Michelle waited a long time to hold her own baby in her hands, all thanks to the uterine transplant.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 11, 2020. It has since been updated.
Michelle was just 16 years old when she understood that something wasn't right with her body. A visit to the OB-GYN cleared all her doubts... she was born without a uterus. This was the reason that she hadn't had her periods. It also meant that she would never experience the joy of becoming a mother.
As Michelle got older, the desire for a baby got more intense, especially after she married her husband, Richard. After years of waiting, right when her hopes were crumbling, she learned about a procedure called the uterus transplant, according to 7News.
A resident of Greenville, Pennsylvania, the nurse said, “It became upsetting that I wouldn’t be able to carry my own child. I never thought that I would see those words that you’re pregnant or even think that it would be possible for me.” But 2016 rekindled her hopes as she got to know that Cleveland Clinic was transplanting deceased-donor uteruses.
After a four-year-long process, she became the second person to undergo a uterus transplant, and went on to welcome a baby boy. For her, "It was a dream come true. It was magical." Before the procedure, she had to face several disappointments. “I (received) several phone calls that they had a donor uterus. Within a few hours to a few days we got the news that it wasn’t a perfect match,” she said.
After a long and "hard" waiting process, January 2019 turned out to be the day when she found her perfect match following which she underwent a 14-hour surgery. At 31, she experienced what a period is like. "At first, I wasn’t sure if it was good bleeding or bad bleeding. Having a uterus could mean, ‘Yes, you’re having a period’ or ‘You might be having a rejection." She finally "felt like a woman."
Six months later, as she prepared for the embryo transfer, she felt nervous about the procedure but said she was ready. Six days later, she received the news she had been waiting for, she was finally going to bring a baby into this world. “It didn’t feel real,” Michelle said.
In March 2020, baby Cole was finally here, weighing 5 pounds and 12 ounces. “I had a c-section so I was awake to see my son being born. It didn’t seem real until he came out and cried," she gushed. Later, Michelle underwent another surgery to remove the transplanted uterus so that she could avoid taking all the anti-rejection drugs for the sake of her baby boy.
Dr. Uma Perni, who is involved in the clinical trials of uterus transplants at Cleveland Clinic, said that it was "special" for her to be a part of the entire procedure. “To know that you were a part of it in making that a possibility, it's really quite special,” she said. According to her, 1 in 5,000 women is born without a uterus.
“(Being born without a uterus) is not an everyday situation but it is not terribly uncommon. There are lots of young women out there given this diagnosis of a really permanent infertility at a very young age, which is really devastating,” she told TODAY.
Cleveland Clinic is one of the many institutions that is researching uterus transplantation. Dr. Uma added, “It involves obviously a very thorough medical evaluation, just making sure that they would be a good candidate to carry a pregnancy. There's also social psychological factors at play because it really is a very long road.”