Ana Clark, 31, and her husband Michael were married for just a year before they were both involved in a motorcycle accident that would ultimately claim his life. Per a suggestion from one of Michael’s friends, Ana would make the decision to extract her dead husband’s sperm so that one day she could fulfill their dream of having a son. This is her story.
A few days before the night my husband took a left turn on his motorcycle that sent us both flying off a cliff and into a ravine, we had celebrated our one-year anniversary. We had just left a restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen in Orange County, California. It was the night of July 20, 2014, and we were driving down the Ortega Highway — before we fell 70 feet.
Ironically, we met because of our love of motorcycles, just two summers before that night. I was 27, and Michael was 24. I was out at a local bar, and I’d just bought a motorcycle. I remember overhearing my [soon-to-be] husband talking about his bike, so I asked him if I could see it. That’s how we hit if off: Six months later, we were married.
My husband already had a daughter from a previous marriage, but he always said he wanted to have a boy, too. I also wanted to have a son with him. Ten days before he was set to deploy on a Marine expeditionary unit to Afghanistan, we talked about starting our own family when he got back — we even talked about the possibility of freezing his sperm in case something happened to him, but he convinced me that doing so would be bad luck.
On the night of the accident, I woke up in the ravine by myself — I couldn’t see my husband. I took off my helmet and crawled back up to the highway to flag someone down to help us. I’d find out later that along with his bike, he had fallen even further down the ravine. Since I was the passenger, I got kicked off earlier than he did, while the weight of the bike continued to pull him down.
I’m still not sure why they didn’t airlift him to the hospital. If they had, I think he would have survived. Instead, he received some care at the scene before they carried him out and drove him 30 minutes to the nearest hospital, where he would be pronounced dead a few hours later, around 6 p.m.
I’d arrived at the hospital first, but even then, I knew things were bad. The hospital staff wasn’t helpful — no one answered any of my questions, and the nurses were rude. They had conducted a CT scan on me, and once it came back negative, they decided my life wasn’t in imminent danger and just left me [in bed] in a silent room. I started screaming at the top of my lungs to get someone’s attention — finally, a woman came in, and I demanded to see a hospital volunteer, just so I didn’t have to be alone.
Once I was conscious enough to start calling people, I contacted my husband’s command and let them know what had happened — he was set to be deployed in three days. It wasn’t until our friends showed up that I found out from one of them that Michael didn’t make it.
I spent the next few days in the hospital recovering from a fractured spine and tears in my neck. During that time, I thought about how my life had pretty much just ended — the love of my life was dead, and I was regretting a lot of things. I especially regretted not saving his sperm, which meant I wouldn’t be able to have a family with him. It was actually another marine who came to visit me one day who told me they might still be able to save it: He told me that “stuff” lives on for five days, then helped me track down a fertility clinic in San Diego. They told me I needed to get my husband’s body transported there right away.
At the time, I owned a bartending company, and one of my closer clients owned a funeral home. They helped me get a hearse to transport my husband’s body to the clinic.
The initial deposit for extracting my husband’s sperm was $3,500 and $500 a year for storing it. But since it had already been 72 hours since my husband had passed, the doctors at the clinic weren’t sure if the sperm would be viable. A few days later, they called to tell me that they were able to retrieve six vials of his sperm, which is basically billions of potential babies. It was a blessing: Here I was, having lost the love of my life, and yet, I still got to have this very special piece of him. It was a reminder that there was still life left to live, and that we could still bring the life that we wanted into this world.
As of today, I haven’t yet decided if I want to carry my husband’s child, or if I want to have a surrogate. My husband’s sperm can stay frozen for up to eight years, which leaves me with a few more years to make up my mind. The holdup is that I want to finish my education because I no longer have my husband to help me financially. I’m going to be in this alone, so I have to make sure I can afford to raise this child.
I just finished my master’s degree in psychology, and I’m applying for my PhD.
My husband was a Purple Heart recipient; he lost a lot of friends in Afghanistan, and I still consider myself a military wife. Basically, I want to give back to that community by helping victims of war trauma and other widows who are struggling with having to raise a child alone.
My thinking is that about halfway through my PhD, I’m going to either have a surrogate carry the baby, or carry the baby myself. Still, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone — I know my husband wouldn’t have wanted that for me either. But whoever I decide to begin a relationship with will have to be 110 percent on board with what I’m planning to do.
—As told to Andrew Fiouzi