In 2009, Carolyn and Sean Savage experienced a medical mistake that news headlines are made of: Carolyn had been implanted with the wrong embryo. This left the Savages 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. Savage says, "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."
The Savages' story exploded in national media after the baby, Logan, was born and given to his genetic parents, Shannon and Paul Morell. But in 2011, the Savages wrote their story to be published in a book, Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift.
At the time, the story was very public — and very raw — and many wondered why the Savages would choose to tell it again. Carolyn explains, "The purpose of writing the book was two-fold. First, the other family involved in the mix-up wrote a book that was published in May 2010. Shortly before their book was published, we learned they intended to sell their life rights to Lifetime television for a movie. At that time, we became very concerned that our part of the story could be distorted. So, it was important to us to put our personal experience into words to protect the integrity of what we had been through. When we put pen to paper, we knew we wanted people to get an honest look at what we had experienced. It was important to both Sean and I to not sugarcoat it. There were some very unflattering moments that we went through with regards to how we felt about what had happened. I wanted readers to understand that it's possible to have ugly moments in the middle of doing the right thing."
A look back
The writing in Inconceivable screams authenticity. The reader turns the pages quickly to, first, learn how this kind of medical mistake could possibly happen and, second, to follow the hard heart-work that the Savages were forced to do to make this seemingly impossible decision. The Savages did what they set out to do: They told their story, sans sugar-coating. They don't regret this decision.
Carolyn says, "Sometimes I think back to the way I felt and wish I could have been more magnanimous. But, it was what it was and I was honest about my bitterness. I can't imagine that anyone would find themselves in my shoes and not be just a little bit angry or bitter. That being said, time does heal. That anger and bitterness have basically drifted away. A part of me is glad I wrote the book back then so I was still in touch with those feelings. It made for a more authentic story. However, when I read back through some of it, I'm not proud of how I felt."
Other people's takes
Once the story was out there in a more permanent format, readers began weighing in with their thoughts and opinions. Most agreed that the Savages had made the best out of what was (truly) an impossible situation. But some, of course, took jabs at the circumstances. Carolyn says, "I think it's important that any writer understand that when he or she publishes a piece of work, especially a memoir, people are going to have opinions. Some are going to be supportive. Some are not. That's the way the world works. You can't be a writer about personal experiences without putting your big girl panties on."
The other issue to note in writing from your heart for others to read, is that what readers take from stories is ultimately out of the author's hands. Carolyn says, "There were some criticisms that were just plain ridiculous. I remember reading one particular person's opinion who thought the book would've been much more interesting if I hadn't found out about the mix-up until after Logan was born. I'm not sure this person understood the difference between a piece of fiction and a memoir!"
Inconceivable chronicles not only the Savages' tumultuous pregnancy and its aftermath, but also the tests they stood against their faith, their relationship to their church and their marriage. These, too, were criticized by readers. Carolyn says, "We received a lot of heat from people who don't believe in using IVF to conceive children. They are entitled to their personal beliefs. In the same vein, we still receive a lot of criticism for being selfish and not wanting to adopt. I think those are ignorant judgments and aren't worth a response. Lastly, some thought I was whiny through the pregnancy. Funny thing is, I'm whiny through every pregnancy whether it's my own baby or somebody else's. I think it's the hormones!"
Like any story, the five years since Logan's birth are filled with "what happened afters." Readers who followed the Savages through Inconceivable have so many questions about how the Savages, Logan and the Morells are doing and feeling. They might have to wait a little while longer to find out, though. Carolyn says, "There is an opportunity for me to write a second book. A sequel to Inconceivable. In the beginning, I thought I would write it right away. But, after considering what the content would be, I think it would be better for all involved if I waited. It's important to me to protect Logan. I don't want to put anything out into the world that he could read until I think he's old enough to understand it. So, it's going to be a long while before that sequel comes out."
Carolyn's story is far from over, but it has come full circle. She says, "I recently shared that I'm expecting our sixth child. This is a surprise, spontaneous pregnancy. It's about as close to a miracle as I think I have ever been. So life has definitely moved on for us in a very positive manner. I think the lesson that I have learned from my own experience is that we all have unwelcome curve balls thrown at us during life. It's up to us to decide how we are going to deal with them. It is possible to come through something very challenging and end up in a very positive place. It's definitely not easy, however. In fact, it's often ugly. But happy endings are always possible."