One baby, 3 parents: A new kind of IVF

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If you ask most people, there are some immutable facts of life: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Winter leads to spring. And babies have two biological parents.

But as the BBC reports, fertility doctors in Greece and Spain they've used genetic material from three people to conquer a mother's infertility.

The baby boy was born earlier this week to a 32-year-old mother who previously went through four unsuccessful cycles of IVF, before doctors who used an experimental form of IVF. They took genetic material out of the mother's egg, placed it into a donor egg and used sperm from the intended father. The baby has a tiny amount of DNA from the donor woman, but most of his DNA comes from his parents.

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The team behind this pregnancy hopes more infertile people will become parents by using this form of IVF, but some experts suggest it should be reserved for families affected by deadly mitochondrial diseases.

Tim Child, from the University of Oxford and the medical director of The Fertility Partnership, tells the BBC: "I'm concerned that there's no proven need for the patient to have her genetic material removed from her eggs and transferred into the eggs of a donor."

According to Child, the risks of this technique aren't entirely known, and while parents may be accepting of unknown risks if they are trying to prevent mitochondrial diseases, more long-term study needs to be done before it should be used to increase the odds of a successful IVF cycle.

This case follows another recent story out of the Ukraine, where a fertility clinic in Ukraine raised controversy by claiming it has successfully made babies with DNA from three parents.

In 2018 a journalist from NPR was invited to see the process in action: Embryo scientists at the Nadiya Clinic in Kiev fertilize a hopeful mother's egg with her partner's sperm. They also fertilize a donor's egg with the man's sperm. The scientist then removes all of the DNA from the donor egg except for mitochondrial material and implants the DNA from the parents into the embryo—with the idea being the remaining mitochondrial material will enable the embryo to develop.

"These babies… they have DNA from mother and from father. So they are genetically related to their parents," explains Pavlo Mazur, an embryo scientist with the clinic. "These children are more like their parents—not donor."

Dr. Valery Zukin, director of the clinic, says he believes it is the only one in the world that regularly conducts the procedure. To date, four children have been born with genetic material from three parents, which is all the validation Zukin says he needs. "As a doctor I understand only one thing: We have parents who couldn't have children and now they have their own biological child. That's all."

For some women who have struggled with fertility, this is a potentially groundbreaking option that enables them to feel a genetic connection with their child. Others say the procedure is a promising one for couples who hope to prevent passing along mitochondrial disorders.

"If it was a relatively mild disorder then, ethically one might question whether that would be viable," mitochondrial scientist Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky from McMaster University in Canada tells CBC. "But certainly, the severe disease like MELAS syndrome, which causes strokes, seizures, renal dysfunction—some really devastating disorders in children and young adults, I think this is something that needs to be explored."

But significant ethical questions remain. In the United States, attempts at the procedure were banned by the Food and Drug Administration after similar trials were performed by a New Jersey doctor in the 1990s.

"This is really an irresponsible kind of human experimentation," says Marcy Darnovsky, who heads the Center for Genetics and Society, a U.S.-based watchdog group. Danovsky adds that even if the newborns appear to be healthy, it's too soon to tell how the alterations to their genetic material could affect them or potential offspring of their own. "We just don't know what's going to happen to these children."

Zukin dismisses those concerns, saying the families involved are well aware of the experimental nature of the procedure—and adds that progress tends to feel uncomfortable at first. "If you would like to swim, then, first of all, you must jump in the water."

[A version of this post was originally published June 11, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Things We're Loving

Having a C-section may not have originally been part of a mom's birth plan—but they are often necessary, with nearly a third of all births in the United States classified as Cesarean deliveries.

C-section births are different than what many moms picture when they first learn they are pregnant, but they are also incredibly beautiful. C-sections save lives and should be celebrated. And whether a mom's C-section is an emergency, planned or elective it is still a valid and important birth experience.

That's why we at Motherly are committed to sharing C-section stories—so that mothers know what to expect and society learns to support women who are recovering from surgery while caring for a newborn.

These are the C-section stories the #TeamMotherly community loves and we are so grateful to the mamas who shared them.

1. This video perfectly explains the anatomy of a C-section 

This video shows you just what C-section surgery entails: cutting through seven layers of skin, fat, muscle and more to reach the baby. It's an incredible depiction of one of the most physically challenging moment's of a mama's life.

The creator of this viral video is Jesse Franks, a blogger, International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) advocate and mom of three. She previously discussed the video's popularity with Motherly and says she was inspired by a childbirth education tool she came across years ago .

"People have said that they are thankful it exists, that the actual surgical videos have been too gory for them to watch. One mom said that it was the first time she smiled while imagining her child's birth," Franks explained.

This video is incredible.

This video shows babies really do recognize mama right away 

If you've ever wondered whether newborns really know their mothers when they're born, this video will erase all doubt. It captures the magical first moments between a mom and her brand new baby girl. That little tiny arm clinging to mom's face is enough to melt your heart.

That baby knows her mama.

​The beauty of postpartum bodies is on full display in this brave post 

Whether you're rocking stretch marks, a C-section scar, a lingering linea negra or anything else, they're all just proof of one thing: you're one strong, courageous mama bear.

The caption says it all: "This is my postpartum. Some of you may see this and think, "Why is she sharing this", and others "Wow, thanks for sharing" and I'm sure lots of other thoughts in between. Want to know mine? "Wow, she has the courage to share a TRUTH so many different women face. Dealing with a scar of victory and loss." My staples are out now, but as you can imagine the healing and pains are not."

This post shows the beauty in a mama's C-section scar

"How can we teach our children to love themselves if we ourselves are constantly putting ourselves down?" It's not always easy, but being a powerful example of self-love and self-acceptance is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids.

This mama is making sure her children (and fellow mamas on Instagram) know that a scar is nothing to hide.

"Teach your children that scars and marks are beautiful, and that they aren't to be ashamed of. Ever since she could point and touch, my daughter has always loved feeling my #csection scar," she writes.

Motherhood is a miracle, as we see in this photo 

Moms who've had C-sections often feel guilty and ashamed, but this gorgeous post has an important reminder: "However motherhood comes to you, it's a miracle." And perhaps an even more important reminder? Your baby won't care how they born—just that they're loved and cared for always.

"My scar may fade or it may not, but honestly, I don't mind. I hope it doesn't completely. It's a special reminder of just how lucky I am," this mama writes.

She continues her caption: "There are a few things I am incredibly passionate about, and helping other moms-to-be feel empowered about their c-section birth is one of them. I constantly receive messages and emails from moms who are scared, ashamed or overwhelmed about their c-section delivery and have only ever heard horror stories or been met with negativity. I feel so sad that they feel this way when they should be proud, excited and feel like the badass woman they are. I hope one day women everywhere don't have to feel the need to justify their birth and can proudly say they are a C-section mama without any guilt or shame."

"When I look at my scar now, I see my body's ability to heal, to survive." 

A C-section scar serves as a visible reminder of what can be one of the best and worst days in a mother's life. But this mama wants it to serve as a powerful reminder for something else: the physical ordeal you've overcome, and the path to accepting what led you there.

"When I look at my scar now, I see my body's ability to heal, to survive," this mama writes.

"I see journeys of both the physical and mental variety, with success waiting at the end—even if it wasn't the end I expected. More than anything, though, I see grace. The grace I finally learned to give myself when plans changed and I adjusted accordingly, emerging stronger than ever before."

This photo post tells a twin mama's surprise C-section story 

C-sections are common with twins, and this mama shows the pure joy that comes with holding two healthy newborns in your arms—even when you've just undergone a grueling surgery.

What started out as a regular appointment turned into a trip to the operating room and a healthy delivery, in all about three hours. Joyful posts like this one could go a long way toward easing the fears and disappointments of mom's who've been told they'll need a C-section.

"Before I knew it, I went from having 3 hearts beating inside me to the 3 of us bundled up enjoying skin-to-skin before we even rolled out of the O.R.," this mama writes.

​C-sections can be serious, but are seriously beautiful 

This mama shared the story of developing a life-threatening infection that could have killed both her and her baby had she not been whisked off for an emergency C-section in the nick of time. Your birth plan goes out the window when lives are on the line—but it's all worth it in the end.

"This photo is the only one taken that day. Definitely not the gorgeous birth photography I had planned for, but beautiful and special to me none the less," this mama writes.

It wasn't her plan, but it is still a beautiful birth story and a photo worth sharing and celebrating.

Clear drape C-sections are so powerful 

More and more hospitals are stepping up their efforts to make C-sections a better experience for moms. Some are using clear plastic sheets to keep the environmental sterile, while also letting parents get to experience the magical moment of their baby emerging from the womb.

As Motherly previously reported, photos like this one are "showing the world that this new kind of Cesarean delivery can be absolutely beautiful. By posting these pictures, mothers and birth photographers aren't just proving that C-section births are just as Insta-worthy as every other way women deliver, but they are also spreading awareness about clear drape C-sections, which are also known as "gentle Cesareans."

"Birth can bring a lot of big emotions." 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it might as well be a million when you're looking at a gorgeous birth photo.

This is a moment in time we need to see and celebrate, because "just because a baby needs to be born via cesarean doesn't mean mama can't be a participant in her birth experience," says Motherly's Digital Education Editor, Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and founder of Gathered Birth.

According to Spalding, author of Motherly's upcoming book, The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama (April 2020), making C-sections personal is important: "We need to bring birth back to women. Women need options and choices, autonomy and respect. Becoming a mother is one of the most momentous events in a woman's lifetime—she deserves to have it be her best birth."

"This is 9 days into being a mother of two and it wasn’t by any means easy." 

There are lots of different reasons a mama-to-be might want or need a C-section. But they all share one thing in common: those reasons are no one's business, and they're certainly not up for judgment or discussion. This new mom-of-two had a condition that made a vaginal delivery impossible, and a C-section was far from "the easy way out."

A C-section is a birth, just like any other.

"You are unique and your story makes you who you are today. Your fertility, pregnancy, birth story and parenting styles are your decisions and experiences and no one else's," this mama writes.

Looking back on a C-section birth story 

What does this mama see when she looks at this photo? Not her scar, but the love and beauty between a mother and child. A scar may or may not fade over time, but that love only grows more visible.

"Instead of a smiling portrait of us, it's just a photo of me cradling you gently next to the stitched up #Csection dressing you came from. And here we are now. The C-section scar may still be there, but now I can barely hold you in my arms. You are so busy these days and even more beautiful as I've gotten to know you this past year. That smile of yours will change the world," this mama writes.

You are a warrior, mama

This video captures the joy, the fear and the love and the incredible strength woven into all these C-section stories,

Having a C-section is an incredibly emotional experience on a lot of different levels, but we hope that love, pride, and happiness outweigh anything else. Whether it was in your plans or not, you are absolutely a warrior.

News

Shannon Bird is a well known mom blogger and influencer with more than 100,000 Instagram followers. For years she's been known for her style and for her family's quirky adventures, but in 2020 the mom of five became internet famous for something else.

This mama called 911 in the middle of the night because she ran out of breastmilk and asked the police to bring her formula.

The criticism was swift, but Bird's story isn't just about when it is appropriate to call emergency services—it's about who has the privilege of being able to call 911, the lack of support for mothers in America, gender roles and the erosion of the village. In short, this isn't just a story about Shannon Bird calling 911. It's a story about a society that is failing mothers.

Here's what you need to know about this viral story:

This week Bird appeared on Fox News Channel's Daily Briefing, but the 911 call happened in January 

It's been weeks since certain corners of the internet blew up after literally watching Bird (via Instagram stories) call 911 because she ran out of breastmilk and had no formula. To Bird's followers, this is old news, but it's been making the news in recent days.

On February 17 Bird appeared on Fox News Channels' Daily Briefing with her youngest child to talk about why she called 911 when she ran out of breastmilk (and had no formula in her home). As the Utah mom previously told Fox 6, "I've never not had food for my newborn. It was really scary for me."

How this mom ended up calling 911 for formula

Those watching Bird's Instagram Stories on January 28 saw this unfold in real-time. Bird was recovering from some postpartum complications at the time and a medication she was taking may have been a factor in her declining milk supply.

She found herself home alone (her husband was out of town) with her infant and her four other young children (one of whom had a cast on a broken leg). She thought she had enough pumped breastmilk in the freezer to get her though the night, but eventually realized she didn't. She also didn't have any baby formula.

In her Instagram Stories she detailed how she called friends and family for help around 2 AM but no one picked up the phone. Eventually, she called 911, telling the operator she was scared and had no way to feed her 6-week-old baby.

"I've been calling neighbors and no one will answer," she said on the call. "I've never been in this predicament ever. My milk just literally dried out. This is my fifth kid and this has never happened."

Soon, the police were at her door.

The police brought this mom milk + formula in the middle of the night

After the 911 call, Bird posted video footage of police arriving at her home to her Instagram Stories (as her doorbell cam had captured the footage). It shows Officer Brett Wagstaff of the Lone Peak police department arrive at Bird's door with a gallon of milk.

Bird explained that what she needed wasn't regular milk, but baby formula. "We'll be right back with some formula for your baby — she's adorable," Wagstaff told Bird.

Soon enough he came back with baby formula from Walmart, telling Bird, "That's the same stuff we gave my daughter when she was first born, so hopefully it doesn't upset her stomach."

Officer Wagstaff and his fellow officer Konner Gabbitas have been hailed as heroes in the recent news coverage of this story (and they are) but many critics pointed out that Bird had the privilege of being a wealthy, white mom when she called 911, and wonder if the response would be the same from mothers of color or lesser means.

The backlash over privilege + a need for postpartum support 

Twenty-four hours after posting the Instagram Stories showing the police delivering baby formula, Bird announced she was taking a break from social media (she's since returned) which isn't surprising when you look at the comments on her accounts.

People were upset with her for using 911 the way she did, and upset with her husband for leaving her alone with five kids while he went out of town. When Fox News picked up the story the criticism continued.

"This is not what 911 is for... In some places, you'd get a ticket for misuse of emergency services. But, here is everyone enabling some more. Saying how heroic and brave this was. I can't even handle it," one Instagram user commented.

"Flip this narrative and you would get a drastically different response. #whiteprivilege," another noted.

That does need to be part of this conversation. There are many mothers in America who would not feel comfortable calling 911 during a parenting emergency due to institutional bias and racism. And that's not fair, because all mothers should be able to get help when they need it.

Many people have pointed out all the things Bird could have done differently in this situation—maybe she could have gotten her kids up and driven to Walmart herself, maybe she could have used Uber Eats or Instacart to order formula for delivery—but at that moment she couldn't. She was in crisis.

Calling 911 is an act of desperation, and it's a sign that the cultural expectations on women are causing a lot of maternal stress.

It takes time to recover from birth (especially if you have postpartum complications).

Breastfeeding can be very difficult (even if you've breastfed before with ease).

And when your baby is crying and you can't help them, that's terrifying.

Many commenters suggest this is a story about a woman abusing the 911 service, but maybe it's a story about a country where mothers in crisis feel they have no one to call. Maybe it's a story about how when the "village" erodes, mothers suffer the most. Maybe it's a sign that we need more postpartum supports, more education and more empathy for mothers.

[Motherly reached out to Shannon Bird for comment and will update this post if we receive a reply.]

News

Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

Earlier this month Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

This week Wade appeared on Good Morning America, explaining that Zaya has known she was transgender since she was 3 years old.

"Zaya has known it for nine years," the proud dad said on GMA, adding that he credits Zaya (who was assigned as male at birth) with educating him and helping him grow.

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"I knew early on that I had to check myself... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself," he told GMA's Robin Roberts. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes to having to deal with this conversation...Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face, we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing right."

It sure seems like Wade and Union have been doing it right. When Union posted a video to Instagram earlier this month introducing Zaya it was clear the tween's dad and step-mom have her back.

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

[A version of this story was posted February 12, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Amy Schumer is opening up about the grueling process of in vitro fertilization. The comedian gave birth to a baby boy last year, and has been sharing details about her attempts to get pregnant again.

Back in January she told followers that she'd just begun a round of IVF, and updated her Instagram fans again this week. She said that doctors were initially able to retrieve 35 eggs, and the funny lady naturally cracked a joke about it.

"Not bad for the old gal right?" she said. "Then 26 fertilized! Whoah right? For all of those we got 1 normal embryo from that and 2 low level mosaic (mosaic means there are some abnormal cells but can still lead to a healthy baby) So we feel lucky we got 1! But what a drop off right?"

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There's an important reason Schumer talks openly about her fertility strugglesit's all about giving and receiving support and breaking the stigma.

"I have so appreciated everyone sharing their IVF stories with me. They made me feel empowered and supported. So I wanted to tell you how mine went down," she wrote. "So many women go through many rounds of IVF which is painful and mentally grueling. I heard from hundreds of women about...their miscarriages and struggles and also many hopeful stories about how after rounds and rounds of IVF it worked!! It has been really encouraging," Schumer writes, noting that she's thankful for all the support.

She continues: "Anyway I am so grateful for our son and that we have the resources to get help in this way. I just wanted to share and send love and strength to all of the warrior women who go through this process."

Schumer's even been in contact with some of those women directly—her Instagram bio lists a number where followers can text her to share their IVF stories and advice.

Schumer has always been relatable, and that's been even more true since she became a mom. She's been refreshingly and hilariously candid about everything from her hyperemesis to her postpartum body and her breast pump struggles, so it's no surprise she's doing the same for IVF. Hopefully, she'll be sharing the struggles of going from 1 child to 2 before we know it.

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