Almost 12 years after becoming parents again, a couple learned something deeply shocking that changed their lives. In a heartbreaking turn of events, it was revealed that another man fathered their beloved son.
Becoming parents to a little one is a precious feeling that completely changes the game for any couple. The moment the parents lay eyes on their bundle of joy, their hearts swell with indescribable emotions and they understand the essence of true love.
Holding a little life in our arms is a unique experience and gives parents the feeling of finally being whole. Although it doesn’t happen often, parents can sometimes endure unlikely situations, like bringing home the wrong baby.
Donna and Vanner Johnson. | Source: YouTube.com/abc4utah
Besides being changed at birth, IVF confusion is another unusual occurrence, which involves the likelihood of carrying the wrong baby. One can only imagine the shock, trauma and pain couples endure under such heartbreaking circumstances. Today’s story revolves around something similar.
Donna and Vanner Johnson were married and lived with their two children in Salt Lake City, Utah. One day, wanting to have fun with their children, they crossed out the typical “let’s go to the movies” option and chose something else instead.
The couple ordered DNA test kits from 23andMe, but after taking the tests, they completely forgot about them until the fateful day the results came in. It was the summer of 2019 and the Johnsons were all ready to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Donna was busy with something when she received a phone call from her husband. She said TODAY:
“My husband called and said, ‘Hey, I got my results back. But he said there was something wrong.”
Later, the Johnsons sat down and carefully reviewed the DNA report. According to the test results, the parents of their youngest son did not seem to match the family. While Donna was listed under ‘mother’, the couple were surprised when they spotted the word “unknown” under the category of father.
Initially, Donna and Vanner thought it was a mistake. The couple had always known that their two sons were different in character, but they never questioned their genetic heritage until they took the DNA test. “to have fun.” Donna said she looked at the results again and noticed something unusual. She added:
“I looked at my son’s results and he said he had a half-brother through me, and everything fell apart. I knew something was wrong.”
The Johnsons recalled that after the birth of their first child, Vanner underwent three hernia operations which damaged his vas deferens, making it impossible for the couple to have another baby without medical intervention.
REQUEST FOR MEDICAL AID
The Utah-based couple said they always wanted a large family, so they sought help from the University of Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine to undergo IVF. Shortly after, Donna noted that she became pregnant with their second son, Tim.
Then 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 figured out what went wrong during the IVF process nearly 12 years ago – another man’s sperm was used to fertilize the Donna’s egg. But with this realization came a shock wave of other emotions.
The Johnsons struggled to deal with the new information, but they knew they had to share the news with their son. Thus, Vanner said he took his boy out for ice cream to tell the story. He explained:
“Because the mistake happened to me, I felt the need to talk to him, from father to son. So I took my son by car to get an ice cream.”
Vanner described that he and Donna never hid from Tim that he was conceived through IVF, so he started 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 revealed that when we got pregnant with you and had IVF, something happened in the lab, some kind of confusion, and it turns out that I am not your biological father.”
Vanner recalled how his 12-year-old son looked down in his lap throughout the conversation, and after hearing the shocking news, he started staring out the window. Then he turned to look at his father and asked him if he was sure.
THE BOY’S REACTION
When Vanner assured his boy that it was all true, Tim replied, “The only thing I want is for me to know what I would look like with your genes.” Recalling what his son said next, Vanner said:
“He [Tim] says no matter what, I’m still her father. And I said, ‘Yes, I am. I will always be your father.'”
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’s okay. He’s still my brother,” replied their eldest son.
Kelly and Devin McNeil. | Source: YouTube.com/abc4utah
SEARCHING FOR A BIOLOGICAL DADDY
After Tim’s approval, the couple began searching for his biological father. They purchased another DNA test kit from Ancestry.com, and the results listed several biological family members – aunts, first cousins and 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 had ever done IVF.
The Johnsons and McNeil chatted on FaceTime, and after a series of questions, Devin agreed to take a DNA test, paid for by the Johnsons. While the two families waited for the results, they stayed in touch via text and FaceTime.
Donna recounted how she looked for Tim in Devin’s face whenever she saw him, but couldn’t make a connection because Devin had a beard. But later, Donna said she saw a photo of Devin without a beard and spotted a dimple on his chin. She added that Tim had the same dimple.
THE GREAT REVELATION
Finally, Devin’s test results came in and confirmed what the families had always suspected – Devin was Tim’s biological father. Then 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 delighted to hear that their three children were looking forward to meeting Tim. Kelly also recalled a profound saying her eight-year-old son said at the time. She mentioned:
“He said, ‘I heard once on a show that life doesn’t always give you the gifts you want, but the real gift is life itself. It was from a cartoon he was watching. I remember thinking that we had to write it, because our child had just given us a lesson.
According to Daily Mail, the two couples have filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the Utah clinic. They also managed to keep in touch and maintain a cordial relationship, but they continue to process the emotional baggage that accompanies the shocking revelation.
While Tim will always be Vanner’s son, the emotionally draining experience has certainly left him, Donna and the McNeils with a lot to deal with, and we just hope no other family has to go through the same thing.
What are your thoughts on this story? Do you think the Johnsons did the right thing telling Tim? Would you do things differently if you were in their shoes?
Here’s another story you might like, and it’s about a widower who ended up with a four-month-old son who took a DNA test and discovered that the baby belonged to another man.