Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm a Mom of Identical Twins - part one

I'm a mom of identical twin boys.
This is our normal so it's not something I write about all the time. 
I'm not apart of any "moms of multiples" groups but I live this life and I love it. 

In the last couple days it's been on my heart so much, my twin boys turned 10 so that has a big part in it. Then on their birthday I was in the store alone and saw a mom with a double stroller with twin infants and a young toddler following along with her.  
I was in a hurry or else I would have tried to strike up a conversation, but as I passed her and walked out of the store a wave of emotion hit me.  That was me. I wanted to congratulate her for being out, I wanted to tell her raising twins is the ride of your life, it's amazing to watch their bond, I wanted to tell her to not worry about the messes and just love those babies because in a blink they will be 10 like mine. 
That same day a good friend asked me if the boys were in the same class or different classes in school. He wondered if that was a hard decision.  
And then my husband posted this on face book:

"I often forget that raising twins isn't "normal". Only 3% of births are twins & only .3% of births are identical twins! Well, I'm glad that we're not normal! Watching these two grow up has been a daily adventure! " (info from wikipedia)

On Proactive Genetics site (they specialize in testing  ) they state:

"The rates of twinning for identical (monozygotic; MZ) twins are relatively constant worldwide at about 3.5 / 1000 births" 

It all just got me thinking about our "normal" and I decided to write on it.

Here's the background on our twin story. 
I was 26 years old. We already had a sweet 1 year old boy. We knew we wanted more children and had no problem getting pregnant with our first son.  We were hoping to have our kids close in age and so we attempted to have them about two years apart.  I found out I was pregnant and all went normal. Our children would be two years and two months apart, not bad for planning - ha.  I was young, twins didn't run in our family and I wasn't taking anything to help with getting pregnant so I had no inclining I was carrying twins. The only symptom, looking back, that was a huge indicator is that I was TIRED.  As I would tell people that, they would say, "Oh it's because you are chasing a toddler this time."  Yes, I was chasing a toddler but this was different. I'd take a shower and be DONE for the day. I wrote it off as just apart of this pregnancy.  

We went in for our first ultrasound and as the doctor was looking at the screen he said,
"There's one. And there's the other."
The other? 
He thought we knew, and immediately I sat up and at the same time my husband and I both spoke.
"Are you kidding?"
"You are you serious?"
The doctor tried to answer us both at the same time by saying, "No. Yes."
Which made it all more confusing in that split second.
Then he said, "Yes you are having twins."
The rest is a beautiful moment I wish I had on video.  
We squeezed hands the remainder of the visit and looked in awe at a screen that showed two babies at the same time (they were 18 weeks) and they were moving and playing with each other. 
Never in my wild imagination could I have planned for this.
I cried and laughed the rest of the appointment. 
I sad up looking, then would lay back and shut my eyes. 
At one point I said, "See I told you. I was tired. I was creating two babies!"
And at one point my husband said, "Well, we said wanted our kids close together."
It was one of the few things in my life that was a genuine, no idea kinda surprise. 
To this day I'm thankful they were small enough yet that we could see them on the screen at the same time, I'm not sure I would have believed the doctor had I not been able to see them both at the same time. 
We went home in shock, with a healthy fear, and just in awe!

My pregnancy was healthy and went to 37 weeks to the day. 
I wasn't on formal bed rest but I was asked to be off my feet and take it easy the last months. 
Our babies were born c-section because "baby A" had not turned in time. 
After a certain point their just isn't anymore room in this momma to move.
I was four feet around the night before delivery.

Part 1: The Very Early Days

I could sum up the early years with these short phrases.

In awe.
Learning to accept help.
Beyond tired.
Breakthrough moments thinking that we can do this.
Lots of laughter.
Crazy amounts of love.

It was an amazing time. One I'd honestly do again because the good far outweighed the hard.
I learned to allow people to help me.
I don't even want to list all the help and support we had because I'm not sure it's normal for one couple to have so many people in their life that loved them and supported them.
Our families, my mom especially, friends and our church community were priceless at the time. 
They gave in ways I can never repay. 
I had two friends at the time who had gone before one on this road and were moms of twin boys …. this was an amazing gift. Their twins were older, one set were in the elementary years and the other set were on the high school years. I was armed with experienced twin mom help!! 

Questions galore came in those first months. Here are the most frequent questions people asked. 

Are they twins?  - This one is sort of a funny question but I've asked it too of others. We would sometimes try to come up with funny ways to answer this like, "No they are just brothers." :))

Are they identical? -  We knew this was going to be a question asked often. We felt it was a very important piece of information for the boys to know about themselves. It's not as easy to determine, even with them looking so much alike and with knowing some of the medical things surrounding their delivery and birth.

My boys are Monozygotic (meaning identical)  Monochorionic - Diamniotic twins, meaning they shared the same placenta with two amniotic sacs.  

Little science lesson for you:
Monozygotic (Identical) twins split into two zygotes at some time very early in the pregnancy. The timing of the egg separating into two determines the chronicity (the number of placentae) and amniocity (the number of the sacs) of the pregnancy.  For Monochorionic - Diamniotic twins they split took place between days 4-8.

The doctors predicted they were identical because of the information they have, but they can determine that for sure in a majority of cases because of the many possibilities (if identical twins separate early enough, the arrangement of sacs and placentas in utero is indistinguishable from dizygotic -fraternal - twins.) 
No one should go through life not knowing something like this about themselves. 
So we sent off for DNA tests. 
This was a simple cotton swap test (in the mouth) and was advertised in Twin Magazine. 
We did this when they were 1.5 months old.

I would highly recommend this to any twins of any age.  It's a neat paper to have tucked away with their birth certificate. Because siblings of any age can have some of the same DNA markers twins can look so much alike and yet not be identical.  Think about how many times a mom says of one of their children that they look just like so and so did when they were a baby.  

Here's the link for DNA testing.  Proactive Genetics :

And here's a little more reading from Proactive Genetics on determining if they are identical or fraternal.

My physician already determined that the twins are fraternal. Why have a DNA test?

Interestingly, about 25-33% percent of the time when there are two sets of membranes (i.e. dichorionic) identified at delivery, the twins are actually identical and not fraternal. If the fertilized egg splits prior to 2 days after conception, two complete placentas and two sets of membranes are formed causing dichorionic placentation. This is a common misunderstanding that leads to incorrect zygosity classification. This is true regardless if the dichorionic placenta is fused or not. Unless a DNA or other blood test was performed, it is difficult to definitively determine if like-sexed dichorionic twins are fraternal. A DNA test is the easiest way to resolve this potential confusion. back to top

My physician already determined that the twins are identical. Why have a DNA test?

When a pathologist or physician correctly examines the membranes surrounding the twins and determines that the twins were monochorionic, the twins are always identical or monozygotic (MZ), regardless if the amniotic membrane is shared (i.e. monoamniotic) or non-shared (i.e. diamniotic) and a twin zygosity test is not warranted. Sometimes the placental examination is skipped or made difficult by the delivery, especially if there was a cesarian section. If chorionicity is unknown or uncertain, a DNA test is the best way to definitively know if like-sexed twins are identical or fraternal. back to top

Do you nurse them at the same time?  -- I will spare you the details. The short answer is yes, it saves crazy amounts of time. I nursed them till they were 4 or 5 months old at which point I felt like I just couldn't do it. 
It was Christmas of 2004 and after that holiday and being with both sides of the family and  people all the time I felt like I had just spent weeks sitting in a room alone (because nursing double out in public isn't a hidden site.) I was emotional over it and knew this was the end. I never regretted my decision.  I support a mom to do whatever a mom needs to do. Nurse, bottle feed, pump, whatever . . . it was never worth it to me to go insane. Each mom needs to pick their battles and know their body and their limits. 

I did have "places" picked out at various location that I knew would work well for nursing doubles with a toddler in tow.  JC Pennys  Enid, OK mall had a great big dressing room.  I'd wheel that double stroller and my toddler in there and hang out for 20-30 minutes.  I'm sure they wondered what the heck was taking me so long in trying on clothes. It had enough space for the stroller and for my toddler to play on the floor. I needed a contained space, I wasn't going to be able to chase a toddler int he middle of nursing. 

Do they sleep in the same crib?Our boys slept in the same crib. We had both cribs up but they both slept in one crib till they were rolling around.  I also had a pack in play that was a permanent fixture in our kitchen where they both laid and many time slept throughout the day.

Most of the time I'd find them facing each other, I would put them on opposite sides often just to help them turn different ways.

How do you tell them apart?
I made bracelets for my boys in the hospital. Carter was a dark blue and Coleson was a baby blue bead and they said their names. 
This was for us and for anyone that was helping them in a nursery situation. 
They wore these bracelets until they were like 6 months and I never took them off unless I was making them a larger one. 
The genius of the bracelets was that in pictures I just always made sure one babies "color" was showing so when I went back and looked at pictures of them I knew who it was. 

Knowing them apart was a big deal to me. It still is.
It's probably the thing I fretted about the most as their birth came near. 
Would I know them apart?
How will I bond with both of them?
I'll talk about "the bond" in part two of these posts but the bracelets were a life saver. 

And the comment (it wasn't a question) that I wish I had tallied every time someone said it . . .   "You have your hands full."  
To which I should have replied, "Yes, yes I do so can you just help me." Lol. 
I get why they said it but it's a hard one to reply to and a comment that could mean so many things . . . . you are crazy for having so many kids (as if you can MAKE twins happen), you look tired (thanks for noticing), or you are super mom and you are rocking it (I tried to tell myself that's what that comment really meant!).  

Yes my hands were literally full! 

Advice I'd give moms of infant twins.

Accept help. It's not a sign of weakness. Look at it as a way to enhance your experience and make it even more beautiful.  This was a hard one for me but at some point you just know you need it. To this day, it's a life lesson I know God used to stretch me.  

Grammy (my mom) was a life saver! 
Get out with them. Take a walk, go get a few groceries, go to a girlfriends house. It may be a lot of work to get out the door and it may just be for a few minutes but it will make you feel normal and will break down the fear of "I can never go anywhere again." This is your family. This is who you will do life with and the sooner you just do it the better. Take a friend. Think through what you can handle. Don't over do it. Start small but get out!! 

Don't allow yourself to wonder what others are thinking of you.  I did this. Our first full day solo outing as a family we went to a Thomas the Tank Engine day and then to a HS football game. As we walked up to the stands at the game I felt the eyes. One set of eyes were saying, "Awesome. Look at them. They got out. Good for them." The other set of eyes were saying, "What are they doing? It's late. It's cold. They are gonna get sick. They are crazy."  I'm not sure ever conquered this one. But I sure tried. Eventually, I had to tell myself, this is our life, it may be crazy, but it's ours and we are gonna do it the best we can.  What it did help me do it to not judge other moms or families . . . we are all doing the best we can and doing what we think is best for the people in our walls.

Buy a kick butt stroller. You won't regret this purchase. It's your lifeline when you are out. At one point we had 7 strollers - I know insane.  Double carseat strollers (or as I called them "mall strollers"), single carseat stroller (from our firstborn and later fourth born), double jogging stroller (never really jogged but the best for outside), single jogging stroller, double umbrella (this became important when I was pregnant with our 4th and needed a light weight one to use when they were toddlers, this was my most loved stroller as they got older), and then two single umbrella strollers. Crazy! It was a great garage sale the day we sold all those. 

Week one at home -- just getting out for a short walk.  Yes we look very tired.
Sleep when you can.  Really enough said on that. You need it. You can tackle all things better with a little sleep.

Don't forget to be in awe at what is happening in front of your eyes. It's a crazy amazing experience to carry, birth and watch two human beings bond. Don't let the structures, the tasks, the sleepless season make you forget that you are living amongst miracles. You have a front row seat at two beautiful creations! Look at the little things. The way they turn towards each other as they sleep, the way they get in each others "space". Oh dear moms, don't miss it. It's beautiful ! 

(Part 2 - The Bond -- Coming up on the next post.)

I'd love to hear from any of you moms of twins. Where are you at in the seasons? What advice would you give in the infant years OR what do you need advice on. I'd love to hear from you. 


1 comment:

Elizabeth @ said...

I loved reading this. But it honestly just makes me tired thinking about the really early days! Grace and Leo turn 2 in less than a month and the time has FLOWN by, but at the same time it was so hard I'm not sure how we all survived.

Raising twins really is something special and even though I was terrified at the beginning, I can't imagine life without these two together.

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