The parents of a young couple, who were killed in a road accident in 2013, have become grandparents of a baby born through surrogacy.
The baby boy’s maternal grandmother gave him the name Tiantian – which means sweetness – in the hopes that he will bring happiness and sweetness to the two families.
When Tiantian was 100 days old on March 18, his paternal grandfather Shen Xinnan arranged a low-profile celebration.
“This boy is (destined to be) sad upon his arrival into the world. He does not have parents. We will have to tell him the truth one day. That is inevitable,” said Shen.
He said he will initially tell Tiantian that his parents had gone overseas, and then let him know the truth when he is old enough.
Shen’s son Shen Jie and Liu Xi, a couple from Yixing, East China’s Jiangsu province, died in a road accident on March 20, 2013. The accident occurred five days before a scheduled transplantation that would embed embryos created using in vitro fertilisation to Liu’s womb to help the couple have children.
As Shen and Liu were both the only child in their families, the embryos preserved at Nanjing Gulou Hospital became their grieving parents’ only hope of carrying on their family line.
However, as there is no regulation in China on how to dispose of non-transplanted human embryos, the parents of Shen and Liu encountered obstacles in retrieving the embryos from the hospital.
To obtain the rights to dispose of the embryos, the parents of Shen Jie filed a lawsuit against the parents of Liu Xi because, as they said, “suing the hospital would be too risky”.
In the first such trial, the Yixing People’s Court rejected the petition of Shen’s parents to take the embryos from the hospital, on the grounds that “an embryo has the potential to develop into a life, so it is not allowed to be transferred or inherited like other objects”.
But Shen’s parents was granted the rights to dispose of the embryos in the second trial by the Intermediate Court of Wuxi, which considered “the embryos left by Shen and Liu are the only carriers of the two families’ bloodlines, and they carry the memories of their parents and can provide emotional consolation to them”.
In September 2014, after winning the rights to handle the embryos, Shen Xinnan asked Gulou Hospital of Nanjing to hand over the embryos to him. But the hospital said the embryos could be transferred only to another medical institution, and not to any individuals.
As no hospitals in China were willing to accept the embryos, Shen Xinnan was forced to turn to medical institutions overseas.
Also, the couples had to find a surrogate mother overseas as surrogacy is banned in China, according to a regulation issued in 2001.
Shen Xinnan contacted dozens of surrogacy agencies before he met Liu Baojun, who runs such an agency.
At Liu’s suggestion, Shen chose a hospital in Laos, where commercial surrogacy was not prohibited then, to receive the embryos in 2016. Laos has banned commercial surrogacy in January 2018.
A Laotian surrogate mother was selected among more than 20 candidates to carry the embryos.
“We tried not to let her feel uncomfortable because she was put under special care and different from the other surrogate mothers,” Liu said, referring to the surrogate mother.
On Dec 9, 2017, the Laotian woman gave birth to the baby boy in a hospital in Guangzhou, capital of South China’s Guangdong province.