Whether at the mall or on the bike trail, I always arch my neck to see the contents of a passing double stroller.  I’m curious — siblings or twins?

When I see a set of twinkies, I have to stop myself from asking the question that immediately pops into my head:  natural or IVF?*

I hate using the word ‘natural’ to describe conception the ‘old fashioned’ way. It makes IVF by default unnatural. 

That doesn’t jive with the sight of my perfectly normal, 100% amazing baby girl. There’s nothing unnatural about her, and I refuse to think of Peanut as a different “kind” of baby.

I am in awe of parents of twins. How the hell do they do it? Superwomen. For sure.

(I am in awe of parents of twins. How the hell do they do it? Superwomen. For sure.)

Wait. Hypocrisy alert! Then why am I so eager to put other people’s babies into categories?

It’s not actually about the baby. I want to ask the question of the parent, because if the answer is IVF, that’s the “secret handshake” that opens up an entirely new conversation. You can’t wait to sit down and talk war stories.

IVF twins are a sign that they’ve been through the unique experience of ART, just like me. They understand the concept of a bruise-covered ass from 10 weeks of Progesterone-in-Sesame-Seed-Oil shots. They can relate to seeing a four-digit total due at the pharmacy (that’s four digits to the LEFT of the decimal).

She can also probably relate to the complex anger that most infertiles experience, even after they’ve successfully conceived. And in many cases, she can empathize with the agony of a failed IVF cycle, too.

Last month, while garage sale-hopping, I met a very-pregnant woman selling a double stroller. Nodding toward her sizable belly, I asked why she was selling it, because she might be needing it soon (I had no idea if she had any kids already, nor that she was pregnant with twins; I was just taking a shot in the dark). She smiled and said that the stroller didn’t collapse, so they were selling it  in order to buy a better one “before the girls are born.”

My ears perked up. “Twin girls? That’s wonderful! When are you due?” We chatted about due dates for a little while, and the fun of having a late summer baby (read: humidity + 3rd trimester = yuck).

She was so nice, I thought I’d take my chances with the question. “Do you mind me asking, are your twins from IVF?” She smiled and said they were, and I explained that my daughter was as well.

Turns out she was using the same IVF clinic we did, and we chatted about our favorite doctors, giving ourselves IM injections, and how many cycles we went through. I left a few minutes later, but we’ve talked several times since. Having something in common, besides being first-time parents, created an instant connection.

Though I did have one positive experience, perhaps my question is too intrusive.

On her blog, Living on the Ledge, an IVF survivor named Julie said this recently:

The other question that makes my skin crawl is when people ask if my twins are “natural” or if we had them “naturally”. The question implies that there is something unnatural about my children, which really kind of makes you sound super insensitive. My children are beautiful, living, breathing miracles, and they are as natural as yours, even if all you did to conceive them was some rumpy pumpy. 🙂

I can see where she’s coming from, too. But I wonder how she’d feel about the question if she knew it was being asked by someone who just wants to relate to her. Someone like me.

So here’s my question: is it ever okay to ask someone if their twins are from IVF?


*A reader suggested the term “spontaneous” instead of “natural” when referring to old-fashioned conception. I like that, a lot. Thank you, Atlantis! Now I have something to call it that’s a little more dignified. 🙂