Why I Decided To Have A Selective Reduction

selective reductionAt 42, Mia was described as being of “advanced maternal age” by her doctors. Unpartnered, she decided to become a single mother with an initial round of fertility drugs and insemination. But after two years of aggressive treatments, including IVF, sperm and egg donors, and $80,000, Mia found herself pregnant with more embryos than she could feasibly sustain — both physically and financially.

Prior to conception, Mia was on a fertility cocktail of six shots a day. But after four disappointing rounds of insemination with sperm donors, the pregnancy hopeful tried a different doctor who suggested egg donors as well. Determined to carry a child, she consented to four cycles of IVF with two different sets of sperm and egg donors. But after conceiving a single child, Mia suffered a devastating miscarriage at nine weeks.

She forged ahead with another cycle resulting in 11 embryos — none of which her doctor said appeared very promising. Upon transferring three embryos, Mia was told that this round was very much a last ditch effort given that the rest weren’t even up to freezing standards. She was informed that the one embryo was Grade A while the two others were Grade B.

A pregnancy test later revealed that she had successfully conceived. But at the ultrasound, Mia was sick to her stomach to learn that she was carrying triplets — a severe risk to her health, according to her doctors and OBGYN.

“I wanted to be ecstatic, but I was more depressed than ever,” the mother remembers. “I was 43 years old, 5″3 and a single parent. My OBGYN and fertility doctors all advised me for the sake of my health and the health of the babies to reduce. It was in all of our best interests to reduce to twins. I remember my OBGYN saying , ‘if you were 25, and 5 foot 10 with a husband to help, you should have all three of them no problem, but you’re not. You are high risk and looking at maybe getting to 28 weeks if you are lucky.’ ”

Given the advice by her medical team, Mia muses that a selective reduction really wasn’t her decision to make considering the safety of all the babies was in jeopardy. She had the ability to ensure that at least two of them had a stronger chance at living. Considering how far she had already traveled in her arduous journey to become pregnant, she remained fearful of losing yet another opportunity to carry a child to term. But being faced with reduction upon finally conceiving felt like “an absurd form of torture.”

“I am finally pregnant and having to decide about a reduction,” she recalls. “The thing I wanted the most in life came with the biggest price.”

Although Mia did consider the possibility of carrying all three children to term — provided that they would even survive — finances clouded her chances. Questioning whether she would be able to care for three children alone was further compounded by the possibility of one or perhaps more being born with special needs, and thereby needing additional care. Costs for childcare while she worked to support triplets also seem impossible, coupled with her inability to pay her bills if she was put on bed rest at 28 weeks.

“The list went on and on,” Mia says. “I knew I had to do it. I meditated, prayed, asked God to please take the third baby away before week 16 so nature could have chosen for me. It was horrifying. I cried all the time.”

Mia remembers the procedure itself as “brutally awful and disgusting.” Her doctor determined which embryo was the weakest based on size, development, and where the triplet was located in relation to her cervix. Her doctor produced a giant needle which was inserted into her stomach. The mother describes the sensation as feeling like “acid for a period of time.” Physically, she felt fine after the procedure, which was followed by an ultrasound to determine that the reduction was successful. A few days of bed rest followed.

“Honestly, I blocked the whole thing,” Mia says when trying to recall the details. “I am not sure I have ever recovered mentally.”

To this day, Mia has concealed her selective reduction from her “very religious” Catholic family. Although some of her friends are aware of her reduction, she plans to take the experience to the grave when faced with her own parents. She remains understandably sensitive about her decision, concealing from some that she was even confronted with such a choice. But following the birth of her twins, Mia doesn’t have any regrets despite how agonizing the experience was for her.

“I feel like I made the absolute right choice. I have two amazingly healthy, intelligent, wonderfully adjusted little girls. I cannot imagine what our lives would have been like if I had not done it.”

Even with her retrospective self-assurance, the mother of two admits that occasionally her mind does wander into tender territory. Would the third baby have been a boy or a girl? Who would the baby have looked like?

“Then I bitch slap myself into reality,” she says. “Life if challenging enough and I am so grateful for my children.”

(photo: Kostia/ Shutterstock)

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