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Features / Westside couple keep seeing double

Overwhelmed but proud parents Kirsten and John Abernethy with their twin daughters - Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

“THE NURSES joked with us and said ‘oh, wouldn’t it be funny if it was two again’. We went for the scan and I was so glad I was lying on the bed, or I would’ve been on the floor!”

Kirsten Abernethy was casting her mind back to the spring and the moment she discovered that she was expecting a second set of twin girls – and identical ones at that.

“It was hard to take in really, very overwhelming,” she said. “I had to keep looking back at the screen and seeing these two things. I think there were swear words!”

After a two week stay in Aberdeen, on 2 December the 29 year old mother and her husband John Abernethy returned to their home, at Staneydale on the Westside, proudly clutching healthy baby sisters Kaylee Jo and Vaila Mae.

Kirsten had given birth just after midnight on 15 November, six weeks premature, following an experience unerringly similar to a trip she made to the Granite City early in 2009.

That occasion heralded the arrival of identical twin sisters Carlene Robina and Alicia Maryanne, now approaching their fifth birthdays and looking forward to starting primary school at Aith next summer.

“My waters broke this time, and it was a quick rush to Aberdeen with the lovely peerie yellow plane,” Kirsten told Shetland News.

“I went down by air ambulance with this pair [Carlene and Alicia] too, so it was kinda like déjà vu. It was the same ward I was in, it was the same island accommodation, and the same spot in neonatal that the second set of twins were in.

“I never thought I’d have one set, never mind two! I still can’t believe it. We just sit and look at all four of them and think ‘okay’…”

While there is a one in 250 chance of a pregnancy resulting in identical twins, repeating the trick is altogether rarer. The mathematical odds are 62,500-1, according to experts at TwinsUK, part of King’s College, London.

After a fortnight in neonatal care, Kaylee and Vaila were ready to be taken home in late November. But the family faced a tantalising extra three days’ wait because all the flights were full – “the joys of living on an island”.

It was an emotional reunion when they got back – finally allowing Carlene and Alicia to meet their new baby sisters.
“We just had to up and go in the night, so they wakened up to no mum and dad and they were a peerie bit put out,” Kirsten said.

“They had to go and stay with aunties and uncles, so they were on holiday being shipped all ways.

“They knew they had baby sisters, but where were the baby sisters? But they love them.”

In what turned out to be wise forward planning, the family moved into a larger new home next to their old croft house in July 2012.

They stay just north of the Neolithic stone temples at Staneydale, around four miles west of Bixter, where they also keep around 30 sheep and four horses.

And how does father John, 37, feel about it all? “Knackered!”

He was due to return to work at the start of this week (he drives trucks and diggers for DITT up at Sullom Voe) – summoning up the old adage that dad would be going back to the day job to enjoy some rest.

John said he was just happy the girls were healthy and was taking it in his stride: “You just have to go with the flow.”

It seems obvious enough now, but one thought that hadn’t occurred to me prior to visiting the Abernethys was that having twins can effectively mean double the trouble when it comes to sleep deprivation.

Kirsten, who is on maternity leave from her job at Hjaltland Housing Association, said they were having to adjust to a new routine while still getting the older two out to nursery each morning.

“It’s challenging but rewarding,” she said. “You are so glad when you can get a bit of sleep though.”

John grew up with three sisters, so is well prepared for sharing the house with, as Kirsten put it, “five hormonal women in the house”. He can always seek sanctuary in the caravan or the shed, she teased.

“They’ve not started slamming doors yet,” John said. “I just have to figure out which one to make into a tomboy to help me with the sheep!”

The couple said they wanted to say “a big thank you to the schools, sisters, cousins, doctors and nurses – there’s been a lot involved”. Accommodation arrangements in Aberdeen were “spot on” too.

Oh, and there is one – surely unlikely – possibility that has evidently crossed John’s mind: “I did say if I won the lottery I’d buy a house in Aberdeen so we could live there when the next set comes along!”