Friday, August 19, 2011

The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy: This Twin Mama's Perspective

I don't claim to be a controversial person. Honestly, controversy makes me twitch uncomfortably.

The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy article in the New York Times Magazine has sparked tons of controversy among the multiples community and the Christian community.

If you don't know anything about the article, here's a quick summary:

Any woman going through assisted reproductive therapy (ART) knows there is a great chance of conceiving multiples. A growing trend among those twin pregnancies is to reduce the pregnancy from two babies to just one baby.

A quote from the article states:
Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, one of the largest providers of the procedure, reported that by 1997, 15 percent of reductions were to a singleton. Last year, by comparison, 61 of the center’s 101 reductions were to a singleton, and 38 of those pregnancies started as twins.

So, about not being controversial....

I am the mama of twins.

Of course, my husband and I believe our girls are the most beautiful creatures to ever walk the planet.

As a stay-at-home mama, I'm the curator of these two priceless works of art.

I live the hard stuff. I had a rough pregnancy, and now I'm out-numbered with two toddlers. I can do hard things, I tell myself over, and over, and over.  

Too, I see the joy; the gifts Brynne and Hadley's very being is to our lives. Just last night we watched the girls make a game out of kissing each other in the bathtub. Giggles galore!

My heart swells, and the hard stuff fades.


If you haven't stopped to read the article, this is how it starts out:
As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.
I'm all for grace, and seeking understanding. I've never walked in Jenny's shoes. I can't imagine what it's like to be her. What's described above sounds gut-wretching to experience. In fact, it leaves me on the verge of tears.

But not for Jenny.

Jenny's decision was based on a lifestyle choice:
Jenny’s decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children.
I think about the twin who gets to live without knowing the joy of playing kissing games in the bathtub.

Because, he (or she) is a twin, even if he's the only one living.

Okay, so I am sad for Jenny too. I think about what she's missing, what she lacked the courage to experience. Those kissing games in the bathtub are priceless. My daughters are masterpieces.

Jenny didn't just destroy a shadow on an ultrasound, she destroyed a masterpiece.


We have a dear friend with a 3D/4D ultrasound business. From the time our girls were 12 weeks, their celebrity status rivaled those Twilight kids. We, the paparazzi, desperately wanted to see the two works of art God was knitting in my womb, to see to see their little faces.

I want to show you some of the pictures from when the girls were 14 weeks. Our masterpieces.

I can't help but wonder what Jenny's decision would have been if she'd seen her little ones this way.


Mary Cavalier said...

I had never heard of such a thing - oh my! After having trouble conceiving and using fertility drugs, etc - I would think a mother would be overjoyed to know there were twins!
And that she would not have enough energy for the older children - it is like she is putting some of the blame on them. Does she mean if she did not have the older children she would have kept the twin. So sad. I pray those children never learn of the decision their mother made - would make me wonder if she would have preferred the aborted (extinquished - geez!) twin instead of me.
You are so blessed - not only to have those precious little girls but also to know what a blessing they truly are.

Cyndi said...

This is so disturbing. But definitely needs some awareness. Thanks for sharing!

Twinside Out said...

Like Jenny, I have lived through years of fertility bills, ovulation injections and disappointment. We are stuck in a third-floor condo instead of a house with a yard because we spent all of our savings and every cent of disposable income (and some that wasn't so disposable) to be able to have children.

Every step of the way, I knew what the risks were for multiples. When we put two blastocysts back at our IVF embryo transfer, I made a promise to those two tiny blobs on the screen: if they would just stick and grow, I would protect them and love them and give them everything I could.

It was hard. Every twin mommy has her own story of how tough it was, because carrying two babies is a challenge. I was on and off bedrest for most of the pregnancy, with the last three months being a blur of hospitalizations, medicine that made me really sick, and really bad daytime tv. (I actually watched every Real Housewives franchise, but I digress.)

I had fought so hard to get to this point. I think of every tear that I shed because I wanted a baby - every injection, every painful test, every fight that brought my marriage to the brink of collapse - my husband and I look at our precious babies and we know that it was all worth it.

So this made me bawl this morning. Because I cannot imagine someone who knows the pain of wanting a baby - someone like Jenny, because you do not go through six years of IF treatment without a whole lot of emotional trauma - finally getting the opportunity to have a baby and then doing this. I know so many wonderful, sweet women who would do anything to be in Jenny's position. Who would do anything to raise and love this child that she didn't want.

I'm assuming here that since donor eggs were in play, that this was an IVF pregnancy. I'm also assuming that she put two embryos (or more) back, because the chances of putting one back and having it split is pretty low. I'm not saying it couldn't (or didn't) happen; it just sounds like that wasn't the case. My point is this: it is really hard for me to wrap my head around how someone could put embryos in their body, and not be prepared for all of them to implant. Having walked that road, I just don't understand it.

But my heart does break for Jenny, too. Because I don't think the intense guilt is ever going to go away. And she is going to miss out on so much.

It's worth noting - at 14 weeks gestation, a baby can "squint, frown, grimace, pee, and possibly suck his thumb! Thanks to brain impulses, his facial muscles are getting a workout as his tiny features form one expression after another. His kidneys are producing urine, which he releases into the amniotic fluid around him — a process he'll keep up until birth. He can grasp, too, and if you're having an ultrasound now, you may even catch him sucking his thumb." (

Deidra said...

Um, wow! So much to say here. I have identical twin daughters. I found out on my son's first birthday that I was pregnant again, and shortly thereafter that they were twins. I was not taking any kind of fertility treatment, so they were really a surprise.

I have so many thoughts about this whole issue, but I wonder if somehow some women feel that since they are using medical treatment to become pregnant then they have the right to make it the kind of pregnancy they desire through medical means.

Also, I love your thoughts about once a twin, always a twin. Just because your twin isnt't there, doesn't make you a singleton. My girls are 10 now and I know that if something were to happen to one of them, the other would be destroyed. There has never been a time in their whole existence that they have not been together - that has an affect on every part of them. Everything in society seeks to separate them. Sure we want them to be autonomous and socially,emotionally secure without each other, and my girls are, but unless you've had twins or know some very well, you don't know what separation does to them.

Most schools want them apart, and while some function better that way, some don't. My girls have to know where the other is and that she is okay in order to function properly herself. That's just the way they work. I have always fought to keep them together. I have a teaching background and an advanced degree in psychology, and I hate it when other people tell me what they need. I know what education and psychology say about it, but I also know what they need. Thankfully some states now allow the parent to choose if the twins stay together in school and then only try to split them if a problem arises. My state passed this law a couple of years ago and I'm so happy about it.
Thanks so much for sharing this information and speaking up.

Lauren said...

This breaks my heart.

Wendy said...

I honestly have no words, just tears. My Benjamin and Emma are my masterpieces and God's greatest gift, as is every child, at the moment of creation. My heart is broken...

Rebekka Seale said...

Wow. This is so sad, I don't even know what to say. I've never heard of something like this happening. Wow.

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I could hardly finish reading this article when I first saw it a few days ago.

I'm treading lightly here, as I think many consider there to be a lot of grey areas in the field of infertility, period.

I can't imagine being in a position to have fallen pregnant with higher-order multiples (quads or more). I know of people who have decided to incur the risk to try to follow through with such a pregnancy, understanding the risks to the mother and babies; and I know of people who have decided to lessen that risk through selective reduction.

In all cases of which I'm personally aware, the physician was acting as responsibly as he could, and the parents were doing what they thought was in the best interest of the family. Again, that must be such a horrific position for all involved.

What really bothers me about this emerging "trend", as it's called, is that the decision seems to be based on social / economic factors, rather than health risks.

That's certainly where I think a line is crossed, at least in my book.

I'll also add that it saddens me to read stories of "abuse" (as I would deem this) related to infertility treatments. There's a lot of negative publicity around extreme case scenarios, like the "Octo-mom". My guess is that 99% of people seeking fertility assistance, and 99% of doctors in that field, are acting responsibly. I think there's already quite a stigma associated with IF, and stories like this don't help what can sometimes seem to be a negative societal image.

Liz said...

It breaks my heart to read about the decision this womn made to extinguish the life of her unborn child.
What's maddening is that it's being done out of convenience.

God have mercy on us as a nation for playing god with his creation.

Jessica said...

Wow! To be honest, I can't bring myself to read the entire article. Maybe I am just sticking my head in the sand. Maybe not.

I carry a lot of baggage as a result of our TTC journey (which spans many years with many losses). Looking back now, after having our two precious miracles, I firmly believe two things: 1) God's timing is always perfect 2) God will never give me more than I can handle.

I guess I shy away from the full article because I know I will judge "Jenny" for her decision, as I am so quick to judge others based upon my own experiences. (Julia...I feel no judgement in your post, only sadness.)

That said, I find myself aching for "Jenny" and for her decision...and wondering if they will tell the survivor of his/her twin...

Andrea said...

I actually stopped myself from reading it a couple of days ago due to not wanting to get angry, disgusted, sad, and emotionally involved! I still am going to pass on reading it! My emotions will get the best of me. I am in tears just after reading the small insert! How dare her!! She or no one else has the right to have such nonchalant attitude towards an unborn baby! SICK! Does anyone really deserve to have a wanted baby if they choose to stop the heart of an unwanted baby! So sorry I just went off!

Corinne Ritz said...

I couldn't even read your whole post. It made me naseous and extremely sad. This is just sickening! It makes NO sense to me at all! They are choosing to become pregnant, knowing the chances of having mulitples. I am just in shock!

I also have a hard time understanding doctors who support this. If you are helping patients to become pregnant, why make it so easy to abort the fetuses they don't want?

I actually switched OB's after finding out she was performing abortions at planned parenthood. She delivered my beautiful baby boy, and was killing other healthy fetuses for the convenience of those mothers. It upset me too much. I now go to an OB who wears a prolife pin on his white coat lapel.