They’re Still Twins

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Categories Balance, Community, Difference, Friendships with Other Multiples, Parenting, Relationships, Special NeedsTags , , , 6 Comments

During pregnancy, my husband and I had many conversations about all the things we would do for our twins to let them know they were loved and valued as separate individuals, not just half of a set. That they cohabited in utero was only a very small part of who they would become, and we wanted them to always know that.

I dealt with all the comments during pregnancy—the “better you than me”, the “double trouble”, the “my cousin’s neighbor has twins”, the “I always wanted twins” (or, bizarrely to me once: “I almost had twins”…a story which did not result in the loss of a twin, but rather a woman who, prior to ultrasound technology, knew all along she was having twins, but never heard two distinct heartbeats and only delivered one baby). I joined twin groups, mentally prepared myself for the barrage of twin-comments we’d receive everywhere we went.

I never imagined how much it would sting to lose that.

I am luckier than many in the twin world: both my twins are alive and thriving.

But.

They do not reach developmental milestones within days of each other. Not even within months. They do not wear the same size of clothing, and haven’t since D outgrew the preemie size (while A was still a 3-pounder, outfits hanging on him like Doby’s pillowcase). They will probably not be in the same class at school (except perhaps preschool). Strangers do not ask me if they’re identical or fraternal, or even “Are they twins?” They ask me, “How far apart are they?”

The first time I got that question, the boys were 9 months. Now, D quickly outgrew the “adjusted” charts and was over 50% in height quite early, and has been slower but always on-the-charts in weight. Even so, he looked at most 11 months old. With A, who yes, (yes, believe it or not, I know), is small. But at 9 months, he looked perhaps 4 months, but probably closer to 5. Just what gestational length did these questioners have in mind, anyway??

But now, at 16 months, D could easily pass for 2. And A could be a tall-but-skinny (95th and below-zero) 9-month-old. Which is probably about where he is developmentally as well. The question is no longer absurd.

And it hurts. Selfishly, it hurts, as it is not what I imagined. It is not what “twins” entails in popular culture, mythology, anyone’s mind. But it also hurts for them. They are and always will be brothers, but I feel like they each are missing that twin-thing: the sharing of clothes, sharing of friends, sharing school books, mastering new skills together.

I rarely comment in my twin group. I feel like so much of it just does not apply.

A lot of it does, though. A lot of it applies, and then some. Feeding twins is so hard! Feeding twins when one of them has a feeding tube? Even harder. Getting any sleep with twins is hard! Getting any sleep with twins when one of them has several alarms hooked up to him, which give both real and (thankfully) not-real alerts? Harder. Dealing with extended family who plays favorites? Whoooo, boy, let me tell you. Finding time to {x}? You get the picture.

A and D will never know a different life. As brilliant as they are, I highly doubt either of them pondered the concepts of twinhood while womb-mates, probably not even recognizing that other kicky-squirmy creature with a heartbeat from my own intestines. They are twins, and this is what twinhood will mean to them, even when they understand that it may not hold true for the greater world. In some ways, they are wiser than I am.

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Friendships Between Twins

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Categories Birthdays, Friendships with Other Multiples, Identical, Multiple Types, Parenting Twins, Same GenderTags , , , , 2 Comments

I mentioned in my last post that we would be throwing a combined birthday party with another set of twins from my daughters’ classes. It went swimmingly. I had a great time, and it seemed that everyone else did too.
3 sets of identical twins and a little boy pose over a birthday cake

As luck would have it, the first guests to arrive were the other birthday girls’ cousins, who happen to also be identical twins. This happens to be the first photo I took but features no fewer than 3 sets of identical girl twins, plus one little brother.

My third reaction to the picture after a smile and an “Awww, how cute!” is to ponder how rare it is. I’ve seen statistics putting identical twins at 0.4% of all births. The girls in the photo, though, have no awareness of being part of a rare phenomenon. Some people just come in pairs, in their reality.

My girls have a number of twin friends. I’m partly responsible. I can’t help being drawn to other parents who face similar joys and challenges to the ones in my life. Chance meetings turn into play date arrangements and play dates turn into friendships. The girls in the picture are among the first twins my daughters have befriended outside my influence. After all, I don’t control who they hang out with at public school. M and J also became close friends with classmates in kindergarten, two boys who are identical twins. We don’t get to see HDYDI’s Tracey’s boys as often as we’d like to, but J and M talk about often and consider them close friends.

My girls definitely notice when their friends are twins. They use the word “twins” when describing their friends to me for the first time. They have a number of friends in after school care who are fraternal twins, but I’ve noticed that in those cases, they’re usually much closer to one sibling than another.

I recall a conversation I had with my daughters when they were 4. We’d run into a friend from my Mothers of Multiples group, along with her young boy/girl twins. When I pointed out that they, too, were twins, one of my daughters said, “No they’re not! They’re not the same.” When I dug a little deeper, she said that twins had to be the same gender. I got the impression that twins, to her, were identical only.

Now, at age 7, my daughters certainly accept fraternal twins into the fold, but they clearly feel a deeper connection to other identical twins. I wonder how it would be different to fraternal twins. I only know the identical experience in any depth.

Do your kids have an awareness of being multiples? Are they friends with others? Are they drawn towards twins of the same “type” as themselves?

Sadia is raising her 7 year-old girls in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.

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Birthday(s) for Two

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Categories Attitude, Birth Order, Celebrations, Friendships with Other Multiples, Mommy Issues, Parenting TwinsTags , , 1 Comment

“I’m going to be 7 tomorrow,” J called out to me as she skipped to the bathroom to brush her teeth for bed last Thursday. “It’s a little magical!”

It’s more than a little magical. I could swear that it was last week that I was bringing J home from the NICU to be reunited with her sister M after 5 days apart. It was about an hour ago that the girls were teething. It can’t have been more than 5 minutes since I heard them read out loud to me for the first time.

But 7 they are. It was 7 years ago that my water broke at 33 weeks gestation. I’m afraid that if I blink, they’ll be running off to college.

Party Time

I’d better wait on that blink, because I have a 7th birthday party to plan and execute. I got an unexpected reprieve from the insanity that is the month of May. I learned that the other set of twin girls in my daughters’ classes was going to have their birthday party at exactly the same time that I was planning M and J’s. I gladly generously offered to delay our party until June, after the end of the school year. A few days later, the other twins’ mom texted me to suggest a combined birthday party. Brilliant! (Except that I’m still going to throw a separate party for J and M’s friends who aren’t in their class. They’ve been talking up their party for so long that I just can’t not invite their dance friends and neighbours, but I’m not going to explode the size of the party my friend has been anticipating for her daughters.)

I used to worry about birthdays. I’m an excellent worrier. How, I wondered during the pregnancy and throughout that first year, would I make each of my daughters feel birthday special when that celebration of uniqueness was yet another thing she has to share with Sissy? I made a point of singing Happy Birthday to each child separately. No “Happy Birthday, J and M,” for us! Each girl got her own birthday cake. I got them different, but coordinated birthday presents. This year will be different. All four birthday girls will share a cake. Each of them gets her own Number 7 candle. We’re celebrating the fact that each pair shares a birthday. That’s pretty special in its own right, and all four girls are thrilled to get to share their celebration with their friends as well as their sister.

My friend B sent me into a tailspin a few years ago. She wrote to our mothers of multiples group asking whether and how she should let her twin sons’ friends know that they were twins. She would be having separate birthday parties for each of them since they didn’t have classmates in common. She didn’t want the guests to feel awkward when they discovered there were two birthday boys. Separate birthday parties! I vowed then and there that if my girls wanted separate parties, they could throw them themselves. I’m a pretty simple girl when it comes to parties. I tend to request that guests not bring presents. “Presence, not presents,” I say. If people must bring something, we’ve asked for donations for the local good pantry. I make a bunch of food, invite a ton of people to a park or other open space, and let the party run itself.

Birth Detail

M and J have been terribly excited about this birthday as they’ve watched friend after friend turn 7 at school. J was quite literally counting down the hours on Thursday evening.

“Mommy, what time was I born?”

“6:33 am,” I told her.

“M!! We were born at 6:33 am! We’ll be 7 in 10 hours and how many minutes?”

Who-was-born-first strikes again. Couldn’t I just have said, “6:30?” Still, it was rather nice to know that both my girls consider their birth(s) to be a singular event. Clearly, they have no problem with a shared birthday. The whole multiple thing is really very special, and my daughters are old and wise enough to know it. They’re wiser than I am.

“J, you were born at 6:33. The doctor had to hand you to some nurses before he could take M out of me. She came out at 6:35, so she was technically born at 6:35.”

M, the master of precision, clarified. “So, it took one minute to give J to the nurses, 30 seconds to come back, and 30 seconds to get me?”

“Something like that.”

“So,” said the always mathematical M, “we have 10 and a half hours left to be 6. I’m so excited to be getting 7! I think I act pretty mature, like a 7-year-old.”

“Except you giggle about farts,” J responded.

And they fell into a giggling mass of almost-7-year-old.

Do you do anything to individualize the birthday experience for your multiples?

Sadia overthinks her parenting decisions in Austin, TX, where she takes a break from single mommyhood by going to her full time job in higher education information technology.

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