By Amber Leventry, The Next Family
One day my daughter came home from school and excitedly told me about a new game she played called Who’s Missing. With all of their eyes closed, one classmate is picked by the teacher to hide under a blanket. When they open their eyes, the group has to figure out who is missing. The game is pretty simple, but the sweet innocence of a preschooler’s deduction skills makes it wildly mysterious. And my daughter loves to problem-solve, even if it means the answer is staring her in the face in the form of a friend’s shoe sticking out from under a blanket.
Who’s Missing left quite an impression on my daughter, so that night she demanded we play a few rounds after dinner. The game takes on a whole new feel, though, when the person under the blanket is covered up by the almost five year old trying to guess who is missing. Nevertheless, after Eva bossed one of us under the blanket, she left the room until we told her we were ready for her to come in and figure out who was hiding. She became instantly furious if both of her brothers were under the blanket instead of one. She threw a tantrum if our dog tried to join in. She was clearly disappointed in our inability to play the game right. We were the worst for not recreating something so magical that had happened at school just hours earlier.
I was not offended when she declared that the game was over. Being bossed around by any of my children is incredibly boring and irritating. I love to sit and do stuff with my kids; sign me up for LEGOs, blocks, drawing, or reading. But when playing with my kids, especially my daughter, involves being handed a script on what to say when and instructions on how to hold the whale I was told to use while playing Sea Ponies, I would rather stab myself in the eye with a fork.
I was also glad to be done playing because my mind was elsewhere. After jamming one of her twin brother’s heads under the blanket and then shouting the game’s name, my brain instantly made a correlation to Baby C, the fetus we chose to eliminate during my partner’s second pregnancy.
When Amy became pregnant for the second time, the ultrasound to confirm the beginning of a healthy pregnancy revealed three healthy fetuses, not one. The same plan which helped us conceive our first child two years prior, a low dose of Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI), resulted in triplets. Instead of adding one baby to our family, one sibling to our daughter’s world of being an only child, we were looking at the potential of adding three.
Based on many factors I have written about previously, we made the decision to reduce the triplet pregnancy to a twin pregnancy via a process called selective reduction. I have explained our decision-making process and how the health of Amy and the babies was the driving force. I have articulated that I do not regret our decision. Our goals were a safe pregnancy and healthy babies. Both were achieved.
But when our family of five was rolling around on the living room floor, being nipped at by our Golden Retriever, sweating under the weight of a fleece blanket on a warm evening, and being asked the direct question, I felt like she was missing. We don’t know the gender of the fetus that was chosen for the reduction. But when I let my mind imagine what life would be like if we had not done the procedure, I imagine Baby C would have been a girl. I can see two boys and two girls at the dinner table. I can hear a fourth voice calling me Mama. I can feel the weight of one more baby on my lap.
But when I wonder what if, I don’t doubt our decision. To wonder about the good or happy scenarios, I also need to think about the negative. What if we didn’t eliminate a fetus? What if we tried for three babies and ended up with unhealthy versions of each, if any at all? What if we did the procedure, but Baby A or Baby B was chosen? What if we didn’t have our goofy Ben or our soulful Ryan? What would life be like if we didn’t have these exact children fighting over our attention and for real estate under a blanket too small to cover all three?
Thankfully, I will never know. Life is not about dwelling on the what ifs, it’s about enjoying the wildly mysterious aspects of it, even if the answers are staring you in the face. I know we made the right decision. I know the sacrifice we made and I am grateful for the guidance and care provided by the doctors who helped us bring our twin boys into our lives and hearts. I know there will be moments for the rest of my life when I think about Baby C. I see glimpses of who is missing in all three of my kids. Not in just what could have been, but also in what is because of her absence.