Trying to get pregnant can be a lot trickier than it seems for some couples.
While the emphasis during young adulthood is on waiting to have a baby until you’re good and ready, that timeline speeds up a bit as we get older. Though some couples get lucky, are both fertile and can get pregnant relatively quickly, others require a little bit of medical intervention to help things along. The process of raising a child together gets a little more complex for same sex couples.
Still, one story out of North Texas is a particularly remarkable example.
The story concerns Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter of Mountain Springs, Texas.
The pair had been together for six years and finally got married in June 2015. Although they both knew they wanted to have children, the question of exactly how they would do that hadn’t been solved. “I wanted a child that was biologically mine,” Bliss said, “but I did not want to carry the child.”
After some discussion, the two started researching what their options were.
Typically speaking, the couple would have to find a sperm donor and have one woman carry the baby to term.
In that arrangement, the other mom would adopt the child and that would be that. Still, Bliss and Ashleigh were hoping to find a way that they could both be involved in the process. To that end, they were directed to the work of Dr. Kathy Doody, a fertility care specialist who worked out of Bedford, Texas.
After scheduling their consultation, the team came up with an ingenuous solution to the problem.
Though anyone who has researched fertility medicine is probably familiar with in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Dr. Doody’s method went further.
In a typical IVF procedure, a doctor and lab technicians harvest sample sperm and ova and combine them in a laboratory in an artificial environment. The eggs are fertilized, allowed to grow for several days and are then implanted in a surrogate. Still, this standard method of IVF is notoriously expensive and is not always successful.
Fortunately, Dr. Doody’s clinic had a cutting-edge method that would allow Bliss and Ashleigh’s dreams to come true.
The clinic wanted to combine two new methods, namely effortless IVF and reciprocal IVF.
In effortless IVF, the egg and sperm cells are put in a tiny device called an INVOcell which is then implanted in a woman to incubate rather than left in a lab. Reciprocal IVF, on the other hand, is a technique where an egg is harvested from one woman, fertilized in a lab and then implanted in another woman.
By combining the two techniques, Bliss and Ashleigh were set to become the first same-sex couple to both carry their baby to term.
In the first stage of the process, Dr. Doody harvested eggs from Bliss.
Those eggs were introduced to donor sperm and put in an INVOcell, all before being placed back inside Bliss that the embryos could form. The embryos were then frozen until Ashleigh was ready to receive them. After implanting just one of the embryos, it took and the couple were well on their way to having a baby together!
As it turns out, the couple had the perfect situation: both women were involved, the baby was biologically Bliss’s but she didn’t have to carry it to term.
Nine months later, the Coulters’ gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Stetson.
Although the birth was certainly noteworthy from a medical perspective, the couple were overjoyed. “It was very special to the both of us that we were both involved,” said Ashleigh. “No one really knew it was possible,” Bliss said, “but it worked magnificently.” Altogether, the trio is a beautiful and very happy family.
Still, there may be more room yet for more kids!
Although the couple hasn’t fully decided what the future holds, the possibility for more children through this procedure is still there.
As part of the initial process, the clinic froze two additional embryos from Bliss which could be implanted in the future to try for more kids. On the other hand, more eggs could be harvested from Ashleigh and the process could be repeated. Although Bliss said Stetson was enough for her, the door remains open. “I’m going to talk her into a second one though, for sure,” Ashleigh said. Above all, the story is both heartwarming for the family and incredible in terms of medical research.
Congratulations to Bliss and Ashleigh and welcome to the world Stetson!
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