Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh, for crying out loud

Did y'all see that an Australian IVF patient is suing her doctor because she had twins?

Apparently, the woman in question had requested a single-embryo transfer, the doctor mistakenly put two back, and she had non-identical twins. She considered putting one up for adoption(!), but decided instead to sue him for the cost of raising one of the babies.

This, to me, is just the height of idiocy. Yes, the doctor screwed up, but a) accidents happen; and b) multiples are a fact of life in infertility. Nobody can promise you that there's always just a single follicle, or that the embryo won't split into identical twins(as IVF embryos appear slightly more likely to do). I'm quite sure the woman signed consent forms to that effect somewhere along the way. She darn sure signed them for the IUI procedures she'd had done previously.

If she'd gotten pregnant with IUI twins, or IVF identical twins, the outcome would have been the same. She'd have suffered the physical difficulties of a twin pregnancy, the potential prematurity issues, and the costs of equipping and raising two babies. She accepted those risks, which can't be blamed on anyone else, and it's hard not to escape the conclusion that she's only suing the doctor because she can.

I know it's hard to have a twin pregnancy, to birth two, to equip a nursery, to nurse and comfort and take care of two tiny babies. However, as they grow, I've also discovered the joys of twins -- the way they entertain each other, the "sharing game" they play, the way they elevate my husband to parenting equality rather than being the secondary parent. It requires more work and more money, but I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Admittedly, my pregnancy was not as bad as it could have been, and my babies have been very easy for twins. Still, I find it hard to see what they're so upset about. They don't appear to have had prematurity issues, or any maternal issues beyond bedrest and postpartum depression. I can name five women off my blogroll who have had worse stories than theirs, from a medical standpoint. As for the costs of raising twins, well, I equipped a nursery -- nicely enough that it got photographed in our local paper -- bought a bigger vehicle, quit my well-paying job, and am contemplating buying a larger home. We are not independently wealthy, but somehow we've managed to do all that without landing in the poorhouse. So yes, I find it really hard to muster up any tea and sympathy for them.

I accepted the potential dangers and unpleasantnesses of having two, and judged it a fair trade-off for being able to have any baby. When the grocery-store ladies tell me I've got my hands full, I often respond, "Better full than empty!" And that's how I really feel. Yes, I believe that singleton pregnancies are a better outcome for infertility treatment. However, given the current fiscal and technical realities of IVF and IUI, that's just not always how it works, and multiples are the risk you have to accept. Ultimately, I think it's better that we have multiples than that we have no baby at all.

Whatever you think about the people who have high-order multiples and don't selectively reduce, at least all of their children know that they were wanted. I also think it says something that there hasn't been a lawsuit (that I've heard of) where the clinic gets sued by parents of high-order multiples, who have endured much greater financial, physical, and emotional costs than someone who "just" has twins.

What kind of message will this one day send to her babies, that she didn't want one of them? They won't know which was the unwanted twin, so each will assume it was herself (or, during spats, the other). They'll know that their mom seriously considered giving one of them away, or perhaps selectively reducing one of them (though the article doesn't mention this, I'm assuming that it was probably discussed if adoption was). Their twin bond, and the joys of having a sister, will be the things their mother didn't want them to have. How will that make them feel?

I try not to judge other people's choices, but this makes me angry. This couple chose to do ART, understanding that it carries a risk of multiples. They got a "good" health outcome with their multiples, and have a family that many women would kill for. Now they're suing the doctor, and saying things in court that their children will eventually hear and never forget. I hope that the $400K they're asking for is worth it.


Eva said...

I hadn't read that, but it does sound quite loony. You want to be a parent so badly, but only one (or one at a time). Non-IVF moms don't have these choices; some people get pregnant with twins all by themselves, and who can they sue? How many people would be so happy to be in her place? Two healthy babies.

BTW, now we need to see photos of your nursery!

Stacie said...

Here here! This woman sounds like a dreadful nightmare. I hope she is just suffering some really strange from of PPD and gets better soon. Twins are hard. Yes. But it is a wonderful kind of hard

Maybe that $400,000 will pay for all the therapy those kids are going to need when they discover how unwanted one of them was.

And, yes, nursery photos, please.

laura said...

I've been really angry about that story as well - thank you for spelling it out so clearly.

I think so much of it goes back to responsiblity ... personal responsibility. As a society, we're loosing our grasp on it. We're eager to sue for anything that doesn't go our way, that's not fair, whether it's hot coffee in the drive-thru lane or (gasp!) getting two babies when you only wanted (and paid for) one.

Count me as one of those twin moms who has thought many, many times how much easier life would be with just one. But wow, easier isn't always better. I feel so lucky having my two little ones - they may very well be the only ones we have.

This woman, if she needed to use IVF, has got to have some experience with the idea that life isn't fair. Get over it!!