Cecile Eledge is a 61-year-old mother of three who has been health conscious her entire life, from being "very conscientious" about her diet to staying active.
Last Monday, March 25, Eledge "reaped the rewards" of that healthy lifestyle when she gave birth to her own granddaughter, a healthy 5-pound baby girl named Uma.
"She must have been the reason for doing it," Eledge told "Good Morning America."
Uma is the daughter of Eledge's son, Matthew Eledge, 32, and his husband, Elliot Dougherty, 29. Her birth, first reported by Buzzfeed, is a feat of modern medicine but also one of love and an abundance of powerful women, the family says.
Dougherty's sister, Lea Yribe, donated the egg that was fertilized with Matthew’s sperm and then carried by Matthew's mother. Uma has been drinking breast milk since birth, which was donated by one of Matthew's best friends from childhood. That friend pumped and froze her milk after the birth of her own child more than a year ago.
"For me this whole creation story is poetry. It’s creativity. It's beautiful," said Matthew, a high school teacher in Omaha, Nebraska. "It's powerful that all of these strong women around her wanted her to be in this world. I think that’s the most empowering thing."
"Women are so healing and so brave and they’re so powerful, so for me to have a daughter now and for her to have so many wonderful role models, I don’t feel fearful at all," he added. "Look at all these badass women, they’re great."
Dougherty described the birth of Uma by saying, in part, "Beautiful things happen when people can come together."
'Throw my name in the hat'
The thought of having Cecile carry Matthew and Dougherty's baby was planted in their minds by Cecile herself when the couple, who wed in 2015, first began talking about their options to start a family. Those options included having a surrogate carry their child.
"It kind of came naturally that I said, ‘If you’re taking names, throw my name in the hat. I would do it in a heartbeat if I could,'" Cecile recalled. "My initial reaction was, 'Who better to care for their own grandchild than their grandmother?' I knew I would be vigilant and would do everything in my power to keep the baby safe.
"I thought it was a no-brainer," she added.
From a medical perspective, Matthew never took the offer from his mom seriously, and offered it up almost as a joke while at an appointment with his and Dougherty's doctor, saying, "Well my mother keeps offering [to be a surrogate] but I know that’s not an option."
She’s not going to come into this world with a preconceived idea of what a family has to be.
But their doctor, Carolyn Maud Doherty, a reproductive endocrinologist at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Omaha, replied that it actually was a possibility. That's when Cecile began the detailed process of tests and blood work to make sure she was healthy enough.
"What followed was a lengthy and scientific process to determine if she could carry the baby," Nebraska Medical Center, the hospital where Cecile gave birth, said in a statement. "With her age a consideration, Cecile underwent several tests before doctors determined her high-level of physical health made her a candidate to serve as a gestational surrogate."
Cecile recalled that her tests came back better than ever.
"Every doctor I saw said there is no reason you cannot carry a baby to full term and deliver naturally," she said. "We were never careless about this or did this on a whim."
Around this time last year, Cecile began taking hormones and estrogen to regain her menstrual cycle. The in-vitro procedure that followed made Cecile simply the gestational carrier, with no direct biological link to the child.
She then carried the baby to near full-term pregnancy, delivering at around 37 weeks. Cecile, who is a homemaker, said a big benefit was that she, unlike other women who have demanding careers and young children, had no other responsibility than to take care of the baby she was carrying.
"We did everything Matthew and Elliot wished," Cecile said of herself and her husband, Kirk, who is also Matthew's dad.
That included things like adding certain supplements to her daily routine after Matthew read about their benefits in pregnancy.
For Matthew, having his mom carry his child made pregnancy even more high-stakes and stressful than usual.
"My mom had this strange confidence throughout and I’m the person who likes to look at the worst case scenario and Google it all night," he said. "I’m just so proud of her and proud of my dad for being so supportive."
'We’ve created a different form of family'
Matthew and Dougherty and Cecile said they are willing to share their family's story if it gives hope to even one other person who wants a family but doesn't see a way.
"My mom carried a baby for myself and my same-sex partner," Matthew said. "I think that’s really special and unique."
Cecile added, "I’m a very private person so even throughout this whole pregnancy I was very discreet. I thought, 'We have to tell our story so people know there are ways.' We just have to be open to what is coming our way."
Matthew and Dougherty, a hairstylist, made "a lot of worthy sacrifices" in order to financially afford in-vitro fertilization, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"We knew going into this, whether it was adoption or IVF that there was going to be the financial hurdle of being able to do this," Dougherty said. "We really sacrificed a lot, and it was obviously so worth it, but it was obviously something that was not like, ‘Hey let’s try this.’"
Cutting down the financial burden and easing some possible legal complications as a gay couple were two reasons it was helpful to have Cecile carry the baby and Yribe, Dougherty's sister, donate the egg, according to Dougherty and Matthew.
Another reason is because of the birth story the couple plan to tell Uma one day.
"Her aunt Lea gave her the seed of life and her grandmother gave her this garden to grow and bloom in this world," Matthew said. "She’s not going to come into this world with a preconceived idea of what a family has to be. We’ve created a different form of family."
Added Dougherty, "As things unfold and Uma realizes that other families look different, mostly I’ll have to explain to her why they look different than her story. I feel like she’ll be really proud."