Grandmother gives birth to grandchild
It is perhaps one of the greatest gifts a mother could give.
A woman in her 50s has given birth to her own grandchild after becoming a surrogate mother for her infertile daughter.
Cindy Reutzel, 53, gave birth to a healthy baby girl a week ago who will now be brought up by her 32-year-old daughter Emily Jordan.
Emily was 29 when she discovered two years ago she had cervical cancer.
However, just as she was about to have a radical hysterectomy, Emily and husband Mike discovered she was pregnant.
Faced with saving her own life or their unborn child's, the young couple made the excruciating decision to go forward with her surgery. It meant losing the baby, and forfeiting any chance at having own children.
Remembering the moment she discovered she no longer had a place where a baby could grow, Emily said: “I can't describe what that was like after finding out you have cancer, after finding out your chance of ever carrying a baby is gone.”
However, hope arrived in the form of mother Cindy, who offered to act as a surrogate for the couple.
And last week, Emily and Mike waited patiently in the maternity wing of a downtown Chicago hospital to realise their dream of becoming parents.
Just days after Emily's 32nd birthday, baby Elle Cynthia Jordan was born.
An in-vitro baby boom began about 34 years ago when Louise Brown - the world's first 'test tube' baby - was born in Britain.
What started with would-be mothers in their 20s and 30s, began to extend to older women too.
Some older women were having their own babies. But more often, they were using egg donors to have their own children, or serving as surrogates or “gestational carriers”.
A 51-year-old grandmother in Brazil gave birth to her twin grandchildren in 2007, and there were other stories of women giving birth in their 40s or 50s and even 60s.
Cindy had a vague recollection of those stories. So when doctors revealed that they had been able to keep Emily's ovaries intact, she immediately offered to help, asking: “What if I carried your baby for you?”
Emily and Mike didn't take it too seriously at first. “We didn't really think that was a realistic option,” says Emily, who works in hospital administration.
However, for a young grandmother in good health, like Cindy, it became a viable option.
After a process that included psychological evaluation and hormonal manipulation to prepare their bodies, Kim eventually implanted Cindy's uterus with an embryo created with an egg from Emily and Mike's sperm.
It was no easy process, with a regimen of hormonal shots. Work schedules were interrupted and vacations postponed. But Cindy was committed.
Cindy, an executive director at a medical foundation in Chicago, said: 'The thought of Emily and Mike not being able to have children and share that piece of their lives with someone just broke my heart.
“I want Emily to have that connection with another human being like I had with her.”
As her belly grew, people started asking Cindy about “her baby”. However, she was quick to correct them and reveal she was actually carrying her grandchild.
While admitting she was worried about the physical toll a late pregnancy might take, Cindy said her body handled it better than she expected.
She also wondered how well she'd bounce back from a Caesarean section. That's how she had delivered Emily and her older brother, but that had been three decades ago.
Still, she reassured Emily and Mike throughout the pregnancy that the baby was fine, she was fine, everything would be fine.
Mike and Emily knew there'd really be no way to repay this kind of gesture.
All they could do, they said, was to promise to raise their baby as best they could. And that was enough for Cindy.
Last week, a few days after Emily's 32nd birthday, daughter sat next to mother, holding hands in the delivery room.
And Elle Cynthia Jordan was born.
Cindy, who is recovering well, even said she would consider doing it again.
She added: “When I watch both of them hold that baby and look into her face, it's like everything I could have imagined wanting for them - better than I could have imagined.
“This is what it was all about for me.”