Basic fraternal and identical twin background info:
The rate of twins has increased dramatically (like 300%!) over the past 30 years, due to fertility treatments, but the rate of identical twins (the type of twins I have) has remained the same, 0.4% or 1 in 250 births.
To date, fertility treatments have not made an impact on the number of identical twin births because identical twins are ONE fertilized egg splitting into two, fraternal twins are TWO different eggs getting fertilized. (The chance of a single embryo dividing and resulting in identical twins is higher after IVF though it is not yet known why this happens.)
For the purpose of this post, you should know, I did not have any fertility treatments and my twins were a big ol’ surprise discovered at our first ultrasound at 11 weeks.
Share 50% of the same DNA like any set of siblings. Fraternal twins “run in the family” (hyper-ovulation means the mama releases more than one egg) and this is something you can find in families.
In the twin world, there are lots of different types of pregnancies (I won’t bore you with all of the details), but in case you are curious, I had Dichorionic/Diamniotic (di/di) twins. Di/di twins are the most common type of twins and the lowest risk in terms of pregnancy complications. Di/di twins can be identical if the egg split very early (like by day 3 after fertilization, which it did in my case), but fraternal twins are always di/di. In di/di twins, each twin has their own placenta and their own amniotic sac. Each baby had their set of everything and I was basically a walking duplex.
I get a lot of questions about twins
There is an undeniable fascination with twins. I get it – I’m still blown away by seeing my own twin babies!
I am often asked:
“Are they are “natural?” I almost want to be smart and say, “Yes, they are made of real baby.” I know this is a nice way of asking the nosy question of whether my babies were conceived through fertility treatment. Overall, fertility treatments have not made a dent in the rate of identical twins, so short answer: no, I have no trouble conceiving and these babies were a BIG surprise.
“Do twins run in your family?”
Snarky answer: “Well they do now!”
Short (nice) answer: It doesn’t matter because identical twins are not hereditary.
The hardest question to answer: “How are they different?”
My dilemma: How do I generalize my girls without oversimplifying their personalities? Everyone has good days and grumpy days. One day Ilana is shy and the next day she’s more outgoing. Their interests are very similar to a lot of little girls. They like all things pink, baby, Disney Princesses, Elmo, and cookies, candies and treats are always a big hit – they pretty much have all the same interests as my 4 year old.
Since my girls are identical, I want to be really careful about pigeon-holing and making one seem like the more “outgoing one,” or the “sporty one” because despite sharing all the same DNA, they are their own people.
So I am often stumped for a quick go-to answer when someone asks me how they are different because they are just little girls who have a wide spectrum of moods and interests… like any other kids. I guess I could say Ilana has a birthmark under her eye and Miriam does not?
Also, I really don’t want to compare them to one another more than I already (subconsciously and consciously) do. Comparisons are inevitable with kids, it’s taken to a new level with identical twins. Therefore, instead of asking how they are different, it would be easier to answer questions like, “Tell me what each of them enjoy doing? Or, what do they like to play with?” Favorite toys or books? I can rattle off a list of things they each find interesting, which are very nuanced, but still different. Miriam loves monkeys and her Elmo spoon. Ilana loves her Elmo booboo buddy (when she doesn’t have a booboo), and being outside. Both girls love babies and playing with their big sister, but (just lately) Miriam tends to run around more with Esther than Ilana (who uses this opportunity to play with the toys she wants to while her sisters are distracted). Miriam loves to cuddle and rock with me. Ilana gives kisses to anything and anyone (watch out) and she’ll take walks with me any day despite the weather. But, all of this could change within the hour. I guess the short answer to “How are they different?” is “In lots of ways and it changes every day.”