Fifty-two years ago, a mother gave birth to triplets—one boy and two girls. The two girls were joined at the buttocks but were separated following a surgical procedure and were able to lead normal lives.
Dianne and Donna Haywood are alive today, but their brother Donald died when he was a baby, according to what was told to them by their mother.
Patrick and Doris Haywood already had eight children when the triplets came and then they had two other children bringing the number to 13. Two of the children—including baby Donald—died while still very young.
Dianne and Donna, though they were joined at birth, do not fit the medical diagnosis of conjoined twins as they are not identical in looks. And they are chalk and cheese in their temperaments. In fact, were it up to Donna, their story would never be publicized. But it seems, from the brief encounter this reporter had with the duo, whatever Dianne wants Dianne gets. Donna simply told her sister, “You can do all the talking.” She also refused to have her photograph taken.
No amount of persuasion from her sister worked, but in the end she did gave some insight, even though grudgingly, to the closeness the two share because as she puts it when Dianne hurts “I hurt too… I love my sister.”
Dianne believes that she is the “bad one” of the two as when growing up it was always she who got the licks.
They were teenagers when their mother finally sat them down and informed that they were part of a triplet.
“She tell we how we brother Donald dead and we feel sad about it because we never know he and then she tell we how we was join a little,” Dianne told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview.
“My mother told us it was not a big surgery…” she said of the operation that physically separated her from her sister.
Support from the government of the day resulted in the family being given an apartment in Laing Avenue.
Looking back Dianne recalled that their home was very small for their large family but their parents did their best. “My mother and father worked hard to support us… We were never rich; we were very poor,” she recalled.
Her mother sold “all kinds of things” to help boost her father’s salary as there was never enough.
Eventually the family moved to Campbellville and Dianne said she remains in the family home today while most of her siblings have migrated and her parents are long dead. Even though they share the same birthday if you ask Dianne she would say that she was the eldest of the three, even though she said she knows she was born last.
Maybe it was because she felt she was older that she always did whatever she wanted while they were growing up even though it meant that she was punished.
Both women admitted that they are closer to each other than to their other siblings even though they were quick to state that they love their other siblings. “But there is closeness between us that I just can’t explain,” Dianne added.
Dianne described Donna as “always being up there…that is what we use to call her because she was always different.” As a teenager Dianne loved partying and when her parents said no, “I used to get away but she was always for church up to now she is with her church.”
“She used to say, ‘My sister don’t go’ and she would just stand up right there and see me getting away, throwing my clothes through the window,” Dianne recalled.
Her parents would find out about her escapades from time to time and they did not hesitate to give her some good thrashings. “You know how much licks I used to get? Till she [Donna] used to cry for me all sometimes, but I still used to do it again.”
The only aspect of their lives Donna opened up about was the strange phenomenon of becoming ill whenever her sister was pregnant and even experiencing the “baby pains” when she was in labour.
Donna does not have children but she knows how a woman feels when pregnant as she has had the experience four times; Dianne has four children. “I never bore a child but it is like I bore four,” Donna said.
According to her, before Dianne knew she was pregnant, she was able to tell her “because I was getting bad feelings, early morning sickness, vomiting and so on.” She could not initially explain her feelings during the first pregnancy but she immediately knew her sister was pregnant the next three times.
“Even the labour pain I would get for her. Yes! I remember lying down on the floor rolling,” Donna said.
“She would come to me and say, my sister you pregnant? And me I don’t even know anything because I am not getting any [morning sickness],” Dianne confirmed. “And when I get admitted to get the baby she getting the pain,” she added.
“It funny right?” Dianne said with a laugh.
Donna reiterated how close she was to her sister. “I love my sister, I am very close to her and when she hurt I hurt.”
And then she retreated, but not before noting that the reporter still managed get some lines out of her even though she was not prepared to speak. “I am just private, while she likes to be in the spotlight…,” she said.
“We are twins, but we are opposite,” she added.
“She likes to be by herself,” Dianne chimed in quietly. While Donna works at the General Post Office, Dianne is employed at the National Library and the latter recalled how difficult it was initially for her to find a stable job.
“Anything I used to do…,” was how Dianne described what she did before gaining employment at the library but mostly it entailed cooking. But she always wanted a job where NIS was being paid. “Because when I get old or sick… I had nothing to get because they [her other place of employment] never use to pay NIS.”
Thankfully, she said, she was employed at the library and today she holds the position as a binder. “I know that when I retire I would get my benefits and so on,” she said.
“I just wanted to talk about the twin life. I have to say twin because we never really knew our brother. But I just wanted people to know how we enjoy the twin life,” was how Dianne described her motivation to tell her story.
The February 20, 1964 edition of the Guyana Graphic has a story of the triplets being born.
Dianne said she has seen the edition and read the story and it was a moving experience for her as she burst into tears when she saw the photograph of them as tiny babies. “And it was the first time I saw a photograph of my brother,” she said almost sadly.