5 Things Never to Say to a Triplet Parent

Disclaimer: This post is meant to be light-hearted and comical in nature. Any commentary that seems rude or unappreciative is unintentional.

Growing up, my two sisters and I sang together as a group called “The Smith Sisters.” We did the National Anthem, school concerts, cantoring at church, and even some recorded albums. As we sang more around town, more people began to recognize us. But when the opportunity grew more apparent to take our music further, my parents will tell you that I wasn’t very interested because of the everyday attention that might come with it (assuming we were even good enough for that to happen). I’d rather live my life as a simpleton, get married, become a mom, and keep music as a hobby.

Little did I know I would get the next closest thing to fame — triplets.

When you have multiples, there’s no covering it up. People will seek you out in public to talk about it. On one hand, it’s frustrating to know there will never be such a thing as making a quick trip out with the kids because we’ll get stopped a million times. On the other, it warms my heart to know that just seeing our girls and our family brings happiness to someone else’s day.

Here are the top five phrases we hear as triplet parents:

5. “Were you shocked?”

Translation: “I want to know the story of how you found out you were pregnant with triplets.”

You’re kidding, right? 🙂 I’ve concluded that people who ask this question aren’t dumb — they’re just excited to know our story and don’t know how to make an “in.” If you want to know the story of how a parent of multiples found out, just ask. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to share such a pivotal moment in their life!

A more appropriate comment? “What was it like finding out you were having triplets?”

4. “I just couldn’t imagine…..”

Translation: “If triplets came into my life as it stands today, I would be overwhelmed.”

Who wouldn’t be? Luckily, pregnancy gives you time to prepare. People often say this because they think they’re not capable of handling something monumental. But they are. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we’re put to the test. Humans have overcome great obstacles throughout history. It’s the great secret of biology and the things that are alive today — we adapt to our surroundings. We make do. We will it to work. Because we have to. You couldn’t imagine something as big as triplets happening to you? Try. The chances of conceiving spontaneous triplets are 1 in 8,000. The chances of conceiving identical [spontaneous] triplets are 1 in 500,000. Yet, I’ve met so many triplet parents over the last year who make the statistic seem smaller. I never in a million bajillion years thought I would one day have triplets or even twins. I never wanted to be a twin mom or anything like it. I don’t like “matchy matchy,” and I didn’t think I had the personality for having a lot of kids. But it happened. I wasn’t exempt. I used to see things on the news and say “that would never happen to me” — but not anymore. I’ve realized that none of us are exempt. God has a reason for choosing each one of us for a specific vocation. And more often than not, it’s something you never even thought about. I never wanted to be a mom of multiples — but it turns out I’m good at it, I love it, and it makes my family unique.

A more appropriate comment? “Kudos for making it work!”

3. “Did you use fertility meds?”

Translation: “Did you ask for this, or was it out of your control?”

This is an interesting one. I find this to be a deeply personal question that has become more common because of our culture and the high occurrence of families with multiples due to the use of fertility treatments in the past few decades. While it’s surprising to hear this question from a complete stranger, I still find myself asking this same question (NOT as the conversation starter, mind you) to fellow triplet parents I meet, only to know whether or not we have the “spontaneity” thing in common. Using fertility treatments means you at least know you have a chance of conceiving multiples, whereas spontaneous multiples is unknown, resulting in slightly different stories of how the parents found out. (Of course, it’s still a shock no matter who you are!) I like to hear all different sides. Nonetheless, asking someone whether or not they used fertility methods seems to send the message that it’s less special of an occurrence because the odds are higher. Or worse, they’re trying to figure out if you’re “crazy enough” to have asked for this to happen to you when you already had one so young. What does it matter? Both ways result in beautiful children. 🙂

A more appropriate comment? “Do multiples run in your family?”

2. “Are you going to have anymore kids?”

Translation: “You’re not going to have anymore kids, are you?”

I’m sorry……..do I know you? What could be more intimate than a married couple deciding whether or not to try for more children? Considering “where babies come from,” this questions seems to allow total strangers to invite themselves a little closer into your personal life than you might want. Here’s my take: someone who’s genuinely happy for you and your large family wouldn’t even ask this question. Someone who believes you have too many or “just enough” kids already will ask this question to force an opinion on you without explicitly stating it.

Now, notice that I’ve used the example of “strangers” here instead of close family or friends. It makes a difference who the “asker” is, doesn’t it? There are things you can tell your close friends that you wouldn’t tell just anyone on the street. Sometimes, this question is appropriate. But more often than not, it isn’t. We’re like tabloid magazines — always moving on to the next BIG thing (Who’s pregnant? Who’s getting a divorce?), rather than just letting the things in the moment simmer. Instead of worrying about what my family could look like, help me celebrate what it is now!

A more appropriate comment? “Congratulations on being blessed with such a full family!”

1. “You’ve got your hands full!”

Translation: “Your life must be crazy. Better you than me!”

I physically wince when I hear this now. This is by far the top comment we get as triplet parents. In the weirdest phenomenon I’ve ever seen, somehow everyone in the world is privy to the same obnoxious phrase. What kills me is that it isn’t a question or even a statement of value. It’s merely an observation that we’re forced to respond to affirmatively somehow. Funny enough, we only seem to hear this when our hands are physically not full — the girls are in their strollers, quiet and calm. The truth is, (and I’ve said this in blog posts before), having triplets isn’t exponentially harder. You work more efficiently as a parent of many, which makes things much easier. It also just becomes a way of life. So while it may be daunting for someone who doesn’t live it everyday, it’s not for someone who does.

Luckily, I met someone recently who gave me a perfect response to this statement. When someone says “you’ve got your hands full,” all I need to respond is “then you should see my heart.” What a perfect sentiment to describe how it really feels to have multiples.

A more appropriate comment? “What a big family! You look like you’re managing well.”

This blog post is not a rant. It’s not a venting session. It’s not an opportunity to make others feel bad or make our lives as triplet parents seem more important. It’s merely a glimpse into our lives (as this whole blog is) and the things we hear and see everyday from the people and happenings around us. It’s an opportunity to educate. We’re all human — and we can all fall into the trap of asking silly questions when we don’t know much about the topic at hand.

The next time you meet someone with a unique story — they have multiples, they’re from another country, they have a deformity, or something else you’ve never encountered — think first about what you want to ask, uncover what it is you really want to know, and consider how you’d feel if you were in their shoes. It might lead to more interesting conversation than you originally thought!


2 responses

  1. I HATE being asked the “fertility meds” question. Its sooo personal, and, crazy as it may sound, I am still embarrassed that I couldn’t do my natural thing as a woman and get pregnant on my own. So, no, I don’t want to tell you that I used fertility meds. Luckily people usually ask “Did you do IVF?”, to which I can honestly answer “no”. “Did you have help?” is another one I get a lot. “Its none of your business”, is how I feel like responding. “Do twins run in the family?” – my dad was a twin (true), and I don’t care if you think less of me for not knowing that that in no way affected my conception of triplets.
    “Were you surprised?” I wasn’t. I was being closely followed so I knew there were three ripe eggs, then three released, etc.. But I usually just say “At first we thought it was twins. Then at the next appointment it was triplets!”, true story, but it avoids answering the question in a way that announces that “we had help”. (See above).
    And of course there is the frequent “One and done, right?!” comment. The verbalized answer is usually something like “Haha, 3 for the price of one!”, but my unspoken response is “No, I’m not done. And not that its any of your business, but (1) we have 3 girls and we want a boy, and (2) babies grow up really fast, I want to have the same opportunity as other parents to have a baby-baby for more than just a couple of months. I don’t want to do these things (1st birthday etc) just one time, and (3) its none of your business! and (4) stop judging me for wanting more kids! I didn’t always want to have a big family, but things change.
    I know I have to stop thinking that people are always judging me and try to accept that they are genuinely excited and curious. I ran into a lady who asked if we had help and then proceeded to say “I’m sorry if that’s personal, I’m just curious b/c I’ve been trying to get pregnant and I’m looking for a new doctor.” I was glad I didn’t brush her off.
    Great post!

  2. Nicely done Stefanie! I found this particular post very helpful both in term of gaining a better understanding of how parents of multiples and large families feel when asked such questions and now having a better set of comments to use myself. We think of you and Greg often. I agree with you, you are good at this!

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