Twins Explaining Twins, Revisited

We got some funny and insightful thoughts last time I interviewed my daughters, 7-year-old M and J, about being twins. I figured I’d introduce a different related topic and see where the conversation went.

Me: So, I get a lot of the same question over and over when people realize that you’re twins. Does that happen to you too?
J: Yes.
Me: What kinds of questions?
J: Like really unimportant questions. Like, “Why aren’t you wearing the same clothes?” “Why is you hair so short and hers so long?”
Me: Mmm hmm.
J: And some reasonable questions, like my friend Amy’s*.
Me: What did she ask?
J: ”What’s it like to be like a twin?” And I told her, “Sometimes it can be frustrating and sometimes it can be nice.” You know how it can be frustrating?
Me: How?
M: When we get into arguments.
J: When people can’t tell us apart.
M: Actually I like that.
Me: Oh?
M: I like pranking people like Mr. M and Mr. Michael and people whose names start with M. And today Mr. Michael said…okay, let me try to tell this one… he said, “J.” And I slapped my head because it was M, who is me. And he gave up and said, “Okay! Twins! Go to the line!”
Me: And there were some other reasonable questions, right?
J: Mmm hmm. And Mr. Joel asked, “What if you were fraternal?” And I said, “We would look more different and less alike.” And Mr. Joel said, “You look fraternal to me, but I know you were born identical.”
M: A wombat…
Me: A wombat**?
M: Mmm hmm. A Wombat asked us if twins, identical twins, always looked alike and were always wearing the same clothes. No! If one of the twins are a tomboy and the other is a girly girl, then the one that’s a girly girl might wear a princess shirt and the tomboy might wear…
J: A Spiderman shirt?
M: An Angry Birds shirt.
J: You know, some girls who aren’t tomboys wear Angry Birds shirts.
M: I know, that’s just because they, those shirts have at least one girl Angry Bird.
J: No, some don’t have any. Like, Amy isn’t a tomboy and she has an Angry Birds shirt that says, “I’m the bomb!” and it has the black bird on it. No girls.
Me: Do Caroline and Vanessa…(I began to type in parentheses “older fraternal girl twins” for your benefit. J stopped me.)
J: No, they’re identical!
Me: Are you sure?
M: No, they’re fraternal. They told me.
J: But they have the same colour hair and the same colour eyes and I can’t tell them apart.
M: Another argument! Yeah, but they told me and they know more about themselves than anyone else.
J: Fine!
Me: I’d like you to think about something, please. How do you feel when people try to tell you that you’re not identical?
J: Ugh, the girl named Annabelle who’s a Wombat… really a girl, but her group’s a Wombat… when she heard we were twins she was mean about it because we didn’t have the same haircut and weren’t wearing the same clothes and didn’t have the same faces and different sizes of shoes.
M: I don’t think that’s fair, because I like my unique heart-shaped face.
J: Then me and M, then me and M said we had enough of the talk and went to play Connect 4 and a little bit of Mancala and M was too shy to tell Annabelle that we were really twins and so I told her that it really hurt our feelings when people said we weren’t twins because it wasn’t really truuuuue. (I initially typed “true” back there, but J felt that some more Us were in order to capture what she was trying to communicate.)
Me: I understand the story. But how did you feel, when somebody said you weren’t identical?
M: Sad.
J: Really mad like I wanted to punch that person.
Me: Wow!
J: Embarrassed.
Me: Then how do you think Vanessa and Caroline would feel if they knew that you were saying that they were wrong about what kind of twins they are?
J: Like us? Like maybe they will feel like I was trying to be mean on purpose.
Me: I think we need to respect people the same way we expect them to respect us.
J: I didn’t know.
Me: I know you didn’t know, but does the lesson make sense?
J: (Nod.)
M: I’ve got a story. Once upon a time. Okay, sorry, did I mention that this was fairytale?
Me: No, you forgot to mention that.
M: Once upon a time, there were two little girls who were identical twins and they had friends who were older identical twins…
J: Older identical twins?
M: No, I mean fraternal twins. And J, one of the identical twins, liked Caroline more than Vanessa. And M, who was another one of the identical twins, liked Vanessa more than Caroline. They all lived in a castle together. But one day, a dragon came to eat them, but the brave knight killed the dragon into 5, no 10 pieces.
J: “5, no 10 pieces.”
M: The End.
Me: Which of the twins was the brave knight? All of them? (Yes, I know she was probably thinking of a man coming to save them, but I am going to do all I can to raise empowered women instead of damsels in distress. Back to the story.)
M: Yes! (whispering) Do I have a too big imagination? (regular voice) Well, actually, not all of them. Just Vanessa and Caroline. So, as you can imagine, each tore the dragon into 5 pieces each. The End.

*Names have been changed.
**Wombats are the youngest group of summer campers.

Multiple Perspectives: Interview with a MoM-to-Be

I’m excited, of course, when friends tell me that they are expecting, but I’m quadruply so when they tell me they are expecting multiples. My co-worker and friend Rachel has met my twin daughters only three or four times, but she became an instant favourite with them because of her warmth and humour. You can imagine my excitement when she showed me an ultrasound image with two separate sacs on display. I talked to her about her impending mother-of-multiples status.

1. What was your reaction when you found out you were pregnant with two babies? [Your husband] Scott’s?

People ask me a lot if I was surprised by the fact that I was pregnant with twins. I’m fairly sure the subtext of that question is, “Were they spontaneous twins?”  Generally, I reply, “I think everybody is surprised by twins!”

In my case, my twins weren’t spontaneous; I’d undergone an ovulation induction cycle, and I knew that the risk of multiples was higher. However, I was also under close observation, and we never had any reason to believe more than one egg had been released.  My hormone levels rose higher than I was expecting them to, so I did wonder if something was up, but at around 5 weeks, 3 days, when I had my first ultrasound, the doctor only saw one gestational sac at first.  The second little peekaboo sac was definitely a surprise!

Scott wasn’t able to make it to that first ultrasound, so I called him at work afterward to let him know.  I told him, “Everything looks good… but we may need to think of some more names.”  He knew what I meant immediately.  He’s a low-key guy, but he was excited, and I’m sure a little bit nervous, when he found out.

2. How did your expectations of parenthood change when you discovered that you would be a mother of multiples.

I was always fairly sure that, despite not having a ton of experience with babies and small children, Scott and I could probably figure out how to raise a child on our own. Raising twins, I’ll admit, still sounds like a much more formidable task than raising one.  You can check with me again in a year to see if I’ve broken them yet.

On the other hand, especially since we struggled with conceiving, I had developed a lot of ideas and theories about how we were going to raise our hypothetical only child. In some ways, finding out that we were expecting twins was freeing. Even in my naivete, I know that there will be times when I can’t meet both babies’ needs at the moment those needs arise. I feel like I’ve been able to give up my expectation of being Super Mom before the kids have even arrived.

3. Can you tell me a little about your experience with doctors specializing in multiple pregnancies? How did you find them, and how do you think working with specialists has benefited you?

I bought Dr. Barbara Luke’sWhen You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads,” not long after seeing the babies’ heartbeats at 6 weeks gestation.  I found the information in the book helpful but general, and I wanted advice more closely tailored to me.  I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for resources on twins, especially locally.  While I didn’t find a whole lot locally (aside from the Moms of Multiples group), I did find the Texas Children’s Hospital Program for Multiples in Houston.  I was most interested in the nutritional assessment they offer, to see how it compared to the one in Luke’s book.  Generally, it was fairly similar, but with a stronger emphasis on lower-fat foods. They also follow similar 20 pounds by 20 weeks guidelines.

My twins are dichorionic and diamniotic, and I’ve really had a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy throughout, so I think the program was less helpful for me as it would have been for, say, parents of identical twins with a higher risk of TTTS. But I learned a lot about my babies and was very relieved to have a clean bill of health as we finished up the first trimester. It’s a great program, for those who are able to get to Houston, and it was completely covered by my insurance.

4. What personality traits do you predict for your babies, based on feeling them move?

Even before I could feel them move, I could see the differences in my babies on each ultrasound.  Starting at 8 or 9 weeks gestation, it became apparent that our little boy, Baby B, is quite a wiggler.  Our girl, Baby A, does her share of moving as well, but she’s never been nearly as active as her brother.  I anticipate we’re going to need to get Baby B involved in lots of physical activity to burn off all that extra energy.  On the other hand, our girl really likes to kick her mama in the bladder, so I’m predicting a typically complicated mother/daughter relationship with her!

5. What reactions do you get from people when they learn that you are expecting twins?

The most common reaction I get is, “Do you know what you’re having?” And when I tell them we’re expecting a boy and a girl, they almost always reply, “Oh, wow, that’s perfect! You can be done!”  As though we would have been required to keep trying for the opposite sex if we’d had two boys or two girls.  Or an only child, for that matter.  I’m learning a bit of zen, when it comes to responding to curious comments.  People generally mean well, and I don’t think they really think through their response. It’s as much small talk as anything.  (I’m sure I’ll be less patient when we can’t walk down an aisle at the grocery store without being interrupted, but people generally can’t tell I’m carrying twins, so I feel like I’m undercover for the time being.)

6. You are 33 weeks into your pregnancy right now. How do you feel, physically?

I’m definitely starting to feel tired and uncomfortable!  I anticipated that I would feel progressively worse as the pregnancy went on.  In actuality, it seems a little more cyclical than that. I hit a wall every couple of weeks, then I adapt and feel better for a while.  My quarter-mile walk to the office is definitely starting to feel like a long way, though!

7. What do you know now about multiple pregnancy, or pregnancy in general, that you wish you’d known earlier?

I spent the first two-thirds of my pregnancy mentally preparing myself for the possibility that I might be on bed rest or out of work for a long time.  I didn’t expect that I’d actually be pretty good at carrying twins, and still working at 33 weeks.  Knowing that would’ve saved me a lot of worrying early on!

8. You and Scott will both be returning to work after parental leave. What will your childcare arrangements be? How are you going about choosing?

This July, we spent our fifth wedding anniversary shopping for infant childcare, three months in advance of the anticipated arrival of our twins, and six months in advance of when we’d expect them to start daycare. It felt really unfair that we had to choose a childcare provider to care for our kids when we haven’t even had a chance to meet them or get to know them yet.  We visited four childcare providers and finally chose a Montessori school with an infant program in our neighborhood.   The rates were comparable to most of the other infant daycares in town, but we were impressed with the age-based Montessori classrooms, and we had a great rapport with the teacher in the infant room.  She lives in our neighborhood, as do many of the kids in the school, and she has twin grandsons.  We felt that our babies would be in good hands in her care.  Picking a place close to home means it’ll be equally convenient for Scott or me to drop them off and pick them up, and we hope we’ll be able to get to know other parents and kids in our area.

9. What have you already done to prepare for your twins’ arrival? What do you have left to do?

I feel as well prepared as a naive almost-mom can be. Our nursery is packed full of onesies, diapers, and random plastic baby accoutrements. We have places for the babies to sleep (though they may have to share for a little while). We’ve got a double stroller.  We’ve got infant car seats, and we’ve installed them into one of our two cars.  We’ve gone to all the classes we plan to go to in advance of their birth, and we’re trying to enjoy some nights out together before the nuclear bomb that is parenthood drops on us both.

I do still have a rigorous nap schedule to try to maintain for the next three to five weeks.  And a lot of work to wrap up.

10. What questions do you have for other parents of multiples?

I feel like I’ve heard the answers to most of my questions, and they all seem to vary from family to family. (How long did it take to feel like you had everything under control?  Were you able to breastfeed two babies at once?  How do you handle the financial burden of two infants at once, especially when you add in the huge expense of childcare?)

I’d rather hear words of reassurance.  Tell me when multiples get to be fun!