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FATHERS IN THE MAKING

Launching a journey they'd never imagined

Chad and David had experienced both anguish and joy trying to create a child. But it was only the beginning.

October 31, 2006|By Kevin Sack | Times Staff Writer

Chad Hodge Craig had never been so put out with his sister.

She was the most accessible person he knew. They spoke virtually every day, and though he was in Georgia and she was in Texas, he never had trouble tracking her down. This day, of all days, Tonya Hodge Rosenberger could not be reached.

Tonya, who was known to her family as Sissy, had promised Chad she would wake up that Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 2006, and take a home pregnancy test. A week earlier, a fertility specialist in Fairfax, Va., had delicately transferred three 5-day-old embryos into her uterus.

She wasn't due to take a formal blood test for another three days. But Chad and Sissy simply could not wait to learn whether she might be pregnant with his children.

The embryos were the product of eggs harvested from a donor they barely knew and sperm contributed by both Chad, 35, and his longtime gay partner, David Craig, 37. Two of the embryos had been fertilized by one of the men, and one by the other, but they didn't know which.

It was their fifth attempt in 15 months to create a pregnancy through a gestational surrogacy arrangement. To get to this point, they had gone through two egg retrievals, 58 eggs, 43 embryos, two embryo freezes, three frozen embryo thaws, four failed embryo transfers, two surrogates and more than $100,000.

They were emotionally and financially drained, and they were down to their last batch of frozen embryos. If this transfer failed, Chad and David would have to start from scratch, and they weren't sure they had either the will or the resources to keep going.

When Chad and Sissy had spoken the day before, they had agreed to delay any disclosure of the pregnancy test results until Saturday afternoon, when David was due to return from a business trip. But Chad jumped the gun and started calling Sissy midmorning, after conferencing in David.

He could not raise her anywhere. Not at her home in Arlington, Texas. Not on her cell. Her husband, Jay Rosenberger, said he had slept in with a cold and had no idea where she was. Chad left messages, but they weren't returned.

Bewildered and increasingly agitated, he killed time until midafternoon, when David arrived, and then tried again without success.

"I don't know if this has happened my whole life," Chad said, "where it's been this hard to get hold of her."

Just before 4 p.m., there was a knock at the door and Chad, still unshaven, swung it open. Standing there were Sissy and Jay with their two young children, Matthew and Anabelle. Initially, Chad could not make sense of the scene. It was like one of those unsettling dreams where the characters seemed hopelessly out of place.

Then he saw that Sissy was holding a clear baggie. In it were two plastic sticks, the size of thermometers. They were pregnancy test monitors, and as Sissy raised them to Chad's eye level, he could see that each bore faint pink stripes.

*

Too momentous

"CONGRATULATIONS!" Jay said.

It took a moment to sink in. They hadn't let themselves believe it could work this time. "You're here?" Chad said, his eyes welling. "You're pregnant? Oh my God. Oh my God. When did you hear?"

Sissy began telling the story as David came to the door, a smile of astonishment spreading across his face.

She had in fact taken the test that morning, and gotten a positive result. Being wary of home pregnancy tests, she dashed to Walgreens to buy a different brand. It showed positive as well.

"What would you think about getting on a plane?" she asked Jay tearfully. The news seemed too momentous to deliver by phone. "Let's go," he said.

A few hours later, having led Chad astray, they were on their way to the airport. They paused in the parking deck long enough for Sissy to bend over the seat of their minivan so Jay could administer her daily shot of progesterone. Under the circumstances, the $1,500 they shelled out for tickets to Atlanta simply didn't seem to matter.

"Is it really happening?" Chad asked. "Is she really pregnant?"

With Sissy at his side, he called their mother in Valdosta, Ga., and put her on speakerphone.

"Hey, Mom," Chad said. "How do you feel about being a grandmother again?"

"Nooooo!" Debbie Young exclaimed. "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited."

Chad was pacing around the living room, almost hyperventilating. "I'm still in shock," he said.

They celebrated over Thai food at a neighborhood restaurant, brimming with anticipation. Sissy, 34, joked about printing up a T-shirt with an arrow pointing to her belly. "This is my brother's baby," it would declare.

Though new responsibilities lay ahead, David felt light with relief. For more than two years, their lives had been hostage to their quest to have children.

"I didn't think I could go through this again," David said. "This is one of the brightest days of our lives."

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