Being an organ donor means you can give someone the gift of life after your death. And in the case of a Brazilian woman who donated her uterus, it meant giving another woman the gift of motherhood.

For the first time in America, a baby has been born after growing in a transplanted uterus of a deceased donor, thanks to the Cleveland Clinic. As CNN reports, a baby girl was born in June after her mother received a uterus transplant from a non-living donor.

The mom, who is in her mid-30s, was born without a uterus. The process took more than a year and after her baby was born via c-section she opted to have the transplanted uterus removed (which makes sense, as the transplant requires the mother to take anti-rejection drugs).

The treatment begins with a round of IVF, where eggs are harvested and fertilized. Then, the uterus transplant is performed, followed by doses of immunosuppressive drugs before an embryo can be implanted.

This case is a first in the U.S., but not the first in the world.

The first baby born after a uterus transplant from a deceased donor is now a toddler. That birth, which happened in Brazil, made worldwide headlines in December 2018 after the details of the gestation and birth (which happened the previous year) were published in the medical journal Lancet.

The story is made headlines around the world because while babies have been born after uterus transplants from living donors before, this is the first time a transplant from a deceased donor has been successful.

This is huge, because as the doctors behind the transplant note, this opens "a path to healthy pregnancy for all women with uterine factor infertility, without need of living donors or live donor surgery."

The donor was a 45-year-old who died from a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of stroke. She had three children, all of whom were born vaginally. This made her a good candidate as a uterus donor.

Her uterus was transplanted into a 32-year-old woman who was born without a uterus. The Associated Press reports that the woman (a psychologist) was initially apprehensive about the transplant according to the transplant team's lead doctor, Dr. Dani Ejzenberg, but is now living proof that this can be done.

"This was the most important thing in her life," Ejzenberg said. "Now she comes in to show us the baby and she is so happy."

The 32-year-old did a round of IVF four months before the transplant, which resulted in several embryos. The were cryopreserved, and seven months after the transplant the woman became pregnant after the first single embryo transfer.

The pregnancy went well and at 36 weeks the woman welcomed a baby girl by c-section. The doctors removed the transplanted uterus at the same time so that the mother could stop taking anti-rejection drugs.

These success stories are certainly encouraging for researchers. While a few transplants from living donors have resulted in births, being able to accept organs from deceased donors would make more uteruses available.

While organ donation usual saves lives, in these cases, it helped create a new one and gave families a life they thought they might never have.

[A version of this post was originally published December 5, 2018. It has been updated.]

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This success story is certainly encouraging for researchers, and now the Brazilian team is planning two more uterus transplants from deceased donors as part of their study.

While a few transplants from living donors have resulted in births, being able to accept organs from deceased donors would make more uteruses available.

There is no doubt that the 32-year-old who is now parenting a healthy 1-year-old girl will never forget the fellow mother she never met. While organ donation usual saves lives, in this case, it helped create a new one and gave a family a life they thought they might never have.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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