The arrival of a first-born child is usually cause for celebration. It certainly was for Malin Stenberg of Gothenburg, Sweden, who gave birth to her son Vincent in 2014. Prior to Vincent entering the world, however, he had a very unusual gestation – one, in fact, that led to the pregnancy going down in history.
Years before Stenberg welcomed her baby, though, she had been given some heartbreaking news. Indeed, any dreams that Stenberg may have had of one day being a mom were dealt a seemingly decisive blow while she was just 15. That’s because the Swede was informed that she didn’t have a womb, meaning that bearing children herself was a physical impossibility. It was the result of an incredibly unusual genetic disorder known as MRKH syndrome, and the information understandably left Stenberg bereft.
“I wasn’t ready to hear it, I couldn’t take it in,” she told the Daily Mail when speaking about the moment she heard that she had no uterus. She added, “I thought that this means that I’ll never be able to carry a child of my own – but that is what women are made for. It felt so unfair.”
Stenberg continued to the newspaper, “I loved kids and babies, and I wanted to know what I had done to deserve this. I felt so alone.” She eventually came to terms with her condition, however. And after Stenberg grew up, she subsequently concentrated her efforts on her job, brokering deals on aircraft and flight sales.
However, Stenberg’s outlook on the situation altered dramatically when former professional golfer Claes Nilsson walked into her life. And although she had told him from the start that she was unable to have children, Nilsson was undeterred. In fact, he was even determined to find a solution to the issue. And from there, the wheels were set in motion, as the pair got engaged and looked to build their family.
Unsurprisingly, Stenberg and Nilsson researched adoption and surrogacy as well as other options available to them. Then they found another alternative. Gothenburg University was home to a groundbreaking transplant program in which young women could receive donated wombs and thus try to have children. With that aspiration in mind, Stenberg joined the project alongside another eight women.
The majority of the participants in the scheme, meanwhile, had wombs given to them by their respective mothers. The option of using their sisters and friends was also a possibility. For Stenberg, though, it was Ewa Rosen, a 61-year-old close acquaintance of her family, who donated the organ. The delicate procedure was successfully completed in 2013, opening the door for the next stage.
Stenberg then underwent IVF treatment following the operation – and, incredibly, she fell pregnant straight away. However, even though all appeared to be going well, the couple’s happiness was still very tentative in the months that followed. This was due to the failure of all prior womb transplant experiments.
Despite those fears, though, Stenberg achieved a world first in September 2014. That month, she welcomed Vincent: the first baby ever to be born to a mother using a donated womb. The mini miracle’s name means “to conquer” in Latin, a symbol of the courageous story behind his conception.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” Stenberg told the Daily Mail back in 2015, opening up about the experience for the first time since Vincent’s birth. “Just to be able to have these days with this healthy and wild kid, it’s beautiful. We’re very, very happy.”
Then in a further interview with the Daily Mail in 2016, Stenberg offered some encouraging words to other women who can’t have biological children. “If you wish for a family and you are unable to have one naturally, for whatever reason, it is so sad,” she said. “Total happiness comes from having a family, and it doesn’t matter if it is through a womb transplant or adoption or something else.”
And the adoring mom of the then 20-month-old Vincent spoke of her joy of being a parent, too. “It is magical,” she explained to the newspaper. She continued, “When I held him for the first time, it was just amazing. I felt immediately that he was my baby.”
Happily, in the months following Vincent’s birth, three more boys and a girl were born from transplanted wombs. And as a result, other countries around the world are aiming to achieve similar success with their own projects.
As for Stenberg, she hasn’t forgotten the vital role that Rosen played in Vincent’s birth. Indeed, the mom believes that Rosen paved the way for other women to become donors through her generosity. “She’s incredible,” she told the Daily Mail.
Stenberg continued, “[Rosen has] really made a great contribution to other people in taking this step to be a donor without any payments or anything: just good will.” Such is the bond between the two women, in fact, that Rosen is now godmother to Vincent.
However, despite Stenberg’s son’s unlikely birth and the gratitude she feels to those who made it possible, she and Nilsson aren’t planning on having another baby. At the very least, the Swedish mom doesn’t intend any future pregnancy to be in the same groundbreaking manner as the one that produced Vincent.
Indeed, following Vincent’s arrival, Stenberg had the womb that carried her son taken out. The decision was made because of the potential risks a second pregnancy could pose, with concerns that it could be more dangerous. The mom is happy with the decision, though.
“Today it feels like we went from nothing at all to having this wonderful boy,” Stenberg explained to Swedish publication Dagens Industri. She added, “It’s more than 100 percent. We are more than happy with this.”
“I couldn’t wish for more,” Stenberg concluded while speaking to the newspaper. And even if Vincent does lack a brother or sister, the love of his parents and godmother may more than make up for it. He also remains a very special boy – one that gives optimism to couples around the world.
Stenberg’s story, too, may be a beacon of hope for those wanting, against the odds, to have children of their own. Perhaps, then, more women might follow her lead one day – and, while doing so, produce mini miracles of their own.