Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Well Meaning Ignorant People

I wrote the following post for the blog of a friend of mine about three years ago. Have Stroller, Will Travel ( is a favorite of mine. She lives in the same world I did when my kids were the age her child is now - semi-stay at home mom, semi-working mom. Recently she had an incident with someone who questioned her parenting choices. I'm sure people question other folks' choices often but who has the balls to say it? Out loud? Even though we know people who do that are not worth our time, it still affects us. So, Alissa, this one is for you. Again.

Well meaning ignorant people

When I was pregnant with my twins (now nearly 9), I was stunned at the stupid things people felt they had the right to say to me. Twins? Oh, you’re going through IVF? Low sperm count? Did you wait too long to start trying? And that was just the beginning!

My husband is far more laid back than I. Nothing riles him – except the stupid things people said to us. After a while, he grew weary of hearing “Oh, IVF?” - like our reproductive life is anyone’s business! So one day someone asked it and he answered, “No, missionary.” That ended the questions. Awesome.

People felt the need to tell us horror stories. “You know, my cousin’s next door neighbor’s daughter was pregnant with twins. One died….hope that doesn’t happen to you.” Nice. “You know twins will have language delays or (fill in the medical horror story blank).” We got used to it but it was always unnerving.

One day when my girls were just a few months old, I was walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, and a man saw me walking by. He yelled out “There’s double trouble!” I shot back my normal retort: “No, they’re a double blessing!” He started to argue with me, explaining that he had daughters, he knew of what he spoke. My husband had to steer me away from him before I punched him in my hormonal rage. On the same trip, while holding one of my girls, a woman approached me to tell me I was permanently damaging my child by using pacifiers. She was a chiropractor, she explained, so she knew this to be true. Seriously? This is what motherhood was going to be like?

That continued for several years. People felt they had the right to touch my children and offer me advice that I clearly didn’t want. Until recently, we would be asked things (in front of my kids!) like “Who’s the good one?” They didn’t seem to understand that if you label one good, the other becomes the bad one. “Who’s the smart one?” They’re both smart, thank you very much.

People were also curious about my delivery. I had one non-medical person in the delivery room with me: my husband. Why on earth do people care about my vagina? “Wow, you probably had a lot of tearing….lots of stitches?” I don’t know you. You have no right to ask questions like that. One day I did ask some random person who bombarded me with questions on a particularly bad day if she asked others about their vaginas? No? Then don’t ask me.

There were two locations that were full of crazies. Walmart, not unexpectedly, harbored quite a few. “I knew a twin once. Can I touch yours?” No, you can’t. “My mom has a neighbor with a daughter who married a guy with twins in Kansas. Do you know them?” No, I don’t. Then there was the Superfresh grocery store in Silver Spring, at the time one of the few stores that had all their aisles handicap accessible (big enough for the double stroller). Without fail, every single time I was in there, a man (different every time) would ask me to demonstrate how I breastfed them simultaneously. I stopped shopping there.

My kids grew tired of the questions, too. One day at our local mall, a woman started to approach us. One of my girls turned to look at her and spout out “We’re 7. Fraternal. Yes, we know we look alike but trust us, we’re not. We’re both good.” I stood there, dumbfounded, but also kind of proud. What a shame that my kids have learned that people are so intrusive.

We chose not to have more children for a variety of reasons, one of which was what happened when we went out with our friends who have multiples AND singleton children. Those singletons didn’t even exist to the strangers who felt the need to ask a million questions about the twins. Another mother told me the story of someone asking all about her twin sons – when is their birthday? How much did they weigh? Their beautiful non-twin daughter volunteered “My birthday is in May! I weighed almost 9 pounds!” The stranger paid her no mind…and she never forgot that.

There are nice stories as well: countless people who helped me when my hands were full, people who are very kind to my children and the very few who helped in public places during potty training. I remember those far more fondly than those who felt the need to invade my private life with their inappropriate questions. When asked by soon-to-be-parents of multiples what to expect, I usually tell them to prepare for the onslaught of weird questions.

I know parents of singletons get their bellies felt and commented on as well. Maybe it was my crazy pre- and post-natal hormones but I was stunned that people felt they had the right to ask such questions. The good news is now as my children get older, the questions lessen a bit. Now it’s “Are they twins? I thought so but wasn’t sure….” I like that much better!


  1. Ugh. I've already developed a list of questions that I'm getting sensitive to hearing. The IVF one is right at the top. Does it matter? Does that make the twinning less valuable somehow? I'm just waiting for the first jackwad to come at me to grope my belly uninvited so I can lay down some ninja-style assault and battery.

    Also on my list:

    "Will you have more?" Wait. What? I'm having two. Right now. What makes you think that I'm thinking any further down the line than how I'm going to manage wrangling TWO babies?

    "When is your C-section?" Why do you assume that I am having major abdominal surgery? Just because there are two? Last time I checked, they don't come down the shoot at the same time, so I think we're cleared for landing. Naturally.

    "Are you ready? This is totally going to change your life!" Thank you, Captain Obvious. Of course I'm not "ready". Whoever is? Is that even possible?

    "You're going to be so huge!" Gosh. Thanks. That's helpful. Maybe I misunderstood. Was that you offering to chauffeur me to work when I can no longer fit behind the wheel of my car?

    "That's going to be double the trouble!" "That will be twice as hard!" Etc, etc, etc. Excuse me, you'll have to repeat that. I was too busy noting the weekend you just volunteered to babysit while the hubby and I escape to a B&B. Any more snarky twin jokes? Cuz momma needs a week on a cruise!

    I guess the questions don't get any more sensitive after the babies come. Oh, joy. Well, you'll know who to look to when you see the headline "Mother of Twins Strangles Obnoxious Shopper in the Local Safeway". :D

  2. Andrea, you will learn to spot the questioning folks before they get to you. And the answer is IVF, spontaneous - it's all the same. Babies are babies. it helped to remember that people just didn't know what to say so they said stupid things. It gets better in about 9 years. :)

    I remember meeting a woman who had 8 pound baby boys (each) naturally. I bowed to her on the spot. The first six months will be tough. But I really do believe we are doubly blessed. I couldn't imagine life any other way. You will enjoy it!