Couple Who Found Out They Were Pregnant with a Boy Instead of a Girl are Suing IVF Clinic
Same sex couple Robbie Routenberg-Wilhelm and wife Heather Wilhelm-Routenberg say they only wanted to have a child if it was going to be a girl. Instead the fertility clinic selected a male embryo that was transplanted to Heather’s body, she says: “He was put there against my will, just like rape.”
In an interview to the New York Post, the couple said they specifically chose a fertility clinic in New York that could determine the sex of any embryo. “I got pregnant on the first try and I was very excited. I felt like a badass, like I was doing something for my family,” Heather told The Post.
“We felt attached to this baby girl, and it was going to be a tiny Robbie, which was the best part.”
However, when Heather went in for her routine 15 week scan it was discovered that she was in fact pregnant with a boy and not a girl as they first thought.
“At our 15-week appointment with our OB-GYN, the doctor went to check the results of the QNatal test [a diagnostic blood test to rule out chromosomal abnormalities which also discloses the baby’s sex]. She said, ‘Wait, do you know the sex of the baby?’” Heather says.
“‘We’re having a girl,’ I said. ‘It’s very important to me to have a girl.’
“She said, ‘That’s not what this says …’
“Our jaws dropped to the floor. I was convinced it had to be someone else’s result.
“I looked at Robbie and said, ‘What if it’s not yours – who is in my body?!’ That’s when I flipped out, that’s when I felt my body was taken hostage. I assumed it was someone else’s embryo, not the wrong embryo of ours.
“It scared the sh*t out of me. I don’t know how to explain this – it felt like there was an alien living inside of me.
“I said to Robbie, ‘If this is someone else’s kid, we will have to give it back.’
“Our OB offered us the option to abort. I respect others’ decisions, but that was never a choice I could make in these circumstances. I was hoping beyond hope someone would have our baby and we would switch after birth and it would be this happy story.
“We scheduled an ultrasound for the next day. That was the worst night of my life. I had this overwhelming sense of immobility. I remember lying in my bedroom, thinking, ‘This can’t be happening!’ Not only was the baby in my body not ours, but the baby in my body was male and he was put there against my will, just like rape. I started having flashbacks: I was waiting in the bed, which is what I was doing both times when I got assaulted.
Robbie was afraid to leave me alone. We just had to wait till the next morning to find out if the baby was male. It was dumbfounding and traumatising.”
The reasons behind the couple’s choice to not have boys stems from two places, “because of the assaults and because of the socialisation of boys – there’s constant socialisation of what it means to be a ‘real man’”.
“People say, ‘Oh, he’s a boy, let him hit you’, and all the camouflage and guns don’t help. It reinforces masculinity, and that’s a reminder of the assaults every time,” she said.
Until they could determine that the embryo was in fact theirs, the couple say it was very traumatic not knowing whether they were carrying someone else’s baby or not.
“During that time, I had no connection to the baby inside – I figured I would be giving it away to its real parents. I tried not to think about being pregnant.
“Seven weeks later we got an email that this was our embryo. It was indeed male and it was indeed related to Robbie. No one else had our baby. There was no female baby coming. It brought up the loss of our first baby (Robbie had miscarried previously), like she died again.
“I was so furious. It felt like a deep betrayal. How the f**k do you mess up that bad? They messed up something so integral; the fact that there are no legal requirements about these procedures should strike fear in the hearts of all parents using fertility services. Meanwhile, our family and friends were all so happy. Nobody understood the complexity of my feelings. That was the most isolating thing – that we had a healthy baby, but I had no emotional connection and now I had to wrap my head around having a child forever that I wasn’t planning on. The whole pregnancy, I couldn’t connect to the baby. I hate saying that. It’s painful. It was a terrible experience.”
Their son is now a year-and-a-half old and although they adore him to bits Heather thinks about the fertility clinic’s “mistake all the time”. The couple are now suing the fertility clinic on 11 counts including breach of contract, medical malpractice and battery.
“I feel immense guilt and shame because I wasn’t able to be emotionally present for him. I don’t want to play the victim,” Heather said.
“He’s an innocent being, he didn’t deserve any of this. The clinic messed with something so integral: our baby’s first formative years. That’s the reason I am doing this – because I love my kid so much. We think our son deserved that bond from the start.”