Breanna Lockwood is a 29-year-old woman who really, really wants to be a mom. She and her husband, Aaron, have been battling infertility for years, but happily, the two are expecting their first child later this year.
In a twist, Breanna and Aaron’s daughter will have an extra-special backstory: Her grandmother, Julie, will be the person who physically gives birth to her.
Breanna and Aaron tried to conceive a child on their own for a year. They didn’t have any success, so Breanna saw a fertility specialist. After two years that included surgeries, many rounds of in vitro fertilization, and numerous miscarriages, Breanna and Aaron were advised to consider surrogacy as a path to parenthood.
Breanna told Good Morning America that the problem lies with her uterus: Though the embryos she and Aaron produced were healthy, her body was unable to carry a pregnancy to term. When the couple first began to explore surrogacy, they weren’t sure where to start.
In words that many will relate to, Breanna told Good Morning America that coping with infertility has been one of the biggest challenges in her life. “Struggling with infertility was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. When you have a plan for your life and then something like infertility gets in the way, I felt like I couldn’t see what I pictured anymore, that it could be taken away from me.”
One of Breanna’s miscarriages happened while she was pregnant with twins, and that became a turning point in her journey toward motherhood. Her doctor suggested that she and Aaron find a family member or friend who would be willing to act as their surrogate. Otherwise, they could enlist the help of a surrogacy agency, but they would be looking at expenses that could total more than $100,000.
Breanna’s mom, Julie, brought up the idea to her daughter following that devastating loss. Julie said, “Once she had the miscarriage with the twins I started to talk to her about it. She was not on board and thought I was crazy, but I just kept pursuing it.”
The idea that her mom could be her surrogate hadn’t crossed Breanna’s mind.
But Julie says that she felt healthy enough, and she had her own pregnancies to fall back on. “I’ve run 19 marathons and done many triathlons. I felt like health-wise I could do it and I had really easy pregnancies with my two kids.”
Julie planned to visit Breanna’s doctor with her daughter at the next appointment, and everyone started to discuss the idea in earnest.
Julie was the one who brought it up. “My mom came with me as my support person and she brought up that she wanted to carry. When he met her I could tell that he was really starting to think about it as a possibility, but he didn’t tell us yes right away. There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through to make it possible.”
Those “hoops” included many rounds of tests, and Julie ended up being seen by at least five different highly qualified and skilled physicians. Brian Kaplan, Breanna and Julie’s doctor, said that there was no way he could tell Julie she couldn’t do this for her daughter. “How can I look this woman in the eye and say, ‘You’re not healthy.’ You’re healthier than everybody here.”
Everyone is quick to point out that this isn’t really the norm — many 51-year-old women would probably not be able to act as a surrogate like Julie is. Dr. Kaplan was very clear about this when he added, “I think it’s very important for me as a physician and for this field for people to know this is not routine and not everybody can use their mom. It has to be a unique situation.”
Julie and Breanna also shared that because Breanna had suffered so many losses, everyone was really hesitant to assume this would work out right away. But Julie’s successful embryo transplant happened in February, and she tested as pregnant a month later in March 2020 — definitely two very good signs.
Breanna said that she was still worried it was too good to be true. “Even when we got the positive pregnancy test result we couldn’t jump for joy yet because we’d had so many losses and so much trauma. Just now, halfway through the pregnancy, we’re starting to get excited and shop and plan.”
In June 2020, Breanna and Aaron shared the news that they’re having a daughter, and the baby’s due date is November 12, 2020. Julie says that her daughter visits her every single day and goes out of her way to make sure she’s happy, comfortable, and spoiled.
And since Julie became pregnant only a week before much of the US shut down due to the ongoing health crisis, she decided to take a leave of absence from her job so she could keep herself and the baby as safe as possible.
Julie said, “We’re just doing what we can at this crazy time in the world. With doctor’s appointments, I have been able to attend every appointment, but sometimes I have to really beg to let me go. My husband hasn’t been allowed to so we video everything we can and fill him in on everything when we get back to the car.”
Everyone in the family says they all plan to be open with the baby about her truly unique birth story, and Julie is even working on a scrapbook for her granddaughter that details their journey together.
Dr. Kaplan says that above all else, he’s learned a lot through this experience: “After 29 years, I was taught a lesson. I was taught about family strength. You can see the intensity of their family and their unity and love. It’s really humbling as a physician.”