The day one mother welcomed her twin daughters was one of the best of her life. However, when a midwife handed her babies over, she couldn’t believe how they looked. Now, four years down the line, many people refuse to believe the girls are twins at all.
Michelle Zahniser is based in Brookfield, Ohio, and in 2011 she and her partner Cruz Torres were already the proud parents of one boy and one girl. Indeed, from glancing at Zahniser’s Facebook page, it’s clear to see that her kids are her world.
To pay the bills, meanwhile, Zahniser was a waitress at Denny’s; Torres, on the other hand, worked at a gift store. Once their shifts were over, though, they both enjoyed hanging out as a family with their two kids.
So, with that in mind, the couple were likely delighted to discover in 2012 that their brood would be expanding. But they wouldn’t be welcoming just one child into the world; rather, they were expecting twins.
Then in May 2012 Zahniser gave birth to two babies. What’s more, the twins arrived at a very fortuitous time: on Mother’s Day. “It was the most amazing Mother’s Day present,” the proud mom would go on to tell Fox 8 in April 2017.
“It was unexpected because they weren’t due yet,” Zahniser added. She and Torres decided to call their twin girls Olivia and Riley. But, although they were perfectly healthy, there was something strange about the set of twins.
Specifically, the two tots were completely different in appearance. In fact, the two sisters didn’t seem like twins at all; they were so dissimilar-looking that even Zahniser initially questioned whether the babies were hers.
“I wondered if they gave me the wrong babies at first,” Zahniser later told Fox 8. And her reaction was perfectly reasonable. That’s because her gorgeous girls sported different skin tones.
Olivia was born with darker skin, much like that of Torres, who is Puerto Rican. However, Riley was a lot paler, taking after her Caucasian mom in the looks department. But while their appearances marked them out, the sisters grew up to be as close as any other twins.
As they got older, though, the girls did realize they were different from each other. “She has brown eyes and I have blue eyes,” Riley told Fox 8. “She has curly hair and I have straight hair.”
And while the twins’ family had no trouble accepting their contrasting looks, others did. “I get different reactions,” Zahniser revealed. “Some people say I’m lying, that they’re not twins; some try to sugarcoat it and say they look alike.”
Olivia and Riley are an example of what’s known as “biracial twins.” For biracial twins to occur, the two babies will need a genetically mixed-race parenthood. However, according to doctors, such births are still quite a rare occurrence.
Half a century ago, moreover, these kinds of births were even fewer and further between. As interracial partnerships continue to increase, though, so do the numbers of biracial twins. Still, they’re not common yet. According to Dr. Jim Wilson from the U.K.’s University of Edinburgh, only one in every 500 pairs of twins born to mixed-race couples will develop different skin tones.
Furthermore, it’s likely that Olivia and Riley are dizygotic, or fraternal, twins. As a result, they developed from two separate eggs and were fertilized by individual and unique sperm cells. And this process provides the perfect conditions to produce biracial twins.
That’s because each fraternal twin inherits its own unique gene combination from its parents. So when both mom and dad are of different races, twins can inherit different skin colors, too – just like Olivia and Riley have.
But, given the rarity of their situation, Zahniser is concerned that her girls might face problems fitting in. “It bothers me,” she admitted to Fox 8. “I wonder if they’ll have issues or not. I try to raise them to not see differences.”
Despite her concerns for their futures, though, Zahniser wouldn’t change her beautiful daughters for the world. “It’s unique because I have the best of both worlds. I like it. It’s pretty awesome,” she gushed about her girls.
And there was plenty more love for Olivia and Riley online. When Fox 8 posted their story to its Facebook page, over 400 people stopped by to like it. And many others wanted to tell the girls’ family just how beautiful they were.
“These girls were born having the best of both worlds,” one well-wisher wrote. “They will grow up to do amazing things and their looks won’t have anything to do with that.” Meanwhile, another simply added, “They are beautiful girls. She’s one lucky mom.”
So, hopefully, others will be able to accept Olivia and Riley’s differences with the same enthusiasm as the Facebook posters have done. After all, when the twins each look at each other, they don’t see skin color – just a beloved sister looking back. And, at the end of the day, that’s the most beautiful thing of all.