yes, it’s true. having newborn twin girls is terribly cute. like, all day long. two babies. two girls! cue the cuteness! even when they are both screaming at me at the very same time, it’s kind of adorable. “twins!” they’ll all say as we pass by. “twin girls!” the pitch in which they express it almost goes an entire octave higher. i get it. it’s very cute.
but, as their mother, having twin girls has also been nothing short of terrifying to me. even before their arrival, after learning we were expecting two girls and during my entire pregnancy, i wrestled with knowing how hard their lives could potentially be at times for them both, simply because they are twin girls. sorting through and figuring out their own individuality when often being referred to as a unit, and then the never ending comparisons….oh, this is the chubbier one, the prettier one, the faster one, the better eater, the more articulate one, the softer one, the quieter one, the louder one, the sweeter one, the smarter one, the better at this one, or better at that one… it’s what we all tend to do as we peer over twins, often unknowingly, because we’re trying to sort out who is who, and what makes them them. still, it’s got to be a lot to navigate straight from birth.
long before josh and i even had kids, we had chatted about twins a lot because i have twin sisters. we also happen to know a lot of twins. because of this, we’ve seen a lot of the pros and cons of the situation up close. still, i can’t even imagine what it must be like to be a twin. to be a part of that miraculous experience of being raised right along side someone else. sharing a birthday, so many firsts, so much time and love and growth together. in so many ways, having a built in best friend from your first few breaths on earth. having witnessed my twin sisters relationship over the years, it’s evident that having that sort of connection is nothing short of being so very special. and i’m really looking forward to having them share that bond. already, it’s so very apparent that they calm one another in the sweetest way. when they are side by side, they find a way to connect their arms or hold hands almost immediately. when one is fussy or sad, being placed beside her sister can help quiet her. i know they will love each other deeply in the years to come, and that gives me such strength as their mother to know.
i would love to hear from other twin parents, twins themselves or anyone who has any insight from knowing or observing twins, what you have found most helpful when it comes to cultivating that special individuality from an early age while continuing to strengthen the bond of being a twin, as well as what works/what doesn’t when it comes to those interactions with others.
a few things we have read, observed and put into practice have started with simply not always referring to them as “the twins.” we try hard to call beatrice and madalena by their first names as often as we can, although i admit i sometimes accidentally replace “the twins” with “the baby girls” which is sort of from the same vein, so i’m working on it. i had read somewhere before their birth that it’s helpful to not get so hung up and focused on the fraternal/identical thing, so we’ve tried to shy away from it in addition to the whole “who is the older one” or who was born first. we actually didn’t share that information with anyone, not even our families after their arrival, so it won’t be a major focus in the years to come hopefully (i don’t know if this sort of thing really matters, but in the spring after sitting in the movie theater with my older three kids watching peter rabbit, i was glad we made this call after watching flopsy, mopsy and cottontail argue the entire movie about who was the leader based on who was born first). while the matching twin wardrobe is so much fun (and i love dressing them alike a lot!), i do want to be mindful that they may not always be into this, and even when they are little, they don’t have to always dress the same.
another thing we’ve been trying to do, and encourage our other children to do, is to not compare them. sometimes you think, “oh, this makes sense for when they are older. we won’t compare the big stuff, sure…” but i noticed it creeping in right after birth. maybe one had a few more wet diapers, suddenly i was worried about the other. maybe one met a milestone much faster than her sister, i’m in a panic all of the sudden! if there was only one baby, i’d have nothing else to compare the moment to and wouldn’t worry. but you have that instantaneous comparison because they are right beside each other all day long! so these sorts of things almost become amplified, everything they do or don’t do, since there are two. and then i start to overanalyze, do i praise and get so happy for one who is accomplishing something big when her sister is struggling to do the same? do i diminish her success because i don’t want the other one to feel bad? i mean, it’s little things like rolling over at this point, but it has me thinking hard about the years ahead and how to navigate all of that in the most loving way that is right for everyone.
but the physical comparisons are what i want to get ahead of here. they may only be three months old and have no idea what is being stated around them, but the mama bear in me has come out in full force as i’ve observed family and friends and strangers the past few months begin to vocally call out comparisons that could be hurtful or dangerous in years to come. it’s such hard territory to navigate for everyone, but i really think we all can agree that calling one “chubbier” or “chunkier” isn’t very helpful. oh, but they are babies! someone will argue. yeah, but i have three other children listening to everything we say and observe, and we can get into better habits now of finding ways to differentiate them. i don’t need my seven year old daughter sitting beside you to start analyzing her own cheeks because you’re calling out her three month old baby sister’s. right now, it’s easy to steer this sort of conversation somewhere else since they are so small by just saying, “madalena has the red headband and beatrice has the pink, actually.” or “madalena has longer hair right now, that’s how we can tell them apart.” many twins who are older have shared with us that those sorts of comments come at all ages. even in your teens or twenties or thirties, the comments can come. “i can tell you apart because you have fuller, rounder cheeks!” like, really?!?!?! one has long hair and one has very short hair. one is wearing a dress and one is in jean shorts. you can’t be serious.
i remember hearing an amazing example of speaking to/about twins that i think applies to how one might talk to/about siblings as well. it was something along the lines of trying not to use phrases like, “oh, she is definitely the creative one!” when you could instead say, “she is very creative!” i think there is so much great insight packed into this example when talking about kids in general, not just twins. just like twins, two sisters who are a few years apart don’t need to be compared, either. or a sister and brother. or whoever it might be. i struggle with this a lot, because it’s easy to compare anything and everything against a sibling, and sometimes it feels natural to do so. but it’s been really helpful to try to pause before i say something out loud about one of my children in front of the others and think about how i am phrasing it. our words mean so much to them… we owe it to them to express our words as best we can.
so many thoughts around raising these beautiful girls and if i think about it for too long, i start to get really nervous. am i bonding with them both?! am i giving them equal attention?! how do i encourage each of their unique individual personalities while acknowledging the other? do we split them up straight away in school classes and sports/extra curriculars? is it best to keep them together and for how long? basically, it’s like all the mom thoughts i had with the births of my other children, just twice the amount of nerves around it all. i would really love to pick anyone’s brain in the comment section who has had twins or is a twin or knows twins well and has great advice or insight to offer. thank you for being here and a part of this community and for being willing to share with me, too! i am so very grateful for this chance to raise these beautiful strong little girls and it’s insane how much love i feel for both already. a year ago now, we had no idea. i have never felt so blessed (and slightly panic-y, sure), but blessed feels like such an understatement when i really think about it.