11 years ago I was pregnant with triplets. What are the chances that one of the two embryos we transferred during In Vitro (IVF) would split into two? (Something like one in a million apparently.)
Just so we’re all on the same page…
IVF entails merging my eggs with my partner’s sperm in a petri dish, then transferring them back into my uterus once the cells start dividing. We transferred two back to increase our chances of ending up pregnant.
Months before we began fertility treatments, the doctor warned us about multiple pregnancy. I signed a waiver, agreeing to consider “reducing” the pregnancy should it ever happen. (I didn’t think it would ever happen.)
90 percent of triplets are born preterm, usually around 32 weeks. Most of the time, these babies are lucky to weigh in at 3.3 pounds (it’s usually less). Which puts them at risk of all kinds of immediate and long-term problems — mental retardation, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss…
On top of all this, every nightmare pregnancy complication is a real potentiality in triplet pregnancies — half of all triplet pregnancies, for example, result in preeclampsia, which can mean liver failure or life-long heart problems for mom. Just a little sample from the conversation we had after that ultrasound.
The reality was I needed to go home and make a choice: keep a dangerous pregnancy or “reduce” it.
I thought meeting with a perinatologist would help me figure out what to do. In a nutshell she reiterated how dangerous it was and then dropped a bomb in my lap:
We’d need to reduce the twins since Identicals in utero are riskier then fraternal twins or a singleton.
Six years of trying. 8 rounds of artificial insemination, one round of In Vitro and now I’m faced with what feels like Sophie’s Choice.
I didn’t want to tell anyone. I have family members with strong pro-life opinions! Pro-life or not, I knew they’d ALL have opinions. And I didn’t want them judging me if I decided to reduce the pregnancy.
So… I lied.
I told my family and friends we were expecting twins. Then any time anyone talked to me about how exciting it was to be expecting twins, I did that thing where I pretended to act the way I would have acted if I wasn’t living in my own private hell.
I had no desire to “reduce” any one of those lives but I also didn’t want to give birth to sick babies or risk my own health. The clinic had given me a deadline to make my decision. Around this time my sister surprised me with a visit. She was saying something cheerful about my pregnancy and I was done pretending.
So, I told someone the truth — the only person besides Ron and the doctors who knew what was really going on.
And then I started bleeding. Just a few spots. The clinic told me it was probably fine but to come in for a scan the next day. Secretly I hoped the doctor would turn to me during the scan and say, “You are now pregnant with twins! Yay!”
I wish that was how it went.
“It was a nurse this time. She ran the ultrasound over my belly and Ron and I stared hopefully up at the screen.
That’s when she found the first one. No heartbeat. It took her a while to locate the twins. She couldn’t be sure. She excused herself to locate the doctor. We knew it was bad. He came in and took a look. It was official, no heart beats left. All three were gone and I was in shock.
It’s been years since I’ve thought about this story.
Up until this very moment I believed I was torn. That I had NO IDEA whether I wanted to keep the pregnancy and risk giving birth to sick babies who would be handicapped their entire lives or reduce the pregnancy and live with a secret shame.
But what I realize as I write this is I did know what I wanted to do. I knew the whole time.
But my head was spinning — thinking about worst case scenarios and the ascribed judgments of every friend in family member dead or alive.
So I just couldn’t find what was in my heart— what it was that I really wanted.
Now I am positive of something that I didn’t realize I also knew then:
I wanted to keep the pregnancy.
In 2008, via a second round of IVF, I gave birth to 7 pounds and 7 ounces of baby boy and 8 pounds and 7 ounces of baby girl.
THEN two and a half years later, after feeling “kinda pregnant,” I bought a home pregnancy test as a joke.
In a dazed stupor holding a stick with a plus sign, I called my primary care provider to explain that I had just taken a home pregnancy test and gotten a positive. Six years of lining checks, cycle monitoring, progesterone injections, and every modern day fertility treatment known to man…
I could barely remember that one time when we found a moment to have sex… It couldn’t be right.
“Oh honey,” the advice nurse laughed at me from the other end of the line, “If you got a positive, you’re pregnant.”
And that’s how my triplets came back to me.
What I realize now is that we always know what we want, even when we think we don’t. The answer is there, underneath the fear.
Sometimes the fear is a product of our own imagination, the harsh judgments we ascribe to others, when in reality all they want to do is support us. Sometimes the fear is real. As real as short term labor, pre-eclampsia, and cerebral palsy.
And sometimes because of the fear, we do nothing. (Which is also a choice.) And sometimes because of the fear, our body makes a decision for us.
Here are 5 Ways to Know What You Really Want in a Crisis Situation (that I wish somebody would have told me then):
- Remember you are not a mind reader. Worrying about how people will judge your choices is no way to go when you have life altering decisions to make. It’ll lead you right into analysis paralysis. So remind yourself that you have no way of predicting what other people will think or do (and sometimes they surprise you).
- Get support. I remember the feeling of freedom I felt after telling my sister the truth. The reality is there were many people in my life who could have supported me during that difficult time if I hadn’t been so fearful of judgment. Also life coaches, therapists, and other healing professionals are the perfect people to support you since they don’t judge or gossip.
- Know that it’s okay to keep a secret. As guilty as I felt about keeping my situation a secret, I realize now that I was doing the best I could. Sometimes we need the space to allow the truth of what we want to surface. And it’s definitely ok to keep our situation to ourselves around family and friends who don’t get it.
- Get into your body. Fear is going to shout at you the whole time. It lives in that primitive part of our brain designed to keep us alive. Which is why it’s really important to get into your body as much as possible. Try breath work, massage, yoga, meditation, exercise. If you can get into your body as much as possible, you’ll be able to listen to your heart which knows what you really want.
- Get real about worst-case scenario thinking. It’s just the way the mind works. And when you’re faced with a difficult decision, your brain goes into overdrive imagining all the horrible things that could ever possibly go wrong. So you have to remind yourself that a best-case scenario might be in your future…or maybe even just a so-so case scenario. So remind yourself that you can’t predict the future.
This is what I know now:
In the end it works itself out. The thing that was meant to be makes its way back. Even when we think we missed it the first time.