Thursday, May 25, 2006

Knowing and Telling

28 week update: Apparently, my cervix is back to it’s normal, lengthy self. The peri actually spent some time pointing out how nice it was (though without all those flattering adjectives), and why he was pleased, and illustrated with his hands (how when I bear down, my cervix compresses, but doesn’t open). So, all’s well on the cervical front. I’m still on bedrest, but I have permission for a weekly outing (”as long as you’re not going on a 4 mile walk,” he said. Ha!). So that’s good news all around.


While we were in the waiting room (because the peri was running 45 minutes late - not unusual) another patient came in who was huge - bigger than I am. Turns out, she’s the surrogate for our new friends G & V. Which we learned because G walked in to the waiting room just after huge-preggo-woman. So we chatted with the two of them for a while (they had the appointment after mine, so it was going to be a while...)

We were talking with G about various childbirth and prep classes (since last time we saw them was at the infant CPR class) and it occured to me that in a room of pregnant women, she regularly introduces herself as “expecting twins by way of a surrogate.” Now, the other day I had a long conversation with my mom about “telling” and about which people get which information (ranging from the fact that we’re having twins, to due dates, to the vague mention that we had some help, to more detailed info about IVF). What I have, in contrast to G, is the luxury of privacy. (At least when my mom isn’t telling people whatever she’s telling them...) I can choose to tell people as much or as little about how these twins came to be as I want. And I do. Mostly, I don’t bring up the IVF. People ask if twins run in the family, and I answer (not really, though there are some). But unless it seems like the person might be going through infertility or have some other knowledge of the topic, I don’t generally expand on our methods of conception. As I said to my mom, for the most part, you wouldn’t tell people what position you were in if you conceived the “old fashioned” way (if you even knew), so why would it automatically be anyone’s business how we conceived?

On the other hand, it’s not something I’m hiding. When I think it’s appropriate, I share varying degrees of information. One example: When J told people at work that we were expecting, and expecting twins, mostly they gave the standard responses (Do you know the genders? Do twins run in the family? Oh my god, twins!). But one woman asked if we’d been trying long. See, there’s a flag - that she thought to ask meant she had a clue. So he told her, yes. And yes, we had help. And they had a chat about this woman’s secondary infertility and how she only has one child (which we knew - he’s 17 or 18 now). Another example: The other day I was sitting in my neighbor’s kitchen chatting with her when her DIL and the DIL’s sister came over to drop off the grandson for the night. And they mentioned that they knew someone who had just had twins - with an egg donor. And it seemed like the next step in the conversation was how lucky we were not to have done that or something. So I said something vague about having had some help. No details for them, but I didn’t want them to have the mistaken notion that this was an easily achieved pregnancy.

I don’t know who else knows, really. Most of my school colleagues don’t, except for one who also did IVF. (More people know about hers, but then, she’s single so people were going to know there was some intervention there anyway. Plus she needed more support during the cycle. My hats are off to people who do IVF on their own - I can’t even imagine. But I digress.) My work colleagues don’t, except for one who has 10 year old B/G twins, and when I told her I was having twins, she told me about her pregnancy complications and the fact that she’d done IVF. So she knows. Some of my mom’s friends know. And of course, I have no idea who else my in-laws or my parents have told, or who has pieced it together. I mean, I wasn’t being vocal about it, but nor was it this huge secret. It just was.

So what’s the point of all this? I don’t know, really. I think on the one hand that infertility is this taboo subject, and I wish more people could/would talk openly about it (coughJuliaRobertscough. And on the other hand, how I conceived my children isn’t necessarily a topic of public conversation. So at times I feel like I’m walking a fine line between being too open and too secretive - between having my own private life, and being an ambassador for those that can’t speak out for whatever reason.

I would have thought this would end with the pregnancy, but I suspect that walking around with non-identical twins will continue to elicit (likely obnoxious and ill-informed) questions and comments, both about the twins in general, and about how I “got” them. And I don’t know what I’m going to say.


  1. I have wondered how I'll feel about this one too. So far the people who know about the pregnancy are people who know we did IVF so I haven't had to figure it out yet. But J has been telling a lot of people at work and has been including the IVF part as well. He's been amazed at how many people have talked to him about their own issues. I joke that he's become the infertility advisor at work.
    It sounds like you've found a nice balance by paying attention to the clues the person asking may be giving you. No one is obligated to be a spokesperson.

  2. Twiins in general seem to elicit a hiuge amount of crazy questions. Then when they are B/G, or like mine B/B but look NOTHING alike, then people will sometimes come right out an ask if I had invitro. Which shocks me, because I would NEVER. But like you I can tend to sense when someone *knows the struggle* and I will tell those people I had IVF. The rest, I just smile and say "Why do you ask?". It seems to shut them down for a minute.
    We didnt really have a choice with our family and friends and extended family friends because we had asked for prayers for years that we would conceive. After several years of nothing and then suddenly pregnant with twins, it was obvious. They were all very supportive.
    Congratulations to you and please let me know if you have any questions. I LOVE being a mom of twins and I did not think it was hard at all. Thanks for checking out my blog too :)

  3. We did IVF, and don't talk about it much. I just can't deal with people's ignorance (ie: yes we're glad they'r not septuplets, though there was NO chance they would've been!)about reproductive treatments. Also, I think my boys deserve some privacy too. We'll tell them someday, but probably not until they're at least 10 or so. I'd hate for them to think everyone they know knew how they were conceived before they did. My standard answer to the "do twins run in your family" question is, "they do now!". IMO, people aren't actually always "fishing for information" when they ask that - some people are just curious. My evidence is the amount of people who comment on my friend's daughter's red hair. Neither she nor her DH have it, so they get asked this all the time, but people's aren't questioning her daughter's paternity or anything, they're just curious about how that red hair came to be.

  4. I don't have multiples, so it leads to less questioning. However, I do get a lot of "so, when you are going to have another one" crap questions- even from people who know we did IVF the first time. Idiots!
    I'm fairly open about IVF, only because there's only so much I can keep to myself. Mostly I find that people have no clue what's involved. (You mean you have to take drugs? You mean you have to inject yourself in the ass? You mean they have to remove the eggs? You mean they fertilize them in a petri dish? You mean they don't just "implant" them and boom, you're pregnant?)
    But the privacy issue is a huge one- and its part of what I've struggled so much with adoption. When I tell people I did IVF, its because I am choosing too. When/if we adopt, we are opening ourselves up to be our little corner of the world's ambassador to all things adoption, and that just feels like a huge responsibility.
    Glad all is well with the babes and that you are allowed to get once in a while.

  5. I tend to push myself to talk about how Olivia was conceived, even when I'm not quite comfortable with it, because I want people to know that it's not someting I'm embarrassed about. I've been incredibly surprised by how many people completely get it and have struggled with IF themselves. For me, not having twins makes it a lot less likely that people will ask directly, though my age raises a flag or two for some. I've never explicitly told my boss and he's never asked but seems to grasp that it was very difficult, but several co-workers know the details. And my friends and family all know.

    Reading the signs, as you're doing, seems like a good way to balance out openness and privacy.


  6. I've found myself telling a lot more people about our IVF than I had ever expected myself to be able to. But there are caveats too.

    I'm very open with our friends, mostly childless 30ish couples with assertive career plans and who are just getting down to the question themselves. I need to be open to them for myself, the thought, "What if they need help and don't have this community?" haunts me. So I keep it light, "petri dish not turkey baster" and hope none of them ever have to deal with it.

    But very few of my family and older (60+yrs) know anything. There, I'm not afraid of being judged, just scared of explaining it all to get less than perfect understanding.

    Twins certainly exposes you to a whole 'nuther level of questioning. Or at least I imagine it does, so sorting out what responses you're comfortable with becomes more all the more needed.

  7. I'm quite open about it so far with close friends and family and a couple of people at work, I don't know how I'll feel if we get further than this. I take the point about others knowing the story of the child's conception before he/she does. But I do feel like Bugs, too, I want people not to be embarassed about infertility. Just like they're not about having another kind of medical issue.

    But the most important thing is that you do what you are comfortable with. of course.