SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – After weeks of waiting, a California couple was happy to bring their newborn daughter home after she was born to a surrogate mom in Ukraine – but the coronavirus didn’t make it easy.
It’s a place where normally hundreds of reunions happen daily, but amid the pandemic only one family waited at Sacramento International Airport. Though, their reunion was one packed with enough emotion to fill the quiet baggage claim.
“Not all of us could go get her,” Michelle Leineke, mother of the newborn said – talking about her husband. “He’s been there almost five weeks.”
A teary Michelle watched as her husband Joel Leineke made his way down the escalator and saw his family for the first time in those five weeks. He brought with him a very cherished carry-on, their new baby EmberRaine.
“She’s been alive almost two weeks,” Michelle said. “So it’s amazing to see her.”
EmberRaine was born via IVF to a surrogate mother in Ukraine.
“It’s a special, special gift that she gave us,” Joel said when asked about the surrogacy process.
For weeks, the Leineke family wasn’t sure they’d even be able to get EmberRaine when Ukraine closed its borders due to the pandemic. Last month, Joel made the nearly 48-hour journey to Ukraine. He walked across the border from Belarus and did 14 days of quarantine. He made it out just before his daughter’s birth. Getting back home to Sacramento wasn’t much easier.
“We just endure, right? That’s what you do for your kids,” Joel said. “We just couldn’t wait to get home.”
Hundreds of other families around the world are facing the same type of issues as they struggle to bring their surrogate babies home because of restrictions due to the coronavirus. Ukraine officials told CBS there are currently hundreds of biological parents waiting to be united with their children, but soon there could be thousands.
The Leinekes said it’s tough, but families should hold out hope.
“We just hope and pray they can be reunited soon,” Joel said. “It’s worth the wait. Keep pushing. You’ll find a way.”
Just they did, able to cherish some of their first moments with their new precious cargo. One worth the wait — as they created a picture-perfect memory in Terminal A, the day their family became complete.