Matthew Eledge, 32, and Elliot Dougherty, 29, had always wanted children—and quickly began planning for their family after they wed in 2015.
They knew it would be difficult to realize their dream of being parents as a same-sex couple in Omaha, Nebraska. But their loved ones were eager to help, and the couple was elated when Doughtery’s sister, Lea, offered to donate her eggs over brunch one afternoon in June 2017.
Shortly after, Eledge’s mom stepped in with an offer of her own: she wanted to carry her son’s baby.
“When they first told us they were interested in starting a family it was just a natural instinct that I blurted out. I said, ‘If you’re looking for a carrier, I would do it in a heartbeat,’ ” Cecile Eledge, 61, recalls to PEOPLE, adding that she remembered how much she “loved being pregnant” three decades earlier with Matthew and his two older siblings.
“I just jumped right in with both feet and was ready to help them in any way that I could. We do kind of joke because I did tell everybody there was a small part of me, when I did mention I would do it, I thought, ‘There’s really no way I could do this! I’m too old!’ “
As it turns out, age was just a number in Cecile’s case. Dr. Carolyn Maud Doherty, the family’s reproductive endocrinologist, says there are very few 61-year-olds who can be surrogates. But Cecile, a longtime cyclist and avid runner, was a better-than-typical candidate for surrogacy.
“She has the body of a 40-year-old and is actually in better shape than some 20-year-olds,” Dr. Doherty says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “I’m pretty conservative about these sorts of things, but Cecile really turned out to be their best option. She’s genetically blessed.”
Though hesitant, the family moved forward with the plan. With one of Lea’s eggs and Matthew’s sperm, Cecile became pregnant in their first attempt at IVF. Cecile’s pregnancy had no major complications, but the active mother says the first trimester was the hardest as she suffered from morning sickness.
She went into labor at Omaha’s University of Nebraska Medical Center on March 24. Eighteen hours later, Cecile gave birth to her granddaughter, Uma Louise Dougherty-Eledge, on March 25.
Now, nearly three months after the delivery, Matthew and Doughtery are smitten with their new little one — and Cecile and Uma are best buds.
“She’s my granddaughter, not my daughter,” Cecile says. “The most beautiful thing is that when she’s fussy, I can just hand her off to her parents. I didn’t do this for shock factor or to offend anybody. I did what was best for our family. I did it out of love.”
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