Michele Sherman and Renee Cribb can celebrate a special bond on Mother’s Day.
It took both sisters, and help from a higher power, to bring one little girl into the world.
Sherman served as a surrogate for her sister’s baby, Sara Grace Cribb, now 5 years old.
“We were overwhelmed,” said Cribb, who is mother to a son, David Shaw, 20. “It was just a gift that was just so selfless and we knew it came from the heart, that she loved us and that’s why she wanted to do it. It was an offer we certainly couldn’t refuse.”
Cribb and her husband, Brent, of Waynesboro, Ga., were unable to conceive to have a child together. They pursued adoption without success.
Sherman, Columbia County Board of Education director of Student Learning for Elementary Grades, said shortly after the Cribbs got married that they joked that Sherman would have their kids for them.
“I had no intention of being pregnant again,” said Sherman, an Appling resident who is mother to sons Andrew, 15, William, 11, and Daniel, 9.
But Sherman said she couldn’t stop thinking about her sister’s dilemma.
“It just started weighing heavy on me,” Sherman said. “I talked with (my husband) John about it, then I talked with the doctor. It just felt right.”
Cribbs’ husband said he had reservations at first, but he’s happy as he ended up with a healthy “Daddy’s girl.”
Surrogacy is relatively common, but among siblings it might seem out of the ordinary. But for this close family, it just made sense.
“God had his hand on it from the very beginning,” Sherman said. “He led us every step of the way. Never once did we waiver in thought about it.”
The sisters went to South Carolina, where doctors would allow surrogacy among siblings, to have the Cribbs’ fertilized embryos implanted into Sherman’s uterus.
But Sherman had no idea the wild ride she was in for during the pregnancy that was anything but smooth. The morning sickness started three days after implantation and lasted the entire pregnancy. She also had a torn placenta, a potentially dangerous complication, early on.
“It was awful because there was nothing I could do,” Cribb said. “It was hard having to watch her be sick and go through all she was having to go through, and knowing there just wasn’t anything I could do to make her feel better.”
Then principal at Greenbrier Elementary School, Sherman worked a lot from home after a couple of bouts of pre-term labor. The answer was a magnesium drip and bed rest.
But nothing could stop Sara Grace from coming into the world, eight weeks early, on Nov. 19, 2011 – which also is Sherman’s wedding anniversary.
“She’s real special and the ones that had her are special,” said Bobby Shaw, Sherman’s and Cribbs’ father. “We were very proud.”
The women brought Sara Grace to Sherman’s home and both mothered her for a week while Sherman eased out of motherhood and Cribbs stepped in.
Sherman said her sons love Sara Grace and call her their sister-cousin. They all have a basic understanding of what happened.
Sara Grace, who is beginning to ask questions about her birth, knows that her mother’s tummy was broken and that she came out of “Aunt Chele’s” tummy.
Sherman said despite having three boys, she never yearned for a girl. But she enjoys the first girl born into the family in 19 years.
“I’m happy with my boys. I think God gave me boys for a reason,” Sherman said, adding they often babysit her niece. “I love when we have (Sara Grace). We paint fingernails and toenails and braid hair and dress up.”
A girly-girl to the core, except when she’s gluing things in Shaw’s shop, Sara Grace loves dancing and to create anything by painting, building and baking, and loves hanging out with her cousins. Sara Grace’s birth has brought the two families much closer, Cribbs said.
“She is an angel sent from Heaven.”