“Oh! You’re having triplets! Wow.”
Then the inevitable question.
“So, did you do IVF?”
Of course there are many ways that people ask this question. Most are not subtle.
Or there is what I consider a more hideous variation of the question.
“Are they natural?”
I know what they mean, they’re simply asking if I had assisted reproductive technology. But it makes me feel that if admit I did IVF I’m saying, “No, my children are unnatural.”
My children aren’t unnatural. The egg and sperm weren’t joined in the traditional manner, but at the end of the day it was a bonafide egg and an absolute au naturale sperm. Surely these two natural ingredients can create a natural child. Just because a scientist briefly helped in the union of said sperm and egg, doesn’t create synthetic people.
It’s strange that it bothers me. I can understand people being curious. I would be too.
Although I don’t think I would have asked a complete stranger two seconds after meeting her. I would have been worried that I was being rude. (And I think I would be right in that assumption.)
And as much as I’m getting used to the question and trying to find the best way to answer it, it does feel confronting. I need to find a good answer, because from what I’ve heard, I won’t stop being asked it after the kids are born.
I was always very open telling people that Toddler T was an IVF baby. To me, the journey through IVF and infertility is always connected with my pregnancies. People’s responses when hearing that Toddler T was an IVF baby were compassionate. Their words/unspoken body language changed as they recognised that this pregnancy/baby was a child who was long desired for and one that his parent’s were willing to go to considerable emotional, financial and physical effort in order to bring him up in a loving family.
I guess this illustrates why the IVF question now bothers me so much. People’s words or unspoken body language now express an entirely different sentiment. When I admit that they were IVF, all of a sudden there is a knowing look, a nod and a dismissal that this news is a little less exciting than it could have been.
A classic example was an old duck who worked, of all places, in a baby store. I was enquiring about triple strollers. Once she heard the I was having triplets, she started to fish for information beginning with the thinly veiled subtle approach.
“Triplets? Was that a surprise?”
“Yes, it certainly was.”
“But did you know you could have triplets?”
“No, I didn’t think I was going to have triplets.”
At which point she decides she needs more information and abandons the so called subtle approach.
“But did you do IVF?”
“Yes I did, but I never thought I would have triplets.”
Triumphant nod, as old duck has obtained the information that she sought.
“Yes, but you caused it to happen. Having three babies that is. They aren’t natural.”
“Well, when we did IVF we were hoping for one more child in our family.”
“But you didn’t put one egg in though. So that’s how this happens.”
“We only put two eggs in and one egg split, that’s why didn’t think we would have triplets.”
“Oh.” Body language changes to indicate that somehow the fact that we didn’t insert three eggs makes this somehow more acceptable.
I leave the store, (Without buying anything), feeling annoyed with myself that somehow I felt I should justify my choices to this complete stranger who obviously has no idea about IVF or infertility or multiples.
Let alone, the woman did not know that it’s impossible for a woman to get pregnant with triplets with IVF alone in Australia. In our country, you can’t legally use two embryos until you are over the age of 35 and at a decreased chance at achieving a multiple pregnancy. And two embryo’s are normally the maximum you may put in. I don’t think people understand that to have a triplet pregnancy in Australia there has been another factor rather than just IVF that has intervened.
I should note that there are many people, strangers and friends alike, that have heard the news and have celebrated it with us. They have talked about how it will be exciting (but busy!) to have three babies and what a blessing it will be. My church family particularly has been very supportive and right from the start been sensitive in the questions that are asked and celebrate the miracles that are growing within me.
I don’t mind so much people asking about conception if they know me well enough. I’m an open person. I don’t mind talking about IVF. And sometimes people are asking for personal reasons because they are contemplating/doing/have done IVF or know someone who is and want to hear about my experience. If a stranger was to say this to me when asking about IVF, I wouldn’t mind sharing my story one bit.
I need to remember also that most people aren’t meaning to be rude, they are merely curious.
However there are some factors that the curious public need to remember when they ask these personal questions to mother’s of multiples.
Firstly, just as a side, the parents who have conceived multiple babies ‘spontaneously’, get sick of this question also.
The parents who have received assisted reproductive technology have most likely been on a huge journey emotionally. They desperately have wanted children and have been willing to go to a lot of time, effort and money to achieve this dream. You don’t know what each individual journey has consisted of before reaching this joyous pregnancy. Often before they have become pregnant there have been multiple miscarriages, failed IVF attempts, many, many failed attempts at using fertility medicine, operations – to sum it up, there has been heartache, pain, sense of failure and devastation, before one day there is a happy moment of a positive pregnancy test. And then there is a second moment during an ultrasound when two or more babies are found. Even despite any initial shock, parents who have been infertile are normally overjoyed and determined to provide the best possible life to the children they thought they never may have.
There are reasons why parents have carefully deliberated over (in consultation with doctors) before placing more than one egg in during an IVF cycle. Either they do not have the funds to keep repeating the process of IVF until they achieve a pregnancy, or there have been failed attempts so placing more than one embryo gives a better chance at achieving a pregnancy. Most people would probably be very surprised to find out how many people have placed multiple embryo’s in the woman’s uterus during an IVF cycle and then have had no babies, or only one baby.
In any case, any mother that has the miracle of life being formed within her needs to hear comments that are supportive and uplifting. Most pregnancies have an element of challenge as women have all types of auxiliary issues to deal with it – from physical challenges, hormonal fluctuations or tiredness. So please, by sympathetic when you ask questions to any pregnant woman, including mothers with twins, triplets or more. And if
you are really curious, bite your tongue, unless you are given an avenue to politely ask, “Are they IVF?”
What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think mother’s of multiples are being over sensitive? Have you felt awkward being asked if your children were IVF? If you are a mother of multiples, do you have a good answer when strangers ask if your kids are IVF?