Impossibly, my twin baby brothers are turning 31 this week.
I vividly remember the day they were born. A beautiful, clear-skied Midwestern City day; my younger sister and I spent the day with our cousins while Mom and Dad went to have the baby.
Yes, “baby,” singular. A girl, specifically.
Or so they thought…
After months of hard work that I prefer not to think about for too long or visualize ever, my parents were thrilled to be expecting baby #3. They had two (quite lovely) girls and, naturally, assumed another girl was on the way.
Incidentally so did the doctor, who, four years earlier, had been convinced my little sister was going to be twins. So convinced, in fact, that he had ordered both an x-ray and a sonogram, only to find one large baby girl in there. Having cried “twins!” once before, he was not about to do so again.
But I had a different theory.
“What do you hope your mommy will have?” everyone from close relatives to complete strangers would ask.
“Twin boys,” I would respond.
This usually garnered a chuckle and a pat on the head, but I truthfully meant it. At the age of nearly seven, I found it ridiculously unfair that my father would potentially suffer the remainder of his days overwhelmed by estrogen in his household.
“Poor thing,” they would whisper behind my back, “I hope she’s not disappointed when the baby is born.”
The morning of September 30th, 1978 arrived. Mom was two days overdue and down to two maternity tops that still fit.
Her doctor – who still believed she was pregnant with only one baby – had agreed to induce her that morning.
But for hours, nothing happened.
At 1:00 her doctor hooked her up to some pitocin, and things got interesting.
Her contractions started fast and furious. The nurse placed an internal heart monitor on the baby’s scalp and wrapped an external heart monitor around Mom’s enormous belly, both to measure the baby’s heart rate. Unbeknownst to anyone, each monitor was on a different baby.
Over the course of the next 30 minutes, my dad (an engineer) began to notice that the internal and external monitors were beating at different rates. The nurse noticed that mom’s abdomen took on a strange shape when it contracted. And my mom became fully dilated.
“Has anyone ever talked to you about the possibility of having twins?” the nurse asked.
“Just a few of my friends,” Mom replied through rapid breaths, “and most strangers.” Before her next contraction she quickly added, “but not my doctor, and I need to push!”
They wheeled her into the delivery room, threw a gown and mask at my dad, and called for her doctor.
As she laid on the delivery table (without an epidural) waiting for her doctor to scrub up, she noticed that the nursing staff in the room doubled, and a second newborn warmer was being brought in.
Confused, writhing in pain, and trying hard to hold back what would turn out to be over 14 pounds of baby in spite of how desperately she wanted to push, Mom looked up at her doctor, who was putting on his gloves and getting in the “ready” position, and, speaking around her protruding belly asked, “Dr. Richards, am I having twins?”
Dr. Richards looked down at Mom and smiled before pulling up his mask. “Mary, I don’t know yet. But when I find out, you will be the first person I tell. Now, go ahead and push!”
Baby Boy A was born at 1:52. He weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces.
“He looks small,” the nurse said. And, placing her hands on Mom’s belly, told the doctor, “There’s another one right here!”
Dad’s jaw hit the floor. Later the nurses would say that Dad had never put his mask on, but that it would not have covered his open mouth anyway.
Baby Boy B was born at 1:58. He weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces.
The delivery room erupted with cheers of joy. Mom and Dad – once they were able to speak again – started calling their friends and family, starting with their mothers.
“Oh, Mary,” my grandmother so lovingly and confidently reassured her only daughter upon hearing the news, “What are we going to do with them?”
I, however, was not at all surprised. After all, Amos and Otis were exactly what I had ordered.