'It's just the routine ultrasound I have to have at 20 weeks,' I told my husband that morning. 'No need for you to come.' As if I needed him to hold my hand. I was an experienced mother with one trouble-free pregnancy already under my belt. I knew the drill. Everything would be normal.
I lay calm and relaxed as the doctor spread the disgustingly cold gel on my belly and began the scan. At his next words I felt the blood drain from my face, despite my horizontal position. If I'd been standing, I would have fainted.
'There seems to be two of them.'
'Two?' I cried. 'Two what?'
'Two babies,' he replied calmly.
Who was this joker? Didn't he know it was dangerous to taunt an expectant mother, especially one who had tried for 12 months to fall pregnant? Besides, the scan I'd had at 12 weeks showed only one foetus. He had to be wrong, the equipment malfunctioning. I waited for him to apologise for alarming me but he continued on with his work as though nothing extraordinary had happened. Finally, I managed to force a coherent sentence past the golf ball-sized lump in my throat.
'But I only wanted one,' I whispered.
Pathetic. Why couldn't I let him have it? Ask him if he could really interpret those shadowy blobs on the screen, where was his degree, did he need a new optical prescription, just get him to admit he was wrong! I closed my eyes willing it all to be a bad dream. Obviously, he was a little deaf, not to mention grossly insensitive.
'Twins - how exciting!' he proclaimed.
I wanted to shout obscenities at this so-called bearer of good tidings, but I was in too much shock. Once more, my brain began to run its wild marathon. What will James say? What will Mum say? How will I cope? We'll need two cots, a double pram, and two high chairs, two of everything. Oh but not to worry - at least feeding them will be cheap - I've got TWO BREASTS. I knew there was a reason.
OK, it was time to get a grip. I had run through the whole gamut of emotions: denial, anger, despair - or DAD (how appropriate). Multiply those with pregnancy hormones and you've got a major meltdown waiting to happen. It was time to offload.
As this was one of those big moments in life, I decided to break the
news to my husband in person. I detoured by his office on my way home.
Being somewhat distracted, I'm not sure how I arrived without crashing
'Darling, what a surprise,' he said gently, puzzled by this unexpected visit. He knew I was upset. Perhaps the stunned-mullet look I wore gave it away.
'I need to see you in your office NOW! And you had better sit down,' I ordered. 'I've just had my ultrasound and they think it's twins - I mean it is twins. We're having twins. Two babies.' That felt good. I was moving on from despair to acceptance. DAD had become DADA. By uttering those words, some of the shock was transferred to him. After all, he was partly to blame. Perhaps he had tried just a little too hard. I bet he wished he were the horizontal one now.
All he said was 'oh gosh!' Actually, he used a much stronger word but
I don't want to offend anyone.
Two weeks and many sleepless nights later, I calmed down and even started to feel quite excited about the prospect of having twins. After all, it was something out of my control, I couldn't give one back, could I? It was interesting seeing people's reactions to our news: comments like, "rather you than me" and, "better sit down as much as you can now, because you sure won't be doing that once their born", didn't inspire many warm and fuzzy emotions. Then there were the delusional ones who said, "I always wanted twins".
As predicted, my mother was horrified but ready to roll up her sleeves
and help out. We found a cleaning lady, cancelled our plans to build a
pool, and installed air conditioning. It was like preparing for a long
On the 2 August 1996, two angelic little girls came into our world. They were so tiny and a bit anaemic so had to spend a few days in the premmie ward, but that's another story; one I hope I can share another time.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem