Julie Loving is giving a whole new meaning to a mother doing anything for her child. The 51-year-old offered to become a “surrograndma” and serve as the gestational carrier for her 29-year-old daughter’s baby.
“It’s been a textbook pregnancy,” Loving, who is 35 weeks along, told TODAY Parents. “Everything’s been perfect.”
Loving’s daughter, Breanna Lockwood, had struggled with infertility for years, experiencing four failed embryo transfers, two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. After a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure left Lockwood with problematic scar tissue in her uterus, she and her husband Aaron turned to the idea of using a gestational carrier.
A gestational carrier is a woman who carries and delivers the biological child of someone else without using any of her own eggs or DNA.
“Most Americans cannot afford a gestational carrier,” said Lockwood’s fertility specialist, Dr. Brian Kaplan of Fertility Centers of Illinois. “It’s over $100,000.”
Lockwood shared that her mom had come to her multiple times wanting to carry, but she refused.
“I was really in a sad place,” explained Lockwood, who lives in the Chicago area. “I knew she wanted to be helpful, but I just kept kind of saying no.”
Despite her daughter’s hesitations, Loving, a two-time Boston marathoner and triathlon participant, was persistent. She accompanied her daughter to a fertility appointment that her husband was unable to attend.
“In the car before the appointment I had said, ‘Don’t say anything about it. Don’t make it weird,’” Lockwood said.
As the appointment came to a close, Loving voiced her desire to be her daughter’s gestational carrier to Dr. Kaplan.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘This is not a good thing,’” said Kaplan, who has done more than 20,000 in vitro fertilization procedures in the span of his 29-year career. “Normally a gestational carrier should be under 40 years, but in medicine you have to look at an individual and personalize it.”
Kaplan agreed to talk with his colleagues. He had Loving undergo rigorous testing while making no promises.
“We made her go through all these hoops to make sure she was as healthy as possible (and) as educated as possible about the risks involved,” Kaplan said. “We took it very seriously. Each of the physicians that saw her agreed this was unique. This is not something we would do regularly or advise people to do. This was absolutely exceptional.”
After Loving passed each test, she was given the green light to be her daughter and son-in-law’s gestational carrier.
“Fortunately she got pregnant the very first time with the very first embryo,” Kaplan said. “I’ve been with Breanna for years with so much trauma and intensity — the resilience was mind-boggling. If she did not have her mom, she wouldn't have a baby.”
Lockwood had chronicled her nearly four-year journey with infertility on her Instagram account before making the big announcement this summer.
“I shared my fertility journey publicly with strangers, but I hadn’t shared it with personal acquaintances in my life,” she said. “I had that Instagram account where I connected with strangers I knew I’d never meet. The morning I was putting it up with my personal story for everyone to know, I was a nervous wreck.”
In true mom fashion, Loving urged her daughter to “just hit the button” and post the news.
“Made with a lot of love, and a little bit of science... Baby Lockwood will be brought into this world via GESTATIONAL CARRIER, and this little miracle’s carrier is quite a special one. MY MOM,” Lockwood shared in the post, which was met with mostly positive reactions from around the world.
“I would say 90% of the responses and feedback I get are fantastic and wonderful, but there are that 10% of internet trolls that have nasty things to say about whatever they can online,” Lockwood said. “I think a lot of it comes from lack of education where they don’t understand IVF or what a surrogate is, or they think this baby is my sister.”
As Loving’s due date inches closer, the mother-daughter team shares feelings of excitement mixed with nerves.
“I’m so ready,” Lockwood said. “We’re so lucky and fortunate that this was able to happen for us.”
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