Friday, January 7, 2011

Twins, more or less

When is a twin not a twin - at least in the usual sense?
  1. When the mother decides that two twins are too many and reduces her pregnancy to one. Pregnancy reduction, as it is euphemistically known, is usually reserved in cases of triplets or greater, whose gestation would jeopardize their lives and those of the mother. But it is becoming more common - and increasingly questioned as ethically dubious - to selectively reduce one of a pair of twins because of the convenience rather than the medical need. A fertility doctor notes that abortion in North America is not limited by the reason for the procedure. In this recent case, an unnamed Toronto couple put off their decision to have children until they were in their 40s. A year after the birth of a son, an ultrasound revealed that the woman was 7 weeks pregnant with twins. She explains, "It came as a complete shock....We’re both career people. If we were going to have three children two years apart, someone else was going to be raising our kids....All of a sudden our lives as we know them and as we like to lead them, are not going to happen....I’m absolutely sure I did the right thing....I had read some online forums, people were speaking of grieving, feeling a sense of loss. I didn’t feel any of that. Not that I’m a cruel, bitter person....I just didn’t feel I would be able to care for [twins] in a way that I wanted to.
  2. When the twins have different fathers. Last month, a woman in Poland joined a small group of women to have given birth to twins by 2 different men, a condition known as heteropaternal superfecundation. The result of an extramarital affair, the situation ended in divorce, as it did last year for the parents of twins born 3 years earlier in Turkey and in 2007 for a couple in China. An even more drastic case in Istanbul left twins of different fathers born in 2006 wards of the state. Willem Stuart stayed with his wife Wilma when he learned that he was the father of only one of their twins born in 1993, the other the product of a mix-up at their in vitro fertilization clinic in the Netherlands. And in Texas, Mia Washington's partner James Harrison stood by her when he learned in 2009 that he was the father of only one of their 11-month-old twins Justin and Jordan (2nd image) and that it was not the fault of the lab.
  3. When a triplet is born 11 years after the birth of her twin sisters. How, you ask? Because their mother had endometriosis and polycystic ovaries which reduced her chances of pregnancy, so doctors harvested 24 eggs. They fertilized 14 of them in a single day with the sperm of her husband Adrian, but implanted only 2 in 1998, resulting in the birth of Bethony and Megand Shepherd. When they decided to have another child recently, one of the frozen embryos was implanted and resulted in the birth of Ryleigh (pictured with her sisters at 3 months in the 1st image). Mrs. Shepherd explains, “It seemed strange to think that we were using embryos that we had stored all those years ago, that were conceived at the same time as the girls. We knew that if we had another baby it would in effect be the girls’ triplet as they were all conceived at the same time. We didn’t know if it would work, and we agreed that we would just have one go with one embryo and if it didn’t work we wouldn’t try again. It was one last chance, and if it was meant to be, then it would happen. The girls are thrilled to have a sister – and they know that she was conceived at the same time that they were, but has been in the freezer. She’s a really happy baby and has got a really good appetite – it’s as though she’s making up for lost time.”

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