Woman used her 51 year mother as surrogate


    A 51-year-old mother with multiple sclerosis gave birth to her own
    granddaughter in North Dakota, acting as a surrogate for her daughter.
    The pregnancy came with an unexpected and welcome side effect.

    Mandy Stephens and her husband Jamie couldn’t wait to
    get pregnant after marrying in 2013, but they had trouble conceiving
    and opted for in vitro fertilization.

    Stephens became pregnant, and the 20-week ultrasound looked perfect. But
    she subsequently went into early labor and lost the baby, which she
    named Theo.

    “There’s so much excitement,” Stephens, 32, said. “You carry the baby
    for so long, and then it’s all ripped apart and taken away. Your whole
    world stops.”

    Mandy’s mom, Sherri Dickson, felt the pain, too.

    “Watching your child lose a child is the definition of sadness,” Dickson
    said. “I can’t describe it any other way. It breaks your heart.”

    Because Stephens’ cervix opened early, doctors warned the couple that a
    premature birth could happen again, though there is a procedure that may
    allow women with cervical insufficiency to carry their own baby.

    The couple considered different options. Adoption? A surrogate?
    That’s when her mother stepped in.

    “I decided that if they needed somebody to carry their child, I would volunteer,” Dickson said.

    The decision was easy for Dickson, who, at 51, had three grown children
    of her own. But there could be complications because of her age and
    diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the
    central nervous system.

    “The disabling effects of the disease may make it physically difficult
    for the mother to carry a pregnancy,” according to Johns Hopkins
    Medicine. “Muscle weakness and coordination problems may increase the
    likelihood for falls.”

    But the situation also came with a potential health benefit for Dickson,
    whose MS was in remission: Becoming pregnant might help keep it that
    Researchers think that protective changes in the immune system during pregnancy keep the disease at bay.
    Two attempts were made with in vitro fertilization, and by November of
    last year, Dickson was pregnant with her daughter and son-in-law’s baby.

    “Pregnancy was easy,” Dickson said. “I was very fortunate … I was
    playing tennis a week before I delivered, and working out with my
    trainer, but the delivery at 51 was way harder than the delivery at 33
    with my last baby.”

    Their bundle of joy was born four weeks ago.

    “It’s indescribable,” Dickson said. “There are times I look at … [the
    baby] and say, ‘We did that, you know?’ We gave her what she wants. Not
    that you ever make up for a baby you lost but you give someone that
    hope, you know?”


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