July 12, 2009

What not to do! A guide to meeting a family with multiples.

The general public has surprised me. GENERALLY everyone is very, VERY kind to our family.

I love putting smiles on the faces of people, especially of elderly women. You can see a past life in their eyes when they gaze upon my 3 babies. I can't speak for every mom of multiples, but I don't mind the smiles. The gazes at my beautiful family. When I see twins or triplets I get so excited at the thought of not being alone in the world that I look like a grinning fool.

I don't mind the passerby telling me,
"They are beautiful!", "Bless you!" or "You have a beautiful family."
I can normally respond with a nod, or a quick "thank-you" and move along.

You see, when you have 5 small children...time is ALWAYS running out. I have a list, and talking to strangers is probably not on it. I have a small amount of time before one of the babies (or big kids for that matter) explodes...I am trying to make it out before that bomb goes off.

I start to get slightly annoyed when people ask me a question that requires a reply.
Like, "Are they all yours?", "You have your hands full, don't you?", "Are they triplets?", "Are they twins?", "You're done...right?", "Are you a daycare?", or "Are they identical?"
If I answer with a 1 word reply and walk away...TRY not to be offended. Please remember that toddlers are ticking time bombs, and you are NOT the first person to stop and ask me that VERY SAME question.

There is the 8-10% of the population that have decided to turn off their inner monologue. We all know a person like this. We work with one, or live with one, or are related to's the person that hides behind the mask of "honesty" to just plain be rude and tacky. These people love parents of multiples. It gives them something to talk about, or something to complain about, or a reason to spout off their negativity.
Examples, "I would kill myself.", "I would have had an abortion.", "The world is already over-populated, how irresponsible.", "Are you on welfare?" (has also been stated as "Am I paying for these children?"), "Are you married? You don't look old enough to have all these kids."

I get relatively salty at these comments. Sometimes I have a smart retort, but my brain is not as witty as it once was and I often just ignore the ignorant.

Finally we have the Nosy Nellies. These are the people who want to know HOW you came to have the beautiful blessings in your possession. There are usually 3 reasons for asking.
#1. You are a fan/not a fan of the Octomom and Kate Gosselin. #2. You are struggling with infertility. #3. Well, you are just plain curious.

The questions usually are formed like this, "Do triplets/twins/multiples run in your family?", my personal favorite "Did you do drugs?", "Did you do IVF", "Are they artificial?", "Are they natural?", "Are they a blessing, or did you have help?"

Honestly, these questions have slowed down a bit. I think they are the MOST COMMON questions during the first year. Now I seem to have the "Are you a daycare?" question a lot. Why does it bother mom's of multiples???
  • When the children are conceived spontaneously, most people assume that they had help.
  • When the children are conceived spontaneously, most mom's of multiples bond with women who DID have fertility treatment and they do not want to make light of the blessing of other women's multiples.
  • Many people who have higher order multiples did not conceive with IVF, but some other form of fertility treatments (It's called ART, assisted reproductive technology). Since most people ask, "did you have IVF?" they usually reply with a no...since it's hard to explain.
  • It's a sensitive topic. Some people believe that fertility treatments are a sin. Some believe that it's morally wrong. Mom's don't want to have to explain the reason for their child's existence. Most of us believe that a child is a gift from God no matter the circumstances.
  • It's a sensitive topic, and this may be a source of contention in the extended family. They don't want to talk about it at the grocery store too!
  • We don't ask how your children were conceived!
If you are a fan of the Gosselins, and the Octomom, and are curious if our story is like theirs....NO. It's not. We are not on TV, to begin with, and there is a very firm rule about the world of babies. You can never walk in another mom's shoes unless you have been there. EXACTLY there. I do not have sextuplets & twins, or octuplets + 6, so I don't know what their lives are like...just like a woman who "only has triplets" won't know what my life is like. A twin mom can't ever know what having triplets is like. EVEN if she has "Irish triplets". It's not the same. Triplet mom's will NEVER understand what it's like to have quads, and quad mom's will never understand the full needs of quint moms. Don't lump all mom's of multiples into the same pile.

So, what do you do when you meet a family like mine?:

  1. Be aware that the older children are aware of points, stares, and whispers.
  2. Feel free to smile, nod, and make polite statements that do not require me to stop. We love it, and Reagan always says, "People LOVE our family mommy! They are always asking God to bless us!"
  3. If one of my tornadoes (aka: Addison) grabs and throws a can of tomatoes off the shelf, I would be eternally grateful if you were to pick it up for us.
  4. DO offer to open the door if the location does not have automatic doors. This should be done for EVERY MOM WITH A STROLLER!!!! Not just me!
So, what NOT to do when you meet a family like mine!:

  1. Do NOT point, laugh (a rude mocking laugh), or make rude statements. I have grown some thick skin, but remember that my oldest children are 5 and 4 and pick up on everything.
  2. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you EVER take cell phone pictures or any other kind of pictures of a family without permission....and NO, it's not OKAY to ask. It's just weird, rude, and tacky to even think that it's okay. Just restrain yourself from taking pictures of my children please....unless you know me and I have said it's okay. (yes, this has happened to me)
  3. Try to limit the questions, and be forgiving if I am short with you. The clock is always ticking.
  4. Adhere to the golden rule, find some tact. Just because a thought pops into the head does not mean it should be said out loud.
  5. Remember that some things should remain personal, like how babies are made. I don't want to explain it in front of my daughter. If you are infertile and have questions, just come out and tell us why you are asking. You will get much better replies. :)
Here are a couple actual conversations some mom's of multiples have had with the general public, you can see why we can act a little jaded sometimes! (The names have been changed to protect the innocent, unless they gave permission to use their actual name):

April says:
While I was at the grocery store, a woman stopped me and asked if I had triplets.

I replied with a yes, and she stated, "I would have had an abortion."

Kristin says:
My labor and delivery nurse asked me if the babies were a result of IVF.

I said no.

She said, "Good! That means you were meant to have them!"

Little did she know I had ART.

Lucy says:
My mother tells everyone that I don't have triplets because they aren't identical.

From Alicia at A Friend in Reach:
My husband and I were leaving the hospital with our newborn triplets. I struggled for 35 weeks to bring 3 lives into this world at the same time. We agonized over their well-being and prayed they would be born healthy. We were so happy to take them all home with us. It was the most exciting day in my life. We were full of pride and joy while we got into the elevator and met “Mr. Positive.”

Statement from “Mr. Positive”: “Are those triplets? Wow. That is going to be tough. I hope you are saving up for their college tuition already. They are going to be really expensive.”

My response: “Thanks for the positive well wishes and congratulations. We are just feeling blessed they are alive and healthy…but I guess it is never too early to think about their college tuition. I mean, they are aging fast; being 5 days old and all.”