Having a child is one of those special moments in life. Sure, the nine-month pregnancy might not be great, and giving birth isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but all those years you have together afterward are worth it. These two women couldn’t wait to become mothers for the first time, and they were determined to be the best parents possible. However, there was just one thing standing in their way – they both wanted to carry the child. Impossible, right? Not anymore it isn’t.
The joys of motherhood
Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter were thrilled at the prospect of becoming mothers. They knew having a child would make their family unit more secure and give their life greater purpose. The problem was they didn’t know how to go about it.
As an LGBT+ couple, it wasn’t just a case of going down the traditional route. What’s more, both women had a desire to be pregnant with the same child. That was something that shouldn’t have been possible, but the Coulters soon discovered that miracles can happen.
Crazy in love
Ever since 2012, there’s been no one more important in these women’s lives than each other. Their attraction was instant, and they wasted no time jumping into a relationship.
A few years later they felt ready to tie the knot, so Bliss got down on one knee and popped the question to her overwhelmed girlfriend. By the end of 2015, the duo was married and happier than they’d ever been. However, there was one thing missing from their lives, and it was the natural next step after walking down the aisle.
A lifelong dream
The thought of having a child was something that Ashleigh and Bliss had both entertained while growing up. They cherished the idea of being mothers and longed for the day when they would finally have a kid of their own.
After the pair got married, it felt like everything was finally coming together. They had the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives with the person they loved the most, and now they just needed a baby to complete their family. How did they go about that though?
Discussing their options
Given that Ashleigh and Bliss were women, having a child required a little more effort on their parts. They couldn’t just try for a baby in the traditional way and cross their fingers that it would work.
However, just because it was more complicated didn’t mean that these two couldn’t become mothers. Surrogacy was an option, as was adoption. There was no assurance that either of these methods would be successful, but the risk was surely worth it for the chance to become mothers. Unfortunately, there was one big problem here.
Sharing the responsibility
In a surprising turn of events, both women wanted to carry their child. Rather than one of them be involved with the pregnancy, they wanted to share the responsibility.
Ashleigh and Bliss’ request wasn’t a common one, nor did it seem like one that could actually be fulfilled. How could they both be pregnant with the same child? It’s not like they could just alternate between being the birth mother from one day to the next. However, no matter how impossible it seemed, the Coulters were firm in their decision.
Although they both wanted to be involved with the pregnancy, only one of them actually wanted to give birth. Bliss had no desire to go through the pain of bringing a child into the world, resting that huge responsibility on her wife’s shoulders instead.
She merely wanted the experience of having the baby inside her at some point during the pregnancy. Ashleigh had no problem with that – she was more than happy to be the one who carried their future son or daughter to term. So, could this actually be done?
Making an appointment
The Coulters were tipped to the possibility that their dreams could come true after a friend showed them a video. The clip was of a fertility specialist discussing a treatment that would achieve exactly what the two women wanted.
After watching the video, Ashleigh and Bliss realized this was a sign they needed to contact the specialist – Dr. Kathy Doody – and set up a meeting with her. So, that’s precisely what the pair did, and soon enough they had an appointment set at the C.A.R.E Fertility Clinic in Bedford.
A bundle of nerves
Ashleigh and Bliss were both nervous before their meeting with Dr. Doody, but they had high hopes that everything would work out. If the procedure the specialist performed could successfully give them a child that they’d both carry, it was worth it.
The C.A.R.E Fertility Clinic was the only one in the country that could do this, which meant their pregnancy hopes all rested on that trip to Bedford. No pressure. Thankfully, after speaking with the doctor, the Coulters were confident that everything was going to work out.
Effortless Reciprocal IVF
Dr. Doody informed the prospective mothers that the procedure was known as Effortless Reciprocal IVF. They would take the male and female genetic material and place them in a plastic capsule. This would then be placed inside one of the women for several days while the egg fertilized.
Once that was done, the growing embryo would be inserted in their partner just like in standard IVF, and the pregnancy would play out as normal for the following nine months. This was the only way Ashleigh and Bliss could achieve their dream.
Full speed ahead
After hearing about how it would work and what was involved, the Coulters agreed this was something they wanted to do. Even though Bliss would only have the baby inside her for a few days, it was better than nothing.
Her eggs were taken and combined with genetic material from a male donor, both of which were then placed in the INVOcell capsule. Once she was ready, Bliss opened her legs and took the capsule inside her where it remained for a total of five days.
Preparing her body
Once the egg had been fertilized inside Bliss, it was time for the next stage of the procedure. The capsule was removed and the egg frozen until Ashleigh was ready to take it.
In the lead up to receiving the fertilized embryo, the prospective mother’s body was prepped with hormones to ensure that everything ran smoothly. She received progesterone injections and estrogen tablets for around three weeks before she was ready for the baby. The couple crossed their fingers that everything would work out, but there was a chance it could fail.
Waiting for the results
Everything seemed fine at first. The fertilized embryo was placed inside Ashleigh and settled where it was supposed to. They wouldn’t know for sure whether or not the procedure was successful until Ashleigh had a blood test ten days later.
Even though the Coulters only had to wait a week and a half, it felt like a lifetime. The future of their family all seemed to rest on whether or not the results came back positive or negative. When the day finally came, their nerves were in shreds.
The moment of truth
After Ashleigh had her blood taken, the couple received the news that the procedure had been successful – they were pregnant. There was still a long road ahead of them before the birth, meaning there was every chance things could go wrong.
However, all the women cared about was the fact that they would have a son or daughter in their arms in a matter of months. Clearly, Bliss wasn’t wrong when she joked that she had golden eggs. It’s not often IVF goes to plan on the first try.
Going into labor
The months seemed to fly by, and Ashleigh reported no problems with the baby. As she neared the end of her pregnancy, she knew that her water could break at any moment. When it finally happened, the couple wasted no time getting to the hospital.
Ashleigh was in immense pain as she went through contractions, but that didn’t take away her excitement that she and Bliss were about to become parents. Thankfully, there were no issues during the birthing, and the two women welcomed their son, Stetson, into the world.
Like mother, like son
The couple has referred to their newborn child as a miracle because of how they were both able to be physically involved with the pregnancy. However, Ashleigh was worried that Stetson wouldn’t take after her because her genetic material wasn’t used in the procedure.
Although she was responsible for carrying the baby to term, it was Bliss’ egg that was used to conceive him. Her fears have been diminished in the months since the baby was born, though. The new mother told the New York Post that he’s loud just like her.
Closer than ever
With little Stetson taking after Ashleigh and Bliss, the boy’s birth has brought the couple even closer together. They feel that by both playing such a vital part in the pregnancy, their relationship is stronger than it’s ever been.
The Coulters can definitely say they’ve shared a connection that few other people have ever experienced, and it makes their newborn son all the more special. However, all that really matters to them is that they were able to birth a healthy baby boy without any problems.
Facing the risks
After people discovered the procedure Ashleigh and Bliss had gone through, they couldn’t help wondering how much risk there was attached to it. Naturally, the couple was fearful that things would go wrong somewhere down the line, but that’s to be expected with IVF.
The specific procedure that the Coulters went through was no more dangerous than normal IVF; if anything, it was safer. Everything happened inside of the body rather than in a laboratory which automatically made the process more natural. Plus, they were in good hands with Dr. Doody.
Comparing the costs
Fewer risks weren’t the only reason why the Coulters were right to go through Effortless Reciprocal IVF. The procedure is actually a lot cheaper than normal IVF, coming in at around half the cost. Ashleigh and Bliss paid $8,500 to bring their son into the world.
That’s a hefty price to pay, especially when so many couples can get pregnant without spending a dime, but it could have been far more expensive. IVF can cost as much as $20,000 where these two live, so their procedure was practically a bargain.
Place in the history books
When Stetson was born, the Coulters officially made medical history. They’re the first LGBT+ couple ever to have both partners carry the same child. Now that Ashleigh and Bliss have brought attention to the procedure, we may well see many more couples go through it in the coming years.
However, although these two will always be the first women to share a pregnancy, they’re not the first to go through Effortless Reciprocal IVF. Several straight couples have gone through the process before, just without the whole ‘sharing the baby’ part.
Expanding the family
Now that the Coulters finally have a child, you’d think they’d be happy, right? Well, Ashleigh is already planning for baby number two.
According to the new mom, her wife is satisfied with the one kid they already have, but she’s excited by the thought of expanding their family even further. They still have two eggs in the freezer so if they were interested in going through Effortless Reciprocal IVF again, everything is ready for them. All Ashleigh has to do now is convince Bliss to change her mind.
A dream come true
Whether or not another child is on the table, though, the couple couldn’t be happier with where they are in life right now. A few years ago, the idea of having a child together in this unique way didn’t seem possible.
However, thanks to the wonders of science, they were able to fulfill their dream and do something that had never been done before. The two of them are sure to have many joyful years together with Stetson as they shower him with all the love in the world.
While we know that Stetson was born healthy and to two happy mothers. You might be curious to know how the baby boy is doing now. Thankfully moms and son are doing wonderful.
At the time of birth in July 2018, the baby weighed 8 pounds and 4 ounces and was healthy as could be. Since then, the little family has no complaints. Bliss and Ashleigh say that Stetson is perfect. The two cannot stop staring at him; in fact, they do it all day long.
Opposition to the method
As to be expected, when any new scientific advances, there are always going to be those who are opposed to the idea. Typically the opposition comes from religious communities or doubters.
People often say that the method is not natural and it is not the way that woman are meant to have children. Perhaps within the next several years, once this new technique becomes more popular, the ones who are against it will understand how huge it is for the medical community and beyond.
Response to the opposition
To those who are against the new breakthrough, Dr. Doody has the perfect response. She says the process may not be”natural” but love, family, and parenthood are and that’s all that matters.
She uses science to bring one of the most basic and natural human desires to fruition. Though it may not be the most fundamental way to conceive a child, if it works and it brings joy and happiness to the parents, then why should it not be used?
Hopes for the future
So what does this mean for the future of LGBT+ couples? Well, it means that those with the same dreams as Bliss and Ashleigh (the desire to both carry the same child), can actually start getting what they long for!
This new advancement can bring the possibility of two woman in a couple carrying the same child to anyone who wants it. It opens new doors and new avenues for these types of couples. There is no doubt more relationships similar to the Coulters who have the same wants.
As it turns out, Ashleigh and Bliss did open doors for other couples who are interested in this method of becoming pregnant. In fact, in September, another couple gave birth to a healthy baby girl in the same way that the Coulters did.
This means that word is getting out. Dr. Doody will probably be busy over the next several years bring joy to women in LGBT+ relationships everywhere. These two couples were from Texas, but we can imagine people will travel to meet this miracle doctor.
Where did the idea come from?
One of the most incredible things about this innovation is that Dr. Doody came up with the idea by herself. She was thinking about the possibility and then she approached her husband with it.
She told him that she thought this was possible, and he agreed. So the rest is history. The two set to work and have now become the first doctors to successful perform such an operation. Perhaps because Doody is a woman, she understood the women’s desire to both carry the baby.
A unique case
While some people may assume that every woman has the undying desire within her to become a mother – including the whole process of conception, carrying the child to term, and giving birth.
While this may be the case for many women, it’s not for all. In fact, these days, some women choose not to have children at all. In fact, Ashleigh and Bliss are an especially rare couple. Most cases of LGBT+ couples, the two are fine with only one woman carrying the child and birthing the baby.
What’s the difference?
You might be wondering the difference between the various IVF procedures. There are a few different types of methods that can be used in order to conceive a child this way.
The most common one is probably where samples are retrieved from both the male and female parents and then combined to create an embryo outside the body, later inserted into the woman. There’s also directly inserting the male sample into the woman. In the case of the Coulters, all was able to be done within their bodies.
While science is constantly advancing, the law is slower to catch up. It turns out that even if both parents are on a birth certificate, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are legally bound to the child.
You’d think that because Bliss is genetically related to Stetson and because Ashleigh carried him to term and gave birth to him, they would both be his legal parents. Legally, whether the other parent is related or not, only the birth mother has legal parental status, meaning Bliss may need to adopt Stetson.
Multiple paths to parenthood
While the law still has a long way to go in terms of staying up to date with science and medical advances, it is still pretty incredible what is possible these days.
This situation between Ashleigh and Bliss shows that there are multiple different paths to parenthood. There’s no one way to become a mom or dad. Nowadays, there’s adoption, natural birth, IVF, surrogacy, and so much more. The world is constantly changing and families who truly want to bring a child into the world now have more options available.