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by Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS


How it Happens

The goal of parents who artificially twin babies is almost always the same, no matter how these babies arrive: instant family. It is a logical, understandable goal, born out of great frustration, long-term disappointment, and pain. But pseudo-twinning is usually not a carefully thought through or researched goal and it comes from self-centered thinking rather than baby-centered thinking. Most of the time it reflects parents' nearly desperate need to regain control over their family planning and to "get" a child. Would-be parents who have "failed" in so many ways during infertility treatment, for example, are often unable to believe in their potential for success in becoming parents to an extent that allows them to think in the baby-centered way that is the heart of effective parenting. They simply don't know about or understand the need for emotional and practical preparation through a psychological pregnancy with each of their children unless adoption professionals take extra, careful time to explain the concept and its benefits to them.

Actually, most people enmeshed for a long time in a quest to become parents have great difficulty projecting beyond having a baby placed in their aching, empty arms. Partially because medical providers often have not insisted that patients think about and communicate about anything beyond today's test and next month's treatment regimen, infertile couples who get to the point of exploring adoption and find the waits long, the qualifications and costs creating barriers, and that adoption professionals want them to end treatment and take up more precious time thinking, talking, and questioning rather than just to follow a series of steps and "get the baby," find it just too much.

The result is that many would-be adopters are inclined to look for ways to avoid "the system" of institutionalized, licensed agency adoption and to hedge their bets when looking for a child to parent. Sometimes they avoid agencies altogether, other times they work with two adoption agencies or facilitators but tell neither about the other's existence. Caught up in the kind of uninformed, surface thinking that produced treatment-related questions like, "Well, why not put in all eight embryos? We'd be real happy to have triplets!" These couples may also think that it's a good idea to do their "last couple" of ART attempts while actively working the phone lines with expectant parents responding to their ads, or to make plans and commitments with two different pregnant women simultaneously. They often make such comments as, "Well, so what if we do get a couple of kids close together? That will be great! Instant family."

Rarely do already-experienced parents (people dealing with secondary infertility, or couples who have already adopted once) artificially twin two babies under nine months of age. This is because most people who have already had the opportunity to parent a newborn understand from experience the unique intensity of the first year of life: the vulnerability and the rapid cognitive, physical, and emotional changes that make a six- month-old extraordinarily less similar to a four-month-old than the same children will be at thirty- and twenty-eight months of age.

7 "Instant Family? A Case against Artificial Twinning" appeared in articles in Adoptive Families magazine, Pact Press, and Serono Symposia USA's newsletter Insights into Infertility before becoming part of Launching a Baby's Adoption and then this book.


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