FAIRFAX, Va.—Chad hugged Sissy on her way into the operating room, and he and David held hands at her side as Muasher transferred the embryos. "I hope this is the moment," Sissy prayed.
She was amazed at how brief and antiseptic the procedure was. "If I'm going to get pregnant," she told herself, "the least they could have done is put a little mood music on."
After Sissy returned to Texas, Chad called every day to see if she noticed any symptoms. "How's your uterus feeling?" he would ask, making her laugh. At first there was some cramping, but then it disappeared. As the pregnancy test neared, she could feel the tension mounting. "They're just so positive about it," she said of Chad and David. "It makes me nervous."
On Nov. 17, Sissy gave a blood sample in the morning, and later collected the results in a sealed white envelope. It stared at her from the kitchen counter as she waited for Chad and David to arrive on a late-afternoon flight from Washington.
After exchanging hugs and some chitchat, Sissy grabbed the envelope and tapped it on the counter.
"D'you want to do it?" Chad asked.
"I'm very nervous about it," she said.
Chad took the letter, ripped it open, and instantly made sense of the numbers. "Negative," he said. "It's negative."
A last chance
Chad and David didn't know what to do. They had frozen embryos remaining, but was it worth putting Sissy through another round of hormone treatments? They wondered whether they should raise their odds by starting over with a fresh embryo transfer, perhaps with a new egg donor.
When they heard that Whitney's boyfriend had gotten her pregnant, it reinforced the hypothesis that Jessica's eggs, though high in number, might be low in quality. But finding a new donor would add months and tens of thousands of dollars to the process. And it would leave their remaining embryos in frozen suspense, a prospect that made them uneasy.
"I don't want to leave them out of the game," David said.
Muasher, meanwhile, had thrown up his hands. "I tried my best here," he told David in a phone call the next day, "but I don't know what else to do. I'm ready to give up."
Chad and David looked into doctors in Dallas, but could not find one that would work with gay men. A clinic in Atlanta said it would take them, but would not transfer embryos from both simultaneously. Furthermore, transporting frozen embryos could be risky.
Muasher agreed to give it one more shot. This time, Chad and David wanted to transfer three blastocysts, pushing the boundaries of accepted medical practice. To prevent high-risk multiple gestations, fertility industry guidelines recommended the transfer of no more than two embryos in most instances, and fewer in the case of blastocysts. Muasher stunned them when he said that, given their track record, he would even consider transferring four. "I'm good with three," Sissy interjected. "Four makes me nervous."
On Jan. 9, 2006, Muasher's staff thawed the four remaining day-old embryos and began the delicate process of growing them into blastocysts. Later that week, they also thawed the five blastocysts that had been frozen previously. When Chad, David and Sissy sat down in Muasher's office, he told them he planned to transfer three embryos — all from the bunch that had been growing all week. Two of the embryos had been fertilized by one man, and one by the other. There would be none left.
Because expectations were low, the mood was light. Chad had stuck a lucky penny in his loafer, and David joked that Sissy should put it in her uterus.
As they left to prepare for the transfer, David told Muasher that perhaps this would be the last time they would see each other. "I honestly hope so," the doctor deadpanned, and they all laughed.
The statistics told them that this final attempt would be the least likely to work. They had four failures behind them. They were using second-string embryos that had been frozen and thawed and then cultured for five days in a dish. The odds had broken against them for 15 months. This time, they were lower than ever.