Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your questions-answered!

Ok, I know what you're thinking. If these don't cover the first few questions that come to mind, you aren't like the other 90% of inquisitive people who stop my (double) stroller.

Are they identical or fraternal?
Our first girls are identical, which we know because we had them DNA tested (which just involves running a cotton swab along their cheek). We assumed they were probably fraternal when they were born, because the vast majority of twins are fraternal (dizygotic). They looked a little different at birth, which quickly changed. By the time they were four months old, my mom and I were arguing over which was which in photographs! When they were a year, we did a DNA zygosity test to see for sure, and indeed they were identical. With our second set, we don’t really know.But judging by their appearance, teething patterns and personality, we would put our life savings on a bet that they are in fact identical. I'll let you know when we cough up the cash to do a DNA Zygosity test to verify, for now it just seems useless to throw $150 at something we already reasonably know.

Do Twins run in your family?

No. I didn’t know of any twins in my family until I got pregnant with twins. Then I found out that my Great-Grandmother, had a sister, who had a granddaughter, who had 2 sets of twins. I guess is the above theory is true, then it is not so far off that perhaps many women in my family produce eggs that have a tendency to divide easily. And that she fell in love with and married a man who had that special enzyme. Viola. And maybe the same thing happened to me. Or maybe, this very rare occurrence just so happened to happen to 2 people who are merely 2nd cousins once removed.

Did you just die when they told you? (a.k.a.-How did you find out?)
Well, the first time we couldn't believe it for about 5 seconds until she showed us the little beating hearts. The second time, actually, they didn’t have to tell me. Being that we had twins once, we were technically more likely to have twins again. (Though in a former life, I believed this only to be true of fraternal twin moms.) So our doctor sent us in for an ultrasound already at 6 weeks. It was the last thing I expected to see. But, as the ultrasound tech squirted the warm liquid on my belly and moved the monitor around, she settled on a spot and the screen came into focus. I immediately saw 2 big black jelly beans. For a moment, I thought, “No, she’s just looking around – that must be my gall bladder or something.” But she stayed focused there for a moment, in total silence.
It was then, that the potential realization hit me. I said to my husband, “Honey, does that look familiar to you?”. He lowered the issue of ‘US Weekly’ below his nose, wide-eyed. The ultrasound technician broke her silence, “Two sacs, two heartbeats.”
O.M.G. I wanted to say she was kidding but I knew she wasn’t. “And I promised you this wouldn’t happen!” I apologized to Mike. “ “That was a silly promise to make,” replied the technician. My reply “Well, realistically, what were my chances of being wrong?”. I guess that’s the Million dollar question.

What are the chances?
I still haven’t found reliable statistics on that. But according a website I once read, having two sets of fraternal twins is 1/10,000. Having 2 sets of identical twins is about 1/70,000, which is a lot better odds than I thought! Sorry, I can’t find the reference for those stats, but I’ll post if I find it!

Were you on fertility treatments?
No. Fertility treatments increase your chances of having identical twins as much as going outside barefoot increases your chances of getting a paper cut.

How did this happen?

Showing my hubby the faint pink line...trying to convince him that it really was positive! (He thought the line was TOO faint to really be a positive test. If you can see the second pink line at all, rest assured, bun in the oven!

I get asked this question acquaintances, friends, strangers at the store, and yes, doctors. Of course, when a mommy and a daddy REALLY love each other... ok, ok, truth be it - I only wish I knew! Though the best guess I have is related to a Chinese fertility blanket bestowed upon my husband and I as a wedding gift. Yes, I wish I could sell it to you for mucho bucks, but I've already returned it to the gracious friends that gave it to us in the first place. I don't think we need it anymore.

If that isn’t scientific enough for you, or if you are one of those who YEARNS to have twins and is looking for a ‘how to’ guide, here’s another potential explanation. Traditionally it is thought that identical twinning is random. However, some research is showing that there may be much more to it than that. And, that all of those who claim identical twins run in their families are not crazy after all. I am still researching the origins of this. Supposedly there was an article in ‘Twins Magazine’ about it, but I’m still waiting for my back-issues to arrive. The theory says that some men have an enzyme in there sperm that could encourage division of the zygote…and that some women lack some other property that helps prevent zygote division.
When I tell people that I have 2 sets of identical twins, let’s just say I have been greatly surprised at the frequency of responses from strangers who tell me that they know someone who also has 2, 3, (and yes once) even 4 sets of identical twins. It makes one start to think that perhaps not all monozygotic twinning is so random.

I also found this interesting post regarding some research being done on monozygotic twinning:

<< Now, does the research seem to indicate that this enzyme plays a role frequently in id twinning, far more frequently than geneticists have believed up until now, or is this still for only a small percentage of id twins? Also, you said the chance of repeat ids is as great as the chance of repeat fraternal, yet both you and I know women with 2 spontaneous sets of frats. (Of course, that's hardly a statistically sig sample) But, I've never met anyone with 2 sets of ids, nor have I heard of it. >>
Thus far, the research shows that the enzyme is directly responsible for causing the splitting of the chromosomes, which results in the division of the cytoplasm which results in two eggs! There are a few (about 1%) that have alluded us so far and have shows no sign of the enzyme despite the fact that twins resulted. Thus, we have concluded that identical twinning can also be a random event. But in about 99% of the people tested, the enzyme is apparently the culprit. So, 99% is a darm good yield! So, according to our research, it is not a small percentage but almost the entire percentage.
And yes, this study has been repeated already, but very, very little money is put into this research, so most of it is done on our own time. The reason for this is there is little to no medical advances that can come out of the research, just info and most of the money on medical and genetic research is for improving the outcome of diseases, etc. So, that is why it may be a while before this research is completed. We have to get about 5% of the public who have twins to complete our research (not all will go through tests, some will just answer questionnaires) before we can say that this represents the entire population, so you can see that this will take a while!
I have been working on this theory for some time. Ask people on this post nd I guarantee that you will meet peolpe who at least know of someone who as two sets of identicals. I know 2 people out of hundreds that have more han one set of fraternals and about that many in our research that have two ets of indenticals. There is a woman in Australia that has three sets of identicals (yes, with the same hubby!)! I think that hyperovulation is more frequent than identical twinning because it depends entirely on the woman and not on the husband, but identical twinning can sometimes be related to both, about 90-10 to 80-. It may also depend on many different things. The divorce rate for parents of multiples is very high. Identical twins tend to have more birth complications that fraternal twins, so that also can incease the divorce rate, as parents of sick children/babies seem to divorce more readily. If that being the case, the husband that caused the identical twinning is no longer in the picture and twins thus may not recur.
Also, many, many parents who have twins do not have more children, for obvious reasons. This also, that this enzyme may or may not manifest itself at every conception. There could be numerous reasons that the gene that turns the function or production of this enzyme on or off, as in diet, drugs, health, etc. There are so many factors and we have only scratched the surface.
It will be years before we can tell you what drugs, etc. influence the expression of the gene or the action of the enzyme.
Also, we see this enzyme in different races more frequently than in others.
We very, very seldom see this in the black race, but see it almost entirely in the oriental race. We see it about 50-50 in the caucasion race. It is almost non-exsistent in the Jewish race. So you see, many factors can increase or decrease the frequency of twinning for identicals, just as it can in fraternals. There is so much more research to be done, that we have only scratched the surface of this, as you can see. Our research is in the preliminary stages.
Hope this helps.

Monday, March 15, 2010


So, let's start at the beginning...this post is a basically an abbreviated autobiography I wrote for my local Mothers of Multiples club newsletter. (Minnesota Valley Mothers of Multiples) They do a section called "Her-story" and feature a different member each month. This was written AFTER my first set of twins were about 3, but a few months BEFORE I got pregnant with our second set of twins. A great way to catch this blog up to the present reality!

April 2008

Our story started with a very rigorous battle to become pregnant - which to my husband’s dismay, ended before he could say “copious coitus” 10 times fast. I was overjoyed, ecstatic and oh-so ‘prepared’...I’d been trying extra hard to exercise and eat healthy. I also read at least 2 pregnancy books – completely skipping the multiples section, for expediency. I had two other pretty close friends who had become pregnant in the previous months, and both went through pre-ultrasound phases of being convinced they were carrying twins. Being the great friend that I was, I nodded and said “Well, all the peeing could just be from those pregnancy hormones…but hey – ya never know!” After that, I was convinced that my level head would never be so illogically influenced by delusional desire.

That said, about four weeks after my first missed period, I remember three things: being famished, unbearable cramping, and not fitting into non-elastic pants anymore. In fact, on the way to dinner to tell my in-laws that I was pregnant, I remember having to stop at the store and get maternity pants because I was SO uncomfortable. Soon, I was calling my pregnant friends asking, “When did your jeans stop fitting?” I figured I was getting fat and thought I HAVE to quit eating so much! I knew something was up, but didn’t want to admit it to myself for fear of falling into the same “I think I’m having twins” delusion.

My doctor wanted to have an early ultrasound – partly because of all the cramping I’d had. I remember a day before the ultrasound, a friend and co-worker of mine (who has an uncanny sense of knowing which slot machine to pick at the casino) came in my office and said “I was thinking…wouldn’t it be cool if you had twins?” I laughed at her and said that was next to impossible – the absence of fertility drugs, and other twins in my family, along with statistics just said it wasn’t a realistic possibility. The next day, my 11 week ultrasound proved her right. I was ecstatic…though that was partly because after the ultrasound tech scanned every inch of my belly in complete silence for 3 minutes the words “How do you feel about twins?” are very relieving!
The rest of my pregnancy is pretty boring. I remember lots of back pain, and my doctor telling me to take it easy, and pretty much thinking I was doing so even though I was still doing the elliptical machine until my 7th month, and yoga thereafter (hey – she never said I couldn’t!). I got sent to the hospital twice; both times I reluctantly went…once just because I had the flu and they wanted to make sure I was hydrated. The other because my blood pressure came back high at an office visit – so she sent me in, only to have it back to normal once I checked in.
I also remember the comedy routine I thought I would one day write about peeing in a cup and tying my shoes with a 48 inch girth (thank GOD tennis mules were in!). I did not want to be induced. Well, I DID want to be done lying on the couch with my box of crackers like a beached whale, but I did not want all the complications my 2 close friends had with their inductions. Still after baby A’s head danced on my cervix keeping me up at night, I remembered thinking – yup any night now…but that just never came. At least not before my appointment at 38 1/2 weeks when my doc scheduled my inducement! But first she wanted a picture of my belly, since she’d never had a patient get so big before.
For the big day, I just turned 39 weeks, and I remember the nurse scolding me because I’d eaten a ‘light’ breakfast of a dry Eggo waffle and most of an egg McMuffin. (I reassured her that for me, that WAS light!) 11 Hours later I finally made it to 7 centimeters and asked for an epidural (I delayed it as long as I could for fear of lengthening the labor and having to have a C-section. Early on I was stretching and contorting to try and stay comfortable. Later I went on walks and bounced on the birthing ball. Finally I battled to 7cm in the bathtub and was just convulsing in pain, unable to talk from the constant contractions (don’t let anyone tell you that you have a break between them – they just rotate from bad to worse!).
But enough of that, after the epidural I was a happy (albeit shaky) camper and pushing seemed pretty easy, and honestly, exciting and enjoyable. Baby A came out crying, and I held her, in amazement that there was still another 7 pound baby still inside me. Baby B presented breech, so it took several minutes of the peri-natologist chasing down her foot and flipping her inside me before they broke her water and I could start pushing again. I was blessed enough to have my babies accompany me right back to my room.
The 48 hour hospital stay was a sleepy blur, and the day we came home, my mom left for vacation (She still feels bad!) I remember being so in love with my babies and high on hormones. There were very trying and frustrating times though, and sleepless moths, and nights of getting one back to sleep after 3 hours only to have the other wake up as I left their room. Nursing was also a challenge at times, but got a lot easier after I gave up pumping. It also was difficult because they refused the bottle, so if they were both hungry and no one was there to help me tandem nurse, one had to wait and cry (*sniff* It still breaks my heart!).
I also want to plug my wonderful husband for being the most supportive dad ever. From helping me clean the kitchen every night to waking up at 4 am to get them both in the football hold to nurse. I don’t know where I would be without him. A year later I finally began to fell well-rested again. And, the girls started to look so alike I could hardly tell them apart. We did the cheek swab which showed they were very much identical. To this day I have a theory about the how the additional gamma rays on a jet at 10,000 feet may affect cell division (I was flying a lot the month we conceived!). Now that the girls are three, I love playing with them and seeing how different two little people who are genetically identical can be!