The last thought for a Nebraska couple planning to have a baby was one of their mothers carrying the child, but last week a 61-year-old woman gave birth to her own granddaughter as a gestational surrogate for her son and his husband.
Cecile Eledge delivered the nearly six-pound Uma Louise Dougherty-Eledge on March 25, 2019.
Last year, Cecile’s son Matthew Eledge and his husband Elliott Dougherty decided they wanted to expand their family.
In order to help their child be related to both men, Dougherty’s sister, Lea Yribe, offered to donate her eggs. From there, the couple then needed to find a surrogate to deliver the child.
They told NBC they were confused about the process of finding a carrier and weren’t confident about navigating in vitro fertilization as gay men in the state.
“Nebraska is a bit more conservative, and we were hesitant to go into agencies, and had a bit of fear that maybe some things would hold us back being a gay couple,” Eledge said.
That’s when Cecile offered to serve as the gestational surrogate even though they thought doctors would balk at the idea.
Eledge said he questioned it because his mother was 59 and had gone through menopause.
When they jokingly told their doctor, they expressed that they knew “that’s not an option,” but instead were plainly asked if Cecile was healthy — and still had her uterus.
After testing to ensure her body could tolerate the pregnancy, the embryo — made from Eledge’s sperm and Yribe’s egg — was implanted.
“I wanted to do it as a gift from a mother to her son,” she told Reuters. “I just knew it meant the world to Matt and to be a part of something that would help them in their future endeavours, it was just a no-brainer. I just jumped in with both feet and was on board from day one.”
According to the March of Dimes, an organization that advocates for the health of mothers and babies, older mothers can face complications including premature birth, birth defects, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and getting pregnant with multiples.
Dr. Carl Smith, a specialist in Nebraska, monitored Cecile throughout the pregnancy as it was viewed as high risk.
Cecile told the BBC that for the most part, her pregnancy was normal, though the regular symptoms did “elevate a little bit” compared to previous pregnancies.
They also joked about her eyesight, saying that when she took a pregnancy test she saw a negative result, but when her husband came over to comfort her later in the day, he saw a second pink line confirming the pregnancy.
“She can’t see anything, but she’ll be able to deliver,” she recalled her husband Kirk saying.
Cecile took estrogen supplements for the first part of the pregnancy, Smith said, until the placenta holding Uma was able to make hormones of its own.
After nine months of waiting, Uma was born and Dougherty said he can’t wait to raise her.
“I was feeding her, and it was early, and she wasn’t eating very fast, and I just looked at her face, and I saw my mom’s face there,” he said.
Dougherty lost his mother recently but added the fact Uma resembles his family helps deal with the loss.
“I said, ‘I’ll do this for the rest of my life because I want to care for you as deeply as my mom cared for me.”
A week later, Cecile says the baby is doing well and is being surrounded by “so much support.”