Friday, January 14, 2011

A Misconception?

My poor mother!  At age 29, she became pregnant with me before she and my Dad were married.  Coming from a family of severe German and Irish Catholics, this circumstance alone was enough to send her into nine months of agony, even though Dad “did the right thing” and married her soon after the pregnancy was diagnosed.  But things went downhill from there.

About five months into her pregnancy, Mom began to suffer from toxemia.  She swelled up all over her body, she was constantly vomiting, and she gained a huge amount of weight even though she could barely eat.  Her general practitioner didn’t treat her for the toxemia and advised her to eat different foods, to exercise, etc.  She went to an obstetrician at about six months, and this woman properly diagnosed the problem and put Mom to bed for the remainder of her pregnancy.  She moved in with my Dad’s sister, Pauline, at my Dad’s family home in Sperryville, Virginia, and left her bed only to go to the bathroom and to make frequent trips to the doctor’s office for evaluation.  I was born on January 8th.  Labor was protracted and unusually difficult.  Mom was put under general anesthesia for most of the ordeal.  I had neonatal jaundice which cleared up within a week, but otherwise I was a healthy newborn, thanks to the doctor’s care of my pregnant Mom, and to Mom’s willingness to do what the doctor told her to do.

I was a healthy new born with no real problems.  I did have, however, one anomaly: I had a fairly large bump on the left side of my forehead, right above the eyebrow.  You can see it in my seventh–grade picture, above.  The doctors thought it was a malformation of the cranium, possibly caused by the forceps that were used to get me out of the uterus.  The bump went through my life with me, staying about the same size, and no one paid much attention to it.

When I got into puberty, at about age 14, the bump started to grow, apparently in response to the rich hormonal cocktail I was producing.  It got bigger and bigger until Mom and Dad decided I needed to see a doctor.  Off we went to a surgeon that had been recommended to us, a man who practiced in Washington, D. C.  I was 16 when I saw the surgeon, and the bump had more than doubled in size in the time since I was 14.

The surgeon examined the bump and said things like “tumor” and “cyst” and “nothing to worry about” and “must come off.”  One summer morning in 1963, a Friday, my Dad and I went to Sybley Hospital in D.C. and I was prepped and put in an operating room.  Under local anesthesia, the surgeon started to remove the bump.  The first problem he encountered was the large amount of blood that resulted from any attempt to assault the mass.  The second problem was the nature of the bump itself.  It wasn’t a tumor.  It wasn’t a cyst.  It wasn’t a malformation of the cranium.  It contained teeth, tiny bone fragments, hair, and other weird tissue.  It was very difficult to remove.  He said it was a separate body fragment fused to my scalp.  What was supposed to take an hour wound up taking 3.5 hours, and the mass finally was removed.  The mass was sent off for analysis and I was sent home.

As I was treated in follow–up, the doctor told my parents and me that the “bump” actually was my identical twin brother.  The “bump” was evidence of something called “a vanishing twin,” also known as fetal resorption.  A fetal resorption occurs when a fetus in a multiple pregnancy dies in utero and then is partially or completely reabsorbed by the twin or the mother.  This theory of the bump also would explain my mother’s toxemia during the pregnancy.  My  dead brother was producing toxins that made my mother sick.

So there should be two of me!!!  A frightening thought for anyone who knows me!!!

Myron Maye was a great friend to me.  He died in 2004 of AIDS.  I once told him about my lost twin brother.  He wondered if the loss of the twin is what made me gay.  In his theory, I am wandering the earth looking for someone who will fill the void caused by my twin’s death when I was about five months along in utero.  I don’t really accept that theory, but it is kinda romantic!

The whole story should make me wonder what might have been.  But to tell you the truth, I hardly ever think about it.  Being the father of twin girls, I have to say I’m happy I grew up a singleton.  It’s really hard to be a twin!

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