About a year after the move to South Carolina, my ex husband and I bought a house in a city about 45 minutes from Charleston. It was in that neighborhood that I met my first friends that weren’t automatically associated with the military. These women eventually formed a Bunco group who met once a month with a built in excuse to drink wine, chit chat and scream like kids on a roller coaster after a good roll.
Naturally, I was no longer in the group once we moved, but not too long after I moved back, this time by myself, I was welcomed back in. Many of the members have changed since then, but the atmosphere has never really shifted.
Friday night, after I left my wet flip flops in the foyer and grabbed a plate of food, I joined 3 others sitting at one of the tables. One of the women is a fellow mother of twin toddlers (hers are nearly 2). Unless you count the handful of outings I’ve taken with only one baby, I have zero experience as a mother to a singleton. Still, I know that motherhood to twins is a different experience entirely and enjoy having someone to share stories with from time to time. The most common (and unknowingly loaded) question I find that I get (from singleton and twin moms alike) is “do twins run in your family?”
I was very open about our road to parenthood as we traveled it and now is certainly no exception. The majority of the time, and in this case, I say “no, we went through fertility treatments.” Typically, I get a few questions or a short side story about a friend of a friend who had an IUI. On more rare occasions, the person has experienced infertility herself. There is always an instant bond with these people, because you know that they too have walked a lonely road that is very difficult for someone who has not walked it to understand.
In this case, the fellow twin mom not only had zero experience with infertility, she conceived with an ease that makes every fellow past and present infertile drool. What made her different, though, was her interest. Many are interested in the science behind the procedures. Fewer ask about the emotional impact. Even fewer REALLY ask.
Part of our groups conversation involved the experiences of pregnancy: morning sickness, bed rest, stretch marks, discomfort. When I first joined this Bunco group I was not yet ready to have children, so I didn’t have much to contribute. While trying initially, these conversations interested me. As we sunk further and further without any luck, they became painful. Even now, with 2000 pictures of my beautiful twins in my phone, when someone asks if twins runs in my family, it stings a little. It stings because I’ll never forget how painful those conversations sometimes were and how alone I felt. I’ll never forget feeling like I saw pregnant.women.everywhere. I’ll never forget how bitter the experience made me feel for a long time. How annoyed I felt when someone would complain about a pregnancy I would give my left arm to have and sometimes forced me into another room to shed a few tears before I could compose myself.
Fellow twin mom, taking interest, began asking questions not only about the IVF procedure itself but about how it felt to go through it. She said she had a friend who has had difficulty conceiving and, incidentally, been acting differently lately. She asked me if I thought being around her might be difficult for her friend, if she maybe felt bitter about the fact that her ability to conceive had been so easy. I was honest when I told her that was possible.
She was shocked. She told me she had no idea. That she meant absolutely no harm. This time, I understood.
I think I speak for many when I say that one of my biggest complaints was what felt like the lack of understanding from others. In hindsight I suspect it was more a lack of information than understanding. Through no fault of their own, people just have no idea. Truth be told, before I was ready to have a family, I didn’t either. In fact, I recall responding to the news of an acquaintances miscarriage with “at least she knows she can get pregnant” (not to her, thankfully). To this day, knowing what I know now, I am ashamed by that comment. I didn’t even want to type it out.
This post has sat unfinished in my drafts for two days because I am not sure how to finish it. I guess the experience brought some new understanding into the minds of others. When you’re in the throes, it’s so difficult to see the good natured side of some of the things people say. It seems, though, that many are really good intentioned. I was. Little did I know (at the time), though, the impact those words could have had. I, like fellow twin mom, meant no harm.
From inexperienced, well intentioned but likely insensitive, to the person on the receiving end of well intentioned but possibly insensitive comments, to someone who has now been on both sides being asked about someone else’s experience, it seems like, in a way, I’ve come full circle.
And I feel just as confused as ever.
*If this offends anyone still struggling, please accept my apologies. This was really just may way of trying to sort out my own thoughts and feelings about this particular issue.