In the age of innumerable mommy blogs, parenting sites and confessionals, it's really not surprising to see a few mommies and daddies rip off their rose-colored glasses and vent about the hardships of parenthood.
But a recent pair of articles on Babble.com seem to have rubbed the parenting community the wrong way. An expectant couple wrote two posts -- one from the mother and one from the father -- about their experience with fertility issues and IVF -- in vitro fertilization. They are now pregnant with twins, but instead of being overjoyed, they are, actually, sort of angry.
The couple, who wrote under pen names, said they have a 3-year-old son and wanted to give him a sibling. After trying for a long time to have a baby the natural way, they turned to expensive, exhausting fertility procedures. Facing an IVF treatment, the pair decided to opt for a double implantation in the hopes that one of the embryos would take. Lo and behold, both took, and the couple said they found themselves facing the prospect of three children instead of the two they were hoping for.
The mother's article is titled "I'm expecting twins -- and I feel like I ruined my family." She chronicles her difficult first pregnancy; a year of colicky, sleepless nights; and depression on multiple levels -- first, post-partum, then, from being unable to conceive again.
"I don't want to read the message boards that talk about what a joy twins are and how it's so worth it and how 'this too will pass' and what a blessing it is," she writes. "When I complain that this pregnancy feels extremely more difficult than my first one, I don't want to hear another doctor say, 'Well it's different -- there are two.' None of this makes me feel any better. Quite frankly, it just pisses me off."
"The twins are coming fast," she continues. "And I don't feel a sense of joy. Instead, I feel responsible. We only wanted one."
The father's article begins with ominous predictions of his future he collected from other parents with twins: "The worst thing you can imagine" and "nightmare."
He goes on to describe calculated and loveless sex with conception as its only goal, emasculating runs to the fertility clinic, and the irrepressible fear and guilt he and his wife feel about wishing away a pregnancy they had wanted so badly.
"This time around, we're counting down -- not like expected parents but like cancer patients with only months to live. Enjoy life while you can, for soon it's double the diapers, double the feedings. Half of zero sleep is ... less than zero?" he writes. Both mother and father say they do not know if they will be able to afford two additional children, or how their one-bedroom apartment will sustain a family of five.
"So tell me how this isn't going to suck," he writes. "... In the meantime, I've promised to stop referring to one of the boys as "extra" and have told my wife I will try to refrain from calling my first-born son "the free one."
Their confession contains a lot of meat to chew, and for many commenters, the couple's candor left a bad taste in their mouth. Here is a sampling of comments from below the articles:
"How sad. You knew the risks and you took them. It's called consequences of your actions. ... I'm not sure if I should feel pitty [sic] or disgust."
"These are children, not objects you can return or write a bitchy Yelp review about b/c you didn't get exactly what you ordered. I can imagine that having twins can be daunting and hugely anxiety provoking and I don't hold that against you at all. What I do have a problem with is the way you have publicly verbally flogged your own children b/c you made a decision to bring life into the world without fully understanding or being willing to accept the consequences."
"A red flag went off in my head when she said the only reason they were trying to conceive was to give their existing son a sibling. I kept reading only to feel more grief for their unborn twins. So many women are desperate to have children of their own. No one MADE her get IVF, she CHOSE it and now she blames the universe or God for her 'problem?' Give me a fricken' break."
And, a succinct and vulgar summation: "Boo f---ing hoo, colic ... Just stop."
Still, amid the sea of negativity, a few parents stepped up to support and encourage the couple, and even offer advice:
"Don't let anyone ... let you feel bad about your feelings. There's a natural progression of acceptance and right now you're understandably anxious. Just remember that there are a lot worse situations to be in, and you are stronger than you know. You will get to the happy part, even in the midst of the crazy."
"How is that so many women and mothers can be so judgmental? Is this a memo I missed when I became a mother? To the author--thank you for being honest and owning your feelings."
"When people put themselves out there in this stark and vulnerable way, they have to know that they will receive as much criticism as support. The court of public opinion is harsh. That said, congratulations on seeking professional help to deal with your overwhelming feelings. ... When you pass this stage, and your babies are born, we moms of twins will be right there, virtually and in real life, supporting a new sister. Please make sure to join your local Mothers of Twins Club for support, commiseration, hand-me-downs, and playdates."
An article on Slate weighed both sides of this meta-argument, stating, "This couple has been shamed for airing their unpopular feelings for all to read, but they've done a service to prospective parents who are weighing their own options -- and may now have a better idea of what they're in for."