So it was somehow appropriate that in June 2013, nearly five years later, Bill Taroli and Yang Li stood in a delivery room and welcomed their son, Henry, one day before the US Supreme Court overturned Prop 8. A couple weeks later, with their newborn in their arms, they exchanged vows and were legally married.
Having Henry required careful and complicated planning over the course of several years. To become fathers, they needed a support group, legal help, extensive research, reams of documents, reproductive science and about $150,000. But none of that mattered without the help of two women: an egg donor and a surrogate.
One embryo brought them Henry. Five remaining healthy embryos they kept frozen in storage at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco. They imagined the sibling they might someday give their son and stayed in touch with the women who'd helped give them life once -- and might again someday.
Then came the news in March. A freezer or cryogenic storage tank at the facility failed, causing the level of liquid nitrogen to dip too low and the temperature to rise. The malfunction jeopardized the status of thousands of eggs and embryos inside, potentially crushing the dreams of hundreds of hopeful parents and families.
The fate of their embryos would prove significant not just for the fathers but for the women invested in their journey.
The eggs she wasn't using
Taroli, 47, was adopted by his stepfather and was 20 when he first met his biological dad. When he considered pathways to fatherhood, he was open to a variety of options.
Li, however, was keen on having a biological child, making the decision of how to proceed easy, Taroli said. Henry "got his sperm and my name."
They scrolled through a registry of possible egg donors provided by the fertility center, studying pictures and written statements. They settled on "Isabelle," a name chosen by the potential donor, and elected to sit down with her in person.
She was a college student living in Sacramento when she spotted an ad about egg donation. She didn't need to do it financially, as she had family support and scholarships, but she liked the idea of extra spending money and looked ahead toward medical school and the enormous expenses to come.
Isabelle, the name she preferred to go by for this story, also thought about how fixated she was on not getting pregnant, and her mind turned to those who wanted nothing more.