Embryo Mix-Up Woman Gives Birth, Faces Heartbreak Ahead

More experience loss as La. fertility clinic closes after confusing 100 embryos.

ByABC News
September 25, 2009, 5:00 PM

Sept. 28, 2009 — -- Carolyn Savage gave birth to a healthy boy Thursday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, after carrying Shannon Morell's son for nine months.

Last February, the two mothers, both hoping for another child, were cruelly surprised when the fertilized embryo from one woman was implanted in the womb of the other.

The bittersweet story comes on the heels of the shutdown Friday of an in vitro fertilization center at Ochsner Hospital in Elmwood, La., due to a possible mix-up in the labeling of frozen embryos.

In the loosely regulated world of assisted reproduction, the mix-up between Savage and Morell is less surprising than the civility and kindness demonstrated by two families who faced a heartbreaking decision: Who were the rightful parents?

Because of her Catholic religious beliefs, Savage, a 40-year-old mother of two from Sylvania, Ohio, agreed not to abort and to give the baby back to its biological mother.

After the birth, Savage and her husband Sean congratulated the biological parents, Paul and Shannon Morell of Sterling Heights, Mich.

But the unintended surrogates then asked for privacy, saying in a prepared statement, "Our family is going through a difficult time."

"We're trying to look at it as a gift for another family that eight months ago we didn't know," she said only a week earlier. "We will wonder about this child every day for the rest of our life."

The Morells told The Associated Press that Savage was a "guardian angel" and they would be "eternally grateful."

The heartrending and seemingly generous tale unfolded on network and cable television last week, but some wonder if it will have a storybook ending.

Psychologists say the loss can be devastating, not just for Savage, but for Morell, who said she was grateful, but had felt "powerless and out of control."

"All the emotions a woman has during pregnancy to bond with her child I haven't had," Shannon Morell said. "It's been a very empty feeling. All the emotions from nine months are packed into that one day when I actually get to hold my baby. I never felt the baby kick -- none of that."

The Savages have retained two lawyers -- one in Detroit and one in Michigan -- and the top New York City public relations firm Rubenstein to help spin the media attention and deal with a host of offers for books and movie deals.

And though they appear to be working closely with the as yet unnamed fertility clinic to try for another pregnancy with their own embryos, the Savages have not ruled out legal action.

Nor have the Morells, according to press reports.

"They have left this in God's hands, but not everyone can do that," said Melissa Brisman, a reproductive lawyer from Montvale, N.J., who works on custody issues in surrogacy cases.

"It's wonderful to have such faith, but it's not always that easy for the average American to let go. It seems very civilized," she told ABCNews.com. "But most cases are not."

Already several parents in the Louisiana fertility clinic boondogle are suing.

"I don't know what could make this sit right," Melanie LaGarde, lawyer for Kim and Abraham Whitney, told ABC's "Good Morning America" today.

The couple was told just before IVF transfer that their embryos had been either misplaced or mislabeled.

"They lay awake at night wondering where their embryo could be," she said. "We really cannot understand, and have spent a year now, trying to find answers."