IDENTICAL twins remain one of those natural phenomena which fascinates people the world over.
In this modern age, when individuals of all physical variations are accepted as normal, the man or woman in the street thinks nothing of staring – or even pointing and whispering – when they see two people who look exactly the same.
But that common scenario could not be further from the minds of people who attend the Burton Twins and Multiples group, where every family consists of at least one set of twins under the age of five.
It is one place where people think nothing of the fact that the children come in pairs – in fact, once you step into that room, it is the new normal.
“When we’re out and about, they do get a lot of attention. It’s good for the twins to come here and socialise, and realise that being a twin is actually a normal occurrence,” said one of the mums when the Mail visited the group.
With Halloween just around the corner, many of the little ones were dressed in matching costumes – making them look even more alike.
To the uninitiated, entering this world of mirrors, it may have been rather disconcerting.
There are around 10 families who regularly attend the weekly group, with people travelling from all over the Burton and South Derbyshire area.
Now entering its fifth year, the Stapenhill-based group has offered support to dozens of families in that time.
“There’s a different feeling here. You walk in the room, someone gives you a cup of tea and takes a child away for a bit. It means for an hour-and-a-half you’re not constantly wondering what both of them are doing. We’ve all got each other’s backs here,” said Hermione Tipton, who organises crafts for the weekly meetings.
The group was set up five years ago by Gillian Cotter. As the mother of twins, she found there was little support for parents suddenly faced with dealing with children who did everything in tandem – and often in opposite directions.
At twins and multiples, everybody is in the same boat.
Mrs Tipton, who has mixed-gender twins, described the group as ‘my sanctuary’. She said: “Other mums’ groups are different – everyone just has their own kid. We have solidarity here. It’s nice to have that comfort from other people in the same situation, and hear other people’s stories.”
Emma Howard, who lives in Woodville, said it had provided social opportunities, as she and her husband had not known anyone when they moved to the area with Poppy and Ava, when they were just 11 weeks old.
“I have made loads of friends, and we go for twin mum nights out. Being in a position where everyone is in the same boat is great, because having twins is so different to having one child,” she told the Mail.
Mrs Howard never dreamed she would be expecting twins when she first found out, but she said she ‘would not change it for the world’.
Getting to know people through the group had given her chance to find her feet, she said.
“It’s important because you always know you get the support you need from parents in a similar position. Coming here when you have got babies, you can talk to people who have gone through it already. It means you know you can get past it.”
Ava and Poppy, now three and dressed in matching fairy outfits, were happily playing with each other and some of the other twins during the session, including some of the babies who had been taken along by their parents.
As well as playing, the youngsters can also have a go at crafts, and enjoy some singing at the end of the session. The activities, which are organised by some of the parents, offer them the chance to play with other children – something seen to be important to ensure the children are happy to socialise with people other than their twin, with whom there is often a bond different to any other type of sibling.
For Amanda Shakespeare, mum to four-year-old Curtis and Maddison, it was about giving the children chance to play not only with other children, but with other twins.
“It’s nice for them to see there are other twins,” she said.
Mrs Shakespeare, who lives in Swadlincote, also has an eight-year-old son, Samuel, who also goes along to the group.
For him, it is possibly strange to be in a situation where he is the odd one out, rather than his brother and sister.
The number of twins and multiple births are rising but, for the foreseeable future, the pointing, staring, and lack of understanding will continue. For that reason, there will always be a place for this most excellent of groups.