Most couples try to sympathize with what their partner is going through while pregnant. But married couple Toby Fleischman and Lindsay Lanciault can actually empathize — because they’re both pregnant at the same time. They’re due less than three weeks apart and are calling their babies “twinblings.”
Fleischman, 41, a celebrity makeup artist, and Lanciault, 34, a senior speech-language pathologist at UCLA, met through a mutual friend over four years ago. “She walked into the bar, and it was over for me,” Fleischman told A Plus. “I felt like everything went in slow motion from there, like a cheesy dream sequence. Nine months later we were in engaged.” The couple will be celebrating their third wedding anniversary in August.
While Fleischman and Lanciault are now overjoyed with their simultaneous pregnancies, they hadn’t initially planned to get pregnant at the same time. “We both definitely felt like we wanted to experience carrying a child if that was a possibility. Initially, our goal was to have me go first, since I was older, and then a couple years after our first child was born, Lindsay would get pregnant with the second,” Fleischman explained.
In 2015, the couple began trying to conceive. After more than a year, Fleischman had a miscarriage, surgery, and several failed intrauterine insemination attempts. They soon decided that Lanciault should start trying, too.
“At first when Lindsay proposed we both start trying at the same time, I was against the idea,” Fleischman said. “But after some time digesting it, and realizing it was the best option for both of us, I came to accept it. So when our donor was back in town, we both started trying at home.”
Their decision to have parallel pregnancies is an uncommon one. In 2015, FiveThirtyEight analyzed the chances of partners becoming pregnant at the same time and found there’s little reliable data on the occurrence. Gathering comprehensive data on parallel pregnancies is difficult because lesbian and queer couples often decide to undergo insemination in private. In addition, “the statistics don’t account for same-sex couples and single women, who generally seek treatment for different reasons than heterosexual couples.” Based on the information FiveThirtyEight was able the collect, the odds of getting pregnant at the same time are slim.
Because of how rare it is, Fleischman and Lanciault have heard tons of misogynistic comments along the way. “People only focus on what they think the difficulties will be of a parallel pregnancy instead of all the wonderful parts about it,” Fleischman said. “So many women say things like, ‘How are you going to take care of each other?’ or ‘Jeez, two hormonal women together — how will you handle it?’ We are partners in this process, and in life. We are adults and we can handle things just fine without reducing ourselves to these stereotypical versions of hysterical women. We take care of each other no matter what.”
Of course, it hasn’t been easy. They experienced many challenges along the way, especially while trying to conceive.
“My main challenge was the anxiety or fear that I wouldn’t get pregnant, or that I had waited too long even though I was only 34,” Lanciault said. “I think that’s a common issue for any woman actively trying — the worry that it won’t happen for them. I felt a really strong urge that I needed to start now. So, I think the biggest challenge for me was to overcome that fear that I might not be able to do it naturally. ”
As the older one in the relationship, Fleischman felt pressure to get pregnant quickly and worried when it wasn’t happening right away. “It really affected my confidence and my attitude towards the process. I also have a very Type A personality, so it was a struggle for me to learn that this was something I couldn’t control,” she said. “It was definitely a long journey. But as with most things in life, no matter what the path looks like, I do believe it all happened for a reason to get us to the right place in the end.”
The couple used intravaginal insemination (IVI), a fertilization process that involves placing sperm into the vagina during ovulation. The sperm can be placed using a needleless syringe or menstrual cup. By the end of 2016, Fleischman and Lanciault, who used the same sperm donor, were pregnant.
Despite the obstacles, the couple is happy with their decision to get pregnant at the same time.
“I still chuckle at how much I was against doing it at the same time because now, I can’t imagine it any other way,” Fleischman said. “There have been so many wonderful positives about going through this process together. Just the general connection we have, the commonalities of what we are going through, the understanding and the empathy. It really is priceless to have someone understand what it feels like along the way and to really be able to share the process.”
Fleischman’s due date is July 22 while Lanciault is due a few weeks later on Aug 10. Their twinblings are both boys. As a same-sex couple, they plan to adopt each other’s children as soon as they can so that they both have secure legal ties to their children.
Because parallel pregnancies are so uncommon, the couple’s story went viral. The media attention has helped to raise awareness about fertility struggles and LGBTQ rights, and allowed them to connect with other women and men with similar experiences. But it’s also pushed them into the limelight which isn’t always fun.
“I’m a very private person,” Lanciault said. “So, the attention we got in the beginning was a little overwhelming. Even though it was predominantly positive, there were some negative comments that I had to deal with and that was difficult. Even the positive attention for someone like me can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget when you live in the bubble of LA that there is a world of hate out there, and that’s upsetting because I walked around for a long time thinking, ‘Look at how far we’ve come!’ I think seeing the negativity directed at us was a realization we still have a long way to go collectively as a society.”
“It still amazes me that a story of two people in love, who want to share that love with children, can illicit so much hate and ignorance,” Fleischman added. “I think we just want people to have an open mind about what a modern family looks like, or how there are so many different paths to getting there.”
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