Written by Mrs. Albert Garland* for Babble.com
My husband recently wrote on Babble about our struggle with the news that we're expecting twins, the result of an IVF performed with the goal of adding just one more child to our family. His essay received a lot of comments -- mostly negative. While I share my husband's sentiments, I wanted to tell my own version of our experience.
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We currently have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son. While my pregnancy with him was relatively easy, we were hit with severe colic during his first year that wreaked havoc on our lives. We've pretty much had struggles with sleep and behavior ever since.
Yet despite these challenges, we still wanted another child -- a sibling for our son, mind you, not so much for us. We spent the next two years trying to conceive. Every month when I would get my period, I didn't just feel grief or disappointment -- I was losing hope. I was exhausted and depressed. The emotional pain was incomprehensible to me. I was eroding as a person, losing weight and not being the best mom, wife, or professional.
Thoughts started running through my head: I may be old, but I am a healthy, good person. How could the universe not give me another child? Why must I suffer? What is the lesson behind all of this, if indeed everything happens for a reason?
The twins are coming fast, and I don't feel a sense of joy. Instead, I feel responsible. We only wanted one.
Then my husband and I elected to pursue an aggressive fertility plan, and I found myself once again hopeful -- for about a week. Nothing was wrong health-wise with either of us, and yet even with a gradual variety of treatments it was still not happening. So we tried IVF.
The doctors had discussed two options we could take with IVF: either one strong embryo and one not-so-strong embryo would be implanted or two okay embryos would be implanted, with the hope that one would take. Knowing this, my husband and I agreed to transfer both embryos. But the day of transfer my doctor said: "Good news! You have one stellar embryo and one really good one."
I froze. Two strong embryos was a game changer, and I was panicking. We knew we only wanted one more child; the thought of having two -- now a real possibility -- was emotionally and financially overwhelming. But the other voice in my head was the hopeless me, the altered me with articles and data swimming in my head about how IVF does not work the first round, how statistically the chances are so much better if two embryos were transferred.
My doctor asked if I should call my husband to help decide whether we wanted to transfer just one embryo. Were we to do this, the doctor said the success rate of just one implantation was 40 percent, while transferring two embryos increased the chances of success to 65 percent. I was at rock bottom and desperate to be pregnant. I didn't know how much more treatment I could take. So I made the final call: we transferred both embryos.
Weeks later, I lay on the table -- dazed and unhappy -- as I received the news that there were two healthy sacs present. We were pregnant with twins -- twin boys, we'd find out later. In my mind I had done nothing less than ruin our family.
Why am I not overcome with joy? Well, it sure doesn't help that I feel like shit pretty much all of the time physically. The twin pregnancy has slowed me down and I can't care for my son the way I used to: I can't get on the floor, I can't bend over, I can't pick him up, I can't run after him. The low iron and gestational diabetes only add to the fatigue. During my first singleton pregnancy I was working out, working full time, taking a class at night, and keeping up with many of the household responsibilities -- and that was when my husband and I only had ourselves to take care of. Now my husband is doing everything and running himself into the ground.
I don't want to read the message boards that talk about what a joy twins are and how it's so worth it and how "this too will pass" and what a blessing it is. When I complain that this pregnancy feels extremely more difficult than my first one, I don't want to hear another doctor say, "Well it's different -- there are two." None of this makes me feel any better. Quite frankly, it just pisses me off.
Before pursuing fertility I was a positive person, a cheerleader type with the mindset that everything happens for a reason. Now I find my mindset has shifted. While I am grateful we are pregnant, I am changed. There has been too much pain, too much struggle, and not enough learning. The "glass half full" person is no longer. The twins are coming fast, and I don't feel a sense of joy. Instead, I feel responsible. We only wanted one.
I wonder how much strain having two infants at the same time will put on my marriage and older son. We are not rich. We work hard to provide a good life for our son, and we have dreams, as all families do, of going to Disney, college, etc. I worry about how much of our attention and resources will be taken away from our firstborn. We also now need a bigger car and a bigger house. What had I done?
I thought of colic, and the change that postpartum depression had inflicted on me the first time around. Why would the universe, God, karma, whatever, whomever think it was a good idea to bring forth twins in our lives? When would anything go my way? Before I had children, it seems like it used to.
Now, seven months into my pregnancy -- and in therapy -- I still feel remorse and am terrified of our future. When I chose to plant both embryos, I made a decision that forever impacted our lives, and not necessarily for the better. The shrink says I am transferring my memories of my first challenging infant experience to these unborn babies. Maybe I am; the old me would naively think that there's no way these babies could be as bad, but the new me is expecting the worst.
I completely acknowledge that for many, the journey to conceive is more difficult than our story. I realize better people than me are out there feeling joyful and benefiting from a far sunnier perspective. For anyone who is worried about me and my husband, our son brings us a ton of joy. We are always amazed by how much we love him, and I'm sure this indescribable love will extend to his brothers. But for now, I'm having trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
*Editor's note: This mom wishes to remain anonymous, so we've published this piece under a pen name.