April 30, 2004

Mom gives ultimate gift to daughter: twins

Featured Image

Lynne Bevins and her husband, Phil, get to know their newborn son Pryce Daly. He and his sister, Meredith Taylor, were born Monday. Their grandmother, Barbara Brennan, pictured on page 3, served as the twins’ surrogate mother. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Mom gives ultimate gift to daughter: twins

Barbara Brennan, right, talks with her daughter Lynne Bevins about the twins' progress while resting in her hospital room. Brennan carried and delivered the twins for her daughter. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Barbara Brennan, right, talks with her daughter Lynne Bevins about the twins' progress while resting in her hospital room. Brennan carried and delivered the twins for her daughter. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Pryce Daly. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Pryce Daly. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Meredith Taylor. Photo by Dana Johnson.

Meredith Taylor. Photo by Dana Johnson.

The twins, a boy — Pryce Daly —and a girl — Meredith Taylor — were born seven weeks early at 2:46 p.m. and 2:47 p.m., respectively. Pryce weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces and was 17.25 inches long. Meredith weighed 3 pounds, 15 ounces and was 17.5 inches long. Both were in good condition and were taken off oxygen by Tuesday morning.

Brennan, originally due around Mother’s Day, had developed signs of preeclampsia and underwent a caesarean section to deliver the twins at nearly 34 weeks gestation. Audrey H. Kang, M.D., assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, delivered the babies. Brian Carter, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics is the babies’ doctor.

Frank Boehm, M.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, has delivered twins to a surrogate mother before, but said this is the first time a grandmother has delivered her grandchildren at Vanderbilt.

“Being a surrogate mother is not that unusual, but carrying the child of your child is quite unusual,” he said. “It’s a good example of the old adage of a parent being willing to do anything for his or her child. I would certainly consider this ‘anything,’ considering all the physical, emotional and endocrinal changes this woman has gone through to carry these babies. It’s a great sacrifice done with love for her child — a real act of love, courage and sacrifice.”

Brennan, the vice president of clinical services at Sumner Regional Medical Center, first volunteered to serve as surrogate a little more than a month after Parker was born. Her husband, Tom, Bevins’ stepfather, fully supported her offer. Bevins still had her ovaries, responsible for ovulation, so it could be done. But she told her mother she and her husband, Phil, both physical therapists in Knoxville, weren’t ready to think about it yet.

“I never had a fertilization problem. It was a space issue,” Bevins said, laughing.

After offering several times over the past six years, Brennan finally issued a final offer to her daughter and son-in-law about a year and a half ago: “I’m not getting any younger. If I’m going to do this, it’s going to have to be now.”

“I told Lynne, ‘I can’t change what’s happened to you, but I can do this,” Brennan said. “And it’s worked out so well. I’ve been able to carry the babies while Lynne and Phil have been able to go about their business and work. It’s sort of a good deal on their part,” she said, smiling.

The babies were conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF), a process begun by Brennan and the Bevins just a little more than year ago, a quick turnaround in the vitro fertilization business. The first order of business was to meet with a psychologist to make sure the surrogacy was being done “for the right reasons, and to find out if I could give up the babies (to the Bevins), and if it would affect our relationship if I lost the babies,” Brennan said.

“The psychologist asked both couples the same questions, separately, and we had the same answers,” Brennan said. “Since most surrogate couples don’t even know each other, she had run out of questions by the end of the hour. She was searching for questions.”

Brennan and the Bevins decided they would only try a couple of times to conceive.

“In vitro fertilization can take on its own life,” Brennan said. “But we didn’t have an infertility issue. We had decided early on that we weren’t going to be obsessed with it, that if it didn’t work, then it just might not be in the cards.”

Bevins agrees. “My husband and I have strong faith. If God wanted me to have more children, it would happen.”

Bevins said after taking fertility medications last summer to stimulate the production of more than one egg in a cycle, 41 eggs were removed from her uterus and mixed with her husband’s sperm in a Petri dish in Knoxville. Of that number, 39 were fertilized by the sperm, and two were placed in Brennan’s uterus on Sept. 22.

A phone call to Bevins on Oct. 1 confirmed that the in-vitro fertilization attempt had been successful and the hormonal levels were high, indicating there was a good chance that Brennan was carrying more than one fetus.

“Early on, we told them to call my daughter with the results,” Brennan said. “So the day she found out, she beeped me, 911, during a meeting. When I called her back, she was so excited. I really had a hard time going back and finishing that meeting.”

Bevins’ son, Parker, Brennan’s only grandchild prior to Monday, has been excited about the birth, seeing nothing unusual about it. “He told his preschool teacher at church, early on, that ‘Mimi is having my babies.’ For him it’s as normal as can be,” Bevins said.

Brennan said her pregnancy has been difficult — she hasn’t felt well since October — but she has had no complications. “It’s been almost 35 years in between pregnancies so it’s sort of like doing this for the first time,” she said.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest interval between births of two children to the same mother is 41 years, 185 days. Elizabeth Ann Buttle, 60, of Wales, gave birth to her daughter in 1956 and her son in1997.

“Using a surrogate mother we didn’t know was never an option for us, mainly because there could be legal problems,” Bevins said. “And I didn’t want to adopt. We thought at first maybe we just wanted to have one child, but then when our chance [to have more] was taken away, that made it harder.”

Bevins said she and her husband are excited about increasing the size of their family from three to five. “I always wanted a girl, but all I know are dump trucks and dinosaurs,” Bevins said. “It should be fun.”

Both mother and daughter say they have received mostly positive comments about the surrogacy. Brennan told her closest co-workers early on and told them to ask any question on their minds.

“One friend told me I was a fool, but he’s completely changed now and is a real cheerleader about us doing this,” she said.

“A few women said to me ‘I’d never do that.’ But I didn’t even think twice about it when I made the decision.”

She had ultrasound photos on her desk and a photo of the embryos the day they were transferred. Some visitors to her office would ask whose babies they were. “It’s obvious I’m not 30,” she said, laughing, and pointing to the crow’s feet by her eyes, the only telltale sign of her age.

“I’m honored to have carried these babies for my daughter, to have taken care of them in utero,” Brennan said. “It’s all about parental love, what comes so natural to me, and to most mothers, that we would do anything for our children. I have never seen this as a risk,” she said. “It’s an opportunity not everyone has.”

Bevins said although she will never be able to repay her mother for carrying the babies, she and her husband gave Brennan a token of their appreciation Monday night — a necklace with three diamonds, one for each of their children. The diamond is also Pryce and Meredith’s birthstone.

“My mom has given me life once before. Now she’s doing it again,” Bevins said. “We’re best friends; we’re shopping buddies. I’m so proud of her. I know she’s felt like garbage the whole time, but she’s had a smile on her face through it all and has taken such good care of herself. It’s such a gift. It’s really, really incredible.”