The term ”twiblings” isn’t exactly new, with popular usage defining it as “two under two”, or that is, two siblings being born within two years of each other. Under this definition, the world is full of “twiblings”. But I recently read an article in the NYTimes by Melanie Thernstrom, “Meet the Twiblings“, about a pretty unique family situation. These siblings were born 5 days apart and did not share a womb. So, no, they are not twins, and Ms. Thernstrom refers to her children as “twiblings“.
Not twins, but they might as well be. These kids will be raised together at the same time, in one family. To me, that is the real world definition of a “twin“. I know this opinion will cause controversy, but I really don’t care how they were conceived. I also don’t really care that they were carried in two different wombs. I know… technically they are not twins. But this family will experience typical twin parenthood issues: feeding two babies at once, twin escalation syndrome, two kids entering school at the same time — and the decisions about sharing a classroom. The list of twin parenthood issues goes on, and this family will face many of these joys and struggles.
I think it is more than okay to want to have twins and to plan to have “twins” in this unique way. I love how Melanie Thernstrom refers to the egg donor as “the Fairy Goddonor” – now that is a term I just might have to adopt myself! And, I have to confess I was pretty surprised at the venom I have seen expressed towards this couple from a few twin parents since sharing this article. As though only “naturally conceived” twins are acceptable and all others are some kind of second rate citizens. Having conceived one of my sets of twins only with the help of our own “Fairy Goddonor“, and one of my sets of twins “naturally“, I think I am in a unique position to announce with 100% conviction that my second set of twins are not any more “natural” than my first set of twins.
As to Michael and Melanie’s method of obtaining their “twins” — er, “twiblings“, I must say, “Good for them! You Go, Twin Parents! You Go!”
The age at which twins, triplets or more begin to notice each other and interact varies widely. A lot depends on how closely you keep your twins in proximity to each other. Do they share the same crib? Do you place them side by side on the floor for tummy time? or under an arch for overhead play time? These factors all can influence their interactions.
Some twins are aware of their twin from day one. Parents of multiples have reported their twins crying more when separated from their sibling.
Hospitals in Europe have long practiced co-bedding of multiples because of the reported benefits for the infants, which include improved weight gain and growth as well as a reduction in physiological stress. Hospitals in the United States have begun to follow suit. However, hospitals in both countries are rethinking their policies.
More recent reports indicate that co-bedding can increase the chances of SIDS, although some sources attribute the higher incidence of SIDS among multiples to be primarily related to low birth weight and not necessarily co-sleeping. A commentary published in the journal “Pediatrics” on November 30, 2007 titled, “Cobedding Twins and Higher-Order Multiples in a Hospital Setting” concludes:
“Although cobedding multiples has become more widely practiced in hospitals in the United States, neither the safety nor the benefit of this practice has been documented in the published literature. Parents should be encouraged to follow established safe-sleep practices for infants at home.”
Even if you decide against co-bedding your twins, you can encourage their interactions by keeping the cribs close to each other in the bedroom. During activity time, you can encourage interactions by placing your twins together on the floor, side-by-side in the stroller, and holding them face to face with another adult.
No matter what age your twins begin responding to each other, it will happen sooner or later. It would be pretty tough to grow up as a twin without forming a strong twin relationship that involves playing, fighting, and emotional support. As parents of twins, we long for the day when we see the twin bond developing — and some of us must be more patient than others.
All parents of twins and multiples know the standard set of questions that we get asked over and over. One of the old standards is, “Are you done now?”
Many parents of twins answer the same way. I think we’re done, but wouldn’t mind having another — while inwardly the fear is lurking. If we tried to have another, would we have multiples again? How would we survive?
This lackadaisical outlook is what led us to become pregnant the second time around. Normally, I would say that having a child is a serious matter and should only be undertaken with deliberate intent. And yet, we all know someone who got pregnant without the intent to do so. That would be me.
We made the assumption, because we had a significant amount of help and it took us 6 years to get pregnant, that we were “safe” from getting pregnant! A small part of me said to myself that if it did happen it would be great anyway. Well, it did happen, and in a big way. And yes, it was great anyway.
Over the years, there are so many stories I’ve heard about how this happened to someone they know. The biggest story I’ve been told so far goes like this:
A friend of my mother-in-law said she knew a family that adopted twins. A couple of years later the adoption agency contacted them with another set of twins that needed placement. Would they consider? After thinking long and hard they agreed. Shortly after the arrival of the 2nd set of twins, the woman became pregnant with triplets!
Life with two sets of twins was extremely hard in the first few years. It is almost like labor — you know how that is… you know it was painful but you really don’t remember the pain. You know it was difficult, but it is somewhat of a blur. We know there are many things we missed when the babies were young. We were just in the trenches — living hour to hour, minute to minute.
Bottom line is this… do be deliberate about having children. Do plan ahead. And, even if you do (plan ahead), God can throw you a curve. So remember to just go with the flow — and you will come out the other side. Things do get easier. It’s all relative. Having one baby is tough, having multiples is tough, and having multiple multiples is tough. But, what a blessing.
As parents of twins, one of the common questions we get asked over and over again is, “Which twin was born first?”. I’ve blogged about this subject before (TwinParenthood: Which twin was born first?) — expressing my opinion that it is not necessarily a good thing to reveal birth order of twins.
Today, I came across this story from CNN about twins that were born 63 days apart. Yes, 63 days! That puts a whole new spin on the question “Which twin was born first?” — doesn’t it?
The thing I find most encouraging about this story, is the fact that the twin boys are now, a few years after their separate births, almost evenly matched. In fact, Adam, the extreme preemie, is now bigger than his brother. I think that piece of news is highly encouraging for parents of preemies everywhere. Adam is still a bit behind developmentally, as can be expected with preemies. Of course, it is also so encouraging to see medicine progressing to the point that a twin can be delivered so far ahead of the other twin. Go Doctors!
Did you have preemie twins? How are they doing now?
If there is one major thing lacking in families with twins, triplets, or more, it is time.
I often wish I had more time to give to my kids. And of course, with twins, there is the added need for individual time. One-on-one time is what twins crave.
So how do you do it? How do you make sure each twin or higher order multiple is getting their share of one-on-one time?
You must be deliberate about it. You have to plan for it.
If you “just” have twins, the old “divide and conquer” method is fabulous. Dad takes one twin, Mom takes the other, and off you go to run your errands. Each child is getting one-on-one time with a parent, and your errands are getting done twice as fast than if you go do them as a family.
Some will argue this is not “quality” time, and that is true. But it is still time spent where the child is ”just” a child for a little while — and not a twin. There is a big benefit for the child in doing every day activities where they are without their twin for a bit.
But what if you have more than “just” twins? It starts to get complicated quickly and keeping track to make sure everyone is getting their share is painful.
In our house, we established a chart for each parent. Down the side we placed each child’s name, a repeating pattern down the page. We added columns for “Date of Trip” and “Where They Went”. A simple chart. Each time a child goes somewhere alone with mom or dad, we jot a quick note on the chart.
This chart has eliminated so many arguments! The kids no longer bicker over who gets to go with Mom or Dad — they just run over to the chart to see “who’s up”.
Over time, you can review the chart to see how often you are actually making time for individual trips with each kid. Sometimes it is shocking to see how long it has been since we went somewhere alone with any of ours. Having it in black and white, we are confronted with the fact that we are not doing well, and then we can again be deliberate about making it happen.
Of course, we also make sure each kid is getting their share of quality outings alone with Mom or Dad. But we save those for extra special rewards. Most of our quality outings are family outings – and that’s what we prefer — a strong family.
Getting out and about with twins, triplets or more is a difficult undertaking. But, when you add all the attention it generates, it can be downright draining. Many parents of young twins or higher order multiples ask,
“When does all the attention begin to slacken? When does the Carnival End?”
For most everyone, regardless of your particular multiples, the attention begins to lessen a bit somewhere around age two, and gradually fades as the kids approach school age. By that time, the attention has reduced quite a bit. This is pretty universally true whether you have identicals or fraternals, twins, triplets, or more. The degree to which it reduces is directly related to several factors:
How alike do your multiples look? Are they identical? Are they fraternal – but look very similar?
How close in age do they look? Some twins look like one might be older.
Are they the same height?
Do they dress alike?
Are they the same gender?
How many children do you have in your entourage?
Are you still using a double, triple or bigger stroller?
For some, the extra attention will be a life long thing. This is true for those with higher order multiples, and for those who look very alike. But, even for those sets of multiples, the attention does slacken as they get older. Older kids just don’t have that universal appeal that babies have.
Many parents of twins struggle to get errands completed in the early years, but love that people recognize how special twins and multiples are. May D, of Lenexa, KS says, “I don’t want to make people feel like they’re irritating me because it [is] nice that people think twins are special. But, it could turn a short run to the grocery store into an hour long trip if I stopped to talk to everyone who says ‘Twins! Oh they’re so cute!‘ ”
In an informal survey conducted on twitter and twinParenthood.com, parents cited the following questions as the most commonly received:
Are they twins?
Are they identical?
Do twins run in your family?
Are they all yours?
Who was born first?
Were you surprised?
How do you do it?
And the most common comments received:
You’ve really got your hands full.
Wow. You’re really busy!
Twins! How cute!
Many parents are amazed at some of the questions or comments they receive. Some of the more unusual or intrusive:
Are they natural?
Did you have a C-section?
Do you plan to have any more?
Did you have your tubes tied? / Did your husband have a vasectomy?
Glad it was you and not me!
And while nearly all parents of twins are occasionally taken aback by the intrusive questions of strangers, most feel that the majority of people are friendly and just curious about multiples. To keep things light and on a positive note, the majority of parents like to respond with funny one-liners delivered in a friendly tone.
Q: Do twins run in your family?
A: They do now!
Q: Are they twins?
A: Yep. Buy One, Get One Free!
Q: Really? Twins? But they look so different!
A: Yes! Almost like they’re two different people!
Q: Are they natural?
A: As opposed to…? or
A: 100%! or
A: Nope! They’re plastic, pretty realistic, huh?
Q: Which was born first?
A: They’re Twins! or
A: We’re not sure, we think they were switched at birth!
Q: How far apart are they?
A: About six inches
Q: Were you surprised?
A: No, we put in an order for twins!
Q: Did you use I.V.F.?
A: No, we had S.E.X.
Two years goes by so quickly, and soon you will be missing the attention your crew drew when you were out and about. No, really… it’ll happen. So, try to enjoy it and keep the attitude that those with singletons or none at all are just a little jealous of that specialness of multiples.
What about you? What are some of the funny questions, comments, or answers you’ve experienced? Leave us a comment to share your funniest (or most painful).