Shots, eggs, embryos and a big dose of hope
That moment did not always coincide with office hours. When Muasher began suctioning Jessica's follicles, it was 7:45 on a Saturday morning. Chad, 33, and David, 36, steeled themselves in the waiting room with coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts as the doctor methodically punctured one sac after the next. With a single swift stroke, he guided the needle through three abutting follicles, like a toothpick through cocktail olives.

After he finished, Jessica was wheeled into recovery, where she emerged quickly from a deep sedation. "How many eggs?" she asked groggily.

"We did very well here," Muasher reported. "We got about 26 eggs."

"Woo-hoo!" she cheered.

"You go, girl," said the anesthesiologist.

After Muasher informed Chad and David of Jessica's bountiful harvest, they donned yellow surgical gowns and blue hairnets to greet their heroine. Though her full identity was to remain anonymous, she had agreed to let them visit her in the recovery room.

"Twenty-six! Twenty-six!" she grinned, giving a thumbs-up.

"Oh my gosh, you're such a trouper," David said. "Fertile Myrtle."

They presented her with an arrangement of white roses and yellow freesia, and then a box from Neiman's. It contained a sterling Konstantino bracelet, adorned with egg-shaped gold balls.

"How do we even begin to thank you for the generous gift you have given us?" began the handwritten note. "Each and every day from this moment on will be an unfolding miracle for us."

Jessica was touched. "Oh, guys, that's fabulous," she said. "Thank you so much. So, do we want to take bets on how many babies there are going to be?"

"Everything over two," David joked, "we give away as Christmas presents."

Creating embryos

SHORTLY after the egg retrieval, Muasher's embryologists returned to the lab, where they thawed, washed and counted the sperm that Chad and David had donated months earlier.

In late August, it had fallen to David to collect the frozen samples they had deposited at the Fairfax Cryobank and transport them the few blocks to Muasher's office. He had never felt as self-conscious as he did leaving the sperm bank with a tall, cylindrical canister in each hand.

In the lab that Saturday, the embryologists used a pipette to draw up a drop of sperm from each man's sample and release it onto a counting chamber — essentially a microscope slide overlaid with a grid. By averaging the number of sperm in several squares, and the percentage that were moving forward, they could derive sperm counts and measures of motility.

The two samples were visibly different. Chad's sperm scurried frenetically like mice through a maze. David's, by contrast, seemed in no hurry.

Six hours after the egg retrieval, Jessica's 26 eggs were divided into two batches. They had been rinsed in a special medium of proteins and nutrients and placed in an incubator at body temperature. The embryologists fertilized one batch with Chad's Olympian swimmers and the other with David's lollygaggers (he preferred to think of them as "overcalculating").

That night, the prospective fathers talked about how the ingredients of life were brewing in a dish. "It's not just genetic material now," Chad said. "It's together. The creation of this life has started."

Early the next morning they got a call from one of Muasher's nurses. Of the 26 eggs, 16 had fertilized, nine from David's batch and seven from Chad's. "It sounds like we've got enough for several tries," David said.