Cecile Eledge gave birth to her son's baby via surrogacy, joining a small group of women over 60 who have defied their age to give birth

By Char Adams and Johnny Dodd
June 21, 2019 11:44 AM
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Cecile Eledge didn’t think her 61-year-old body would be able to carry a baby. But with her son and his husband desperate to start a family, the loving mother was eager to help.

“I just immediately felt this instinct to want to help them in any way I could,” Eledge tells PEOPLE, noting that she was half-joking the first time she offered to carry a baby for her son, Matthew Eledge, 32, and son-in-law, Elliot Dougherty, 29. “Part of me thought, ‘There’s no way this could actually happen.’ I wanted to do everything I humanly could to give these guys their gift.”

Matthew and Dougherty wed in 2015 and anticipated the challenges they’d have to overcome to become parents as a same-sex couple in Omaha, Nebraska. They turned to in vitro fertilization, with Dougherty’s sister donating her eggs and Matthew using his sperm.

In a shocking twist, Cecile offered to be their surrogate.

From left: Matthew Eledge, Cecile Eledge holding baby Uma Dougherty-Eledge and Elliot Dougherty

Cecile gave birth to her granddaughter — her son’s baby — Uma Louise Dougherty-Eledge, on March 25. The birth marked the end of a months-long journey.

For more on the family’s journey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

Naturally, Cecile’s offer was met with hesitation.

“We were both thinking, ‘That’s so sweet, but it’s just not feasible,’ ” Dougherty says.

Matthew adds: “I found it exciting to think, ‘Wow! What a unique origin story. What better person to carry our baby than her own grandmother?’ But there was a lot of hesitation and fear … My mom is an amazing woman and she’s taken care of me and I just looked up to her so much, so to put my mom at risk made me nervous.”

From left: Matthew Eledge, Cecile Eledge holding baby Uma and Elliot Dougherty
| Credit: Ariel Panowicz

With that, the couple was surprised when Dr. Carolyn Maud Doherty, the family’s reproductive endocrinologist, didn’t dismiss the idea.

“I have really always strictly tried to keep women over the age of 50 from doing in vitro for themselves,” Dr. Doherty says. “But this was different. She was going to be [a surrogate] and give the baby up to her son and his partner.”

By January 2018, Cecile had passed a rigorous, month-long series of exams — including blood, cardiovascular and gynecological tests — with flying colors.

“The doctors told me my uterus was beautiful,” she quips. It was Cecile’s good health and high fitness level that made her a better-than-typical candidate for surrogacy.

Matthew Eledge holding baby Uma with husband Elliot Dougherty
| Credit: Matt Eledge/Instagram

The grandmother runs five miles several times a week, is a longtime cyclist and regularly logs an hour on the family’s elliptical trainer.

“There are very, very few 61-year-olds who are in good enough health to even contemplate doing this,” Dr. Doherty tells PEOPLE. “She has the body of a 40-year-old and is actually in better shape than some 20-year-olds. I’m pretty conservative about these sorts of things, but Cecile really turned out to be their best option. She’s genetically blessed.”

During the labor, half a dozen nurses and doctors worked with Cecile, anxiously monitoring her vital signs as she neared the end of 18 hours in labor.

VIDEO: Michigan Couple Welcomes 14th Baby Boy

As she pushed, Matthew whispered in Cecile’s ear: “Don’t worry, Mom, we won’t ever ask you to do this again.”

“Don’t worry,” she replied. “I won’t offer.”

Now, the family says they can’t express the joy little Uma has brought to them all.

“That’s a bond I will carry with me until the day I die,” Cecile tells PEOPLE, joking that she’s now retired from surrogacy. “It’s been an easy transition getting back into my normal routine.

Matthew adds: “It’s weird how having a child can turn your world upside down. You love in a way you didn’t know you were capable of. It’s made me appreciate and love my family so much more. It’s made me love my partner to a new level … it’s brought everyone closer.”

The family’s story is being developed into a movie and docuseries by Upstream Pictures, Matthew tells PEOPLE.