What not to say to a mum of twins

Fate and biology sometimes decide to gift a mum with two at a time.
Fate and biology sometimes decide to gift a mum with two at a time. Photo: Getty Images

Being a mum of identical twin boys stirs up great interest and fascination. It also opens itself up to nosy, invasive questions, as well as huge assumptions.

For each and every one of those moments, when I was too overwhelmed (or shocked) to reply, finally, here are my retorts.

"Did you have them via IVF?"

No, but I don't see how it's any of your business. 

In the past 20 years, the increased use of IVF and fertility drugs have increased the rate of twin births. And in 2012, 4421 sets of twins were registered, representing 1.4 per cent of births overall.

Regardless, twin pregnancies are still a wonder and beautiful mystery of human reproduction. So why does it matter if they were IVF? You may be just making small talk, but there are very few conversations in which it would be okay to ask someone – often a complete stranger – about their fertility. This seems unique to mums of multiples.

"Twins must run in your family"

There is a higher chance of having non-identical twins if you or your partner have a few sets in your family tree. But still, twins can occur out of nowhere, even when there is no hereditary pathway. It's all part of the mystery!   

And despite my attempts to give a detailed explanation that identical twins actually occur randomly, I'm usually met with disbelief. Sperm actually finding its way to a viable egg for gestation, then splitting it into two embryos, is not a hereditary trait. Nor is it a special party trick exclusive to my husband's swimmers. It was just pure chance.  

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"I have twins – Irish twins. It's just like having twins!"

Honestly, unless you are a mother of twins, this comment is null and void.

The physical toll and emotional stress of any woman's twin pregnancy is unique. While having back to back pregnancies certainly puts the body under strain, and can also lead to premature birth, it's common for twins to be born at 37 weeks, rather than full term.

A less common – though thoroughly frightening – risk is twin to twin transfer syndrome. This is a serious complication during pregnancy where one identical twin has too much of a blood supply from the mother's placenta while the other doesn't receive enough, leading to possible death for one or both unborn babies.

"I could never do what you do – one is hard enough!"

This double-edged statement can be a compliment only reserved for super twin mums, but delivery and timing is key. The comment will probably only be welcomed when the twins are being well behaved and polite. Unfortunately, it's usually heard when one twin is rolling on the supermarket floor in frantic tears as the other – who was perfectly fine prior to his sibling's meltdown – decides to join forces.

The good bits

Of course, for all the not-so-welcome comments that come our way, there are equally positive ones too.

If you happen to come across a mum of identical twins, feel free to remind her how rare and special her situation is. Despite the unlikelihood – only one in 300 births – fate and biology decided to gift her with two at a time.

Let her know that her twins are "twice as nice", instead of "double trouble". After possibly experiencing pregnancy complications, as well as severe sleep deprivation from feeding two newborn babies at a time, you can be sure she's rewarded with abundant kisses and hugs.

And that with all the financial hardship that comes with two at once, she can't put a price on the close and uncanny bond her twins continue to build every day.

And as you would with any other mum, tell her she's doing a great job – a doubly awesome one at that.

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