Grandma gives birth to her own grandchild

Emily Jordan, left, and her pregnant mother, Cindy Reutzel, relax at Jordan’s home in Naperville, Ill. After Jordan underwent a radical hysterectomy, she and her husband took up an offer from Reutzel to act as their surrogate. Enlarge photo

Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated Press

Emily Jordan, left, and her pregnant mother, Cindy Reutzel, relax at Jordan’s home in Naperville, Ill. After Jordan underwent a radical hysterectomy, she and her husband took up an offer from Reutzel to act as their surrogate.

CHICAGO – Setting foot in a hospital again, Emily and Mike Jordan couldn’t help but feel anxious.

More than two years before, at age 29, Emily had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. But just before she was to undergo a radical hysterectomy, she was told that she was pregnant. Faced with saving her own life or their unborn child’s, the young couple made the excruciating decision to go forward with her surgery. It meant losing the baby, and forfeiting any chance at having their own children.

But now, more than two years later, she and Mike had come from their suburban Chicago home to the labor and delivery department of a downtown hospital to realize the dream they thought was lost – to become parents, though not the way they, or most people, would have imagined.

Alongside them that day was Emily’s mother, Cindy Reutzel – a fit, silver-haired 53-year-old grandmother whose profile revealed a round belly, a pregnant belly.

Reutzel was about to give birth to her own grandchild.

Just 34 years ago, Louise Brown, the first “test tube” baby, was born in Great Britain. The result? A veritable in-vitro baby boom.

It started with would-be mothers in their 20s and 30s.

“Then people started pushing the envelope,” says Dr. Helen Kim, director of the in-vitro fertilization program at the University of Chicago. “If you could help a menopausal woman in her 30s, could you help a menopausal woman in her 40s? And then it became, ‘Can you help a menopausal woman in her 50s?’

“And the answer is yes.”

After a process that included psychological evaluation and hormonal manipulation to prepare their bodies, Kim eventually implanted Reutzel’s uterus with an embryo created with an egg from Emily and Mike’s sperm.

It was no easy process, with a regimen of hormone shots. Work schedules were interrupted and vacations postponed. But Reutzel was committed.

“The thought of Emily and Mike not being able to have children and share that piece of their lives with someone just broke my heart,” says Reutzel, who lives in Chicago and is executive director at medical foundation. “I want Emily to have that connection with another human being like I had with her.”

A few days after Emily’s 32nd birthday, daughter sat next to mother, holding hands in the delivery room.

And Elle Cynthia Jordan was born.

Reutzel is recovering well. She even says she would consider doing it again.