Twin A and Twin B
Press play on the story.
The image of the sonogram ricochets across our little universe. Twin A and Twin B.
But let’s rewind.
To the tiny embryos. Samantha, our surrogate, clenches her teeth as the speculum is inserted into her vagina. Chris cringes. Samantha is doing so much for us. The doctor guides the embryo through a tube leading to Samantha’s uterus. A speck of hope becomes visible on the monitor. Samantha smiles at us. I cry. The doctor performs the same feat with a second embryo.
Rewind some more.
The nurse shows Chris and me to the rooms. Inside are a couple of chairs, some DVD porn that is mostly for straight men and a couple of comically sad DVDs intended for us that features men in leather, a remote control neither of us will ever touch.
“Do you want to do this together?” the nurse asks.
Chris nearly spits with laughter. “No thanks,” he says. I would have been game.
Rewind to the beginning.
A New Year’s Eve Party in New York City the first December after 9/11. Chris is there. He has just left the seminary after spending two years studying to become a Jesuit priest and struggling to reconcile his faith and sexuality. I am there too, a few months after watching the burning towers from my law school dorm on Mercer Street and deciding to come out to my parents. The party is in a Tribeca loft. A magnetic force—lust, love, something—pulls us together.
Let’s fast forward again.
Ten years. There are a dozen fertilized eggs. I create a two-column chart to track the doctor’s daily updates. One column says B atop it for the embryos fertilized with my sperm; the other says C for those fertilized by Chris. On the third day, lots of marks represent viable embryos. By day five, half are crossed out. And by day seven, the doctor tells us none of our embryos are suitable for freezing. He says this outcome cannot tell us anything about the odds of success for the embryos already inside Samantha. We don’t believe him.
Days. Numbers. Probabilities. It’s been this way since the beginning when we decide to implant two embryos to increase our chances of having one child on the first try.
Breathe. Think good thoughts.
There. A pregnancy test. The first sonogram. Joy. Crazy, heart-thumping, think-the-world-is-yours-kind-of-joy. The double-wide strollers, the crowded dinner table, the matching holiday outfits, the empty orange juice bottles placed back inside the fridge—they are all real to us.
Fast forward, not too far though, or you might miss it. Just three weeks. Three weeks of my sister kissing “the babies” goodnight and my mother asking about “the twins.”
It’s the day of Samantha’s second sonogram. Hours pass. A phone call from the 203 area code.
“There were two heartbeats at the first sonogram,” the doctor says. “Today, there was only one.”
Twin A remains. Twin B is gone. The world is crashing.
A blood test in a week will confirm it. Another doctor will call.
“The demise of Twin B likely occurred at the eighth week,” she says.
Fast forward. We need to fast forward.
Seven months pass. The child who began as Twin A, our daughter Emma, is born in a California hospital room. My mother and Samantha’s mother are there, and they are dancing to the sounds of the Beatles. I hold Emma for the first time, look into her tiny brown eyes and say, “We’ve been waiting so long for you.”
“Does she have ten toes and ten fingers?” Chris asks the nurse.
“Yes, yes she does.”
One last fast forward.
Emma is eight years old. She asks frequently for a brother or sister, and my heart breaks a little more. I wonder if having shared eight weeks in the womb with Twin B, she holds some innate sense of loss, the way Chris and I hold the imagined memories of a child we never had, the way we hold onto the printout of the first sonogram.
I lied. I want to fast forward again. 2021. Another doctor with another embryo.
Breathe. Think good thoughts.
Brad Snyder is an essayist and humor writer whose recent nonfiction work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Gay & Lesbian Review and Multiplicity Magazine. Brad is pursuing his MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing at Bay Path University. For more of his work, visit bradmsnyder.com.