During their first two years of marriage, Chinese couple Shen Jie and Liu Xi tried without success to conceive a baby. The couple turned to in vitro fertilization, in what would turn into an unprecedented legal battle for their frozen embryos.
Just five days before the planned embryo implantation, in March 2013, the couple was killed in a car crash. Both as only children, their last link to the family bloodline was frozen as an embryo at a Nanjing hospital.
The four living grandparents sought custody of the embryos, hoping a surrogate mother could bring their grandchild into the world.
The grandparents persisted in a complicated, uphill legal battle with the end goal of preserving the family line.
In the end, the grandparents were given the legal right to inherit the frozen embryos. But finding a surrogate mother proved impossible in China, since surrogacy is illegal.
The grandparents turned to neighboring Laos, where a 27-year-old woman agreed to be the child’s surrogate mother.
After a successful implantation, the pregnant mother traveled to China for the baby’s birth.
The baby boy was born on Dec. 9 in a hospital in the city of Guangzhou. All four grandparents had to complete DNA testing and bloodwork to confirm the child was indeed their biological grandson, and that his late parents had been Chinese nationals.
The boy’s name is Tiantian, or “Sweet.” His family recently had a small party to celebrate Tiantian’s first 100 days.
“Tiantian’s eyes look like my daughter’s,” Liu’s mother, Hu Xinxian, told Beijing News. “But overall he looks more like his father.”
The grandparents will wait until the boy is older to explain to him his very unique birth story. His story is a beautiful marriage of love and sadness, and his grandparents want their boy to know the whole story.
“This boy is destined to be sad on his arrival into the world,” said Shen Xinan, Tiantian’s paternal grandfather. “Other babies have their fathers and mothers, but he doesn’t.”
“We will definitely tell him in the future,” Shen said with certainty. “How can we not?”
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