Friday, May 30, 2008

Parenting Multiples, Pt. II

It seems, as I continually crawl the interwebs and ignore all I have to do pre-finals week, that there sure does seem to be plenty of parenting advice out there.

And me? I'm trying to give out parenting advice? I'm still in college and childless! I'm no expert, not even a parent, just a multiple who lived through being raised to tell about it. Consider that my disclaimer for this post, OK?

Dressing the twins alike. Oh, how my maternal grandmother loooooved to dress her twin grandbabies alike when we were younger. When we were little, we didn't even notice. But as we got older... I'm not going to lie. I won't even sugarcoat it for you. Sometimes, we felt like a freak show. But it brought my grandmother and many of her friends joy, so we grinned and bore it.

Mom, that merciful woman, put her foot down on the ridiculousness once we grew out of all of that. However, there were plenty of occasions where Mom would say, "Look. I know you girls are too old to want to dress alike, but if you did, Grandma would be really happy." And so we would oblige. Sometimes we'd match everything but the shoes, or wear the same outfit but in different colors, or things like that.

We did not hate dressing alike so much that we wouldn't. Wearing the same shirt on the same day (usually a coincidence) wasn't a big deal, and sometimes we chose to. We just didn't always want everything to be a big twin production.

Dad, on the other hand, dressed us alike out of convenience. As a single dad who had us on weekends, we would go out and do things together, run errands, go to baseball games, go to bookstores. (Wonder why I included bookstores? Please refer back to "Parenting Multiples, Pt. I" and mourn the mounds of reading materials the twin terrors left in their wake). It was always easy to spot us in the crowd.

It's true that when a kid gets lost in a crowd, he or she often can't give authorities an accurate description of what their parent or guardian was wearing. Same thing with parents; in a panic, remembering what their child was wearing can be difficult. When we were dressed alike or similar, all Dad would have to do in a worst case scenario would be to show the police the one for them to get a pretty accurate idea of what the other one looked like. Luckily, Dad never had to test this technique, but I honestly think this was a fantastic idea.

So, bottom line: Baby A and I have mixed feelings about dressing alike. We have to admit, we go a little baby-crazy over multiples dressed in coordinating or matching outfits. And for safety, it's top-notch to have twins dressed alike if, heaven forbid, one ever got taken or lost. But when your multiples speak up, it's time to let them dress differently. Unless they have a grandma who just can't get enough of the matchy twinness, in which case, convince them to do it every so often. It just needs to be balanced.

And yes, matchy twinness is a technical term.

Here's looking at you, kid,
Baby B

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spanish Twins Separated At Birth

Oh. My. Goodness.

I cannot even imagine how devastating this whole situation must be.

The identical twin that grew up with her biological parents: I could imagine her having a case of pretty bad guilt, like survivor's guilt, so to speak.

The twin that isn't the twin: The whole rug must feel like it was pulled out from under her. To find out that she isn't actually a twin and that she has a whole separate family?

The twin that was separated: Wow. I can't imagine finding out I had an identical twin walking around all those years, and then grieving for all the years that were stolen from them, grieving for the dad she never met (he passed away before the twins found each other).

One news report said one of the identical twins (I'm guessing the one that was separated from her family) had to undergo counseling to come to terms with her true identity.

I think this report may not be true. It's the only I found in a Google News search that mentions they were conjoined.* I'm pretty sure if the infant twins had been conjoined, it would be easy to tell that one didn't have marks from the surgery, right? Maybe the reporter misunderstood "separated." Every other story just says "identical."
*I just double-checked. It's the only one that has "conjoined" in it.

Apparently, this mistake was uncovered in 2001, so I hope everyone has found some peace at this point.

Baby B

How Identical Twins Are Made, or A Lesson About A Cellular Mistake

Let's get some concepts defined first, shall we?

Mitosis: how one (human) cell with 46 chromosomes becomes two cells with 46 chromosomes each [the DNA replicates, one copy goes to one side, other copy to the other side, and it splits down the middle]
Meiosis: how one (human) cell with 46 chromosomes becomes two sex cells, or gametes, with 23 chromosomes each [the cell skips the DNA replication]
Gametes: the biology textbook term for sex cells, with males producing spermatozoa (sperm) with either the X or Y sex chromosome [usually males make about 50% of each] throughout their lives and females born with ova (eggs) that are always X
Chromosome: organized piece of DNA (they are generally portrayed to look somewhat like an elongated "x")

Babymaking 101

When a mommy and a daddy love each other veeerrrry much... Just kidding. Let's skip to fertilization.

The lucky male gamete that first got through the outer layer of the female gamete has 23 chromosomes. This is convenient, because the female gamete has 23 gametes as well, and 23+23 = 46. Chromosomal abnormalities known as polysomy, the most well-known of which is probably Down Syndrome, are where this math is different.

Now that the chromosomes from Mom and Dad are mingling, all sorts of reactions are occurring within the one cell that used to be two. The egg/sperm combo is now a zygote (soon-to-be embryo), and it starts to develop. It doesn't begin to grow for the first week or so; rather, the cell undergoes mitosis and divides, or cleaves, into smaller and smaller cells all stuck together. This ball of dividing cells is known as a blastocyst.

Here's the kicker: the cleavage of the blastocyst can cut it right down the middle, leaving two bunches of cells. If the split was even and clean, everything is OK (for now*), and identical twins develop. Uneven splits make the embryos nonviable (as far as I know, let me know if I am mistaken). An embryo that splits late, or incompletely, produces conjoined twins.

The scientific term for identicals is "monozygotic twins" because they are produced from one zygote. Fraternals are "dizygotic twins."

See why a boy/girl pair cannot be identical? XX cannot split into XX and XY, just as XY wouldn't make XY and XX. For convenience, we are going to disregard further complexities from my little ol' high school bio explanation, such as sex chromosome abnormalities and semi-identical twins.

XO (or, in my chromosomal case, XX),
Baby B

*Twin development in utero can have complications special to twins, like twin to twin tranfusion, but that's another post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just As I Say Anything...

I've just decided the route I want to take in grad school, what I want to do. (Granted, this could change, but I did find something that really fits my interests and personality). I was discussing possible grad schools with my sister. Note that grad school is still a couple years off.

I threw around some words like "Washington State," "North Carolina," "New York," and "Minnesota." (I'm looking at a few here in California too). Baby A looked like a five year old that just found out that Santa doesn't exist.

She interrogated me briefly. And then sighed.

Baby A: "Well, that's OK."
Baby B: "Really?"
Baby A: "I'll just move to follow you."

And right now, I'm OK with that. But, my first two choices are here in the good old Golden State, so we'll see.

See you on the flip side,
Baby B

PS: Heather, fantastic mom blogger over at, said something in a comment I wanted to elaborate on, but got caught up with other topics. Tomorrow: why boys and girls CAN'T be identical. Oh boy, get ready for a little biology.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Being Apart

Baby A and I spent the weekend apart. Some people are surprised we spend so much time together; others are surprised we spend some much time apart.

We handle separation well. While I was away this weekend, I texted her with interesting tidbits and I called her a couple times. I think our parents were more worried than either of us were. Apparently, Dad texted Baby A multiple times on Saturday (though he eased up on Sunday when it was clear she was going to make it). Mom also got in on the action. When I called her, she asked if I knew how my sister was doing and mentioned that she was going to call her in a minute.

We didn't always handle separation well. We sobbed. We wailed. We moped. But I don't think we were unusually attached for identicals. And as we grew older, and we had more experience leaving and being left, the experience went from wretched and horrible to somewhat unpleasant.

Trips, we are OK with. Living apart? Eh, not so sure about that quite yet. Since we have an apartment together next year (we are sharing a bedroom and two of our girl friends are sharing the other bedroom), this obstacle has been postponed further. Right now, going to the same school, being young, it makes sense for us to live together. We definitely don't anticipate being old maids living together, single in the marriage sense. But for right now, living together is cheaper and convenient.

A friend of ours we have known since middle school has a mom that is an identical twin. Her twin lives in Arizona. If I remember correctly, they lived together till their early twenties, even moved around together some, then one came to California and the other went to Florida or some other far-off state. Now, the other one is in Arizona. Even though these twins don't live in the same town, or state, they talk on the phone every day, sometimes more than once. I think that's a pretty healthy twin dynamic, and I hope that when Baby A and I move away from each other, we keep our lines of communication open, as wide as the Colorado River.

Adult twins are still twins, no matter how far apart they are.

Love till Niagara falls,
Baby B

Friday, May 23, 2008

Parenting Multiples, Pt. I

*Note: I'm not a specialist, a doctor, an expert, or anything of that nature. This is my personal opinion only.

Clearly, I'm not a parent. And when I reproduce, it will probably not be multiples because fraternal twins don't run in my family and identical twins are freaks of nature. I can say that because I am a natural clone, so don't up and get all offended by that. The fertilized egg, it was minding its own business, just multiplying and it split. Too. Far. Probably before Day 5. One little ball of cells cuts itself in half and becomes two people. How crazy is that??

But I have read a lot of material on parenting twins/multiples.

There's one piece of advice that really bothers me that probably everyone just accepts as fact: Be sure to treat your twins as individuals.

This, in theory, is wonderful advice. Generally speaking, our parents did a good job of making us feel like individuals. But they never went so far as to ONLY call us by our names and never refer to us as a unit. We have been called "the girls" and "the twins" forever, by family, friends, and acquaintances.

People who insisted on calling us by our names all the time with no variation actually made me feel a little uncomfortable. Ignoring my role as part of a unit is ignoring a large piece of my identity. I often felt "Hello? I'm a twin. She's right here, we're together. Can you not see her?"

Both Baby A and I were (still are, when we have the time) voracious readers. I use the term "voracious" for good reason; those books/magazines/novels/dictionaries/newspapers never saw it coming. Naturally, if I saw something about twins, I would read it. That caused more harm than anything anybody had been calling us. I worried, for about two seconds, that I was co-dependent on Baby A. And then I realized I wasn't and quickly got over it.

"Co-dependency." "Lack of individual identity." "Underdeveloped sense of self." All this just because twins/multiples are sometimes referred to as a unit by those around them? I don't think so.

If anything, being called "the twins" or "the girls" solidified who I am. I am a twin, an identical one, who has a whole other human being hanging around that has the same genetic code. Hell yes, we're "the twins." I love being a twin!! I'm also Baby B, aka A_____, someone who is so alike and so unlike from her twin, completely individual.

I'm going to throw out an example of why ONLY calling twins by their separate names is overkill. A family, say the Robinson family ("Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know, oh-oh-oh"; sorry, I digress), is known as "the Robinsons" often times instead of "Mr. Robinson, Mrs. Robinson, and Elaine." (Couldn't resist, because I just saw "The Graduate"). Does that diminish their ability to discern their own identities and function apart from the group? I think not.

So, maybe that example was a little facetious, I'll admit. But here's the point: treating multiples like individuals is very important, but trying to completely ignore or discount their identity as a unit is unwise. Or, if you're unsure what to call them, just ask, like, "Do you mind if I call you two 'the boys' sometimes or would you rather just be called 'Mike and Alex'?"

Signing off,
Baby B

When It Rains, It Pours

I'm not exactly one for old adages, but this one seems to ring true.

Baby A and I can go weeks, or at least several days, without anyone talking to us about being twins. We still get a lot of looks, some double-takes for sure, but the days are gone where we got stopped by at least 2 strangers a day, asking "Are you twins??"

Or, so I thought.

Yesterday, we went to the post office for some work-related business. All three USPS employees were looking intently at us when we both walked in the door. (I think they had been observing us through the glass door, as we struggled to carrying extremely heavy and awkwardly shaped boxes towards the side door where they take large packages).

The woman at the right-most station (from our perspective) asked us the $64,000 question. And the man at the middle station commented about how we were the second pair of twins they had seen come into the post office that. I guess it never rains twins for singletons, it always pours as well. One of them, I don't remember which, made a comment about "Wow, you guys sure do look alike."

It was hot and windy, the boxes had been heavy, blah blah blah (we're full of excuses to consume more calories, nom nom nom), so we decided to walk across the street to the gas station's little snack mart thing and grab ourselves a drink to share.

As we were deciding the flavors (the horchata syrup was out, so we tried some pomegranate berry non-carbonated drink, and then settled on Squirt), I looked back at the two female cashiers who were looking at us and whispering. My first thought was "Oh great, we're going to get yelled at for tasting the pomegranate healthiness that didn't taste that great."

We walked up and I took out my card. The other cashier walked away to help another customer, and the one that is still there blurts out "You guys are twins, aren't you?"

I'm going to interrupt this story momentarily to tell you our twin policy. When we get stopped, we smile, we nod, we're very polite. We do NOT get cranky or short just because we've answered these questions before. Back to the regularly scheduled program...

The nice cashier, who called us "sweetie" and "honey," then proceeded to ask if we can think each other's thoughts or feel each other's feelings. I'll admit, there was a slight internal groan, but she was so nice about it and clearly excited to ask us questions. We smiled and looked at each other. I answered.

Baby B: "Well, a lot of the time, it's because I know her so well, I can just tell."

Nice cashier: (nods) "Right, right. That makes sense. Are your names similar?"

Baby B: "I'm A____ and she's A____."

Baby A: "They both start with 'A' and they have the same number of letters."

Nice cashier: (nods) "So there's an aura thing about you two. Kind of like a hippie thing."

Baby A & B: (laughs) "That makes a lot of sense. Our mom kind of planned it that way." (smile and exit)

Having the same genes and names that start with the same letter and have the same number of letters leads to having an aura thing? I'm not sure, but I know some people are really into numerology. It's not an accident that our first names have the same number of letters and our middle names match that way too. Mom didn't take it too seriously, but it still happened that way.

So the moral of the story is that twins, young and old, will never stop getting stopped. And we kind of like it that way.

Baby B

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We ARE Identical, but We AREN'T Exactly Physically Alike

Why is this, you ask?

Well, young grasshopper, I have a story for you...

After we went to 40 weeks (a story for another post), it was time for Mom to get induced. It was a Wednesday morning, and that evening, Baby A was born first at 6 lbs. 4 oz. I came second at 6 lbs. 6 oz. Within days, Baby A dropped to 4 lbs. 10 oz.

What no parent wants to hear: Failure to Thrive Syndrome.

"This is a general diagnosis, with many possible causes.
Common to all cases, though, is the failure to gain weight as expected, which is often accompanied by poor height growth."

Baby A wasn't developed enough, so her digestive system couldn't handle protein. Sounds like tons of fun, right? Not exactly. She lost so much weight, there was no way our parents could NOT tell us apart. She spent a lot of time in the hospital.

The doctors tried all sorts of different formulas. Then they put her on Nutramigen.
She finally started to gain weight, and she came home to be with her other half, who had been happily guzzling milk and putting on the ounces at home.

In baby pictures, sometimes the most reliable way to decide who is who is to look at the size. The slightly smaller one is Baby A. In some of the infancy pictures, there is a drastic difference, but by our first birthday, we were a lot closer in size.

Repercussions? Up through her toddler years, Baby A always had the weaker immune system and spent many nights in the hospital. Now, our immune systems are equal. My parents had to find ways to make eating fun for her, so there were a lot of songs and games and special names for food. Now, our appetites are the same. Our sizes aren't, though. I've always weighed a little more and been a little taller. Even our shoe sizes are different. She wears a 7, whereas I am a 7 1/2. We can still share shoes, like some of our heels and flip flops, though.

People have harassed us, "You guys can't be twins! Why aren't you the same height/same weight/same size/completely identical??" We sometimes reply, "No set of twins has everything exactly the same about them." If we're a little cranky, "Baby A couldn't eat anything for a long time as a newborn and got very, very sick and almost died." It just goes to show you that you never really ever know the whole story.

Sending you health and happiness,
Baby B

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Twins Don't Judge Their Twin, or The In-n-Out Religious Experience

Generally speaking, that is. Baby A and I have judged each other before, with that very same connotation with which everyone is familiar. Rare is the person who can say that they have never judged a family member or friend, rarer still is the person who can profess to never having judged a stranger.

Twins, though, tend not to judge each other. I'm not saying twins are saints (oh no, double the fun, double the trouble), but within twin pairs, judgmental attitudes rear their heads only oh so often.

Case in point:
Today, Baby A and I pre-gamed for our In-n-Out Double-Doubles with a cheeseburger to share. No "Wow, that's a lot of food" or "Do you really need all that?" comments. Just the burger back and forth until we got home to consume the rest of our pieces of heaven, in the guise of burgers and fries.

Side note: And the Lord said "Let there be In-n-Out" and there was and He saw that it was good. Ah-men.

If she or I had suggested that with anyone else (barring close friends who have witnessed first hand the Baby A/Baby B whirlwind at feeding time), there's a good chance a snicker or a look would have been given and the other person would've made one of those mental notes, like "Hmph. How can she eat like that?" or "That's gross."

Side note, again: And the Lord made twins and He said "Unto you shall come deliciousness in the form of meat and sauce and vegetables and cheese between two pieces of bread, and you will commune together in the deliciousness." The twins saw the holiness of this creation, and were awed by the goodness. Ah-men.

Peace (and good food) be with you,
Baby B

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yes, We Live Together

Some people were shocked when they found out we were going to choose to room together at college.

"Don't you think it's time to be apart?"

"Aren't you sick of sharing a room with her?"

"Wouldn't it be better to room apart, to meet new people?"

"Isn't it time to adjust to living apart? You can't live together your whole life, you know."

To answer those questions:

No, we don't, but thanks for asking.

No. How can we be sick of sharing when it's all we've ever known? We shared a womb, for goodness sakes. We were conditioned to share.

No. Can you not meet people you don't share a room with? That's what I thought.

No. Separating now wouldn't make it easier, nor will any amount of waiting ever ease that transition.

Just here to clear things up,
Baby B

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Story from the Past

Once when we were just toddlers, our dad was in the back of our house, minding his own business, when he heard a horrific racket from the living room. Of course, his thoughts immediately to his babies. He rushed to the front room.

And what did he see?

Baby A and myself running back and forth on the keyboard of the upright baby grand, passing each other without falling off.

Contemplate the twin physics of that.

Baby B

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Working Together

Baby A and I work together at an internship in a city close to our university.

Benefits of working with your twin:
1. We keep each other entertained.
2. We can collaborate to make things go faster.
3. We are very good at teamwork and splitting work down the middle. One will always feel guilty if she sticks the other one with more work, so we keep it even. (Except the whole room cleaning thing. But you already knew about that).
4. We are usually on the same wavelength about how to go about something. Except today, I described how I wanted to do something, she suggested we do it a different way.
Baby B: "Can I just do it my way?"
Baby A: "Sure."
You just can't do that with the average coworker!
5. We keep each other entertained. (I put that one again because I cannot emphasize enough how fantastic it is to work with your best friend).

I'm working for the weekend, aren't you?
Baby B