Once she had recovered from the shock of a future with three children under three, she started investigating familial history on both sides. The perceived wisdom seemed to be that twins would have made an appearance – probably skipping a generation – at some point in the past but she drew a blank.
Aside from heredity, It turns out that some women are more likely than others to give birth to twins with odds increasing if the woman is in her 30’s or 40’s, the number of previous pregnancies she has had, and race with black African women having the highest incidence of twins and Asian women the lowest. Fertility treatment is also a major factor with many procedures stimulating the ovaries with fertility drugs to produce eggs, with several eggs released during ovulation. One in three sets of twins is identical or monozygotic – the scientific term – with the fertilised egg dividing into two while it is still a small group of cells developing into two babies with the same genetic information. A quarter of identical twins are mirror images of each other with the right side of one matching the left side of the other and there may be other differences in appearance because of different experiences in the womb such as the amount of space each had in the uterus.
Non-identical twins are generally known as fraternal twins – or dizygotic – and are formed when two eggs are released at the same time but a different sperm fertilises each egg.
Whether they are peas in a pod or completely different in appearance twins are double the trouble but double the joy as sleep deprived parents of twins will vouch for.
There can be difficulties during the pregnancy not least the uncomfortable fact that there are two babies competing for space and nutrients with pregnancy issues such as water retention, and weight gain feeding into general anxiety and fear.
Once the two bundles of joy have arrived there is then the logistical day to day issues of feeding, burping, comforting not just one baby but two. Sleep is also an issue because twins are not necessarily going to perform all their bodily functions and needs at the same time, so it’s a constant juggling act.
As they children grow, they will also need one to one time which can be difficult once a partner is back at work and the stay at home parent does not have a close support network.
There is always that sense of guilt that one child is getting more attention than the other and as they get older and begin to compete with each other, the parental burden grows as they try to intervene in sibling squabbles and disputes acting as non-partisan referees.
Impartiality is vital giving each child the same opportunities and treating each one the same, but not easy when they each have their own personalities and characteristics. Parents are tasked with encouraging their twins’ individuality while also coming under pressure to raise them as a “set” – it’s all hugely challenging as the children’s relationship with each other is also complex and constantly evolving. Everything is shared from birthdays to school sports days so the potential for disappointment and hurt is huge but take consolation from the positive experiences of the majority of twins who regard each other as their very best friend.