10 Questions with the mother of twins
All of us moms have had that moment at the beginning of our pregnancies where we wonder “Could it be twins?” To some the possibility of twins brings delight, it’s such a unique experience – and you get to skip over the effort and discomfort of a second pregnancy – two for 1! To others it’s a bit of a fear – extra-huge, more risk, greater expense and more family than you’d planned! Urban Suburban Mommy caught up with a mother of twins to ask the questions you know you want to know about having twins. From Cypress, Texas, Fawn is the mother of 7 month old twin girls and two boys aged 5 and 7:
1. Having had singletons before having twins, you have some perspective here. Is it harder to have twins than 2 singles close in age?
Oh gosh, yeah. For me? Definitely. My older son (Seamus, now 7) was a little over two years old when the younger one (Liam, now 5) was born. That age gap, combined with their personalities, was just about perfect. The older one was potty trained, able to mostly feed himself, and just all around a pleasant little guy before his brother came along. So I really only had one baby to worry about.
I guess this is where I should admit that I’m honestly just not a “baby person.” Lots of people LOVE newborns; while I love my babies, I find newborns to be completely exhausting and unreasonable people.
So having two at once, for me, has been significantly more difficult. I think I’d prefer twins, though, over two babies a year or so apart – that would probably be even harder!
2. Were you hoping for twins or was that something that seemed crazy?
Honestly, I was specifically hoping for NOT twins. Liam’s best friends are a set of twins, and while I love them to pieces, I saw how difficult their infancy was for their parents. After I found out I was pregnant, but before I knew they were twins, I was invited to a twin baby shower. I spent much of the time there giving thanks that it was her, and not me, having twins. So much for mother’s intuition…
3. Do you sleep?
Not much. But when I do, I’m darn good at it.
4. Do twins run in your family?
Nope. My girls are identical, though, which isn’t hereditary. Science has yet to determine exactly what causes identical twinning. (And just a gentle FYI: lots of twin parents get upset by this question, because it sounds like you’re trying to ask if they used fertility treatments. We didn’t.)
5. How did you handle the news when you found out?
The short answer: I freaked the heck out.
The much longer answer: I had an ultrasound at eight weeks along, which showed one baby. And the first half of my pregnancy was pretty similar to my two previous pregnancies. So when it was time for the anatomy scan at 19 weeks, we were convinced it was a third son. My husband needed to work, so I asked my mother-in-law if she’d like to come to the ultrasound with me and the two older boys. We agreed that I’d email him the results, because another boy was no big surprise, and because he couldn’t take a phone call at work.
Not long after the technician began the ultrasound, she asked if I’d had a scan previously. I told her yes, that the OB had done it. She said, “So then, you know, right?” I explained that the ultrasound had been done at eight weeks, so there was no way we’d know the gender. She started giggling. She told us there were two babies. Twins. And both girls. I was sure she was joking (she’s a pretty funny person, generally). My mother-in-law was sure she was joking. It took nearly ten minutes for us to believe her.
She couldn’t believe the doctor had missed it, and neither could we. My first words, once the news sank in, were, “We are going to be so poor.” The ultrasound tech looked me straight in the eyes and told me, “Children don’t make you poor. They make you RICH.” And she was so, so right!
So, since it was agreed upon, and since I didn’t want him to worry, I emailed my husband right there in the ultrasound room. Only two words: “It’s girlS.” He was so in shock, he had to ask a coworker to read it and explain it to him, and walked around in a daze for the rest of the day.
The moral of the story is, YES, it is possible, in this day and age, to be surprised by twins halfway through your pregnancy!
6. Were you really huge when you were pregnant? What size were they at birth?
I was not. I wish I could say I was. That would be pretty cool! I was in uncharacteristically good shape when I got pregnant with the girls. I’d been running for eight or nine months beforehand, and continued to run 12-15 miles a week and do high intensity interval training until I was 12 weeks pregnant. Then the fatigue just beat me, and I couldn’t work out anymore. That was lucky; in a twin pregnancy, moms are generally encouraged to gain quite a bit more weight early on than in a singleton pregnancy. That way, the babies have the best chance of being at a healthy weight, even if they’re delivered early.
As it was, I packed on as much weight as I could – once I knew I needed to. I gained about 40 pounds total. I was smaller to begin with than with my previous two pregnancies, so in the end, I weighed about the same at delivery all three times. And my “waist” measurement (if you can call that a waist!) was actually a little bit bigger with my first than with twins! The girls were almost six weeks early, though, so who’s to say how big I could have gotten if they’d cooked a little longer.
At birth (at 34 weeks, 3 days gestation), Ellie was 4 pounds, 2 ounces and JoJo was 3 pounds, 12 ounces. Currently, at seven months, they’re over 15 pounds each!
7. Was it harder to carry twins?
Not until the third trimester. The first half of my pregnancy was pretty similar to my singletons. I was definitely more tired, but I was also five years older than the last time I was pregnant, so I chalked it up to that. Lots of people have worse morning sickness. I’ve never really had morning sickness, so that wasn’t a factor.
By about 24 weeks, I reached a point where I woke up at 2 a.m. every night with aching hips, and I’d sleep the rest of the night on the sofa. At 30 weeks, my whole body ached all the time, and by 32 weeks, I was pretty miserable. It’s tough to describe. It seemed like they were fighting each other all the time, and the only time I didn’t hurt down in my bones was when I was floating in a warm bath. I was on modified bed rest at that point, since preterm labor was a concern. I wasn’t any bigger than with previous pregnancies, but it was definitely a lot more work!
8. Did you even consider breastfeeding? Is it possible with twins?
It’s totally possible, and lots of people do it! Did I consider it? No, for lots of reasons. It’s not a decision most people (including me) make lightly, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Fed is best!
9. Is it hard to tell which is which?
That kind of depends! Not usually, although if they’re wearing hats, or I look at them from a weird angle, or if it’s dark, it’s easy to get them confused. They are identical, but they don’t look exactly alike (I’ve heard it explained like this: if you cut an apple in half, the two halves won’t necessarily look exactly the same). Positioning in utero, unequal sharing of the placenta, and epigenetics can all cause little differences.
Ellie has longer hair and a rounder face; JoJo has a little pointy chin. At birth, Ellie just looked like a preemie; JoJo looked like a tiny version of a normal, full-term baby. There’s something about their eyes that’s different, although I can’t define it. A friend of mine says that’s just their souls shining out. I like that sentiment.
10. What’s the best thing about having twins?
The cuteness is killer. Almost literally. Sometimes, they’re so cute together I’m afraid I might forget to breathe. They’re two little bitty girls, with almost the same face, holding hands or giggling at each other or snuggling up together.
It blows my mind that, at one point, they were just one person. One tiny embryo. And it held so much personality and potential that it couldn’t just be one person. So it split in two. And now, they get to grow up together, side by side and in each other’s lives and arms and hearts. And, yeah, it kind of sounds like a Hallmark movie – but that’s the kind of relationship most of us will never know. I am so excited to have a front row seat!
FYI – Some other interesting info about twins:
While most people are familiar with two types of twins (identical and fraternal), there are three types of twin pregnancy. Most are dichorionic/diamniotic (or di/di, meaning two placentas and two amniotic sacs). This is the least risky type of twin pregnancy, since each baby is supported by its own placenta. Most di/di twins are fraternal, though an early enough embryo split can result in di/di identicals.
The next most common is monochorionic/diamniotic (mo/di, meaning one placenta, but separate amniotic sacs). These are always identical (my girls were mo/di). This is a riskier pregnancy. Because the babies share one placenta, there’s a chance of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, or TTTS. TTTS is caused by unequal sharing of the placenta or blood flow, and can be deadly for one or both twins. It occurs in about 15% of monochorionic pregnancies, and can develop very rapidly, so regular monitoring is crucial. Other placental issues are also common, which is why it’s currently recommended that mo/di twins be delivered before 37 weeks gestation. The rate of stillbirth increases after that, making it safer for the babies to be delivered prematurely than hold out in hopes of reaching full term.
The rarest type is monochorionic/monoamniotic (or mo/mo – one placenta, one amniotic sac). Mo/mo twin pregnancies account for about 5% of all identical twin pregnancies, and are the latest to split. Among these are conjoined twins. This type of twin pregnancy requires vigilant monitoring to watch for cord entanglement, TTTS, and other complications. They will always be delivered early via c-section, and have about a 60% chance of survival.
Because many factors (heredity, diet, parental age, fertility treatments, etc.) influence the rates of fraternal twinning, the percentage of twins across the globe varies widely. Fraternal twins account for about 2% of the U.S. population. Identical twinning has yet to be explained, and remains at a steady 3 out of 1,000 pregnancies across all populations.