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Simple Arithmetic — Complicated

5 - 3 = 2

By Gerard DiLeoPublished 30 days ago 2 min read
Location, Location, Location

Fertilization, in vitro

Was our last chance

To reproduce sans libido

Or passion, or romance


Technology overshot

When we sono-confirmed

Five heartbeats, five argonauts

On their voyage to term


T'was prescribed an injunction

Via terminal injections

For selective reduction

And elective selections


Three volunteers obliged enough

To give access to their worlds

And go out in a puff

Leaving two to unfurl


"Why are we twins here;

Why were we the two who were born?

Why did we not disappear:

Because ours were the hardest to perform?"


"We are here, are we not?

Because we weren't easy to discard

But we no longer hear

The pulse of triplets onboard."


How do parents explain

Children purposely put,

Then sent away again

For not making the cut?



Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, the whole concept of "selective reduction" of a multiple-gestation is a philosophical mind-bender.

The "Octomom" pretty much ended the practice of inserting many embryos to increase the odds of some surviving; especially since IVF technology had improved with better odds of all surviving.

Thus, allowing more than one or two embryos of a multiple gestation to proceed, after an overachievement in assisted reproduction (i.e., in vitro fertilization), was fraught with too many "taking"--and then surviving--until preterm labor or complications tragically doomed them all.

Yet, pro-choice mothers, with selective reduction, abort babies that they wanted at the outset. And pro-life mothers have to choose to deny their philosophy (or religion) in order to save the babies who would remain after the selective reduction.

Imagine the dilemma for all who think too hard on this issue: a couple with infertility, desperate to have a baby--to have a family--only to have to "deal" with babies they wanted.

Confused? Understandable.

But the thing that may be the most disturbing is that the choice of which babies to "reduce" (ironic semantics: how do you "reduce" a baby?) is made on which amniotic sacs are the most accessible. That is, the most convenient fetal sac to get into with an injection. The others, the hardest to get to, thus become the lucky ones. And terms like collateral damage come to mind.

I tried my best not to make this poem sound tongue-in-cheek, that rhyme (which I can't resist) often risks. But I did want some angst to fall out of it, especially when you have to explain to a child that they were just as likely to have been the unlucky ones as their theoretical brothers/sisters turned out to be. They will realize that it just was how they implanted in their mother's uterus--that made so crucial an existential call. And a capricious one, at that.

I've tried to reconcile the thinking on this, but I've come to the conclusion that it can't be done.

Because it's a paradox.

social commentarysad poetryheartbreak

About the Creator

Gerard DiLeo

Retired, not tired. In Life Phase II: Living and writing from a decommissioned church in Hull, MA. (Phase I was New Orleans and everything that entails. Hippocampus, behave!


[email protected]

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Comments (3)

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  • Katarzyna Popiel29 days ago

    I had no idea about this 'reduction' thing and wow, now I'm so glad I never needed to have any personal interest in vitro. The randomness of this selection feels impossible to come to terms with.

  • Oh wow, I didn't even know that this was a thing and it's so devastating!

  • D. J. Reddall30 days ago

    "Five heartbeats, five argonauts/On their voyage to term," is a seamless, metaphorical mingling of the ancient and the modern. Nicely done!

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