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June 26, 2019

How this 61-year-old gave birth to her own granddaughter

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on May 19, 2020.

    At age 61, Cecile Eledge gave birth to her own granddaughter, acting as a surrogate for her son and his husband.

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    One mother's wish: 'I wanted to do everything I humanly could'

    When Cecile's son, Matthew Eledge, and his husband, Elliot Dougherty, decided to expand their family, Dougherty's sister offered to donate her eggs. Eledge and Dougherty began the process of finding a surrogate to carry their child, but "they found the process confusing and weren't completely confident about navigating in vitro fertilization as gay men," according to NBC News.

    "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," Matthew said.

    As the couple was weighing their next step, Matthew's mother made an offer that changed the equation: She said she would serve as the couple's surrogate. "I just immediately felt this instinct to want to help them in any way I could," she said. "Part of me thought, 'There's no way this could actually happen.' I wanted to do everything I humanly could to give these guys their gift."

    The couple loved the idea, but weren't sure if it would work. "We were both thinking, 'That's so sweet, but it's just not feasible,'" Dougherty said.

    How Eledge became a surrogate—and a grandmother

    However, Carolyn Maud Doherty, the family's reproductive endocrinologist, didn't dismiss the idea. "I have really always strictly tried to keep women over the age of 50 from doing in vitro for themselves," Doherty said. "But this was different. She was going to be [a surrogate] and give the baby up to her son and his partner."

    So, Cecile went through a month-long series of exams that included blood, cardiovascular, and gynecological tests, and everything showed she was in good health. "The doctors told me my uterus was beautiful," she said.

    "There are very, very few 61-year-olds who are in good enough health to even contemplate doing this," Doherty said. "She has the body of a 40-year-old and is actually in better shape than some 20-year-olds. I'm pretty conservative about these sorts of things, but Cecile really turned out to be their best option. She's genetically blessed."

    On March 25, Cecile gave birth to her granddaughter, Uma Louise Dougherty-Eledge. "That's a bond I will carry with me until the day I die," Cecile said (Aviles, NBC News, 4/1; Adams/Dodd, People, 6/21).

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