Jenny Tarzian and Rae Wannier are two peas in a pod — literally — or at least they were right up to May 23, 1988, when the identical twins were delivered to parents Louise and Peter Wannier at Verdugo Hills Hospital.
Growing up in La Cañada, the pair did practically everything together and even attended some of the same classes in high school. Both identify as nerds, who share a keen interest in science, reading and statistics, not uncommon in the Wannier family (dad and former astrophysicist Peter Wannier owns Flintridge Bookstore, where Tarzian works as a book buyer).
For all their genetic similarities, however, there are some differences. Tarzian is sporty and outgoing, while her sister is more reserved and takes time forming friendships.
“People would often describe us, and we describe ourselves, as different as people can be while looking the same,” said Tarzian, who lives in Pasadena with husband Luke. “Still, we did most stuff together. It’s like growing up with your best friend.”
“You have a built-in best friend for life,” agreed Rae Wannier, who lives in Berkeley with husband Jesse Jablonski and 3-year-old son Leo.
So last year, when Tarzian found out she was pregnant, she first told Luke and then straight away called her sister to share the good news.
When a later ultrasound revealed two tiny bodies sharing a single placenta, Tarzian couldn’t contain herself.
“I was just over the moon,” she recalled. “I got out of the appointment and the first thing I did is call my sister, because I had to tell her first.”
“When she told me she was having twins, I was certain she was pulling my leg,” Rae Wannier recalled.
On the afternoon of Feb. 6, Tarzian delivered healthy baby girls Celia Jill and Naomi Carol at USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital, where she and her sister had been born.
Her husband and sister were right by her side throughout the delivery. Rae Wannier and her family stayed for that weekend and then returned back to SoCal to spend the President’s Day holiday with the new arrivals.
Now the stat-loving sisters are left to marvel at the improbability of an identical twin girl giving birth to her own set of identical twin girls. Unlike fraternal twins, which spring from separately fertilized ova, identical twins do not run in a family.
And while the odds of having identical twins are not too slender — about three or four in 1,000 births, according to the National Institutes for Health — the chance of an identical twin having identical twins is just 1 in 62,500.
Longtime OB-GYN Dr. Leslie Korostoff, who delivered Celia and Naomi at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, estimated she delivers about 100 to 150 babies a year but has never had a patient in Tarzian’s unique situation.
“This is the only time in nearly 25 years I’ve seen an identical twin give birth to identical twins — and they’re both girls,” she said. “Something like this happens once in a blue moon.”
But for mom Louise Wannier, there’s a simple explanation.
“It’s a life’s blessing,” she said. “It feels like it’s bashert, something that’s supposed to happen.”