Interview with Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour, Celebrity Mother of Twins

Jane Seymour, celebrity mother of twins
Jane Seymour, Celebrity Mother of Twins. Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

Jane Seymour has proven her talents in virtually all media, the Broadway stage, motion pictures and television. Her love of art and color has led to her great success as a painter in watercolors and oils and as a designer. Jane is married to actor/director James Keach. She is the mother of six children, including twin sons, Kris and Johnny. Here she shares her thoughts about raising twins.

Let's start by taking a look back. Many moms of multiples are worried about the risks of twin pregnancy. Your book, Two at a Time: A Journey Through Twin Pregnancy, gives many details about your pregnancy experience. Could you please share a quick summary of how things went during your pregnancy?

I’d had already two very healthy pregnancies earlier in my life, and I was trying in my early 40s to have in-vitro to have a baby and I had two pregnancies that failed about four-five weeks in and we had almost given up.

But we got really fortunate and I managed to hold a pregnancy. The original pregnancy, I had three embryos that took, but one never really formed and so I ended up with the twins. They were born six weeks preemie. I had preeclampsia so it was an emergency c-section to save my life and theirs.

One of the twins, Johnny, turned blue twice when we got home because we really wanted to come home soon and that was a big mistake. So then we had to take both of them back to the hospital and I had to stay with them overnight, a couple of nights, monitoring them for sucking, swallowing and breathing.

I wrote the book, because as far as the world was concerned, here was I at a certain age suddenly able to have twins and appearing to be very svelte within three weeks, which I was. The reason was because I nearly lost my life. I wrote the book so people could see that ideally you embark upon this earlier in your life rather than later and although it is possible, there are risks attached.

But with a good doctor, as I was fortunate to have, we were looking for the signs of preeclampsia and we were able to deal with it when it happened.

During your pregnancy, you were working on the series "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman." What kind of accommodations did you make to allow you to continue working during the pregnancy?  What advice would you give to working moms who are pregnant with twins?

Everything is a calculated risk.

You never know when you are having a baby at any time in your life, what could happen. It is always good to have all the information. Whereas it is possible later to have children with in-vitro, it is not necessarily always easy. For me, I had a lot of back problems associated with it because the weight on my back. I’m quite small, and carrying twins, there was not a lot of space left in my stomach area. I had a sort of bed rest I was on at the end. My idea of bed rest and the doctor’s was quite different. In retrospect, I would have listened to the doctor a lot more. So again, that’s another reason I wrote the book which was [to say], "Don’t do what I did. Do what the doctor says." When he or she says bed rest, it actually means you lie down and you don’t move. That doesn’t mean that you continue shooting Dr. Quinn in 102 degrees and keep standing up and sitting down and sitting on a recliner. No. That means you are in bed. But you know, it was so worth it at the end of the day. I’m just so grateful that it was possible.

Make sure you have a great doctor and make sure you’re aware of what you need to watch out for, For example, a big thing would be hypertension or preeclampsia as they call it.

As your twins have grown up through the years, what do you find challenging about being a mom of twins? 

As you know, being a mother yourself of twins, It’s different at different stages. But the beauty of the human body is you have two feeding apparatus attached to your body. Invariably, they wanted to eat at the same time. And then sometimes they’d be on cycles where one would feed and I’d venture to get him down and then just as I’d be about to take a little rest, the other would suddenly decide to be fed. I was referred to as the “Dairy Queen.” I was literally on tap all the time. Finding the time to eat enough good food so that I could make enough good milk was a challenge.

They were very hungry. I supplemented breast milk with formula which worked just perfectly for us. It was no problem with them adjusting to a combination. I always tell people, “Don’t feel you have to do one thing and not another.”

Then, having some help helped me enormously because I had to go back to work within about three weeks. So I had someone helping me at night so that if I could -- if I had a chance -- sleep even if it was for an hour and a half in increments. I had somebody that could watch the children because they were both on heart monitors. For the first four months of their lives, they were on heart monitors. The heart monitor would go off. If they even wriggled, the heart monitor would go off and somebody would have to be right on top of them and immediately make sure that they were breathing and that they hadn’t turned blue. We literally were on pins and needles for a number of months when they were young.

But then as they grew up, the great news was they had each other to be with. They would love to sleep together in the same crib and then in the same bed. In fact to this day, although now they are almost fourteen and they will fight, they only really have had their own bedrooms, separate bedrooms, in the last year. So probably age twelve, I think, we gave them their own bedrooms. And even now if one is somewhere and the other is somewhere else, they always check up to see where the other one is and if they are really tired I’ve noticed they’ll even fall asleep pretty close to one another.

How do you handle squabbles and disputes between your twins?

I joke with them now. When they fight one another, I call it "twinning" because when they were babies they used to just curl into one another, which I call twinning. Now our joke in the family is when they are literally wrestling almost to the death, that I call that a different form of twinning. But you know, they’re boys, they like to wrestle.

Everybody I know that has twin boys tells me that happens.

With twins the good news is you don’t have to bring a friend in, they always have one other. The bad news is, they will fight. The good news is they learn how to share because they’ve never known anything but sharing. The bad news is that when they’re around other kids, who are singletons, they’re much more used to having to grab for something because they’re used to having to share it.

Twins bite. Every mother of twins I’ve ever met has told me that they send the child to preschool and suddenly the other parents are looking at them and saying, “Your child bit my child!” Twins, before they are able to really talk, tend to use their teeth. I thought of coming up with a T-shirt saying “Mother of Twins. Forgive me. Beware: Twins Bite!”

How do you encourage your twins as individuals?

The other thing about twins is that they are completely different.

Mine you know, are fraternal, but even mothers of identical twins always tell me how different the twins are, psychologically and emotionally and in every possible way. My two, it always makes me laugh because they’re both blond. But one has naturally curly hair, one has dead straight hair. One has always been, well most of his life, weighed at least twenty-five pounds, substantially more than the other one, and at least two or three inches taller, and you know he’s quite stocky whereas the other one is very skinny and smaller.

People say “Oh are they identical?” and I’m kind of going “Uhhh, where did we get that idea...”

But you know that’s hysterical. It’s like when people have twins that are a boy and a girl and people say, “Oh are they identical?” and you go, “I don’t think so. One physiologically is completely different from the other.”

Nowadays so many people have twins because of modern medicine and fertility clinics. The school that my kids are in, they have a set of quads, either quads or quintuplets in their class. And then at least four or five sets of twins. It was really funny when they first went to preschool and then kindergarten, on their first day they would somehow or other manage to find other twins. They independently without necessarily realizing they were twins, one would have found one and was playing with him and the other would have found the other one and was playing with him. It was really interesting. The twins have often found other twins, especially when they were younger, that they really got along with.

As they’ve gotten older, they both do the same things, same sports, same music, same everything but one of them is clearly the natural athlete. That would be Kris. And John is a good athlete and he tries hard … he’s normal.

Johnny is an extraordinary musician and very creative also in terms of drawing. So he’s the very creative one. Now his brother also plays four instruments and is perfectly capable of being a very good drummer and a pretty good guitarist, can certainly play the piano and can certainly draw and paint. But John is the one that not only has the gift but the passion. Morning, noon, and night there is a guitar somewhere around his neck and there is music being created. And morning, noon, and night, Kris is looking for something to either hit catch or throw.

We’ve given them both everything and really, kind of watched to see who was enjoying what more.

We insist they both do music and we insist they both do sport. But obviously one is much better at certain sports than the other. So Kris went to a special tennis camp for two weeks. He probably will do fall ball and football this season, whereas John is now picking up martial arts and boxing. He’s more gymnastically inclined.

Are they ever jealous of each other's abilities or accomplishments?

I don’t think [they are jealous] because I think John was very patient when he would have to sit on the bench and Kris got to be the first drawn on everything... John, it’s interesting, it’s like "The Little Engine That Could.” He tries and tries and tries and actually got to be really pretty good. Kris who is naturally really good, doesn’t try. And Johnny now has his own band. And although Kris is a very good musician and could easily play in this band, Johnny now basically says, “No, you can’t be in my band. You don’t practice enough,” which is true. So Kris acknowledges that maybe he’s not as passionate about the music.

But when they do play together, when they play music together, it is unbelievable because they literally can read one another’s mind. I mean, John can start improvising and Kris will immediately come up with a beat that works, without having to even know what they’re doing. And vice versa. They play four instruments each. That’s really cool to see. There’s sort of a natural communication that’s unspoken. And in the same way, when they play sports. Johnny’s smaller but he has never been afraid to catch Kris’ eighty-mile an hour pitch, where there are a lot of kids his size and age who would run a mile rather than have to catch it.  

What has been your decision regarding school for your twins? Are they in the same or separate classes?

They were in different classes when they were in public school. That was good because they were able to develop different friends. A lot of their friends are actually mutual friends. Now they’re in a private school; in this school, the way they do the curriculum, some classes they are together and most of the classes they are not.

But Kris has always been more advanced in math than John. Math comes to him really easily; you show him a math thing and he gets it instantly. John however is more methodical and math is really hard for him, But [he is] really creative in terms of creative writing and art projects. They both do very well at school. They both are academically good. Not extraordinary, but A’s and a few B’s. But math is really the main difference. I think either you’re born with a math brain or you’re not. I’m not and John isn’t. And Kris is. Kris also is a natural chess player, John isn’t. I’m not.

I would say John is more like me. He draws on his artistic side, on the creative side. Also, testing is a nightmare for him. He can know all the information, he can do it very well in class and get A’s for everything in class, and the minute he’s put in a situation where it’s a test, it’s harder for him.

What guided your decision to have them be separated most of the day at school?

I just thought it would be good for them.

They are together all day long anyway, they’d be together in the play room, in the playground. I just thought it would be good for them to develop their social skills rather than relying on having one another to hang out with or to share in whatever was going on in the class. So I actually think it’s good.

I think they have a chance to feel independent, to feel that they’re a person in their own right rather than being just a twin. They develop their own relationships; they make their own friends.

In the U.S., many states are passing "twins laws" -- legislation that ensures that parents of twins have a say in their children's' classroom placement. What is your take on this legislation? Do you think it is warranted or necessary? 

Clearly, somebody must believe it is necessary otherwise they wouldn’t bother passing a law. In my experience, in every school that the children have been in (they’ve been in 4 or 5 different schools), the experience from the teachers and in the school has always been that as much as possible it was good to put twins in different classes. When it comes to a school like the one we’re in right now where occasionally they’ll be in a class together, it doesn’t seem to be a problem at all. I think obviously there are people who seem to think there needs to be a law, but every school that my kids have been in, the teachers have always wanted to separate twins. In terms of the private school, I’m not adamant about it. They actually do share a couple of classes together and of course it makes it easier for us with homework because they will have the same assignment.

It’s the same thing with sports teams. My gosh, it’s hard enough running them around to the teams they’re in and the practices. If they are at different times, [different teams]… it’s very hard to watch them. But if there’s definitely different skills levels, or you know now they’re doing different sports, then obviously it’s a logistic nightmare. But it’s one that you do. I think all people that have more than one child [do it]. You make friends with other people in the team and you take it in turns to get there.

So many mothers struggle with balancing work and home life. How do you manage?

I think everyone has different circumstances depending on what work they do. When I was filming, I was on Dr. Quinn. So when they were tiny babies, they gave me a trailer that I could put a couple of cribs in and I had a nanny there with them. I was able to see them and feed them and be with them even though I was working up to some 16 hours a day.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to see my children at all when I was doing Dr. Quinn. So it was in the interest of the production company to have this little trailer. And then to top it off, other people on the set had babies as well, so it became like a little nursery. So we kind of had a little creche. We had a lot of babies and nannies to watch over them to help us out.

Once they go to school obviously you have more time to do other things. And it depends on whether you work from home or not. I work from home now. Obviously, I have people who help me. I have an assistant who helps me with my work because I do a lot of different things, I don’t just act. I do a lot of public speaking. I design and I paint and I do art shows and I’m traveling a lot. So I need somebody that can coordinate and be on top of what’s happening with the children in terms of schedules and school and assignments and homework.

The way I do it is, I jump in and see how they’re doing and cheer them along and try to stay out of it as much as possible.... It is easier when somebody else is the one saying, "You have to do this!" and I get to be the one that applauds all of them and just says, "Way to go! A’s and B’s! You know, great another 100 percent!"

Do you schedule a certain time of day to connect with each boy individually?

Early mornings, breakfast -- I am always with them to get them off to school. Either take them to school or take them to the bus. And I try to get all my work done so that, when they come home, I’m here and available to jump in and be part of it. And we definitely all sit down and have dinner together.

And then my other favorite time is at night before they go to sleep. I always snuggle up next to them and talk to them about the day and what’s going on and kiss them goodnight. We’re a very close family. If I’m not here, my husband does that too.

But I would say it’s first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The rest of the time everyone seems to be on a mission. We bookend the day.

Anything else you'd like to add about parenting twins?

In terms of the kids having friends over to play, we always find it’s best to have, well, certainly one other kid but usually two other kids. So they each have a friend, so one doesn’t get left out. We have a lot of sleepovers here. We’re very sleepover-friendly. So a lot of parents are quite happy because they can park their children here. Sometimes they’ll stay for a few days and then once in a while we’ll call up and say, "Can they for a change of pace go to your place?"

One of the things [that is good for] twins -- and not just twins-- is sleepovers. [T]hey did sleepovers from the time they were born, pretty much. So it’s never been a case of, “How old do you have to be before you do a sleepover?” Sleeping in someone else’s house, in someone else’s bed, going here, going there, having other people stay with us -- that’s just been normal in their lives. I told my girlfriends who were having their first children while I was having my second batch... So all of their children have been doing sleepovers since they were like tiny. And [my friends] were all really grateful for that, because they noticed their friends’ kids had a trauma about change, about parents being gone, about staying at someone else’s house.

I always tell people I think [sleepovers are] really healthy to do for your child so that your child can trust someone else. God forbid something does happen to you or your husband, you don’t want to have your child be so in need of you uniquely that they can’t deal with it if for some reason [if] you can’t be there.

So I think it’s actually good for children to learn to be able to deal with being at someone else’s house, being able to sleep in someone else’s bed, being able to learn the manners and to be polite and to eat food that different people make and to taste everything. They know the usual pleases and thank you and [help] to tidy up.

I really don’t think being totally controlling of your child and being the only person that your child can be with works for children. In my experience, my kids have done very well from being okay about even getting on airplanes by themselves. They’re perfectly capable of it.

The other thing, I know this from my older kids, is you need to know who the kids’ friends are. You have to monitor what’s happening on the Internet. You can’t let them be loose on the Internet. We have minimal cell phone use, no texting. During the week and school time, there is no TV or video games, at all. Weekends, they have a certain amount of time for television and video games and that’s only after homework assignments and music practice and things like that have been done. This is a privilege that they can lose if they misbehave or talk back or don’t do something they were supposed to do.

And we always used to say to my older kids and we tell the twins too, “Imagine you’re a horse and you have a bridle in your mouth and the reins are held by your parents. Well, every time we give you the opportunity to do something independently and you promise you’ll do something and you do it in a certain way by a certain time and you fulfill the freedom that you were given, you won’t even know the reins are there.

But the reins are there so that if for some reason you either test us or you make a bad choice, we can let your mouth know. (The imaginary bridle. Needless to say there is no such thing as a bridle that goes in a child’s mouth. It’s an imaginary bridle.)

It’s a wonderful adventure. Even though they sometimes say that they hate one another, clearly they love one another. And they would probably kill the person that injured or in any way hurt the other twin. There is a bond that twins have that is unspoken and quite formidable. Every mother of twins I’ve spoken to has had the same things I’ve had.

The twins fight, but they also love one another. If there is a school situation and somebody would, say, beat up the one twin, the other one will come and probably try to take out the other person that did harm to their twin.

It’s a remarkable, wonderful adventure and I keep telling the boys, “You’ll always have this unique connection that the rest of us don’t have. For the rest of your life. And if it means you’re doing a sport, you’ll always know what the other one is about to do. And if it’s something you’re doing that’s musical, you clearly know how to play together. And you also pretty much know how to make one another mad, how to make one another sad, and hopefully how to make one another happy.”