My Story

The chronicle of the journey from infertility, to miscarriage, to finally raising twin girls born in June 2012.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do twins run in your family?

I'm getting this question a lot lately.  I expect I'll be getting a lot in the years to come.  I'm not sure how to answer it.

Well, ok, that question isn't so hard to answer.  The answer is no.  Out of 50 billion people in my family, this will be the first set of twins.

It's the follow-up questions where things get awkward.  There's always a moment of confusion that crosses the face of the person like "so, uh, explanation please?" and I know that they want to ask the next question, and I really don't care who knows what, but I'm also aware of the fact that people don't really want to discuss a persons infertility issues within 2 minutes of meeting them.

So the follow-up question is usually something along the lines of "Wow, did you have any idea that it might be twins?"  There's only one answer to that question.  Yes, I knew there were two embryos, we've been pregnant with twins before, I had every reason to think and hope that this pregnancy would also be twins.

Here's the thing, I can't lie.  I don't do the little white lies that society makes us tell in order to allow a conversation to move forward in a polite and purely superficial manner.  I would totally be the first person voted out of Survivor because of this little personality trait.  It's a social convention that I simply don't understand.  And after years of trying to understand it and work within it while growing up, one day I just threw up my hands, declared "fuck it" and decided that if someone asks me a question, I'll just answer the damned question rather than kill myself trying to figure out what they want to hear.

Part of this decision is due to my own failure to figure it out, and in part due to deciding that I'm simply not ashamed of a few things that I've had to deal with that most people keep politely behind closed doors.  Behind closed doors indicates shame and I'm not ashamed.  I battled bipolar disorder for years and despite the millions of people afflicted with this, how many in your life can you name?  Probably not many because the struggle tends to be private.  Not me.  When people ask the opening question of "How are you?" I would respond politely, but honestly.  "I'm having a bit of a difficult depression day, but I'm battling.  How are you?"

It's the same with infertility.  I have no shame.  I really don't give a hoot who knows about my IVF or the fact that my periods are wonkalicious.  But if it's mentioned, the conversation has no other avenues of moving forward.  Unlike the depression answer that allows the conversation to move past that little information nugget, you just can't discuss anything else if I answer the twins question honestly.

Again, I'm not ashamed, I have no intention of keeping that part of my life hidden, and I don't care what strangers or colleagues know about it.  However, I am aware of the fact that it's not the most pleasant of topics of conversation and complete strangers really don't want to walk away from meeting me for the first time with intimate knowledge of my reproductive organs.

So how the hell do I maneuver past that follow-up question?  Again, I can't politely lie.  Even if I try, it just kind of hangs in the air because there's obviously something big going unspoken and we all just smile at each other trying to figure out how to get out of this awkward silence.

So I'm open to suggestions.  How would you answer that follow-up question?  It needs to be honest, yet allow for the conversation to move past an infertility discussion.  Wit is encouraged.  Maybe something along the lines of "Oh, we had a whole medical team hoping for a delightful outcome."  Would that work?  Polite, honest, and doesn't drag down the conversation?  Help!


  1. I would just say, "Nope, but we conceived via IVF so we were really hoping for twins". It allows you to end on a positive which focuses on the girls rather than you and your issues. This helps keep the conversation ball rolling even though you've just divulged something fairly personal.

    Honestly I don't think it's such a huge deal these days (although maybe it depends on where you live and who you're talking to). People know what IVF is, they know it's more likely to result in twins, and since more and more women are having babies at an older age, chances are whoever you are talking to is going to know someone else who has had fertility treatments.

    What I always find more of a conversation killer is when people ask me about my daughter "is she your first child?" Then I have to decide whether to respond with the truth or a lie, the truth being "Nope, she has an older brother who is dead". No way to put a positive spin on that one.

  2. Yep, you'll be hearing that question a lot. Mrrp. I find when I get it, a bit of humor along with the truth tends to go a long way. Them "Were you surprised its twins?" Me: "Nope, not entirely surprised! We did IUI and we were super lucky to get two for the price of one!" (or "we had a little help..." because I often have to explain what IUI is if I name it *sigh* People are more aware about IVF). The good thing is after you answer the follow-up question, they typically move on. I've had very few people dig any deeper after I say we had help/used IUI. And once you have the babies, they'll move quickly on to other questions that you might as well get prepared to hear a thousand times (are they identical? how do you tell them apart? how EVER do you manage?) ;)

  3. I also can't lie, and I also often give TMI. I have gotten this question a lot and I say something like "No, we were doing fertility treatments - and we were actually relieved it was 'only' twins because it could have been triplets!" That usually lightens it. It's true - we had 3 eggs, it could have been triplets. Holy moly. Sometimes people will ask more questions about fertility treatments but most people will leave it at that and talk about twins and blah blah all the people they know with twins and blah.

  4. My suggestion as a parent of twins, is just don't go there. You don't want to go into a discussion about IVF with random strangers when you have two crying babies at Target and you just need to get your diapers and get the hell out of there. I'm not ashamed of needing to do IVF, anymore than I would be ashamed of needing medical intervention to fight cancer, but I don't think it is anyone's business in the check out line either. Politely say no, and when they ask you if you needed 'those fertility drugs like octomom' say 'no'...unless you have the time or the inclination for a debate. I used to be honest, but seriously, the check out line is not the place.

  5. Want to really wigg them out? Tell them you had no clue you had conceived at all you only remember a bright light and a probe. Okay so we all know the bright light was the transfer room at SRM and the probe was the transfer catheter but its more fun to just mess with their minds.

  6. I am the same way and had and still have a difficult time aswering "do you have any children?". the fact that I carried my son for 6 months, was in labor for 18 hours and still have an epidural pain, I always want to say YES! I do. But the "he passed at birth" response is usually not taken well. Oh well. Tough shit.

    Its funny, I know a bunch of people with twins Living in NYC, there are tons of twins and I usually assume fetility so I don't even bother asking if they run in family.... but I think you should try practicing what feels right. I think this is such an amazing dilema. I can't wait until the girls are here. Its getting close!!

  7. I have been watching your blog for awhile, but I just started following :)
    (I'm from the July board "notlettinggo")
    I think it's crazy that you don't have twins in your family, and yet you're having them! My Dad is a twin, so I thought my chances were pretty high of having twins of my own. After being pregnant 4 times (3 m/c) I never once conceived twins!
    I love that you're willing to be so honest. It's what makes you one of my favorite people on the July board :) I think it's great that you would give an honest answer, those babies deserve to be remembered and talked about anyway!

  8. When it comes to complete strangers I would just keep my answer short. Yep, it looks like twins run in the family (now!).

    I learned this lesson when I was babysitting my niece when she was a baby. I toted her into Starbucks and babies are so cute, complete strangers just want to stare at the baby and they don't hesitate to strike up a conversation. The woman behind me in line told me how cute my baby was and then asked me how old she was. As I awkwardly tried to explain that she is just my niece. I am just babysitting, but thank you she is cute isn't she. I realized that I was totally over explaining the situation. The woman behind me wisely told me I could just pretend for the day. The rest of the day I went around accepting compliments on my sweet niece as if she were my own. It seriously I made life so much easier.

  9. You could always say something like "no, and we feel so lucky but also so scared - two screaming babies!" Then the conversation will probably turn to the person giving you advice about babies and s/he'll forget entirely about the original question.

  10. I am always honest, say yes we did know that we were having twins. We were surprised but not shocked as it was the second time I was pregnant with twins but lost the first set. Most people move right on with the other questions...Identical/fraternal, hands full, blah, blah, blah.


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