By: Abbey Doyle
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – “I’ve got a heartbeat,” said a registered nurse conducting the viability ultrasound on Tara Pearce, only six weeks and five days pregnant.
“I see it!” Sara McCarter said, grabbing her husband Zach’s hand while squeezing Pearce’s hand tighter.
“I see two heartbeats,” the nurse said with a smile. “We’ve got twins!”
Sara McCarter couldn’t hold the tears back any longer; they were streaming down her face and dotting Zach’s cheeks as well. For years she knew she couldn’t carry a pregnancy and now she was looking at an ultrasound of her own twin fetuses in another woman’s body.
Both couples, Sara and Zach McCarter and surrogate mother Tara Pearce and her husband Chris, were in the examining room Aug. 29 to get the news about whether the embryo transfer worked.
“Thank you so much,” Sara McCarter said to Pearce, still tethered to the exam table, as the nurse continued the scan. “I love you. I’m just so happy. Oh my gosh.”
Her jubilation and near screaming changed as she looked at the nurse seriously, “Is everything OK?”
“Everything looks great!” said the nurse, Tara Denton.
“We’ve worked so hard for you babies,” said Sara said through tears gazing at the ultrasound monitor in the cramped exam room.
Today Pearce is 14 weeks pregnant with the McCarter’s twins. It has been a whirlwind process, because six months ago the two women hadn’t ever met. Even before the meeting and learning of the McCarter’s need, the idea of serving as a surrogate pressed on Tara Pearce’s mind. She believed God had blessed her with five healthy children and she felt compelled to help the many couples who struggled to do the same.
At the same time the Pearces, both 32, of Vincennes, were open to the idea of being surrogates, and the McCarters — married for two years — were exploring their options for starting a family of their own. Sara had known since she was a teen that she’d never be able to carry her own child. Since she still had her ovaries, surrogacy was the only option for the two to have their own children.
“I always knew surrogacy was an option, but the cost made it seem impossible,” she said, noting that a typical surrogacy costs between $60,000 and $120,000.
Then she learned of Surrogacy Together, an organization whose mission is to raise awareness of the surrogacy process. The group doesn’t pay for the process, but works with several different professionals — reproductive lawyers, surrogacy agencies, reproductive specialists, etc. — who offer their services pro bono or at a significantly reduced cost making the financial burden one that the McCarters, both 28 and of Wheatland, felt they could bear.
Although the mothers had never met, Sara McCarter and Chris, Tara Pearce’s husband, had worked together for several years, both nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes. So when he heard about Sara’s hunt for a surrogate, he brought the idea up with his wife.
“I really feel like this was how it was all supposed to happen,” Sara McCarter said. “It all has fallen into place perfectly, and on the very first try we’ve been blessed with two babies. Tara has given me the best gift ever — the opportunity to be a mom, something I have wanted to do so badly. I can’t imagine anything better.”
But both couples are adamant that Tara Pearce is not “giving” the McCarters a baby. Genetically the babies are the McCarters’ embryos. Eggs were retrieved from Sara McCarter and fertilized with Zach’s sperm. Those baby embryos become blastocysts. Five were frozen and two later transferred into Tara Pearce, who had to take daily injections to suppress her own ovaries so her body would accept the blastocysts. Both couples knew they could have one, two or no fetuses survive the process.
“This whole experience has been so amazing and really, really humbling,” Sara McCarter said. “Our family of just Zach and me feel so blessed by Tara and Chris’ family of seven. I love them all so much and am so grateful.”
Tara has experienced pregnancy five times before this — her children range in age between 13 and 17 months — but she said this is so much different.
“If anything I’m more cautious because I am carrying these babies for someone else; … they aren’t ours,” Tara said. “I don’t want anything to happen. And a twin pregnancy is something I’ve never experienced before either. It has been fun telling everyone I’m having twins. They are shocked when they hear that. But then when I say, ‘They aren’t mine,’ they are really shocked.”
“Right away they look at my belly and I blurt out, ‘Oh, my friend is carrying them for me,'” McCarter said. “People don’t really understand surrogates. They think that she’s having a baby and giving it to me. It’s my baby Tara is carrying. She’s not giving it up; she’s giving it back to me.”
“We’re just baby-sitting,” Chris Pearce added with a smile.
Compensation for the gestational carrier — the woman carrying the baby — from the intended parents is typically a part of a standard surrogacy arrangement. But the Pearces insisted there be none.
“I wanted to be able to bless Sara and Zach the same way Chris and I have been blessed,” Tara Pearce said. “I can’t imagine accepting money. We felt that if we could help someone else to show our appreciation for what God gave us, we should.”
So the McCarters are working to show the Pearces their gratitude in other ways. Surprises like chocolate-covered strawberries delivered in the mail or a shopping trip for new maternity clothes are small ways Sara McCarter said she can remind Tara Pearce that she, now a friend, is always at the top of her mind.
“She’s doing this completely out of the goodness of her heart,” Sara McCarter said. “When she told us she was doing this as a gift, we were so shocked and so grateful. Not a day goes by that we don’t appreciate her or think about her.
“Anything we can do to make her smile the way she has made us smile and feel good, we want to do. We will never be able to repay her for what she is doing but hope to remind her what she means to us.”
‘Still can’t believe it’
Back in that exam room, Sara McCarter’s excitement and Tara Pearce’s nerves were hard to disguise.
“My babies are in your belly,” Sara McCarter said with unmistakable shock and glee. “I still can’t believe it. We just knew they were both going to stick around.”
“I hoped so; but I was nervous,” Pearce said. “I can’t wait to give you back your babies. You are just so excited to be a mom and I’m so excited to be a part of it.”
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