Flo and Archie are twins. We’ve always known this. When we saw two dots on the screen at our first scan, I behaved mortifyingly inappropriately. I swore – really badly, a lot, out loud. I had to apologise to the sonographer and I was ashamed of myself. She laughed and said: “Don’t worry, it’s quite a common response. Hey, it could have been triplets.” I loved her for that.
We’ve always had trouble calling them twins. From that very first scan, we choked on the words - I think it was the shock and fear of it all. When pregnant, we found that if we called them ‘the babies’, it made the prospect feel less terrifying, less daunting, even a bit exciting. We’d had a ‘baby’ before and we did OK with that one - she’s turned out lovely so there was comfort in the familiarity of that word. And so we agreed that once they arrived, we’d avoid ‘twin talk’ and raise the babies to be individuals, not a single unit. It helps of course that they are fantastically different in pretty much every way possible, even beyond the gender difference. One’s small, one big. One’s noisy, one quiet. One’s dark, one fair. One’s animated, one steady. Perhaps I actively seek out differences to justify our decision but to me, they are two entirely separate little people. Even though their hands touch many times a day as they wriggle around alongside each other, they seem blissfully unaware of each other at the moment and I’m loving watching each of them develop their own personalities and characteristics.
One aspect of twin-ness we could never have prepared for is the attention of other people. Newborn babies are always magnets for attention but the power of twins seems a particular crowd-puller. People stop us to take a look, they point and stare at us when out shopping, they comment on our chariot of a buggy, they call over friends and family to have a look too, they tell me they don’t know how I cope and ask if I feed them at the same time. Some (weirdos) even tell us they make them feel broody. Complete strangers openly share their own twin stories (I’m a twin, twins run in our family, I married a twin …) and it feels like we’ve joined a club in which members wear their badge with deep pride. People tell us there’s something magical about twins, that they’re special and different, that they’ll have their own unique bond, that they’ll speak their own language, that they’ll always have each other, that they’ll look out for each other. They ask if twins run in our family and after some awkward exchanges early on, we fudge an agreed response to avoid divulging our entire medical history to complete strangers in the supermarket. We smile and nod, smile and nod, and I ponder whether the attention will wane as they get older, how it will make them feel when they’re old enough to take it in, and whether it will ever bother Evie.
Even when people are looking straight at the babies, even when Flo’s in pink and Archie’s in blue, even when I tell people their names, we’ve had to learn to stop sniggering like immature teenagers when asked: “Are they identical?”