Heather Wilhelm-Routenberg and her wife Robin (Robbie) Routenberg-Wilhelm dreamed of having a baby. They wanted to grow their family. To achieve that dream, they went to the CNY Fertility Center in Latham, New York. As the process started, there was one request that the couple had.
They wanted to have a baby girl.
The reason they wanted a girl stemmed from the trauma that Heather suffered. On two separate occasions, she was sexually assaulted by men. She told the New York Post: "We didn't want to have a boy because of the assaults and because of the socialisation of boys – there's constant socialisation of what it means to be a 'real man.'"
When they told the clinic their fear and what they wanted, they were told it was no problem to determine the sex of a baby before going through with the procedure. However, when Heather was 15 weeks along, they learned that she was carrying a baby boy.
An internal investigation happened at the clinic. During this time, The couple was convinced that the wrong embryo had been implanted in Heather and that they would be giving the baby to his "real" parents upon birth. But that was not the case.
In an interview with Pink News, Heather said: "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…."
Birth Of A Boy
Seven weeks after the internal investigation, Robbie and Heather received an email. They were told the embryo was theirs and it was male. This devastated the women; they tried to think of everything they could do. One suggestion came from their doctor; he said they could abort and try the procedure again. However, that was not something they wanted to do.
Their baby boy was born in December 2020.
He was in NICU for 19 days. His mothers visited him every day he was in there, and then they brought him home.
Initially, Heather says that she hoped for skin-to-skin contact with the baby. That triggered her; she said she would try breastfeeding the newborn, but something weird would happen if he touched her bare breast. She told the New York Post: "...I would look at the baby, and it would contort into the faces of all these grown men that I know. It was so creepy. Whenever that happened, I had to give the baby to Robbie."
Heather then says she went through several periods where she was suicidal. Eventually, she was diagnosed with complex postpartum depression.
The couple made it clear that they love their son.
Suing The Clinic
It's because of that love that the couple says they are suing the CNY Fertility Center. Heather and Robbie say that the emotional trauma they experienced has negatively impacted their son, and he deserved better than that. Heather told the Star Observer: "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."
Heather says that the moms and the baby have bonded. She revealed that while pregnant, she would do some gardening and explain what she was planting to the baby. Now they go see the garden and talk about the trees and different flowers.
But there is still some concern about raising the baby boy. Primarily how society will encourage the old adage that boys will be boys. She told Pink News: "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."
This is why the lawsuit includes 11 counts, including breach of contract, medical malpractice, and battery. Heather and Robbie's goal is to ensure that their son is taken care of and that the clinic is held responsible for their part in the mistake.
At press time, the CNY Fertility Center declined further comment, only saying they were aware of the lawsuit and were investigating the matter.