I have previously mentioned that twin moms are asked a lot of questions. If you want to know the most common ones I’m regular bombarded with, catch up with ‘Questions Twin Moms are Repeatedly Asked and the Quickest Possible Response.’ (Yes it was a long title and my Search Engine Optimization tool didn’t like it but hey-ho, it hasn’t broken the internet quite yet). As an identical twin mom I get a bunch of other questions too, loosely based around how to tell twins apart. Here are the most common:
- Can you tell them apart?
- How do you tell them apart?
- Do you think you’ve ever swapped them without realising?
- How can you be sure?
I’m hoping my ramble below will satisfactorily answer these questions and more. I may then have to print pamphlets and dispense them from the stroller. I get it, identical twins are totally weird, we’re a walking freak show every time we go out in public. They are also totally adorable, and who can resist? I know I can’t.
Expectations in Pregnancy
I’ve never really known many twins before, certainly not identical ones. I did teach high school science to a pair for a while, and I’ve got to say I couldn’t tell them apart. It didn’t help that the girls carried the same backpack, had matching beehive hair buns and enjoyed testing their teachers. Still, I always presumed that their family and friends would have no trouble telling them apart, after all, they are individuals and their family will know every quirk, right?
We didn’t know if the boys were identical or not when I was pregnant, we knew it was a high possibility but with moving house I missed a couple of appointments and it turns out there’s a window for being able to tell for sure on the ultrasound. When this came up in conversation at the dog park, with the twin bump in tow, I was asked:
- Do they zoom in on their faces to see if they’re identical?
The answer to this is no. It is more scientific than taking a picture of their faces and deciding if they look the same. Pretty much all babies look the same on an ultrasound – weird alien beings floating around in a black cocoon. Pretty nightmarish if you think about it too long. Doctors are in fact looking for whether Mom has grown one or two placentas. One placenta = identical twins.
How to Tell Twins Apart in the Hospital
When those little nuggets of joy arrive and it is confirmed that they are identical, you need to name your babes. But because no-one likes to rush these decisions, the hospital sticks with ‘Baby A’ and Baby B’ as they do during regular checkups.
- How do doctors know which baby is which inside the womb? Baby A is the baby attached to the lower umbilical cord. The babies might move around but the cord position doesn’t.
Ours were even given hats with A and… well the pen ran out so it was ‘Baby A’ and ‘Blank’ for a while. They were also given wrist bands just to make sure. We wouldn’t want to get them mixed up on the first day now would we? With these measures in place we had nothing to worry about, although we totally confused hospital staff by calling ‘Blank’ Arthur. Yes, George wore the A hat even though his brother’s name starts with an A. I have no idea why we did that but it was too late by the time we realized.
How to Tell Twins Apart When You Come Home
Once at home we left the hospital bands on for a few days but were eventually brave enough to remove them. Don’t worry, we didn’t go totally bare, we replaced the medical grade wristbands with beige and blue wool. George had the blue wool, Arthur had the beige wool. I thought this was a fool proof plan until I found a blue piece of wool in amongst the washing one day. I frantically checked wrists with a big sigh of relief when I found Arthur was still wearing his.
At our two week check up with the doc we were warned that because the boys were extremely identical (they measured and weighed the same to the oz at this point), we should be taking careful measures to identify them. He told me a story of a poor mom that had made an appointment in tears a few weeks after her babies were born, because she was hoping doctors could help her identify them. He said the emotional distress for a mom, in mixing her babies up, can be very traumatic. What do you do? Eeny Meeny Miny Moe and then just stick with it from then on out?
At this point I remember the wool incident and decide to take the doctor’s advice to paint George’s toenail. He’s man enough to pull off a single scarlet toe. He wore the paint until he was 6 months old, by which point there was no way I was going to get them mixed up. No-one else could tell them apart (even Dad struggled for a while) but I could, and I almost believe I always could.
I have been putting together my annual photo book this week and have been sifting through last year’s photos. Unfortunately I’ve come across a problem. Although in person I have no doubt who is who, photos are a different story. When people ask me how I tell them apart, I usually say George has a slight birthmark on his cheek, or Arthur is the tiniest but slimmer in the face. In reality I don’t look at any of those things, I can just see them. It’s a personality thing, the soul if you like. They have slightly different mannerisms, a different look in their eye. They hold their mouth slightly differently when they squeal. None of which can be seen in a photo.
I have always dressed my boys in their own clothes. I love to coordinate their outfits but I never switch them – George has the blue hoody, Arthur the grey, and that doesn’t change. And thank goodness I have always done this because the only way I know who is who in this photo is that George wore the blue romper:
It is strange looking back on old photos because I think I’m seeing what other people see. Two identical babies.
I really don’t think I can remember outfit combos for more than a year at a time, so I’m going to have to keep up to date with my photo albums otherwise my past-babies are going to get all in a jumble. I bought the boys new clothes this week, adorable Batman and Superman t-shirts, and whenever I go shopping I have to decide who gets which outfit. As they have been Batman and Superman before, I thought it best to stick to the same superhero identity so as not to cloud my memory. So, from here on out, George will be Batman and Arthur will be Superman. Play nice now boys…
I hope I’ve answered all your questions about how to tell twins apart, do let me know if I’ve missed something!
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