“I feel really comfortable putting in three.”
That’s what the reproductive endocrinologist said the day of our embryo transfer. After a cancelled IVF cycle and a failed cycle using two perfect embryos, we were down to three poor quality embryos and one last chance.
On the way to the appointment that day, my husband and I discussed how many embryos we thought would be appropriate to transfer. We knew we didn’t want to take any chances of having another failed cycle. We also didn’t know what we would do with the leftover embryo if we only transferred two. Would we try to refreeze it and use it later to grow our family? Would we adopt it out to another family? We didn’t think we could just destroy it. It felt too much like a part of us. The ethical conundrums that are brought about by assisted reproductive therapy are surreal.
Although we suspected transferring two embryos would be the most responsible choice, we were leaning toward three. When the doctor came in, we were surprised to hear him say, “I feel really comfortable putting in three.” The motto of his practice was “One Healthy Baby” and higher order multiples are considered an adverse outcome of fertility treatments. But we trusted him and trusted our own gut instincts. We signed on the dotted line.
There are dozens of times over the last 20 months that my mind has gone back to exactly that moment and wondered if it was, in fact, a lapse in judgment. At the time, we were given a 30% chance of having one child, a 15% chance of twins and <1% chance of triplets. At the time, we were so desperate to have a family that we didn’t want to risk the heartache of another failure. At the time, we didn’t know we would be in the <1%.
“I feel really comfortable putting in three,” is a sentence that my husband and I say to one another often when we are feeling overwhelmed. When three one-year-olds are screaming and clawing up my legs as I am trying to prepare lunch, I will think of that moment. If we are out in public and struggling with the logistics of managing all three, one of us will often look at the other and utter that sentence.
It’s a strange feeling to know that we consented to this possibility. It wasn’t purely chance. If we had spontaneously conceived triplets, it might be easier to say, “This is the hand we were dealt,” and get on about our lives. But knowing that we chose to place three embryos inside a fertile uterus means that having three babies at once is a risk that we accepted. We could have made a different choice.
It’s hard not to imagine what it might have been like if we had chosen to put in only two embryos. I wonder if I could have carried them closer to term and avoided the heart-wrenching NICU stay. I wonder if I could have had a less risky pregnancy and a less frightening delivery. I wonder if I could have breastfed or if I could have held them right after they were born. I wonder a lot of things.
I sometimes look at my children and wonder which two it would have been. Which two would be in my arms? And which baby would still be in a freezer somewhere? Would he or she ever become a member of our family, or would another family adopt our final embryo?
From time to time, I have these fantasies of an easier life. A life with only one or two babies. But these visions, while simpler, are strangely empty and hollow. Imagining a life without any one of these tiny people in it is almost painful. Just thinking about it makes me miss them.
Before I longed for a family, I was very pragmatic and rational. I would have told myself that having three babies at once was an unnecessary risk and hardship. I would have advised myself to make the safer choice and only put in two embryos. Now that my children are here, I couldn’t disagree more. I now understand the virtue of making decisions out of passion rather than logic. How it can sometimes change your life for the better. It certainly did for me.
Hello, there! I’m Krysta. If you’re new to The Thoughtful Mom, welcome! And thank you for stopping by.
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