I’ve mentioned that you should pay close attention to the reaction of people who find out you are having triplets and to try to gravitate towards more positive people. I mentioned that I falsely listened to the negative comments. The negative comments made me think my life was going to be terrible with triplets. I thought I was alone in this struggle, but it turns out this is a common phenomenon. There are two psychological components to this as well.
The first psychological principle is called the familiarity principle. Under the principle, things you hear over and over again become truths to you. I did hear people saying how great it was that I was having triplets, but for every person who said it was great, I heard 3 people who said it was hard/terrible/scary. It’s no wonder I started listening to the negative voices instead of the positive ones. They pervaded almost every interaction I had.
I’m not alone in noticing this phenomenon. This is a passage from Extreme Motherhood: The Triplet Diaries by Jackie Clune:
With every telling the response says a lot about the person hearing the news. I collect a list of my favourite responses.
‘Oh my God, your life is over,’ says an actress friend.
Yes, thanks for reinforcing that.
‘You’ll have to retire,’ says a stressed working mum.
‘You should give one each to all your barren friends,’ says the single woman over forty.
Mostly, people respond with jokey doom.
‘Rather you than me.’
‘Well, it could be worse- it could be cancer.’
Here’s a passage from I Sleep At Red Lights by Bruce Stockler:
“Triplets?” my mom says. Her worry is as thick as electromagnetic interference.
“It’s going to be just fine,” I say.
“Triplets,” my mom says.
I start laughing and she gets mad.
Roni’s mother takes the news more stoically.
“How are you going to pay for them?” Roni’s mom says.
“One step at a time,” Roni says.
At night, as Roni falls asleep, I keep an eye on her stomach, waiting for the sign that we can start planning for the lifestorm headed our way.
Do you hear this negativity now? How could you possibly ignore it?
The second phenomenon closely associated with these comments is called the negativity bias. Our brain is primed to be more sensitive to negative statements than positive ones. So again, for every one positive comment about triplets, there are 3 negative ones, but because of our sensitivity that may feel like 6 negative ones instead.
So what can you do when you are pregnant with triplets and this is all around you? The first and most important thing is to recognize these phenomena are happening. The second is to combat the negativity in your own mind. You cannot change others and the comments that will come. But you can change your attitude and cope with that negativity so that it doesn’t pervade your every thought.
This article had some wonderful insights on what to do, like writing down positive experiences so that you store them and remember them (because negative experiences already are remembered easily) or keeping a gratitude journal or a set of inspiring quotes and positive images you can quickly look at when you notice negativity creeping in. Unfortunately, because our brains are programmed to notice negativity, you won’t just naturally be able to combat this mindset. You have to fight against the negativity consciously and methodically. But it can be done. Listen out for positive stories from parents of multiples and take note of the good things they have to say about life with their kids. Keep those positive statements in your memory, or write them down somewhere. Keep a running list of things you are excited about with triplets and keep adding to that list.
There also won’t be negative comments forever. We rarely get negative comments any more. Perhaps its because people can see in real time how lucky we are. There’s no denying that truth when there are three lovely beings in your presence.
So please fight the negative triplet narrative. You’ll see soon enough how very, very false it is.