Shannon Morell: Embryo Mix-Up Gave Miracle Baby

Embryo mix-ups, where fertilized eggs have been placed in the wrong womb, have only been reported a handful of times worldwide, and in all cases they were devastating to all parties and landed in the courts.

Both the Morells and the Savages hired attorneys, but were hailed for their civility in determining parental rights.

"I have never seen a case like this before," said Ellen Essig, the Cincinnati lawyer who represented the Morells in securing legal parentage.

Law varies from state to state, but in Ohio, it is presumed that the person giving birth to the child is the mother and that if she is married, her husband is the father.

Mothers Had Same Name, Causing Mix-up

Early on, the couples determined that the mix-up had occurred because they shared a common name. Shannon had enrolled at the clinic under her maiden name, Savage. Honoring that connection, they eventually named their now active 7-month-old son Logan Savage Morell.

Shannon and Paul Morell had spent four years trying to conceive through IVF. She had suffered two miscarriages and after three attempts got pregnant with twins, now nearly three years old. As Ellie underwent surgery for cochlear implants, the couple put off trying for a third child. But they had always planned to use the remaining six embryos.

Carolyn and Sean Savage, who have three sons, aged 15 to 2, had also turned to IVF to conceive their youngest child after numerous miscarriages. The couple returned the same clinic last year to try for more children.

But along with news of her fourth pregnancy came the almost unbelievable phone call from their doctor that the growing fetus belonged to the Morells.

At first the Morells worried that the Savages, whose name they didn't learn for months, would decide to abort. Then, knowing Carolyn had also had fertility issues, they were anxious about miscarriage. Given their daughter's deafness in both ears, they thought there might be health issues.

Would she deliver, one, two or three babies? "We looked at our little house and wondered, 'What if we had three?'," said Morell. "Then we realized our first concern was that she continue the pregnancy. Nothing else mattered."

Only getting brief updates through lawyers, the Morells were too afraid to tell family and friends about the "secret baby" they affectionately called "peanut."

Shannon Morell, an eighth-grade teacher, eventually confided with mixed emotion in a colleague who was pregnant.

"She would be like a mirror," wrote Morell. "I'd be able to imagine what the other woman looked like, as if she carried our child."

Morell offered the friend baby clothes, then her heart swelled with regret. "The realization that I never be pregnant again was so final, almost as if I had agreed to have a hysterectomy or had unexpectedly found myself in the midst of menopause."

"We'd been cheated," she wrote. "Though Paul and I were expecting a child, we were missing out on the entire experience. We would never feel our child move beneath my skin or see his little hands flutter beneath my belly and explain that Mama was carrying their little brother or sister inside of her. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair. I should be wearing those maternity clothes."

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