Almost 12 years after becoming parents again, a couple learned something profoundly shocking that turned their lives topsy-turvy. In a heart-rending turn of events, it was revealed that another man had fathered their beloved son.
Becoming parents to a little one is a precious feeling and a total game-changer for any couple. The moment parents lay eyes on their bundle of joy, their hearts swell with indescribable emotions, and they understand the essence of genuine love.
Holding a tiny life in one's arms is an experience unlike any other and gives parents a sense of finally being whole. While it doesn't happen often, parents sometimes endure unlikely situations, like taking home the wrong baby.
Donna and Vanner Johnson. | Source: YouTube.com/abc4utah
In addition to being switched at birth, IVF mix-up is another unusual occurrence, which involves the likelihood of carrying the wrong baby. One can only imagine the shock, trauma, and pain that the couples endure in such heart-wrenching circumstances. Today's story centers around something similar.
Donna and Vanner Johnson were happily married and lived with their two children in Salt Lake City, Utah. One day, while wanting to have fun with their kids, they crossed out the typical "let's go to the movies" option and picked something else instead.
The couple ordered DNA test kits from 23andMe, but after taking the tests, they forgot all about them until the fateful day when the results arrived. It was summer 2019, and the Johnsons were all set to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
THE UNUSUAL RESULTS
Donna was busy with something when she received a phone call from her husband. She told TODAY:
"My husband called and said, 'Hey, I got my results back.' But he said there was something off."
Later, the Johnsons sat down and carefully examined the DNA report. According to the test results, their youngest son's relatives didn't seem to match the family. While Donna was listed under "mother," the couple was taken aback when they spotted the word "unknown" under the father's category.
Initially, Donna and Vanner thought it was a mistake. The couple had always known their two sons were different in character, but they had never questioned their genetic heritage until they took the DNA test "for fun." Donna said she looked at the results again and noticed something unusual. She added:
"I looked at my son's results and it said that he had a half-brother through me, and it all came crashing down. I knew something was wrong."
The Johnsons recalled that after the birth of their first child, Vanner underwent three hernia surgeries that damaged his vas deferens, making it impossible for the couple to have another baby without medical intervention.
SEEKING MEDICAL HELP
The Utah-based couple said they had always wanted a large family, so they sought help from the University of Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine to undergo IVF. Shortly afterward, Donna noted that she became pregnant with their second son, Tim.
Next, the McNeils sat down with their three children, who were six, eight, and 13 at the time, and told them they had a biological half-brother.
While holding the shocking DNA results, Donna and Vanner finally knew what had gone wrong during the IVF process almost 12 years ago — another man's sperm was used to fertilize Donna's egg. But with that realization came a shock wave of other emotions.
BREAKING THE NEWS
The Johnsons had difficulty handling the newfound information, but they knew they had to share the news with their son. So, Vanner said he took his boy out for ice cream to break the story. He explained:
"Because the mistake happened to me, I felt like I needed to talk to him, father to son. So I took my son on a drive to get ice cream."
Vanner described that he and Donna never hid from Tim that he was conceived through IVF, so he began the conversation by reminding his son that Donna had gone through IVF to have him.
The father then asked his son if he remembered taking the DNA test. To Vanner's relief, Tim said he remembered. Vanner continued:
"Then I said that the tests found that when we got pregnant with you, and we went through IVF, something happened in the lab, some kind of mix up, and it turns out that I am not your biological father."
Vanner recalled how his 12-year-old son looked down at his lap throughout the conversation, and after hearing the shocking news, he started looking out the window. Then, he turned to look at his dad and asked him if he was sure about it.
THE BOY'S REACTION
"He [Tim] said that whatever happens, I'm still his dad. And I said, 'Yeah, I am. I will always be your dad.'"
The Johnsons noted that their son took a few weeks to process the information. Then, it was finally time for Donna and Vanner to share the news with their firstborn and Tim's older brother. "It doesn't matter. He's still my brother," responded their elder son.
Kelly and Devin McNeil. | Source: YouTube.com/abc4utah
SEARCHING FOR THE BIRTH DAD
After Tim's approval, the couple started looking for his birth father. They purchased another DNA test kit from Ancestry.com, and the results listed multiple biological family members — aunts, first cousins, and a grandmother.
Eventually, the Johnsons found a couple in Colorado, Devin and Kelly McNeil, who had three children of their own. Devin told his wife about a strange phone call he received from a man named Vanner who asked if they ever did IVF.
The Johnsons and McNeils chatted on FaceTime, and after a round of questions, Devin agreed to take a DNA test, paid for by the Johnsons. While both the families waited for the results, they stayed in touch through text and FaceTime.
Donna recounted how she searched for Tim in Devin's face every time she saw him but couldn't make a connection because Devin had a beard. But later, Donna said she saw a picture of Devin without the beard and spotted a dimple on his chin. She added that Tim had the same dimple.
THE BIG REVEAL
Finally, Devin's test results arrived and confirmed what the families had suspected all along — Devin was Tim's birth father. Next, the McNeils sat down with their three children, who were six, eight, and 13 at the time, and told them they had a biological half-brother.
"THE TRUE GIFT"
Devin and Kelly said they were thrilled to learn that all three of their children were eager to meet Tim. Kelly also recollected a profound saying that her eight-year-old son said at the time. She mentioned:
"He said, 'I heard on a show once that life doesn't always give you the gifts that you want, but the true gift is life itself.' It was from some cartoon he was watching. I remember thinking we needed to write that down, because our child just taught us all a lesson."
According to Daily Mail, both couples filed a lawsuit to seek damages from the Utah clinic. They have also managed to stay in touch and maintain a cordial relationship, but they continue to process the emotional baggage that came with the shocking revelation.
While Tim will always be Vanner's son, the emotionally exhausting experience certainly left him, Donna, and the McNeils with a lot to handle, and we only hope no other family has to go through the same.
What are your thoughts on this story? Do you think the Johnsons did the right thing by telling Tim? Would you do things differently if you were in their shoes?
Here's another story that you might like, and it's about a widower who was left with a four-month-old son. He took a DNA test and discovered the baby belonged to another man.
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