By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A 51-year-old woman who served as the gestational carrier for her daughter and son-in-law gave birth to her granddaughter.
Julie Loving, 51, delivered a healthy baby girl in an Illinois hospital on Nov. 2 with her daughter, Breanna Lockwood, by her side.
The newborn, named Briar Juliette Lockwood, is the first child for Lockwood and her husband, Aaron, who are the baby’s biological parents.
“It was definitely a surreal process,” Lockwood told ABC News’ Good Morning America about Briar’s birth. “All the feelings came at once, just watching my mom go through everything and all she’s done for me and is continuing to do.”
Loving gave birth to Briar after being induced about 10 days before her due date. She had to undergo an emergency C-section due to difficulties with the umbilical cord, according to Lockwood.
The delivery marked the first C-section for Loving, a mom of two, whom Lockwood described as having a normal pregnancy.
“She definitely rocked the pregnancy and the birth rocked her a little bit, but she did a great job,” said Lockwood. “It was a super emotional day with lots of tears and lots of happy times and some scary times but our doctors and team were great.”
Lockwood, a 29-year-old dental hygienist, and Aaron began trying for a baby almost immediately after they wed in 2016. After one year of trying naturally without success, Lockwood began seeing a fertility specialist.
Nearly two years later, after multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization, multiple surgeries and several miscarriages, including a pregnancy with twins, Lockwood’s fertility doctor told her that she would need to start considering surrogacy because her uterus was unable to withstand a pregnancy.
“Struggling with infertility was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through,” Lockwood told GMA earlier this year. “When you have a plan for your life and then something like infertility gets in the way, I felt like I couldn’t see what I pictured anymore, that it could be taken away from me.”
Lockwood’s doctor, Brian Kaplan of Fertility Centers of Illinois, suggested finding a family member or friend to act as her gestational carrier. Going through an agency can cost more than $100,000, according to Kaplan.
Lockwood never thought her surrogate could be her 51-year-old mom, even though Loving was on board from the start and was the one who suggested the idea to her daughter.
“I’ve run 19 marathons and done many triathlons,” Loving, who also has a 27-year-old son, told GMA earlier this year. “I felt like health-wise I could do it and I had really easy pregnancies with my two kids.”
Loving’s idea started to become a reality when she accompanied her daughter to an appointment with Kaplan for the first time.
“My mom came with me as my support person and she brought up that she wanted to carry,” recalled Lockwood. “When [Kaplan] met her I could tell that he was really starting to think about it as a possibility, but he didn’t tell us yes right away. There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through to make it possible.”
After that visit, Loving started a series of tests and was seen by five specialists, including Kaplan as well as a high-risk obstetrician, her own OBGYN, her primary care physician and a psychologist.
“She got past all of us with flying colors,” Kaplan told GMA. “I think it’s very important for me as a physician and for this field for people to know this is not routine and not everybody can use their mom. It has to be a unique situation.”
Because of Lockwood’s past pregnancy disappointments, the family did not get their hopes up that Loving would successfully become the gestational carrier.
Even when Loving had a successful embryo transfer on the first try in February and became pregnant with her granddaughter in March, the family held their breath, according to Lockwood.
“We couldn’t jump for joy yet because we’d had so many losses and so much trauma,” she said, adding that it was only about halfway through the pregnancy that they allowed themselves to really start planning for the baby.
Adding to Lockwood’s and Loving’s unique story is the fact that Loving’s pregnancy was confirmed about one week before the country largely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Loving took a leave of absence from her job at a grocery store in order to try to stay as healthy as possible.
Lockwood, who lives just 15 minutes from her parents, was by her mom’s side at every step of the pregnancy as well as the delivery. Because it was a gestational carrier delivery, Lockwood, Aaron and Lockwood’s father were all able to be present.
Lockwood said she is already planning daily visits for Briar to visit her grandmother, with whom Lockwood predicts she’ll always have a special bond.
“It’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re going through infertility,” said Lockwood, reflecting on her own journey to becoming a mother. “But as long as you can keep telling yourself there are so many ways to become a mother, it’s not just pregnancy. There’s so many ways to become a parent, whatever option you choose.”
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