LONDON, Ont. — In a few months Cathy Donnelly will welcome her seventh grandchild into the world — when she gives birth to her.
Donnelly, 58, is six months pregnant with her granddaughter, acting as a surrogate for her daughter who’s unable to have children.
A mother of three and a grandmother of six, she knows a thing or two about motherhood.
But all the child rearing and raising Donnelly’s done over the decades couldn’t prepare her for the parenting challenge she’s facing today.
“Now that I’m showing, I make sure people aren’t staring or looking at me because they’re probably thinking, ‘Look at that old lady,’” she said. “It’s been challenging.”
For two years, Donnelly’s daughter Shannon Fischer and her husband Jamie tried to have a baby. When they discovered they couldn’t conceive due to scarring in Shannon’s uterus, Donnelly quickly volunteered to be a surrogate mother for her daughter.
“I felt bad for them,” she said. “I just figured, what’s nine months of my life? And they’re going to have a child for the rest of theirs.”
It was long process that involved a heavy dose of fertility drugs for both Fischer and Donnelly, who had already gone through menopause.
It paid off. Fischer said she was standing in line for a coffee when she received a call from her fertility doctor telling her that her mom was pregnant.
“I was just bawling,” Fischer said. “People must have thought someone close to me died.”
Michael Murray, a fertility specialist at the Northern California Fertility Medical Center, says though there have been cases of mothers acting as surrogates for their daughters before, it’s typically something the medical community does not advise.
“Usually, it’s a close friend or a sister that acts as the gestational carrier,” he said. “Women who are 45-plus are not normally in good enough health.”
That’s because pregnancy for older women is much riskier. The most common complications are high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and premature child birth, Murray said.
But they’re risks Donnelly was willing to accept. While she admits her pregnancy hasn’t been easy, she’s had no complications so far.
Fischer plans to name her daughter Zoey Hope Catherine after her mother.
This whole experience has made her cherish the mother-daughter relationship even more.
“It just changes your relationship 360 degrees,” she said. “We were close before but it’s just on a whole new level. I want to be like she is to my own daughter, that caring and willing to do stuff for her.”