Author Archives

Amber Leventry
Amber Leventry is a queer, nonbinary writer and advocate. Their writing appears on The Next Family, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Babble, Ravishly, Longreads, and The Washington Post. They are a staff writer for Scary Mommy. They also run Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQ families one story at a time. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @amberleventry.

Making Peace with Selective Reduction

Illustration by Katie Kosma

Amber Leventry | Longreads | June 2018 | 11 minutes (2,805 words)

 

December, 2012. I shifted my gaze to my partner and away from the snow hitting the windshield of our SUV, coming at us fast and dizzying like those moving star screen savers we used on our desktops in college.

My partner was asleep in the passenger’s seat. Hours earlier, her pregnant belly had been home to three living fetuses. It now held two beating hearts and one that had stopped after being pierced with a needle full of potassium chloride.

My knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel. I took a sip of my Diet Coke and ate a cheddar-filled pretzel Combo. Even with a snowstorm hitting the East Coast, we left right after the procedure. We didn’t want to stay another night in Boston, three hours from home and too far away from our 20-month-old daughter, who was in the care of friends. We knew we were driving right into the heart of the storm, but our journey had never been easy, and it seemed fitting to be pursuing comfort in difficult conditions.

***

November, 2012. “Are you religious?” the doctor asked as we stared at the flat-screen television mounted to the wall.

Two weeks after undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI), Amy took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. At seven weeks we went back to the fertility clinic to have our first ultrasound.

The black-and-white picture on the screen was a projected image of my partner’s uterus. Joined by two nurses, the OB-GYN checked that there wasn’t a fourth fetus in my partner’s belly. He maneuvered the ultrasound wand with one hand and labeled the image with the other. I watched him manipulate the machine, looking for life as if he were playing hide-and-seek. He found three. My partner was pregnant with triplets.

I grew up in a Christian church, under the eyes of God and in a congregation full of hypocrites. My partner went to Hebrew school and was raised on Jewish traditions and family poker games.

“No,” we both answered. He seemed strangely relieved.

Before I could ask why he cared, he wanted to know if we knew the term selective reduction. We didn’t. He suggested we make an appointment to return and talk with him about our options. Unless religious reasons prohibited us from considering it, he wanted to provide the pros and cons of aborting one or two of the healthy fetuses.

While we don’t practice religion, it has hugely impacted our life together. Religion was the reason my mother chose not to come to our 2001 civil union ceremony in Vermont. When we were still just girlfriends, college students living together illegally in an off-campus condo, my partner and I used to tell each other, “I’m going to marry you someday.”

In 1999, we were still in college and knew the post-graduation ceremony we wanted to have would only be valid in the eyes of friends and some family. We knew the only ones who would consider our love sacred would be us. Homosexuality was against my mother’s beliefs. She loved me but wouldn’t support my “mockery” of marriage.

Religion was what slowed the momentum behind states beginning to recognize gay unions, and religion was why marriage still hadn’t been recognized by the federal government.

Religion was something used to limit us and our ability to be respected and considered equal as queer individuals and as a same-sex couple. Religion was not a sounding board my partner and I used to make decisions.

When the doctor seemed happy that faith did not prevent us from thinking about the next steps, religion was no longer a limiting factor in our lives. Our lack of religion was suddenly opening up our options as a couple.

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The Boy With the Coin-Filled Cellophane Cigarette Wrapper, and Me

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Amber Leventry | Longreads | July 2017 | 12 minutes (3,016 words)

 

I entered my daughter’s kindergarten classroom and walked behind her with enough distance to accommodate the swinging of her backpack and the unpredictable steps taken by a five-year-old wearing wet snow boots on a linoleum floor. We squeezed through the door and by her classmates who, with barely combed hair and missing baby teeth, are practically carbon copies of her. She shuffled over to her friends, and I placed onto a table the well-labeled Ziploc bag containing the exact amount of money she needed for the school’s pre-Christmas sale, in the exact denominations requested.

One of my daughter’s classmates placed his sack of coins on the same table, but it was not over-prepared in the way my daughter’s was. There was no label or even a seal to keep his change from spilling onto the table or floor. His money was seemingly grabbed from what could be found in pockets or the car on the way to school and was stuffed into the clear cellophane wrapper pulled off of a pack of cigarettes. It was clearly an afterthought on a morning that placed other things more stressful or pertinent above a kindergarten teacher’s reminder to send a dollar’s worth of dimes into school for a holiday tag sale.

Even with their different backgrounds hidden beneath the surface of similar physical features, each child is measured against the same school motto: Be Kind, Be Safe, and Be Your Best. The expectations are reasonable, but the ability of each child to exhibit these qualities is variable. One’s best may be viewed as far below another’s. Sometimes one’s best is only as good as what is provided at home, by what is held in one’s hands.

I don’t know this boy’s circumstances, and the similarities in our childhood experiences may start and end with this isolated detail provided by a cigarette-smoking caretaker. But his bag of tobacco-greased pennies and nickels could have been pulled from my childhood home, if my parents had been so clever or resourceful. The coins and their presentation quickly conjured memories from my childhood.

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