I am looking out my bedroom window in to the backyard below where my five children are whooping and hollering with joy on our much loved trampoline. Its about 60 degrees on a sunny February afternoon. Spring can sometimes come early in the south, really early and then slap us with a freak March snow storm.
So I am watching them and as occasional sentimental moms sometimes do, I had a moment. I have them more frequently as they get older because I know these elementary school years are flying by. I will have exactly one year with all five children in the same school. The quads will be in the fifth grade that year and the "baby" will be in kindergarten.
I had a moment of "what if?"
I looked at each of their laughing smiling faces and call to mind each of their personal gifts and weaknesses. What I love about each of them and what drives me crazy about each of them.
I think about how nine years ago I sat in three different specialists offices hearing lectures/ recommendations on the "advantages," prudence, of selective reduction also known as abortion. Scared, hormonal, newly pregnant with, at the time, five babies (the quads were quints until one miscarried at 8 weeks,) elated to be pregnant and afraid to breath wrong lest I have yet another miscarriage. Feeling frail and vulnerable and listening to the experts telling me repeatedly that "it will increase the chances of survival for the remaining multiples" or "it really is expensive to raise that many babies" Seriously? Like I am going to weigh the pros and cons based on a cost per baby basis? Statistics of survival a slight maybe, money? Not on your or their lives.
I respect doctors for their ability to heal and make life or death choices, for researching and developing surgeries, medicines and therapies to make peoples lives better but in this instance my fragile heart had to decide along with my husband if I should allow all the babies growing inside me to live or have a shot at it anyway. I am Catholic by the way so it should have been an instant no to the doctors, but it wasn't, I pondered the consequences of each choice. I questioned the statistics.
What were my chances of carrying four healthy babies to term with out the reduction? I asked the specialist who routinely performed these procedures. The figure I was given was 75%. I thought that was a pretty darn good number considering there was a 100% chance of my living with guilt and regret if I had gone through with the procedure with or without babies in the end. At the time there was a 25% chance of miscarrying one of all of the babies because of the procedure. The reproductive specialist I was seeing informed me that, though she recommended the procedure, she did a have a quadruplet mother chose to abort two of her babies and end up losing the other two due to the procedure itself. I still think about that mom sometimes. I hope she ended up with a child to hold. I can't imagine living with that guilt.
So I actually had a flash forward during one of these selective abortion lectures. It was to a day like today, in fact let's say it actually was today - to myself at 40 years old watching my half grown beautiful, smart happy healthy annoying imperfectly perfect children and thinking which ones would it have been? Which ones would be missing had I listened to all that advice? I shudder each time it crosses my mind because I know which two would be missing and I will mostly likely never tell them. I knew this day would come as it has in various forms over the last 9 years.
All life is precious, leave it in the Father's hands. I know there was a likely possibility that my story would not have had such a fairytale ending and let's be real, we are talking imperfect children here. This is not one of those blogs that waxes poetic on the perfected perfection of my perfect children and my perfect husband and my perfect home. I have various variables and complications they have each brought to my life over the years such as filthy carpets, hand print/crayon decorated walls, huge debt because those little suckers eat A LOT, IEPs for special needs to attend, various medications to purchase for them and for me, lots of tears, lots of frustration, lots of I can't stand this for one more second moments and yet here I am staring at them lovingly out my window, my heart full to bursting because I know I made the right choice. Maybe one of them will be the President of the United States one day or maybe a brilliant scientist who discovers a cure for all infertility thus allowing a new generation of moms to be spared from making this agonizing decision, or maybe they will just turn out to be nice good-hearted people. The world needs those just as much as the former don't you think?
I know I can barely stand the thought of looking at them wondering how my life would be so different without the two the doctors wanted to "reduce." I remember when my decision to forgo the procedure cemented firmly in my heart - "I worked so hard and prayed so hard to get those guys in there and you are NOT going to take them away from me. Only God has that right." I told my perinatologist that this is what I wanted and I wanted to make sure he was going to give his all to helping me carry the pregnancy as far as possible. He assured me he would and he did a great job. I still think fondly of him today.
I made sure to take my four healthy babies back to see all the doctors who had encouraged me to reduce, when they were about 6 months old. No longer looking tiny and fragile like preemies, they were happy and alive. I wanted them to see that I made the right decision and to plant a seed of thought so that the next multiple mom they counseled would have the benefit of my evidence that sometimes the best decision wasn't what medical science determined but what a mom's heart tells her.
P.S. Feel free to view the evidence of my good decision by looking at the blog header above :)
*** I have a friend who made the decision to reduce her large pregnancy and my heart still aches for her. I respect that she did what she felt was necessary at the time and should she read this I hope she knows I do not judge her or think less of her. In fact I think she is fantastic, I just wish she had never been put in that horrible position.