Following is a series of thoughts on parenting multiples after infertility. A few months ago there was a thread on infertility on the twins digest with many thoughtful comments on the subject. Anyone who posted but does not see your comments here, please resend them if possible for inclusion in the FAQ. Also, anyone else with something to add, please let me know. I am very behind on reading the twins digest, so please send comments directly to Susan Grammer - email: email@example.com. Please use the subject heading: Susan - twinslist FAQ. Thanks.
PARENTING MULTIPLES AFTER INFERTILITY
Susan G, Twins Mailing List:
After many years of anguishing over an inability to build a family in the "normal" way, many prospective parents are quite taken aback by the feelings they have during a long awaited biological pregnancy or the impending birth of an adoptive or surrogate child. After all, the result of the pregnancy test or the call from the adoption agency or attorney was supposed to put an end to this emotional rollercoaster called infertility. Not so. After infertility, impending parenthood is exciting, yet fraught with it's own set of emotions - can you really let yourself believe "this" might be the end of the road or will you set yourself up for disaster in the case of a miscarriage, stillbirth or failed adoption? In the case of a multiple pregnancy, you quite possibly have jumped from the frying pan into the fire in terms of medical care. Even "easy" multiple pregnancies are often considered high risk so you now have a whole new "language" to learn.
You may have been plucked from the "tender loving care" of your infertility doctor, to a busy OB practice where you are just one of the pregnant patients and feel no one "understands" just how much this pregnancy HAS to succeed. In my case I was excited, yet terrified the day my reproductive endocrinologist "released" me to a high risk OB with experience in multiple pregnancies. I sat in the waiting room listening to other women lament the physical and emotional discomforts of pregnancy and felt we had nothing in common. I did not have "morning sickness", I was sick all day. I was losing weight, not gaining no matter how much I tried to eat. Yet I didn't feel I was "allowed" to complain. When I began having back problems and then later preterm labor, I felt I had to be stoic and take it all with a smile, greatful that I'd made it this far. Everyday I felt blessed to have "at least known what it was like to be so uncomfortable". I didn't feel I could share any of this with my infertile friends, the people who had been my emotional lifeline during the infertility years
- I didn't even feel I could share the trials of a multiple pregnancy with formerly infertile friends pregnant with or parenting one child. After all, they were already wondering if they would ever be able to give their miracle child a sibling and I already had a "good chance" of having two babies at once.
The challenge of parenting multiples is also a little different after infertility. It took me a while to feel a "true" bond with other parents of multiples, as I didn't feel I could ask for the help I really could have used when the kids were infants, as I had "asked" for this challenge and should be able to figure out how my husband and I could cope with it ourselves. I attended one Twins Club meeting when 6 mos pregnant and left with the feeling everyone was "complaining" about being parents of twins and triplets rather than feeling they had been blessed by their unique situation. I attended another meeting with my twins when they were 7 weeks old, and found I was beginning to understand where these women were "coming from" but, although overwhelmed and exhausted, I still felt I had no "right" to complain about the challenge of maintaining my household and taking care of day to day errands and chores.
During the next 10 mos, as my husband and I juggled our daily schedules, raising our twins, working two full-time jobs and taking care of our home with no outside help, I began to feel that bond with other POMs growing. When I saw other parents of twins on the street or in a mall, I gravitated towards them - we didn't have to say much to feel supportive of one another, but I still didn't feel I could admit to them just how much of a challenge I found this two baby thing to be. After all, I had BEGGED for this, right? By the time my twins were 12 months old, I truly felt a part of the "multiple parenting" club. I was even offering up the line I'd heard many times from other parents of twins during that first year when our paths crossed during a particularly harrowing shopping trip. "Hang in there, it gets tons easier once they reach a year old."
Now that my twins are two, I am totally comfortable joining in and commiserating about the trials and tribulations (and of course, the indescribable joys) of multiple parenting with other parents of multiples. However I still feel a special bond with those who I know conceived or adopted their twins after a period of anguish over the possibility of never becoming parents. Those are the people who I KNOW understand the depth of love I have for my twins and for the unique, if sometimes challenging, parenting opportunity my husband and I have been rewarded with.
Bethany, Twins Mailing List:
I'm an adoptive mom and wanted to add something for the many of us who are lurking out here. What I have found is that infertility treatment prepares one for the "risk" of multiples. It was a possible outcome that delighted me and terrified my husband. We had one month with four perfect eggs--I still fantasize about that! Ultimately, we did not have the $$ or the courage to go onto the next stage of in vitro.
Adoption was the liberating choice for us. We feel that the path we took was fated and can't imagine parenting any kids besides the ones we have. But I wonder whether my husband would have been able to say yes to adopting twins had we not faced that possibility and accepted it before, in infertility treatment.
We share many issues with parents of twins who result from fertility treatment (for instance, advanced age!). However, I've found that there is an unfortunate (IMHO) secrecy issue with adoption, which keeps many adoptive parents from asking questions or connecting with one another. For that reason, I try to be very open about our adoption and adoption issues.
Nonetheless, one instance where I found myself feeling intensely uncomfortable was at a Twins Club meeting I attended. I didn't join as a direct result of my discomfort, though it also had to do with my mistake in taking my 18-month-olds with me. (Everyone was *literally* fighting over who could hold the infant twins in attendance, while not one person offered to help with my toddlers; I finally had to leave early before the social time where I may have made a connection that could have helped me over the discomfort I felt in being in the same room with 4 pregnant women.) Could I deal with the abundant fertility evident at every meeting? (I don't view this as an unresolved adoption issue, but because I would love to have another child, or even another set of twins.) Would other mothers of twins accept me as an adoptive mother or would they feel threatened by me? I've never forgotten the comment reported to the digest (I'll probably misquote it), when a woman at a Twins Club said the club should be only for "real" twins rather than twins resulting from fertility treatment. Yes, I realize this was one woman maybe having a bad day and feeling small-minded, but how ridiculous and hurtful! All of our twins are "real" twins. Spend a day with my three year olds and you'll conclude that they are not imaginary!!!
Of course, many moms of twins are so generous and inclusive(one of the things I love about the digest). Recently I made friends with a mom of 5-yr-old twins at our swim class. We quickly learned that we're both in our forties, so she assumed my twins were in vitro twins too and started asking pregnancy questions. I said "Actually, we're an adoptive family" and she hugged me! I was surprised but delighted and our differences melted away. After we'd talked for awhile I realized for the first time that my 3-month "euphoria" after we brought Annie and Pearl home was possible precisely because they're adopted. Had I been recovering from 2 1/2 months on bedrest and a caesarian section I, too, may have experienced those early months as a blur.
Adoption of twins after infertility becomes a reality for several reasons, one being, as stated above, that infertility treatment opens a door to the possibility of multiples. Also, although our adoption was private, in International adoptions would-be parents must check a box indicating whether they are interested in twins or higher multiples (and sibling groups). Sadly, many multiples who are released for adoption are released precisely because they are multiples. This is a threatening issue for some people and has to be handled gently.
On the up side, adopted twins are rarely separated today, and even in cross-cultural or closed adoption (ours is open) they have the comfort of knowing at least one biological relative!
Response to some comments on Twins List which upset some formerly "involuntarily childless" parents of multiples:
Those of you on the list who were not infertile could be a great resource to the infertile community since you are often thrown into these types of discussions due to your multiples. After my many years of dealing with my own infertility, and after having learned more medical facts than I ever cared to know about this issue, I feel I can say that the recent comment about infertile people "causing" their problem due to their lifesytle choice is ALMOST NEVER the case. And it hurts SO MUCH to hear this as a commonly held belief in the public sector (and even sometimes from those in the medical field). There is enough guilt and emotional baggage that goes along with infertility, and even when I am holding my happy healthy children, a small amount of that pain will never go away. Because of that I CRINGE to think of how these comments felt to infertile people lurking on this list who don't yet have their miracles to hold. I work in an environment where everyday I pass women with NO prenatal care, obviously drug abusers, towing 5 dirty kids, looking emaciated themselves and sporting ANOTHER belly - probably housing another crack-baby. I worked in this environment during six of my "infertility years". I took no aspirin for cramps or headaches, I drank no alchohol, ran away from cigarette smoke, exersized, ate right, yet I had no child to show for my healthy lifestyle. During this time a close friend was told by her doctor "frankly, Mrs. X, you sterilized yourself by contracting an infection as a teenager". On further inspection of her X-rays by a specialist, it turned out that she was born with a defective uterus and had no tubes to transport the eggs (which she made TONS of and got pregnant on her first IVF try) I saw the distress caused by that uninformed, uncaring diagnosis (took her 6 months to recover enough to get a second opinion) derail her medical treatment and her grad school progress - all because a medical "professional" was uninformed enough to make her believe she had "caused" her illness. Yes, it can happen, but it is rare. Please, parents of multiples, be our allies and help us to teach the world how to support their friends and relatives going through such a challenge. What miracles medicine can achieve, but infertility patients REALLY need to have their emotional health for the treatments to work and a positive public perception of their plight would remove alot of the stumbling blocks.
Thanks for listening
I just read your post on discovering your twins (and about your infertility). I just wanted to say thank you for reminding me of how lucky I am! We too did the fertility route, but for only 3.5 years which I thought was taking forever. I know I would have stuck with it no matter what, but 8 years sounds so very long! And your marriage sounds like it's still in great shape, ours it too, it's even stronger. I guess those metrodin shots helped the husbands get involved! Your post brought tears to my eyes, really. Save it and show your kids someday. Going through all the fertility stuff will really show them how much they are loved. I sometimes look into the future, to when my girls will be teenagers, and know that there will come a time where they may not like our ideas too much but I know through it all I will want them to know how special to me they are and how they are loved. I want them to know that it took modern day medicine to create them but that they were worth every penny(And there were many) and every painful shot. I'm sure you feel the same. These are really special miracles that we have.
Everyday I remind myself how lucky I am and how special my babies are. Yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of the day they came home after 8 days in the NICU, not long I know, but still a very special day for me. They've been home a year now and what a wonderful year it has been.
I'll never lose the bond I had with the infertile community, but that doesn't mean I feel I can share my joys and frustrations of parenting with them. I remember that "core of your being" hurt and sadness too vividly. I also had a wonderful bond with formerly infertile friends who also became parents, but most became the parent of one child and then while I was just beginning to get my life back in order after the first year of raising twins, they were again jumping on the infertility treatment train. Now I can only imagine how difficult those treatment regimens must be with a toddler in tow and I certainly can't express to them the "extra" joys and "extra" frustrations of parenting toddling twins. The fact that I am a parent of multiples means that I definitely have what ALL involuntarily childless people dream of, the "instant family", "two for the price of one".......
Susan G. Twins digest mailing list
An "infertility buddy" of mine who had twins two months before I became pregnant, used to tell me that she would feel, at the end of the day when her twins were asleep, that their parents were going to show up at the front door to take them home any minute - she truly couldn't believe they "belonged" to she and her husband. This same "buddy" donated her leftover Pergonal and Metrodin to me via my Doctor. When my twins were 2 mos old, I sent my leftovers to a friend of hers via her Doctor. She conceived by IVF using the leftover "lucky fertility meds". They must of lost their potency though.........she ONLY had one miracle baby.
Suzy, twins digest mailing list
I have a similar story about "lucky" pergonal, too. On my second (and successful) cycle of pergonal/metrodin, my fertility doctor gave me all my medication for free. He said it was donated by someone who didn't need it any more because she got pregnant. Two other patients of his had become pregnant on that same stock before me and by the time I got to use it, my doctor was freely calling it a "lucky" batch. I don't know how many other people got to use it after me nor what the outcomes were. But I do truly believe that amongst all the science and seriousness of infertility treatment, there lurks a little magic, as well. Incidentally, I saved two vials for next time, just in case........
I went to my first MOT meeting when I was 5 mos pregnant - I didn't feel that I belonged at all. It seemed that everyone was there to complain about how difficult it was to raise twins or triplets. I believed I would be able to become a parent to my twins without voicing a single complaint, frustration or negative feeling - after all, I put my whole being into trying to become a parent - how could I possibly find anything less than perfect about the experience. Now that I have lived the overwhelming exhaustion of the early months as every parent of multiples does and dealt with the day to day logistical issues (ie grocery shopping with two 15mo olds, getting to the car in the rain, etc), I join into these frustration venting conversations among parents of multiples without a second thought.
Except sometimes it comes back - especially if a friend has a miscarriage or I find out that a coworker is taking Pergonal injections and hopes she ends up with twins. It is especially eyeopening when a friend who had one child ends up faced with secondary infertility. How can I possibly have a single frustration when it comes to my twins?
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