.

Ukraine is one of the few countries where commercial surrogacy is still legal. In recent years, this shortage of surrogate agencies has driven hundreds of couples who cannot conceive to turn to surrogates in Ukraine to have their children for them. Here, people can use surrogacy for $30,000 to $50,000.

The pregnancy is created using the father’s sperm and a donor egg: The baby’s DNA must match that of at least one of the parents.

The surrogate mother gets $15,000, plus $400 in monthly support during her pregnancy. The surrogacy agency or clinic takes the rest of the money.

During the COVID-19 quarantine, which began in mid-March, some 100 newborns were left in limbo, waiting with their surrogate mothers in a hotel in Kyiv for a chance to go home with their permanent families. While parents like the Straubs were trying to make their way across closed borders, other parents wound up stuck in Ukraine, unable to go back home.

On April 30, one of Ukraine’s surrogacy clinics published a video of 51 babies crying in a large room in the hotel to draw attention to the problem.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was ignoring parents’ requests for entry, said Albert Tochilovskyi, the clinic’s owner. The Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmila Denisova, promised to speed up the process of entry for parents, asking them to send special requests to her and to cooperate closely with the embassies of their home countries.

Since the Ukrainian borders closed March 17, the embassy has facilitated the travel of seven U.S. families to be with their newborn children and helped four more U.S. families with eight newborns to get home, an embassy spokesperson told NBC News.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

And early on May 30, two dozen parents of children who had been stranded in the hotel arrived in Ukraine on a special flight from Argentina.

The Straubs said the U.S. embassy in Kyiv helped them a great deal. For them, this trip marked the beginning of their life as a family.

But for Yulia, it marked an end. Her journey began in September, when she was impregnated in vitro using an egg that had been fertilized by Straub’s sperm.

Indeed, many people shame surrogate mothers, saying they sell children for money. Different Ukrainian officials, including children’s ombudsman Mykola Kuleba, have publicly called for the procedure to be banned, calling it a “baby trade.”

Yulia said she did not view it that way.

“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.”

On May 30, she visited the Straubs in their rented apartment in central Kyiv. She wanted to help them with the baby, and the Straubs allowed her to do that. She and the Straubs fed the baby girl together.

“It was really hard for me to involve another woman in this,” Darlene Straub said. “But my mom said I should see her as a friend for life.”

Then Yulia signed away her parental rights. On June 1, she got her money. The next day, she finally went home again.

The Straubs, however, must undergo two weeks of self-isolation in Kyiv before the government finalizes their documents and lets the family — composed of three people now, instead of two — go home to Texas.



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We have been very satisfied, I have been comfortable at the clinic and with my doctor. I was heard. I could ask any questions. I like you have hu-mor, despite the circumstances. Great clinic. Your service has been very good. You have been a huge support and very spacious. You have been available 24 hours a day. You have the answer to all the questions we have been asked. You have accommodated our nervousness, you have rejoiced with us, you have been there throughout. I could not have wished ...
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A and S
The communication with surrogate is easy and better than what we expected. The updates are provided as scheduled with occasional surprises
The support was great. It was easy on us that the coordination was done by the delivering dreams team while being completely transparent with us on the progress. The communication with the delivering dreams team was always fast, responsive, and easy.
E and K
Thank you kate. You have been great today and all the other days ❤ you are a great team. We are very satisfied and happy for your help.
We were confident before in our choice, but this experience has confirmed beyond any doubt that we choose the best agency.
I loved working with Susan and her team and highly recommend them to anyone considering her services. She's is great at every aspect of a process and knows how to handle delicate matters.
Diana Lyakhovetska
Susan truly understands the needs of parents using surrogacy, and offers comprehensive emotional support to parents as they experience the journey!
Christine Hughes Pontier
The team at Delivering Dreams is amazing! Their attention to detail and ability to put your mind at ease while growing your family is like none other. They handled everything for us, and I never once doubted they would help us accomplish our dreams.
Margaret Jones
I’ve known Susan for several years now, and I’ve always been impressed by her attention to her clients’ needs. I’ve known her to work ardently and diligently to solve whatever challenges, no matter how unique, that prevent her clients from completing their families. She is a problem-solver, and she earnestly believes in providing the best options and in making surrogacy opportunities realities: this is not merely a business for Susan. She will help customize the process for your needs and to ...
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Mary Woods
Susan has a keen sense of business and goes to the max to solve her clients’ problems. She is super knowledgeable on business, laws and how things work in surrogacy in general, and specifically on Ukrainian surrogacy. She is an advocate for transparency in a market that’s often opaque and full of hidden risks. I really enjoyed working with Susan. She really pays attention to detail and was always looking out for my best interest above all. Highly recommend!
Laurie Tham
Delivering Dreams goes above and beyond what other surrogacy agencies offer. After speaking with Susan, I see how they anticipate every part of the process, down to details that I had never even considered. I didn’t know what I didn’t know! Surrogacy can be really complicated and confusing. What an amazing sense of relief to have a company so dedicated to managing the WHOLE process and taking away as much of the stress as possible.
Kate Varness
I have gotten to know Susan through a group where we are members. I have found her to be a genuine and caring person. Her consideration for others and love of her work with Ukrainian surrogates and parents-to-be are evident in all her decision making. She is passionate about being a force for the greater good and helping where she can. I have been amazed at the way she is able to smoothly navigate the complicated maze of requirements in the surrogacy process. I am happy to give her my highest...
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Rose Anne Barbour Huck
Susan Kibler is kind.  She clearly loves those she works with and loves what she does.  Susan listens deeply and compassionately and can make you laugh all in the space of one conversation.  She is wonderful!  If you are feeling worried, she'll hear you.  If you have questions, she will find answers for you. If you need help, she does her very best to support you.  I feel so fortunate to have found her and imagine you will too.
Frances Russell
Susan has the ability to really connect on a personal level quickly.  I have found her easy to talk to and have been so grateful for her guidance.  She is one of those people who offers so much to her clients.  She sees the big picture and has a heart for the most intimate concerns.  She is highly skilled and able to manage what can certainly be challenging and uncomfortable experiences, making them feel easier.  She will take charge at the perfect times and guide you when you really need her...
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Susan Seare
The international surrogacy world is complicated. Susan Kibler knows its ins-and-outs. She knows the people and outfits you can trust and the ones to avoid. She insists on the best for her clients and handles the details so they don't have to worry about them. If you want to take the international surrogacy journey, you can trust Delivering Dreams International Surrogacy Agency to guide you on that path.
Nancy Linnerooth
My friend and I had a positive experience working with Susan. Susan is always super responsive and caring. She is very professional, helpful and reliable. My friend has soo much troubles trying having a baby for many years. My friend and her husband were about to give up their dream of having a baby. Susan Kersch Kibler found the way to help. She has unlimited energy, attentive to detail and super efficient. Great to work with!
Polina Clend
Susan is passionate about helping people become families. She is a trustworthy confidant to have on your side.
Kristen Ancker
Our experience with Delivering Dreams has been overwhelmingly positive. The team seems to be genuinely dedicated to helping us to realize our dream of having a child. The constant communication leading up to the trip and the numerous touch points made us feel comforted in what has been a very challenging and uncomfortable situation. We always had streamlined communication through the group chat and was frequently checked on during our stay.

Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.


Under Ukrainian law, surrogacy is a legal affordable option for traditionally married couples to have children using their own embryos, or with either an egg or sperm donor. There must be a medical reason you can’t carry a child. You are also able to participate if you have had 4 unsuccessful IVF attempts.