Our extraordinary surrogacy story: The moving photo album telling how mother, 61, carried baby to term for her daughter
15:29 GMT, 5 September 2012
20:15 GMT, 5 September 2012
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 Finnean in 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.
Grandmothers gift: Kristine Casey (left) poses with her daughter Sara Connell (right) during their surrogate pregnancy of Mrs Connell's baby boy
Touching bellies: Mother and daughter pose during a photoshoot before Finnean's birth
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.
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.
Miracle baby: After undergoing infertility treatment, Mrs Connell became pregnant but delivered stillborn twins, and later suffered a miscarriage, before her mother gave birth to her son, Finnean
Grandma's first visit: Mrs Casey cradles her grandson, whom she carried to term for her daughter
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
'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.'
Family joy: Mrs Connell (left) said that she and her mother – who became the oldest woman to give birth in Chicago – held hands as Finnean was delivered by cesarean section
Lucky little boy: Finnean Connell pictured at Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, the day of his birth
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.
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.
Achingly honest: Sara Connell recounts process of opening up to the idea of her own mother carrying her child for her in Bringing in Finn
'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.
Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story, by Sara Connell, is available from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, and on Amazon.
A MOTHER'S GIFT: THE WOMEN WHO ACT AS SURROGATES FOR THEIR OWN GRANDCHILDREN
Sara Connell is not the only daughter to have her mother act as a surrogate.
For daughters who can not conceive or carry their own babies to full term, opening up to the idea of their mother giving birth to their own child brings about many abstract ethical questions, while also being a powerful testament to the complexity of mother love.
Last month, a northern Maine woman, 49, who acted as a surrogate mother also gave birth to her grandson.
Linda Sirois of Madawaska carried and delivered the baby, Madden Hebert, because her daughter Angel Hebert could not. Mrs Herbert, who is 25, has a health condition that doctors believe made it unsafe for her to get pregnant.
The family told the Press Herald that they've been overwhelmed by the global media attention: 'People have done this before, right' she told the newspaper.
In 2008, Jaci Dalenberg, a 56-year-old Cleveland resident acted as a surrogate in carrying triplets for her daughter, Kim Coseno, who desperately wanted to start a family with her husband, Joe.
Mrs Coseno, 36, had a partial hysterectomy that doomed any chance of her having children on her own.