Good eggs

For some infertile Dallas couples, science, commerce, and a few genetically attractive women provide the next best thing to Mother Nature

"You just tell yourself that it's something you have to do," says Lester about his part of the procedure: masturbating into a cup. "It's certainly not enjoyable."

Doctors will watch how well the fertilized eggs divide. After five days, no more than two of the best will be put into Brenda's uterus.

"I don't know if I would feel differently if it were her egg and someone else's sperm," says Lester, as their two cats roam the room. "I don't know. I don't think I would. I just think that half is better than none."

Little Devin Dunn, here with his mother, Diane, entered the world through the help of an egg donor. His parents, who live in Granbury, plan to tell him about his origins when he gets older.
Michael Hogue
Little Devin Dunn, here with his mother, Diane, entered the world through the help of an egg donor. His parents, who live in Granbury, plan to tell him about his origins when he gets older.
Michael Hogue

That other set of genes, the donor's half, is just "raw material," he says. And Brenda? "It's like what the psychologist at the clinic called it," she says. "A piece of tissue."

"To me that's just a small little portion," says Lester, cupping his hands. As for telling his family, he doesn't see the point. "The egg's a detail we can leave out."

Dan Dunn and his wife always knew they would tell others how their family came to be, if only because they want people to become more accepting of babies like their little boy, who owes his life to the young woman who gave her eggs.

The sign leading into the Dunns' hometown of Granbury greets visitors with a simple sign: "Population 6,050."

Make that 6,051. These days, the place has a new resident, Devin Dunn. His arrival 10 weeks ago was nothing unusual, except for the technology that helped bring him into the world. More than a year ago, his parents used an anonymous egg donor at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas to help conceive him.

On this morning, as a Linda Ronstadt CD of lullabies plays in the background, Devin lies on a small blanket in the living room of his parents' home. "And then you came down a catheter," coos his 46-year-old mother, Diane Dunn, in her soft-spoken, girlish voice, referring to the day when she lay in stirrups, watching on an ultrasound monitor as her doctor implanted two days-old embryos in her uterus, one of which survived.

She has wanted to get pregnant since she married three years ago. She had always loved children, marveling at their curiosity and love of learning--the same qualities that had drawn her to a 20-year career as a schoolteacher. When her attempts to conceive proved unsuccessful, she thought of adopting. Her husband was opposed. "Not knowing where the kid comes from" was the issue, he says.

The doctors had told her that she was too old to have her own biological child. Two years ago, she finally settled on egg donation. When it came to choosing a donor, they had no photo to go by, just a list of physical characteristics and the assurance of a nurse who told them that "yes, she is" intelligent. Ultimately, they got someone tall with blue eyes, just like Diane. One day she and her husband drove to Dallas for the implantation. They didn't receive good news, though; the doctor told them there was only one viable embryo that he could implant. She and her husband had to tell an already harried physician--who had another couple waiting for him and a hockey game in New York he had to fly to later that day--to implant the embryos. He consented. Ten days later, Diane experienced the unimaginable. After all those times of looking for pink lines on home pregnancy tests and finding none, her life turned a corner. She was pregnant.

(Was that her first time being pregnant? She hedges her answer. There was another time, she concedes, when she was much younger. "It was at a different time in my life," she explains delicately. "That's something I don't really care to talk about right now.")

"I was just looking at a picture of my husband the other day," says Dunn, a tall, striking woman. "He looks just like him.

"We always knew that we were going to be open with him," she says. With her son in her arms, she takes a seat at the kitchen table. Just then, her husband comes in the house, taking a break from his work in the area as a home builder. Construction is booming in this pricey, upper-middle-class neighborhood.

"We're going to tell him that he's a donor baby," says Dan Dunn as he watches his wife feed the baby with a bottle full of her breast milk. "He was helped along, that's all," adds Dunn, a lanky, graying man of 50 who often jokes that he became a father and an AARP member the same year. "I mean, we had a natural egg and a natural sperm. They [the doctors] just kind of played with it," he says, flicking his hands for effect.

"This kind of technology has been around for years in prizewinning animals," he continues, as the sound of his baby gulping down the milk fills the room. "It's something anybody can afford by getting financing with it. You can buy a car for $10,000, and in four years it's worth nothing.

"At least we have something left...a tax deduction."

His wife chuckles.

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