THIS mum found out she was pregnant with her husband's baby six months after his sudden death.
Sarah Shellenberger, 40, describes eight-week-old Hayes as her "medicine" after she lost her husband Scott, 41, a science teacher, to a heart attack last February.
The teacher, from Oklahoma, was able to conceive Hayes – born 14 months after his dad's death – because she had frozen embryos for IVF.
Scott had given his sperm to the fertility clinic in Barbados shortly before passing away.
She was convinced that Scott would have wanted her to give birth to the baby and fell pregnant with Hayes last August, six months after Scott's passing.
Sarah said: "In our eyes, we have these two embryos that are already created and they are our children.
"To me, there was no other option. They are our kids. I had to try to get pregnant and bring our children into this world."
Sarah and Scott met while studying at Southern Nazarene University but only began dating when Scott reached out to Sarah on Facebook in 2017.
They got engaged four months later and married in September 2018, when they immediately began trying for kids.
"Both of us really wanted at least three kids and we were really excited to start our family," Sarah said.
It was our biggest dream – Scott wanted to be a dad
But they struggled to conceive and finally their doctor told them that their only hope of becoming parents was with IVF.
Due to the staggering costs of IVF in the States, the couple went to the Barbados Fertility Center for the egg retrieval. The first retrieval was in December 2019.
"For the first round, we ended up getting one genetically normal embryo and that turned out to be Hayes," Sarah said.
"We found out just before Christmas that he was a boy. Scott and I were able to pick out names before he died and that was really meaningful.
"We decided to go back in February for another retrieval while I still had as many eggs as possible."
Scott was unable to accompany Sarah on the trip because he had limited holiday days so her mum Sherry, 64, went with her.
As she landed on her layover, Sarah heard the heartbreaking news Scott had suffered a heart attack while teaching.
"When I landed in Toronto and I finally connected to the WiFi my phone was going crazy," Sarah said.
"I had all these text messages coming through – the first one I saw was from one of Scott's co-workers telling me that they were all gathered here praying for Scott.
"I called his mom and she told me that he had had a heart attack and been moved to the ICU and he had not regained consciousness."
It is bittersweet because I know that Scott would have been over the moon in love with him and it is hard to experience these things without him
But Sarah couldn't believe that her young and healthy husband could possibly die of a heart attack.
She says: "I was upset and concerned but I really didn't think he would die. He was so healthy, fit and young."
She arrived at the hospital and saw Scott hooked up to a life support machine.
A neurologist told her that her husband was brain dead.
She says: "I couldn't believe it. There are no words to describe that feeling. I decided I wanted to donate his organs so I filled out all the paperwork.
"On February 21, I had to go and say goodbye to him. That was the hardest thing I've ever done."
Scott donated his liver and kidneys, saving the lives of three people.
A week after his funeral, the clinic told Sarah that she had one more viable embryo.
She says: "I was so hopeful that we had at least one more from the second round because I knew that was the last chance to have a child with my husband.
"It was our biggest dream – Scott wanted to be a dad."
Sarah and Scott had completed paperwork before starting the embryo process, including what would happen to the embryos if a spouse passed away.
She adds: "We had said we wanted the remaining spouse to do what they wanted with the embryo."
In August, Sarah went to Barbados for the embryo transfer. A week later, she found out she was pregnant – eventually giving birth to Hayes on May 3.
She says: "Holding Hayes has been such good medicine for me and he has healed my heart in a lot of ways.
"It is bittersweet because I know that Scott would have been over the moon in love with him and it is hard to experience these things without him.
"I absolutely see Scott in him. It feels like things are starting to look brighter and that maybe my life isn't over and I have a purpose."
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