The Invasive Questions of Well-Meaning Strangers

Hopeful Readers…this amazing woman and I have bonded through loss. In fact, the day I lost Jake, my sister called her to see if she would take her shift at work so she could fly here and be with me emergently. This kind woman said yes and was carrying her twins at the time. Little did me know, just a month later, we would be bonded by the loss of our babies. We now stay connected and honor each other’s sons through every holiday and anniversary. Thank you for sharing this perspective. So many of us can relate to your words.

My first and only pregnancy was a natural set of twins- a boy and a girl. From the beginning my doctor told me it was a high-risk pregnancy. I had heard the statistics, I really didn’t believe they applied to me. I went to every appointment, I was being followed by specialists. I followed every pregnancy restriction – even the lunch meat ban. I religiously took my prenatal vitamin and my extra folic acid (since it was twins). I lived in a place where high-level healthcare was readily available and I had excellent health insurance.

I discovered when I became visibly pregnant, that complete strangers will come up and ask you questions and give you advice. It threw me the first few times, I didn’t really have conversations with people I didn’t know before, but I loved talking about the twins to whoever would listen after a while.

At 33 weeks my son no longer had a heartbeat. Also, I was informed that I would not deliver that day, but I would remain pregnant and hopefully carry my daughter to term. Since my blood pressure was understandably high, I was escorted down to labor and delivery for monitoring until they decided it was safe to send me home. As my husband, a nurse and I stood waiting at the elevator, a complete stranger said “Almost time now, right?” I looked at her, gave a half smile and said “yea”. I don’t know if she didn’t see my tear streaked face, or if she didn’t pick up on the somber mood of the three of us standing there or maybe she did after the question was out of her mouth.

I carried my daughter an additional 3 weeks before the twins were delivered via c-section with no complications. During these 3 weeks I fielded numerous questions about my pregnancy. Instead of providing me with an excuse to talk about my twins, this had become an excruciating exercise in maintaining my composure.

I went out to see a friend’s band play. While I was there a friend of a friend remembered my husband and I and asked, “You’re pregnant with twins, right?” I didn’t remember her and hoping to avoid a conversation I replied, “No, I’m having a girl”. This acquaintance had had a few beverages and was not picking up the signals of our friends to leave it alone and kept saying how she was convinced that I was pregnant with twins. I think she said the word twins like 80 times (alert: hyperbole). I left there crying.

Since going back to work, I talk about Genevieve as much as any parent talks about their child. When you talk about your children you inevitably get the “is this your first?” or “how many children do you have?” I like the “is this your first?” because I can honestly answer yes. When the question is worded differently, it’s based on the situation on whether or not I lie.

When I first went back I was lying left and right. The people who worked with me most often knew the story, but other people didn’t. It hurts when I don’t acknowledge my son. I feel guilty that I took the easy way out. And one day I decided to be honest when someone asked me why I came back to work so soon (I went back on my daughter’s 2 month birthday). I honestly replied that my daughter’s twin died and that I felt like I needed to take forward steps, so I came back as soon as I was medically cleared. I thought this guy was going to trip over himself he left the unit so quick.

My husband, daughter and I crossed the Canadian border recently. On the way over and back, the border patrol had us roll down the back window and said, “It’s just one baby?” My daughter’s birth certificate says that she is twin A.

Sometimes I don’t want to leave the house. There are days that even a simple trip to the grocery store feels like a minefield and you don’t make eye contact for fear you will invite conversation. The invasive questions of well-meaning strangers are painful. For me, and for 25% of women. And for the fathers of those women’s angels. October is for awareness. Awareness means that a stranger can talk to me about my daughter, but maybe not ask me about other children or her birth order. That maybe a pregnant woman can receive a compliment instead of questions. That anyone in the travel industry has an understanding that when a couple traveling with one child who has a birth certificate that says twins, the story is more than likely not a happy one. Awareness that not all pregnancies have a happy ending and those who are touched by the loss of a child would appreciate some understanding.

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