There’s a new trend in surrogacy: One egg donor and two simultaneous surrogates, resulting in two babies being born around the same time for one infertile couple. It’s complicated and controversial!
“Infertility feels like a death,” says Melanie Thernstrom in yesterday’s cover story of The New York Times Magazine. “But because it’s not the death of a person but the death of a hope — a fantasy about the children that our dead embryos might have become.” Like so many couples, Melanie and her husband, Michael, struggled for years with infertility. Melanie, who married for the first time at 41, went through six rounds of failed IVF treatments before a doctor told her that it was probably time to “explore other options.” Her heart was breaking and she knew she had to try something else — or abandon forever her dream of becoming a mom to twins. So she started researching surrogacy — with two different women to carry her babies.
Surrogacy has become much less taboo recently, mostly thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick‘s recent revelation that they used a surrogate to get pregnant with their twins, Tabitha and Marion. Melanie also wanted twins, but was worried about the potential risk factors associated with one woman carrying and developing two embryos: 60% of twins are born prematurely and twins have a sevenfold increased risk of neonatal death. So Melanie and Michael decided, “If we really want our children to be the same age, we can try to find two carriers now and do the pregnancies in parallel.”
The result? Melanie and Michael are now the parents of a son, Kieran, and a daughter, Violet, born five days apart from the same egg donor, but with two different surrogate carriers. “There is no word to describe our children’s relationship with each other,” says Melanie. “Our children were born five days apart — a fact that cannot be easily explained.” They have since started calling the children “twiblings” — a combination of “twins” and “siblings.”
It’s a new trend in fertility, and the technical term is “third-party reproduction.” But is it just too weird? Some would say that Melanie and Michael are just another rich couple who spent a fortune to get an instant family — what’s wrong with having one baby at a time? But there are also bigger questions here, like are we messing around too much with Mother Nature? And are some people maybe just not meant to have babies?
Melanie Thernstrom certainly doesn’t feel that way. “If it takes a village to raise a child,” she says, “why not start with conception?”