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Daily Journal
     June 22, 2020      #62-174 KDJ
 

Family matters: Grandma helps deliver

By Lee Provost
lprovost@daily-journal.com


MANTENO — A rather unusual situation is unfolding in Kankakee County between a mother, her daughter and her son-in-law.

Breanna Lockwood, 29, and her 28-year-old husband, Aaron, set out four years ago to have a baby. Married in June 2016, the couple immediately began trying to conceive a child following their honeymoon.

They wanted to have a baby as soon as possible because Breanna’s grandfather, Richard Loving, whom Breanna dearly loved, was suffering from terminal cancer. She and her husband wanted him to see their child.

However, weeks of failing to conceive a child turned into months, and months became years of frustration.

Her grandfather, Richard Loving, of Bradley, passed away in March 2018 at the age of 68. And Breanna, who had become pregnant on three occasions — once with twins — was not able to take her pregnancies anywhere close to full term.

Some four years after Breanna, a 2009 Herscher High School graduate, and Aaron, a 2010 Herscher grad, set out to have a child, they were still without a baby.

Four years of tests, treatments, surgeries and tears had brought them nowhere near to bouncing a baby on their knees.

Like so many plans, things changed. But there was one constant: the couple remained committed to having a baby.

And that’s where Breanna’s 51-year-old mother, Julie Loving, of Limestone, enters this story.

GRANDMA ENTERS

Julie Loving had always made it clear that she would do whatever was needed to help her daughter have a child, even if it meant her being the gestational carrier for her daughter’s baby. Basically, the would-be grandma offered numerous times to carry the baby so her daughter could become a mother.

It was during a visit to Breanna’s reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Brian Kaplan, at the Fertility Centers of Illinois, when this concept began becoming a much more serious consideration.

“Dr. Kaplan said, ‘She [Julie, her mother] looks like your sister,” Breanna recalled. “I could see his wheels spinning. I didn’t think it was an option due to her age.”

A gestational carrier — also called a gestational surrogate — is an arrangement where a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or individual.

When using a gestational surrogate, the eggs used to make the embryos do not come from the carrier, but rather from the woman seeking the child, in this case from Breanna.

Through the process known as in vitro fertilization (IVF), the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory, in this case with Aaron’s sperm, and then transferred into the uterus of the carrier, in this case Breanna’s mother, Julie.

Most always a gestational carrier is a woman between the ages of 21 and 45. However, because of the fitness level and physical health of Julie, Dr. Kaplan felt this would be a situation where the normal boundaries could be pushed.

An avid runner, Julie, who also works at Aldi Foods in Bradley, has completed 19 marathons — including the Boston and Chicago marathons. She also has competed in many biathlons and triathlons. She noted she has been an avid runner since age 41.

In addition to Breanna, she has a 27-year-old son, Ryan Loving.

After weeks of testing and treatments for Julie, who is a 1988 Herscher High graduate, it was decided the process could move forward. Amazingly, the first attempt proved a success. Julie, who, of course, will be the child’s grandmother, is now about five months pregnant and aside from some morning sickness, is functioning quite well. The baby is due to arrive Nov. 12.

‘AN EXCEPTIONAL CASE’

“This is an exceptional case,” Dr. Kaplan said in a recent interview with the Daily Journal. “Very few mothers carry a child for their daughter, but these are exceptional people. We don’t do this cavalierly. There was some initial hesitation because most women don’t carry a baby at 51. ... Breanna is an amazing woman and they have a fantastic relationship.”

The doctor said some women, like Breanna, simply cannot carry a baby. But as this process moves forward, he couldn’t be more pleased for Breanna and her husband. And Julie as well.

“I’ve seen most things, but this is unique to me. They are the stars of this story. I’m just on the peripheral. They are the people living through this.”

Kaplan said this case should make people appreciate the human spirit.

He’s also hopeful that because the mother and daughter are so open in speaking about this matter that it might help educate others.

“By educating people it gives others hope. I’ve gotten calls from all over the world about this case. There is hope for people [who are unable to have children]. There is always something that can be done,” he said.

The trio’s story has made headlines across the world. Their unusual story has been published in newspapers in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, as well as the United States. The mother and daughter also have appeared on Fox News Chicago.

A LIFE-LONG DREAM

Back in Limestone, the mother and daughter have at various points found it difficult to stop smiling and, at other points, find themselves wiping tears from their cheeks.

“I’m pretty determined,” Breanna said of her personality and her pursuit of bringing a baby into this world. “I went through numerous fertility treatments. My husband and I talked about all options. Adoption was on the table. We were not going to stop until we exhausted all options.”

She admitted that coming to the realization that she was not going to be able to carry her own child was extremely difficult.

“My biggest dream when I was a kid was having my own baby,” she said.

Her mother agreed. She noted from Breanna’s childhood, she always spoke of having her own family.

“Kids were a magnet to her. Children just gravitated to her,” Julie said.

Thinking back, Breanna said she never officially asked her mother to be the surrogate.

“It was always on the table, but I always pushed it away. But when our doctor became comfortable with this, then I got more comfortable,” she said.

That seemingly nature gift with children may have been what helped persuade Julie to make the extraordinary offer to her daughter. Whatever the reason or reasons may have been, Julie said there was never any apprehension. None.

She talked with her husband of 30 years, Rick. He was of the same thinking. Everyone was onboard. Now it is simply a matter of getting through these final months as anticipation mounts.

While everything appears to be heading the right direction, there are still many nerves.

“As of right now, I couldn’t have asked for a better pregnancy. I’ve had nausea, fatigue. ... This is a scary journey. I can say this, I’ve been more delicate than with my own kids,” she said.

Julie paused for a moment. She continued.

“People take it so much for granted having kids,” she said. “When you see someone struggling with infertility, it’s so difficult. I take nothing for granted. I’m so happy and grateful.”

A hard journey

The hurdles Breanna and husband Aaron Lockwood have crossed in their effort to have a baby:

476 injections

64 blood draws

7 surgical procedures

3 rounds of harvesting eggs

19 frozen embryos

8 IVF frozen embryo transfers total

4 failed embryo transfers

1 singleton miscarriage

1 twin miscarriage

1 ectopic pregnancy

Countless tears

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Lee Provost
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