The Best Laid Plans
Did you know that our children are, by definition, fraternal triplets? It’s true, even though there’s a 4-year age difference between Bee and Cakes, and a 7-year age difference between Bee and DJ. How is this possible?
First, a little genetics lesson…
Identical triplets are formed when one egg is fertilized by one sperm. After fertilization the egg divides, and then one half divides again, creating three genetically identical babies (though recent research indicates that they may not be as identical as once believed). However, fraternal triplets occur when 3 eggs are present in the womb at the same time, and are fertilized by three different sperm, creating three genetically different babies. This is why each child looks unique.
When we went through our cycle of in vitro fertilization in February, 2002, the doctor retrieved more than 30 eggs, and each one was fertilized with one of my husband’s sperm. 12 fertilized normally, and at that point we had, erm…let’s see…10 babies would be decaplets, but 12? I guess I would call that a bumper crop. Or a litter. (Actually, Aimee pointed out that 12 would be dodecaplets, because a 12-sided figure is a dodecagon. She’s so smart!)
Anyway, we didn’t transfer all 12 of the embryos into my uterus, for reasons I’m sure I need not explain. Here’s how we ended up with fraternal triplets of different ages:
February, 2002 – 1 fresh embryo is transferred. We become pregnant with Bee. The remaining embryos are cultured and monitored, and 7 are deemed viable for cryogenic freezing. Bee has 7 frozen siblings.
October, 2002 – Bee is born
April, 2005 – 3 frozen embryos are transferred. No pregnancy.
March, 2006 – 3 more embryos are transferred. We become pregnant with Cakes.
November, 2006 – Cakes is born
April, 2009 – We have only one frozen embryo left, and if still viable when thawed (a very big if) we are given a mere 15% chance of pregnancy.
May, 2009 – Our last frozen embryo is thawed and is viable. It’s transferred (see Go Little Embryo, Go!), and miraculously, we become pregnant with DJ. See, we don’t just call him Super Baby because of his size!
February, 2010 – DJ is born, and we have our fraternal triplets. They were all fertilized at the same time, and in the same place (it was a petri dish, but still), but through the miracle of reproductive science, they weren’t born at the same time, or in the same place!
They are fraternal, but when you look at this picture of Bee at age 12 weeks,
This is Cakes at 12 weeks.
My husband just loves to shock people with this story. At first they always think he’s joking, but when he’s finished, they exclaim “That’s amazing!” It kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
I’ve never told you this before, but there was a time when my husband and I considered not transferring that last frozen embryo. After Cakes was born, we sincerely believed that our family was complete. We just couldn’t see ourselves with more than two children. It wasn’t in our plan, so the question of what to do with that last embryo loomed over us. We thought about possibly donating it to another couple, and of course the clinic gave us the option of donating it for research (no), or simply discarding it. It’s astonishing, but thousands of embryos leftover from IVF procedures are discarded every year. We never even considered that option, because we just knew that we couldn’t do it. We have pictures of our children as embryos, and as far as we were concerned, that last little embryo was a child. How could we throw it away like a piece of trash?
We finally reached a decision that we thought was right. We would transfer the embryo, but we would have an unmedicated cycle, without the advantage of hormone supplementation to build an optimum uterine environment. We decided to just leave it up to God. If it was meant to be, it would happen.
To be perfectly honest, we decided this for selfish reasons. We weren’t positive that we wanted another baby, and I didn’t want to put my body through the hell of yet another cycle. The discomfort from the estrogen patches, the pain of the daily shots – it was hard for me to face that again. But as time went on, I became more and more uncomfortable with the idea of the unmedicated cycle. I realized that my worries and fears were the result of a lack of faith and trust in God. I felt that I had a responsibility to that embryo, and I was dishonoring God by not giving it the very best chance I possibly could. My own discomfort and uncertainty…well, they seemed like trivial things. Small sacrifices for the sake of a life.
So I went ahead with the drugs. I did it all again, hoping, but never really believing that I would get pregnant. Of course, by that time I really, really wanted another baby, and the thought that the cycle might fail was difficult to bear. But our merciful, gracious God rewarded us with this precious baby boy, a blessing far greater than we ever expected.
For 7 long years he was in a freezer, just waiting for a chance. A chance at life. He wasn’t in our plan, but he was in God’s plan, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 36 years on this earth, it’s that God’s plans are always, always better than mine.
I thank the good Lord every day for that nudge, for the little voice telling me that I needed to give our last tiny embryo a fighting chance. Because the truth is, I thought my family could be complete without DJ. I never knew how much I needed him until he was here.