A 61-year-old woman, who gave birth to her daughter’s baby boy, has told of her remarkable journey as a surrogate grandmother.
Kristine Casey, from Chicago, was a gestational carrier for her daughter, Sara Connell, and her husband Bill, who suffered heartbreaking infertility struggles. She successfully delivered their son Finneanin February last year.
Now, the family’s unconventional journey has been told in Mrs Connell’s new memoir, Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story.
The book relates how the Connells decided in 2004 to try to have a baby, but Mrs Connell, now 36, soon discovered she wasn’t ovulating.
After undergoing infertility treatment at the Reproductive Medicine Institute in Evanston, she became pregnant but delivered stillborn twins, and later suffered a miscarriage.
Mrs Connell’s mother, who went through her own pregnancies without incident, was the hope the family needed. They came up with a unique plan, leading to Finnean Lee Connell‘s birth early last year.
In her honest memoir, Mrs Connell recounts the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; how she opened up to the idea of her own mother carrying her child; and the bond between mother and daughter that blossomed as a result of their unique experience together.
Her book describes in heart-wrenching detail her experience at losing her twins, an event she says reconnected her to her own mother, whom she had grown distant in previous years..
In an excerpt from her book, Mrs Connell writes of her stillborn twins: ‘Our burgeoning family (Bill, the twins, and I) had passed all the reassuring milestones.
‘Trimester one; genetic screening (all good!); trimester two; the twenty-week ultrasound, where we not only discovered that both babies were boys but saw them with our own eyes – moving and full of life.
‘They did scissor kicks and somersaulted; they had heartbeats, ten fingers, ten toes. At one point, Baby Boy B, as the technician called him, had even sucked his thumb.’
She continues, describing the time after the operation: ‘My raw cries sent my father to the basement, but my mother came to meet me in the hall.
‘Our reconnection had come as a surprise, with a will of its own, fueled perhaps by the same phenomenon that allows mothers to lift cars to save their infants. “There is going to be joy at the other end of this pain,” she said.
‘Through the cotton of her T-shirt, I could feel the thumping of her heart. Against my chest, it sounded like hope.‘
After much consideration, Mrs Casey decided to send a letter to her daughter offering to carry her child, writing, ‘Postmenopausal women have given birth… I’m pretty good at this…The happiest moments of my life were being pregnant and having you three girls.’
After nutting out the logistics, risks and health concerns with their doctor (legal documents and psychological evaluations are mandatory), the family decided to go ahead with the surrogacy.
And after countless medical examinations, doctors concluded that Mrs Casey may suffer from fatigue, the main symptom caused by age, if they went ahead with the pregnancy.
Mrs Connell recalls: ‘My mother leaned far back in her chair and began to laugh. “Tired!” she said. “I was tired when I had no help and two children under five to run after every day. I’m retired now – I don’t have to do anything. If fatigue is the big factor, I think I can handle it.”‘
‘As Bill and I exited the door, I heard her say to my mother, “You are an extraordinary woman.”‘
Mrs Connell told the Chicago Tribune that she and her mother – who became the oldest woman to give birth in the city – held hands as Finnean was delivered by cesarean section.
She said: ‘When the baby let out a cry, I lost it. It’s such a miracle.’
Dr Susan Gerber, who delivered the baby at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital, described the surgery itself as uncomplicated, but added that the ’emotional context of this delivery was so profound.’
While successful childbirth for post-menopausal women is rare, numbers have been rising due to advances in IVF treatments.