BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — More than a year of sacrifice will pay off this week as a mother will get to meet her baby for the first time.
The two were separated by 7,000 miles due to the pandemic.
13-month-old, Eli is a surrogate baby who was born in Texas at the start of the pandemic and his mom lives all the way in China.
Eli has been living here with his aunt and uncle in College Station, forming a unique bond with the couple.
For starters, his Aunt, Jia Wang named him.
"The name means god sent. Right, when I picked the name, I didn't anticipate a pandemic. I said, 'Yeah, he is God sent.'", Jia Wang, Eli's aunt said.
Eli was born in San Antonio on March 20th, 2020. He was born there because surrogacy is banned in China and his parent's efforts with invitro failed.
His mom was supposed to come to Texas for his birth, stay for a month, then the two were to go home to China, where he would be raised.
That plan crumbled as all international travel was canceled.
"My husband and I were committed to 30 days to start with. Now Eli just turned one-year-old last month," Wang said.
As a US citizen Wang is currently banned from going into China because of the pandemic and her sister has been prohibited from coming to the states. Since Wang and her husband are the only family Eli has in this country, she knew she was his only option.
"I couldn't sleep for a whole month, just anticipating a baby going to be here and I started to write a diary. Every day I have a book, 'Book of Eli'. I am on the fourth book," Wang said.
She's documented all of his firsts to make sure her sister doesn't miss a moment.
Many of these firsts were also firsts for Wang and her husband.
Wang has a 19-year-old son, but her parents raised him in China for the first two years while she was pursuing her Ph.D. a common custom in her culture.
"All these years what really bothered me was never really being a mom. I think that's everything I wanted and God, he really listed to me and gave me this experience I could never imagine," Wang said.
Her husband, Stuart Allison, is a Vietnam veteran. He also missed out on his child's early years because he was serving.
"It's the way he looks at me. When I can hold him, in my arms and cuddle him and he's ready to go to sleep often. I'll feed him his bottle and so on. He just looks up at me and looks right straight through me. He's just love, is what I see," Stuart Allison, Eli's uncle said.
The new experiences came with good times and bad as the couple juggled the unexpected parenthood, work from home and life during the pandemic.
"I constantly go through the emotional roller coaster for me. Looking at the baby I cry, when he cries, I cry. It's just been an emotional journey," Wang said.
"It was difficult when things started stretching into six months, seven months, and so on," Allison said.
Between the couple's physical limitations, and her husband's health, Wang and her husband knew Eli cannot stay much longer. Fortunately, the family found a solution. A family friend who is a Chinese foreign exchange student studying in Michigan will take Eli to China to be reunited with his mom.
"It's like your own child leaving you. Yeah," Wang said.
Though it will be a hard goodbye, Eli's stay gave his aunt and uncle a gift they never imagined.
"So, every day when he's in my arms I'm thinking. Wow. I am a mom. So, I feel like Eli made my motherhood complete," Wang said.
Eli will start his Voyage to China on Wednesday.
Once Eli arrives in China, he has to quarantine for two weeks. His mom is trying to get permission to be with him during that time.