Lynda Haddon is the mother of three grown-up children: dizygotic twin daughters and another daughter, 22 months their elder. She has been involved with multiple birth issues for three decades, is a Past President of Multiple Births Canada, Canada’s only national support organization for multiples and their families as well as Multiple Births Families Association in Ottawa.
I am following a lead on twin multiples and the recent discussion has been around when there is a visual difference between the babies, usually based on weight, and how family, friends and strangers freely comment. With girls with a 3-5 lbs. weight difference, comments have included referring to the heavier as “chunky, huge, tubby, over weight, ohh look at that big one!” With boy/girl twins, a Mom shared that because the boy was the heavier, a stranger said to her, “Poor little thing. It is a good thing she has her brother to take care of her.” If there had not been another baby beside them, there would probably be no comment. Unfortunately, it is the comparison of the two, that invites negative observations and labels.
All of the Moms have expressed their frustration, anger and hurt and were looking for ways to answer such comments.
Some parents feel that correcting comments from family each time is the way to reenforce with their babies that each is acceptable and special in their own right. It is felt that this will balance what they will hear from others, i.e. the rest of the world.
When there are two, three or four babies involved, yes there will be comparisons. It can’t be helped. Even parents have a hard time not comparing. However, doing something in your head is very different from using words to point out differences words can really hurt. People don’t mean to be mean, but they can be thoughtless and misunderstand how such judgments can adversely affect the children over time.
I think it is important to let EVERYONE know that what they are saying is painful not only to the parent(s), but also to the babies’ themselves. Hoping that positive feedback from Mom and Dad will completely counteract what they hear from others seems to me to be similar to taking a book and only reading the left hand page and ignoring the right hand page. We will not get the whole story, nor will we understand the plot or how the story moves forward. It is important for parents to retrain the public EACH AND EVERY TIME anyone offers a negative perspective on your children.
Only in this way will children learn that not only was what they heard inappropriate, their parents reenforced the fact to the source that their comments were inappropriate.
A suggested response to size differences might be: “That is not the way we think. Both babies are healthy and happy,” or
“Our daughter is strong (fierce) and this attribute will hold her in good stead.” The only way society is going to be forced into breaking the stereo typing of weight and ability, especially for females, is to be called out on their outdated and ill-informed perspectives each and every time. Changes begin at the beginning and when we stand up against old stereo typical attitudes and bring them to the speakers’ attention, then we can hope things will change for the future.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK WHEN OTHERS SPEAK OF YOUR CHILDREN?
If, as a breastfeeding Mother, you are craving a glass of beer or wine, you know the kind of Grown Up Drink that you have put off drinking because, a) you are/were pregnant; or b) breastfeeding, well there is hope and some interesting news. Take a look at this article by Canada’s Breastfeeding Guru, Dr. Jack Newman: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=422431411241244&id=138141916336863 He gives advice on breastfeeding and being a grown up simultaneously. It could just work out all around.
Are you breastfeeding and craving a nice glass of wine with supper or perhaps a cold beer but at the same time are worried about any possible effects the alcohol may have on your Littles? It is NOT necessary to pump and dump after drinking alcohol, unless you are falling down drunk before feeding the babies (this state speaks to the volume of alcohol you might have consumed).
I am very excited to read about this is this morning’s news feed. The Dionne Quintuplets are the only recorded MONOZYGOTIC (Identical) quintuplets in the world. Unfortunately the story takes a down turn from that point as three levels of government stepped in and took the babies from their parents and other siblings, placed them in an observation building and displayed them to the public for the first nine years of their lives. “Quintland,” as the compound was called, became a huge money maker for the area as more than five million tourists viewed them through a one-way mirror.
The 5 young ladies were returned to their parents aged 9 and virtually were strangers to not only their parents, but their 8 other siblings as well due to their long, imposed separation from their family. The reunion did not go well at all and in the
late 1980s, the Canadian government compensated the surviving Quints for their pain and suffering as a result of the rupture caused by their forced removal from their family home. This was not one of Canada’s finer moments.
Both myself (www.jumelle.ca) and Multiple Births Canada (www.multiplebirthscanada.org) have been working for several decades to ensure that multiples in Canada and beyond are not exploited, forceably or needlessly removed from their families or separated from each other for adoption. We must learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that our errors in judgement are not carried forward.
My heart feels good this morning as this tragedy of circumstances of birth is somewhat rectified, acknowledged and the Dionne Family fully recognized for the very special and unique family they are.
Interesting discussion going within one of the groups I belong to regarding preferring or “gravitating towards” one baby over the other, as one Mom put it. Most of the Moms say it is their partner who always takes one particular baby.
There are lots of reasons to prefer one child over another, even with other siblings: most/least like me; easier to deal with this one; this one is my first child….”; one may have medical challenges which makes “protection” of him/her a priority in the parent’s eyes, and so on.
Even if we have such thoughts, I feel that each of our children deserve the best of us. Having such thoughts makes us human, acting upon them is just plain Wrong! The child consistently not chosen will, in no time at all, be aware that they are lacking in the eyes of the other parent. They will internalize this message and translate it as: I am not good enough. Even if a child is more difficult to settle and one parent is more successful at settling him or her, it is important for the other parent to step up and try to do settling from time to time. It is good all around. Good for bonding, good for a child to learn to trust BOTH parents, each child learns that both their parents love them and are willing to work things through, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t pit sibling against sibling and avoids the proverbial: Mom always loved you/me best!
It is also important to let family and friends know to treat each of your children as equally as possible.
Did you, your partner or a family member prefer one of your babies over the other? How did you handle it?