Olivier Pascalis, a psychologist at England’s University of Sheffield, reported that our facial recognition starts in infancy with the capacity to recognize, “different races, emotions, identities, characteristics and genders and [this] strengthens over time.”
Pascalis further asserts that having ‘individual characteristics helps us form separate lives and identities.’ However, what if you shared the same face with someone else? How would life be different and how would others respond to you?
We asked Christian Fernandes and Jenn Gruner, mirror image twins, to tell us more about what it’s like sharing physical characteristics.
1 in every 30 births will be twins and 3 in every 1,000 births will be identical twins. An identical twin is produced when one egg is fertilized by one sperm and then splits into two embryos. Through genetic testing, doctors can exam if twins are truly identical. Yet the rare mirror image twins, like Christian and Jenn, only make up about 8% of all births. These twins are characterized by reversed physical characteristics — like looking into a mirror.
In Christian’s and Jenn’s case; Christian (the older twin) is right handed and farsighted while Jenn is left handed and nearsighted. Also growing up, Christian was more outgoing while Jenn was more introverted. (Read more about mirror twins on Twin 101).
Even more unexpected is that they each gave birth to identical twins. The odds of this happening are extremely rare. ”Identical twin women only have a 0.6% chance of giving birth to twins.” And the probability of them both giving birth to identical twins is a mere 0.02% chance! Making Christian and Jenn, and their families, some of the rarest twins in the world.
Although their family background is extremely exceptional, we found Christian and Jenn to be much like anyone else. They have fights, friends and families. They grew up together in New Hampshire and went to school like any other child, but their unique qualities were handled in different ways. Often schools separate twins believing it decreases the possibility of competition.
Christian recalls being separated in fourth grade was difficult and told us, “We fought all the time and were very competitive with each other.” However, Jenn believes the separation was a positive thing and said, “It helped me find my own identity.” Further Jenn plans to “split up” her twin boys in school to, “encourage them to develop their own identities and self-esteem.”
Also Christian and Jenn both share a “mild mannered” personality and similar tastes in fashion and music. When asked about their relationship, Christian said, “It’s like having a built in best friend, someone to share everything with. We have always felt lucky.” Jenn adds, “I could never imagine growing up without my sister. We went through everything together and got through it all successfully.”
Additionally, Jenn expressed, “Our relationship sets the bar high. With [the other person] having patience, understanding and unconditional love like we do for each other.” Christian and Jenn agree that potential partners should be “figuratively prepared to date or marry both” because twins come as a package. Although their relationship is central to their life, the sisters admit that being mothers together has been their greatest achievement.
Nine months after Christian gave birth to her identical twin girls Georgia and Quinn, Jenn learned she was pregnant. And to everyone’s shock, she was having twins as well. Both were excited about the news and Christian jokes, “I had my twins first and Jenn just couldn’t be out done!”
Following the birth of Jenn’s identical twin boys, Van and Finn, their lives changed. Both helped each other keep up with the challenges of raising twins and with two routines, Christian and Jenn were very busy moms.
Looking back, Jenn says, “Get as much help as possible. Expect the fact that one will be crying and the other will need something else. It’ okay. There is only one of you and two of them. You can’t make everyone happy at the same time.”
In fact, their families are the center of their attention and their yearly family portrait gets a lot of attention when they all dress identical. One year, Christian said, “After the picture we went for coffee with our matching sets of twins and we were a sight.”
People observed them and asked questions that ranged from: how do you tell them apart? Do they/you feel each other’s pain?
Another commonly asked question is about telepathy, or Extra sensory perception (ESP). The sisters say they do not necessarily have this ability but instead they are more sensitive to each other’s thoughts and feelings.
An example Jenn gives is when they used to play Pictionary with their family. During the game, they would have to be separated because Jenn said, “I could tell what Christian was drawing after two lines.”
They may live very connected and similar lives, yet separately, Christian and Jenn have taken individual courses. For college, Christian went to Plymouth State in Northern New Hampshire where she met her husband Mike. She now designs handbags and accessories for her sore Add it Up Designs
Jenn left for Johnson State and studied Early Childhood Development. The time apart helped her “increase her self-esteem and develop her own identity.” From there, Jenn met her future husband Matt.
After hearing their separate yet connected pursuits, it was evident that twins are able to live two separate lives while sharing similar likes and dislikes. This dichotomy is a delicate balance for twins and it is inspiring how well Christian and Jenn have lived separate yet connected lives.
Life is than similar and different when you share a face–Christian and Jenn follow their own interests and are involved with their families like anyone else, but the biggest difference is life is one big adventure. More appropriately, Christian explains, “Our adventure started at birth. My life with my twin and our twins has been our best adventure of all.”
We consider them to be super moms with an extraordinary story to go along with the title. At the end, Jenn sums it up by, “I love being a twin. Always have and always will.”