Audio

Phantom Twin

January 28, 2019

Katy Lederer: I’m Katy Lederer, and this is PoetryNow. I went through the process of IVF, in vitro fertilization, when I was 39 and like many IVF patients before me, I was sort of obsessively Googling. I think my doctor thought I was incredibly annoying (LAUGHING) because I kept… I was like ‘Tell me about this genetic testing. How do you take the cell off the embryo? Do you use acid or a laser?’ On the one hand, it’s so hard for conception to happen. And a lot can go wrong. The fact that any child does make it is amazing. The title of the poem is “Phantom Twin.” Basically, phantom twin is another way of describing vanishing twin or Vanishing Twin Syndrome. Vanishing Twin Syndrome is basically when you’re pregnant with twins, and then later on in the pregnancy, one of the twins has vanished. I think around 30% and 40% of twin pregnancies result in a vanishing twin, but they didn’t really used to know this. It happens often in the first trimester, so in the past you couldn’t see as deeply into a woman’s body. You couldn’t look as early. This was happening all along, but people didn’t realize it.

(READS POEM)

Phantom Twin
 
We did not want to be
unblessed, so we were blessed.
 
Long, thin wire, a little
patch where we might lay our
 
heads. It was this way, this
looking fore and back, a pole
 
held tightly in our
hands. You want to tell me

what went wrong? Confusing
shapes across a wall, depression
 
in the ground. The gorgeous
soldiers fought and fell. Hie
 
unto hell. How we will lie in
that brave grave apart,
 
our aperture: a heart
that has been ruptured
 
absolutely by a passing God.

***

In this poem, there’s an imagination of a vanished twin or a vanishing twin, so obviously something would’ve gone wrong. Several of the poems from this series I was writing out of trying to imagine the perspective of the fetus.

(QUOTING FROM POEM)

… You want to tell me / what went wrong? Confusing / shapes across a wall, depression / in the ground.

They’re probably not scared. I mean, they don’t know what’s going on. It’s almost an existential thought experiment. What is that like existentially? Multiples are at risk for everything a little more. One of these is heart issues, one of which could be an actual hole in the heart. Now they can fix this, but in the past that was a death sentence.

(QUOTING FROM POEM)

… How we will lie in / that brave grave apart, / our aperture: a heart / that has been ruptured / absolutely by a passing God.

One thing I noticed right away while I was undergoing the process of IVF was that there are a lot of statistics available about it, and it was very unlikely at my age that I would end up with two live births. I was not expecting it, it was really a blessing (LAUGHING) and also difficult in ways I never could have imagined.

Katie Klocksin: That was Katy Lederer and her poem “Phantom Twin.” I’m Katie Klocksin, and this is PoetryNow, a production of The Poetry Foundation. For more about this series go to poetryfoundation.org/poetrynow.

Katy Lederer recalls her experience with in vitro fertilization and finds poetry in the language of science.

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