What NOT to say to mom of twins

Twin babies are irresistible. Here's Sydney Cohen in purple, Alexandria Cohen in pink.
Twin babies are irresistible. Here's Sydney Cohen in purple, Alexandria Cohen in pink.

I’m the lucky mother of twin daughters, Alexandria and Sydney. In 2003, they were born 10 weeks premature and spent almost two months in the hospital before they came home. It was a traumatic catapult into motherhood, but thankfully my daughters - now fifth-graders - have always been healthy. Every day, I think how blessed I am to have twins.

I get that people are fascinated by them, especially as babies. People want to share in that specialness by talking to you, and that’s kind of nice. Most of the time.

But then there were days when every trip out of the house resulted in a cross-examination. Here are some of the rudest questions and comments:

1. “Are they twins?"

I realize it was an obvious way for someone to strike up a conversation with me (after staring at my daughters, trying to confirm their suspicion). And I appreciated the fact that a stranger was interested enough in my life to take a minute to chat. However, there were days when this ubiquitous question was downright annoying. Maybe because the answer was just so obvious (two babies, the same size, who look to be about the same age in a double stroller), or maybe because I knew that answering would only compel the interrogator to fire off another question, like ...

2. “Are they identical?” *

People want to be able to classify twins into two categories: identical and not-identical. Most people know there are two types of twins, but they don’t know what this actually means. This question exasperated me because I felt compelled to educate the interrogator, but also feared that my engaging in conversation would lead to additional, and more invasive, questions.

* Variations on this question include “Are they fraternal/paternal/maternal?” And also: “Were they in the same sac?”  

3. “Did you do IVF?”

Um, hello! Can you say nosy? Is it really anyone’s business how I conceived my twins? (And for the record, the answer is no. I went to Paris with my husband. We didn’t even find out we were having twins until I was five months pregnant! Surprise!)

4. “Did you have them naturally?”

This question always followed question No. 3 and was always asked by total strangers. What did they really want to know? The manner in which my daughters were conceived? Or how they were delivered (vaginally vs. C-section)? The answer to either is, "None of your business."

5. "How do you tell them apart?” 

I’d say the twins are fraternal, to which the stranger would respond, “Oh, no way! You're your babies are TOTALLY identical!” OK. You’re right. You would know better than I would.

6. "Do twins run in your family?"

I appreciated the interest in my genetical family tree. Really, I did. But some days it was just too much to explain what causes multiple births and why it may or may not be hereditary.

7. "You're so lucky! Two for the price of one!"

Really? You think people with twins are actually saving money? Even with excellent medical insurance, my daughters’ extended hospitalization was extremely expensive, and I don’t recall the hospital giving me a twin discount.

When we bought two cribs, we did not get a buy-one-get-one deal. Not for the two strollers, two swings, two bouncy chairs, two high chairs and two excersaucers either.

Miami Herald

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