Multiple Births can Mean Multiple Heartaches

Ellis, being from The Bronx, is a lifelong Yankees fan (this October has not been a happy time for him).  So he is steeped in the legend that is baseball pitcher Dave Righetti, former Yankee great—he also pitched for the Giants, A’s, and White Sox—and current San Francisco Giants pitching coach. If you know baseball, you know that “Rags” is well liked and highly respected as a pitching coach, and that his Giants pitchers have done very well in the 2012 post-season.

We live in San Jose within walking distance of Dave’s alma mater, Pioneer High School. So Ellis feels a connection to “Rags” on both coasts.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Enough of Us? Two weeks ago an article appeared in The San Jose Mercury News about Righetti’s 21-year-old daughter’s new memoir, Beautifully Different. Natalee Righetti, along with her triplet siblings, Nicolette and Wes, were conceived through in vitro fertilization and were born with pronounced birth defects. Because their mother, Kandice, could not carry a fetus, her sister served as the surrogate.

Natalee's memoir

Natalee Righetti’s book

The fertilization resulted in three embryos. They were born thirteen weeks early and each weighed less than three pounds. Natalee was born with hydrocephalus, or fluid in the brain, and endured the worst outcome of the siblings, including cerebral palsy from brain damage, with partial disability on her left side, including her arm. Early in life she suffered epileptic seizures and underwent five surgeries.

Nicolette lost her hearing at age one as a reaction to medication. She now hears at 80 percent of normal as a result of two cochlear implants. Wes has undergone eye surgeries and has learning disabilities.

“There were a lot of restless nights and long drives to the ballpark,” said Dave in the Mercury News, “It seemed like every month there was some new trouble. I tried to be strong and tough for my family, but looking back, it just wears you down when you see your kids like that. But I know it was toughest on them.”

The kids have each other’s backs in that they lend each other mutual support, filling in their respective weaknesses with care and help. Natalee explains that she was determined not to be left out at school. She even participated in athletic programs, doing what she could instead of trying to be the best. Now, the triplets all attend a junior college.

It’s hard not to cheer for a family/team in which there is so much caring and support. But the Righettis are also emblematic of the issues involved with the societal urge to procreate, no matter what the circumstances.

We know two couples with triplets and others with twins, all the results of some sort of medical insemination procedures and/or fertility treatments.

According to the March of Dimes, the rate of twin births increased by a whopping 70 percent between 1980 and 2004.  The rate of higher-order multiples (triplets or more) increased four-fold between 1980 and 1998. Two-thirds “of the increase is due to the use of fertility treatments, including fertility-stimulating drugs and assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).”

Parents who expect more than one baby are at increased risk of certain pregnancy complications, including premature birth (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Premature babies are at risk of serious health problems during the newborn period, as well as lasting disabilities and death.

We are discussing the Righettis only because their story has had a relatively high profile. They are merely emblematic of those families that put themselves in situations in which their rejection of a childfree lifestyle—or alternative choices like adoption—can create untold difficulties or tragic complications. The Righetti kids have done relatively well in spite of their disabilities. But that is not always the case.

In the first chapter of the soon-to-be-released print version of our book Enough of Us, we use the classic story of Victor Frankenstein (the book, not the horror movies) as a springboard for discussion of a wide range of issues that result from ART-induced multiple pregnancies. That chapter is available free on this Web site.




  1. Reading this post reminded me of those couples who choose using fertility treatments and end up with 6, 7, or 8 fetuses which always result in premature birth, along with other issues. If memory serves me, these folks usually are thrilled and cite “God’s plan” as a reason to have huge families.
    What I want to know is, didn’t God know what he was doing when he picked THEM to be infertile?

    • Anonymous Woman says:

      These same people you are talking about also say God is against abortions, ignoring his abortions; i.e., miscarriages and cannot take a hint and do that with these ridiculous numbers of fetuses.

  2. Anonymous Woman says:

    Interesting to hear how the multiple births have increased.

    Twins run in my family on both sides & have for generations. I didn’t want twins, wasn’t impressed how the ones in my family on my maternal side that I knew turned out. What a horror even when they are healthy to hear babies crying out of sync. My cousins were awful or would have been from the perspective of a parent IMHO — one was always in a bad mood. (I wasn’t totally joking when I said if I had had a twin pregnancy I might have fixed that situation though I would not have raised children to act like my cousins. Still.)

    Another caveat for what you are talking about is that the woman who undergoes fertility treatment is at greater risk of certain things like ovarian cancer as I recall.

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