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First surrogate baby in the Fox Cities has daughter of her own

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 4:23 PM CDT
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NEW LONDON, Wis. (WBAY) - A New London family is celebrating a special delivery: the birth of a baby girl. The baby’s birth brings so much joy to her family because of the family’s history.

Sierra Leigh Rae Beeman was born six days ago at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton, but her birth story really began almost 30 years ago when her mom, Lacey Popke, was born at the same hospital- back when it was known as Appleton Medical Center (AMC).

“My OB-GYN, Julie Meyer, she even announced to the whole team when I went in for my C-section, ‘She’s the first surrogate baby that got made and born here,’” says Popke.

The year was 1993, and Lacey’s parents, John and Anne Popke, couldn’t conceive naturally, so her mom’s cousin, Rachel Tolmacs agreed to be the Popkes’ surrogate.

“I just grew the baby. Anne and John were taking care of the legal stuff, and I did not know until this year how much of a revolutionary rebel I was,” says Tolmacs.

Lacey Popke, thanks to Dr. John Harris, was the first surrogate baby born in the Fox Cities.

According to John Popke, “John Harris was on the board, about ready to retire, so he decided he was going to start a new trend.”

Dr. Harris died in 2016 at the age of 81. The fertility clinic he started and Lacey’s birth were listed as an accomplishment in his obituary.

Lacey Popke says, “At that time, AMC kind of frowned upon surrogacies. They were okay with in vitro fertilization. Surrogacies were still not a really big thing at that time. So, behind closed doors, my dad ending up putting in a sample but then everything else was legal with open doors.”

Nearly 30 years later, that first has her own daughter now. While Lacey Popke’s mom passed away 10 years ago, she’s able to share the joy of her daughter with the woman who helped to give her life -- everyone knowing how special their situation really is.

”The only thing that could have been better, if Jack the doctor who helped to create Lacey were still around and if Anne were still around, that would have been the coup de gras. But, we take what we can get and we honor them with the memories and we thank them for helping this moment come to be,” says Tolmacs.

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