When Matthew Eledge, 32, and Elliot Dougherty, 29, began considering IVF as an option for conceiving a child two years ago, the couple say they were amused by Eledge’s 61-year-old mother’s offer that she’d happily be their surrogate.
Having last given birth more than 30 years ago, Cecile Eledge, who went through menopause 10 years ago, assured the couple that she ‘loved being pregnant’, and, if she could, she’d ‘do it again in a heartbeat’.
Meeting with a reproductive endocrinologist in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, Matthew shared his mother’s ‘crazy’ declaration with Dr. Carolyn Maud Dougherty, who assured him there was nothing crazy about her idea at all.
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Calling Cecile in for a series of tests, including a Pap smear, blood and cholesterol tests, a mammogram and an ultrasound, doctors confirmed her to be in remarkable shape and fully capable of carrying a baby full-term.
‘She has lower blood-pressure than all of us [her children] and she’s 61,’ Matthew told DailyMail.com.
‘I don’t know how to describe her; she’s remarkable. I have such a deep respect for her and am so gracious that even as a grown adult she continues to go above and beyond for me.’
With Cecile identified as a suitable host, Matthew and Elliot were once again blown away by another act of kindness from within their family. This time, it was Elliot’s 26-year-old sister, Lea Yribe, who offered the couple her eggs, having just given birth to her second child.
Cecil then had a series of hormone treatments. Using Eledge’s sperm, doctors implanted several fertilized eggs in Cecil’s uterus, and remarkably she fell pregnant on the first attempt.
And, following a difficult nine-months – riddled with heightened morning sickness and frightening blood pressure spikes as a result of her age – she gave birth Monday.
Doctors were stunned when Cecile was able to give birth to Uma naturally, instead of the C-section procedure they’d anticipated.
Photographer Ariel Panowicz captured the emotional moment Matthew and Elliot glanced down at their daughter for the first time, as grandma Cecile clutched the baby in her arms.
The pair are animated in their emotion throughout the labor, crying inconsolably into one another’s arms one moment, and beaming with pride the next, as a resilient Cecile stared back at them lovingly.
‘Growing up we would always tease my mom,’ Mathew said. ‘She’s very cute and sweet, so she let us get away with it. But in the midst of all the joking you can forget what someone is really like at the core of themselves.
‘But being in that room [during the labor] was such a visceral moment. All the joking had stopped. She was like a warrior – so strong. I just have such a deep respect for her and the incredible woman she is.’
Matthew, a high school teacher, says Cecile didn’t find it hard to hand Uma over. What motivated her throughout the process, he says, was the very moment she’d be able to place her ‘grandbaby’ into her son’s arms.
‘She said throughout the whole process that she didn’t see Uma as her baby, she saw it as her grandbaby,’ Matthew said.
‘In fact she was so exhausted after the pregnancy and birth she said she was actually glad to hand her over before the real hard work began,’ he jokingly added. ‘She said the whole process was “so worth it” in the end.’
The couple say that Uma’s birth ‘literally took a village’ to bring together, but they couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of being parents for the rest of their lives.
‘The whole experience behind it all has been so special. The acts of kindness that went into this all, and all of the support has been truly humbling.
‘Uma will now have some incredible female role models to look up to in Lea and my mother. I can’t wait for her to develop an incredibly special bond with them both.’