“Oh, you poor bugger!” says Stacy, the checkout lady, her commiseration accompanied by a weird part chuckle, half chortle, semi-snort.
I offer an expression that encourages Stacy to just hurry the f*ck up and scan my 600 grams of Packham pears and three bottles of eucalyptus disinfectant, so I can get the hell out of here and off my pork roast sized, swollen feet.
I rub my ridiculous giant belly covered in its highly flammable, but oh-so-stretchy fabric, (thank you Millers) and think about the two tiny humans I’m growing.
Who would have thought?
Who would have dared hope?
It’s a familiar story. You do your best in your twenties NOT to be pregnant, and then when you hit your thirties, all you want to do is breed. When the two lines on the pregnancy test don’t appear after the first month of intentional mating, you shrug it off and figure it’ll happen next month, (plus next month will deliver a Scorpio baby which will fit perfectly with a Taurus/Cancer parenting combo).
But you don’t get your Scorpio baby, or Sagittarius, you don’t even get a Capricorn baby and there are ninety million Capricorn babies.
But Father Time can’t be hurried and so after three years, so many tests and two heartbreaking miscarriages, he bestows the gift of a daughter. She looks like her gorgeous dad, but I can tell she has my FOMO, which explains why she is awake more than she is not. She is divine.
When she is just nine-months-old, we’re beyond elated to learn we’re expecting. The nine-week scan displays one strong, precious heartbeat (the most beautiful sight and sound in the world to anyone who has longed for a baby). At the twelve-week scan, with my husband and daughter beside me, the nurse tentatively asks who has twins in their family. Already suffering the early on-set of baby brain, I think she’s just up for a chitty-chat, and begin explaining the family tree, stopping just short of providing an accompanying diagram and PowerPoint presentation. I notice my husband staring at the screen.
There are TWO heartbeats. There are TWO babies.
"Life is not about how many breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away," said someone who may have just been told they’re having twins.
So when Stacy in Woolies suggests I’m ‘a poor thing’, I think maybe Stacy is a bit of a knob.
Same goes for – let’s call him Ray – a year later, who watches (but does not offer assistance) as I try to navigate the twin pram with my daughter balanced precariously on top, up over the curb towards the park. "Whoa, what have you done wrong to deserve all that trouble?" As you can tell, Ray is also a knob.
As my boys grew to an age of comprehending what folks were saying, I too became more aware of the comments, especially as it was always said IN FRONT OF THEM.
"Oh God, I’d die if I found out I was having twins."
"Which one is the shy/naughty/smart one?"
"Who is fastest?"
"Oh, terrible twins! Double trouble!"
"Can you tell them apart?" (The answer to this is of course, no. No idea. I just guess.)
In the interest of a balanced debate, I will admit some twin comments are lovely. Sort of.
"Oh Max is so confident, isn’t he?" said the boys’ kindy teacher.
How should I answer that without implying that his brother is a wallflower? Isn’t there some study that proves that kids become what they’re told they are? If Max is always told he’s confident and Sam is told he is shy, will those traits dominate? If Sam is the ‘funny’ one, will Max become the bartender at the Comedy Club while Sam is on the mic?
Yeah, I know siblings are compared. The difference is they’re not being sized up to someone since birth. No one ever asks if my daughter is a ‘better’ child than one of my sons. But they ask which of my boys is the ‘good’ one.
Could a child develop resentment if they always hear that they are the ‘slower/shyer/smaller’ one? Me thinks so.
Because the problem with these remarks is they always present a negative and a positive, not two positives. The implication is A grade and B grade.
Regardless, it’s just kind of insensitive to compare kids. Any kids. Kind of like comparing adults, I guess.
We don’t ask Marjorie, the local butcher, if she is the slowest in her family.
We try not to mention to Gary, the gym instructor, that he’s much smaller than his brother.
And upon meeting Greg the dentist, we don’t immediately ask if he is the ‘naughty’ one in his family. Actually that doesn’t sound insensitive, that just sounds creepy.
Also, as a community service announcement on behalf of all parents of multiples, it’s not at all amusing to us to hear you boast, "I can’t tell them apart at all. Hahahaha…"
Nah, that’s not funny to us. Especially if you are a family member or a long-term friend. We don’t think it’s cute that you don’t know which of our children is which. Even the most identical looking twins have small physical differences.
In the case of our boys, Max has a freckle on his cheek; Sam has two on his neck. Max is left-handed, Sam is right. Their hair swirls in opposite directions. Max’s voice is higher, Sam’s lower. They walk differently. Learn the subtle, sweet differences (just don’t say it).
A final tip: if you see kids who look exactly the same, chances are they are twins/triplets/quadruplets. No need to ask, really. You’ll only slow down their (possibly exhausted) parent who may have spent four hours getting them dressed, into their car seats, into the pram (with compulsory snacks), just so they can buy nappies.
To the parents of multiples: what a privileged gang we are. How bloody lucky to be given more sweethearts to love.
And if anyone asks you as you’re wrestling your twin pram up the curb, "How do I tell who is who?", there is a simple answer:
"Ask them their names."
Do you have twins? What sort of comments to you receive? Tell us in the comments section below.