Vivian Manning-Schaffel: As if IVF weren't already hard enough, one couple survived the unthinkable -- their embryo was implanted in the wrong person!
Paul and Shannon Morell had already had twin girls via IVF, and they were eager to get started on expanding their brood the same way -- until they learned that the other embryos they'd had frozen had been implanted in another woman! Their new book, "Misconception: One Couple's Journey from Embryo Mix-up to Miracle Baby," provides an emotional account of the harrowing experience that brought their son, Logan, into the world. Shannon herself gives us the deets.
Momlogic: I just read "Misconception," and whoa! What made you decide to write it?
Shannon Morell: We all have experiences where we say, "I should write a book about this." I was approached to write it. A lot of media outlets were e-mailing and calling, and I just wasn't ready to talk. When the book came up, I was nervous about exposing my child, but I learned a whole lot through this experience, and overall there's a good story. I thought if I could possibly help a few people, it would be worthwhile. It was really hard writing about personal matters, but when I was doing it, I thought there was a positive story that people could benefit from. If you haven't experienced infertility, there are a lot of misconceptions about IVF. And when you've had miscarriages, you're really searching for answers. People really don't talk too much about that ....
ML: All you want after you've gone through that is to know that you aren't alone.
SM: Right! And we used IVF and were successful, so it really is a good story. My son's life was spared, but people who are going through IVF really need to ask more questions. It's also a wake-up call to clinics. There are a lot of great clinics out there, but I didn't know that embryos are graded differently according to the lab! I thought I'd asked all the right questions. So if I were to do it again, I'd do a few things differently.
ML: That's my next question! What would you do differently, knowing what you know now?
SM: I'm still very pro-IVF. My problem is, I can't recommend clinics to anyone yet. My clinic came recommended through a friend who had success, so I checked them out and did all the research. I asked about protocols, and they gave me names and numbers. I asked all the right questions, but I never compared clinics. So I'd advise someone to compare. Because as long as humans are involved, mistakes can be made. I was assured that all the embryos that weren't used would be frozen, but there was one that wasn't frozen. I can't do anything about it at this point, but I don't know if people should put that kind of thing in writing or what.
ML: In the book, when you found out about a lost embryo, you were shocked -- but at the same time, you were so happy to be pregnant with your twins that it fell by the wayside.
SM: I just thought that it didn't make it and didn't ask any questions after that. I couldn't have done anything. I never thought about how people discard embryos, but I think there were embryos that may have been viable that weren't frozen, and I'm still so irritated about that.
ML: People go into these things with faith that medical professionals are going to do what they say they are going to do.
SM: Exactly. I had no idea to ask how they graded embryos! I'm someone who takes control of my medical health and asks questions. I respect doctors, but I don't buy everything that they say. I'm lucky that I have the one child, but I wonder if I would have had more. I'd always heard about embryo adoption ....
ML: I wrote a piece on that last year. Hey -- it's nice to be able to make those kinds of decisions yourself without someone making them for you.
SM: Exactly! Everyone should make the choice on their own. Some people do give them up for adoption and others just stop paying, which shocks me a little. I'm not looking at making judgments on people. I just wanted a healthy baby. And freezing embryos is less expensive than extracting them each time.
ML: How did you feel when you found out that the other couple didn't want to terminate?
SM: I wrote about it in the book, but it was hard to capture the intensity -- that feeling of loss and guilt for what she was going through. I was getting ready for that pregnancy and looking forward to it. I'd only had one that was successful. It's not like we were looking for a surrogate and it was a mutual agreement. It was uncomfortable, especially because we didn't know who they were for so long. I didn't realize how much joy you get out of just sharing a pregnancy with friends and family. When we finally got the call that they weren't going to terminate, we jumped for joy. We didn't know what would [happen], but it was the best-case scenario and we had a chance.
ML: What were you thinking when you wrote Carolyn and Sean Savage -- the couple who later gave birth to Logan and then handed him over to you -- that first letter?
SM: I didn't push to meet them and was so grateful to have the medical updates. She was devastated and wasn't ready to talk and I understood that. It was so early; she could still miscarry, and we'd never have to meet. I just wanted to talk to them, so I sent the letter.
ML: Have you gotten back in touch with them since Logan was born?
SM: Yes! You don't know what's going to happen after the fact, but we e-mail and send photos back and forth. We saw them over the holidays when [Logan] was three months old and we're trying to work out another weekend to get together in the next few weeks or so.
ML: You talk a lot in your book about how your faith got you through this ordeal.
SM: You always hear that stronger people go through a lot of things. I wondered, "Do I really need to go through more personal growth, here?" But I'm stronger, and little things in life that happen are no big deal. A friend at work had a daughter suffering with throat cancer. Her ordeal was much worse than mine. There's always someone out there who has a worse day than you. So we try to keep it positive.
ML: What did you learn from going through all this that you hope to teach your children?
SM: The basic golden rule: Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. The whole idea of giving back .... When you've been blessed, it's your job to go out there and be good, too, even if it's just opening a door for someone or letting them cut in line. I just think that it makes you focus more on the good. And being appreciative for all your blessings. I'm lucky! There are so many in this world who have it a whole lot worse than I do. Our lives are pretty darn good! And hopefully I can give back, too.