“Are you sure that you’re okay to work today?” Lisa watched Maci wipe away her tears with her upper arm in order to preserve the cleanliness of her gloves. “I’m pretty sure that this place won’t burn to the ground if you take the day off.”
“I’m fine.” Maci lied. “Besides, I need to be here in order to keep my mind off of him.”
“Okayyyyy ...” Lisa raised her eyebrows. She had known Maci long enough to realize when her business partner was lying through her teeth, but she could also understand her friend’s desire to keep her mind off of her current marital troubles. “Do you want to start with the washings or with the fertilizations?”
Maci shrugged. “Fertilizations, I guess.”
Maci sniffed away the remainder of her tears and took a deep breath. Seven years of marriage down the drain because her good-for-nothing husband couldn’t keep it in his pants. What was she going to do now? Her thoughts drifted to her own children as she glanced down at the lab sheet and gathered the items that she needed to fertilize the first set of eggs for the day. What was she going to tell the kids?
“Well, Leighanne Littrell, I really hope you’re sure about this.” Maci mumbled; reading the name sticker affixed to the egg sample. “Forty-seven years old with only two good eggs left. Your husband must be a bloody saint for you to even be considering this shit.”
“Is talking to yourself part of the healing process?” Lisa looked up from preparing her first sperm sample of the day; separating the weak swimmers from the strong ones and concentrating the healthy sperm into the insemination syringe. She grinned at Maci. “Or is that just your craziness coming out?”
“A little bit of both.” Maci laughed. “I don’t understand what possesses some people to go through with all of this.” She waved her hand in front of her face dismissively. “I mean, take this Mrs. Littrell lady for instance.” Maci tapped her well-manicured finger against the Petri dish containing Leighanne’s recently harvested eggs. “She’s almost fifty years old and she already has a teenage son. Why is she even bothering to try to have another baby?”
It was Lisa’s turn to shrug. “Some people are just, you know, weird!” She paused; a smile creeping across her face. “Did you say ‘Mrs. Littrel’l? If the sperm donor’s name is Brian, you can forget all about this lady’s questionable desires and just go right ahead and shoot that sample right up in me!”
“You’re disgusting.” Maci feigned shock. She was used to Lisa making crude comments on a fairly regular basis. “And, just so you know, I’ve already checked for the Backstreet connection, and the sperm sample is from some guy named Brayden.” Maci ran her finger across the lab sheet to confirm that she had the right donor before grabbing the sample off of the table. “So, it looks like you won’t be getting a healthy dose of Backstreet sperm, today.”
“Damn!” Lisa set the first completed syringe of the day down in the holder and snapped her fingers. “I mean, he’s no Nick Carter, but Brian Littrell is still totally do-able.”
“You have problems.” Maci shook her head. “Like, actual problems.”
“Do I?” Lisa challenged. “You were probably thinking about doing the exact same thing. I mean, you didn’t even pretend not to know that I was talking about Brian the Backstreet Boy.”
Maci snorted. Coming to work had definitely been the right decision; Lisa’s antics were exactly the type of mental distraction that she needed. Still smiling, Maci carefully pulled Brayden’s sperm sample into the syringe and tapped her fingers twice against the glass vile to make sure that the sample was completely free of air bubbles. She leaned towards the microscope and focused in on the two miniscule eggs resting in the Petri dish.
Crazy or not; Leighanne Littrell deserved every possible chance of having another baby, if that’s what she really wanted. Taking a deep breath to steady her hand, Maci expertly injected both of the eggs with the sperm sample. The fertilized embryos were scheduled to be implanted into Mrs. Littrell’s aging uterus in exactly three days.
Maci stood up from the microscope; pleased with her work. It was a well-known fact that she was one of the most highly renowned doctors specializing in IVF in the greater Atlanta area, and she took pride in the knowledge that she had helped so many women achieve their dreams of having a child.
“Oh. My. God.”
“What’s the matter?” Maci re-directed her attention at Lisa’s words. She peered at the other woman in concern. Her friend’s skin actually appeared to be turning a deathly shade of grey. “Why are you just staring at me like that?”
Lisa swallowed hard. She felt like she was about to be sick. “Brian Littrell’s name is on this sheet.”
“On what sheet?” Maci didn’t need to ask the question; she could see that Lisa was clutching the lab sheet between her noticeably trembling fingers. Her stomach churned. Maybe she should have stayed home from work after all.
“Maci, did you just fertilize Leighanne Littrell’s eggs with Brayden Lukas’s sperm?”
“Yes ...” Maci was suddenly having trouble breathing. “That was the name of the donor that was across from her name on the sheet. I checked. I double checked.”
“You read the wrong name.” Lisa could already see her still blossoming medical career coming to a fiery end. She and Maci co-owned the practice; they were liable for each other’s mistakes. They could both lose their licence to practice medicine for making this type of an error. “Brayden Lukas should have been matched with Abigail Lukas. She’s supposed to be inseminated with his sperm this afternoon.”
“No.” Maci shook her head in denial. She crossed the room and took the lab sheet away from Lisa. “There’s no way that I made a mistake. I’ve never made a mistake!” She quickly located Leighanne’s name on the paper and ran her finger across the table to check the male counterpart. Her heart stopped; ‘Brian Littrell’.
Maci’s eyes settled on the name ‘Brayden Lukas’; listed directly below the name ‘Brian Littrell’ on the chart. She bit at her lower lip and re-focused her attention on the Petri dish that was still under the microscope; on the eggs that she had fertilized with the wrong sperm. Maci’s entire body felt numb. It wasn’t like she could just admit her mistake to the Littrells, harvest some more eggs, and attempt the procedure again. Leighanne only had two good eggs left in her entire body, and she had just injected them both with some other man’s sperm.
“Abigail Lukas is coming in this afternoon?” Maci was thinking as she spoke; trying to figure out what to do. “And we still have the sperm sample from Brian?”
Lisa nodded slowly. She had a pretty good idea of what her friend was going to say next, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. “Yes to both.”
“We don’t have to say anything about this to anyone.” Maci locked her eyes with Lisa’s. “Given Leighanne’s age, there’s a higher chance that the procedure will be unsuccessful than successful. Besides, we’re implanting the embryos at three days. You and I both know that waiting for day five blastocysts would give her a higher chance of becoming pregnant. I’ve never said this before, but it’s actually a good thing that the Littrells chose not to risk the potential for suboptimal laboratory conditions and went with the three day implantation option for both embryos.” Maci paused briefly to collect her racing thoughts. “I can still perform Leighanne’s procedure. There’s no way that it’s going to work, and the Littrells will never find out about the sperm mix-up.”
“But, what about Abigail Lukas? She’s only thirty-four.” Lisa didn’t even bother to disguise the tremor in her voice as she located Abigail’s file and flipped it open to confirm the woman’s age. “What if we go ahead with the insemination using Brian’s sperm sample and she manages to conceive? The potential for success is much higher for her; closer to 20%.”
“We could always just ask Brayden to provide us with another sample.” Maci actually smiled as the idea came to her mind. “This can work, Lisa! Like I said, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Leighanne’s implantation will fail. So, if Brayden supplies us with another sperm sample and we use that sample for Abigail’s insemination then nobody will ever find out about any of this!”
“That would be a good solution.” Lisa sighed as she scanned Abigail’s chart. “Unfortunately, Brayden is no longer around to provide us with another sample. He passed away from an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer almost a year ago. He and Abigail were hoping to have a baby once he entered remission. So, he banked a sperm sample in preparation as his doctors had told him that the cancer would make it nearly impossible for the two of them to conceive naturally. It seems as though Brayden passed away before he could provide the sperm bank with any additional samples; even though, that was apparently the plan as he had pre-paid for three bank spots.”
The smile left Maci’s face. She was back to feeling nauseous. “So, we’ll just have to use Brian’s sample for Abigail’s insemination procedure and pray to God that it doesn’t take.”
“But what if it does take?!” Lisa stressed. “It’s not like we’re dealing with a sample from some random guy off of the street. We’re talking about a celebrity; about a man with a face that millions of women across the world are able to recognize. If the procedure ends up being successful and Abigail pops out a miniature Backstreet Boy, we are going to be in a serious heap of career-ending trouble!”
“We could potentially be in serious career-ending trouble either way.” Maci argued. “If I admit to the Littrells that I messed up, they’ll undoubtedly take the situation to the media and the reputation of our practice will be ruined. We’ll be out of business faster than the college will be able to revoke our licences. But, if we play the odds and both of the procedures turn out to be unsuccessful, then we’ll walk away from this whole thing free and clear.”
“Still, if Abigail becomes pregnant with Brian’s baby, then we will have no choice but to inform both her and Brian about the mix-up. We could do jail time for intentionally concealing the identity of the child’s father. Personally, I would rather lose my medical licence and become a hermit than spend any amount of time behind bars.” Lisa countered. “Why don’t we just inject Abigail with a syringe full of water or something?”
Macil rolled her eyes. “That’s probably even more unethical than using the wrong sperm sample. Abigail has paid us to provide her with a chance to have a baby. I would rather give her a small chance to have another man’s child than give her absolutely no chance at all. Besides, other women conceive using anonymous donor sperm all the time. It’s not like Abigail has to know who the father is.”
Lisa narrowed her eyes. “Brian isn’t an anonymous sperm donor. He didn’t get paid to provide his sample, and he definitely didn’t consent to have his sample used for another woman’s procedure. So, if you want me to agree to this nonsense, you have to promise me that we will tell both Brian and Abigail the truth if she becomes pregnant.”
“Fine.” Maci glanced at the clock. Abigail was due to arrive at the clinic in less than an hour. “On the off chance that Abigail’s insemination procedure is successful, we’ll tell both her and Brian about my mistake.” She looked pointedly at Lisa. “Deal?”
Lisa gave in to Maci’s pestering despite the growing ball of doubt that was slowly, but surely, taking over her entire stomach. She hastily picked up Brian’s sperm sample and, with shaking fingers, peeled off the identification label. Lisa scribbled ‘Brayden Lukas’ on another label and affixed it to Brian’s vile with a heavy heart. For the first time in her career, she found herself praying to every single God that she could possibly think of that Abigail’s insemination procedure would fail.