People smile and wave. The boys smile and wave back. A delightful little give and take. Sometimes we stop to chat. If I'm in a hurry I just pretend to be preoccupied with my motherly duties. When a stranger walks up to us, I immediately evaluate whether or not I think this person consistently washes their hands. Too many times have I left a social situation holding my sons' hands in mine until I can get them washed and/or disinfected. But this need to touch occurs well before the baby arrives.
I have a theory that pregnant women radiate some kind of magnetic force field as part of their prego glow that attracts the masses. From the moment her belly pops, the implied social space bubble does too, and she and her belly are left exposed to the rabble. Strangers run at her, smiling like maniacs, hands outstretched, and when they finally do get to touch her, they nestle in - reminded of the comfort of their own mother's womb. She is no longer a person, she is a baby container representing all things maternal.
My first experience with this was walking down a bar crawl street during peak happy hour. A girl practically tripped over herself, the sidewalkk, and me so she could lay her hands on my growing, twin bearing belly. With deer in headlight eyes, I entertained her questions and comments, but in my head I was screaming at her to stop touching me.
At least at that point in time, despite all of our internal complications, my body was shielding the boys from the outside elements. I could protect them from the onslaught of crazy for a time, but eventually it had to happen, they had to be born. When we first ventured out with the little ones, and had not yet mastered the polite look-away, what should have been a quick outing became an epic journey Homer would appreciate. We engaged with everyone that showed interest in our little boys. At first, our new parent high kept us afloat, allowing us to participate in detailed conversations with strangers, outlining our entire feeding/changing/sleeping schedule, differentiating between their complex two month old personalities, and listening to the list of twins that this person has encountered during his or her lifetime.
Eventually, the high was replaced with severe sleep deprivation, and the exchanges with strangers became shorter and shorter. What was helpful is that most conversations followed the same basic format:
Them: Are they twins?
Them: Are they identical?
Them: Do twins run in your family?
Us: (At first we would take time to explain that only fraternal twins are hereditary, identicals are random - but this answer was eventually replaced with a simple) No.
Them: Double Trouble/ I bet you have your hands full./ I bet you have two of everything.
Us: Smile, nod, disengage.
***I feel maybe this is an appropriate time to mention the two things you should maybe avoid saying to the parents of multiples:
1. "Better you than me." Or some variation of this like, "I would just die if I had twins."
You may mean well, but the implication here is that having twins is a horrible, awful, dreadful thing.
2. "Are they natural?"
I'd like to know if a stranger has ever asked a singleton parent this question. Obviously, we had to have used some kind of performance enhancing drug.
***Anyway, we weren't trying to be rude or disingenuous, we just wanted to get a pack of diapers in under an hour - and 45 minutes of that were already dedicated to getting the boys in and out of the car.
Eventually, when our rhythm set in and sleep - although fleeting - returned to our house, we regained some of our previous social etiquette. We accept that twins are a bit of a novelty, and as much as it makes us feel like a circus act, we get why people are so interested. I mean, they are pretty much the cutest things ever.
Plus, Ryan and I separately reached the same conclusion: If someone doesn't at least smile when they see the boys, they obviously have no soul.