Written by my partner, Kirsty.
Whether you are a friend or stranger, here are some of the things that I, as a new parent to twin babies, wish people would do.
1. Be aware of the line of adoring fans
Now that we have twins, the stares and comments are endless. I understand that people mean well and twins are fascinating, but if you are going to approach a twin mum or dad, please do it with the awareness that you are likely at least the fifth person to corner them on their journey. Understand that they have dealt with others before you, that they are trying to go about their day, and that there may be some tension or general flatness to their response because they just don’t have the enthusiasm to answer the same questions again.
2. Think about what you say
Everyone has a different sense of humour and a different approach in social situations. Lines like, ‘two for the price of one’ or ‘buy one get one free’ can be extremely insensitive to someone who has had a lengthy fertility journey. Questions about how the babies were conceived are inappropriate if you don’t know the person. Don’t ask ‘which is the naughty one’ or say ‘double trouble’ or waste their time talking about your partner’s friend’s grandmother’s neighbour who had twins unless it is actually relevant. Generally speaking, I lean towards being a more antisocial and irritable kind of person, and even lines like ‘you’ve got twins!’ annoy me if I’ve been up a lot during the night and am trying to get somewhere. Really, I had no IDEA that I was carting TWINS around the supermarket, thank you for the heads up.
3. Do NOT touch the babies!
You’d think this one would be an absolute given, but the number of complete strangers who have reached out and touched one or both of our kids is quite high. Touching their hands, stroking their hair, reaching out and pulling a hat down over their ears; none of these things are at all appropriate. If you don’t know the new mother or father, don’t chance that they are the kind of person who doesn’t care who touches – just do not touch the baby! It’s a sure fire way to get yourself snapped at and stress out that new parent.
4. Be careful how you approach offering to help with the babies
For anyone who can’t call on having that close relationship with at least one of the parents, be careful how you go about offering help. I can’t speak for everyone because we are all different and all of our babies are different, therefore the amount of support we need isn’t universal, but I find that most people will ask for the help they need. I know that for me, having people jump to their feet the minute my partner passes me the second baby too and acting like I obviously must need help because I have TWO babies on my lap is very undermining. Give the parent a chance to prove their capability before you swoop on them. Remember that this is their daily life, and that though it might look difficult to you, they are quite the pro at feeding one whilst comforting the other. Let them ask you to take one baby if they are struggling, or offer to help them after actually seeing that they can’t manage, but please do give them a chance.
5. There are other things that you can do when you visit
Babies are cute and understandably, when you go round to visit your friend, all you want to do is have cuddles with their tiny, squishy people. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people will be so glad to pass them over and have their arms free, to be able to shower or make a cup of tea, but keep in mind that we aren’t all in the majority. Of course, during your visit we will make plenty of time for you to enjoy the babies but sometimes, we would quite like YOU to make the tea whilst WE cuddle our tinies!
6. Don’t offer advice to strangers unless they ask for it
This is something that we are all capable of and most of us know that it’s annoying. Don’t advise mum that their baby is too cold (really, you don’t know how many layers the baby has on under their jacket), or that their baby is crying and needs dealing with (now that we’ve figured out that we have to actually DO something about the crying, we’re going to get a lot more sleep!), or that carrying them in a sling is dangerous, or that they should do this a certain way because that is what YOU did. Unless the child is in obvious danger, leave people alone.
9. Try not to take offense
New parents are sleep deprived, hormonal and adjusting to a huge, life-altering change. Try not to take offense if they seem short-tempered, irritable or even outright rude. They are doing the best that they can and though you won’t mean to do it, it’s all too easy to say or do the wrong thing and flip a switch.
8. And finally, don’t look doubtful when parents of twins say that they are happy!
More often than not, they actually do mean it.