Sally Ryan

Growing up I was the only girl in a family of boys, until around my 9th birthday. My mother disappeared one day while we were at school. When our dad arrived home, he announced we had two tiny sisters! They were born prematurely and we hadn't yet been told a baby was on the way.

Our mother came home about a week later but not the twins, who were tiny and needed a lot of care. We weren't allowed to visit them in hospital but our parents did, every day.

My mother was pretty devastated that she couldn't hold and rock her babies to sleep, so one day Dad came home with two little Thumbelina dolls. They were only small dolls but apparently our twins were just about as tiny, which made us realize how fragile they must be.

All our names begin with the letter "S" and mum and dad had chosen Samantha Kate during this pregnancy so at first, the other twin had no name. The box the dolls came in showed that they were "Tabitha" version Ideal Thumbelinas, so our second twin got the name, Tabitha Jane. Only later did we realise they were both character names in the TV show Bewitched, so they became known as "Our Bewitching Twins".

As the babies grew and battled for life, Dad updated mum's dolls with larger ones. First, 20-inch "Lively Kitten" dolls by Madam Alexander, then 24-inch Madam Alexander baby dolls - one with golden hair and one with platinum blonde hair, just like our twins.

I remember the day the twins finally came home, all their problems behind them, both dressed in little pink smocked frocks. I instantly became "Little Mother", helping my mother in any way I could, fetching clothes and towels and bottles and rocking one or the other twin to sleep in the rocking chair.

I was so proud to have sisters at last, and my parents were always so proud to have three daughters to match their three sons. The twins were always dressed in matching pink frilly dresses and pink socks and shoes. The "coming home from hospital" clothes were kept for the largest twin dolls.

To this day, my now 40-year-old baby sisters have their dolls in display cases in their homes, to remind them how tiny they started out, and how quickly they grew into "real babies". I had the BEST "dolls" though ... my darling twin baby sisters.