Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dangerous donations

The tall, shy, strawberry blond, freckled faced 15 year old seems strangely familiar. Her older sister was also a patient yet they seemed to have come from different families. Her sister was a petite brunette with olive skin and brown eyes like their mother. Both sisters were pregnant. Melissa, the oldest was a dental hygienist married to a dental student. Denise was, well, she was 15 and in high school. So was the father of her baby. Denise's mom came to all of the prenatal visits. Still, I felt there was family history that I did not know.

Both pregnancies were uneventful from an obstetrical standpoint. Melissa delivered first. Her due date was two months earlier than Denise's. Melissa had a healthy baby boy. She and her husband named him Jonathan. They brought a baby cap and blanket specially made for his birthday. Jonathan had a baby book with places for pictures and his new born foot prints. Grandparents from both sides along with close friends filled the waiting room on the night he was born.

Denise's delivery was more subdued. The father of the baby's parents were at odds with Denise's parents so they and the birth father stayed away. An adoption agency had been chosen. The case worker came to do the paper work before Denise was discharged from the hospital but neither she nor her parents wanted to see or hold the baby. Their plan was for Denise to sign away parental rights forty eight hours after the baby was born. The father of the baby had not decided about his rights. I suspected that he did not care but was using the fact that he had rights to get back at his parents.

When she was born Denise's daughter had her golden hair and fair skin. I handed the baby to the nurse as Denise turned her head away shaking it "No" when I ask again if she would like to hold her daughter. The fact that no one ran to the baby warmer to count fingers and toes or let the baby grab at a hand hurt my heart. The baby, "Little One", as I came to call her those two days she was in the hospital, cooed and gurgled as the nurse dried her off, weighed and measured her. Wrapped in a bundle of hospital blankets she made faces and sucking noises as if to say, "Where's dinner?"

I convinced myself that these sisters were so different because of their situations. One was married with a planned pregnancy. The other, still a youngster, still in need of adult supervision herself, was placing her baby for adoption. During Melissa's delivery I met the third child in this family, a brother, Timothy who was 13 at the time. Funny thing was I felt like I already knew him. He looked like a younger version of a friend of mine from residency.

Six months later I was seeing a work-in emergency for my senior partner. It was Melissa's and Denise's mother, Mary Ann. She had been a patient in the practice since her two youngest children, Timothy and Denise were born. Having delivered her grandchildren I was intrigued enough to look through the chart. "Secondary Infertility" was the diagnosis that brought Mary Ann in to see Dr. Banyon for her first visit. Melissa was ten and her parents had been trying for seven years to conceive. "Male factor" was noted at the end of the work up. There was a semen analysis with minimal sperm.

Minimal sperm on her husband's semen analysis but two children within two and a half years of her first visit. Then I saw it "AID" in fine print at the bottom of one of the pages. Artificial Insemination - Donor. "Excellent specimen, third year resident, red hair and freckles."

No wonder Timothy looked so familiar. Someone I knew, someone I had done my residency with was the father of Denise and Timothy. He was the grandfather of "Little one." I knew exactly who donated this sperm. I wanted to call him and tell him he had a grandchild. I wanted him to tell his children, all three close to the ages of these two kids, that they had two half siblings. Half siblings that they could meet. Half siblings that they could marry. Half siblings with whom they could make babies.
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