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This 51-Year-Old Is Happily Carrying Her Own Grandchild

But the story starts with heartache and hundreds of injections.

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51 year old Mother who is a surrogate for her daughter.  Photographed in a field of sunflowers.
Breanna Lockwood
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There are three people featured in Breanna Lockwood’s Instagram baby announcement. On the right stands Breanna, 29, and her husband, Aaron. The two are beaming, holding a strip of ultrasound photos and a sign that says, “Made with lots of love…and a little bit of science.”

On the left, joining hands with Breanna, is their gestational surrogate, Julie Loving. Wearing a formfitting dress that perfectly hugs her bump, Julie, at first glance, looks like she could be Breanna’s sister. But when followers of Breanna’s @ivf.surrogacy.diary read the caption, they’re treated to a jaw-dropping surprise:“[T]his little miracle’s carrier is quite a special one. MY MOM. My mom will be carrying and delivering our baby!”

The story of how Julie, 51, became one of the few women nationwide to carry her own grandchild via gestational surrogacy starts with heartache and hundreds of injections. Breanna, a dental hygienist, and Aaron, who works in computer network security, tried to conceive for nearly four years, enduring eight IVF attempts and multiple miscarriages. After the Manteno, Illinois, couple suffered the loss of twins and Breanna underwent a procedure called dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove tissue from inside the uterus, she was diagnosed with Asherman syndrome, a rare condition in which scar tissue forms inside the uterus, rendering conception extremely difficult.

After the Lockwoods received this devastating news, infertility specialist Brian Kaplan, M.D., of Fertility Centers of Illinois, mentioned gestational surrogacy as an option. In this situation, the surrogate carries an embryo created with someone else’s egg and sperm.

“I started looking into it,” Breanna says, “but there was a big sticker shock. It’s not covered by insurance and costs upward of $100,000, $150,000 to go through an agency.” Her fertility doctor mentioned that those costs can be significantly reduced if a family member or friend serves as a surrogate, but no one sprung to Breanna’s mind. “I don’t have any sisters, and my friends have had complicated pregnancies,” she explains.

That’s when Breanna’s mom started thinking about the possibility of filling the role. “When she lost her twins, I said to my husband, ‘I would be her surrogate,’ ” Julie says. “I’m healthy. I feel like I’m in my 30s. My two pregnancies, including a 9.5-pound son, were easy.”

Julie is also a two-time Boston marathon finisher (2016 and 2018) who’s in incredible shape. (She first took up running in her 40s, “when I moved off to college when they became empty nesters,” Breanna writes on an Instagram post dedicated to her mom. “Some people just get a puppy; my parents decided they wanted to qualify for Boston.”

Julie texted Breanna, “Give me a chance. Let me be your surrogate.” Breanna’s answer? A hard no. “I didn’t think it was possible. I thought I’d be shut down by the doctor, and I was afraid to even mentally get on board with [the idea],” Breanna explains. She was also concerned about the health ramifications of a 51-year-old woman carrying and delivering a baby. (Julie says her daughter’s exact words were, “Mom, no. You’re crazy. You’re old.”)

But Julie kept at it. “I purely wanted to help my daughter,” she reveals. “I was on this ride with her, experiencing her losses, her hurt. And as parents, we felt helpless.”

Breanna started to get annoyed, complaining to her colleagues, “My mom will not stop.” But they thought she should do it. “They said, ‘Give her a try.’ But I was worried about my mom. And you put a lot of work into creating these embryos. These embryos are gold. You want to put them somewhere they’ll thrive.”

In July of 2019, Julie accompanied her daughter to a routine fertility appointment. As they walked in, Breanna whispered to her mom, “Do not say anything about being a surrogate—do not.” But her mom didn’t listen. And much to Breanna’s surprise, Dr. Kaplan responded positively. The notion that he even thought it might be an option made Breanna reconsider.

What followed was a half year of consultations and tests. Julie needed to be cleared by her primary physician, a high-risk ob-gyn, a psychologist and more specialists. She passed all the tests with flying colors. Interestingly, one of them revealed that Julie was postmenopausal, which came as a shock to her considering she hadn’t experienced traditional symptoms like hot flashes. But, fortunately, menopause doesn’t necessarily matter when you’re a surrogate.

This past February, one of Breanna and Aaron’s embryos was implanted in Julie. Another was transferred into Breanna herself on the same day, a sort of last-hurrah effort to see if it might stick. A little over a week later, Breanna and her mom took home-pregnancy tests together. Both tests were positive, so for a moment it seemed as if mother and daughter would be pregnant together. Sadly, Breanna’s ended up being an ectopic pregnancy, meaning the embryo implanted in her fallopian tube and was not viable. But mom’s stuck.

For Julie, pregnancy is a bit different this time around. Now she’s enjoying “cute, fitted maternity clothes. …We used to wear our stuff really baggy back in the 90s.” Aside from some first-trimester nausea and fatigue, she feels great, walking 2 to 3 miles a day. “Now that I can feel the baby kicking,” she says, “it’s really bringing back the memories.”

COVID-19 has certainly thrown wrenches into their plans, but, fortunately, Breanna has been able to join Julie for nearly every prenatal appointment. (When she can’t, Julie FaceTimes her in.) Friends and family, including Breanna’s dad/Julie’s husband, are all supportive.

Baby Lockwood, a girl, is due in November. While Breanna and Aaron haven’t decided on her first name, they know that her middle name will be Juliette, in honor of her grandma. Mother and daughter recently attended a 3D ultrasound together, where they were treated to images of the baby’s face, fingers and toes. When Breanna burst into tears, Julie jumped into mom mode, rubbing her back and embracing her with love. “Forever there for her babies,” Breanna says, “just like I plan to be.”

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