A Father's Story: Mourning the Baby We Never Had
"Specialist" was a title with which we would become too familiar. Specialist number one told us that, unless we were deeply religious, we needed a D & C (dilation and curettage—in this case, a fancy term for ending a pregnancy). Over the next few years, more specialists explained more acronyms, like IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization). We tried to understand the science behind each procedure, made ourselves believe we did, and gave each one a shot. Money rolled out while bad news washed in. And then several specialists (and one acupuncturist) suggested we try donor eggs.
I dutifully scoured online profiles of hundreds of prospective donors. We had one shared rule: The profile had to be free of typos. When my wife realized I was looking for someone who resembled her, she asked, "What the hell are you doing? She needs shinier hair! To be thinner, taller, better than you've seen before." She immediately took over. For a week she prowled the Net for younger, fertile women who could look as much at home in a framed family portrait as they would in a bikini, spread across a Ferrari. Had a stranger seen my wife, they might have wondered whether she was seeking out chat-room hosts or Russian mail-order brides.
A donor gave us 11 eggs and two chances. One procedure required many injections and five eggs but brought only frustration and sadness. After the second attempt, which used the remaining six eggs, we waited for the phone call. I promised I would take it, because my wife had answered all the others. It came late, which we decided wasn't good. But then something so unexpected happened: We did not get bad news.
Suddenly we were able to spend days, and then weeks, sharing a secret that seemed to cure an invisible injury. Weeks became months. We saw a moving head on a monitor. Later, tiny hands. We heard racing heartbeats (that I'd record on my iPhone). Three months in, we braced for the same fear-inducing test—the "nuchal fold," or neck measurement, scan—that had led to heartbreak once before. Somehow, still, there was no bad news.
A doctor—a specialist, even—said words like healthy and female. On the short drive home, we quickly agreed on a name. We began designing the baby's room and thinking how our lives would change. We sent a global e-mail, with the subject line "Congratulations to Us." I wrote, "Yesterday we passed the three-month-now-it's-okay-to-speak-about-it deadline, so we can announce that we are expecting a healthy baby girl to arrive in early January."
Two weeks later, my wife woke me to say she was nervous and felt cramps. An ultrasound confirmed all was fine (and another, three days later, did as well). But three days after that, there was a lot of blood and a trip to the ER. Once again we were told that all was fine, shown images of the baby moving, and sent home.
Next: "My wife's cramps worsened..."