Pop two babies out of your hoohaa at once and people are bound to start thinking of them as one entity. Though we don't use the term unless we are trying to avoid using their names (as you may have noticed, I never give personal info about the kids on this blog, hence why they are referred to by their situation in life), others use it liberally.
They do have a unique bond--not only their own secret language that I am attempting to break into (I can apparently use "taste my chegs!" correctly, but they turn up their nose whenever I try to use the word "bamp" in that way that Frenchmen cringe when I try to speak French), but also an ability to soothe each other that transcends anything I can do as their mother. When they were born, my son's heart often beat too quickly. His sister had bradycardia and her heart beat would dip to dangerously low levels as her brain forgot to tell her heart to beat. Put them in the same isolette? All heart problems were erased. Their heartbeats regulated themselves and most of the time beat in unison as they slept pressed together. Pull them apart and put them in different isolettes? All heart issues would return. Guess who shared a crib when they came home on heart monitors?
They move together as one unit. With the exception of a few daily toy-stealing incidents, they take care of one another. They cry when the other one is hurt or sad. They magically and silently decide when it is time to switch two toys and call out simultaneously, "switch!" When they were babies, they soothed themselves by sucking on each other's hand. Now, they soothe each other by rubbing each other's heads.
It's a bond that frankly makes me jealous. I love my husband, but we don't move together like they do. We may share our own in-jokes that create a private language, but lying together doesn't make our hearts beat in unison. He can rub my head when I'm crying, and even though I know he has my back and he's standing beside me (both figuratively and literally), I still feel alone. I feel like a single unit that is attached to other units. Based on what I've observed through behaviour and words, I think my kids feel like a single unit together that are attached to outside units like Mommy and Daddy. They're the megablock and I'm just the single Lego.
But did that coding come from being in the same womb at the same time? Or is that coding somehow part of the batch of eggs that are released? Some sort of chemical coating that gets poured on the eggs as they pop out of the follicle and make their journey down the fallopian tubes? How much about the human body do we not understand yet and how much of that comes into play when describing that special bond that twins share?
I ask this because sometimes when I ask how many children live in our house, my daughter answers "three." There are only two. And the only thing I can think of is that either she is counting one of her dolls as the third child (or she is trying to torture me since she often likes to pat my stomach and say, "nope, Mommy can't have a baby in there.") or she is remembering her triplet that I miscarried around eight weeks. Is there a part of her heart that was coded with this bond to this missing person? I know it sounds like a strange question, but just think about how little we truly understand about the brain and emotions and those connections we make between two people.
A.R.T. has created this new wave of twinship. Generally, the definition of twins states that one mother gives birth to two or more children during the same pregnancy. But what do you call...
- (1) two children who were created via IVF where one embryo was transferred back to the biological mother, the other was transferred to a surrogate, both pregnancies miraculously took and now two children who were created at the same time are being carried in two different wombs. Yes--this is a situation I just read about. And if you say that these aren't twins, are two children who grow inside two different wombs in the same body (a la Grey's Anatomy a few weeks ago) twins?
- (2) what about embryos that are frozen after a successful fresh cycle and transferred years later? In other words, two embryos from the same cycle--one fresh and transferred immediately, the other frozen and transferred years later. Are those two children actually twins?
- (3) what about donor embryos? What if I have an embryo transferred into my womb and you have an embryo transferred into your womb (embryos created from eggs and sperm collected during the same cycle) and we both get pregnant and give birth. Are our kids twins?
- (4) One FET from two different batches of embryos that were created during two different fresh cycles where one or more embryos from each batch are transferred simultaneously. Therefore, the embryos were not created at the same time, but they are conceived, carried, and delivered simultaneously. Are these children twins?
If we don't know how and when that unique bond is formed, is it possible to have sets of twins walking on this earth that don't even know that they're twins? Or have this secret longing for a person they don't even know exists? I think that's especially possible with the third scenario.
This whole question got raised the other day when we were watching Discovery Health and were confronted by this question: could you be your own twin?
Apparently, there is a little-known phenomenon that creates human chimeras. According to Wikipedia, a chimera is "an ordinary person or animal except that some of his or her parts actually came from his or her twin or from the mother. A chimera may arise either from identical twin fetuses (where it would be impossible to detect), or from dizygotic fetuses, which can be identified by chromosomal comparisons from various parts of the body. The number of cells derived from each fetus can vary from one part of the body to another, and often leads to characteristic mosaicism skin colouration in human chimeras. A chimera may be a hermaphrodite, composed of cells from a male twin and a female twin."
The Discovery Health show was examining people who are found to have two sets of DNA. This, of course, sent me straight to Dr. Google (wondering all the time, am I my own twin? Am I my own twin, damnit!?!) where I found an additional article explaining this phenomenon and how there can be different types of chimeras:
"In medicine, [a chimera is] a person composed of two genetically distinct types of cells. Human chimeras were first discovered with the advent of blood typing when it was found that some people had more than one blood type. Most of them proved to be "blood chimeras" -- non-identical twins who shared a blood supply in the uterus. Those who were not twins are thought to have blood cells from a twin that died early in gestation. Twin embryos often share a blood supply in the placenta, allowing blood stem cells to pass from one and settle in the bone marrow of the other. About 8% of non-identical twin pairs are chimeras. Many more people are microchimeras and carry smaller numbers of foreign blood cells that may have passed from mother across the placenta, or persist from a blood transfusion. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is also contributing to the number of human chimeras. To improve success rates, two or more embryos are placed in the uterus so women who have IVF have more twin pregnancies than usual. More twins mean more chimeras."
All of this is, of course, tied to A.R.T. and the increase in twins. But are there even more twins out there than we can possibly imagine? And are all these other scenarios giving birth to twins as well? In light of advances with science, do we need to start expanding the definition of twins or do these other scenarios need their own unqiue name?
Just something to think about in case you didn't have enough on your mind today...