I did NICU time with a mother who had two sets of twins five months apart.
How could that be, I’m sure you’re wondering.
After ten years of infertility, she had hired a surrogate who got pregnant with twins.
Four months later, she found herself pregnant naturally.
When I met her she had days-old babies in the hospital and two four-months-old babies being looked after by a nanny at home.
Later I met another woman, a single woman, who had been treated for a brain tumor some months earlier.
She had assumed her nausea and weight gain were to do with her medication.
One day, complaining of backache, she went to the ER to be given an ultrasound.
A few hours later, she gave birth to full-term boy/girl twins.
(For the record she was a normal, perfectly intelligent, responsible and quite delightful woman who later returned to work while her twins were cared for by family. I still don’t know how the kicking that must have been going on wasn’t a clue, though ;-))
When I read this weekend the NYT article about women selectively reducing twin pregnancies, pregnancies conceived via IVF, mind, I was…
‘Stunned’ is the most accurate word I can come up with.
I like to think I’m pretty easy going about a lot of life. I’m not given to wild emotions or hystrionics.
With a few exceptions, I like to think I mostly take a balanced view, see both sides, suspend judgment.
But no matter how I look at the reducing of a twin pregnancy to a singleton, I can’t see any justification.
I can be rational and reasoned over reducing a triplet pregnancy.
I understand that triplet pregnancies are risky, even dangerous.
And while I haven’t knowingly met anyone who has done this procedure (understandably it is usually kept quiet,) I do know women who have lost their triplets around the 20-week mark.
And had to hold them as, one by one, they died.
I can see the ‘greater good’ argument here.
I also accept the right of women to have abortions.
Although the legal window of opportunity is often double the length it should be.
But the idea that a woman would choose, after months of trying at a cost of thousands of dollars, to abort one of her fetuses and endanger the life of the second fetus (a reduction is a procedure that threatens the whole pregnancy) for no other reason than a lifestyle choice is just obscene.
Has the world gone mad?
My issue is not with the sanctity of life, or the playing of god.
It is about the stupidity, arrogance and complete wimpish-ness of someone who should know better.
This is a woman, one who is most likely educated with resources (IVF is generally a procedure for only the rich, the very lucky and the very determined.)
Who has gone through major trauma requiring self-administered shots, multiple medication and ultrasounds, procedure under general anaesthetic, wild emotional rollercoasters, manic scheduling, interrupted work schedules and often less than sympathetic medical staff.
Who is then so horrified at the result of a twin pregnancy that she elects to go through another procedure, another emotional rollercoaster with terrible guilt, difficult conversations and massive social disapproval if it ever got out.
All this at fourteen weeks gestation?
Are they insane?
At fourteen weeks, a fetus is most definitely a baby.
It isn’t a sea creature-looking alien.
It is an identifiable baby with features often so distinct that heritage can be seen.
And what is so terrible about having twins anyway?
Could the couple be so in debt from the IVF that the thought of bringing up two babies was crippling?
Could there be worries that a marriage would break down with the stress of twins?
But the idea that these couples would be overwhelmed, financially embarrassed or emotionally stricken is laughable when you consider what they’ve already been through, that families all over the world cope with twins and more, what others deal with and worse every single day.
No-one gets any guarantees in life.
We’ve all faced similar challenges.
And like the two women above who were surprised by twins, we deal with them in ways more creative than killing.
But what makes it all completely egregious to my mind is this:
It is totally avoidable.
Couples choose the number of embryos they wish to put back into the woman’s uterus.
Putting back two embryos is common and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that if both implant, the woman will be pregnant with twins.
And just in case you’re not a genius, and even if you are –
The clinic tell you.
So if you really, really don’t want to have twins, why would you risk it?
Because you can.
Because there’s a remedy, a get-out clause if it doesn’t go quite as you planned.
It’s called selective reduction and it involves injecting poison into the heart of your unborn baby so that it stops.
We’re not talking a teenager caught up in the moment and and having unprotected sex in the back of a car.
We’re not talking about über-fertile women who elect to have an abortion at seven weeks.
And we’re certainly not talking about a woman who has fallen pregnant after being raped.
We’re talking about an older woman with funds who has carefully and consciously set a goal.
And researched and implemented the most likely way to achieve that goal.
And when she overshoots the target, she backpedals like an unscrupulous salesman who’s sold her client a pup.
Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York is one of the largest providers of the procedure.
Last year 38 of the center’s 61 reductions started out as twin pregnancies.
That’s 38 fetuses killed for a lifestyle choice.
Over sixty percent of the total number.
And all could have been avoided, one way or another.
There’s only room in your apartment for one baby?
Husband wasn’t 100% supportive and is now threatening to leave?
The dog will be jealous?
It is unconscionable.
These women need to quit whining.
And develop a backbone.
By fourteen weeks, their baby already has.
So what do you think? Am I being overly judgmental? Should selective reduction be allowed in these circumstances? Or does a woman’s rights over her body trump all? Were you even aware of selective reduction or was it a new concept to you? Let me know in the comments!