“So, your triplets … are they natural?”
I lost count of how many times I’ve been asked this a long time ago. I try not to screw my face up and give people the “stink-eye” when faced with this question because I know it comes out of people’s mouths without realising the intrusive nature of the inquiry. They are understandably curious as they aren’t used to meeting people with more than one baby at a time – I get that. Seriously though, let’s have a think about the question…
I looked up the meaning of “natural” on www.dictionary.com and found the following description:
“existing in or formed by nature (opposed to artificial)”
Now, I know that by asking this, the person is not wondering whether my children are indeed real humans as opposed to cyborgs or plastic dolls – they are asking whether my children are here as a result of assisted fertility treatments or through regular spontaneous conception. But, is it okay to ask someone you don;t even know about this sort of stuff? Of course not.
I’m a pretty friendly person and being blunt or rude to people doesn’t come easily for me, so at first when I was asked this by shop assistants or strangers at the park, I found myself caught off guard. I answered them honestly in full detail, stammering along and feeling pretty exposed and awkward. Afterwards, I felt annoyed with myself for sharing such private information with them. I decided I wasn’t okay sharing details with strangers and shortened it to “I needed a little help to fall pregnant.” (For the record, my babies were conceived with the help of fertility drugs, the same ones my mum needed to fall pregnant with me).
Thousands of single babies are conceived each year with the help of fertility treatments and most people wouldn’t dream of walking up to a stranger with one baby and asking he or she whether they had fertility issues or not. It’s a highly personal question, and frankly, no one’s business. So, what gives people the right to ask the same of parents of multiple births?
The curiosity is well-intended. People get excited and delighted when they hear about multiple births and are genuinely interested to find out about them. My kids are now three and I am making an effort to use the opportunity when I get faced with this question to educate and inform people, rather than be offended by them. Contrary to public belief, in many cases the pregnancies are spontaneous and it’s a great time for these families to share the statistics. The Australian Multiple Births Association have released figures showing that up to 80% of identical triplets are conceived without any assisted reproductive treatment.
For those of us who did need a helping hand to have our babies, there’s certainly nothing wrong with politely explaining to someone that they are actually asking a very personal question about your fertility and that you feel uncomfortable discussing that sort of thing with strangers. Most people can accept where you are coming from when you point this out. I am extremely proud of how my children came in to the world and completely comfortable explaining how we got to where we are with people I choose to share that story with, but I don’t believe I should have to explain it anyone and everyone. Fertility difficulties can be such a heartbreaking and emotional experience for some and they deserve the right to keep their personal life private.
I know I’ve huffed and puffed and rolled my eyes at people who ask invasive questions in the past, but I realise that politely educating them and highlighting the inappropriate nature of the conversation is a less stressful way of dealing with it… and heaven knows we don’t need any extra stress in our lives!