By Alyssa Keel
Every parent wants their child to be special. We want everyone to recognize how smart, talented, sweet, and adorable our children are. With twins, or more, we worry that people will lump our kids together, won’t see them as individuals, and will ignore how special they are. Particularly with identical twins, strangers ask how we tell them apart and make jokes about them pulling a parent trap on us as they get older. But of course we know our children and we would be
able to tell them apart a mile away.
My girls weren’t identical for long, and actually never truly were. When I was pregnant I could tell the girls apart. Raegan was squirmy, moving all over the place, doing flips, and exploring her limited tummy space, while Ella was calm, happy to find a spot and get cozy. There was also a size difference, which now has grown to a full pound (which I joke is all in the cheeks since Ella has big, rosy cheeks and Raegan seems so itty bitty in comparison.) When the girls were born, Ella had a brain bleed, essentially changing her forever from her identical twin.
This first year has been filled with many ups and downs. I have watched my girls grow and watched as they discovered new things, tried new foods, heard new sounds, and it’s been amazing. But I have also watched Raegan develop at a typical rate, hitting her milestones, now getting close to walking and talking, while Ella is not able to sit up yet, let alone crawl or walk. Ella struggles to feed herself, while Raegan refuses to be fed, preferring to grab her food herself.
The girls’ personalities have remained the same outside of my tummy; Ella is calm and observant and Raegan needs to constantly be moving. Raegan is a bit high-maintenance; she needs things done right away, her way, or there are tears and screams. As the girls have grown further apart developmentally, it has become hard to tend to both of their unique needs and personalities.
I learned early on that with all of Ella’s doctor appointments, I could not take Raegan with me. For one thing, I did not want to expose her to the germs floating around at doctors offices, but mostly because she would refuse to wait. She would not sit for hours waiting for a doctor, and I could not handle both girls having a meltdown. My mom has become my go-to Raegan watcher while I trek Ella across the city, often for hours at a time.
As the girls get bigger, it becomes harder to give them my equal attention, to be able to meet their individual needs. Raegan is currently having separation anxiety and she wants me nearby all the time. I can sit and play with both girls, but Ella needs to sit in my lap or she has to lie down, and I hate the idea of her constantly laying down or being propped up with pillows. When we’re out of the house, Raegan can sit in a high chair and Ella cannot. Usually, I hold Ella and feed them both, but sometimes Raegan gets mad, and when Raegan gets mad, the world shakes. Inevitably, Ella is put back in the stroller so Raegan can get calming cuddles. Sometimes Ella is fine, but sometimes she too gets upset and I feel bad as a mother who can’t be there for both her babies at the same time.
I think ahead, to when Raegan is walking and refusing to go in the stroller, and their big brother wants to do everything on his own, and I imagine juggling the three of them and think that poor Ella will probably end up in a carrier or in the stroller most of the time while I hold Raegan’s hand to help her walk. I think about day care—how Raegan will most likely be walking when she starts and will flourish, and I worry about Ella, that if she isn’t sitting up on her own yet that her options become limited.
Raegan is a mover and a shaker. In fact, the only time that she’s sitting still is when she’s eating. Her new favourite thing is to roll over on the changing table while I’m changing her bum, trying to escape. She is fast and always after what she shouldn’t have. She can crawl the length of the house in under a minute and can be hard to wrangle. She loves to try to break free from her play yard and I don’t doubt that someday she will. She’s exhausting just from her physicality, her constant on the go wriggliness that extends to the stroller, which she only likes if we’re in constant motion. The moment the stroller or car stops at a red light, the screeches start. My son would sit and play for hours in one spot; she can’t handle five minutes. She is exhausting, but in so many ways I wish Ella could do the same.
Sometimes I worry about the girls’ twinship, that their different abilities will change their relationship. But then, just a few weeks ago, I sat on the floor of the clinic room, with both my girls in my lap, and they told me that Ella has cerebral palsy. I teared up, despite knowing that this was coming…and then I looked down and the girls were holding hands. I don’t think anything can change their dynamic, their relationship, and I get to watch my girls grow and learn, and try new things, no matter the ability.
Alyssa Keel has worked as a social worker in Canada and the U.S., and is the mother of identical twin girls (now three-years-old) and a five-year-old son. During her high-risk mono mono twin pregnancy, Alyssa began blogging. Follow her family’s adventures at adventureswithmultiples.com.