PLANO – For three years, Kelley McKissack and her husband tried to have a baby. Three times, McKissack miscarried.
The 28-year-old from Wylie talked with her fertility specialist about using a surrogate, but she had questions about potential legal issues.
Then she asked her doctor, what about my mother?
On Wednesday, 54-year-old Tracey Thompson, McKissack’s mom, gave birth to a healthy baby girl at The Medical Center of Plano.
And on Thursday, McKissack showed off her rosy-cheeked daughter, all 6 pounds and 9 ounces, with Thompson beaming by her side.
The pregnancy inevitably had its unusual moments, Thompson said.
Sometimes, strangers would stare. First at Thompson’s face, then at her belly.
Her husband would jokingly tell people the baby wasn’t his and walk off, leaving Thompson to explain it was their daughter’s.
“The looks we got were quite funny,” Thompson said.
The baby’s name is Kelcey — a combination of Kelley and Tracey.
“Say hi to the world!” McKissack told Kelcey, tucking her tiny arms in a mint-colored blanket as a camera shuttered in their hospital room.
Thompson, who lives in the rural community of Nevada, was already seven years past menopause when she began the pregnancy, but her health was excellent, doctors said at a press conference. She was implanted with an embryo remaining from her daughter’s final round of in vitro fertilization.
Though noteworthy, Thompson’s pregnancy was no medical breakthrough. Surrogates as old as 61 have given birth to children in Chicago and Japan in recent years, each time on behalf of their daughters.
Overall, Thompson had “a great pregnancy,” said Dr. Joseph Leveno, an OBGYN at The Medical Center of Plano. However, a complication toward the end led to a C-section.
“It was a beating,” Thompson told reporters about her surrogacy. “It really was…It’s been many years since I’ve been pregnant.”
Thompson has two adult children. McKissack’s brother is 30.
Doctors said Thursday that Thompson first went through a comprehensive medical evaluation. Her family also had to sit down with a counselor to check for any emotional problems. Once it was determined that Thompson’s uterine cavity was normal, she started taking hormones to prepare for the implantation of a 5-day-old embryo.
“Pregnancy is a heavy load on a woman,” said Dr. Ali Guerami, McKissack’s fertility specialist, who has an office in Frisco. “We have to make sure that their heart can accept it, and then we have to make sure the patient understands that when they’re older there’s much more chance you’ll have an operative procedure like a C-section.”
With older women, there’s also a higher possibility of complications, Guerami said.
Surrogacy is not a path one should pursue based on feelings alone, the doctor added. He pointed to legal and emotional challenges on top of the physical ones.
“Just because the patient wants it, or there is a surrogate available, doesn’t mean they should go ahead and do it,” Guerami said.
Surrogacy was not a decision Thompson and her husband came to lightly. They talked to their church pastor, among other trusted friends, seeking advice.
Whether the surrogacy was part of God’s plan wasn’t a discussion, said John Spencer, pastor of Lone Star Cowboy Church in Nevada. He knew about the difficulty of the couple’s daughter and son-in-law to have a baby.
“God uses medical channels to heal, or in this case, bring new life,” Spencer said.
Tracey Thompson’s close friend Trisha Sheffield visited the hospital Thursday on her lunch break as staff was setting up for the press conference.
“When I walked in, her papa [Ben Thompson] was holding the baby, and he couldn’t be more proud,” she said.
McKissack and Thompson, wearing black leggings and matching winter boots, held hands as they replied to a volley of questions from reporters.
Mom and daughter said they have always been close. They recalled a conversation they had when McKissack was 13. The teen asked her mom, “If I can’t carry my own baby, would you carry it for me?” Thompson said yes, never dreaming she would be in that position.
Barely a year after her last miscarriage on Christmas day, McKissack held Kelcey close to her chest, studying her face and rocking her gently.
“No one could give someone a greater gift,” McKissack said. “Ever.”