Sunday 2 October 2022

55-year-old Woman Lent Her Womb To Her Daughter With Cancer

Doctors implanted the grandmother with an embryo fertilized in vitro with genetic material of daughter and son-in-law

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Inside the delivery room dressed in green, Ana and Jose, the biological parents, anxiously awaited the birth of their daughter, Milagro. But it was Ana’s mother or Milagro’s grandmother actually giving birth.

Foto: Mayela López / La Nacion

Once Milagro was born, by caesarian section, the doctor placed the newborn in the arms of Ana, who finally saw her dream of becoming a mother even though four years ago her uterus had been removed to save her from invasive cancer.

Milagro was born on Friday, July 7, 2017.

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Carmen, her maternal grandmother, gave birth to her in a private hospital, in San José.

Almost nine months before delivery, this 55-year-old woman was implanted with an embryo formed with her daughter’s egg and her son-in-law’s sperm. The embryo transfer was performed on October 26, 2016.

To do this procedure, the doctors had to stop the advance of Carmen’s menopause. With medical treatments, they prepared her body for the risks – due to age – of a second pregnancy that resulted in the birth of her only daughter, Ana, almost three decades earlier.

“From the first day I am totally clear that I am Milagro’s grandmother, she is my granddaughter and I love her double. For me, I was just a kangaroo,” Carmen said a week ago.

For Ana, this is a dream come true.

Foto: Mayela López / La Nacion

“In my head I used to tell myself: this (the cancer) will be taken away from me, I will be cured and I will have a baby.” That was my thinking, “the young mother, now 30 years old, recalled at home, while giving her baby the bottle.

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Almost a year old now, Jose and Ana are living their dream with Milagro.

A story full of challenges

All the names here – Ana, José, Milagro and Carmen – are fictitious names of a real story that began on June 22, 2013, when the young couple contracted marriage with the illusion of having a child and dream of forming a home.

Their identities are protected as well as that of the maternal grandfather at the request of the family.

They fear possible attacks by people who fail to understand and respect the reasons why a woman already in menopause lends her uterus to her daughter with cancer to fulfill her aspiration to become a mother.

Foto: Mayela López / La Nacion
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Above all, they want to protect their little Milagro (Miracle in English) from the public eye.

Angela Avalos of La Nacion, in her report, said the family agreed to tell their story because they want other couples in a similar situation not to feel as lonely as they felt at the beginning of this process.

According to the doctors who handled the case, it is very rare to find stories in the world where the grandmother lends her womb so that one of her children can be a father or mother.

The obstetrician-gynecologist Claudio Regueyra Edelman, who supported this couple as a sub-specialist in Reproductive Medicine, acknowledged that this is the only case of surrogacy in which he intervened “because he was sure there was no problem”, despite the legal vacuum in Costa Rica for the management of these matters.

The in vitro fertilization was performed in 2016, in a Mexican medical center. The embryo transfer was also made in Mexico, but the girl was born in a private hospital in Costa Rica.

Although by then the practice of in vitro fertilization had been reinitiated in Costa Rica, the private centers able to carry it out were in the process of approval by the Ministry of Health.

The history of this family allows, at the same time, to open the debate on the subrogated belly or motherhood by substitution.

In Costa Rica there is no regulation to govern procedures for procreation. Nor is there any that prohibits them. For this reason, Milagro was initially registered in the Civil Registry with the surnames of her maternal grandparents.

Her first steps as a Costa Rican citizen identified her as the daughter of her grandmother and sister of her biological mother.

Her parents and grandparents had to spend almost a year in unsuccessful consultations with four lawyers, until they found a specialist in Family Law who, finally, managed to get Ana and José to register the girl with their last names in the Civil Registry.

That registration could only be made when a Family Court approved the application to adopt their own daughter.

Three years to make the decision

After Ana had her uterus removed stop the cancer, the couple had to face an inescapable reality.

Foto: Mayela López / La Nacion

“We could no longer be parents in a natural way, it was hard for me to understand, I was only 26 years old … I had to mature by force, it was very strange for me to be told: ‘Hey, well, let’s get pregnant with your mother-in-law!’.vImagine that, in the mind of a young man who has been fortunate in his life and had never had a problem of this type. That they told me this was something I had to assimilate,” José acknowledged.

While Ana was still fighting for her life and exams were being carried out to verify that the cancer had not returned, the subject of motherhood was not touched again.

“It was a couple of years where there were situations that separated us from that discussion, some things happened, among them, my dad got sick with leukemia and he died, and after his death we went back to the subject of the children,” José said while Ana dressed Milagro in pajamas.

The doctor had already warned them that the possibility of the surrogate mother had an age limit, with the advance of Carmen’s menopause with the passage of time.

It was in February 2016 when everyone sat down to discuss the matter again.

“Doña Carmen just said ‘I’ll do it! Do not worry about me’,” recalled José.

“I had nothing to think about … On the recommendation of Dr. Loáiciga, we went to Dr. Regueyra and it was when I told him, “If I’m fine, let’s do it. I was four years in menopause but I’ve always been very healthy,” Carmen said, who practices tennis and yoga several times a week for a long time.

Thirty years ago, Carmen said, her first pregnancy was normal. No complications and without altering her routine as a businesswoman and her daily practice of physical exercise.

What, then, could be the difference now? “None!” she responded without giving more importance to being 30 years older and to be entering a period in the life of the woman in which she stops menstruating and the ability to have children is lost.

“For me, everything was like a tic, toc, ticking of the clock, I had planned to have children at 30 or 35 years old, but this was now or not given the time limit of the mother-in-law,” said José.

Despite the legal challenges, such as the legal void in Costa Rica with respect to surrogates;the challenges with the civil registry that would deny the registration of the birth to the natural parents; and the reservations of the other family members, in particular the religious beliefs of Jose’s mother, a devout Catholic woman who sought the advice of her priest, a young and open-minded priest who told her, “If God wants this to happen, it will happen”, Milagro was born on July 7, 2017.

However, on April 4, 2018, nine months after leaving the womb of her grandmother, this little girl lived a new birth: the Family Court approved the adoption that allowed the Civil Registry to change Milagro’s last names to that of her parents.

Source (in Spanish): La Nacion

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