Every mom has a unique and memorable birth story for each of their children. But before every birth story is a conception story. Some women and couples are able to conceive a child with ease. Others need time and patience. Some face the heartbreak of a miscarriage. We needed fertility help. Having kids is hard, but trying to have kids can be even harder. In this, the second of a two-part series, I will share the conception stories for my children. We are all bonded as mothers, but the journey to parenthood is not always straight.
Selective Reduction and A Lot to Carry
The doctor quietly and methodically labeled the fetuses A, B, and C. The nurses were ecstatic. The doctor was focused, almost solemn. Amy and I were dumbfounded. I can feel my emotions on that day better than I can describe them.
When the doctor was done with his work, he told us that all of the fetuses were healthy and strong. We were happy, but confused. We had so many questions. Our first priority, as it was with our first pregnancy, was health. What dangers did this pregnancy bring to Amy’s health? And what dangers did this pregnancy bring to the fetuses’ development and health? How did this happen?
We knew our appointment was going well beyond the time allowed, so the doctor suggested we come back for a follow-up consultation. He gave us a little information and a lot to think about. Based on the ultrasound and the number of follicles present before the insemination, multiple eggs were released and three were fertilized. Triplets. But before we could grasp the concept of going from one child to four, the doctor told us we should consider eliminating one fetus through selective reduction.
We had never heard the term before. For those of you who haven’t either, selective reduction is a procedure that ends the life of a fetus. Based on many medical factors that are unnecessary to detail here, the chosen fetus is the one that provides the best chance of maintaining the pregnancy. Unlike an abortion, the goal is to maintain the pregnancy, not end it.
Between legal documentation to protect our rights as parents to believing someday gay parents will just be considered parents, we had gone through so much planning and hoping to make a family. We wanted kids. We wanted to be moms. Why would we consider eliminating something we wanted so badly? Because the risk of carrying multiples is considerably more dangerous with triplets than twins.
Carrying triplets is considered a high-risk pregnancy. A normal scenario for carrying triplets is this: 32 weeks gestation, eight weeks in the NICU, and additional pre-term health related issues. Other scenarios are far worse. We could lose a baby, multiple babies, or the entire pregnancy. We could have babies with serious birth defects. If Amy tried to carry triplets, she would put her own health at risk and would likely end up on bed rest for a portion of the pregnancy.
Reducing a triplet pregnancy to a twin pregnancy has its own risks, including the loss of the entire pregnancy. But the best case scenario produces two healthy, close to full-term babies, though the health risks of carrying twins still exist.
Amy and I left that initial ultrasound appointment in complete shock. For the next several hours, all I could do was repeat the word triplets, as if saying it enough times would let me see the future. If only I could wrap my head around the word, then I could wrap my head around what to do.
I realize this is a controversial topic. And I fully understand both sides of the argument. Amy and I had several weeks to turn over all of them. I will easily tell you I am pro-choice. But when it came to making this decision for my family, it was the toughest choice to consider.
Another thing we considered was the impact a triplet pregnancy would have on our daughter and our marriage. No matter what the outcome, triplets would test all of our relationships. What was fair for our daughter? For us? For three unborn babies who we wanted to give the best possible chance at a healthy and happy life?
Driving our decision was always the health of Amy and the babies she was carrying. While we knew the risks of carrying triplets, the risks of a selective reduction can cause heartbreak too. The thing nagging at me was the possibility that we could be one of the families who had healthy triplets. I wanted to be hopeful; I wanted to fight the odds. But something told Amy she couldn’t carry triplets. Gut instinct or mother’s intuition told her three was too many.
I agreed, but it took me longer to find peace with our decision. Amy and I received advice from the doctors who delivered Eva. We were better educated about the procedure at our follow-up consultation appointment with our doctor at the infertility clinic. We searched the internet and read every article on the subject. We were thankful for the bloggers who wrote candidly about their experiences when they faced the possibility of a reduction. I didn’t feel so alone when I read their stories.
On December 27th, 2012, a year to the day we celebrated my second parent adoption of Eva, we reduced our triplet pregnancy to a twin pregnancy. We had the procedure done in Boston and have nothing but high praise for the doctors and nurses who we met at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. They made a very hard and sad day go as smoothly as possible.
We were already parents, so we knew the potential joy and love we eliminated and sacrificed that day. But we hoped our sacrifice was for the benefit of our daughter, the two babies we wanted to add to our family, and to Amy, the amazing woman carrying our children. It wasn’t until several weeks after the reduction, when we felt confident that the pregnancy would be a healthy one, that we told people we were pregnant with twins. Twin boys.
Thankfully the rest of Amy’s pregnancy was healthy, but when she started to dilate at 29 weeks, we knew we had made the right decision. Three would have been too much to carry. And when I held my boys seven weeks later, I knew two was more than enough.
When I see families who have had triplets, I see the decisions they had to make before I actually see their children. I wonder if they felt like there was a decision to make. At conception and the months before birth, we make parental choices before we meet our child or children. The best we can do is to make educated decisions based on science, faith, and what we feel is right.
Seeing a family with triplets makes me wonder how things would have turned out for us if we had decided against the reduction, but I do not regret our decision. Our goal was two healthy babies and that is exactly what we got.
During the moments when all three of my kids are happy, it’s easy to imagine one more in the room. I imagine another daughter for Eva to call a sister. I imagine another son to complete the trifecta of boy. I imagine we could have handled the chaos of having four kids.
But during the hardest moments, when the kids are sick with colds or all crying at once and when I don’t think it’s possible to emotionally or physically take care of one more living thing, it’s impossible to imagine having a fourth, especially if one or more of the four has special needs or health problems.
After the reduction and when Amy and I knew we would be having twins instead of triplets, we were sad and cautiously optimistic. But when we took Ben and Ryan home from the hospital, we were thrilled.
We had the family we had always wanted and the one we were meant to have. The road to parenthood is long and hopeful, but it is not always straight.