Their twin daughters were 2-and-a-half years old, and Shannon and Paul Morell were talking about trying to have another child using the six embryos they had had frozen when the twins were conceived through in vitro fertilization.
And then the Morells got a shocking phone call. The fertility clinic had made a mistake and had used their embryos to impregnate another woman.
“We had no idea who this person was,” Shannon Morell told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday from Troy, Mich. For 14 emotionally wrenching weeks, the only contact they had with the woman who was carrying their baby was through lawyers. “That was the longest 14 weeks probably of my entire life. We didn’t know who they were. Were they good people?”
As it turned out, Carolyn and Sean Savage would be the best of people. The couple had talked with Vieira on TODAY from their Ohio home Monday about their own emotional journey as Carolyn carried another woman’s baby knowing that as soon as he was born, she would hand him over and perhaps never see him again.
‘A terrible feeling’
But while meeting the Savages and bonding with them has helped, the Morells were still left with a sense that one of the most emotional and important moments in a family’s life had been taken out of their hands.
“It’s just the oddest feeling to have somebody else carrying your child because, as a parent, you want to do everything possible to protect your child. We were totally powerless and out of control. Even though we were grateful, it was just a terrible feeling,” Shannon Morell said.
The Savages also have endured their share of emotional distress. They have three other children, and Carolyn, who had had serious medical problems with two of her earlier pregnancies, was told she could not carry another child after this one.
Because of their religious beliefs, Carolyn and Sean Savage felt they could not destroy the embryos that they still had frozen at the fertility clinic. So, as she carried another woman’s child to term, Carolyn and her husband were also arranging to engage a surrogate to carry their last child.
After watching the Savages tell their story to Vieira Monday, the Morells decided to share their experiences with TODAY. Shannon assured Vieira that they will not keep their new son away from the Savages as they raise him.
‘Whatever access they want, they have,” Shannon told Vieira.
Woman implanted with wrong embryo
Sept. 21: On the day they learned they were expecting, Carolyn and Sean Savage discovered they were carrying someone else’s baby.
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She was implanted with the wrong embryo
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Carolyn Savage is scheduled to deliver the child by Caesarean section within the next two weeks. The Morells will attend the birth. The two women have discussed how they will handle the time so that Carolyn can have her moment with the child she’s carried for nine months.
While enormously grateful to the Savages for not terminating the pregnancy when they discovered the wrong embryos had been implanted, the Morells said they have been racked by emotions during the months that Carolyn has been carrying the child. In addition to the joy of anticipating another member of the family, there’s been anger and a feeling of powerlessness.
For Shannon Morell, there’s also been a certain emptiness.
“You walk in there, and I just sort of felt like an outsider,” Shannon told Vieira of attending doctor visits with the woman carrying her child. “Carolyn and Sean were there — very welcoming. But it’s a lot different when you’re going through it yourself. I’m grateful she invited me. It was very, very neat to see.”
Although Shannon Morell has attended a number of prenatal exams with Carolyn, she’s not had the experience of bonding with her unborn child.
“All the emotions a woman has during pregnancy to bond with her child I haven’t had,” Shannon told Vieira. “It’s been a very empty feeling. All the emotions from nine months are packed into that one day when I actually get to hold my baby. I never felt the baby kick — none of that. So it’ll be amazing.”
Within the next two weeks, Carolyn Savage will give birth to the baby boy by Caesarean section. Carolyn will have time to say hello and goodbye to the infant boy. The Morells will take the infant home to introduce to their twin girls, Ellie and Megan.
The two families have talked about exchanging e-mails to keep the Savages appraised of the baby’s progress. But neither family really knows how it will work out.
“We’ll at least keep in contact, but we have no expectation of them,” Shannon Morell said. “The nice thing is that we’ve been able to work together on this. Unfortunately, it’s been a terrible thing that’s happened to the families. We’re doing the best that we can for the health of this baby.”