Mythology surrounds twins, that they have a special bond, secret language, telepathic powers of communication and in a story line beloved by writers and film makers, that there is a good and an evil twin.
What is fact is that twins or multiple births are on the increase so more people will experience parenting them. Over the last 30 years, the number of multiple births has risen by about 20 per cent in North America in part, due to assisted reproductive technology and fertility drugs, and in part because women are having children later.
Tim Dailey from The Cayman Multiples Support Group is used to the interest which surrounds his two and a half year old twins.
“People want to ask you questions about them, in the US it can be almost impossible to get round the supermarket for people stopping you.”
The first question usually is are they identical?
Identical twins are not as common as fraternal twins and are the product of a single egg which then splits after conception meaning the twins share the same DNA.
Identical twins share 100 per cent of their genetic material. This makes them great subjects for medical researchers in the nature versus nurture debate.
Fraternal twins on the other hand (can be either sex) share only 50 per cent of their genetic material and are the result of two eggs being released and fertilized at conception.
Bringing up twins
Tim and Stephanie Dailey were aware that having IVF treatment increased their chances of having multiples, because usually two embryos are transferred “With IVF one of the things that you have to understand is that it is a way of putting the odds on your side so the chances of twins in IVF is quite significant.”
They learned they were having twins when his wife went for a scan. “I saw one blip and then a second. Then the doctor said “look there’s your baby and look there’s your other baby.”
Tim and Stephanie’s twins are fraternal, a boy and girl, and the immediate concerns were the practicalities of looking after two babies rather than just one. The fact that you need more clothes, you need two cots and is your car going to be able to take two car seats. Once they had gotten over the preparation Tim says “then it moves onto logistics such as how do you hold two babies at the same time and how do you feed them?”
There is no doubt having twins is hard work and not for the faint of heart, as a Tshirt on one multiple website sums it up. “ Father of Twins – Sanity is overrated!” For Tim and Stephanie, the experience did not push them over the edge because they established a routine fairly quickly, which was lucky because he does not know if they could have taken some of the advise doled out by the baby books.”Some of the books talk about making life easier by keeping them on the same schedule. For instance if one is feeding and the other one is asleep, then wake the sleeping one so you can feed them at the same time. In my experience, if a baby is asleep you let a sleeping baby lie!”
One of the other scenarios Tim describes is the day to day dilemmas which arise because your attention is constantly divided, such as when they both start crying at the same time. “One of them is crying, and then the other one starts, which one do you pick up? Do you pick one up, then swap around and pick the other one up? Tim and Stephanie only have to deal with twins it moved up a gear for Lyndhurst and Darba Bodden when they were expecting triplets. But they did not have any time to ponder what it was going to be like because there were anxieties centred on medical issues as the boys were born at 30 weeks in Atlanta and spent time in intensive care. When they finally came home Darbra’s main concern was that they would put on weight and thrive.
So what of the myths surrounding multiples do parents notice anything out of the ordinary?Darba’s triplets are now four and she does believe her boys have a special relationship. “They are always aware of where each other is in a room and they look out for each other.” But on the other hand she also point out, “because they were my first children I have only known having triplets, so I do not have any other experiences to compare it to.”
The Dailey twins are also growing up and are now two and a half years old.Tim says it is fascinating to watch them playing together and the way they interact and talk to each other. He does not believe they have an actual secret language, but rather it is about two children at the same age, who are constantly together developing language and repeating words to each other as they go along.
There are other more complex issues than just the practical aspects of bringing multiples. Many of the websites talk about trying not to compare and contrast and about treating them as individuals while maintaining their special bond.
When they reach school age sometimes the education system steps in and initiates a separation. “There is a lot of debate on twin web sites around the same classroom or different classroom, whether twins should be separated. A lot of schools in the USA believe in separating them,“explains Tim.
Schools here do not have any hard and fast rules but in a study done in England they found that schools which separated twins did so because of requests from parents who saw it as a way of developing the children’s independence or to tackle dominance or restriction of one twin by the other
Darba says she is not making any fast decisions until she sees what benefits her children. “I can see the benefits of being apart but also at the same time I would like them to be together”.
For parents here, the Cayman Multiples Support Group is a good resource for general information and gives parents a chance to talk informally with other parents and just enjoy playtime with their children. Tim is probably echoing the feelings of most parents of multiples when he says “multiples are a blessing and as a parent you do feel a little special in having them. ”