Monday, May 21, 2012

Are they or are they not?

We were told by ultrasonographers and neonatologists that our triplets are fraternal because they did not share placentas. Ever since their NICU days we have thought that Julia and Emma looked a lot alike. Although I've always been able to tell them apart, and they don't look truly identical to me, we have had strangers, family and friends comment on how much they look alike. It wasn't much more than a curiosity, though.

Emma's face is rounder than Julia's, which is more oval. Then I read about an OB who said that the face shape has no bearing on identicalness, because the space in the womb can alter that.

They both have birthmarks, but Ada does not.

And still people kept asking, and I kept shrugging it off. Although, for the first week they were both home, I kept their hospital bracelets on them. I was afraid I would mix them up in the middle of the night. Every once in a while, I'd come into the nursery after my husband or a friend had laid them down, and find the "wrong" kid in the "wrong" bed.

Then Emma and Julia would start doing uncanny things.

One day, Emma stubbed her toe right next to me while Julia was down the hallway in their bedroom. When Julia came running into the room a minute later, she told me that her toe hurts. She pointed to the exact same toe on the same foot.

Sometimes, they'd sit with their backs facing one another, and have the exact same expression on their faces. They find the same things funny, silly or sad, whereas Ada has a terrific, but completely different sense of

They'd master a new skill the same day while Ada was months ahead or behind, they'd repeatedly echo one another's sounds, while Ada would be off elsewhere in the room paying no attention.

For the longest time, I couldn't tell their cries apart, whereas Ada's cry was very distinct. They cut most of the same teeth on the same day or a day apart, whereas Ada's teething pattern was completely different.

Julia and Emma would lie curled up the same way, facing the same direction in bed at the same time, sound asleep.

I'd be walking them in their stroller and looking at their hair swirls. Their hair would naturally part in exactly the same spot but in opposite directions, while Ada's was curling in its own fancy way. The hair swirling actually makes me wonder about mirror twinning. I am so intrigued by this!

I'd often confuse them when looking at them from the side or behind. That still happens, but now they speak up! The other day, I called Emma's name at the park, and a little voice from right next to me said, "Mommy, that's Ju-hea. Emma's wight here." I often feel that I should just know intuitively who is who without looking, but sadly that has not been true when they're not facing me.

At the doctor's office, their weight and height once matched to the third decimal. I thought they had made a mistake entering it in the computer system, but then the nurses showed me where she wrote it down on the sheet where she weighed them.

We took them to the opthalmologist for their ROP screening when they were only a couple of months old. Ada was cleared by the NICU, but both Julia and Emma needed to go for follow-up. The opthalmologist said, "Now these two are identical, right?" And I answered, "Hmmm. No. They're fraternal." He looked at me quizzically, and said, "Because they both have the exact same unique corneal shape and astigmatism." So that got me thinking. Could they be identical after all?

I started finding articles that explained if the egg (zygote) split early enough (between day 0-3), multiples can develop to have separate placentas (chorions) and sacs (amnions). Our girls were trichorionic triamniotic, meaning they each had their own separate placenta and amniotic sac.

Suddenly, I remembered how an ultrasonographer had once commented - very early on - that they were fraternal, but that two almost looked like identicals because one sac was off by itself in one area of my uterus, while the other two were closely huddled together.

Often, we'd go to an ultrasound, and the two little beans in the sacs closest to one another, would be floating/lying the same way. We had different ultrasonographers comment on that over the course of my pregnancy, yet nobody ever mentioned the possibility that up to 30% of multiples in separate sacs are identicals.

To this day, how they were in utero, is how the triplet grouping has worked in our house. Ada is off in the corner of the room playing her own game, and Julia and Emma are sitting within two feet of one another, parallel playing the same game.

Julia and Emma always want whatever the other has (color, type of toy, everything has to match), while Ada insists on something different. I'd have sets of clothes that coordinate, and allow them to pick. Ada will pick, and then Julia and Emma will fight over the same outfit, even though there are 2 similar ones left. They almost always end up wearing the top of one outfit and the bottom of another and vice versa, by choice, so they can match instead of coordinate.

They find the same games and songs interesting, whereas Ada prefers to occupy herself with sorting and figuring out mechanical things. Ada is very analytical, whereas Emma and Julia are very creative. Ada will tidy up, while Julia and Emma prefer chaos. This creates huge amounts of frustration for everyone involved, including me.

Everytime we go somewhere, I am asked, "Are these two identical?" I always feel embarrassed to say that I don't know and only a DNA test can determine that definitively. After 2.5 years, I have finally decided to order a DNA test from Proactive Genetics. I ordered it online, and received a kit in the mail a few days later. Basically just 2 tubes with liquid in them, with a label on each with the kids' names. There were also 10 cotton swabs for each kid, but we only needed 8 per kid. We swabbed 2 left and 2 right on the inside of their cheek before dinner, and 2 left and 2 right each the next morning.

Now, if you have multiples and would like to have them tested, I suggest you do it before they're toddlers. Even though it doesn't hurt, I had to try every imaginable game in the book to get them to hold still long enough to swab them (3-5 seconds per swab). In the end, I was sweating and the extra swabs were strewn across the floor. Pinning down an uncooperative toddler is not for the fainthearted.

In about a week to 10 days, we should finally have an answer. Although there aren't any pending medical reasons to know, I am looking forward to just knowing, and being able to tell them the truth as they grow up.


Mo and Will said...

fascinating! you must be so eager to find out!! (i know i am!!)


Gemini Momma said...

SO interesting... I've been pondering the same thing with my 11-month old twins lately. Our dr. always said there was "a chance" they were identical, but we'd have to do a blood test to know for sure. *Everyone* thinks they are identical - they always ask how we tell them apart (our answer: their head shape is different... uh, I didn't know that stuff about head shape not mattering!) They have broken the same teeth within hours of each other, etc. Can't wait to see what your results are... I may consider doing this test myself (impossible not to be curious, right?!)

What IF? said...

Mo, I've waited so long to find out that one would think 10 days is nothing, but I'm super anxious to find out.

Gemini Momma, that's fascinating about the teeth. The blood test - finding out if they share the same blood type - is only one other clue. If they have different blood types, then they're not identical. If they have the same blood type, it's not definitive that they're identical and you'd still need to do a DNA test to know for sure. It is $99 for the test and $9 for the shipping.

jenicini said...

Wow, I learned a lot in this post! So interesting!