Identical Vs Fraternal: What Your Doctor Didn’t Explain About Your Twin Ultrasound

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My Story

(or skip to the basics or the science)

Ultrasound of identical twins at 7 weeks. You can't see the membranes in this image.

I was 7 weeks pregnant when I had my first ultrasound. The doctor pointed out the shared outer sac (chorion) and the two distinct inner sacs (amnions). I didn’t need her to finish. Thanks to Advanced Placement Bio class in high school (embryonic development) I knew I had a miracle in my womb: identical twins. Once we’d called everyone we needed to share the good news with, I hit Google, and quickly concluded from their monochorionic/diamniotic (mono/di) state that my little ones had split from a single cluster of identical cells somewhere between 3 and 9 days after conception. I’ll tell you how I made the calculation in a little bit.

The Basics

Most people don’t know a whole lot about twins or higher order multiples, and are intrigued by them. Folks I run into are usually aware that there are two basic types, identical and fraternal, but often don’t know precisely what the difference is. Part of this comes from the term “identical.” In casual English, “identical” means “exactly the same,” and so people often assume that identical twins should look alike, act alike, and think alike. This assumption often gets extended to fraternal twins, in that they should look different, act differently, and think differently.

I don’t argue with people about whether my children look enough alike to be “really” identical, and instead give them a quick science lesson. You’d be surprised how many medical professionals, even obstetricians, don’t remember the science of twinning they covered in the depths of college or medical school, and therefore jump to possibly incorrect conclusions about whether a set of twins is identical or fraternal. Next time you need to explain the distinction to someone, feel free to use the visual aids below.

TWINS! Understand the basics with this clear primer. Click To Tweet

The Science

Identical multiples grow from the same fertilized egg and therefore have basically the same DNA. Fraternal multiples come from different fertilized eggs, and therefore basically share 50% of the same DNA, as do siblings conceived by the same parents at different times. Sharing a DNA template makes it likely that identical siblings will look very much alike, but DNA doesn’t predict everything.

My daughters, for instance, share their DNA, but have noses of different shapes and different hairlines, due to developmental differences that don’t appear to have a genetic basis. They’re also different heights, likely because one is a pickier eater than the other and because dysphagia related to macroglossia (trouble swallowing because her tongue was too big for her mouth) meant that she ate less than Sissy after she weaned.

wpid-Photo-Feb-11-2014-841-AM.jpg

Vocabulary

Before I go much further into the science, let’s talk about the terminology we’ve been using.

Basic terminology to describe babies in the womb.

So, the embryo is inside the amnion, which is in turn inside the chorion. The umbilical cord traverses the two membranes to connect the embryo to the placenta, which collects nutrition from mommy for baby.

Twins in the Womb

Now let’s talk twins.

Monozygotic twins are identical ones. They started from a single zygote. (Mono means one.) Dizygotic twins are fraternal ones. They started from two zygotes. (Di means two.)

Monochorionic/monoamniotic (mono/mono) twins are monozygotic twins who share a single amnion and a single chorion.

Monochorionic/diamniotic (mono/di) twins, like my daughters, are monozygotic twins who have separate amnions and share a single chorion.

Dichorionic/diamniotic (di/di) twins are monozygotic or dizygotic twins who have separate amnions and separate chorions.

I try to make this clearer in the image below. With one egg and sperm, you can get one baby… or two babies who are mono/mono, mono/di or di/di. With two eggs and two sperm, you’ll always get di/di twins.

The different membrane configurations possible for twins in the womb. The chorion is on the outside, the amnion on the inside.

So here’s the trick. In the image above, you can’t tell the difference between the identical di/di twins and the fraternal di/di twins. And neither can the ultrasound tech. So, if you have di/di twins, chances are good that they’re fraternal, but you just don’t know for sure.

If you have di/di #twins, chances are good that they're fraternal, but you just don't know for sure. Click To Tweet

Reader Noura I was kind enough to share ultrasound images of her di/di identical twins, whose ultrasounds look just like those of fraternal twins. Remember, the mono-di stuff refers to the membranes around the babies, and not the numbers of eggs and sperm.

Dichorionic diamniotic identical twins at 6 weeks gestation.

di di twins 1st trimester

Reading the Ultrasound

What you can know about your twins zygosity from the ultrasound

So, in my little chart above, I had to note that there are extraordinarily rare cases of boy/girl identical twins, but this is a teeny tiny proportion of the population. If you ran across such a pair, you’d recognize them from the news. So, please, just assume that boy/girl twins are fraternal (dizygotic) or that one had a sex change. Either way, it’s not polite to ask. Girl/girl twins and boy/boy twins can be fraternal or identical.

Timing of Monozygotic Twin Split

Here’s a fun fact. The arrangement of amnion and chorion can tell those of us with identical twins when they split apart!

The membranes on your ultrasound tell you something about your identical twins schedule for splitting.

TTTS can be very serious and put both your babies at risk. The placental blood supply is shared unevenly, meaning that one has more than his or her share of nutrition and oxygen, the other less than his or hers. Many obstetricians will closely monitor mothers expecting twins to watch for TTTS. While it’s almost unheard of with fraternal twins, reader Halie H. wrote to us to say, “My di/di fraternal (boy/girl) twins’ placentas fused. They were born with one failed and one really really red placenta; they were sent off to be studied as an example of TTTS in fraternals.”

In #TTTS, the placental blood supply is shared unevenly between twins, putting both babies at risk. Click To Tweet

I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I do love genetics and studied it in college (although I ended up switching away from a biology major junior year). If you have additional questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.

Before I sign off, I need to give a big old shout out to Canva.com. I have been planning to write this post for years, but not having an artistic bone in my body, knew that I couldn’t do it justice without an illustrator. Thanks to the free online graphic design tool, Canva, I was able to create the graphics I’ve included in this post.

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Again with the “You’re Not Identical”

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Categories Identical, Other people, Parenting Twins, PerspectiveTags , 6 Comments

If I ever do a standup comedy routine, this will be my opening joke.

NPGS: Are they identical?
Me: Yes.
NPGS: No, they’re not!

I understand where this comes from. I really do. The vast majority of the time, I take it with grace and give a short explanation about how “identical,” when it comes to twins, really means monozygotic.

My children aren’t always with me though. They attend public elementary school and after-school care. They’re 7 years old and not yet ready to defend the identicalness that is near the core of their senses of self. They’re okay with handling kids, but when adults question their claim to being identical, they’re put in a tough spot.

This week, my daughters had a substitute teacher who made them feel very awkward about their claim to being identical twins. J, she told them, had larger eyes, so they couldn’t possibly be identical twins. Interestingly, she made no such accusation to the other set of identical girls in their class. They have a much larger height difference than my daughters, but their faces are far more similar than my girls’.

J and M were pretty upset about this interaction when they got home. I offered to print out my post on how identical twins might not look alike to give to the sub’s son at recess to pass along to her, but they declined.

As a brown-skinned Brit, I can’t help noticing the parallels between people’s own sense of ethnic identity and people who try to argue with them about it. Living here in the US, I frequently encounter people who try to tell me that I’m not Asian, because “Asian” here means from the eastern and southeastern parts of the continent. But I don’t consider myself “Indian”, which is what people want me to call myself. Bangladesh, where I lived for 10 years of my life, and India have been distinct countries since 1947. (Bangladesh split from Pakistan in 1971). If I’m going to generalize, “Asian” is my preference.

And yes, people will try to argue with me over my self-identification, but identity is personal. No one but you gets to say who you are. And no one gets to tell my kids they’re not identical twins, not if that’s the identity they choose.

Again with the, "You're Not Identical."

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Can Identical Twins Tell Each Other Apart in Photos?

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M and J, posed back to back in matching dance costumes,

These twins have always had a hard time telling who is who in photos, although mom doesn't think they look alike. From hdydi.comBefore they acquired different haircuts, my monozygotic twin daughters, M and J, could not distinguish themselves in photographs. Even now, if their hair is pulled up in a bun, as it is for their dance recital, they have a hard time with it. If the photos were taken recently enough to remember who was wearing what or who was standing where, they would figure it out. Otherwise, the closest they came is, “I think that’s me, but I’m not sure.”

I asked a colleague whether her identical daughters, now in college, could identify themselves in photos, and she says that they’ve never been able to. It’s funny the sorts of things you take for granted when you become a mother.

J and M may look decidedly different to the casual observer, but they couldn't tell you which is which. From hdydi.comMy ex-husband was appalled when he learned that our daughters couldn’t tell who is who by looking at themselves. After all, they have always looked so different to us! Before I had the girls, I’m sure I would have thought that an inability to distinguish oneself from one’s siblings would have all sorts of negative psychological repercussions. Now I see it as normal and perfectly healthy, just part of the twin experience.

Does anyone have identicals who can consistently identify themselves in photographs? Does this happen with fraternal multiples too?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Spiral Learning: Permutations for Elementary Students

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Categories Development, Education, From the Mouths of Multiples, Higher-Order Multiples, Identical, Parenting, School-AgeTags , 8 Comments

Permutations for Elementary Students

When I was browsing the lovely photos on MathiasQuads.org yesterday for this morning’s post, my daughter M took great care to read the names in each photo caption. She wanted to be sure to match each face to the right name. As an identical multiple herself, she understood how important it was to see Mary Claire, Anna, Grace and Emily as individuals.

M, aged 7, observed that they were rarely in the same order between photos.

M: There’s 16 ways for them to be lined up.
Me: How did you figure that out?
M: Because there’s 4 sisters and 4 spots and 4 times 4 is 16.
Me: That’s a very good deduction, my mathematician girl, but it’s actually 24. Can I show you how?

Is 7 a little young for combinatorics? Sure, but M showed an interest in it, so I dug back into my 8th grade math memories. I drew her a picture to show her how to think of permutations. She picked the colours for each sister.

Explaining permutations for elementary students. Showing them the first quarter of the pattern allows them to derive the pattern themselves. From hdydi.com

Me: There are 4 sisters who can go in the first spot. I’m just going to draw one of them. Once she’s in her place, there are only 3 sisters left to go second.
M: Then 2, then 1!
Me: Exactly. So there are 6 orders available for each sister who goes in the first spot.
M: And 6 times 4 is 12 and 12 is 24.
Me: Which is also 4 times 3 times 2 times 1.
M: Well, that was easy.

We’ll probably chat about combinations tonight during bath time.

Spiral Learning

I’ve always taken this approach to educating my daughters. If one or both of them is interested in something that illustrates a larger pattern or important skill, I explain it to them at a level that is pertinent, interesting, and within their abilities. Later on, when they’re more intellectually mature, I’ll come back to it. In a couple of years, I’ll show M how to use factorial notation.

My teacher friend Kaylan tells me that the eduspeak term for this is “spiral learning.”

Spiral learning is the practice of returning to a topic over time to build an increasingly sophisticated understanding

What sparks your child’s interest? What’s your approach to teaching?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Car Twins

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There’s a car, parked in a driveway on our way to school, that looks exactly like mine. It’s the same make, model and colour. Its absence is rare enough that it’s a point of discussion for me and my 7-year-old identical twin daughters, J and M.

Original image by @Doug88888
Original image by @Doug88888

Me: Our matching car is missing.
M: Yup.
J: It’s the same car on the outside just like me and M are the same kid on the outside, but with different names. It has everything the same except the license plate.
M: It’s like the license plate is a name tag.
J: We have different hair but we used to have the same hair. The cars are the same on the outside but I bet they’re completely different on the inside like me and M is different on the inside.

What metaphors do you children find to describe their multiple reality?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Her Very Own Look

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My identical daughters have really begun to relish having different styles. Although they technically still share all their clothes (except underwear and socks), they’re beginning to show preferences for different items. They also express their individuality through their hairstyle choices. Until about age 3, my identical twin daughters sported identical haircuts.

Identical twins with identical cuts. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
What can I say? Bowl cuts are adorable on toddlers.

I know that the American tradition is to wait until the first birthday to cut a baby’s hair, but they needed their first trim well before that. They were born with a lot of hair, and apart from the lanugo, it’s stuck around.

Fully haired twin babies from Her Very Own Look at hdydi.com
These babies have always had full heads of hair. This was well after their second haircuts.

Soon after they turned 3, it was time for a change. As I wrote at the time:

J and M have been due for haircuts for a while. They’ve always had the same haircut, simply because I’m not creative enough to come up with two ideas. This time, though, I decided that they needed different cuts, purely for practical reasons.

J has been going through phase where she wants minimal fuss for her hair. She’d rather wear it loose or with a headband. She’ll wear a ponytail in a pinch, but barrettes and bows are out. Given her impatience with her hair, I elected to chop off much of the length and return to shoulder-length hair.

M loves to show off different styles. Depending on the day, she’ll tell me she wants two pigtails, a ponytail, a little ponytail on the side and another on the back to keep her side-parted hair out of her eyes, barrettes, a bow, a headband, a braid, or some combination of the above. I elected to keep her length and just take an inch off her hair. After her haircut, she couldn’t stop talking about the braid (plait for my British readership) the stylist had done on her right side.

Identical twins look quite different with different hair lengths and styles. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
Thus begins the journey to the girls’ own looks.

J let her hair grow out for a while and both girls, again, had long hair.

Identical twins with identical hair. from Her Own Look hdydi.comHer Very Own Style from hdydi.com
J and M both have their backs to the camera. J is wearing blue and M black and white.

When she was 5, J began to chew her hair. Warnings and punishments, rational explanation and frustration, reasoning and emotional pleas, all of it failed. It was time for serious action, in the form of another drastic haircut.

Identical twins look quite different with different hair lengths and styles. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
J went super-short this time around.

J kept the short hair for a few more cuts, but then decided that she wanted to match Sissy in length. She had successfully broken her chewing habit. I noticed J developing a distinct taste for massive bows and flowers in her hair. M decided that she wanted bangs. I wasn’t convinced that it would work, but she stuck to her guns for over a month. I gave in this summer and had to admit that she was right. Bangs look fabulous on her.

MSJ
J’s hair wasn’t quite as long as M’s, but it got to a good length. She also took to wearing headbands with big bows or flowers almost all the time. Her signature look was in development.

When we got ready to head to our favourite kid hair salon, Pigtails and Crewcuts, last weekend, J pulled a photo off the wall. She told me she wanted short hair again, and illustrated with her own short short hair from a couple of years ago. She seemed sure. The stylist took 6 inches off before even starting to shape the cut.

Jshort

mlong

My daughters love being identical twins, but know that they don’t have to present themselves identically to the world. They can be identical twins with different hair.

Do your kids have matching hair?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Information About Twins

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Categories Different Gender, Fraternal, Identical, Multiple Types, Pregnancy, Same GenderTags , , 9 Comments

*Note: There will be some tasteful “Birds and the Bees” talk on this blog post. If you are not comfortable with this, please do not read further.*

Twins in a Nutshell

When someone finds out I am pregnant, there are usually lots of congratulations: “Oh, that is wonderful! You are going to love it! You will be such great parents!”

Then they find out that we are going to have twins, and the mood tends to change: “Oh. Get ready to have your hands full!” or “I have a cousin who had twins,” or “Get your rest now,” or “Double trouble.”

When we first found out it was twins, my reaction was very much like those that we face every day. I was terrified. My perfect image of being a mom of my son or daughter and then having another little one a few years down the line… well that was gone. Could I go to the grocery store ever again? Would I need a bigger car? What happens when both of them cry at once? How can I do this?

Then, something happened, and I realized how unbelievably blessed we are to have not just one baby, but two. There is a reason why we were given this gift at this point in our lives, whether we thought we were ready for it or not.  So now, my reply to those Debbie Downers is “We are so excited to have twins! We are ready for this adventure.” Once I passively confront the negativity, it helps them change their mood too… usually.

Then the typical 2nd question comes: “Do twins run in your family?”

As I have answered this question about 100 times (and remember, I am 30 weeks pregnant at this point), I realize that so many people do not understand how twins “happen,” the differences between the different kinds of twins, and how it runs in families. I thought I might take this post to answer some of these questions.

What is an identical twin?

An identical twin is when one egg is released and is fertilized by one sperm. It separates into two different embryos, but they have originally come from the same egg and sperm. That means that they will have the exact same DNA. That also means that they will be boy/boy or girl/girl twins. There cannot be identical boy/girl twins, except in very rare cases of shared chromosomal abnormalities. They will look exactly the same (with minor differences due to “nurture” or development, but the “nature” is identical).

What is a fraternal twin?

A fraternal twin is when there are two eggs that are released during ovulation. They are both fertilized with two separate sperm. Genetically, these twins are no more similar than non-twin siblings. The only thing more than siblings that fraternal twins share are a birthday and a womb at the same time. Fraternal twins can be a boy/boy, girl/girl, or a boy/girl.

Due to the prevalence of fertility drugs and treatments that stimulate the release of eggs, the number of cases of fraternal twins is on the rise. Naturally, usually only one mature egg is released at ovulation. However, with fertility medicine, it causes more than one egg to be released at ovulation. With IVF (in vitro fertilization), more than one fertilized embryo can be transferred into the woman’s uterus. Although the release of multiple eggs can and does happen naturally, and identical twinning can occur with fertility treatments just as in spontaneous conception, twins from fertility treatments are usually fraternal.

Do twins run in your family?

Ah, the question that I know is coming upon the mention of twins. The answer that we give to these people is, “Yes. They run on both sides. We always joked about having twins, but we never thought that it would actually happen.”

But here is the real answer. Yes, they are FOUND in our family. My maternal grandfather was a twin (no surprise to any Doyle Dispatch blog readers as I talk about Papa Alan all the time). They are also found on Tim’s maternal side. However, here’s the thing: both of these cases are identical twins. Are you ready for this bombshell? Identical twins don’t “run in the family.” If you think about how identical twins form, it is the separation of an embryo. It is, in essence, a freak of nature. A really scientifically cool freak of nature, but a freak of nature, nonetheless.

Fraternal twins are actually the ones that can “run in the family,” and only on the mother’s side. For fraternal twins to be formed spontaneously, mom has to simultaneously release two eggs. However, we don’t have any fraternal twins in our recent family history. For us, it was just a fluke. But it was one that we are so excited to have!

What about the other kinds of twins I hear about?

In the twin world, it actually does get a bit more complex. There are different kinds of identical and fraternal twins, and their health and development in utero is tied to these differences. I will do my best to explain the differences here. If you are satisfied with the answers I gave above, please feel free to stop reading this section now.

Monozygotic Twins (MZ)

Also called identical twins. “Mono” = one. “Zygote” = egg. This is the “header” word for many of the following terms.

Monochorionic-Monoamniotic (Mo/Mo)

Identical twins that develop in the same inner and outer sacs.

Monochorionic-Diamniotic (Mo/Di)

Identical twins with one outer sac (chorionic) and two inner sacs (each embryo has its own amniotic fluid and sac). Both mm/mo and mo/di twins frequently share a single placenta. There are rare cases where fraternal twins have a fused placenta, but that is very unusual.

Dichorionic-Diamniotic Twins (Di/Di)

Two external sacs (chorions) and two internal sacs (amnions) to house the amniotic fluid. The Doyle Twins are Di/Di twins.

Twin Sketches

Conjoined Twins

These are identical twins where the division of the embryo starts, but it doesn’t finish. Often, conjoined twins will share organs.

Chimeras

It is possible, but enormously rare, for fraternal twin embryos to fuse early in development, resulting in a single person who has two people’s DNA. Chimeras usually go through life without ever knowing that theirs could have been a twin birth or that they have two sets of cells with different DNA.

So, that is “Twins in a Nutshell.” I hope that it has answered some questions for you. Leave a comment if you have questions or clarifications for me!

*This post originally appeared on Dory’s blog “Doyle Dispatch.” To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and nursery decorating on her blog, you can see the list here.*

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Why Don’t Identical Twins Always Look Alike?

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My daughters, J and M, are identical twins. This means that they both grew from a single fertilized cell, splitting into two bodies what was once one. They have the same DNA.

MomandGirls1

They do not look the same. This weekend, we went to a knitting class for kids in Austin. The other mom there asked which of the girls was mine; she had assumed that they were friends whom I’d brought to class together.

People frequently ask me how my girls can possibly be identical if they don’t look the same. After all, don’t they belie the very definition of identical? The same question was asked by another mother of identical twins in a MoM Facebook group recently. She wondered how it was that only one of her twins had crossed eyes so severe that he needed surgery. Shouldn’t both have the crossed eyes if one did? As you may know, M has a condition called frontonasal dysplasia that impacts how she looks. J doesn’t have this condition. I felt compelled to answer the other mom’s question, then realized my response to the other mom was worth sharing with you.

Why Don't Identical Twins Always Look Alike? from hdydi.com


The confusion comes from the usage of the word identical. Used colloquially, it means that two things are alike in all ways. Used scientifically to describe two organisms, it means only that they share their genetic makeup. My daughters’ DNA is identical (more or less; every time a cell divides in two, there’s the potential for something to get miscopied, resulting in a minute genetic change). That’s what makes them “identical” twins. Personally, I prefer the term monozygotic to identical. It makes clear that my daughters started as a single (mono) fertilized egg (zygote).

Twins are not identical people even if their matching DNA makes them identical twins. #identicaltwins Click To Tweet

DNA doesn’t dictate everything. In the case of my girls, the sides of J’s face came together exactly on schedule, so she’s symmetrical . M’s facial formation was behind schedule for some reason we don’t know, so she has a cleft running down the center of her face and an adorably unusual nose. Even though they can look very similar, their noses, foreheads and chins are different. Plus, J has a dimple, an interruption in her cheek muscle, that M doesn’t.

My M also had amblyopia. Essentially, her brain ignored the message from her left eye, rendering her functionally blind in that eye. We caught it early, and we were able to resolve it by having her wear a patch over her “good” eye several hours a day for a few months. Her twin J has always had perfect vision in both eyes.Baby wearing an eye patch for amblyopia from hdydi.com

The biology of differences between identicals can be pretty complex, but think of it this way. The DNA that our identical kids share is the blueprint from which they are built. However, the actual process of fetal development (just like house construction) introduces teeny tiny differences. When those differences comes early in development (think during the framing of a house) they can have a really major impact on the final product, whether human or house.

Especially when our kids have medical challenges, it’s really easy to blame ourselves and wonder if there’s something we as moms could have done differently. There usually isn’t.

And really, would I want my kids to be exactly alike? M’s sparkling wit is a foil for J’s earnestness. J’s emotional maturity balances M’s academic precocity. M’s musical and artistic ability are a match for J’s literary talents.

My unique girls are not identical people even though their matching DNA makes them identical twins.

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Time together and apart at playschool

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My daughters (R and S) are starting their third year of playschool next week.  They’ve been going to the same mothers’ day out program for those three years.

First day of Playschool - 2011 (age 2)

The first year, they went together to the toddler room. I don’t think the teachers learned much about their unique personalities that year, probably because even as parents we didn’t see many difference developing.  The teachers tried to support the girls as individuals by taking them to the bathroom separately, but it was challenging with a group of 1.5 and 2 year olds to be that structured, especially when potty training.

First day of Playschool - 2012 (age 3)

Last year, the girls went together one day a week and by themselves each one day a week in the 3 year old room. This gave the girls time at school by themselves and time at home by themselves with me.  It was during this last year that they really started developing their own unique personalities.  Their classroom teachers also recognized those differences. They told me how the girls behaved differently when they were together and apart.  R was more interested in crafts and writing her letters.  She also enjoyed helping the teachers.  S liked playing with the dolls and stuffed animals but sometimes she’d play with the cars and trains.  When they were at school together, they usually played together with each other but not with the other kids.

On the days they were at school alone, they made their own friends and ate lunch with other kids. R, who could write her name, even visited the 4-year-old class, which challenged her social and academic skills a little. The teachers encouraged this independence by separating them in different work groups or seating them apart at lunch time. R and S’s classroom teachers and many of the other teachers at the school could tell them apart. At home, I was able to include the girls in different activities like doing errands with me, playing their favourite games and helping in the kitchen.  I don’t need to tell you how much easier some tasks are with just one “helper.”

Soccer camp - Summer 2013 (age 4)

Next week, they’ll start going together one day a week and by themselves one day each again. I’m excited to see how they develop their own personalities even more over this year. At home, I’m going to work with R on her reading; I think she’ll be reading by Christmas. I think she gets bored without a challenge and that leads to potty accidents and baby behaviours. With S, I’m going to go at her pace. I think she has ideas, but she’s a little quieter so her sister and brother get to lead more. I’m curious to see what interests of her own emerge.

Even though kindergarten is still a year off, I’ve been talking to the girls about it.  They are quite definite they want to be in separate classes. I ask if they’ll be lonely by themselves, and they tell me “we will ride the bus together every day.” Since they look so much alike and their personalities are very similar, I think the time apart will let them explore their interests and develop their own identities.

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Identity Crisis

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Categories Difference, Identical, Individuality, Parenting Twins, Talking to KidsTags , , , Leave a comment

I was folding laundry when my 7-year-old daughter J bounced out of her room to talk to me. She lay down on the carpet and looked up at me.

J: I feel weird.
Me: Oh?
J: I’m uncomfortable.
Me: What about?
J: M (her twin) has been eating dessert and I haven’t.
Me: I thought you didn’t want dessert.
J: That’s what’s making me feel weird. M wanted dessert and I didn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Me: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Perhaps M has a sweet tooth like me, and you don’t feel like having sweets so often, like Daddy.
J: That’s possible. I love Daddy. This might hurt your feelings, but he’s my favourite parent.
Me: That doesn’t hurt my feelings. You absolutely should love him.
J: He’s my second favourite person, after M. But I still like sweet things.
Me: Sure, of course you like sweet things. You probably just don’t crave them as much as you get more mature.
J: Is M getting more mature?
Me: Absolutely, but not in exactly the the same way at the same time as you. You’re different people.
J: No we’re not. We’re the same people.
Me: Um.
J: It doesn’t make sense. It we were born together, it doesn’t make sense we mature and different times and lose our teeth at different times. I don’t like it.
Me: I can understand that it feels uncomfortable, but you and M have always been different people. You have a lot in common, and it doesn’t change your love for each other or your closeness to have differences.
J: I guess.

I’m sure that these are only the beginning stages of a long and bumpy road to individuation.

Have your kids ever expressed to you how they feel in relation to their multiples?

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