Parenting pregnancy

Three Sisters, Two Babies, One Amazing Act of Love

Like many couples, Tanya Ratcliff and her husband, Dan, wanted to have a baby. They planned to start their family shortly after they were married. But months and months passed and Tanya still wasn’t pregnant. So, like many couples struggling with fertility, Tanya and Dan went to visit a fertility specialist.

At first, the prognosis looked good. Tanya and Dan were able to produce enough healthy sperm and eggs to produce 14 embryos. But that’s where the good news ended.

Tanya’s womb wouldn’t respond to the hormone treatments, which are designed to plump up the uterine lining to provide cushioning and attachment for the embryo as it forms. Doctors informed the couple that it would be useless to implant the embryos because they wouldn’t survive.

Tanya broke down into tears as she left the clinic. Without a surrogate, Tanya and Dan would never have their own child and all of those viable embryos would go to waste.

But just as things looked hopeless, Tanya’s two sisters, Tara Schamel and Cassie Ripp gave their sister one of the most amazing gifts of love possible; a gift that would forever change the lives of Tanya and Dan. Her two sisters volunteered to act as surrogates.

“I was crying,” Tanya said, as she recalled the events of that day. “It was raining outside and we were sitting in the car at the fertility clinic and she said to me, ‘Somebody in this car will be pregnant with one of your babies by the end of this year.”

Tara and Cassie had already decided what they would do if a surrogate was necessary. They had been talking about it for some time.

“Cassie and I had been talking about it behind the scenes and I had been talking about it with my husband, and the little wheels in my head were turning, and I knew this was something that we could do if we were physically able to,” Tara said. “It would be a great gift.”

After divulging their secret, Cassie and Tara shared the plan they had devised. Each of them would have embryos transferred around the same time to help increase Tanya and Dan’s chances of receiving a baby soon. But going through with the plan proved to be a difficult process.

Tara and Cassie were treated with medications that would stop them from ovulating. This would ensure that their own eggs could not be released during the fertilization process. Then doctors gave each of the sisters were given large doses of estrogen to prepare their uteruses for the embryo transfer.

Once the embryos were planted, the trio of sisters waited to find out if either of them was pregnant. After two weeks, they discovered that Tara was pregnant. Cassie, however, was not.

It might have ended there, but Cassie, Tanya and Dan decided, after some discussion, that Cassie would try again.

“Dan and I have always wanted several children,” Tanya shared on her blog about why they decided to keep trying for a second child. “Of course we would prefer them two or three years apart, like most people, but we don’t have the same options as most people. For us to have more children, we need help from other people. Tara will be shutting up shop after this pregnancy and I could never ask her to make this sacrifice again. Cassie wants to get married and have more children of her own down the road. So this is our window of time to have that family we always wanted – however crazy and strange it may seem to some.”

So, with that, Cassie kept trying. Finally, on the third try, Cassie was pregnant.

Now, Cassie and Tara are both pregnant. Cassie, 26, and single mother to a 3-year-old daughter is due in July and expected to deliver a baby boy. Tara, 35, and mother to twin 9-year-old girls and a 6-year-old daughter, is due in April and expected to deliver a baby girl.

Dan is still amazed by the whole experience, saying, “It was unbelievable. To give up your body for a whole year for us. It’s just unbelievable.”

After he made this statement on their interview with Today, Cassie smiled and reminded him that their job would be over once the pregnancy was completed. Tanya and Dan’s job would just be beginning.

“I think being pregnant is the easy part,” she said. “Raising the children is the tougher part. I’m glad I’ll be able to see the children being raised.”

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About the author


Kate Givans is a wife and a mother of five—four sons (one with autism) and a daughter. She’s an advocate for breastfeeding, women’s rights, against domestic violence, and equality for all. When not writing—be it creating her next romance novel or here on Growing Your Baby—Kate can be found discussing humanitarian issues, animal rights, eco-awareness, food, parenting, and her favorite books and shows on Twitter or Facebook. Laundry is the bane of her existence, but armed with a cup of coffee, she sometimes she gets it done.

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