In most cases, we envision a set of twins to look similar, if not exactly alike. Perhaps that’s what Danyelle Wallace’s nurse was expecting as she checked on the new mom’s twin sons, Jeremiah and Elijah, just two days old in July of 2017.
As she took off the newborns’ hats though, the nurse realized the twins were not what she was used to: rather than two babies who appeared to be brothers, she saw that Wallace’s twins looked completely different from one another.
Before she became a mom, Danyelle Wallace had announced her pregnancy on Facebook on the day after Christmas, writing, “We will be receiving two of our gifts July 2017!” In another comment on the social media site, she had mused that raising two babies “would be fun.”
Wallace, who was 23 years old at the time, would be welcoming her twins alongside her fiancé, Trey Turner. The Ashtabula, Ohio, natives had a long history: they had attended the prom together in 2013 before they grew up and became parents four years later.
Their family’s story wouldn’t veer into headline-grabbing territory until Wallace gave birth to their twins in July of 2017. The pair decided to name the babies, both boys, after biblical prophets: Jeremiah Michael and Elijah Lee.
Wallace recounted to Fox 8 the moment she realized how special her sons were. She said, “The second day that we were in the hospital, one nurse came in, and she’s like, ‘Look at [Jeremiah’s] fluffy curly hair! His fluffy curly blond hair!’ I’m like, ‘Wait, what?’”
The discovery was strange because Wallace’s other son, Elijah, looked completely different. While his brother had golden locks and light skin, Elijah had kinky black curls and his mother’s darker complexion. It was no sweat off the new mom’s back, as Wallace noted, “We all come in different shades and stuff, so it’s okay.”
But there had to be a scientific explanation for the fact that the newborn brothers barely looked related – and there were several possibilities. For one thing, Elijah and Jeremiah were fraternal twins, which meant they grew from two separate fertilized eggs. In comparison, identical twins form when a single fertilized egg splits into two embryos.
Coming from separate eggs then, it’s common for fraternal twins to each have their own distinctive features, which could potentially be as noticeable as different skin tones and hair colors. Another possible explanation was that Wallace’s fiancé had a varied genetic background.
Wallace said, “My fiancé is African-American, he’s Italian and he’s Czechoslovakian.” His complexion was much lighter than Wallace’s, and this could have influenced the way the babies looked. Dr. Shawn McCandless, an expert in pediatric genetics, corroborated this theory.
Dr. McCandless, who is the director of the Center for Human Genetics at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said, “The more variation there is in your genetic background, where your ancestors come from, the more likely you are to have unexpected combinations and variants.”
Dr. McCandless’s final theory was that Jeremiah could have oculocutaneous albinism, type two. He said, “There are single-gene causes of light skin, one of which (OCA II) is fairly prevalent in the African-American community.” If the newborn did have this gene, it wouldn’t affect his health in any way, just the pigment of his skin.
By February 2018, though, Wallace had begun to notice more of her sons’ personalities than their unique appearances. Even though they were only six months old when she spoke to the Star Beacon in February of 2018, she said they had already developed completely different traits.
Blond-haired Jeremiah took a mellow approach to infant life. His mom said he preferred to sit and observe the world around him while playing with toys. Elijah, on the other hand, loved to move and had begun rolling his way to new destinations.
Of course, a mother’s point of view would always differ from the opinion of an outsider, and Wallace did notice that strangers reacted interestingly to her sons. “First, [it’s], oh, they’re so cute, they’re so beautiful, you have beautiful boys and stuff,” she told Fox 8.
But then, she said, the topic of conversation would always change. “And then, once they stop and they start looking at them and stuff, they start asking me the blatant questions. ‘Are they twins?’ ‘Did you adopt?’ ‘Is it something else?’ ‘Are these really your kids?’”
Even with the occasional inquisition, Wallace and her fiancé couldn’t be happier with their little family. The new mom did admit to the Star Beacon that raising twins was “rough in the beginning from lack of sleep and constant diapering.” But, she said, “Now it’s fun.”
And even though their varied complexions made headlines, Wallace did say that her sons had a few things in common. “They love their toys, story books and cuddles,” she said. And both of her boys were cheerful and fun.
While discussing their home life, their dad chimed in to say he was “glad [they] had two boys.” And mom Wallace couldn’t help but gush one last time, saying, “We love having twins, and the twins love having each other.”
Their grandmother had only wish for the boys – a little bit of wisdom that could make anyone walk a little bit taller. “One might be blonde; one might be black haired,” she told Fox 8. “But you’re brothers and I want their confidence levels to always be high, to be proud of their differences.”