Texas

Baby Stetson is no ordinary infant — both of his moms got to carry him before birth

Bliss Coulter, left, and Ashleigh Coulter are believed to be the first same-sex couple where both mothers physically carried their baby, Stetson, who is now almost 5 months old.
Bliss Coulter, left, and Ashleigh Coulter are believed to be the first same-sex couple where both mothers physically carried their baby, Stetson, who is now almost 5 months old. Courtesy

Baby Stetson is more than just mamma’s cute little cowboy.

He’s believed to be a medical first.

Stetson Coulter was born to his mothers, Bliss and Ashleigh Coulter, in June via a procedure called “effortless reciprocal In Vitro Fertilization,” as first reported by WFAA.

It means that both of Stetson’s moms got to carry him in their wombs. For years, same-sex couples have adopted, or used reciprocal IVF to have babies, where one of the women’s eggs and a donor’s sperm are combined and placed in an incubator, then the resulting embryo is placed inside one mother’s uterus to develop, like in a natural pregnancy.

The mother who does not play a physical role in the child’s prenatal development then usually has to adopt the child to become the second legal parent.

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Ashleigh Coulter delivered baby Stetson in June. Stetson came from DNA from Ashleigh’s wife Bliss, right, and a sperm donor. Bliss Coulter Courtesy

But in the Coulters’ case, Stetson developed inside both Ashleigh’s and Bliss’ wombs. They told ABC News it turned what can be a sterile medical transaction into something “priceless” and meaningful in their lives.

“She got to carry him for five days and was a big part of the fertilization, and then I carried him for nine months,” Ashleigh, 29, told WFAA. “So that made it really special for the both of us — that we were both involved. She got to be a part of it, and I got to be a part of it.”

The Coulter family lives in Mountain Springs, Texas, according to their Facebook profiles, which is north of Denton and just south of the Texas-Oklahoma state line. Bliss and Ashleigh were married in 2016.

“This represents the first time that two women physically carried their child together,” fertility specialist Kathy Doody told KTVT. She and her husband, Kevin Doody, run the Center for Assisted Reproduction in nearby Bedford.

With effortless reciprocal IVF, instead of placing the combined sperm and eggs into an incubator in a lab, they go into something called an INVOcell device right after the egg is extracted. That INVOcell device goes into one mom’s body for a short time to begin its development, before being transferred to the other mother’s body for the remainder of the pregnancy, according to the station.

And it cost the Coulters about half of the approximately $15,000 that other IVF procedures can cost, the savings coming from using the human body as the incubator instead of expensive lab equipment. Bliss, 37, donated the egg and kick-started the process, by having the device placed inside her body for five days, ABC News reported, before Ashleigh carried it for almost nine months after that.

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An INVOcell device like this one is where baby Stetson’s early development as an embryo took place. Center for Assisted Reproduction Courtesy

“It turns out, not surprisingly, that the woman’s own body is a very good incubator,” Kathy Doody told WFAA. “We have livers, kidneys and lungs so we’re able to provide those same services to the embryo more naturally.”

Stetson was born weighing a healthy 8 pounds, 3 ounces, the New York Post reported. Though he only received DNA from Bliss and the couple’s sperm donor, Ashleigh told the newspaper that he’s also taking after her.

He’s loud, just like me,” she told the Post. “We worried that he wouldn’t connect to me because he has [Bliss’] DNA. Now that he’s here, he’s attached to my hip. Everything I was worried about went away.”

Dr. Cynthia Austin, MD, a Fertility Expert at Cleveland Clinic, separates the fact from fiction about IVF, starting with eggs.

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