Twins: Blessing or Curse?

Last week, I read a piece in HuffPost Parents made me feel sad. And conflicted. Because I kinda sympathize with him, and I kinda feel disgusted.

The title of the post: My Wife Is Expecting Twins and I Am Not Happy About It.

I expected it to be generally good-natured grousing about the upcoming challenges of parenting newborn twins, but to my surprise and discomfort, the guy was actually pretty serious. Maybe it’s silly for me to talk about it since you can never really know how you’d react to a given situation unless you’re actually in it. But I really do think I wouldn’t react like this.

The backstory: They already have a son, and they wanted to give him a sibling. They’re “older” (late 30s) and had trouble conceiving––tried several IUIs (intrauterine inseminations) that were unsuccessful––then tried IVF. Got pregnant on the first try. With twins. They opted to transfer two embryos, and both stuck. (For what it’s worth, when we underwent IVF in fall 2011, our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) told us that there’s a much higher success rate when you transfer two embryos as opposed to one, and the risk of having twins as a result is about 25%.)

So they ended up with two boys instead of the one girl they were hoping for. And apparently they are taking this pretty hard. He did mention that they only considered selective reduction for only a few seconds. (That’s an abortion of one or more fetuses. It’s more common for women who become pregnant with several embryos through fertility treatments, because a multiple pregnancy is inherently more dangerous for both women and fetuses).

So they chose to do IVF, they chose to transfer two embryos, and they chose to not pursue selective reduction after genetic testing showed that both fetuses were genetically normal (no major abnormalities, serious defects, etc.). But they seem miserable.

Our fear is not the new parent fear of the unknown. It’s the smart, informed fear of the known. Our biggest nightmare is that we’ll have colic again, or double colic. This time around, we’re counting down — not like expecting parents but like cancer patients with only months to live. Enjoy life while you can, for soon it’s double the diapers, double the feedings. Half of zero sleep is … less than zero?

So tell me how this isn’t going to suck. (Did I mention we live in a one-bedroom apartment?) Sure, in 10 years I could have close to a starting five of super-athletic, NBA-hopeful alpha males living under my roof smelling up the joint. But right now it’s hard for us to see twins as good news.

I can see where they’re coming from––to some degree. In my very limited experience of almost eleven months spent parenting one baby, I understand that babies are incredibly demanding, need constant supervision and care, and suck away almost all free time, including sleep, which shouldn’t be considered free time anyway. I know the newborn period is one crazy, six-to-eight-week-long sleepless blur of nursing and diapers and crying (both baby and mommy). I can only imagine how much more intense that would be with twins. Now, I think it’s completely okay and normal to have anxieties and fears and some trepidation about what you’d be facing as the parent of twins, but there’d be so many blessings and joys to balance that out . . . right?

We didn’t seek to get pregnant with twins, but we wanted to maximize our chances of getting pregnant at all, so when we underwent IVF, we opted to transfer two embryos. When we found out we were pregnant, we were elated. When we found out we were pregnant with one baby, we were elated. Sure, I’ve wondered about the other blastocyst and what it might have been––a boy? a girl?––but I am not mourning its “loss” because it didn’t stick around for a reason. But if it had stuck, and we had had twins, I’d be okay with that too. You know why? Because we wanted to be parents so badly. We knew and understood the “risk” of twins and we were at peace with it.

Ostensibly, this couple also wanted to get pregnant very badly, or else they wouldn’t have spent so much time, money, and energy into becoming pregnant. But when you enter the realm of fertility treatments, paradoxically you give up some control of the process by taking control of the process. You make so many choices along the way––what path to pursue, what medications to take, how many embryos to transfer, how many cycles to try––that you have to ultimately make peace with knowing that you are still human and you still cannot control everything. You don’t get to pick the gender (except under very limited genetic conditions). You don’t get to choose which embryo(s) will become your child(ren) and which won’t. You do so much, you make so many decisions, and then ultimately, you wait and hope and pray because that’s all you can do. And when the treatment succeeds and there’s a healthy baby on the way, you rejoice.

Like I said, it’s normal to have some apprehension about having a baby, and that goes double for twins (sorry, couldn’t resist making at least one bad pun). But how sad is it that this couple seems to be so unhappy about this pregnancy? And the twins aren’t due until August. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but so much could go wrong in the meantime. Twins usually come early. There are so many potential complications along the way. What if they are preemies? What if they need to spend time in the NICU? What if something even worse happens?

I’m not really sure what point I’m trying to make. I’m still trying to sort it out. I want them to be grateful for the pregnancy, especially since it’s the result of the same process that made our Bucko a reality. But I also don’t want to tell them how to feel or what to think, because I respect that people have different reactions and it’s normal to have mixed feelings about parenthood.

Ultimately, I’m just sad. And I hope they change their minds.

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