January 03, 2011

Twiblings

The word "twiblings" has been around for a while. It used to signify siblings close enough in age to seem twins. The cover story in this week's New York Times Sunday Magazine, however, is bound to popularize a sense of the word that ties it to modern reproductive terminology:


We scrapped the idea of trying to have twins and decided we would have a baby with an egg donor and a gestational carrier and then try to have another the following year, with as small an interval as possible between the two births. “If we really want our children to be the same age, we can try to find two carriers now and do the pregnancies in parallel,” Michael said.
And so the twiblings, Violet and Kieran, were born, and a "futuristic insta family" (NYT) was created.
There is also no word to describe our children’s relationship with each other. Our children were born five days apart — a fact that cannot be easily explained. When people press me about their status (“But are they really twins?”), the answer gets long. The word “twins” usually refers to siblings who shared a womb. But to call them just “siblings” instead of “twins” also raises questions because full genetic siblings are ordinarily at least nine months apart. And our children could be considered the same age because they were conceived at the same time (in the lab) and the embryos were transferred at the same time. If the person continues to quibble about whether they really qualify as twins (as, surprisingly, people often do), instead of asking why it matters, I announce airily that they are “twiblings.
The picture shows the children with their parents and the two gestational carriers (the term "birth mother,"appropriate in the context of adoption,  does not apply here because the carriers are not genetically related to the children). The person missing from the picture is the egg donor.

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