Answer: Only 1

LIVES; When One Is Enough

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By AMY RICHARDS AS TOLD TO AMY BARRETT

Published: July 18, 2004

I grew up in a working-class family in Pennsylvania not knowing my father. I have never missed not having him. I firmly believe that, but for much of my life I felt that what I probably would have gained was economic security and with that societal security. Growing up with a single mother, I was always buying into the myth that I was going to be seduced in the back of a pickup truck and become pregnant when I was 16. I had friends when I was in school who were helping to rear nieces and nephews, because their siblings, who were not much older, were having babies. I had friends from all over the class spectrum: I saw the nieces and nephews on the one hand and country-club memberships and station wagons on the other. I felt I was in the middle. I had this fear: What would it take for me to just slip?

Now I'm 34. My boyfriend, Peter, and I have been together three years. I'm old enough to presume that I wasn't going to have an easy time becoming pregnant. I was tired of being on the pill, because it made me moody. Before I went off it, Peter and I talked about what would happen if I became pregnant, and we both agreed that we would have the child.

I found out I was having triplets when I went to my obstetrician. The doctor had just finished telling me I was going to have a low-risk pregnancy. She turned on the sonogram machine. There was a long pause, then she said, ''Are you sure you didn't take fertility drugs?'' I said, ''I'm positive.'' Peter and I were very shocked when she said there were three. ''You know, this changes everything,'' she said. ''You'll have to see a specialist.''

My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?

I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more.

Having felt physically fine up to this point, I got on the subway afterward, and all of a sudden, I felt ill. I didn't want to eat anything. What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter asked, ''Shouldn't we consider having triplets?'' And I had this adverse reaction: ''This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.'' Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn't be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It's not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.

The specialist called me back at 10 p.m. I had just finished watching a Boston Pops concert at Symphony Hall. As everybody burst into applause, I watched my cellphone vibrating, grabbed it and ran into the lobby. He told me that he does a detailed sonogram before doing a selective reduction to see if one fetus appears to be struggling. The procedure involves a shot of potassium chloride to the heart of the fetus. There are a lot more complications when a woman carries multiples. And so, from the doctor's perspective, it's a matter of trying to save the woman this trauma. After I talked to the specialist, I told Peter, ''That's what I'm going to do.'' He replied, ''What we're going to do.'' He respected what I was going through, but at a certain point, he felt that this was a decision we were making. I agreed.

When we saw the specialist, we found out that I was carrying identical twins and a stand alone. My doctors thought the stand alone was three days older. There was something psychologically comforting about that, since I wanted to have just one. Before the procedure, I was focused on relaxing. But Peter was staring at the sonogram screen thinking: Oh, my gosh, there are three heartbeats. I can't believe we're about to make two disappear. The doctor came in, and then Peter was asked to leave. I said, ''Can Peter stay?'' The doctor said no. I know Peter was offended by that.

Two days after the procedure, smells no longer set me off and I no longer wanted to eat nothing but sour-apple gum. I went on to have a pretty seamless pregnancy. But I had a recurring feeling that this was going to come back and haunt me. Was I going to have a stillbirth or miscarry late in my pregnancy?

I had a boy, and everything is fine. But thinking about becoming pregnant again is terrifying. Am I going to have quintuplets? I would do the same thing if I had triplets again, but if I had twins, I would probably have twins. Then again, I don't know.

Editors' Note: July 28, 2004, Wednesday The Lives column in The Times Magazine on July 18 gave a first-person account of the experience of Amy Richards, who had been pregnant with triplets and decided to abort two of the fetuses. Ms. Richards, who told her story to a freelance Times Magazine contributor, Amy Barrett, discussed her anxiety about having triplets, the procedure to terminate two of the pregnancies and the healthy baby she eventually delivered; she expressed no regret about her decision.

The column identified Ms. Richards as a freelancer at the time of her pregnancy but should have also disclosed that she is an abortion rights advocate who has worked with Planned Parenthood, as well as a co-founder of a feminist organization, the Third Wave Foundation, which has financed abortions. That background, which would have shed light on her mind-set, was incorporated in an early draft, but it was omitted when an editor condensed the article.

Editors' Note: July 28, 2004, Wednesday The Lives column in The Times Magazine on July 18 gave a first-person account of the experience of Amy Richards, who had been pregnant with triplets and decided to abort two of the fetuses. Ms. Richards, who told her story to a freelance Times Magazine contributor, Amy Barrett, discussed her anxiety about having triplets, the procedure to terminate two of the pregnancies and the healthy baby she eventually delivered; she expressed no regret about her decision.

The column identified Ms. Richards as a freelancer at the time of her pregnancy but should have also disclosed that she is an abortion rights advocate who has worked with Planned Parenthood, as well as a co-founder of a feminist organization, the Third Wave Foundation, which has financed abortions. That background, which would have shed light on her mind-set, was incorporated in an early draft, but it was omitted when an editor condensed the article.

Now what so interests me about this, not that I’m two years late on reading this…is that I know this woman. I worked with her at Ms. I went to her book signing party where she ignored me and acted the elitist privileged girl part because I was not of the feminist establishment. I was just an intern and in my part, I knew reaching the upper echelons of these women were out of my league, not for my support of the women in porn and prostitutions fields. Or my cry that one can be traditional AND feminist. Or Veiled women are empowered if they choose to wear their veils. They love all women and somewhat what they stand for, but somewhere there was this disconnect on reality and the feminist movement. Along came this idea of Third Wave, getting little girls into the feminist act. But to me, it was just another AKA or Jr. League. It was because they are a clique of girls and I wouldn’t be one of them. (Although my cooking and mothering and activism make me think of joining the Jr. League) They were hand picked and petted by the feminist movement’s leaders that I do revere and cherish. They went to schools like Yale, had godmother’s like Gloria Steinem and one hell of a sounding board, New York City. I’ve been out of the movement and the crowd for a long time. I never fit in. I think I liked children too much and I was too much of a realist on the real strains women have. I do plan on reading Rebecca Walker’s book about opting in for Motherhood. I think I may identify really well with that one, but we’ll see. For all the women I know struggling to have children, this story made me nauseous. I already know two couples that would adopt twins if they could. How about thousands and thousands of parents whose lives would feel complete after trying so hard to achieve a gift others take for granted. These weren’t little black children that would sit in foster care until they aged out. These weren’t children going to be born in slums or raised by stray cats and rats. They weren’t even going to raised by a poverty stricken mother with no chance of supporting her child. These were (unlike she alluded to in her upbringing) twins of a mother with an education, two books, a co-starter of a major non-profit based in NY, a supportive boyfriend, family, friends (very rich friend I might add)…and should I go on?

In the tune of Jeff Foxworthy’s routine….

You might be the most shallow person on earth if the reasons you abort are 1) your NY walk up is a problem 2) Staten Island is yucky 3) Costco and Sam’s Club are degrading and scary 4) The pill makes me moody 5) Spring is just a bad time for me to be on bed rest 6) It is a great day to share with the NY Times and the rest of the world why your abortion was a good thing.

That poor little boy, watching old reruns of Gattica will be strangely familiar to him. Forget natural childbirths, cut, kill and genetically modify until you have that perfect little non-mayo eating, stair-climbing pro that detests Staten Island (or Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, Stone Mountain, Waco, Boise, Birmingham or Jacksonville for that matter. You get my point? The average life in general must suck according this woman. God forbid like poor poor Miranda on Sex in the City she had to move to Brooklyn. I can understand if this story had been edited to death and the whole essence of her story was lost, but facts are facts. People abort while people are infertile and people are infertile while children are parentless. It is a true shame there can’t be commonalities found in these sad situations where everyone feels they’ve gained something. Freedom, Children, Parents…can’t we find solutions besides selective abortions and expensive adoptions and neglected children? Why oh why does this girl scare me? Because she made abortion seem shallow and heartless. Her reasoning was immature. I respect choice and I always will. But sometimes people choose to be selfish and ignorant and their sense of entitlement to themselves and just themselves deludes them into thinking about just themselves and not the world around them. You see, a lot of people reading never expected the ending that the article had. Some say she had gusto, some say she was the reason the pro-life movement exists. But alas, it is her choice to pick and choose, and Lord knows, it’s better to have the right than to not have it. But good luck with living with that one for the rest of your life. Not I said the Mama with the third floor walk up.

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