Lesson 5: It’s Hard Not To Judge Sometimes

Being non-judgmental isn’t always easy.

I recently came across this article about selective fetal reduction in the case of twin pregnancy.
I admit, my first, (and second) reaction was gut-wrenching horror and deep sadness.
I was pregnant with twins once, you see.

The night before my first ultrasound, my husband and I were on our “honeymoon”. We spent a night away from the kids after our friends threw us a wedding. At about three a.m. Sunday morning, I woke from an extremely vivid dream in which the ultrasound technician looked at me over her screen and announced that there was, in fact two babies in there. Two peanuts, two alien-like sort-of heads, two hearts, both beating.

I shook my husband and told him, and his half-asleep reply came: “Cool, we can name them Luke and Leia.” before he rolled back over and resumed his own- I can only assume-light-saber filled-dreams.

The next day, that actually happened.

I admit, I was stunned. It was beyond surreal. I felt so many things. Excitement. Awe. And yes, even a glimmer of fear.

Mostly, I was thrilled. Sure, there were some holy-shit-TWO- newborns moments. Will I ever sleep again? How will I leave the house alone? And: FIVE kids. Eeek. So I read everything I could get my hands on and started accosting random strangers with twins with my questions. And I told people. Because I couldn’t contain my awe/panic/joy.

Sometime before 12 weeks, baby A died.
There were no symptoms. No bleeding. No cramping. Nothing other than an odd feeling of being “less pregnant” around 10 weeks.
These things happen, I was told. Maybe there was something wrong with him, I was counseled. I still had one healthy baby, I was reminded.

To say I didn’t take it well would be an extreme understatement. I spent the rest of my pregnancy googling “Hidden Twin Syndrome”  and feeling my belly obsessively. Maybe they were wrong when they couldn’t find a heartbeat. Maybe he didn’t really vanish. Maybe maybe maybe.
But he did die. He did vanish.

I suppose it’s understandable then, that my initial reaction to this article was something along the lines of: Fuck You.

I judged.

How could anyone willingly put themselves through that? I wondered. How could they, so callously, it seemed, destroy something that I’d do anything to have back? How could they deprive their remaining child of their twin, a relationship that is purportedly one of the most special bonds two people can share? I mean, they’d have been womb-mates, built in best friends for life! How could anyone take that away from their child because it’s inconvenient for them?

And I judged.

Though have not been in the shoes of these women and I cannot know what their lives are like or what experiences and facts their choice was based on, I know that if it was me, today, I would not make the same choice that they did.

And I judged.

I went away from the article. Tried to set it aside. But I kept coming back. I read the comments.
All of them.

It took awhile. And it hurt. It still hurts. But, I realized something eventually, reading those comments.
A great deal of them contained the phrase: “I am pro-choice, BUT…”

This started to get under my skin. It worked its way past my gut, past my heart, past my own experience. Past my judgment.

Into my brain.

Pro-Choice means PROCHOICE Not only choices we agree with. Not only choices we, ourselves would make. Not even only choices we feel are moral.

If we believe that a woman should have the right to choose whether or not to be pregnant, then shouldn’t she be able to choose how many children she is pregnant with? How is this different fundamentally than say, having an abortion after having three children already, because she knows she can not support a fourth? Putting aside the fertility medicine and babies as products aspect of this, it comes down to a woman (or family) deciding how many children they feel they can handle, doesn’t it?
(Note: While the consumeristic aspects of this story do bother me, and were harped on endlessly in the comments, I think that the core issue goes beyond that. This is now done for naturally occurring twins as well as “test-tube babies” so I’m choosing to skip over that part a bit, and focus on the act itself-not how it came to be.)

Then there were comments that said this: “This should be made illegal at once “

As sick as this issue makes me feel, this bothers me more. What about women who can’t physically handle carrying twins to term? What about those who can’t bear the financial burden of twins? Will  women deemed healthy be forced to carry to term and put one up for adoption?

A lot of people also seemed to hold the position of, “Well, if they didn’t want twins they shouldn’t have done IVF with two embryos.”

The thing is, in this country anyway, women undergoing IVF are encouraged to implant several embryos at a time to increase the odds of creating even one healthy baby. Some have even claimed feeling pressured to by the doctors themselves, because doing one at a time is considered a waste of time and money. Yes, there is a risk of multiples when doing IVF, but there’s also an increased chance of spontaneous twinning occurring, for some reason the odds of transferred embryos splitting is higher. So, theoretically a person could do everything to insure only one baby, and still end up with two. Should this woman be forced by law to carry both if that’s not what-for whatever reason-she wants? And where does it end? Will women be forced to keep triplets if a doctor thinks your body can “handle it”?

I’m not going to say that I came to a conclusion. That I know what’s right here. Because I don’t, not really. I know what I would do. But I haven’t walked in “Jennys” shoes.
I know that this makes me uncomfortable. Both the act AND the condemnation of it, somehow.
As hard as I try not to judge others for their choices, I can’t say that I wouldn’t judge a friend for making this choice. A lot of the people who spoke up about this either had twins or were twins themselves. I can’t really blame them for their harsh reactions. Because I get it.
But I’m trying really hard to get the other side of it as well.
What do you think?

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4 comments
  1. Joanna said:

    You’ve put into words many of the feelings I was having while reading the original post and comments. Thank you for reminding me to keep an open mind!

  2. I am admittedly rather judgy about this. But. I am silent about it because I believe choice is choice, just as you said. Screw what I think the right choice should be or would be for me. It’s not me and ultimately, why is it even my business what the woman beside me in the grocery store is doing with or to her body? I disagree with selective reduction because, well, how the fuck do you know which to select? Eenie meenie? See, that was cruel. And unnecessary. And my mcjudgingness coming out even in the face of me trying to be impartial. I think that I would likely judge a friend regardless of her reasons. And in the same instance support her and try to accept her justification. But I think I’d much prefer to not even know that the choice was made.

    • Yeah, same here. If you do it, don’t tell me. It would break my heart. Most women I knew were jealous when I was pregnant with twins, but a few, well, I got the feeling they’d be open to this procedure. One is an adamant “One and Done-er” who can’t understand why anyone would ever have more than one kid because it’s SELFISH. And you can’t possibly give more than one a good life unless you are super rich. (!)

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