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Monday, July 19, 2004

Amy's Choice.

In the East Village of Manhattan lives one Ms. Amy Richards. She is a writer and lecturer who decided that she was a little too pregnant for her hip lifestyle.

Me in blue, hers/as told to in italics. [It's a bit more chopped up than usual, and I leave sections out, as noted with * * *.]

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. * * *

Actually what happened is that Ms. Amy bought into the myth of the DisposaDad, a marginal figure who appears for dinner, grunts a lot and falls asleep in front of televised sports before returning to his place of underemployment the next day. It's a very popular myth in enlightened academic circles/ruts like the ones she travels in. It's also a grotesque lie, as this essay demonstrates. As becomes painfully clear, she desperately missed having a loving father, a fact that will haunt her, her child and her succession of inadequate male companions to their graves.

Also, this opening narrative seems like an irrelevant detail, but All Becomes Clear later, trust me.

The upshot: by her own admission trying to have a child with her hapless boyfriend, she suddenly found herself pregnant with three.

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? * * *

Does she or doesn't she?

Oh, come on--if the previous three paragraphs haven't given it away already, Ms. Amy makes damn sure to let you know that It's All About Her. Extra credit available for anyone who can find a shred of a "health" reason for her decision, too.

I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' * * *

That's her reaction to the ultrasound. The pictures of the squirming life in her womb. Not "How are they?" or "Are they boys or girls?"

Nope: it's "Can I get rid of one or more?"

Everyone should get slapped in the face by pure malicious evil at least once per month as a reminder that such exists. Enjoy the sting.

Minor note: Interesting how Ms. Amy nicely sidelined Flavor of the Year/ImpoDad, eh? To his minor credit, he later makes a Whipple-esque plea for his flesh and blood ("Please don't off the children!"). But the kids still get squeezed by potassium chloride, alas.

I give them another year, tops. Which is probably for the best. The quicker Ms. Amy's biological clock runs out, the better.

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. * * *

Choice™ in Action!

Sorry, kids, but here's the bottom line: Because Mommy can't bear to shop at warehouse stores or live in unfashionable neighborhoods next to people whose work actually contributes to society (remember that despised working class upbringing?) , two-thirds of you are getting snuffed.

And, uh, no--adoption is no option. That's another unfashionable practice that nobody else in the Village does.

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. * * *

Abortion: Saving the Woman the Trauma of Buying 50 Ounce Jars of Hellman's. Or Missing Boston Pops Concerts.

And I love the fact that Peter manfully stepped up to the plate and cheeped "Me, too" after Ms. Amy made the decision. How nice: they're sharing the experience. Would that he had had the stones to interpose an objection.

I guess by the essay's standards, Russell Yates would have been a better dad if he'd stayed in the trailer bathroom while Andrea practiced selective reduction.

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. * * *

Sophie's Choice would have been a rather different story with Ms. Amy Richards in the lead role. I suspect even the SS officer would have been a little chilled by her resolve under identical circumstances.

BTW, Peter--you were offended by the wrong thing, boyo. But at least you get to keep the girl.

For now.

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.

"Everything is fine." Untruer words were never spoken. And I share the terror of you becoming pregnant again.

As to your willingness to have potassium chloride injected into the hearts of your unborn children again, I have but this to say as to your new line-drawing:

You already had the chance to have twins.

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