Monday, November 3, 2014

Thoughts from a Twin with Twins

Way back on May 31st, 1983, my parents went to the hospital anxiously awaiting the arrival of their third child. As was typically the case at that time, they had no idea if baby #3 would be a boy or a girl, so they knew they were in for a surprise. What they did not expect, however, was for the doctor to perform the c-section and then announce (in shock himself) that there were not ONE, but TWO baby girls inside. And thus, my identical twin sister, Allison, and I made our debut!

Yes, you read that right: my parents had "un-diagnosed" (as if we were a disease) twins. Fast forward 29 years later, and after a lengthy struggle with infertility (which you can read more about here), my husband, Brian, and I were overjoyed to welcome our own twins, Colby and Clara, into the world on April 5th, 2013. They were very much "diagnosed," thanks to the 8 million ultrasounds that come along with IVF and a twin pregnancy, but it's definitely safe to say that I was a little surprised to be a twin having twins of my own!

 L: My mom with me and my sister; R: me with Colby and Clara

You can probably all appreciate and in some way relate to the fact that every.single.time someone finds out about this phenomenon, they nod their heads knowingly and say, "Ohhhh, so that's why you ended up having twins!" Right. Except for not. Sometimes I just smile and let them believe that. I'm a chronic over-sharer, however, so most of the time, I feel compelled to explain what really happened, petri dish references and all. Strangers love that stuff.

Even though I really never expected that I would actually have twins myself, I remember growing up and thinking it would be fun. I thought that surely my experience as a twin made me a subject matter expert, and since knowledge is power, then surely parenting twins would be a breeze for me? Ha! Oh, how naive I was.

Nonetheless, I do feel like being a twin gives me a unique perspective on dealing with twins, so allow me to share a few thoughts based on my experience:

1. Get used to the attention. In fact, I recommend that you go ahead and just embrace the attention. I don't remember going out in public as a child without someone making a "you two should be on a Doublemint commercial!" comment or simply asking if we were twins, and now that I have two matching children of my own, I've found the same to be true. Just try to think of it as an opportunity to make friends with strangers and show the world how cute your kids are!

2. Relatedly, people will not stop asking dumb questions. You all know and love to hate them, but they're not going to stop. My favorite dumb twin question that we received when growing up? "If you and your sister were locked in a dark closet together and you weren't wearing glow-in-the-dark name tags, would you be able to tell each other apart?" And, of course, my obvious favorite dumb twin question now as a twin mom: "Are your boy/girl twins identical?"

My best advice is to smile, nod, and remember that the person is generally just curious (and/or uneducated). If that doesn't work, then there's always sarcasm. :)

3. Don’t feel bad that they don’t get much alone time. It honestly never bothered me that my sister was always around, and even though my parents didn't necessarily make a concentrated effort to have one-on-one time with us individually, I never felt like I was missing out.

What you have to remember about being a twin is that we don't know life any other way. It's not like we started out as only children and then got stuck with a permanent sidekick. So the good news is that even if we were missing out, we never would have known it :) This has provided me a lot of comfort as a twin mom and kept me from feeling guilty about not hanging out with them separately on a regular basis.

4. They are their own people, yes, but their identities are and will likely always be very much wrapped up in one another. Nothing provides proof of this in my life as much as the fact that I almost always refer to my childhood using "we” and “us” instead of “I” or “me." In fact, there are still events that I remember from when we (see?) were little that I can't say for sure if they happened to me or happened to her.

I know the same will be true for Colby and Clara. Having a twin is part of who they are, and I love that their memories will be tangled up in one another's in the years to come.

5. It’s not always going to be fair, and that’s ok. I won't lie- Allison and I spent a lot of time keeping tabs on each other to make sure neither one of us got too far "ahead" of the other. But we both eventually learned that there was no point in doing that because the scales always balanced in the end.

When Colby and Clara were born and someone was a much needier infant (I'm looking at you, Colby), I shed many a tear about the fact that he was getting held way more than his perfectly content sister. And then several months later, Clara realized she was a girl and therefore crazy (you know it's true), and now I am laughing at the fact that I ever worried about her getting less of my attention. Just trust me: it will never be perfectly fair but it will always even out in the end.

So there you have it. Nothing mind-blowing, but all helpful to remember just the same. And now I will leave you with one interesting twin tidbit:

Because Allison and I are identical twins (and therefore have identical DNA), our respective children are actually half-siblings, genetically speaking. Crazy, huh?

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  1. Well said, sis! As your twin sis, I can say it's pretty fun and a lot less tiring to be the twin sister of the mom of twins rather than the mom ;)

  2. This is so awesome!!! What a wonderful story. How sweet it is that your sister seems very close to you. I just forwarded your story to my co-worker's twin sister, who is also a twin with twins (4-year-old boy/girl twins)!

  3. I wish I could have read all of these when I was pregnant! Number 5 is so so so so good for twin moms! Especially those of us that aren't twins ourselves!! Beautiful family!

  4. Great info! Especially about all the memories being about "we" or "us" I never really thought about that for my 2 year old twins yet… :)

  5. I'm an identical twin, and my twin has fraternal girl-boy twins. I've spent a lot of time babysitting them, and I have run into people who have insisted that they can be identical and refuse to believe me when I try to explain why they can't. I just don't get it!

    I'm also curious about whether you had any other siblings? I doubt my sister and I noticed that things weren't perfectly equal until my brother came along, but having a singleton around made it really stand out. I got really tired of hearing that my sister and I couldn't have things but my brother could, because there was only one of him and two of us (I think there was also a bit of a gender dynamic at play there).

    I'd also like to add, once the kids are old enough to understand about picking out clothes, please don't force them to dress alike! Let them figure out their own personalities! My mother dressed us alike until we were 10, and we HATED it. I felt like she thought of us as dolls and not actual people with our own personalities and likes and dislikes.

  6. Well said. Am also a twin with 10 month old b/g twins and can definitely relate to most of all questions..