I remember every single detail of the moment we were having twins; the first scan at 9 weeks revealed two wriggly sets of legs, two heads facing opposite ends, each in its own little sac, one on top of the other as if in mini bunk beds in my belly.
We had a lengthy appointment with the sonographer, who got a bit cross with me for not lying still – how could I, I was in fits of hysterical giggles having found out I not only had one live and kicking baby, but two! Then it was on to the midwife who brought us back down to earth explaining the likelihood of both twins surviving wasn’t that great at this early stage, and if they did, then there were all the additional risks and complications to take into account, so we shouldn’t get too excited yet. (Actually, impossible and also why shouldn’t we have believed in our babies – they were there weren’t they?).
I took notes during the appointment with the midwife. I was born a curious person and I need to know every detail about anything that matters to me. I remember clearly being told that we were having non-identical twins as they had two sacs and two placentas – the term was Di Chorionic, Di Amniotic or DCDA. So I wrote in my notes DCDA = non-identical.
After the appointment I went home and read every single book and article on twins I could find. I was starting from scratch as my GCSE Biology was a long time ago and I couldn’t even really remember how babies were made – ha!!
When it was time for our consultant appointment at 12 weeks, and with our babies still kicking, and now punching each other too, we went armed with a list of questions. One of our questions was, we had read that not all DCDA twins are non-identical, was there a possibility that they could be identical. She answered that it was a very, very slim chance and we shouldn’t really consider it. Our twin specialist consultant said that, so we took it as truth.
I lose count of the number of times our babies were referred to as ‘non-identical’ twins by almost every professional we were treated by during my pregnancy. So that’s what we believed, too. The issue raised itself again when we found out at 20 weeks we were expecting two girls, but again, we were told no, as there are two sacs and two placentas, they are non-identical. Still, what I read told me about the slim possibility and so I always kept it in my mind that there was a chance they could be.
When they were born, the girls were distinguishable by their birth battle scars, and a birthmark. As they grew, they were increasingly alike, their weight was only ever a few ounces apart, their hair and eye colour remained the same, and they even cut teeth on the same day. Our friends and relatives struggled to tell them apart. Some days, after a particularly sleepless night, we’d mix them up as parents! It never lasted long but left us wondering how we could possibly mistake the two, even if only for a second.
We joined a twin club, and two of the ladies there had the same set-up in pregnancy as us: two sacs and two placentas, or DCDA, and had had same sex babies but were told non-identical throughout. Both had had their doubts and sent off for a DNA testing kit from the Multiple Birth Foundation. Both came back as identical. They urged us to do the test as everyone was convinced they were identical. We did, and it came back identical. That’s 3 out of 3 same-sex twins from non-IVF DCDA pregnancies in a very small twin club that were identical.
So, why does this matter? Well first of all, it’s just not great to be given false or misleading information no matter how important it seems. Secondly, and particularly important to us, is that our girls grow up to be strong individuals with a sense of identity and individual interests etc. Identical twins in particular can struggle with this, and now we know they are identical, we make extra effort to dress them differently, encourage their individual interests and help them develop a sense of self. We also take steps to ensure others treat them as individuals. Lastly, and hopefully we will never have to cross this bridge, but if for any reason one of the girls gets sick, we know that there is the option of the other helping their sister out – an ethical issue which we very much hope we’ll never have to face.
I would love to hear from anyone who has been told throughout their DCDA pregnancy that they’re having non-identical twins. Did you do a test? Would you do one? Does it matter to you whether they’re identical or not?