As you may have noticed, twins are everywhere these days — and, no, it’s not because there’s suddenly some fertile, baby-boosting juice in the water. Many couples struggling to get pregnant are turning to fertility treatments, like insemination and IVF, which often result in multiple babies. For those who may have wondered if they could even have a child, the gift of two (or three) is truly a double blessing.
Obviously, it’s no secret where all of these twins are coming from, and since many parents are very open about how their own were conceived, I guess strangers feel it’s okay to ask every twin Mama how her babies were made. It’s not always okay though. A family’s baby-making story is extremely personal, and one that many may not feel comfortable sharing in aisle 10, in front of their kids.
Here’s the thing: Often, a mother’s road to twins is paved with struggle, depression, and isolation. Should I tell a complete stranger about the months of negative pregnancy tests, the constant blood work, the ultrasounds, the injections? Does she want to know how I shut out my friends and family, couldn’t even look at babies, and didn’t even recognise myself anymore? Does she want to hear the details of my miscarriage? I think it’s one thing when mums decide to share their own fertility struggles with each other. It’s quite another when strangers just seem to want to pry, or ask deeply personal questions just to make conversation.
Maybe I’m so sensitive because I’ve heard what some weird people really think about twins. My boys are identical, which really has nothing to do with fertility treatments or genetics–it’s completely random. There are no extra eggs being released from the ovaries, no extra embryos implanted. An embryo splits, one becomes two. Yes, I had to seek out medical help to get pregnant, but the fact that I had twins was just coincidental. I guess many people know that identicals are usually conceived the old-fashioned way because I’ve heard, more than once, “Oh, identical twins! It’s so nice to see natural twins for a change.” Um, what?! First of all, do you have a problem with the fact that some twins are conceived with the help of medicine? Do my twins somehow seem more “normal” to you because you think my husband and I ba-da-binged to make them? It’s definitely made me wonder how many people really think this way.
I think that’s why I take issue with a question that so many strangers ask, probably without even realising the implications: “Are they natural?” Of course, I know what they mean, and yet, what do they mean? Are my boys somehow less legitimate because we needed a little help from medicine to conceive them? “Are they natural?” As opposed to what? Robot toddlers made with recycled tire irons and rubbish bin lids? Human GMO’s? They are flesh and blood, all toddler chub and love and soft skin and giggles. My babies are as real as any other kids on the playground.
I know, I know. What they mean is, “Were they conceived naturally?” I get it. I just don’t know why it matters, and I’m not always sure where the conversation is going. So, yes, my guard is up. Often, someone is asking because she has a friend going through fertility treatments and she wants to give her some encouragement. Or she has twins of her own, or twins run in her family, or her niece just had twins with the help of in-vitro. All of that is totally cool, and I’m happy to have a conversation then. If you ask me if my twins are “natural” though, it implies that you think my pursuit of fertility treatments was not. So either change your phrasing, or get to your point quickly before I shut you down.
My beautiful boys are truly a gift–a gift of medicine and, yes, a gift from God. I believe in medicine and science and I’m grateful for its antibiotics and vaccines and life-saving surgeries. Medicine is truly a miracle, whether it’s used to fix your heart, kill cancer cells, or help you make babies. There is nothing at all unnatural about my amazing children and if you dare to suggest otherwise, stranger in aisle 10, my natural Mama Bear reaction might be to get annoyed…really annoyed. I agree, twins are fascinating, but if you’re going to ask questions, please just think about what you’re asking and why.
What’s the most annoying question you get as a mum of twins?