After years of her own harrowing fertility struggles, Aprill Lane and her husband, Brian, have the family they always wanted: two sons and three daughters.
But, ‘I felt strongly that my body wasn’t done, even though we were resolved with our own family,’ Aprill told Daily Mail Online.
She was as clear about this as she had been about wanting a big family for her whole life.
Aprill wanted to help another woman have children, it was just a matter of deciding how.
When she found out about the groundbreaking uterus transplants last year, Aprill had her answer.
So, last year, the 39-year-old mother-of-five boarded a plane from her home in Boston to Dallas – all on her own dime – so that her uterus could be surgically removed and transplanted into another woman she’d never met.
Aprill Lane, 39, donated her uterus so it could be transplanted to a stranger after Aprill endured her own fertility struggle but ended up having five children
Aprill is one of four children, and from the time she was a little girl she knew she wanted to be a mother to the same kind of family she was raised in – a big one.
‘On our wedding day, when we were doing vows, the pastor said “be the father of our children” and I responded “be the father of our four children.”
That was in December 2007. Despite starting to try as soon as they were married, Aprill and Brian had still not conceived by mid-2008 and sought reproductive counseling.
It didn’t make any sense. They were both reproductively healthy, and were given the only diagnosis left, ‘unexplained infertility.’
‘For some reason, when our sperm and egg met, they didn’t match very well,’ Aprill says.
‘I think if we were diagnosed in 10 years, we would know why.’
Their fertility specialist assured Brian and Aprill that she was confident they would be able to conceive, eventually.
‘But when you’re getting older, five or 10 years is a long time,’ Aprill says.
For three-and-a-half years, Aprill underwent grueling IVF treatments.
When April married her husband, Brian, (right), she made it clear in their vows she wanted a big family – ‘four children’ – the couple is thrilled to have five:
It was a lonely time. As their friends had children, she and Brian stopped getting invites to birthday parties, and dinners.
Aprill found support groups on line that placed women in chat groups based on what round of IVF they were on.
It was a great comfort, at first, but she became part of small subset of women that just kept getting bumped to the next chat as others got pregnant. At one point, their group was called ‘IVF 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.’
‘[Infertility] is a draining disease that’s often misunderstood, and people don’t quite understand it, so instead people shy away from you…it’s physically draining and and emotionally draining as well.’
So Aprill and Brian decided they would just have to have a different kind of family – an adopted one.
In 2011, they adopted Miles from birth, and almost immediately the last thing they expected happened: Aprill got pregnant. The couple’s second son, Mark, was born 13 months after his older brother.
And then, after another 10 rounds of IVF trying for a third, they had twin girls, Marlee and Josie, now three.
After years struggling to conceive, Aprill and Bruab are now the proud parents of five children, Miles, Marlee, Juliet, Josie and Mark (left to right)
They thought they were done, but just before the twins’ second birthday, the Lanes found out Aprill was pregnant again – spontaneously and without IVF – with daughter Juliet, now two.
‘Once we got to Miles’ birth, then it all happened really fast.
The couple agreed that five kids was enough to keep their hands full, but Aprill still felt like she ‘would keep going if there was a car big enough.’
She considered surrogacy, but as beautiful as pregnancy was for Aprill, it was also nine months of unrelenting sickness, and she knew it would be hard on the young family.
Last summer, the nonprofit Aprill founded to help families being treated for reproductive issues get funding got an application unlike any she’d seen before.
The applicant had received a uterus transplant. Aprill knew that – if she qualified – this was what she wanted to do.
‘It’s a way of helping someone carry a pregnancy without me having to do it physically,’ she says.
‘And giving back in acts of kindness is a big theme in our family’
Before donating her uterus, Aprill had to undergo all manner of tests, including to make sure her veins were strong enough to be transplanted (left) and took selfies as she did a breathing test at the hospital in Dallas (right)
Aprill had fly to Baylor University Medical Screening to undergo extensive screening, and run the idea by her entire family – including all five children, ages two to seven.
When she got the news that she’d been accepted as a donor, Aprill and her husband were both thrilled.
‘I actually felt pride in my body,’ Aprill says.
‘For so many years, you think your body is failing you, and then I was like, “shoot, my body is awesome.”‘
She and Brian prepared themselves, and their children for Aprill’s trip from Boston to Texas, teaching the children how to do new tasks for themselves that their mother wouldn’t be able to during her two months of recovery, and explaining to them exactly what her body would be going through.
Within months, Aprill was on a plane to Dallas, ready to bid her uterus farewell.
The surgery went smoothly, but recovery proved harder than expected. She had been worried about sexual dysfunction and incontinence, but had been able to find reassurance from other donors or research.
The entire Lane family was involved in Aprill’s decision to donate her uterus, and they were thrilled for her when she was accepted to the program
Miles, seven, was adopted from birth, Juliette, two, was a conceived spontaneously and unexpectedly and Marley, three, Mark, six and Marlee, three, were all conceived via IVF (left to right)
What she couldn’t have estimated was the extent of the pain of her recovery. She knew she wouldn’t want to take painkillers, but Aprill hadn’t known any other donors that had made the same choice.
Nonetheless, she had to get back to work – though thankfully from home, where she could lie down while working from her laptop, just 13 days later.
Aprill wasn’t really herself, unable to lift things or go on runs, for about eight weeks.
But she had been through so many years of the physical and emotional pain of infertility for so many more years than that – and she had the hope that her uterus might end that for another woman.
And Aprill says she doesn’t miss her uterus, or the periods she stopped having once the organ was gone (though she still has her ovaries).
‘It’s actually been really healing for me,’ she says.
After donating her uterus, Aprill did a boudoir shoot to capture ‘the beauty of the scar’ seven weeks after surgery, before it faded
‘I didn’t realize how much of my emotional health was tied to getting my period every month and even when we weren’t actively trying it was a monthly reminder of failure and it hit me hard every single month.’
That’s not to say that Aprill was unfeeling in the whole process.
‘In the beginning, I was very worried about the recipient,’ she says.
‘I was worried about [the transplant] instilling some hope into her and then it failing and me being a part of a letdown.’
But the two women have since communicated, anonymously, and Aprill has even sent a ‘period package’ with pads and a ‘diamond uterus pin.’
If the recipient agrees – which would most likely happen after she’s given birth – Aprill would very much like to get to know her.
I’d love to meet her,’ she says.
‘I don’t have an emotional attachment to my uterus because I’ve learned to disconnect from it to protect myself.
‘So it’s not about that, but the science is just amazing.
‘[The recipient] has lived her whole life not thinking she could have a child, and I think it would be awesome to connect with her once she has success.’