book reviews

A review of Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift

Imagine being a woman struggling with infertility, and longing earnestly for a child. You spend thousands of dollars and many hours pursuing fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. You get pregnant, but before you have a chance to really rejoice in the news, you’re told the developing fetus in your womb is biologically not yours. A medical mistake was made, and you are pregnant with another couple’s baby. What do you do?

That is the horrifying scenario Carolyn Savage, and her husband, Sean, faced in 2009. The Savages had two sons who were much older than their toddler aged daughter, Mary Kate, and they wanted to give Mary Kate a sibling closer to her age. Carolyn Savage could not get pregnant without medical help. She and her husband turned to a fertility clinic, just as they had for their daughter’s birth. Their physician, who had performed a “miracle” the last time, sure enough, managed to get Carolyn pregnant. But a the doctor mistakenly implanted Shannon and Paul Morrell’s embryo into Carolyn’s womb. Shannon Morrell’s maiden name was Savage, and someone goofed up storage of the embryos.

The doctor who performed the IVF was extremely contrite. He also strongly encouraged Carolyn Savage to have an abortion. The Savages are devout Catholics and they are strongly opposed to abortion. Although they knew they would have to give up the baby once it was born, the Savages decided to continue the pregnancy. Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn’t Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift, published in 2011, is their story.

Most people who read this blog regularly probably know that I am pro choice. If I were in a situation like this one, I think I would probably opt to terminate the pregnancy. However, I don’t know for sure that I would. I have never been pregnant, and it’s possible that I might have a different opinion about what to do if I ever had been. Reading about this situation makes me glad that I never considered IVF. Not only wasn’t it affordable for us, but I also have personal objections to it. I certainly don’t mind it for other people, but it’s definitely not for me.

As I read the Savages’ story, I couldn’t help but feel admiration for them, particularly Carolyn, who endured everything that comes with being pregnant, along with the knowledge that once the baby was born, she would have to say goodbye. I respect that the Savages were committed to their pro life views, even though it would mean a substantial loss to them personally. Not only did Carolyn have to deal with the discomforts and inconveniences of pregnancy, knowing it was her last chance to be pregnant, but she also makes it clear that she didn’t think the Morrells were very sensitive about the situation she and Sean were in. If it really happened the way she describes it, I would agree with her that she showed remarkable restraint in dealing with the other couple, particularly Shannon Morrell, who complained about what her friends and family would think when she showed up with a baby after not having been pregnant. The Morrells were evidently more concerned about their image than the fact that this stranger was giving them the gift of a child. Of course, at this point, I haven’t read the Morells’ side of the story.

The Savages still wanted another child, so they contacted a surrogate while Carolyn was visibly pregnant. It was interesting to read about how the surrogate mother reacted to the predicament in which the Savages found themselves. Also, they had to explain to their children that the baby boy Carolyn was carrying would have to go to another family. The Morrells already had twin girls, and baby Logan would join them on September 25, 2009.

The Morrells also wrote a book about this catastrophe. I’m not sure I’ll read it, because the reviews make it sound like I would probably get pissed off at them for being so insensitive to the Savages. On the other hand, Carolyn did write that the Morrells eventually showed them some consideration. Logan’s middle name is Savage, which is both Carolyn’s married name and Shannon’s maiden name. And the Morells did visit the Savages a few months after Logan was born. I’m not sure if they are still in contact, but I looked up the Savages and I see that they’ve since added several more children to their brood with the help of a surrogate. Word to the wise: do not click the Web site link on the Savage family’s Facebook page; it will take you to a porn site.

Carolyn and Sean Savage take turns writing passages in their own words. I appreciated that, since it presented their own unique, individual perspectives. I particularly liked that Sean Savage wrote about his side as the father. A lot of people would have focused only on Carolyn’s story as the person carrying the baby. I think Inconceivable is an interesting, well-written book. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this subject, as well as those who are considering going the IVF route.

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