Cindy and her husband both struggled with infertility. Between her hormone imbalance and her husband’s low sperm count, starting a family was going to be difficult. But after a successful round of IVF, the young couple welcomed their first child — a baby boy. When their son reached four months old, the pair used two embryos from the same cycle as that of their son in the hopes of expanding their family. But when those two embryos eventually split into four, Cindy and her husband found themselves confronted with the new dilemma that in many ways defines one sect of modern parenting: to selectively reduce or not?
The couple wanted to use all the embryos from their first cycle before moving on to another, and knowing that IVF could take quite a while, they decided to get a “head start” shortly after the birth of their son. But Cindy attests that from the moment that she learned that she was pregnant with quadruplets, selective reduction was not an option that she was willing to fully consider.
“We are religious and we very much accepted the fact that this was what God wanted to give us,” the mother of five remembers. “But we also had just an overwhelming feeling that those babies were ours. They weren’t embryos for us, they were little babies, our babies. So even after hearing the risk and the complications we just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t for us.”
The young New Jersey mother, then only 23 years old, was informed of all the risks of carrying the babies to term. Aside from the risk of early labor, preeclampsia, developing diabetes, and the fetuses not having enough space to even grow, the physical demands on Cindy’s body were going to be more strenuous than your average uncomfortable pregnancy. She was told that she would need to put on a considerable amount of weight, would most likely have a difficult time walking, would experience breathing challenges as the babies grew, and probably need bed rest.
Nevertheless, despite her decision to carry all four, Cindy and her husband had “lengthy” conversations with both her OBGYN and perinatologist about selective reduction — prompted by their son.
“We were parents at that point to our first son and we felt like we owed it to him to listen to make sure that we were making an informed decision not solely based on how we felt,” she says.
Although Cindy ultimately didn’t face any serious conditions, her “roller coaster” pregnancy did include early labor, constant ultrasounds, and being utterly sleep-deprived given that her quadruplets were constantly kicking around her uterus for space. There was also the painful sensation of her uterus and cervix growing each day to accommodate her two sons and two daughters — all while caring for a baby already on this earth.
Cindy describes both her family and that of her huband’s as reacting with “initial surprise” when hearing that the young couple planned to keep all four. After fearing for the new parents, extended family eventually became happy and supportive.
But despite the pair’s decision to carry those four embryos, Cindy strongly affirms that both she and her husband are pro-choice:
“We are both firm believers in pro-choice,” the mother writes to Mommyish in an email. “Our choices may not be the right ones for others and others may not be the right one for us. Therefore everyone should have the right to choice what is best for them. Would we consider an abortion or reduction? No, but that is our choice.”
In retrospect, and in further examining her “choice,” Cindy isn’t sure that there could be any circumstances that would have caused her to choose a reduction. However, she recognizes the unique scenarios that many parents in her position are faced with.
“Every circumstance is different so I can’t speak to those until I’m faced with those.”