You cannot imagine the number of times I have had to answer this question, or the kinds of people who asked me, and in the circumstances I have had to answer this question. And the fact that I have twins twice makes it even more confounding for some people, who feel like thunder shouldn’t/cannot strike twice in one place. Duh! It happened before, and I have heard stories of women, who have had up to five sets of twins and other higher multiples.
The first time I had to answer this question was when I first had my first set of twins and I had been taking them to the hospital with my Mom. We were waiting for a taxi to take us to our clinic at the bus stop, when a stranger addressed my mom as “Iya Beji” and then went ahead to coo up to the babies. She then asked, if the babies were conceived naturally, my mom was taken aback at such intrusive question and truthfully, I was, but she nodded at me asked said, “Ngbon Kemi?” literally asking me to confirm or denial the woman’s question. I told her no and that was when it dawned on her that my mom was the Grandma Beji, not Iya beji. She became extra solicitious, as though to make up for her earlier thoughtlessness. She helped us get a taxi, haggled the price to a fairer sum than even I would have gotten, and off we went for our doctor’s appointment.
The frequency of the question became more after the birth of the second set of twins arrived on the scene. I remember the instance of a grandma narrating my story on my behalf, and comparing my twins with those of the grandchildren of her neighbour, whom were conceived via IVF. Those were two sets of twins too. She had introduced me to a friend of hers, who had come to visit, as a mother of two sets of twins and that one that been surprised at my slim frame and then went right ahead to ask that uncomfortable question, “Did you have them naturally?” I nodded and that was when the conversation turned downhill, with the grandma telling of how her neighbour’s grandchildren were two sets of twins too but that they were conceived via IVF.
When I left those two elderly ladies, they had moved on to discussing the pros and cons of assisted reproduction, and they did not even notice I had left. I will admit that I did not know those twins were born via IVF, and it really did not change anything about my feelings for the twins or their mom, who is such a kind hearted woman. If anything, it made me wonder, what would have made her turn to IVF. All these happened before I was introduced to the TTC world and its ‘joys’. Now, I wonder no more, I have a range of ideas, what might have made her go down that route, and bless God for her, it worked out twice and she got her babies.
One other time, I had to answer this question was after my baptism into the TTC world, and I was not particularly in a good frame of mind, so the sharp edge of tongue went into full force, and I had to go back and apologise to a stranger. It happened on the street, one of the women that I now greet, as a result of my new-found notoriety as an Iya Beji, introduced me to her friend, who was with her, and she said, “Did you know this lady has two sets of twins?” That one opened mouth and looked me up and down and even checked behind me, as though searching for the person, she was being introduced to.
All the while, I was thinking of my battalion, and how they would be baraging me for food, immediately I stepped through the door. So, I greeted her, and kept on moving, when she said, “How did you do it?” I was like, “Do what?” but I replied that I did not do anything but God did it all. That was when she said, “Abi, O se IVF ni?” meaning, “Did you do IVF?” I did not know when I turned back to ask her, “What if I did?” “Does that make my babies any lesser human beings? Just in case she did not understand, I asked her in Yoruba, “Se awon omo IVF, o kin se omo ni?”
She started to apologise, saying “Iya beji, ma binu” I told her I was not angry, but even if I did IVF, she was hardly the person that I would be divulging my TTC story to, assuming I had one. Both she and her friend were shocked at my reaction.
For goodness sake, why do total strangers think, they have a right to ask such personal questions, and actually expect an answer? I don’t know how their minds work, and how it works for them. But I do know now that I find it offensive, and would think twice before asking such questions, or even answering such a question going forward. Abeg, my reproductive life is mine, and how I have my babies is my business, unless I decide to take you into my confidence.
On the bright side, this question has made me to realise that more and more people are aware of assisted reproduction, especially IVF, but there are still some myths about the babies from the procedure that people hold. It’s like they expect them not to be natural, and now twins are particular suspect nowadays. Even I do it at times, I see someone has twins and I’m adding 2+2, only it gives me 24 and sometimes, I get the right answer. But to ask them, how they got their babies is overstepping my bounds.
Twins, triplets, quads…singletons, they are all welcome, regardless of how they were conceived. Don’t you agree?
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