AUTHOR: aiannarino | POSTED: 03/21/11 4:22 PM
The mother who had another woman’s baby by mistake
By Jenny Johnston
Carolyn was ecstatic when she became pregnant by IVF. But a bizarre mix-up left her facing a cruel dilemma
Just before the nurses took her newborn baby from her for the final time, they asked Carolyn Savage if she would like them to make up a ‘bereavement box’ for her to take home.
She said she would — well aware that, in time, mementos of the all-too-short moments she had spent with baby Logan would help her come to terms with her loss.
Carolyn recalls watching a nurse hold one little foot while a clay imprint was made; then smiling, somehow, for photographs, as Logan lay on her chest. In all, she spent 45 minutes with her ‘feisty little man’.
Seventeen months on, Carolyn talks of the ‘bereavement process’, concluding that she and husband Sean ‘have done anger and denial and depression. I think we are kind of in acceptance now, but it’s not an altogether straight line’.
Anyone who has lost a child might feel they recognise the emotions the Savages are charting today. But they cannot possibly. For the tragedy is not that baby Logan is dead. He is just someone else’s son.
Logan was the result of an unthinkable IVF mix-up. Although Carolyn carried him for nine months, genetically he belonged to another couple.
The Savages’ story began in February 2009 when they embarked on the fertility treatment they hoped would give them a longed-for fourth child.
Although their first two children, Drew and Ryan, came along early in their marriage, Sean, a financial adviser, and Carolyn, a former teacher, tried for nine years before having their daughter Mary Kate, via IVF, in 2008. The following year, as Carolyn approached 40, they decided to try for one more child.
The call that was to devastate their lives came just after Carolyn’s morning sickness had started.
The head of the fertility clinic broke the news to Sean that Carolyn was pregnant — but not with their child. The mix-up had happened because the other mother’s maiden name, marked on the vials containing the maturing embryos, was similar to Savage.
It took a while for the full horror to hit home. ‘I just remember sitting on the bed and saying “You are joking” when Sean told me, but I knew from his face that he was not,’ says Carolyn. They sat, numb. Then wept. Over and over they asked themselves how this could have happened. But both knew immediately that they had an impossible decision to make.
The story, when it emerged, shocked the world. The situation — so desperately unfair for both couples involved — could have resulted in lengthy courtroom battles to determine whose child Logan actually was.
That it did not speaks volumes about the sort of people the Savages are. Devout Christians from Ohio, they immediately ruled out a termination — a route suggested to them as the easiest option. But for Carolyn it was out of the question.
‘I already felt pregnant. I was never going to deny this child life, just because it wasn’t mine.’
Not long after, the couple also came to the sad conclusion that they could not fight to keep Logan either.
‘Yes, this baby was only going to have life if I carried him, but morally, we could not fight for custody,’ admits Carolyn. ‘It was not the other couple’s fault this had happened. Had the situations been reversed, we would have wanted them to do the right thing, too.
‘If we had laid claim to Logan, we would have had to tell him one day. We could not do that.’
For almost the entire pregnancy, then, Carolyn knew that, just minutes after the birth, she would have to hand over the baby she had so longed for. And she did so. Logan’s genetic parents, Shannon and Paul Morell, took him home from hospital, and have cared for him ever since.
But have the Savages really, truly, let go? The couple have written a book about their experiences. They admit they have written it so they cannot be airbrushed from Logan’s life.
And Carolyn confesses that she is disappointed she has only seen Logan twice since she gave him up. She also still marks the birthdays and Christmases of the little boy to whom she gave life.
‘For his first Christmas, I bought him a Thomas the Tank Engine train. And another for his birthday. Maybe when he is older he will know that they came from me. I don’t know.’
It pains her more than she can express that Logan has only just received his latest gift, despite the fact it was bought and lovingly wrapped months ago.
‘I wanted to give it in person. But the meeting didn’t happen. I held on to it for ages, hoping that the opportunity would come. But it didn’t, so I posted it.’
Did Logan like it? ‘I don’t know,’ comes the difficult answer.
The Savages don’t sugar-coat the relationship they had, and have, with the Morells.
For many weeks after the pregnancy was confirmed, Carolyn and Sean refused to meet the other couple. It was only after the 12-week scan that they did agree.
It was tense. Carolyn talks of staring fixedly at Shannon’s necklace, rather than meeting her eyes. ‘This was the woman who was going to take my baby away from me,’ she points out.
‘I kissed him. I held him. I cried. But I also knew that our time was limited. Shannon and Paul were waiting in another room’
As the pregnancy continued, Carolyn and Sean decided to have one of their remaining IVF embryos implanted in a surrogate mother. Had that pregnancy succeeded, they might be in a very different place right now. But the surrogate miscarried the week after Logan was born, ‘which seemed like the end of the world’.
The couple refused to have Shannon and Paul in the delivery room when Logan arrived, via Caesarean section, on September 24, 2009. Like any mother, Carolyn speaks of joy and elation as her baby was lifted out of her, and says her heart ‘did somersaults’ when she heard the first cry.
‘I kissed him. I held him. I cried. But I also knew that our time was limited. Shannon and Paul were waiting in another room.’
A nurse placed Logan in his genetic mother’s arms, sparing Carolyn or Sean that difficult task. Later, the couples met — Logan lying sleeping in the same room — to say goodbye.
Carolyn and Sean handed over gifts they wanted Logan to have, and a letter they one day hope he will read. They then signed papers to say they would never seek to be a part of Logan’s life.
Since then, photos and emails have been exchanged, but not as many as the Savages would like. The arrival of a birth notice from the Morrells ‘announcing him in the same way they did to their extended family and distant friends’ was, they admit, like a ‘stab to the heart’.
‘But we accept that we have no rights,’ Carolyn says sadly. ‘Who are we to demand anything? We cannot. Every photo we receive is a gift, and we know that.’
Wouldn’t it have been better all round for them to have cut all contact with Logan, so they could have a more straightforward experience of bereavement?
‘People, even people close to us, have said that, but I don’t think it’s possible to have this much love for a child and not want to know how they are doing,’ says Carolyn.
‘We simply couldn’t pretend it had never happened. Logan’s birth changed all our lives. We can’t forget that, or him.’
Whatever the law says, do they still regard Logan as their son?
‘He is their son,’ Carolyn says, firmly. ‘But he will always be my baby.’
Find this story at www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1368214/The-mother-womans-baby-mistake.html
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