OMG! Did you hear? Jay-Z had sex with Beyoncé and they made humans! It’s a miracle! A miracle made possible by sex! Did I mention the sex thing? Because it’s really important. Or, at least, it appears to be important to Jay-Z.
In what is actually a pretty great title track from his new album, 4:44, Jay-Z lays bare his culpability and contrition for his infidelity. He openly laments what will happen when his kids—5-year-old Blue and his newborn twins— find out about his bad behaviour.
It seems Jay-Z was a douche and the universe finally did something big enough to make him realize it: “Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles,” the rapper says. And in his life’s narrative, it really is a miracle. He was blind, and now he sees.
But there’s one thing that rankles about that line. I hate to get all technical on Jay-Z here, but if twins aren’t natural, they’re … what, exactly? Not miracles? Would he have seen the light while sitting in the interminable dreariness of an IVF waiting room? Or was it the bolt-from-the-blue shock of that first ultrasound that set him to rights?
Does the “natural” part count? If not, why mention it?
Natural twins are no more a “miracle” than a natural singleton. It’s the “life” bit that’s miraculous—the rest is statistics. If you can make a baby, there’s a slim chance you’re going to make two. (Before IVF, 1.9 percent of live births in the U.S. were twins; now it’s 3.3 percent.)
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The main reason people point out the “naturalness” of their twins is to prove that there is nothing wrong with them. It’s like shouting: “I’m not broken! My bits work twice as well as everyone else’s!” For some men, it’s a display of their virility and manliness. Jay-Z’s use of the word is mildly concerning, given that the song is about becoming a better man: what, exactly, is he still trying to prove? And why?
There’s another, more personal aspect to my reaction. As an IVF mum, the veneration of “natural” twins hits a nerve. I still feel some kind of societal apology is due when I say my twins were made thanks to IVF. People seem deflated when they find out, as if my girls are somehow less special. But if anyone is a miracle baby, it’s twins who could never have existed before those scientific advances.
If Jay-Z wants to see a full-on miracle in action, go to an IVF clinic. Sit in that waiting room. Watch the fish swim around the oversized tank as blank-faced couples desperately try not to get their hopes up, lest their dreams get smashed against the neon rocks and fake coral. Help the women inject their abdomens with testicular cancer drugs. Wince as the men have huge needles stuck in their nethers.
And then watch those people melt in adoration when they finally get to see their embryos blobbing around a petrie dish. You want to tell me that’s not a miracle?
It’s pretty clear this song isn’t about twins, or natural-versus-IVF. 4:44 recounts one man’s mid-life crisis and how he is reckoning with his mess, his missus, and his maker.
But as any rapper can tell you, words are important. You had sex and made twins? Good for you! Just, please, don’t conflate their “natural” arrival with your manliness, and don’t think that these twins should be any more of a wake-up call than your wife and your daughter.
As you have finally seen, you have a charmed life. But it’s those men sitting in that IVF waiting room, or raising twins they first saw as embryos, who are living the real miracle.