A Meeting Place for Early loss twins

This is really my twin's Enjy's place, not mine. S/He does not have any other place in this world. S/He was miscarried at age four months in the womb. We were twins and made to be together for years and we were torn apart within seconds. This is the place where I go to talk to him/her and about him/her. Anyone who has lost a twin in utero or very early is very welcome here to read and share.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Books about Twins and Twinloss No 2 "Alessandra Piontelli "Twins. from Fetus to Child"

This weekend I had time to engage with a new book. "Twins. From Fetus to Child. 2002" by Alessandra Piontelli. Piontelli is an italian psychoanalyst, a Professor for Child Neuropsychiatry and Researcher at the University of Milan/Italy. Her book "From Fetus to Child" provides the first long-time  study on children before and after birth using utrasound. Piontelli's main interest then was to examine if birth really is such a turning point in life or if character traits that appear after birth are also recognizable before. Her study proved that they do.
"Twins" is the necessary sequel to her first book. It is a study done on 30 pairs of twins from 10 weeks gestation to the children's fourth birthday. 15 were monozygotic and fifteen dizygotic. The book contains numerous tables and pictures and is a scientific but understandable read.
What struck me first when reading it was something I also noted in Piontelli's first book and left me annoyed even then. She doesn't seem to like her study's subjects. or rather she treats them just like that, subjects, not people. She comments on the people's behaviour, outfit and mental state in a way I can only call embarrassing.Sometimes her style borders on contempt. As reader I didn't like that.And I don't like it in "Twins", either. of course, her comments are probably true. She tells how parents complain about expecting twins, how mother whine about the pregnancy, how ideals are shattered and newborn babies are preferred or rejected and you may say this is just unemotional scientific style of writing. I still don't like it.
Also, as a psychoanalyst she probably can't help to see sexuality left, right an centre. It was even more prominent in her first book where she describes in detail the behaviour of a three-year-old as a little Lolita intent on nothing but sex. It reminded me of Joan Woodward's, author of "The Lone Twin" on the treatment she received from a psychoanalyst after the death of her twin-sister at age three. That woman blamed little Joan's distress not on her sister's death from diphteria but on surpressed childish sexuality. Joan Woodward told her to stop asking her rude questions and let her play with the toys. Good on you, Joan!
Nonetheless, Piontelli's "Twins" is an immensely interesting read which provides tons of informations for twins and non-twins alike. Still, I'd advice to take it with a grain of salt. Piontelli is either discovering or assuming certain "facts" about twins. At the end of the day she describes only monozygotics as "real" twins even quoting the French term of "vrais jumeaux" = true twins for identicals and "false jumeaux" = wrong twins for fraternals. Monozygotics are constantly described as having more contact and interest in one another, as behaving and being treated more like twins from parents, peers and other adults alike. Fraternals appear to be more or less ordinary siblings accidentally born at the same time. I don't say her research isn't accurate, I just wonder if the fact that this IS the main attitude towards twins in Europe and as I know from experience not necessarily the same in the US, for example, may have coloured her motives.
Furthermore, she interprets twinship more or less as the result of parental treatment. Psychoanalyst to the core, again, she blames twin's relationship mostly on the way their parents treated them, made them sleep in the same cot, let them face one another, dressed them alike and so on. This process she calls "twinning" and according to it twin's demand to be seen as twins doesn't stem from the children themselves but from their parents.
Also, and now I become really impertinent, there is an element in her book I would like to psychoanalyze myself. I would say, Piontelli is subject to an emotion not uncommon among singletons: twin-envy. Throughout her book I feel a clandestine need to prove that twins either are not that special as they make out to be or that their specialness is something their parents trained them into. This even leads to contradictions when she states in one passage that twin-infants show not the slightest interest in their co-twins  and the next page shows pictures of three-months-olds interacting quite intensely.
 For example, the often curiously close bond between opposite sex fraternals she explains as the experience "we are all brothers and sisters underneath", which is very philosophical and the Dalai Lama would certainly applaud her, but I still believe the connection between boy-girls twins runs deeper than that.
The attention many twins receive from the public Piontelli calls "social glamour", a term that - imhO - does sound envious. She could have chosen "public attention", couldn't she? It's very interesting to read her book right next to Nancy Segal's "Entwined Lives" which Piontelli knows and quotes. The strain of envy I believe to detect in "Twins" is totally absent there. But then, Segal is a twin herself.
All in all "Twins" is an important and highly interesting book and worth a read and a purchase, it just shouldn't be taken as gospel concerning twinship.


  1. This commentary is very interesting Anjy! I know exactly what you are discussing here. I am amazed at some of the statements made by singletons. They do not understand what twins experience. My cousin in the U.S.A. sent me Dr. Raymond William Brandt's book 'Twin Loss' and it helped me immensely as this was by someone who had lost his twin and did serious research on other twinless twins. If I had not read this book and joined groups of other twinless twins I would have probably thought I was crazy!

  2. Judy, I wish I could get hold of that book by Dr. Brandt. It's one of the very few I couldn't get so far. It hasn't been listed by amazon.de, yet, and it's not so easy to order books from overseas if you don't have a credit card like it's the case with yours truly:-)