The most common two words spoken to a mother of twins are 'double trouble'. To which the best comeback is 'double happiness'.
Recent statistics show that one in every 80 births in Australia is a twin birth. So, while twins are more common than ever thanks to a mixture of women giving birth later in life (increasing the ability to 'drop' two eggs at once) and fertility treatment, they are still a source of fascination.
There are certain urban myths surrounding twins, as well as a series of strange comments to which parents of twins are often subjected, from pregnancy and beyond. As a former NSW President of AMBA (Australian Multiple Birth Association) and with 14 years of twin motherhood under my belt, I feel I'm suitably equipped to compile a list of the annoying questions and sweeping statements that are regularly made to mothers of twins.
1. Wow, you're absolutely freaking enormous! You must be having twins!
2. You can't be having twins. You're way too small!
3. Are they natural?
4. Did you have trouble getting pregnant?
5. Are there twins in the family?
1. Yep, I'm having twins.
2. Yep, there are four feet in here.
3. No, they're plastic.
4 & 5. They're really asking if you had IVF/fertility treatment. It's up to you whether you want to answer this question. Luckily I'm able to shut down that conversation by telling them my dad is a twin.
1. They look nothing alike. They can't be twins!
2. How do you tell them apart?
3. Twins would be easier than having just one baby because they have each other.
4. Breastfeeding two babies must be easy. They can entertain each other.
5. You shouldn't breast feed them both at once.
6. You should breastfeed them separately. Otherwise they never get one-on-one time with their mother.
7. Are they natural?
8. You should hold both babies at the same time so the other one doesn't feel left out. Can't you put one in a sling and just hold the other one
1. They're fraternal. Two eggs.
2. Either: one is blond, one is brunette. Or: I'm their mother, I can tell them apart. (One mother put blue nail polish on Twin 1 because they were quite difficult to tell apart until they grew hair and attitude.)
3. Sadly, they cannot change each other's nappies, feed each other or get up in the night to look after each other. Nor can they toilet-train each other; although watching each other sitting on the potty is a lot of fun.
4. If you don't have twins, you'll never know.
5. If you're able to breast feed, you need to stimulate both breasts into making enough milk for two. The female body is pretty amazing.
6. Okay, some people do. But tag team breast feeding, one after the other, all night long? Usually, when one baby wakes for a feed, you're supposed to wake the other baby, even if he/she isn't ready for a feed, otherwise you'll be tag teaming til sunrise.
7. No. Aliens.
8. No, not possible. I tried. You need to support a newborn baby's head, so you'd need four hands.
1. They look nothing alike. They're not twins.
1. Yes, they're twins.
1. Are they identical?
1. It's impossible for boy/girl twins to be identical because they have different genitals.
Common random comments:
1. My kids are a year apart. It's the same as twins. Right?
2. Which one is your favourite?
3. Is there a good twin, evil twin?
4. Were they natural?
5. One's taller than the other. They can't be twins.
6. Don't twins skip a generation?
1. No. There's a major difference. Twins are babies conceived and born at the same time. First-time twin mums start motherhood as a mother of two. Having children at different stages of development, i.e. a one year old and a newborn, is not the same as two newborns, or two one year olds. Also, twins means you are pregnant with two babies at once (twice the complications, twice the pressure on your body, twice the risks etc.) I have lost count of how many times I had to explain this and I'm always happy to enlighten people.
2. Twin 1 and Twin 2. I'm crazy about them both, equally. Interestingly, when I had a singleton after the twins, nobody ever asked me this question again.
3. Yes, sometimes.
5. Trust me, they're twins. I was there.
6. This is an urban myth. Only fraternal twins are hereditary on the mother's side -- you inherit the ability to 'drop' two eggs at once. Having said that, my father is an identical twin. He didn't have twins. Yet he had me, and I had twins -- so in my case twins did skip a generation.
Twins at School
1. When are you going to separate them?
2. You're separating your twins? Isn't that cruel?
1 & 2: Every set of twins is different. I always said I would keep my twins together unless a teacher recommended they should be separated. Some twins thrive together, others thrive in separate classes.
Best comment of all:
"I wish I had twins -- you are so lucky."
Yes, I thank my lucky stars every day!