(Rolling Stone) Peter and Ellie Yang, by all outward appearances, are living the Beijing dream. They have a condo in an up-and-coming area, a white Honda that Peter keeps immaculate and a rambunctious one-year-old son, Xiongxiong. They wear brand-name jeans and own separate iPhone 6s. On holidays, they go to Sanya — “China’s Hawaii” — as well as Hong Kong and Japan. On weekends, they eat out and take hikes in the Fragrant Hills outside Beijing. It’s enough to make them the envy of many. But when Ellie found out she was pregnant in 2014, Peter said he wanted to have their second child in America. “It’s for him to get a good education,” Peter says. “But it’s also for us — to find business opportunities and to make friends. Chinese who do this tend to be well-connected.”
Peter began researching maternity hotels that operate within the underground birth tourism industry. He chatted with sales agents and scanned large photos on forums like LA Fat Dad, USA Baby DIY and America Baby Home. One option was staying in a single-family home, rented solely to birth tourists, but moving into a close-knit residential community as part of a rotating cast of pregnant Chinese felt risky. Renting an apartment in San Francisco, as some of their friends had done, was less expensive and lower profile, but Peter didn’t know anyone there. At last he and Ellie agreed on a “middle of the road” option — a 16-room hotel in suburban Los Angeles for $20,000.