Don’t you love those out-of-body, completely surreal, experiences? The types that come out of the blue and there’s no way in hell you could prepare for them because, well, they're just so insane? Yeah, me neither. Mine occurred when I recently joined an online families-with-twins group. I figured it might be helpful as twin-issues arose with my twiblings and any and all resources, support, and advice, would be sought. As is customary, once I was allowed into the group, I succinctly introduced myself and my family and tried to explain my situation in the simplest terms and without need of a flow chart. I used terms like “twiblings” and “born 40 hours apart” and “de facto twins” and kept it to about four sentences.
As is also customary in these groups, I then started to get a few “Welcome” and “great story” comments from other members. All was fine and dandy until I got the one that said, “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” -- gotta love folks who state their intentions up front -- “… why are you here? Don’t you know this is for twins? The last I checked the definition for twins didn’t include babies born 40 hours apart.”
Gobsmacked. Completely speechless (if one can be speechless in text). I’m not saying she’s incorrect, technically, but I never claimed to have biological twins and she was just so, well, to use her words, rude. I felt like my hand had been smacked while reaching for the cookies, “Those aren’t for you. They’re for REAL twin moms.”
What was the big deal? She was acting as if I was threatening her way of life. Were there twin secrets she didn’t want revealed to an “outsider”? Because my children weren’t twins-by-birth and definition, does that mean I can’t know about tips to get two 8-month-olds to eat their peas? Was there a four-hand-handshake I’d ruin because of biological differences? Are there special coupons for biological twins that she feared I’d try to benefit from?
I didn’t even have time to process an answer before they started flooding in from other members. For the next ninety minutes I sat there like a fly on the wall, watching as complete strangers argued over the definition of “twins,” and whether I was actually a “twin mommy.” Only two women were against my membership (out of almost 3,000 members), and hundreds of others were outwardly (and quite vocally) supportive of me.
But if that wasn’t weird enough, then a few side remarks were made (by the same negative Nellys) asking whether the group administrators were actually verifying whether members had twins or not and whether there were any twin groups out there that kept strictly to the definition of “twins” (to keep rabble like me out, implication received).
The irony of all this, is that I had just had two days of fabulous mommy meet-ups. I had gone to a new “Mums & babies” group where I met wonderful women from all over (Korea, Australia, UK, Malaysia, USA, etc.). Then I’d had coffee one morning with two moms who also send their toddlers to the nursery school we do (we three are the only Americans there, everyone else is Jordanian). And I’d also met three other moms via swaps and sales, one of whom was pregnant with her fifth child and still had a smile on her face and one of whom had just gotten back from vacation in Prague where she’d offered to buy me some natural pain gel for my teething toddler. These women were amazing and kind and helpful and no one once questioned my legitimacy as a mom toting around two 14-week-old babies. No one ever said, “Are they twins? Oh wait, they’re obviously not, so you better make sure you’re not claiming to be a ‘twin mom’.” I was practically on a high from meeting so many different and extraordinary mommies.
Then I was hit in the face with this online reality-show-like-cat-fight. After about the 170th thumbs up of support I got, I suddenly got a pop-up message saying my profile message had been deleted and I was no longer a member of the group. And I hadn’t thought my mouth could gape any wider. I’d been cast out!
I waited for a few minutes to see if this was all just some sort of wacky online hazing practice, but apparently it wasn’t. I went from being gobsmacked to completely flabbergasted. Frankly I was too stunned at the lunacy of the last 120 minutes of my life (and a tad embarrassed I’d let it rob me of those precious hours) to react at all. But then I suddenly got some private messages from members of the group telling me they were quitting the group if I wasn’t allowed back in. Without lifting a finger, was I now inadvertently heading up a coup? I barely had the energy to brush my hair, let alone wage a revolution.
All I’d been looking for was help from other mommies and daddies, to questions like, “Do I need to time the amount each twib gets held, or can I live with one yelling, ‘You held her longer, didn’t you?’ when they’re older?” Or, “Will my son suffer irreparable harm if I swaddle him in my daughter’s pink swaddle with the bows because that’s all that’s clean?” Or even, “Is it wrong of me to buy matching plastic tubs in the hardware store in which to put my twibs when we’re in the garden?” Vital questions to a sleep-deprived mom.
Then, to keep the down-the-rabbit-hole feeling going, twenty minutes later I received two messages from the administrators of the group apologizing profusely; saying it had been a knee-jerk reaction to a rather volatile and smoldering situation and they begged me to re-join. I hesitated for a minute, but prior to the stink of two bad apples, I had liked what I’d read on the group, so I re-joined and was admitted immediately.
This time the administrator personally welcomed me back, and added, “Any bullying or questioning of her as a mom will not be tolerated.” This then spurred over a hundred messages of support, and a handful of, “What happened? What did I miss?” But not a peep from rotten apple 1 or 2, thank goodness. I was told I could resend my intro that they’d deleted, but I opted not to. I wasn’t going to let the nay-sayers prevent me from joining, but I also wasn’t going to give them another opportunity to whip out Websters and get everyone’s fur flying again.
But it made me think. Are definitions always so rigid? To these two moms, a “twin mom” was a mom who had babies born within minutes of each other. They apparently weren’t adverse to someone adopting biological twins (several moms pointed this out); but in their narrow definition, there was no room beyond these few minutes.
But then would they accept foster moms of twins? What about grandparents in the role as mom of twins? What about a gay couple who adopted twins? What about unofficial familial adoptions, where an aunt or sister is raising someone else’s twins? What about an adoption of two non-biological children, who were born within the allotted minutes (yes, it sounds ludicrous to me, too)? What if I’d just planned my pregnancy better and had given birth 40 hours earlier so the twibs would have been born within minutes of each other? Would this have been acceptable under their inflexible interpretation?
My overall feelings were annoyance and exhaustion (like I needed any more of either). Yes, this was a private group who could post whatever “No shirt, no shoes, no service” type requirements they wanted. But the administrators had now, twice, permitted me to join. And regardless of Webster’s thoughts on the matter, or two little bad apples’ mealy thoughts, raising children is an enormously difficult task, especially if you want to raise kind, intelligent, curious, compassionate, independent and sympathetic children. So seeking help or advice or sharing tips should be something we are all open to, regardless of where and whom they come from; I know I am!
After being readmitted to the group, I thought it best to take a break for a little while and let the embers die down before I ventured back down the rabbit hole again. But until then, I will continue to venture forth in my new life as a non-twin, but twibling (and “three under three”), mom and will hold my head as high as the chronic exhaustion will allow. I will seek out kind, brilliant, creative and fun moms with whom to travel on this crazy journey called motherhood. And maybe along the way we can find some recipes for rotten apple pie; wouldn’t want them to feel unwanted, right?