When I found out I was pregnant with identical twins, I sort of figured they would have this unbreakable, unknowable kind of bond. Even in my belly, it sometimes felt like they were involved in some synchronized swimming competition, an arm wave beginning in one half of my belly, and ending on the other side. Once they were born, we noticed the instinctive way they’d sort of lean towards each other when sleeping side-by-side. We would leave them parallel, but then, 10 minutes later, we’d come back in to find them head-to-head. As they got older, they’d reach their hands out to the other, sometimes staring into each others’ eyes. “It’s like looking into a mirror,” I used to joke when I’d see their loving gaze.
As they’ve gotten older, their attachment has only grown stronger. At 3-years-old, they’re best buddies and partners in crime. While they like to play independently, even hanging out with different kids at preschool, they’re still very much connected. They come up with these incredibly imaginative games together. They laugh hysterically at things that are only funny to them. They protect each other and look out for each other and have each other’s backs. If one is involved in some fun activity, he waits for his brother to join in. It’s like they don’t want to experience anything in this world without their BFF, even if it’s just bagels at a birthday party.
When the boys were babies, I struggled a lot with not being able to give each one 100 percent. If both were crying, I would have to decide which one was most in need and then go to that baby first. I could only snuggle one at a time. I could only tend to one at a time. It was heartbreaking, but what were my choices? At some point though, I consoled myself with the notion that their love for each other made up for whatever was lacking from me. Like maybe they had to split the TLC they got from Mama, but their bond filled in the blanks.
For better or worse, that’s sort of proven to be true. As their mother, it makes me so happy, to see this love they share. As their mother, it also makes me sad because I feel like I’m not a part of it. Of course, I am so grateful that they have this bond and this love. It’s so special and rare and beautiful to see. But there’s this other part of me — I guess that secret, selfish part of me — that feels sad that I’ll never be #1.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that they need me. I’m their Mommy, and we share an entirely different kind of bond than the one they share with each other. I carried them in my belly for nine months. I’ve nourished them and held them and nursed them through illness. I snuggle them and smother them in kisses and sing them to sleep. I’m the one they come to when they need to be consoled, when they need hugs, when they need encouragement. They know my love is constant, unwavering, and strong. There’s nothing in the world like Mama love and Daddy love. We all need each other.
That being said, if we were escaping the Titanic, I have no doubt that they’d make room for each other on the life raft, and wish Daddy and me the best of luck. Even at 3-years-old, I think they need each other in ways that they don’t need us. When I really think about it though, I think it’s better this way. I do. They’ll never ever be alone in this world, even after my husband and I are long gone. They have something that we can’t even begin to understand. What must it be like to share a life with someone, even before you left the womb? What must it be like to discover the world at the same time, in step with each other, both thinking, “Holy crap!” at the same time? For identicals, what must it be like to look in your brother’s face and see your own?
I always like to point out that my twins are individuals, not two halves of a whole. But I’m not sure if that’s entirely true. Yes, they’re totally unique and separate little people, with their own personalities, for sure. I think they feel that, but I also think that they can’t imagine existing without the other. Although they have their own separate identities, I think their twindom is definitely a part of that identity. With siblings, there is always this sense that you’re separate. With twins, I think they always feel, in some ways, like they are one.
In the end, does it really matter? This is who they are. This is who they will be. They are twins. They’re identical. They are closer than any two people can be. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand it or know what it feels like, but I certainly feel lucky to be a witness to all of it. I feel blessed to have twins and see this kind of love for myself, front-row, first-hand. All I ever want for my sweet boys is the very best, and I don’t think anything in their little lives could be better, or more important, than their twin bond.
Photo: Jennifer Teeman