When the day arrives that you feel confident and capable enough to venture out with your multiples, you will rejoice-loudly! It's also a good idea to be aware that although the incidence of twins is still on the rise in this country, and their existence sometimes seems as common as the need for a diaper to be changed, strangers' questions and comments may cause you to question whether or not your multiples are the only ones they've ever encountered. You simply would not believe how interested perfect strangers can be in the conception and management of your babies. One could pen an entire book on the comments you are likely to receive, the questions you will probably be asked, and ways¾polite or otherwise¾to respond to those questions and comments (depending on your hormone level that day, how tired you are of the particular question, and how nice a person you are to begin with).
Here are some of the more common questions you are sure to be asked along with a variety of responses you can have at-the-ready.
"What kind of fertility drugs did you take?"
Never, never, will I understand how people feel comfortable asking others--especially perfect strangers--this question. That said, should you be provided with the opportunity to tell your story to an inquisitive stranger and find yourself excited by the chance to talk to an adult--any adult--for a while (no matter the topic), then by all means park that stroller, sit down on a bench, and start at Day 1. If, on the other hand, you find yourself responding as most of us do--wide-eyed and frantic to find the nearest exit--one of my favorite responses is: "Oh, are you having trouble getting pregnant?" People are usually not nearly as comfortable answering this question as they were asking their initial one, so this often ends the whole discussion in a hurry. Another option is to respond, while wearing the biggest smile you can muster, "Why do you want to know?" You would be positively amazed by how many questioners have no clue why they want to know and will simply move on. A final favorite response of mine is to smile and simply say "Wow, that's a really personal question!" (and then just keep walking). It's kind of like saying, "None of your bleeping business!" with the nice tone that a mother of multiples should use.
"Which side of your family do twins run on?"
This is usually a harmless question, and while you will quickly become royally irritated by it, I find that most people who ask it are genuinely just trying to make polite conversation. They are not the same people who will ask what form of fertility drugs you took or in what fancy position you and your husband had to "do it" to conceive more than one baby at the same time. When people ask about twins running on one side or the other of our family, I usually just comment that they run on neither side. Few people understand that twins can only "run" on the mother's side. Only the mother can pass the tendency to naturally release more than one egg to her daughter. Though I'm sure they would love to claim otherwise, a man's sperm simply is not strong or appealing enough to force a woman's ovary to release yet another egg. Of course, identical twins have nothing to do with genetics. An egg splitting is purely a random act.
"Wow, I'm sure glad it's you and not me!"
I'll admit, I'm not fond of this one! It's just so unnecessary and as my mother always says, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all." Some people just feel they have to say something--who knows why--so they say something relatively silly. Here are two options: Put on your best half-smile and keep walking or comment as nicely (or as cynically) as you would like, "Me, too!"
"How do you do it?"
Honestly, this is another of my not-so-favorites. But here's what I've come to dissect from this comment: When people ask, "How do you do it?" they don't really want an answer. This is just translation for "I could not do it." And no, clearly they could not or they would have twins with them as well. Nevertheless, I realize that--albeit completely subconsciously--they are paying me a compliment. They are saying, "I could not do it. You are doing it. You are an amazing human being who I only wish I had the fortitude to be able to call my friend," and, therefore, I've taken to accepting this statement simply as a poorly worded compliment. I usually respond (so I'm not totally rude to these kind, complimentary folks) with: "Oh, they make it easy." If, however, you are having a particularly bad day provide the inquirer with the answer to his or her question. Go on and on, beginning with "Well, I get up around 6:30AM. I go down and get breakfast ready for the troops, and then I fly like Mary Poppins back up the steps and sneak silently into their room to pick out their coordinating outfits for the day. I subsequently slide down the banister, and skip into the family room to ensure that all the videos, books, and other learning toys are lined up and ready to go . . ." By this point, the questioner is trying to get away from you.
There was the day, however, when nothing had gone right and I was sure bedtime would never arrive. A woman with whom I was sharing an elevator sighed and said, as though just thinking about my day made her as tired as I already felt, "How on earth do you do it?" I looked at the woman, at the boys, and back at the woman only to say, "You know what? I don't have any idea!"
"You sure do have your hands full."
This comment is not terribly original, but it's one you're likely to receive at least seven times each week, depending on how frequently you get out. It's really just a not-so-clever combination of "How do you do it?" and "I'm glad it's you and not me." Again, folks who utter this are simply not comfortable with awkward silences. Just smile and let your mood on each particular day determine how broadly or faintly you deliver said smile.
"Which one is smarter?"
I'm still speechless over that one, though thankfully, I've only been asked it once!
The lesson is: Be prepared for unsolicited questions and advice left and right until, I'm sure, your kids reach the age of eighteen. I'm already prepared for Are they in the same class?--along with the questioner's unsolicited opinion on whether that's good or bad--Do they have different friends? and on and on. I'll probably always be unprepared in the moment, but at least I'll be armed with good stories and a good laugh for those moments (middle-of-the-night, why-is-this-child-crying moments perhaps?) when I really need one.
Elizabeth Lyons is the author of Ready or Not.Here We Come! The REAL Experts' Cannot-Live-Without Guide to the First Year with Twins. Her website is www.elizabethlyons.com.
". . . the advice you need in the short, funny format your sleep-deprived mind can absorb. Lyons tells it like it is in a laugh-out-loud look at the uncertainty, craziness, and absolute joy of your first year with twins. An absolute must-have." --Lisa Earle McLeod, Columnist for Lifetime Magazine and author of Forget Perfect.