6 September 2019
Michelle Gibbs takes time out for a quick Q&A on life with two sets of teenage twins.
How old are your kids?
Aaron is 24 (and now a fully qualified chartered accountant!), Jaimee and Connie are almost 17, and Jessica-Mae and Yasmin are 15.
How did you feel when you found out it was twins?
Completely shocked, but also like I had hit the jackpot! I was absolutely fine during early pregnancy – no sickness really – so no idea I could be carrying multiples. I suffered a lot in both pregnancies with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction - unstable pelvis), but it wasn't massively debilitating.
And the second time?
To be honest, it was a huge shock to be pregnant at all as Jaimee and Connie were only 18 months at the time. I went to the GP and asked for an early scan but she told me it was completely unnecessary because I wouldn't be having another set of twins…!
You weren't told it was likely?
No not at all, though to be honest the time around their birth and afterwards is a bit of blur. If anyone had told me, I'm not sure I would have taken it in.
How were the births?
Jaimee and Connie were mono-amniotic (shared amniotic sac) so I was monitored all the way and the consultant advised delivery at 36 weeks if nothing had started naturally. I was given the first option of a C-section for 1 April, but declined, and they were born on 3 April! They were 5lb 8oz and 5lb 10oz.
The second time I really wanted to have a natural birth. Aaron, our son, is not mine biologically and the girls were delivered by section so I felt like I had missed out.
It wasn't to be though, as my blood pressure was high and I had protein in my urine, and they kept me in for rest. It was a very different experience though because I was unwell to start with. They were born at 35+5 weeks and weighed in at a healthy 6lb 3oz each.
Did you still have your twin baby equipment?
Some of it, but unfortunately not all! I needed a new double buggy to attach a buggy board to, but that didn't really work as most of them tipped up. I had a whole range of different buggies - there are so many now, but then it was quite limited. I even had an old Emmaljunga pram for four but it was really heavy and difficult to steer.
How did two sets of twins impact your life?
Wow – where to start. It was a huge adjustment to go from one child to three to five, both practically and emotionally.
I worried if I would have enough to give to each child, in terms of my time and attention - that was challenging. Financially too: we had to build an extension, although both sets of twins share a room. On the first floor we have 2:2:1 in the bedrooms and then we have our sanctuary on the second floor.
We had to invest in a huge car because I not only needed at least seven seats, but I also need space for the buggies. We ended up with our “A team” van – a navy blue VW Caravelle Limousine that could take all of us plus two double buggies for a while. It's the best car ever, but very thirsty and there are so few car parking options because of its height and length. It was problematic even going into nearby Kingston because none of the child-friendly undercover car parks were an option.
And having enough hands for things like reins was tricky. Travelling was tricky too, but luckily my parents were fantastic. Trying to teach them to ride bikes was hilarious!
They're teenagers now. What's life like in your house?
Hahaha! Do you really want to know?
It’s loud, messy and often emotionally charged. There is always a challenge from one of them, but time together in harmony makes up for that. We like to laugh together, and although opportunities are rare, we cherish them.
Do they all get on? Share clothes? Hang out?
The older girls get on really well and have always been close. They are similar and yet very different. Academically they have always been on a par so there was no competition and they have pursued different subjects – Jaimee did Dance GCSE and Connie took Art. They are both talented and proud of each other, which is lovely. Jess and Yasmin are polar opposites in every way and that causes conflict regularly.
Were they together at school?
Throughout primary school they were in the same classes, more for practical reasons than any other. Jaimee and Connie have always been quite independent of each other and Jess and Yasmin are like chalk and cheese – one of their nursery teachers didn't even realise they were related! The same thing happened at secondary school when we went to parents evening: some of the teachers had no idea they were twins.
Have they ever compared academically at school?
The older girls went to one school and the younger two to a different school. They have never been compared to each other results-wise to the best of my knowledge. It has certainly never felt like an issue. Jaimee and Connie had almost identical results all the way through anyway.
Do they have the same friendship groups?
Jaimee and Connie have always had similar friends generally, although as they have got older that has changed a bit. Jess and Yasmin have completely different friends and their friendship groups rarely overlap.
What are their plans after school?
Jaimee is at college and Connie stayed at sixth form for her A levels. Connie is considering medicine or chemistry and Jaimee remains undecided – though we'll soon be preparing UCAS applications, so that will force the issue.
You obviously treat them as individuals. How do you/they ensure others do the same?
We never dressed them the same – sometimes similarly when they were little, but always different colours at least. As they grew up they always chose different things anyway. We never like people referring to them as “the twins” – that did use to annoy me. Luckily they are all girls so “the girls” always felt better somehow.