Published: Friday 16 November 2018
Submitted by Lynette Walker, Marketing Communications Coordinator, Twins Research Australia, The University of Melbourne
What is it like to be a twin or twin parent? In these 17 different short stories, twins explain in their own words what is most memorable, challenging and special about being a ‘miracle’ of human nature.
These stories appeared originally as a special series called ‘We are: Twins Research Australia’ and released across TRA’s social media channels. The series offers an insight into twin lives and how the special bonds of twins impact other’s lives. We thank twins and parents for telling their stories. Thanks also to the volunteer science communications students from the University of Melbourne who created and launched the series - see them hard at work at the end.
#1 We are: Twins Research Australia
Friends for life
"Growing up as an identical twin was very special. You had an automatic best friend, study buddy, competitor, and confidant. No matter how much time we spent together, it was still never enough. There was never any worry about being alone.
Things changed for us when we went to different universities in cities an hour apart and suddenly weren’t known for being ‘one of the twins’. Despite the distance we still talked every day and saw each other every weekend. We chose similar fields of study (dietetics and medicine). This took us further apart (across the world!), but it was the best excuse to travel with the real goal - not exploring new cities and countries but seeing each other.
We have participated in a few twin studies through Twins Research Australia and, being of scientific backgrounds, are interested in seeing how our genes shape who we are. Participating in research pushed us to confirm once and for all whether we were identical as everyone assumed- and the DNA results confirmed it.
While we lead individual lives, we will never be anything but Jessica and Gemma: twins."
Below: twins, Jessica and Gemma
#2 Doubly surprising pregnancy
"My husband didn’t believe I was pregnant but I knew. I took a pregnancy test and it was negative, then turned positive just outside the time window. I started getting awful sickness at five weeks. I lived on Powerade, meat and eggs because that’s all my body tolerated.
At the end of my nine-week dating scan, the doctor looked at me very seriously. I felt terrified thinking something was wrong or perhaps I had lost the baby. He said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but there are two sacs!’ My husband exclaimed, ‘do you mean it’s twins?!’ My three-year-old then said in the sweetest voice, ‘we’ve got two babies in there!’
Becoming a twin mum has been such a journey. I suffered severe postnatal anxiety and depression for the first year. Getting to the ‘other side’ of that initial 12 months was such a victory. My twins are now two and a half and they bring so much joy to our family. But we are so grateful they came into our lives."
Below: Jodie, mother of twins
#3 Knowing my twins' zygosity matters
"I have four beautiful children, the youngest being my 10-year-old twins. They were confirmed identical at birth after they tested the placenta as being one, not two fused together.
Having identical twins is awesome with them looking exactly the same and tricking a lot of people with 'who is who'. The serious side of having identical twins is that they share the same genetic makeup, meaning what one gets the other is at an increased risk of developing. Mikayla was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at four and a half years old and Isabelle was diagnosed six months later. Mikayla was also diagnosed as Coeliac which means Isabelle is likely to develop it too.
Knowing that they are identical gives me the heads-up I need to keep a closer eye for symptoms, preventing a more serious illness."
Below: Pete, mother of Mikayla and Isabelle
#4 Identical but different
"I had my girls when I was 26 and was really intimidated by the thought of having twins. Abbey and Emily are identical twins and were in the same sac, but that’s where the similarities end. They have always been ‘chalk and cheese’ from day one. They dress differently, one is girly and feminine; the other a bit of a tomboy. They have different friends and interests. The only thing they had in common as babies was their inability to sleep at the same time! Most nights I would be lucky to get an hour’s sleep at night!
Despite the struggles, having twins is still the best thing that ever happened to me. It was very hard when they were young and unfortunately put strain on my marriage with my ex-husband leaving when the girls were 18 months. Because of this, the girls and I are very close and a tight unit.
I was always fascinated with twins as a kid, my mum had non-identical twins before I was born, who only lived a few days, so my whole family was overjoyed with two beautiful healthy twin girls. My daughters are now 17 and about to finish year 12."
Below: Mum Lee with twins, Abbey and Emily
#5 Loving life together
"After losing one baby, these two hung on. Sure, it was hard in the beginning, double everything! But now we have two amazing, smart, generous, talented netballers, who love everyone and love life to the fullest.
They have made mine and my husband, David’s, lives so much fuller. We have a ball with our girls. I miss them when they go out for the night or away for a couple of days. Being teenagers has its ups and downs, but they look out for one another and their mates.
They are best friends, and it is so amazing to see them grow every day." Jacinta
Jacinta, mother of twins Lucy-Jane and Lilly- May (pictured below)
#6 Twin mix-ups
“A few years ago, people started asking me how I enjoyed China. I would say that I would love to go but that I had no plans to visit in the near future. They would look at me confused and say, "Oh really? But there are so many photos on Facebook of you and your brother-in-law in China.” That’s strange in itself, not to mention slightly creepy!
I started to become suspicious when more than a few people started asking me about those wonderful photos and why my husband and sister were not in any of them. It turned out that all of Mary's (my twin’s) holiday snaps had been tagged with the name "Angela"! A quick Facebook setting fix was made, but we still check...just in case.”
Below: Twins, Angela and Mary
#7 Polar-opposite identical twins
“Having twins has been a huge roller coaster. The boys were premature with a rough start to life. It was a hard introduction into parenthood. Having toddler twins and a baby was exhausting and we lived by strict routines. Life became easier as the boys grew and it’s amazing to watch them develop.
As identical twins, they have polar-opposite personalities and we are constantly amazed by how these differences develop. Once, one twin had hiccups which, upon touching his brother’s arm, passed the hiccups to him! The boys love being twins, and it’s a blessing to have shared this experience with them.”
Below: Sherri, mother of twins
#8 Welcome to Groundhog Day
“My experience of twins started six-years-ago with an unexpected announcement from the doctor! Wait, there are two? We were only planning for one!
What followed was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. We already had three children, the youngest being only one. With a husband always on-the-go, the reality hit me hard! I spent the last four weeks of pregnancy feeling sorry for myself on hospital bedrest.
Then came the elation of two healthy babies, followed by utter exhaustion and borderline depression. Each year brought new challenges and we went through it one day at a time. For four years I called it ‘Groundhog Day’. The magical day came when they started school, and now life is so much easier. We love our big family!”
Below: Tanya, mother of fraternal twins
#9 The reality hits: there are two!
“After finding out I was pregnant, I was surprised when I started showing within two months and couldn't do up my clothes.
At my 12-week scan, the radiographer asked if we could see what was on the screen. I was confused because I thought I could see a head on one side but the bit on the other side looked like a head too. I couldn't really make it out and just assumed I couldn’t work out the body parts.
The radiographer thought I couldn't see the screen. Eventually my husband asked: "Is there two?"
We were a bit shocked when we were told “yes, there’s two”, but we were also pleasantly thrilled! We laughed the whole way home and couldn’t wait to call our families with the news.”
Below: Laura, mother of twins
#10 A birthday surprise – you’re an identical twin!
“We joined Twins Research Australia in 2007 and since participated in lots of different research projects from drinking habits to the singing study (no surprise there, I was terrible and Lauren was a bit less terrible!). We had always been told we were fraternal twins because our placenta looked like it had fused during pregnancy, but we were alike in so many ways.
In 2009, Lauren was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. We were advised by her specialists to find out if we were identical in case I was at risk of developing the same cancer. At the time it was quite expensive to get zygosity testing but, through TRA, we were able to access a discount.
On our 35th birthday we found out that we were identical. We tell all of our twin friends to get tested now and at least one pair now knows that they are identical. It’s important to us to contribute to medical research even in the smallest way.”
Below: Identical twins, Megan (left) and Lauren
#11 Hop on the rollercoaster ride
“When I found out I was having twins, I was shocked and happy at the same time. I enjoy being a mum, though the sleepless nights took a lot to get used to, but I just got on with it. Having twins is a rollercoaster ride but I was always organized and ready for the next feed and day.
As they grow, new highlights and beautiful moments happen like when they get their first teeth, when they take their first steps, their first words. Before you know it, they are off to school! It seems a blur but when you stop and think, you remember it all as if it were yesterday.
My advice to all new and expecting mums of twins: 1) Join a twins’ club, and 2) Never say no to help, even if it’s just to do your dishes. They grow up so quickly and time goes by so fast. Take every moment as it comes and enjoy everything about being a mother to twins. Because it's the greatest thing in the world.”
Below: Anna Philpott, mother of twins
#12 The surprises just keep coming
“My partner and I weren’t planning on getting pregnant, so when I found out I was pregnant, I was shocked! And the surprises just kept coming. When I had my first dating scan at eight weeks, we found out we were expecting identical twins and were mind blown and very nervous about what was going to come. At that point of time, I didn’t even know there were different types of twins!
Even though I found out I had pre-eclampsia at 33 weeks I was monitored extremely well and had no major complications. My twins were born healthy at Monash Hospital via a planned cesarean at 36 weeks. My placenta was donated to preeclampsia research. My two healthy boys are now 10-months-old.”
Below: Courtney, mother of twins
#13 This changes nothing but everything
“Being born in 1979, medical staff informed our parents that we were fraternal twins. My twin, Kristy, and I believed this until we took a zygosity test with Twins Research Australia. On our 38th birthday we decided to find out the truth via a simple mouth swab test and we received the results within a few days. Turns out, we are identical twins! All our life we thought we were something which we were not!
People now ask us “does this change anything?”
It doesn’t change anything, but it changes everything! It’s a little bittersweet as our beautiful mum passed away in 2006 from pancreatic cancer not knowing, but we are sure she is looking down on us pretty proud of her identical twins.”
Below: Kirsty (left) and Susan meeting each other officially for the first time as Identical Twins.
#14 Fertility offering doubly successful
“My husband and I had been trying for a baby for about a year. We were in Thailand and went to Railay Beach, where there is a phallic fertility cave dedicated to the Thai princess. We both had a laugh and decided to make two offerings.
I cannot begin to explain my shock when I found out I was having twins! My husband nearly fell out of his tree, literally (he’s a tree surgeon). It turns out we had conceived two babies the day after our offerings!
Despite the doctors telling me I was going to have two boys, I was convinced they were a boy and a girl. About two months after they were born, someone suggested that they were too similar to be fraternal. After a genetic test they turned out to be identical, but they are so different I still wonder whether I swabbed the same baby twice.
Watching two tiny humans grow is the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced. Every day I sit in awe as I learn more and more about the magic of twins. To wake up to these four-toothed smiling faces and their irresistible cuddles every day is a dream.”
Below: Katie, mother of twins
#15 Twins run in the family
“Last year I found out I was having fraternal twin boys and the first thing I did was ring my identical twin sister to tell her the news! I absolutely love being an identical twin and even though I was in complete shock, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be having twins myself.
Having twins is really hard work, but my mum, who has been through it all before, is such a huge help. I love watching my boys grow together and I hope that they have a close bond just like my sister and I have.”
Below: Madeline with her twin sister; and with her own twin boys
#16 Who is the most identical?
“My twins, Elijah and Jem, were in utero when they met fellow twins, Jordan and Darby. Almost 16 years later, their friendship is still strong.
As multiple-birth mothers, Megan and I always discuss the trials and tribulations of two babies, two toddlers then two teenagers. But, it is equally as important for my twin boys to have twin friends to share their thoughts and experiences. After all, only identical twins know what it is like to have another person look and act almost the same as you.
In the last month, the four boys completed their zygosity testing together. We held a party for the big reveal: which pair of twins would be more identical? We were blown away by the results, with Elijah and Jem being 99.000060% identical; Jordan and Darby at 99.000070%.
I highly recommend parents to join a multiple-birth group, not only for the chance to discuss things, but also to allow your twins the chance to meet other twins. Best thing I did!”
Rachel, mother of twins
#17 Close bonds of fraternal twins
"We always had a close bond as twin brothers, but our traits and personalities were almost opposite. Anthony was into sports, being a clown, playing video games, and was protective of his twin brother. Lucas always loved drawing, dancing and singing and liked to be independent.
During lunchtime, we used to play together with our friends but sometimes other kids would beg Lucas to sing. A lot of people enjoyed his singing and everyone knew how talented he was. But after some time of being pressured to sing, Lucas would get annoyed about not having time to play with his friends and twin brother. Anthony noticed his brother wanted less attention and decided to help. He became Lucas’ bodyguard. The students started to listen and they stopped asking Lucas to sing so often.
We’ve always maintained this special twin relationship. People always admire how loving and caring we are towards each other. Even many years after this story, we are still just as important to each other."
Below: Anthony and Lucas, fraternal twins
TRA thanks the University of Melbourne science communications students - Sarah, Syafiqah, Sabrina and Yufei (pictured below) - who created and coordinated this wonderful awareness-raising campaign.