A new, small study found that twins reach toward each other while in the womb. Using ultrasound, researchers tracked arm movements of twins at fourteen and eighteen weeks noting movement of a fetus to itself, the uterine wall, and its twin. While movement toward the uterine wall remained the same over time (about 28 percent), at fourteen weeks, twins reached toward each other less than 10 percent of the time. By eighteen weeks, that number went up to 29 percent. In other studies of fetal movement, singletons reach to their eyes, mouth and the uterine wall starting at twenty-two weeks.
Understanding what fetal development week by week means in the making of a human hopefully will remain mysterious. I suspect it would be a bit of a reach, so to speak. to suggest that there’s intentionality in movements by twins in utero in the way that we walking talking adults understand intention. And yet, the idea that a fetus can recognize that there’s something over there and can reach out to it is too intriguing to dismiss. The same could be said for reaching out toward the uterine wall. We know that fetuses hear things from the outside, why wouldn’t they respond?
When I was about twenty-seven weeks during my own twin pregnancy, I had an odd accident involving my left big toe and its nail. The details make me queasy, (suffice it to say on the cab to the hospital I turned to my husband and said, “OK, I’m no longer afraid of an episiotomy”) but because I was so pregnant, after my toe was patched up, I was taken up to maternity for an ultrasound (ultrasound in pregnancy being a favorite back up test). It was ten o’clock at night, an unusual hour for a look-see into my belly. When the picture appeared on the screen, Baby A and Baby B were right there, facing each other, hands up, patty cake style. I’d never seen them like that before, it was amazing. Do you think your little one(s) responded to the outside world, or each other, while in utero?