Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reaching out: bonds beyond their own

At 8.5 years old, my oldest son gets not a moment's peace. Riley came down the stairs this morning, bleary-eyed, hungry and sad from the loss of a favorite stuffed animal on a recent trip and he wanted to tell me about it.
He didn't get a chance.
His voice was drown in the cries and pleas of two younger brothers who stretched out their arms toward him as he lie on the sofa and threw their heads down on its cushions when he failed to pull them up with him.
Eventually, Riley gave in.
When I came back in the room with his Ovaltine, he was covered with toddler hands and feet. They climbed over his lap, poked at his face and giggled in his ears. His own tears had dried and so had theirs.
Though the bond between identical twins is, indeed, close, these two little guys have found places in their world for their big brother and their older sister.
Huge, special places.
Riley is their rough-houser and cuddler. He chases them round and round the furniture; he roars in their faces; he sneaks them out of their cribs when they are crying and holds them. During the school year, he cannot leave the house until he has had his "fix," he says.
Kiersten took a while to warm up. She has anxiety issues that include obsessive-compulsive disorder and mild sensory-integration disorder. So drool, wet diapers and (ew!) poopy diapers were a big turn off to her at first. She wanted so badly to hold them when they were babies and she tried, but she just couldn't handle it.
As they have grown, so has she.
She will be seven at the end of the summer and she has followed the example of her older brother. Though she can still smell a dirty diaper from a mile away, she enjoys teaching them how to play songs on their toy piano, how to build a tower with blocks and how to pronounce the few words they know.
She reads to them, begs to hold them on her lap and even helps put on a fresh diaper now and then. If they get injured, she often cries more than they do. They sometimes call her "mama."
They adore her.
They adore them both.
I used to worry that the older kids would be jealous of the bond between the boys and that the boys would create their own world, sealing out their older siblings. But there was no need for concern.
They have invited them in and Riley and Kiersten have accepted.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer fun

Once again, I have gone too long without posting any photos, so here they are. They are now 17 months old.

This is Jonathan on the splash mat

This is Matthew in the blue pool.

Zygosity: why does it have to be so hard?

When we first found out our twins were, indeed, identical, I believed that the intial mistake in their zygosity was just a fluke. Their placentas were, after all, on opposite sides of the uterus. According to my OB, it was so highly unlikely that they were identical that he hadn't even considered it.
From what I understood, cases like ours were rare.
Not so.
Over and over again, I hear of twin parents who are told that their twins are fraternal, but who still simply cannot tell their twins apart. They post photos of their twins on online bulletin boards, hoping for answers.
Like us, those parents are told that the placentas were tested at the hospital. The babies can't be identical: just look at the results, the doctors say. The parents scratch their heads and try to persuade themselves that the hospital and the doctor must be right.
What doctors don't say is exactly what kind of test the hospital has conducted.
Here's what they do: Hospital simply conduct a physical test of the placentas. The lab tech studies the membranes to determine whether they were two fused placentas or one shared placenta.
That's it.
DNA has nothing to do with it.
In our case, that was a no-brainer.
Matthew and Jonathan each had clearly distinct placentas and, so, the results on my OBs computer said "fraternal." He assured us that many twins look identical when they are born and that they would differentiate as they got older.
That never happened.
If anything, they look more alike.
We finally had our boys tested when they were infants. It was easy. We received a kit in the mail for about $170 and rubbed large swabs gently inside their cheeks. We put the swabs in the test tubes the lab provided and mailed them off in the box the company gave us.
The results were supposed to take three weeks.
We learned the boys were identical a week later.
Every single one of those parents I have met online later learned through DNA testing that their instincts were correct: their twins (and sometimes two of their triplets) were indeed identical despite the protests of their OBs.
I'm not sure why some OBs still subscribe to the old theory that two placentas equals fraternal twins. Their information is outdated and so much evidence exists to prove that their methods are faulty. Just take a look at this 1999 study. The author urges OBs to change their evaluations if for no other reason, because the twins simply have a right to know.
So why does it have to be so hard?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Forever confused

We are leaving for the in-laws' this week with a dial-up connection and an old, slow computer. So The Boys will return when we do. But I had to share this before we leave:

For once, I was showered, dressed and wide awake when I took the boys out of their cribs at 6 a.m. yesterday morning. I grabbed Jonathan mid-bounce and placed him on the changing table. He was calm, which was odd. Jonathan usually contorts his entire body for even the quickest diaper change.
I brought him through the kitchen, grabbed his sippy full of milk and set him down with Beary on the living room floor.
Next, I grabbed Matthew, who had thrown himself down on the crib mattress, giggling and daring me to pick him up. He was good-natured...until I placed him on the changing pad. His body stiffened instantly. He arched his back and he twisted his hips with a wail.
I narrowed my eyes.
I held his head between my hands.
I focused hard on the vein across his nose.
It was thick.
I was changing Jonathan.
My husband and I had put Matthew and Jonathan to bed together the night before. We had put them in the wrong cribs with the wrong stuffed animals. The boys are 16 months old. You'd think we'd know better by now.
But still, it happens.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The reality of twinese

Mmmmwa. Mmmmwa.
Mmmmwa a familiar sound in our house.
We hear it whenever Matthew runs out of Baby Goldfish, raisins, tortellini, bananas or whatever his favorite food of the day might be. He looks up at us with all the confidence in the world and says, "Mmmmwa," his word for "more." And it works. Matthew relishes its results as his request is fulfilled.
Until recently, Jonathan remain quiet.
As we praised Matthew and piled more food onto his tray, Jonathan would simply sit and say nothing. Again and again, I would ask him, "More, Jonny? Do you want more?" And he would just stare at me, eventually crying in frustration until I gave in.
But everything changed just the other day.
It was lunch time. Jonathan's tray was empty of green beans, a favorite food of both twins, when I heard that familiar sound coming from his direction.
I saw Jonathan's mouth move, but I found myself staring at Matthew. Jonathan said it in exactly the same way and in, of course, the same voice. I was stunned. I didn't know what to make of his precise imitation of Matthew's grossly mispronounced word.
A few Internet searches later and I had my answer.
This is the beginning of what some people call twinese.
I had always believed that twinese was a secret language, a code developed among twins that was independent of our language and that only they could understand.
I was wrong.
Twinese, scientifically known as idioglossia or cryptophasia, is exactly what I had just witnessed. It occurs when one twin imitates the other in his mispronunciation of words.
When they say the words wrong, they understand each other even if no one else does. If the mispronunciations are not corrected, twins eventually fall into the habit of using the wrong sounds regularly and, what might have seemed cute in the beginning, becomes a problem. They grow older; they start school; and no one else can understand them.
Fortunately, it sounds like we have little to be concerned about.
Though twinese is fairly common in the toddler years, studies show that serious cases generally develop when twins are frequently left on their own by parents who are detached from their language development. In most cases, twinese disappears on its own by the preschool years.
It won't become serious for us for a simple reason: because I am an annoying mom.
Restating the misspoken word correctly is a habit of mine that grew from teaching my first two children to enunciate. Each time the boys ask for more, I drive them crazy. "More? You want more? Okay, you can have more. Here's more."
More. More. More. More. More.
Twinese wouldn't be much fun for my guys.