Imagine living your life in the public eye. You are constantly peppered with questions. Followed discreetly in stores and on the street until your stalker works up the nerve to address you. You are the focus of everyone's attention. People point in your direction and whisper amongst themselves.
You've become an instant sensation, a kind of superstar. You'll never be mercilessly discredited in the Enquirer or featured in grace on the cover of People or Time. No one will ask you for your autograph. What you are is a piece of social curiosity. Something new. Different. Unusual.
You are the mother of twins.
I was always amazed at the never ending, inquisitive questions complete strangers assume are totally appropriate to ask another person in public. Some of the more common inquiries include:
"Did you have help?"
Um, what exactly do you mean by 'Help'?
...as in a book?
Yes, I couldn't believe it when "How to Knock Up Your Wife" was available on Amazon. People who bought this also liked, "The Person Behind the Double Stroller May Not be Thinking Rationally" and "The Art of Minding Your Own Business."
...as in a coach?
Nope. Me and the husband figured it out all on our own!
...as in medical intervention?
Only when the buns were cooked and needed to come out of the oven.
...as in fertility treatments?
There was talk of a Pink Floyd reunion tour. Does that count?
"Are they identical?"
Damn it, Jim! I'm exhausted, not a genetics professor. Ok, grab your slide rule and settle in.
As twins go, identical does not mean xerox copies. We're talking twins, not clones. Identical in twin terms means monozygotic (one zygote or basically one united cell). One egg + one sperm = 2 babies. That's complicated math, but essentially what you've gone and done is made two people from the same materials. These twins are almost always the same gender. They look strikingly similar, but subtle differences do exist in all identical twins. Fingerprints, are just one example.
In very rare instances, monozygotic twins result in one being male and one being female. Gender is determined by two sex chromosomes, one from mom (X) and one from dad (X or Y). Combine an X with a Y and you get a boy, an X and an X make a girl. Identical, different gendered twins occur when the female twin is afflicted with Turner Syndrome, a condition where she is missing one of the chromosomes that determine gender. You end up with Boy (XY) and Girl (X).
Turner Syndrome aside, boy / girl twins are not identical. These twins are fraternal or dizygotic. Obvious signs of this are in their diapers. They have different parts. Second, there's an extra prize in play for the sperm brigade. 2 eggs + 2 sperm = 2 babies. Fraternal twins are as different as any other siblings, each made from a random sampling of mom and dad pieces. They can be both male, both female or one of each.
When my kids were infants, feeding every 2 - 3 hours round the clock, I was asked this question by a well meaning friend of my mother's. "No," I replied, yawning, "they're nocturnal."
"How did you cope with postpartum depression?"
You're kidding, right? There was no time to do anything else but tend to the most essential of needs. Feedings, diaper changes, tummy time, getting to know two new members of our family, and keeping up with endless mountains of laundry were what consumed my day. We forced into this schedule time for my husband and I to eat. Sometimes, we slept. Anything else was relegated into the list of creature comforts. You know, non-essential stuff like having a shower, getting dressed, going pee, brushing my teeth. By the time postpartum depression might have developed, there was no time to acknowledge it and besides, I couldn't hear the voices in my head over the baby crying tinnitus that echoed in my ears.
"How do you tell them apart?"
Well, when I get really confused, it's usually time to change a diaper and 'POOF' there's the answer. Most of the time, though, I just look at them. The one dressed in pink is a big hint.
Now that my kids are older, my superstar days are in decline. I don't miss it. I am no longer the circus freak at the park, or the topic of conversation in the grocery checkout line. Now, I am just any other mother of two children. Meet my son and my daughter. They just happen to have the same birthday.