Cecile Eledge gave birth to her granddaughter at 61 after volunteering to be her son's surrogate.
Matthew Eledge and his partner Elliot Dougherty knew it would be hard to adopt as a gay couple in Nebraska.
Insider spoke to Cecile, Matthew, and Elliot about their incredible surrogacy journey as a family.
Over the last year, Insider has followed the journey of Julie Loving, 52, who gave birth to her own granddaughter after volunteering to be her daughter's surrogate.
But Loving's story might never have happened without Cecile Eledge, who volunteered to be her son and his partner's surrogate when she was 61 years old.
When Loving first volunteered to be Lockwood's surrogate, her daughter didn't even entertain the idea.
"I thought she was crazy," Lockwood told Insider. "I didn't think it was even possible. I just read it and put my phone away. I didn't want to get my hopes up and get my heart set on something."
But then Lockwood read an article about Cecile, who made headlines after giving birth to her granddaughter in April 2019.
"I started to read the article and I was like, wait a minute, this might be a possibility," Lockwood said.
To mark the two-year anniversary of Uma's birth, Insider caught up with Cecile, her son Matthew Eledge, 34, and his husband Elliot Dougherty, 31, to learn more about their incredible journey.
"Elliot and I have realized that sharing your story is the most radical and influential thing you can do," Matthew told Insider. "We weren't trying to be political or radical, we were doing what we thought was best for us and our family."
"All you can do is share your story," he added. "Ours has inspired both gay and straight couples that you can be really creative when it comes to your happy ending."
The family's story begins in 2012, when Matthew was working on a short film and asked Elliot if he would do the hairstyling.
"We got together at a French restaurant and discussed the script and we never stopped hanging out from that day on," Matthew said.
The pair tied the knot in 2015, saying "I do" in the very woods where they had shot Matthew's film and fallen in love.
Matthew and Elliot got married not long after same-sex marriage became legally recognized in Nebraska after the US Supreme Court ruled that denying marital rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.
It was the first time the couple would make national headlines. Matthew was dismissed from his job at a Catholic high school after revealing that he and Elliot were engaged.
More than 102,000 people signed a petition started by the school's alumni in support of Matthew, who taught English and worked as a speech coach at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha.
John F. McMahon, the school's president, sent a letter defending the decision to students and parents.
"If a staff member cannot commit to Catholic Church teachings and doctrines, he or she cannot continue to be on staff at Skutt Catholic," read the letter, which was reviewed by BuzzFeed News. "As a Catholic school, we stand firmly with the Archdiocese of Omaha and our Catholic church in the support and upholding of the Church's teachings as they are defined."
Matthew found a new teaching job, but the experience left him and Elliot weary. They knew they'd run into similar issues if they tried to adopt in their conservative state.
It was only in March 2021 that the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples should be legally allowed to adopt.
When Matthew and Elliot were having conversations about starting a family years prior, they knew they didn't want to put themselves in another vulnerable position.
"We were really exhausted and a bit hurt from the situation and we were really nervous to navigate a system that might not be super accepting of gay couples," Matthew said.
Matthew and Elliot started looking into IVF, and Elliot's sister immediately volunteered to be their egg donor.
They also decided to use Matthew's sperm, which meant their child would have a genetic connection to both fathers.
But Elliot's sister was also in the middle of building her own family, and he and Matthew knew they weren't comfortable asking her to carry their child as well.
Matthew and Elliot's best friend offered to be their surrogate, but their doctor was hesitant due to her health issues. That's when Cecile volunteered.
"It never really entered my mind until Matt was telling us about how they were struggling with their original surrogate as far as their health risks," Cecile told Insider. "He said, 'We're just going to move forward,' and I just got that instinct of a mother right away. I thought, well, I'll do it, why wouldn't I do it? I'm healthy and I'll do everything I can."
"If you could have seen the faces on the boys, they couldn't get out of the house fast enough," she added with a laugh. "It had to sink in a bit."
"We never ever anticipated for it to be my mother," Matthew said. "We just didn't even think it was an option, we'd never heard of something like that. She was post-menopausal."
When Matthew and Elliot told their doctor about Cecile's surrogacy offer, they were shocked when she told them it could actually work.
"The doctor asked, 'Is she healthy?', and I said yes, 'And does she have a uterus?', and I said yes," Matthew recalled. "From there it kind of left our hands. My mom continued to pass tests over and over again. Within a month our doctor was handing her shots of progesterone and saying, 'This is who your surrogate is going to be.'"
For Cecile, the reality of her surrogacy journey didn't really hit until she came home with the hormones.
"It was that moment of, 'Oh my God, I have to do this,'" she recalled. "And my husband was so sweet and said, 'Well, do you want to back out?' And I thought, you know, I'm here for this reason. We got this far, so we're going to see it all the way through."
"Once we made this final decision, I never looked back," she added. "The only thing I was worried about was hoping that the IVF was successful. That was probably my biggest fear."
When Cecile took a pregnancy test following the embryo transfer, she was convinced it was negative. Then Matthew came over for a visit.
"He looked at me and said, 'So you took the test, what did it say?' and I said, 'Oh, I hate to disappoint you but I don't think it was successful,'" she recalled.
But Matthew took a look at the test and saw something Cecile missed. There was a faint second line on the stick. So she took a second test — another positive.
"Matt was like, 'You can have a baby but your vision is still bad,"' Cecile recalled with a laugh. "I never really saw the line, but luckily he has young eyes. That was a special moment for us, it was a success. They only had three embryos for the IVF and we were very blessed that it took on the first one."
Cecile said her experience as a surrogate was "pretty much the same" compared to her previous pregnancies when she was younger.
The morning sickness was more intense, and this time around Cecile got gestational diabetes, which she controlled with diet. But through the hard moments were also the beautiful ones, like getting to bring Matthew and Elliot to all her doctor appointments.
"It was this really special process where it was me, my mom, Elliot, and my dad, and we'd go to all the appointments," Matthew said. "People were confused by our situation and we turned a lot of heads, but it was really meaningful to be part of the very beginning stages of our daughter's life."
The delivery day went smoothly and Cecile had a natural birth while her husband, Matthew, and Elliot cheered her on.
"For me, it was an out-of-body experience," Matthew said. "It just felt like this huge collaborative effort to bring this child into the world. When we first heard her cry I just lost it because it happened, we made it happen, and we all worked together."
"It was a doubly rewarding moment because not only did we all of a sudden have a child and a family, but also my mom was OK. There was both relief and rejoice."
"It really was this special, magical moment to be able to give them Uma," Cecile added. "I knew my part of the story was over. Now it's their time to start their storytelling of her life."
The family's story went viral shortly after Cecile gave birth, making headlines all over the world.
"We had not anticipated that the story would capture so many people's imaginations," Matthew said. "It was really inspiring and neat for people to love our story and our family and our daughter so much."
"Sharing our story has felt important as a form of activism," Elliot added. "When our life is unconventional, when we're living differently outside of the norm, sharing that allows other people to relate and it does change the dialogue."
And Cecile was touched that her story had inspired Loving to volunteer as a surrogate for her own daughter.
"It just humbles me that I could give them hope when they thought there was no hope to be had," she said.
Matthew said it was "awe-inspiring" to watch his mother go through pregnancy and give birth to his daughter.
"The most amazing thing was just seeing the strength and power that she has," he said. "To see her be an all-star at her age, it really inspired me that you can continue to re-create yourself. She did the ultimate act of selflessness, and it makes me want to be more like that and discover how I can serve others and help others' dreams come true."
Cecile said she's still in awe sometimes when she sees her granddaughter.
"It's hard to believe I was able to do that," she added. "She's such a joy to watch, she's an independent, strong little girl, which I love. I would do it again in a heartbeat."
Matthew and Elliot are about to embark on life as a full-time travel family with Uma. You can follow their adventures on Instagram at @the.durt.family.
Read the original article on Insider