Fertility treatments have increased the likelihood of having fraternal twins by 65 to 70 percent since 1980, say Internet statistics. Data also suggest a greater chance of twins being born to older mothers and a tendency for twins to run in a family.
But no one seems to have handicapped the odds of twins clustering in a neighborhood. With Mother’s Day around the corner, the RoundTable tracked down four moms on a block that for years has appeared to be a magnet – or a catalyst – for twins.
The 2400 block ofMarcy Avenue
currently boasts four sets of twins – two sets at home and two sets grown and living elsewhere. Counting the offspring of another mom who grew up on Marcy and made her parents the block’s first grandparents of twins, there are five sets.
First came Monique Whiting, who, just six years removed from her native France and new to Evanston, became pregnant in 1963. With no family history of twins and ultrasound technology yet to come, she and her husband, Charles, learned of the twins very late in the pregnancy.
The picture that came to her mind of “two little boys or girls looking exactly alike – doubles,” worried her, she says. But her doctor, detecting a difference in the fetal heartbeats, predicted a boy and girl.
Sarah and Alex arrived two weeks early, weighing “exactly the same – 6 pounds 2 ounces” and looking “exactly alike – lots of hair,” says their mother.
After three weeks in the hospital, she and the babies came home to assistance from both Mr. Whiting and kind new friends. A pair of neighborly sisters who had noticed her pregnancy (“I was huge,” says Ms. Whiting) kept their promise to help out an hour a day.
Ms. Whiting walked everywhere and, twins being rare, says she was known as “the lady with twins.” The children, though “very similar,” had “characters that were quite different,” Ms. Whiting says. “Bright and alert,” they learned to do things at the same time and did not compete with one another, she says. Being of different genders, they tended to escape comparison.
Within a few years, the Whitings moved to Marcy and a larger house. The twins graduated from Evanston Township High School and then from Yale: Sarah teaches at Princeton; Alex, at Harvard Law School. They turn 45 in August.
Across the street, Sally and Richard Ennis had 6-year-old John when, five months pregnant, she learned the girl she was awaiting would be twins. “I can’t imagine doing this [having twins] the first time out of
the chute,” she says.
Two weeks past her due date Ms. Ennis measured 49 inches around her stomach. “I stopped traffic when I walked the dog,” she says. An hour and a half
into labor she gave up on natural childbirth and welcomed the anesthesiologist, who introduced himself as “the candy man.”
Colin came first and his fraternal twin Ryan three minutes later, each weighing 7 1/2 pounds. Ms. Ennis says her most stressful time came when an Evanston Hospital nurse tried to take the babies to “the preemie ward” – the norm for twins but to her, unnecessary for her full-term babies. She won.
At home, the helper she had trained stayed just a week before leaving to help her own daughter-in-law with a baby. “It was horrifying,” says Ms. Ennis. “The whole day was just a blur.” She hired a Northwestern student for afternoons and “did the best I could.” She gave up nursing and dished up solid food. Her “most triumphant moment,” she says, came when, tired of lugging jars of baby food, she decided to make her own.
While Ms. Ennis tended to the twins, she claims Sarah Whiting “raised John. And her twin, Alex, mowed the lawn. We’re family.”
The Ennis twins were “such good babies,” she says – and so different from each other. She calls one “a lump of clay who had to be wakened to eat,” the other more “hysterical.” They “didn’t do anything at the same time,” says their mom. She dressed them differently – Ryan in red, Colin in blue – and referred to them as “the two boys” rather than “the twins.”
Now 30, Colin is finishing a
Psy.D. at the Chicago School of
Psychology and headed for a post-doc at Princeton. Ryan, who is married with a 2 1/2-year-old daughter and another child on the way, manages a Chase Bank branch in Park Ridge.
Twenty-five years later, Chris and Tom Hjorth were less surprised and “so excited,” she says, when an ultrasound confirmed six weeks into her pregnancy that fertility treatments had been successful and 2 1/2-year-old Katie would have twin siblings.
Ms. Hjorth continued to work full time until put on “precautionary bed rest” – six hours a day off her feet – from 24 to 32 weeks. From then until she delivered
7-pound Matt and 6 1/2-pound Emily at 38 weeks, she says she “resumed normal activity.”
Work friends warned Ms. Hjorth she would need help. Luckily, she says, her first response – “I can take care of my babies. How hard can this be?” – was not her last.
The Hjorths engaged a nurse three nights a week. But days were “very hard,” she says. She hired a high school girl from 3:30-6 p.m. so she could be with Katie.
Feedings were tricky. For three months she nursed one twin while giving the other formula in a bouncy chair. The next feeding, she “flip-flopped” – at least intended to, she laughs. At three months she put both twins in bouncy chairs and, sometimes aided by Katie, sat in the middle holding their bottles. “The first six months were very
difficult,” she emphasizes. After that, the twins’ days took on a rhythm and predictability.
Matt and Emily celebrated their fifth birthday April 1. They are in the same class at Northminster Preschool, where teachers tell Ms. Hjorth “they play separately but take a minute to look for each other.” Matt plays ball, trucks and dinosaurs; Emily “dresses her doll five times a day,” says their mother, who marvels at the gender differences. The two still share a room and are “very good friends,” she says.
While Ms. Hjorth is grateful they could “work out the kinks” with their first baby, twins came first for Allison and John LaFramboise. “You don’t know any different; you go with what you’re given,” says Ms. LaFramboise.
The LaFramboise twins, also 5, and the Hjorths are not the only twins at Northminster. Ms. LaFramboise says she “attributes to drugs” the fact that the preschool has four or five sets of twins. She admits she was “panicked” when they learned 10 weeks into her pregnancy that their in vitro fertilization (IVF) had resulted in twins. Her husband, John, “thought it was the greatest thing ever,” she says.
Ms. LaFramboise spent a total of 11 weeks in the hospital and 15 on complete bed rest during her difficult pregnancy. Aware of the precarious status of their girl and boy, the parents “wanted to identify them by name,” says Ms. LaFramboise.
The week Tommy and Gracie were born their mother developed preeclampsia, a dangerous hypertensive disorder potentially fatal to both mothers and babies. The twins were delivered prematurely by Caesarean section, Gracie weighing 4 pounds 2 ounces and Tommy, 4 pounds 11 ounces.
Ms. LaFramboise could not see her tiny twins for several days. She went home without them, visiting them during the day and “checking in at night” with the nurses. Their homecoming, one at a time and two and a half weeks later, “seemed like a lifetime,” says their mother.
At first, Ms. LaFramboise says, the twins “bunked together,” lying sideways in a crib. A full-time nurse taught the new mother so much they extended her stay. Most importantly, the nurse “put [the twins] on an amazing schedule – kept
them eating and sleeping at the same time,” says Ms. LaFramboise, adding,
“I don’t remember a whole lot.”
Ms. LaFramboise went back to work after four months. She says she could “see the light at the end of the tunnel” once the twins were 12 to 17 months old.
Each mother tried to describe the distinctive quality of her twins. Now at home with a third child, Ms. LaFramboise rejoices in the fact that having twins means having “an instant play group. …We can wake up and play with each other.”
Ms. Whiting says despite being close to their two other siblings, her twins “have a special bond.” Ms. Hjorth has noticed that having someone beside them when they face a new experience gives her twins more courage. “[Having twins] is wonderful and keeps getting better,” she says.
Ms. Ennis casts a less sentimental
look at her twins’ special relationship. “The older twin always made it look
like the younger did it,” she says.