The Incredible Identical Fraternal Twins

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We like to push the envelope around here. Really shake things up. Keep people on their toes. Our boys are a new breed of twin – the identical fraternal variety. Technically dizygotic (or so we were told), but for all intent and purpose, identical in looks and shape. See Exhibit A (3 months):

Our friends and family are in disbelief. “Surely, surely, they must be identical.” No, they are fraternal. “But they look exactly the same!” Yes. They do look a lot alike. But they are not identical. “But how do you tell them apart?” Well, Abel has a rounder face and head. And his eyes are set a little bit wider. Oskar’s face is narrower. And he has less hair. “Is that all?” Well, if I take their shirts off, Oskar has a strawberry on his shoulder and Abel has a freckle on his chest. Is that enough?

Sarcasm aside, I’ll admit it, there was a time when even J and I had a hard time telling them apart. From birth to about 4 months, they truly looked identical. We mixed them up at the doctor’s office…several times. J even mixed them up for 3 hours while I was out one afternoon. He was mortified to find out he thought he was holding Abel when he was really cooing to Oskar the whole time. But as they have grown to the ripe old age of 14 months, their fraternal-ness has become more evident. Well, to us at least. Face shape aside, they just look different from one another. Note Exhibit B (8 months):

But we continue to get barraged by the identical comments. Sure, my fraternal (same and different gender alike) mamas know all to well the public’s funny, “Are they identical?” question, when they are clearly not. But in our case, I don’t begrudge strangers when they ask. It’s when our good friends continue to ask that I start to get slightly impatient, and to be honest, second-guess the DNA status of my sons. What if they really are identical? After all, they could be part of the small percentage of identical twins who have separate sacs and placentas. And then there is the story of our friend’s twins, where doctors swore they were fraternal in utero and upon birth, but after DNA testing turned out to be identical. Could this be us, too?

The other night, I finally worked up the gumption to ask J if he was, without-a-doubt, sure that the boys were NOT identical. Without any hesitation, he proclaimed “they are absolutely not identical. Without question.” Phew! But then I start to wonder if we see such distinction between them because their personalities and mannerisms are so individual and different. They are like night and day in the way they move, talk, hug and play. So I think to myself, maybe we should just solve this dilemma once and for all with a DNA test. Two simple cheek swabs and $160 plus shipping and…whaalaa! We’d have our definitive answer once and for all.

Or more likely we’ll just sit back, relax, and relish in the stunning similarities and the obvious differences that make these two boys the twin brothers that they are. And why would we waste the 160 bucks plus shipping when we never mix them up anymore?! Okay, so there was that one time last month…

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32 thoughts on “The Incredible Identical Fraternal Twins”

  1. I remember how shocked I was when I learned that MaryKate and Ashley Olsen are fraternal and not identical – and they played the same character on Full House for years! I have to admit, I would probably be a sucker for the DNA test :)

  2. Someday, you’ll get the test and you’ll know for sure. I’m in the same boat with my 12 month old girls. They were Di-Di, (but had a fused placenta) so we assume they are fraternal. But oh! the questions/comments we get! I think people forget that fraternal twins are no more alike than siblings with different birthdays and if we could bend time and compare non-twin siblings (ie. make them the same age), I think a lot of people would swear they were identical! Until you un-bend time and say “HA! Little Sally is 3 and her sister Sissy is 5”. It’s all about perception. You see 2 babies of the same age with the same hair color and face shape (or whatever) and people immediately think they are identical! Oh, and BTW, according to what I’ve read, you have between an 8% and 11% chance that they _are_ identical…..

  3. We sprung for the DNA test even though we knew they had to be fraternal. They didn’t look alike at all EVER. At the time, it was worth it to me to have scientific evidence just so we didn’t have to have that conversation anymore. Plus it was pretty fun playing CSI.

    Imagine my lack of delight when Nate’s baby hair fell out and grew back in blond. Then Alex’s eyes changed color at a year old and turned brown. I now have one blond hair blue eyed boy and one brown hair brown eyed boy. I could have saved myself the money if I had just waited!!!

  4. My girls had a single outer sac and a shared placenta; no question of their monozygosity. However, had we not had the ultrasound that made that so clear to us that they were, in fact, identical, we might have assumed otherwise. One of our daughters has a developmental facial abnormality (frontonasal dysplasia) that her sister doesn’t have. It’s minor, and correctable if it causes her any grief, but we would have never dreamed that the girls were identical had we not known it for a fact. A pair of fraternal twins I went to college with look FAR more alike than my identical girls.

  5. A friend was doing a college research project on family dna and found out that adult twin sisters, whom had always thought they were fraternal, were actually identical!

  6. Get the DNA test!! I’m planning to get it done one of these days too. I’ve seen the “test results” that my doctor used to tell me our boys were identical and it is inconclusive at best. She admitted she is guessing and recommended we do the DNA test. Maybe we should all do it together!

    The articles from the TWINS magazine about DZ/MZ genetics say that unless you do the test, you just can’t be sure. I know I need to do it!

  7. I’m so glad I found this blog! I’m laughing quietly to myself. I can’t tell you the number of times we still hear, “Are they identical? Are you sure they’re not identical?” We have 15 month old b/g twins. They look nothing alike. Ellie has a full head of beautiful hair that curls in the back. Ethan has hardly any hair. His eyes are almond shaped and hers are big and round. In the beginning, when I was really suffering from lack of sleep and on the edge of sanity, I would respond, “Yes. I’m sure.” Then, I’d hear, “Oh, no! I don’t believe it. How do you tell them apart? I’m sure they must be identical.” I’d respond, “Well. This one has a penis and this one doesn’t.” Then, I’d walk away content with the fact that I had schooled them in the differences between a boy and a girl. Of course, that was before I knew there was such a thing as b/g identical twins.

    It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one who hears this ALL THE TIME!

  8. Hi Tracy – loved your post on this topic. I think a lot of parents wonder the same thing about their twins.

    I tried to contact you through your website but can’t find an email address. Would you email me? I have a proposal for you.

    Pamela Fierro
    Guide to Twins and Multiples
    About.com
    http://multiples.about.com
    email=multiples.guide@about.com

  9. They’ve told me my girls are monozygotic, but they don’t look anything alike to me. Total strangers feel the need to argue with me too, so I feel like I need a piece of paper to show them.

  10. We have identical twins who are in the rare percent you’re talking about: two sacs and two placentas. Doc swore they’d be fraternal. DNA test: 99.99% same. Hmmm… Pretty conclusive. We can tell them apart, but most people can’t. (Actually, I can’t tell them apart in the pictures from their 2-4month ages.) I have a really good friend who has identical girls. She knows because she, too, sprung for the test (her girls were di/di as well). Get the test! I’m so glad we did–we’d always wonder otherwise.

  11. whats wrong with doing the test? that way you can be sure and won’t have to wonder anymore! stop torturing yourself, embrace the fact that this science is now a fairly affordable thing to do and have peace of mind.

  12. OMG…I can’t believe this other people being tortured just like me..lol these strangers are just arguementative totally I have twin girls who are about to turn two july 7th and I was told they are identical and totally agreed until they turned one then everything changed there faces are shaped different and one of my girls eyes are wider and a little more father apart than my other daughters and they differ in weight one is more petite than the other I tell them they are identical and they say NO ones smaller than the other so I dunno but I think Im gonna stop my curiosity and get a dna test so i tell these annoying stangers that constantly have to argue with me everywhere I go but deff good luck to you and hope get the dna test too so u don’t have to think or wonder if ur twins are identical or fraternal

  13. OMG – this is too funny… I have identical twin boys and was never told if they were identical or not. For months we assumed not, but there were times that they looked *so* much alike. I finally spung for the test so that I could once and for all know w/out a doubt.
    Also – someone mentioned the Olson twins — I’m thinking that they are probably identical and were told fraternal b/c 20 years ago, science was MUCH different. Just my 2 cents.

  14. 20 to 30 per cent of identical twins have separate sacs and placentas (it’s the one sac, one placenta that’s very rare), so you can’t be sure unless you have DNA testing. And if your twins look extremely similar, there’s a strong chance that they are identical.

  15. Very interesting topic, we’re also questioning ourselves all the time if our boys are or aren’t identical. they were in 2 sacs, 1 placenta and look so alike… I’m so tempted to do a DNA test on them too..

  16. So I too get the question “Are they identical?”
    Funny thing is, there is a 4 pound difference between my 19 month old twins, not to mention head size, skin tone, etc. Then moments later I have heard the question, “How far apart are they?” “Surely they are not twins.”

    It is all perspective. Truth is identical or not, they are individuals. I would DNA test….why it is a control thing I guess.

  17. I am undergoing utter hell just now, my wife gave birth to our beautifull son a year and a half ago and has just given birth to fraternal twins three days ago, all the way through I could not have been happier, but she has had a pretty hormonal pregancy and I have stood by her all the way and worked very hard to support while she has been at home, In the scans I was over the moon to find out it was a boy and girl we were having.

    My wife had a section three days ago when they were 38 weeks, the boy was born first and then 2 minutes later the girl, at first I thought to myself, “good god the boy looks so different and doesn’t resemble me at all” and then the girl looked so much like our first child and resembles me a lot.

    I made sure my wife was good and well and helped where I could through out the day etc until I had to go home, I left with the pictures on my camera and to e-mail them delightedly to all of my family and friends and that was when it hit me that the boy looks identical to my friends son and like him as a matter of fact, which is very prominant features, I tried to brush it off and tell myself that I was being silly, but the looks are almost identical, then last night the boy opened his eyes and he has his eyes too, I am staring at the photos for hours and can only see my friend and not me, I feel ill and feel I am already not bonding with the boy and its not his fault, I know fraternal twins come from two eggs being fertilised at different times and I only had sex with my wife once that month, also thinking back, my friend visited our home a few times while I was at work and my wife told me he thought i would be home but he knows i work until past 6pm, I feel paranoid and distraught and I am trying to hide it for everyones sake but it is tearing me appart, should i sneek a dna test on the boy to put my mind to rest either way?
    Either way I am going out my mind and if I am the father I don’t want to wreck our relationship if I am wrong, but the boy has no resemblance of either me or my other babies, three nights ago my friend sent me a text asking if they were identical and when i said they were not and the boy doesn’t resemble me at all, i have not heard anything from him since, can someone please tell me to stop being silly or help me out here as i feel so alone on this one, thanks in advance

  18. Hi Mark,

    First off, thanks for your comment and being so honest about what’s going on. Secondly, congratulations on two healthy babies. It’s amazing that your wife carried them until 38 weeks and had no complications.

    I’m not a professional counselor, geneticist, doctor, Dear. Abby or anything, so this is just my plain old opinion. I think it would be incredibly RARE for twins to be from two separate sexual encounters. I’m sure it has happened somewhere, but it’s probably a one in a million type scenario. It’s just not how biology works. Even if your wife were to have slept with another man around the same time the babies were conceived, the chances of one egg being fertilized by one man’s sperm, and the second by another, are crazy odds. I am 99.9% positive that your twins are biologically yours. Please don’t even second guess this unless you have very good reason to (like you have concrete proof that she had an affair at that time, etc.).Genetics are weird and kids don’t always looks alike, or like their mother or father. Put your mind at ease.

    I think maybe you need to ask yourself why you are even speculating that your wife slept with your friend. Do you not trust her? If not, I think this is probably a much bigger issue that you might benefit from going to counseling for. This is a time when your family needs you the most. Twin newborns are a lot to care for, especially when you have another child already, and your wife is likely swirling in a sea of hormones, emotions, sleep deprivation and exhaustion. You are probably too! If you are doubting your wife solely on the fact that one of the babies doesn’t look like you, and has some strange resemblance to your friend’s child, I think you really need to let it go. If there are other valid reasons that are pointing you to this, maybe talk to your wife about it once you all are on more solid footing (like when the babies are four months old or older). You may even witness your son looking more and more like you or your wife as he grows and develops.

    I wish I had better advice for you. If you are truly concerned that one baby is yours and the other isn’t, I would call a doctor and ask his/her opinion on the chances of this happening. But I really think the chances would be so very, very slim. I would let yourself fall in love with your newborn son and daughter for who they are…your babies. Enjoy this time – it’s so fleeting and before you know it, they won’t be babies anymore. And support you wife like you did during the pregnancy and before. It sounds like you are very involved and loving husband and your whole family really needs you at this time.

    Good luck and, again, congratulations!

    traceys

  19. Tracey,
    Thankyou so much for your touching reply, I picked my wife and babies up from the hospital tonight and you are right, I am being so silly, they are such a bundle of joy and like the last time, when they were born I cried I was so happy, my wife and children are the best and I love being there watching them grow and us two getting older through the good and bad times, we have been together for so long and I should know better, I do trust her and always have done, I just got a shock when that little boy came to us and didn’t resemble me or my wife, He does look like my friend and I think thats why it sparked off suspicion, but I can see a little change in him already
    thankyou so much
    mark

  20. i am a twin me and my sister look just alike and we have identical traits but we are ferternal and when i was a baby i had a strawberry birthmark on my stomach and my sister had a frecckle in her shoulder this freaks me out because i searched this up for a project in school i am 13 but me and my sister were born on march 1st and 2nd before and after midnight so as soon as i saw this i freaked out please e mail me i have some seriouse questions

  21. I’m so amazed at the differences twins can have. Right now I’m currently 5 months pregnant with twin boys and I cant help but wonder if they are identical or fraternal but the way i see people blogging I guess I’ll never know unless when they are born I get DNA testing. Also if anyone can answer this one question….Is it possible to give vaginal birth with twins because i really do not want to undrgo a c-section my first time giving birth.

  22. Mark,
    Hang in there, fellow. Actually, your concerns are quite valid — a woman can become pregnant with mulitples from different men if she is having physical relations with more than one man. Fraternal twins — even if they have the same bio mother and bio father — can also be conceived during separate encounters within a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle (fraternal eggs = 2 separate eggs that are not necessarily released at the same time/on the same day).

    I would encourage you to pursue this issue. If your suspicions are correct and one of the babies is not biologically yours, it would be best to confront the facts sooner rather than later. I would implore you to include at least one supportive, trusted friend or medical professional/therapist in your pursuit before completing any DNA testing.

    Best wishes to you Mark.

  23. I am a mama to two beautiful identical twin girls. They were born 4.5lbs and 5.5lbs. They had two sacs and two placentas. My husband and I spent a year trying to decide if they were fraternal or not. In fact, we were sure they were fraternal since it is so easy for us to tell them apart but we decided to do the test anyway. I am so glad we did – best $180 we ever spent. It was a gift to them for their first birthday. Now we know for sure they are identical and even better, they will know for sure.

    I strongly recommend getting the test done. It is a simple cheek swab. I have a friend (33 yrs) who is a twin and she looks very much like her sister. They have always been told they were fraternal and she told me she would be really freaked out to find out after all these years that she and her sister are identical. She said it would be like finding out you were adopted or something. I think it would be the kind thing to do for your boys.
    … And it is nice to speak with confidence when strangers ask:)

  24. My wife and I had twin boys in August 2008. After a very difficult pregnancy (she was in the hospital on bedrest for a month) they were born healthy at 36 weeks. The doctor was not able to tell us the zygosity of the boys. He said he couldn’t tell if the placenta was fused or not. They look similar but by not identical, to me at least, my dad swears they are identical. All that aside, I have been doing tons of internet reading on the subject and have found many variants on the zygosity of twins. Some say that identicals have the same teeth impressions etc…some don’t. The myths abound out there. My wife and I decided to go ahead and do the DNA test. We are awaiting the result. The reason for me is simple…do I get a vasectomy or not! If they are fraternal then its snip, snip. The chances are too great that we would have another set, and given the complications from the first time around, we are just not willing to risk it. If they are identical, well, they may just get their shot a baby sister after all.

  25. My son and daughter are twins and look exactly alike. At 5, they still have the same features. On profile view they look identical down to the eyelashes. Even now it’s hard for me to tell the difference between them in their baby pictures, luckily our daughter usually wore pink so that helps. The only difference between them is their hair- we are black and my son has my very kinky hair and my daughter inherited a more bi-racial hair texture from her dad’s side. But when they were babies they both had super soft, fine curls so we couldn’t tell who they were from the hair!

    I don’t think this is unusual.

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