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Parenting Twins: Questions About Life with Multiples

From moms and dads expecting twins, to your family and friends, to strangers on the street, everyone seems to have questions about what it is like to have new twins in your belly, or in your home. The questions that follow are the ones my husband and I -- parents to boy and girl twins -- were asked most often. The answers that follow are ours and ours personally. In a broader scheme of things, answers are surely as varied as those who have experienced the situation. Please bear in mind our singularity of viewpoint when reading this chapter. Start composing your family's answers now. Trust me, the questions will be asked.

More importantly, try not to be offended by those queries that seem to have a "question(s) behind the question." Sometimes the asker has subliminal (and nosy) need to know your innermost feelings. Sometimes you are already sensitive about areas of your twin motherhood. Other times the asker is merely making conversation. Since you will rarely be able to know the difference between the types of questioners, do the American thing, and assume innocence ... or ignorance. Neither of which should be met with condemnation, however tempting. Keep conversation civil in front of your highly impressionable children.

Q. What do you do when both babies are crying?

A. Very rarely do both twins demonstrate equal distress at the same time. I'm not saying they don't cry at the same time, they do ... but usually you can decipher fairly quickly if one is grievously, legitimately provoked, and then you tend to that baby first. When both are equally angsty, I pick one to be consoled first, try to do so expeditiously, then try to pick the other the next time.

Of course the tempting answer when this question is asked is to reply, "I cry, too!" And in truth, sometimes you may. It's okay, and totally normal. Don't feel like you have to share such intimacies with inquisitive strangers.

The questions behind the question: "Don't you feel terrible having to divide your attention between two children?", "Are you going crazy?", "Do you feel thrust into a situation for which you are ill-equipped?" The answers to any/all of those questions are your business alone, and your answers are subject to change at any moment. Let it go.

Q. How do you do it?

A. You just do! You don't have the luxury of time to deliberate or overevaluate each twinstance that needs addressing. In reality, that is a blessing. By virtue of the fact you have multiple demands on your personal resources, you're typically forced to "go with your gut." Often, those reflexive, instinctual responses are the best.

The questions behind the question: How in the world can you do it all? Aren't you in a constant state of feeling overextended, overstressed, and underequipped? Clearly there are times when you feel poorly prepared, poorly suited, and extremely poorly rested for the task at hand. Never say it in front of your twosome; but in truth, you have no choice in the matter. You do what situations demand, and with two newborns, demands are plentiful. Commensurately plentiful will be your sense of accomplishment, your confidence in your ever-improving parenting skills, and your growing feelings of gratitude for your double blessings.

Q. Do you ever get out? Just you and your husband?

A. When we want to, we do. But honestly, the entertainment level in our household has increased exponentially with the arrival of our twins. We're less interested in the restaurant meals and movies that filled our social calendar pre-twins.

The questions behind the question: It's an oft-assumed -- and highly irritating -- question behind the question, but people may really be asking, "Is your marriage suffering for the additional stress/strain?" Again, no one's business but yours and your spouse's.

Q. Do you miss your job?

A. No. I don't. I keep in touch with my former coworker friends, but I don't miss my actual job at all. My new stay-at-home-mom career utilizes many of the talents/skills that made me a formidable force in my professional role: multitasking, attention to detail, working capably within deadlines, strong interpersonal and diplomacy skills, and the ability to function effectively amidst perceived chaos. The benefits in my new profession supersede my former benefits package. The pay? Well, that's a different story, but I can wear my pajamas to work!

The questions behind the question: "Are you truly satisfied/fulfilled by your decision to become a stay-at-home mom?" Or for the working twin moms: "Do you regret your decision of returning to work, knowing someone else is caring for your twins?" Regardless of which 9-to-5 decision a new mom makes, others (usually women) are often unconvinced that they would be happy making the same choice. True and honest feminism should encourage, trust, and support every woman's ability and competence to make the decision that is best for her and her family. If you wish to convince the frequently inconvincible, develop your testimony now. Otherwise, trust yourself and save your breath. Don't be swayed or insulted by those whose preferences are different from your own.

Q. Are they identical?

A. No. They do resemble one another, but our twins are boy-girl, so they are fraternal.

The questions behind the question: "Does looking alike equal 'identical' twins?" "What is the true meaning of 'identical' twins?" Identical twins share the same genetic DNA makeup. Subsequently, identical twins are the same sex. (A worldwide total of three cases have been documented in which one of gestating identical boy twins "lost" a Y-chromosome; in essence, creating a girl who lacks the usual second X-chromosome. The cases of this occurrence are so rare; it is statistically accurate to say identical twins are of the same sex.)

Q. Why don't you dress them alike? (Or: Why do you dress them alike?)

A. For the occasional holiday or photo opportunity, I'll coordinate their attire. To dress our children alike every day is more effort than I need to add to my plate ... especially in the early days when errant spit-up or diaper malfunctions force frequent wardrobe changes.

The questions behind the question: "Do you have concerns about their individuality?" My feeling is that the vast majority of twin parents are hyper-attuned to the fact that their twins are often viewed as a singular unit. Whether you elect to dress your twins alike or not, do everything you can to reinforce their individual personality differences. Despite the old cliche, clothes don't make the man, or the child. What they wear is merely superficial. When your twins are old enough to express their displeasure (or desire) regarding dressing similarly, then reconsider your stand on the duo's daily duds.

Q. Were you on fertility drugs?

A. No ... well, not really. We had seen a fertility specialist and had taken a single rotation of the prescription drug Clomid since my period went AWOL for months after many years on the pill; but we were not undergoing official treatment. My obstetrician believes our twins occurred naturally, as a result of my "advanced maternal age."

More modest folk will take incredible offense at the personal nature of this question. The questions behind the question being: "Were you desperate for children? How much money did you spend to get them? Do you and your husband have reproductive issues making pregnancy 'naturally' an impossibility?" Get used to the fact that you will be asked. This is a question for which you may want to prepare an answer. Remember that your babies are a gift. It doesn't matter how you "got them"; you got them. Share information if you wish. You never know the intent behind the curiosity. You could unknowingly be providing hope, reassurance, or comfort.

Q. Do you want more kids? Are you done?

A. Yes, we're "done." We had always hoped to have two children; we just had no idea they would arrive within seven minutes of one another!

Many moms of same-sex twins find themselves very frustrated with this question; the question behind the question implication being that they need to "complete" their family by having a child (if they don't already) of the opposite gender. Again, try to be merciful with the ignorance of strangers. You and your partner dictate and define what "complete" is for your family.

Q. Do twins run in your family?

A. They didn't, but they do now!

The question behind the question: "Can you substantiate the statistics that twins indeed run in families?" The current belief is that identical twins occur fairly randomly. Fraternal twins do tend to run in families. Have fun doing some informal genealogical exploration. You may discover twins so distantly related they may not even "count," but enjoy looking. If you don't, excited relatives probably will.

Cheryl Lage is a full-time, fully fulfilled mom to fraternal twins Darren and Sarah. During twin-synchronous sleeping hours, she is the Web host of www.twinsights.com, a Web support site for new and expecting twin parents.

 

Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, May 2006.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.