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Are twins really double the trouble or is it a myth?

Nothing breaks the internet quite like news of a celebrity pregnancy. Throw in Beyonce resplendent in kitsch controversy, and George Clooney finally joining the parent club at a sprightly 55, and it’s fair to say that the world hit peak parturition this month.

The biggest female recording artist in the world and Hollywood’s number one leading man rarely do things by half, of course.

So it came as little surprise when it was revealed that both would be welcoming twins, along with spouses Jay Z and Amal Clooney respectively.

In the UK, around one in 63 pregnancies result in multiple births, with 347 sets of twins born in Northern Ireland in 2014 alone.

The province has its fair share of parents, therefore, able to pass on a nugget or two of advice should Queen Bey and the Silver Fox find themselves wanting in the years ahead.

With both Beyonce and Amal Clooney expecting twins, Lee Henry speaks to NI parents who have been there, done that.

‘Looking back, it was tiring but well worth it’

Mum-of-four Catrina Gamble, (54), from Londonderry, has identical twin boys Lee and Stephen, (30). She says:

They were good babies, yes, but it was hard. I had help from their daddy, Ian - we separated when they were five but he has remained a part of their lives - and thankfully, when they got to toddler stage, they would pretty much occupy themselves.

They always had each other for company and that's fantastic.

When they started attending secondary school, it was expensive having to buy two of everything, and when they were teenagers I worried about them getting into bad company, things that every mother worries about, I suppose. Now that they are 30 and living away from home, I do miss having them around.

People always used to stop me on the street and say, 'Oh, you have your hands full', and I did. It was tiring when they were sick and teething, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The boys said they weren't, for some strange reason, seen or judged as individual people or pupils, but rather as 'the Gamble twins' at school. Double the trouble, they used to say.

I did have to deal with Lee and Stephen's natural competitiveness, the fights and frolics that come with the territory, and when they began dating and staying out late, I had twice the worry.

The two of them would sometimes play games on me, taking it in turns to pretend that girls were calling for them at the front door.

When I look back, they were worth it.

I am proud to be a mother of twins."

‘It’s hard work ... but my boys are a delight’

Patricia McCooe (47), a stay-at-home mum, and her husband Martin (45) live in Lurgan with twin boys James and Dylan, (9), and their teenage daughter, Beth. She says:

The boys love sports — soccer, Gaelic football, golf, jujitsu — and Beth enjoys drama, musical theatre and singing, so I spend a lot of time shuttling the three to various classes, but honestly I love that part of parenting. Washing all the football kits, however, not so much.

Having their older sister at home to learn from and play with was a great help for the boys growing up — Beth has proved a great help to me. It was a lot easier second time around. Beth was quite self-sufficient when the boys were young and could help out with small jobs around the house, which was a massive relief.

The boys are very different in their personalities, likes and dislikes, often fighting, as all siblings do, but James and Dylan have always shared a very close bond. My greatest priority as a parent of twins is to ensure that they are not treated as a single entity, but rather individuals with their own unique take on life.

They have been in class together since P1, but mostly at different tables, and I do sometimes wonder what will happen when they move to secondary school and are in different classes, choose different subjects, create separate groups of friends.

I suppose the thing that I’ve heard most over the past 10 years has been the phrase, ‘Oh no, double trouble’, to which I always reply, ‘No, double delight’. Of course, it’s hard work being a parent, anyone will tell you that, but I have loved being the mother of twin boys.

I sometimes think that I’ve hit the jackpot, having had the experience of raising a girl and then twin boys.

For me, I’ve had best of both worlds.”

‘My grandmother had four sets of twins so it’s in my genes’

 

Lucene Hughes, (48), originally from Portsmouth, brought her twins up as a single parent living in

Carrickfergus. Bethany and Rhys, now 18, were born in the old Jubilee Hospital in Belfast at 36 weeks via Caesarean section after Lucene moved to Northern Ireland to take up a job in leisure and tourism. She says:

 

One of the biggest challenges when they were babies was the feeding — especially doing it alone. I felt that I was constantly making and sterilising bottles, changing nappies and washing. And when they were toddlers and on their feet, I needed to have eyes in the back of my head.

The outlook from friends and family was always positive for me, but at times I did feel somewhat pitied by those who didn’t have any experience of bringing up twins. But I was never lonely and had welcoming assistance from my late sister Deborah, my late mother Valerie and stepfather Jim whenever I needed them.

The greatest challenge for me was not in raising the twins as a single parent — I split up from my former partner after my six-week scan — but bringing them up after surviving a car crash in Greenisland in 2004.

I needed to be cut out of my car. I shattered my talus (large ankle bone) and fractured my tibial plateau (one of the body’s most critical load bearing areas) in the accident, and also had chest and shoulder damage.

I had to have a lot of metal work put into my left leg and so far I have had a further four surgeries on it. I also have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. But I’m very fortunate. I got to watch my twins grow up.

Twins run in my family. My great-grandmother gave birth to not one, not two but four sets of twins. There are occasions when I am asked by colleagues and acquaintances about how the twins were conceived, as it had become more common for people to have multiple births after IVF treatment. For me the response is simple — giving birth to twins naturally was always a possibility as it was in the genes.

I had a great deal of support from TAMBA (the Twins and Multiple Birth Association) and the group provided me with so much help as a single parent during Bethany and Rhys’ formative years. The charity provides various support services in venues across Northern Ireland.

TAMBA was very good with advice on raising twins, helping with everything from potty training and feeding twins to managing with the sleepless nights. I became a volunteer with them once my children were old enough, and now I talk to other lone parents on what life is like raising twins.

I enjoy the fact that Bethany and Rhys are still living at home. They are studying for A-levels and going to university in September is a priority for both of them. But I will miss the laughter around the house when they inevitably do move on after the summer.

Living with a teenage daughter, I’m always wondering where my hairdryer went. But I must admit, I’ve always been lucky in the sense that my twins have never asked for extravagant items for birthdays.

They have never been a financial burden, although I have had to go without buying things like home heating oil for a couple of weeks in order to buy school uniforms.

Bethany has always been very outgoing and she is never happy unless she is getting top marks at school.

Rhys loves his football and would be very thorough with his work also. I’ll miss them when they go to university, but knowing that they have each other is my biggest reward as their mother.”

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