"I can't wait to watch them grow up and be best friends," Sarah Thistlethwaite tells PEOPLE
After 57 days on bed rest for a high-risk pregnancy, Sarah Thistlethwaite was thrilled to give birth to healthy twin girls a few days before Mother’s Day in 2014.
Just seconds after the delivery, the hospital room went dead quiet and Thistlethwaite’s OBGYN, Melissa Mancuso, let out a gasp.
“Oh my gosh!” she said. “They’re holding hands!”
Sure enough, when the nurses held the babies up for Thistlethwaite to see, the little girls she named Jenna and Jillian were holding on to one another.
“My heart just melted,” Thistlethwaite, 35, tells PEOPLE . “Even my husband got tears in his eyes – I don t know that anybody in the room had a dry eye.”
Even before delivery, Jenna and Jillian shared a special bond rare even among identical twins. Nineteen weeks into Thistlethwaite’s pregnancy, an ultrasound confirmed that her twins were “monoamniotic,” meaning they shared an amniotic sac.
“It’s the rarest form of twinning and it carries the most risk,” explains Dr. Mancuso who delivered the twins and serves as director of the fetal treatment center at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“Because they’re sharing the same amniotic sac, their umbilical cords can become tangled as they’re growing and moving which can cut off blood supply to one or both twins,” she continues.
Up until 24 weeks, these types of twins, also known as “mono mono” twins, face a 50 percent survival rate.
Thistlethwaite, a math teacher from Orrville, Ohio, says she and her husband Bill were thrilled to learn they were having twins.
“We were in shock – we sat there and laughed and then cried and then we would laugh again,” Thistlethwaite recalls.
However, the revelation of the risks the twins faced worried them. The couple’s son, Jaxon had just turned one, and Thistlethwaite was facing the prospect of having to leave her family to check into the hospital and begin bed rest with two months to go on her pregnancy.
“At that point, we admit the mom into the hospital for monitoring so we can watch for evidence that the babies’ cords are going to get tangled,” Dr. Mancuso says. “We watch the babies’ heart rates from the time the mom is admitted through delivery.”
Thistlethwaite says her 57 days on bed rest passed surprisingly quickly. She taught herself to knit using YouTube videos, knitted baby hats, shopped too much on Amazon and looked forward to visits from her husband and son.
On the 57th day of her bed rest, Thistlethwaite underwent a Cesarean section and the twins were born. They were delivered at 33 weeks, healthy and already closer than anyone could have imagined.
“Everything went perfectly,” Thistlethwaite says of the birth. “It was the most amazing and beautiful moment.”
Now 2 years old, Jenna and Jillian are showing different personalities – Jillian is the daredevil, while Jenna is more cautious – but they’re still extremely close.
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“Sometimes if my husband goes to the store, he’ll take one twin and I’ll keep the other,” Thistlethwaite says. “When that happens, they both get really upset and ask for each other. They’re definitely really close. They’re like two peas in a pod.”
“If one twin is crying, the other will try to find a way to comfort her, like going to find a pacifier or rubbing the other’s back or offering a hug,” Thistlwaite continues. “They always take care of each other.”
Still, like any siblings, the sisters like to get each other into lots of trouble. This is, of course, is easier to do when your sibling looks exactly like you.
“If Jenna does something bad, I’ll ask her about it and she’ll say, ‘No, Jillian did it!’ ” Thistlethwaite says. “But they look so much alike that sometimes I really can’t tell which one of them is in trouble.”
But, at the end of the day, they can always bond over their shared interests – sort of.
“They like the same foods, they both love swimming and being outside, and they love to play with the same toys,” Thistlethwaite says. “We try to buy two of everything to minimize competition, but still, they usually find one to fight over – even if they’re exactly the same.”
Thistlethwaite knows her daughters are lucky to have each been born with a built-in best friend. She says she can’t wait to see how they support and push one another through life.
“Twins have this special bond and I can’t wait to watch them grow up and be best friends,” she says.