Every birth is special to those involved, but a recent birth at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, is incredibly special because it marks the first time a baby in the United States has born after the mother had a uterus transplant. Among those celebrating the medical miracle is Taylor Siler, 36, the mother of two who donated her uterus to the new mom prior to the pregnancy.
“I have family members who struggled to have babies, and it's not fair," Siler told TIME. “I just think that if we can give more people that option, that's an awesome thing."
Although there are few details about the mother and baby (pictured above) beyond reports that both are healthy, we do have an idea of the amazing process that made it possible.
According to TIME, this landmark birth is the result of a clinical trial program at Baylor involving women who were born without functioning uteruses. The condition is called absolute uterine factor infertility (AUI) and for some who've long dreamed of motherhood, the diagnosis is heartbreaking. That's why the women in the trial were willing to move to Dallas and undergo this major surgical intervention (along with subsequent IVF treatments).
So far, the team at Baylor has done eight of 10 planned transplants on women between the ages of 20 and 35, according to TIME. Several of the transplant cases have been unsuccessful, but one participant is currently pregnant, so the team is crossing their fingers for another healthy baby.
The difference living donations make
Although some similar programs have attempted to make use of organs from deceased donors, the Baylor program follows the lead of a trial in Sweden that used living donors and resulted in eight successful births.
Basically, the women in the trial received an amazing gift from other, living women—such as Siler.
The Dallas donor told TIME she and her husband knew their family was complete, and when she heard about the trial she decided she wanted to donate the healthy uterus that she was done using.
Of course, the sentiment is one thing and actually making the sacrifice is another: Giving up one's uterus is no small thing, which makes Siler's generosity to a stranger even more amazing.
She had a five hour surgery and the recovery took about four months. She never knew who got her uterus—the recipients remain anonymous—but she did get a letter from the woman when she found out she was pregnant, and was in tears when she learned of the successful birth.
“I think about her every day and I probably will for the rest of my life," Siler told TIME.
Siler was far from the only one crying the day of the scheduled cesarean section. According to TIME, the transplant team at Baylor could hardly contain themselves.
“We've been preparing for this moment for a very long time," Dr. Liza Johannesson, an ob-gyn and uterus transplant surgeon at Baylor said. “I think everyone had tears in their eyes when the baby came out. I did for sure."
The folks at Baylor say uterus transplants aren't a replacement for other approaches to family-building like adoption or surrogacy, but the success of this uterus transplant may be the beginning of a new era of infertility treatment.