Recently, I read Misconception by Paul Morell, the shocking true story of a cryogenically frozen embryo that was accidentally thawed and implanted into the womb of a genetically unrelated woman, who then carried the baby to term before handing the new life over to the Morells, the baby’s genetic mother and father.
Shannon Morell had gone through the emotional strife of two miscarriages before she and her husband Paul decided to embark on the in vitro fertilization journey in order to grow their family. One of the significant stresses that Shannon attempts to navigate during the first three months of this unanticipated surrogate pregnancy, as well as her previous pregnancy, is the waiting and wondering whether the babies, in this case inside another woman, and in her case, the twin girls inside her, would make it past the first trimester.
The two miscarriages she suffered through reminded Shannon constantly that each embryo formed inside a woman is vulnerable. Each tiny human life is in real danger of not even making a successful journey through the fallopian tubes and into the uterus where it can grow into a viable baby. Between 15 and 25% of all pregnancies end in the first 13 weeks Thankfully,many of those are over before a woman even realizes she is pregnant (except in the case of infertility, where each month that passes without conception must be so heart-wrenching anyways).
I will never know the pain that a woman must feel when a pregnancy that she is anticipating with joy and excitement suddenly ends, for reasons that only God knows. Tests can be done, but what if no conclusive reason is found? How could a woman know if there is something, anything that she did to induce this outcome? Or, is there a critical step that was not taken in the care of herself or the baby that brought on its demise? I have heard many stories of women who beat themselves up and can not allow themselves to be at peace with the outcome. For years.
However, I also have a friend that has experienced several miscarriages that have occurred for unexplained reasons, and she has come to the conclusion that a miscarriage is not the end of the world. Maybe even meant to be. I am not saying that she does not mourn these tiny deaths, of course she does. I am saying that she understands that growing a human is risky business, and she does not tear her hair out over whether or not she could have prevented anything. This woman is amazing.
Unfortunately, I experienced a miscarriage as well. However my baby was diagnosed with the reason for his death: an x-linked genetic disorder that is non -life compatible in males. Consequently, I did not wonder what went wrong, whether I could have done anything differently, or even why I was dealt this hand. This was my first pregnancy, and I knew beforehand that this risk existed for me: a 25% chance that any pregnancy journey that I embarked on would not end with a baby.
Every time I have discovered I am pregnant, and that is four times in total, I had to wait between 16 and 20 weeks to find out if I was actually “expecting.” Because of these prolonged periods of waiting, I completely understand Shannon’s fear of inviability. I can relate to the agony of not knowing if, half expecting even, the baby will stop growing and be expelled as waste. Having my first chance of motherhood dashed over seven years ago made the reality of my situation perfectly clear to me: every conception needs to pass rigorous testing of the natural kind before that embryo is deemed worthy of life.
(If I were to continue on that vein, does that mean that every child that does not spontaneously abort in utero, no matter how severe a disability, is a gift, and meant to be alive? We won’t go there today, maybe another time!)
Being able to relate to Shannon Morell on this deep level has made me feel a connection with her, and to this book. Reminders like this one allow me chance to pause, to ponder about my baby that did not survive. I give thanks that I am at peace about the one that was lost, and have been blessed with three beautiful children.