Just Ask What You Really Want To Know: Were My Twins Conceived Using Reproductive Assistance
“Oh. Do twins run in your family?”
Every mom of twins has fielded multiple iterations of this inquiry and I am willing to bet that each has also sensed, on more than one occasion, that the question being asked was not the question the person really wanted answered.
So many people, when they see twins, seem to need to know if yours was a naturally occurring, unassisted conception. They believe they can suss this out by asking if twins run in the family but, the truth is, genetics play a relatively small role in spontaneously occurring twin conceptions. In some cases, sure, twins run in the family but that doesn’t mean reproductive assistance was not needed in the case at hand.
When people ask this, what most of them actually want to know is if you have what they consider “real twins.” As if twins are any less twins – any less valid – if reproductive assistance was involved.
I could have an easy out. I could say, “My great grandfather was a twin. Born in 1907, before ultrasounds. Imagine the surprise!” That would leave no doubt that twins do run in my family.
I could leave it at a simple, “Yes.” The question asked, answered. But I have never been one to shy away from sharing my story. I know the real question they wanted to ask and I know my story can help raise awareness and maybe even soften some stigmas.
So, what I usually say is, “Yes. But that has nothing to do with why I had twins.” Depending on the time I have and the situation, I will then share as much of my story as I can.
When I was diagnosed with cancer and told the treatments could render me infertile, my soon-to-be-husband and I froze embryos for our future. After I had been in remission for a year, it took half of those embryos to result in my pregnancy with our son.
After needing an emergency life-saving hysterectomy, I could no longer give our remaining embryos a chance. We were tremendously fortunate to have an amazingly generous and compassionate woman offer to be a gestational surrogate for our embryos. She carried our daughters – the twin pregnancy – in her womb until they were strong enough to be born.
My children would not be here were it not for the technology of reproductive assistance. The fact that my daughters are twins is in no way diminished by the details of how they were conceived, carried, and birthed. And the fact that my son was a singleton birth does not mean I didn’t also need reproductive assistance to give him life.
There is no shame in completing a family with reproductive assistance. There is no shame in infertility of any kind.
While I would never presume to know exactly what drives the curiosity to know if my twins were conceived with or without reproductive assistance, I do know that is what the majority of people really want to know when they ask me if twins run in our family.
I hope the way I respond to that inquiry – gently calling attention to the fact that I am aware of the true question while willingly sharing our story – will raise awareness, one person at a time. Maybe someone will hear my story and realize how complicated it can be for some couples to complete their families. Maybe I can help the asker to recognize how thinly veiled the original question is. Perhaps they will think about that and spare another mother who may not feel as comfortable sharing the details of her children’s conception as I do. Maybe the asker will pause and think about why they really want to know this information in the first place. And maybe, just maybe, they will realize the answer to how twins were conceived will always be irrelevant to the fact that they are twins.
Elizabeth Joyce has been featured on Scary Mommy, The Mighty, and InspireMore, among others. Elizabeth shares her truths as a cancer survivor, mom via IVF/FET & gestational surrogacy, anxiety struggler, family historian, budget traveler, and simple, ordinary life enthusiast. She lives in Illinois with her husband, son, and twin daughters. Follow her on Facebook and find out more at about.me/WriterElizabethJoyce.