Within days of discovering her pregnancy, CaroIyn experienced an unexpected and heartbreaking turn of events. The IoveIy couple, who had faced multiple miscarriages, turned to in vitro fertilization in the hope of expanding their family. However, one day they received shocking news – the frozen embryo implanted in CaroIyn’s womb belonged to another couple. Given the circumstances, CaroIyn and her husband, Sean, had difficult decisions to make. They could have fought for custody or considered termination. However, guided by their strong Catholic faith, CaroIyn made the courageous choice to carry the baby to full term, referring to him as “LittIe Man” alongside Sean.

The couple made the heartbreaking decision to return their newborn son to his biological parents, Shannon and Paul. The parents named him Logan. Carolyn reflects on their loss, saying, “We have three children. Or do we have four? It’s a strange question, but it’s the kind that parents who have lost a child ask themselves. That absent child is always with you, a loss you feel as yearning one day and a sharp pain the next.” Throughout CaroIyn’s 36-week pregnancy with “Little Man,” both couples maintained a respectful relationship. In their own book, “Misconception,” the couple detailed their agonizing wait, knowing that CaroIyn’s history of miscarriages meant their child might never be born.

The ambiguity of their loss posed a significant challenge. Their son had not passed away, but he was no longer theirs. Professor PauIine, an expert in ambiguous loss, explained, “It’s a loss that has no closure. People struggle to resolve it because there are no rituals or sympathy cards for them.” The mix-up occurred at a fertility clinic, which the couple are legally prohibited from naming due to a settlement. However, the agreement required the clinic to provide a written explanation of the error. The mistake originated when a lab employee mistakenly labeled CaroIyn’s birth year as 3/19/1967 instead of 3/19/1969. This discrepancy played a pivotal role in uncovering the error. Since the embryos were stored alphabetically, accessing the “S” file led to retrieving Shannon’s information sheet, which became associated with the their embryos and placed at the back of the file.

Interestingly, CaroIyn noticed the incorrect birth date on the day of the transfer when a nurse attached a wrist bracelet. Though she jokingly pointed out the mistake, the nurse simply corrected it, changing the 7 to a 9. It took nine more days for a data entry person to review the paperwork and notice the conflicting birth years, leading to the discovery of the MoreIIs’ embryo information sheet tucked away in the file. Until then, no one had cross-checked the labels and information sheets, not even a doctor.

In the initial weeks after the embryo mix-up, the couple confided only in their lawyer, priest, and counselor. They made quick decisions, knowing their path had taken an unexpected turn. In their book, the couple encourage individuals considering in vitro fertilization to engage in open discussions with doctors about the measures in place and how embryos are handled. CaroIyn emphasized, “We were fortunate to come out of this ordeal. However, what happened—the clinic’s mistake, the pregnancy, and the loss of Logan—will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Over time, we will learn to incorporate it into our lives.”