When IVF Couples Regret Conceiving Twins

They have a right to be disappointed—and afraid of the huge life change ahead of them

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When a Colorado couple underwent in vitro fertilization late last year in the hopes of conceiving a sister for their preschooler son, they were shocked when the wife became pregnant with twin boys. But instead of stifling their apprehensions, they went public with his-and-her rants on the parenting website Babble. Under the pseudonym Albert Garland, the husband wrote, “To say we’re excited would be an exaggeration. More truthfully, we’re pissed. And terrified, and angry, and guilty, and regretful … As horrible as this might sound, we found ourselves wishing these twins away … This time around, we’re counting down — not like expected parents but like cancer patients with only months to live.”

“In my mind I had done nothing less than ruin our family,” the wife added. “The twins are coming fast, and I don’t feel a sense of joy … the new me is expecting the worst.”

Predictably, their Babble bitching sessions sparked an uproar, with readers contributing nearly 1,000 comments — many calling their views “disgusting” and “heartless” and writing that “they don’t deserve those babies.” There was the sense that these parents were inexcusably naive about IVF, a process that they should have known results in twins 20% to 30% of the time, and that the world of infertility was one in which any pregnancy, especially an IVF one, should be considered a blessing.

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But the couple’s flair for the dramatic notwithstanding, their posts aren’t outrageous. They’re refreshing. This husband and wife had the courage to voice the true fears and worries that many parents think about but don’t feel welcome to express, much less post publicly for the world to see. They have a right to be disappointed, and perhaps the more they come to terms with that, the better they can get mentally prepared for the huge life change ahead of them.

In fact, once we learn a little more about the “Garlands,” their reactions seem wholly rational. The family lives in a one-bedroom apartment. After the birth of their son three years ago, the couple suffered through the baby’s horrendous colic (and ongoing sleep and behavior problems) and the mother’s postpartum depression. Then came a difficult twin pregnancy. “I can’t care for my son the way I used to: I can’t get on the floor, I can’t bend over, I can’t pick him up, I can’t run after him. The low iron and gestational diabetes only add to the fatigue … Now my husband is doing everything and running himself into the ground,” she writes. Did I mention that they live in a one-bedroom apartment?

Mr. and Mrs. Garland are legitimately concerned about how their minds, health and marriage will survive more upheaval. “My wife and I know better than to think that life with three children is going to be perfect … Our fear is not the new parent fear of the unknown. It’s the smart, informed fear of the known,” the father writes. He’s right to be nervous. Raising newborn twins is hard. Raising three boys under 5 is hard. Thankfully, amid all the online condemnation, some readers offered commiseration and tips to survive the shock.

The Garland twins are probably already here. (The father wrote his piece in April, when the boys were four months along, and the mother wrote hers in June, seven months into the pregnancy. Their posts enjoyed a new round of publicity this week.) So we don’t know the rest of the story. But we should congratulate their parents for their brutal honesty. They’ve opened the door for other parents-to-be, especially those who used IVF who could benefit from talking about their feelings, even the uglier ones. By being so bluntly realistic about it from the get-go, they’ll probably be more prepared than other couples who uncritically coo about their “bundles of joy” and then feel blindsided by the challenges they never saw coming.

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