‘853 days after my husband’s unexpected death, I’m hoping I’ll become pregnant with our second baby.’: Widow raising late husband’s child after IVF hopes for second child

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This is a follow-up to Sarah’s original story. Read the first part of her journey here

“853 days after the unexpected death of my husband, I’m hoping and praying I’ll become pregnant with our second baby.

widow with her late husband in a selfie
Courtesy of Sarah Shellenberger

Loss and Life

On February 18, 2020, my husband Scott had a heart attack while teaching a college class. He and I were in the middle of our second round of IVF, and I was on a layover in Toronto when I got the news. Thankfully, my mom was with me and scrambled to change flights so I could get back to him as quickly as possible. On February 19, I got back to Oklahoma and rushed to the hospital. He never regained consciousness, and I had to make the gut-wrenching decision to remove life support. My healthy, perfect, beautiful husband passed away at the age of 41, on February 21, 2020.

The six months that followed were the darkest of my life. The grief was so consuming, and it was so hard to imagine ever being able to experience joy and happiness again. Scott and I had struggled to get pregnant, and after 2 rounds of IVF, we were left with 2 frozen embryos at our clinic in Barbados, just waiting for me. Six months after Scott passed away, I decided to head back to our clinic and transfer our first embryo. It was an incredibly emotional experience—traveling back to the clinic alone, in the middle of Covid, praying with everything in me that God would allow me to successfully make it through this transfer and be pregnant with the baby that we wanted so, so badly.

And guess what? It worked.

My son, my miracle, Hayes Philip-Scott Shellenberger, was born on May 3, 2021.

mom holding her son close and smiling
Courtesy of Sarah Shellenberger

Single Motherhood

Hayes turned a year old a few weeks ago, and what a year it’s been. I’ve found so much joy in motherhood and am more thankful than I can possibly express for this baby. He looks SO much like Scott, which is both comforting and bittersweet. Hayes and I have learned so much since he’s been here. It’s been so incredible to watch him discover the world around him and learn all about life. In many ways, I’m doing the exact same thing as he is. I’m re-discovering life as well. I’m learning how to be a single mom and how to raise our son in a way that would make his daddy proud. How to pick up the pieces of my own life and how to start to put them back together in a way that I never expected to have to do.

Being a lone parent is HARD. I’ve had incredible support from my parents and Scott’s parents, but no amount of support replaces Scott. I often lie in bed at night and replay the events of the day, imagining what they would have looked like with Scott in them. I imagine him and Hayes bringing me breakfast in bed with homemade cards and faces full of smiles on Mother’s Day. I imagine him taking over the day’s duties on my birthday, so I could grab lunch with a friend or go get my nails done, or take a nap. I imagine the gifts that Hayes and I would pick out for Scott on Father’s Day, and imagine what words and expressions Scott would choose when Hayes hit a milestone or did something extra cute or funny. I can just picture the laugh lines by his eyes getting deeper by the day, as he would laugh and smile so freely at our boy and the life we had worked so hard to create.

I miss so many things about Scott, but the number one thing that I miss is something we never even had the chance to do together: parent. I miss what could have been and I miss the father/son relationship that Hayes and Scott would have had so much more than I can explain. It’s an odd feeling too long so deeply for something you’ve never experienced, but I do it every day. I miss the dreams that we had been working so hard to fulfill, but I’m doing my best to carry on and provide the type of life that Scott and I wanted for our children.

mom and son feeding their horse on their farm
Courtesy of Sarah Shellenberger

We live on a small farm in rural Oklahoma with our beloved rescue animals. Hayes lights up when he sees the horses, and loves listening to our donkey bray. He loves feeding our dog from his high chair and watching our indoor pig walk around the house. He loves taking wagon rides out in the barn, and his favorite place to nap is on our front porch swing.

This way of life is something that Scott and I both deeply valued. It’s one of the things that brought us together and one of the only remaining pieces of my life that hasn’t changed. It’s a ton of work and a ton of responsibility to look after my baby, all of our animals, and our property as a single mom and full-time teacher, but it’s a challenge I welcome and a challenge I know Scott is helping me get through in his own way. On a day-to-day basis, life is certainly overwhelming, but I know that this is all part of a bigger plan.

Completing Our Family

So here I am, 2 years and 3 months since Scott died, trying to figure out my next steps. I don’t have a clue what the future holds, but it’s important to me to do my best to see this next IVF transfer through and do everything I can to bring our second miracle baby home.

son on a saddle holding the reigns
Courtesy of Sarah Shellenberger

As soon as Hayes turned 1, it was time to start making preparations for this second baby that Scott and I created. This second baby was created just 7 days before Scott passed away—on Valentine’s Day, 2020. I honestly am overwhelmed at the thought of a second baby, but I know that God will continue to make a way for us. He has provided so much since losing Scott, and I know that He will continue to place people and opportunities in my path to help me move forward. I want Hayes to be able to have a sibling so very badly, and I want to have the chance to raise and love our second child.

I start shots tomorrow and fly back to Barbados in June for my final transfer. I definitely feel the weight of what this transfer means. This is my last chance to be pregnant. My last chance to have a biological child. My last chance to have a baby with Scott. Infertility was a very difficult journey for Scott and me, but looking at it from where I sit now, it had to happen this way. Had Scott and I not gone through IVF, I never would have had a chance at pregnancy and never would have had Hayes. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I have a chance to carry our second baby, 2.4 years after Scott’s death. I’m so thankful for the science and the doctors that have helped us get this far and am praying so hard that God will grant me this second miracle.

Beyond this journey to our second baby, I honestly don’t know what the future holds. I have a lot of years ahead of me and pray that I can again one day have a happy marriage with a man who can walk alongside me as I raise our child/children. I pray that Hayes always knows how loved and wanted he is. How hard we worked for him. How much his Daddy prayed for him. I pray that Hayes is healthy and happy. I pray for this second baby. I pray that they will successfully attach to my body and develop into a healthy pregnancy that leads to a healthy delivery. I pray for guidance as a single mom, and I pray for the right people to cross my path at the right time.

baby boy in a pumpkin patch
Courtesy of Sarah Shellenberger

It’s been such an honor to be able to share my story and to connect with others that are going through grief, loss, fertility struggles, and more. If you’d like to follow along, I will continue to share my journey on Instagram and would love to connect. Thank you for reading our story!”

mom and son in cowboy hats in a field
Courtesy of Lulubird Creative

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Shellenberger of Oklahoma. You can follow her journey on InstagramSubmit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read Sarah’s first story here:

‘6 months after Scott’s death, I woke up and decided it was time to take a pregnancy test.’: Widow births IVF baby after husband’s sudden death, ‘He’s the medicine my heart needed’

Read more stories like this here:

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‘On his way home, he was hit by 3 cars and left to die in the street.’: Widow welcomes miracle baby after losing husband in hit-and-run

‘I picked up every pregnancy test. ‘I’d be ashamed if I was your father. You should be more careful.’ I wanted to jump down this kid’s throat so badly.’: Woman battling infertility finally gets ‘miracle baby’ after miscarriage, mom’s cancer diagnosis

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