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A medical mistake during an IVF procedure. An unthinkable situation . . . you’re pregnant with the wrong baby. You can terminate, but you can’t keep him.
What choice would you make?
We’d been trying to expand our family for years. When we underwent an IVF transfer in February 2009, we knew it would be our last. If we became pregnant, we’d celebrate our baby as an answer to our prayers. If not, we’d be grateful for the family we had and leave our fertility struggles behind forever.
We never imagined a third option. The pregnancy test was positive, but the clinic had transferred the wrong embryos. I was pregnant with someone else’s baby.
That news left us faced with a series of gut wrenching decisions: terminate the pregnancy, sue for custody, or hand over the infant to his genetic parents upon delivery. Knowing that I was carrying another couple’s beloved child, we did what we prayed the other family would do for us if the situation was reversed.
We decided to give the ultimate gift, the gift of life, to a family we had never met.
Inconceivable provides an inside look at how modern medicine, which creates miracles daily, could allow such a tragic mistake, and the many legal ramifications that ensued with both the genetic family and the clinic. Chronicling their tumultuous pregnancy and its aftermath, which tested the our faith, our relationship to our church, and our marriage, Inconceivable is ultimately a testament to love. We loved this baby, making it impossible for us to imagine how we could give him life and then give him away.
In the end, Inconceivable is a story of what it is to be a parent, someone who nurtures a life, protects a soul, only to release that child into the world long before you’re ready to let him go.
Praise for Inconceivable
“By the time you finish this remarkably honest, emotion-filled book, you’ll be picturing the young man who will one day hold it in his hands, reassured of the great love that carried him into this world. This is a very special story.”
- Jeffrey Zaslow, coauthor of The Last Lecture
“A remarkable book. Inconceivable provides an intimate portrait of two special people who nurture and birth a child only to unselfishly place it in the arms of another. Surely there will be crowns in heaven for the Carolyn and Sean Savage’s of the world.”
- Ron Hall, co-author, Same Kind of Different As Me
“What’s inconceivable is how two people can come to love and embrace a baby they know they will have to give away. The Savages open their hearts so deeply, they open our minds to what it really means to be a parent. This baby was placed in the wrong womb but was placed in the right hearts. This book is a blessing for all who feel life has handed them a challenge that seems unbearable and inconceivable.”
- Regina Brett, author of God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours
“Everything I ever dream about in ultimate love, compassion and selflessness is portrayed in this real life story of the Savage family. Their sincere goodness elevates us all.”
— Dr. Laura Schlessinger, SiriusXM talk host, author of 12 New York Times bestsellers including,
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands
About Sean & Carolyn
(Folks, this may just be the one thing we try to write together. Seems fitting that it’s our story!)
I was born the eighth of nine children on 7/17/70 (my lottery numbers would be 7 if I played) to John and Kate Savage in Holland, Ohio located in the Northwest part of the Buckeye state on Lake Erie, just outside of Toledo. As you might expect, I wore mostly hand-me-downs and never had preferred seating in the car, dinner table (sat at an annex at many family events), or family room.
I was raised in a strict Roman Catholic family, where discipline and hard work was the foundation of an incredibly happy childhood in which adventure, freedom and independence won the day. The hours in between my chores and dinner and bed were spent on adventure and neighborhood baseball, football, basketball with friends and others from the surrounding neighborhoods (organized sports did not dominate our day and we were outside almost all of the time-you remember those days). As was typical for the era and our neck of the woods, I feared my father more than any other human being. If I upset my mom I may as well have committed a capital crime as the punishment was harsh–my dad was the judge, the jury and executioner. (There is no ambiguity in that statement) Another one of his favorite warning lines was that with nine kids at any point he would be OK if the family had to function with one less child. And of course, the worst line I could hear from my mom is go to your room and your dad will deal with you when he gets home from work (I prayed in those moments my dad had a really good day at work). I loved my parents dearly and they me, and I learned early on that discipline is a difficult, but very high form of love.
My parents’ lives revolved around family. Their life’s work and greatest legacy was teaching us how to grow up and have a loving relationship with God, to work hard, to do good in the community and have family at the center of it all. As a Catholic, I grew up in a house in which we were taught that no religion corners the market on God. We were taught respect and tolerance for all religions, races, and creeds. The bottom line was to live a good life and that if you screw up, take responsibility for it and move on and improve.
My parents worked so hard every day and expected the same of us. A favorite line in our house growing up was “work half days:12 hours” My brothers, sisters and I were put to work, peddling the fruits and vegetables we grew in our one acre garden and mowing the neighborhood lawns.. My older siblings were great role models on many fronts, but as a younger brother I was exposed to more than I should have been early in life. However, that exposure brought about a maturity and understanding that helped me avoid many teenage pitfalls. And the fruit peddling and lawn care business transitioned to construction, factory, and retail work while in high school and college, motivating me to finish my business degree with high marks from Miami of Ohio’s College of Business.
I’ve always personally enjoyed building a financial future (Carolyn would argue at times obsessively) and so I decided that was the best way I could be of service to others. A financial services career fit me perfectly and I work at a firm my father founded, Savage and Associates.
I am the oldest child of Byron and Linda Higgins’ brood of three. Unlike Sean, I had preferred seating at the dinner table and as their only daughter, my clothes always came with tags.
I spent most of my childhood in Michigan, living in suburban Detroit until I was nine, when we moved to East Lansing so my dad could take a job with Michigan State University. It was in East Lansing that I developed a fervent love for sports, as my younger brothers and I were avid Spartan fans! That love of Big Ten sports broadened to include the Fighting Illini, when my dad took a position with the University of Illinois and moved our family to Champaign, Illinois shortly before my sixteenth birthday.
I was raised in a happy home where independent thinking was encouraged. My mom is Catholic and my dad is Episcopalian, and at various times during my childhood, we were active in both churches. While we lived in Michigan, we spent all of our summer free time at our sailboat in Sarnia, Canada. It was there that I learned to love the outdoors, and how to add “eh” to the end of many of my sentences (which was somewhat common in Michigan, but most definitely perplexing to my friends in Illinois). To further my independence (or maybe because my mom needed a break) I started attending sleep-away camp when I was eight years old. My experiences at Camp Eberhart in Three Rivers, Michigan, profoundly impacted my life. At camp, I not only learned how to start campfires, shoot a rifle, and paddle a canoe, but I also learned to appreciate diversity, fend for myself in challenging social situations, and patiently live with others.
My mom and dad, like Sean’s parents, were big on developing a strong work ethic in their children. If we kids weren’t “in season” with a sport or school related activity, we were expected to be gainfully employed. For me, that meant retail work, baby-sitting and life-guarding at our local pool. In addition, there was a high academic bar set for my school performance, which turned out to be a good thing, as after high school graduation, I left home to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, (which was a critical turn of events for our children!)
I pursued a teaching career in the Catholic schools of Toledo, eventually my master’s degree in educational administration and becoming an elementary school principal.
Although I loved teaching, my top priority is raising my children.
Sean & Carolyn
We met on Oct 28, 1989 early in Sean’s sophomore year of college (Carolyn was a whole year and a half older as a junior). Sean likes to remind Carolyn frequently that she is older than him. We fell in love soon thereafter and had a fun college experience, and were engaged a week after graduation. We were married May 29,1993 and began a life together in a small apartment in Toledo. In each other we found best friends and formed a lasting bond based on common values and a love for family. In each other we had met our match (on multiple levels!), and feel so blessed to have each other as partners in life.
In September, 1994 our son Drew was born and after some fertility struggles Ryan came along in April 1997. Our fertility struggles then began in earnest as we pursued having additional children. Our decade long battle with infertility ended with a successful IVF and our daughter Mary Kate was born in March 2008. That IVF produced extra embryos we had frozen for later pregnancy attempts which led us to a frozen embryo transfer in February 2009 and the call from the doctor alerting us of the medical error. Logan Savage Morell was born in September 2009 and reunited with his genetic parents, Paul and Shannon, shortly after his birth.
A couple of years and a few embryo transfer attempts later, we welcomed our twin daughters, Reagan and Isabella into our family in August, 2011. They were shepherded into this world by a loving woman, Jennifer Onash, who worked with us as a gestational carrier. Reagan and Isabella have been joyful additions to our family and have ultimately led us to a very peace-filled place.
Drew, Ryan, Mary Kate, Reagan and Isabella are the center of our universe and a joy to raise. Despite all of the challenges and stress that comes with raising five children, we believe there is no more important or satisfying career than parenthood. We both enjoy being involved in the church and the community giving of both our time and resources and hope to set the best example possible for our children.
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