Forced Twins

Someone asked me to consider writing an essay about adopting a child so close in age to my biological son. I tried recently and when I reread it, I had to laugh. The essay is a rewriting in a sense of two years of worries and thoughts recorded in some of my past posts, but it bubbled out of me from a whole different perspective.

I want to post it here, although some of you have read these thoughts before. I left so much angst and doubt behind and wrote from this new place. It’s like I gave myself a hug and permission to see things clearer, with balance. Except, I didn’t give myself the hug, not entirely, you gave me the hug.

Thank you. For every single thoughtful comment and email on our adoption experiences. To every one who has shared their own stories with me. I’ve learned so much. It’s made a world of difference.

*************************************

October 16 is our forever family day. The day we arrived home with our daughter from Haiti. Four days after our son’s first birthday. Although she had been ours in our hearts from the first, we accepted her referral when she was ten days old, she was fourteen months old when she finally joined our family in person and forever.

Our social worker called our children “forced twins.” She talked to me about how I would handle our son’s displacement in the family, how I would balance their needs. I listened, I understood, I prepared over that year, alone with our son, waiting and wishing and longing for our daughter, but I didn’t think of it as forced. It was just our family. They were so young. We would all adjust.

She came home and we drank in the joy of getting to know her and of being together. Honestly, though, it was a really, really difficult transition. Far more difficult than I had dared to imagine. She cried whenever I put her down to hold my son. Screamed, actually, with anger and outrage. I felt angry at times and overwhelmed. Couldn’t she just give me minute? Must she hoard every single second? Her brother needed time too. He cried as well those first few months. His new sister took his toys and sat in his mother’s lap. He didn’t understand. None of us did really, we had a lot to learn. I cried a lot myself.

Some days, I felt like it wasn’t working. I could meet no ones needs completely. “Meet their needs, not their wants,” the social worker told me. Oh how I tried. It was hard. All children have to adjust to their new siblings, I soothed myself. They both have to learn to share. I am only one person. All well and good most days, but in weak moments, their crying broke my heart. I wanted my daughter to attach to me and I knew that meant I had to hold her and be physically and emotionally with her. I wanted my son to feel special and loved as well. Not displaced.

In that first, wonderful, terrible, hard to process year, I wondered if we had made the right choices. I had my doubts. They shamed me, I kept them secret, but I had them. Some days, the cons seemed to outweigh the pros.

They grew and changed and adjusted, as did I. As the first year ended, we had a routine, we had balance, we were a mostly happy, secure family. They welcomed their newborn brother with barely a hitch in their second summer. The adjustment went beautifully, but doubts still plagued me. We wanted a bigger family, but were they each getting enough of my time? Did the fun of playing with siblings and having sisters and brothers to see you through life outweigh the stretched resources, the stretched, tired, sometimes impatient parents? We hoped so, but we didn’t know.

There were still times when everything fell apart and I’d mentally beat myself up. When things went badly, it was hard to accept it as normal toddler ups and downs. I panicked, wondered if we were facing unresolved adoption issues, if our daughter’s attachment was secure, if our son had hidden grief and anger to process? At a memorable birthday tea party for little girls, my confident, well-behaved daughter disintegrated. She regressed so far in that hour period that I felt like it was the first year all over again. She screamed about nothing and everything. She clung to me and then hit me when I protested, when I had to set her thirty pounds down for a moment.

Defeated, I finally removed her from the party, as a consequence and as self-preservation. Sitting in the car, my nerves flayed by her protesting screams from the back seat, I spoke to her less kindly than I should have. “You need to use your words. Your behavior was not okay. Not only did you miss the cake, you won’t be going to any parties for a while.”

Her lip trembled and her eyes filled with real tears, “I felt shy,” she quavered, “I miss my Garrett.” Amazement and sudden understanding flooded my brain as hot tears flooded my eyes and choked my throat. She had never been anywhere with other children without her brother before that day. I hadn’t realized how much she relied on him, for safety, for guidance, for stability.

My inner worries transferred to my son. Was it too much for him? Did it seem like pressure? Did he feel usurped, like his place in the family was threatened? It was so hard to read their complex little minds.

As the fall approached, they both turned three. I prepared them for their new drop-off preschool. Only one day a week, for three hours, but for the first time ever, besides some nights with a trusted sitter in our home, I would not be with them. I had, I think, a typical parent’s reservations and conflicts. Would they cry? Did I want them to cry? I wanted them to need me, I longed for such concrete evidence of Saige’s attachment to me. But, my conflicted mother’s soul longed for other things too. Strong, confident children. An attachment so strong that they felt no fear in separating.

They showed no fear in our discussions. “Mamma won’t stay, but I’ll be back before lunch.”
“We’ll go to school all by ourselves?” The proud declarations pricked at my heart a bit.

The day before school started, I talked with my son in a quiet moment. “Are you excited? Are you scared?”
He remained resolutely closed. Then, for a moment, he softened and turned to me with his wide gray-green eyes. “Will Saige be there?”
“Yes baby, of course.”
“Okay.”

Maybe it wasn’t only Saige who took comfort and confidence from her brother’s presence.

My heart beat way too fast when we pulled up in front of the small in-home preschool. I took pictures in the driveway, fighting tears like the silly mother that I am. We entered the lovely basement room holding hands, but they immediately separated, enthralled by the roomful of new toys and flew, flew, from my side with squawks of joy. I stood to the side, catching my breath, alone, and quietly watched the teacher deal with a little boy sobbing in the fetal position on the floor, his security blanket clutched in his white fist. My eyes wandered to another wide-eyed little girl in the corner, crouched as far as she could get from the teacher and my excited, confident siblings. My beautiful, disparate twins. Nothing felt forced about their relationship in that moment.

Saige, Garrett,” I said softly, “I’m leaving. I’ll be back for you after school and we’ll have lunch.” Saige yelled “bye mommy” without pausing in her exploration. Garrett gave me a brief wave, possibly of farewell, but it looked more like dismissal. They didn’t look up again, so I quietly exited.

Outside in the van, the sun warm on my face, the baby asleep in his car seat, I let a few tears fall. Tears of sadness, to see my babies reach another milestone, grow, change, move step by step away from me as they should, as all children must. And also, tears of joy, to see our unusual choice for building our family work. To see a difficult transition smoothed for them, eased by their bond. They didn’t need me today. They had each other.

Things still fall apart, more often than I’d like. They fight, they hit each other, they compete for attention, they stretch us to the limit at times, just like all siblings. They also play, they whisper secrets, they team up against me. Like brothers and sisters everywhere, usually, more often than not, the pros far outweigh the cons.

64 Responses to Forced Twins
  1. Michelle
    January 6, 2009 | 12:41 am

    You had me crying there too. I think your kids are lucky to have such a special family and to have each other.

  2. Kymberli
    January 6, 2009 | 12:42 am

    No comment. Just tears.

  3. Casey
    January 6, 2009 | 1:00 am

    That was beautiful. When I went to comment, I noticed that in both of the pictures you have in your sidebar, Ess is looking lovingly at Gee. I’m so glad they have such a close bond. I hope my kids (who are 16 months apart) have a similar bond someday. Right now, the only thing being bonded is the red marks on my daughter’s head every time my son throws a toy at her.

  4. heartatpreschool
    January 6, 2009 | 1:02 am

    I’m always moved when I hear stories of sibling relationships. My sister has twins, and this reminds me of them.

    Isn’t it funny how many different emotions and worries are wrapped up in our Mommy evaluation of our children’s development, when to them – it’s so simple? So simple, and so beautiful.

  5. Ann's Rants
    January 6, 2009 | 1:04 am

    Beauty and tears and timing. I send Max off to his first morning of preschool tomorrow. Now sobbing. I love the idea of more children, but my husband and I barely barely have a lid on our lives with the two boys. I think Max is ready for his drop off tomorrow at Big Brudder Elliott’s school. Not sure I am…You’ve created something more than a beautiful family and blog here. You are a wonderful resource.

  6. Casey
    January 6, 2009 | 1:13 am

    I really enjoyed reading this! I always enjoy reading your stories, I’m glad your kids are so close like that

  7. K.Line
    January 6, 2009 | 1:14 am

    What a GORGEOUS post. I’m crying. It sounds like you have worked miracles to me. I can’t get over that you blended into a new family while pregnant! That’s terrific. And I think your response to Ess when she was nutty at the party was very measured. Her response to you, so brilliant and clear. I have no worries for your growing family.

  8. Jodi
    January 6, 2009 | 1:19 am

    This is awesome. My children are much the same…we adopted Abbie at 6 days old when I was 3 months pregnant. 7 months later we welcomed Adelle into the family. The first year was miserable…I really don’t remember much of it (must be subconsciously blocking it), but it has definately gotten easier. They are 5 now and so incredibly close. They will go to kindergarten in the fall. I’m so glad that they will be together. Thanks for your post :)

    Jodi

  9. bananapeelblog
    January 6, 2009 | 1:28 am

    beautiful, just beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

  10. Manic Mommy
    January 6, 2009 | 1:28 am

    My boys fight like cats and dogs – verbally and physically. Meanwhile, after months of their begging, we finally moved RC’s bed into HRH’s room. They want to be together.

    Families are families no matter how we get there.

    Beautifully written as always, Stace.

  11. Amber
    January 6, 2009 | 1:29 am

    I always thought adoption was incredible, but never thought it’d be for us. We are done having natural children, but started talking recently about adopting a daughter some day which was inspired in large part by you. We also have gorgoues adopted twin neices who have made us want to reach out in that way. We’ll see what the next few years bring. I’m happy that I can read your experience.

  12. For Myself
    January 6, 2009 | 1:33 am

    Incredible.

  13. PletcherFamily
    January 6, 2009 | 1:49 am

    This is our story! With our two youngest only 33 days apart, they are also forced twins. But being together for 1 1/2 years now, it is amazing how much the love being together (and fight each other too!!) They go to school together, rely on each other for playmates, and are getting closer all the time. It is refreshing to see that we weren’t the only ones doubting if we made the right choice. I am so glad we found your blog.

  14. Tracey
    January 6, 2009 | 2:45 am

    Stacey, I have heard you write of how hard that year was. I can only imagine…

    But it seems as though things truly have worked out for the best. That your family is solid and happy. :) I am so happy for you all!

  15. Anne
    January 6, 2009 | 3:07 am

    I think it is so wonderful that you/we can all write this stuff down so we will never forget ‘those’ days. We’ve all had them…where we are not the strong, brave, controlled grown-ups. The painful moments just fade away and the beautiful memories see to shine. Ain’t God great the way that all works out.

    PS…Hope your butt worms have vacated the premise and not relocated to any family members.

  16. The Panic Room
    January 6, 2009 | 3:11 am

    You totally threw me off with this. The last thing I read was about parasites and then you kick everyones ass with this?! What a rad story and a great journey through the initial adjustment. Loved it. I always get excited for kids that will get to grow up and read such well written touching stuff about their lives when they were little.

    That is how I plan on ending my blog. When I finally let my kids read them all. I will post about it, and then burn down the internet. I will be finished.

  17. Erin
    January 6, 2009 | 3:14 am

    How absolutely precious for your children to have the bonds of twinship, despite not having shared a womb. Your beautiful story had me in tears. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  18. Kmommy
    January 6, 2009 | 3:45 am

    Absolutely beautiful post. I am thinking about sending my son to preschool in the fall… Its beautiful how Ess and Gee had (have) bonded. I know that if my son found himself somewhere without his baby sister he would be lost.
    By the way, I left an award for you on my blog.

  19. Kirsten / Mama Ginger Tree
    January 6, 2009 | 3:48 am

    Twins are amazing. I often wonder how different my girls would be if they weren’t twins. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to grow up as a twin. I often feel like I have my own little nature versus nurture experiment.

    Sometimes I feel sorry for my son since he doesn’t have a twin and sometimes I think he is lucky. :-)

    We separated them for kindergarten and watching them slowly loosen their grip on each other and explore their own identity has been bittersweet for me. A whole new ball game of emotions for all of us. I think you may be just inspired a post. Hmmmm.

  20. Heather
    January 6, 2009 | 3:52 am

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

  21. Anna See
    January 6, 2009 | 4:19 am

    Aaaaaahhhh! This was beautiful. THANK YOU.

  22. Jos
    January 6, 2009 | 4:38 am

    lovely.

  23. Michelle
    January 6, 2009 | 4:48 am

    I’m so glad to hear that you can look at this from a new place today. So glad you can see what you’ve added to your family and how it is working for you. And if you want to talk about siblings who fight but would also do ANYthing for each other… come talk to me. You should see our days. Totally normal.

    Oh — and I meant to ask how the babbling and talking was going?

  24. Julia
    January 6, 2009 | 4:52 am

    What beautiful memories! You can show this to them when they are adults about to have their own kids.

  25. Sophie, Inzaburbs
    January 6, 2009 | 4:58 am

    A really moving post.
    It has always struck me how much your “twins” love each other. It shines through in the photos.

  26. cw2smom
    January 6, 2009 | 5:21 am

    Wonderfully written story! I am an adoptive mom as well and should write my story about bringing home my 8 year old, and my 3 yr old had a terrible time adjusting! Oh those were the days! Bless you for all you’ve endured! Love your blog! Lisa

  27. Mommy Mo
    January 6, 2009 | 5:54 am

    ANother beautiful, wonderful post. You caught the essence of their relationship and helped put into perspective my two older children (age 5 and 2.5). I never thought about the fact that the 2.5 yr old has RARELY gone ANYWEHERE without his sister. Very interesting.

    I left youa bloggy award over at my place!

  28. Jennifer H
    January 6, 2009 | 6:04 am

    *sniff

    Beautiful. You write your story with so much honesty and love. They will always be glad to have each other.

  29. luna
    January 6, 2009 | 7:06 am

    this is beautiful, stacey. such a special family.

  30. Sue (spbray)
    January 6, 2009 | 10:58 am

    very touching and moving post… thank you!

  31. Pam
    January 6, 2009 | 12:41 pm

    I loved it! Mabye we heard parts of it before, but it was all so beautiful… you are a blessed mamma!!

  32. K
    January 6, 2009 | 1:02 pm

    I only have one little one and I feel like my hands are full.

    I’ve been thinking about trying for number 2 and it’s scary. So I really appreciate your post.

  33. Pseudonymous High School Teacher
    January 6, 2009 | 1:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing so intimately this story. since Iam new to your blog, it made me feel like I was right there that first year. Great post and great writing.

    I have two children, now 19 and 16, and yes, they have gone through a lot of what you describe in the fighting and the closeness.

  34. Annje
    January 6, 2009 | 2:25 pm

    Beautiful! You capture both the resilience and fragility of children.

  35. Irish Gumbo
    January 6, 2009 | 3:11 pm

    *sniff,sniff,whoooonnkk*
    Beautiful. And you aren’t a silly mommy, you’re a REAL mommy!

    My Wee Lass and essays like that are helping me understand that now.

    Great stuff!

  36. butwhymommy
    January 6, 2009 | 3:45 pm

    That was beautiful, just beautiful. You truly are a wonderful mother. Thanks for sharing with us.

  37. Kate Coveny Hood
    January 6, 2009 | 3:53 pm

    “I felt shy” broke my heart. I was a shy little girl.

    I think that all parents of multiple children would relate to this on some level. I know that I often just sit on the floor and pull all three of mine into my lap (or I try) in an attempt to give everyone the attention they are demanding. It’s both hard and rewarding and you captured this beautifully.

  38. MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner
    January 6, 2009 | 4:36 pm

    Oh my–what a lovely, lovely post. You’re such an amazing writer, and obviously an amazing mom. Those kids are lucky to have you!

  39. phulmaya
    January 6, 2009 | 4:56 pm

    It’s so reassuring to read and to know a lot of the doubts you went through in those first years and see where you are now. It makes me hopeful and happy, and teary that our babies are growing up. They are so lucky to have each other, and you!
    Come home, the snow is beckoning:)

  40. ms. changes pants while driving
    January 6, 2009 | 5:21 pm

    beautiful.

  41. katy
    January 6, 2009 | 5:27 pm

    One day these two are going to read this and realize how fortunate they are to have The Divine Miss Any for a mom. MUAH!!

  42. Insta-mom
    January 6, 2009 | 6:43 pm

    You have given me such a beautiful window into what my boys may have someday. Right now, they hit and argue, fight over toys and mommy. But they also play adorable games of chase together. They are beginning to really see each other.

    Thank you for expressing this so beautifully.

  43. Andrea's Sweet Life
    January 6, 2009 | 9:36 pm

    How beautiful that they have each other, and what a wonderful relationship to see grow and flourish.

    There is no better feeling than the confirmation that you’ve done right by your kids… even if you still doubt every other thing you do for them!

  44. funkimunkii
    January 7, 2009 | 1:12 am

    love it. thanks for sharing.

  45. Yarn Devil
    January 7, 2009 | 1:56 am

    beautiful, thank you for sharing… it reaches out and grabs ones heart.

  46. April
    January 7, 2009 | 1:58 am

    sounds like a wonderful relationship. i’m so glad you were able to make it there!

  47. MommyTime
    January 7, 2009 | 2:12 am

    This is just beautiful. You are clearly doing a fabulous parenting job.

  48. Bon
    January 7, 2009 | 2:54 am

    this is gorgeous, and also food for thought. i grew up with a pair of “forced twins,” one of those situations where a family gets pregnant right after the adoption is approved…and i always envied them each other.

    you write purdy, Stacey. :)

  49. Pam
    January 7, 2009 | 3:32 am

    Hey, I am gave you an award… even though you are in the tropics and probably are enjoying lemonade in the sun daily! (okay, maybe not) but I had to think of you when the award was lemonade in January… only in the tropics… come get it!

  50. Luanne
    January 7, 2009 | 2:37 pm

    I love this essay. I wish I had a closer relationship with my siblings sometimes. When I was little, I shared a room with my sister 2 yrs younger than me. My parents would separate us at nightime sometimes because we wouldn’t go to sleep. We would cry and cry. Now, we never talk. We live in the same city and live totally different lives. It’s sad. I hope your kids stay connected for life. You are much more engaged than my parents were though. I bet that is my missing link. You are a great mom!

  51. tz
    January 7, 2009 | 3:50 pm

    I love how you tell the truth…how it’s not all happy pie in the sky stuff but still so beautiful and heartwarming…

    it is amazing how the kiddos just pound yell and torture each other but when it comes down to it, they love and want each other in their trying moments…

    I think I may have said this a time or two, but love your writing..

  52. forever spring
    January 7, 2009 | 4:47 pm

    When our new 6 y.o. turned out to be 10, we faced a similar situation: what they used to call “artificial twins”, but at a later age.

    Like you, it was rough. And now it’s not. Children are amazing teachers.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  53. Issas Crazy World
    January 7, 2009 | 5:59 pm

    What a beautiful post Stacey. Am crying over here.

    My girls are a few years apart and they fight one second and are inseparable the next. I think that’s pretty normal. I think the best thing we ever did for Morgan was have Bailey.

    Saige and Garrett are still so young. As they get older they will find other friends. But hopefully that bond will stay, because there’s nothing better than having one of your best friends be your brother.

  54. PsychMamma
    January 7, 2009 | 6:57 pm

    Loved reading this story. What a wonderful family you’re building. It’s obvious that those kiddos know they’re surrounded by love.

  55. the mama bird diaries
    January 7, 2009 | 8:57 pm

    This is a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing. You’ve created a wonderful family for your kids.

  56. *Akilah Sakai*
    January 7, 2009 | 9:39 pm

    So insightful, so beautiful…
    Thanks for sharing.

  57. ewe are here
    January 7, 2009 | 11:34 pm

    A truly lovely post.

  58. Vodka Mom
    January 7, 2009 | 11:56 pm

    you’re stories are amazing, and you are such a great writer. I know, i know I say that all the time. But I really mean it this time!!!!!

  59. mommymae
    January 8, 2009 | 12:43 am

    my twins, on the other hand, cried like little babies when i dropped them off at daycare the first time…okay, they were babies. BUT, when they changed schools 2 years later, we dropped them off holding hands and i was told they fell asleep at nap time holding on to each other.

  60. Carolyn...Online
    January 8, 2009 | 2:01 am

    I remember reading about that day, it’s still so sweet.

  61. iMommy
    February 3, 2009 | 6:06 pm

    I am quite behind on the reading of blogs… sorry I haven’t been around!

    As always, your writing strikes a chord in my heart. I’m sitting here in my cubicle, choking back tears.

    I can only hope that my daughters have such a wonderful relationship.

  62. Amelia
    October 19, 2010 | 8:32 pm

    Happy forever family day! I hope it was a great Saturday.
    Thank you for this post. We're not adopting, but will have another baby, and I worry so much whether the pros outweigh the cons. Will there be more love the rivelry? I can only hope. :)

  63. toddlerplanet
    March 18, 2011 | 2:50 pm

    This is gorgeous. You have lovely children, inside and out!

  64. katie
    December 20, 2012 | 6:03 am

    This was my first time reading your blog. You’re a lovely writer and your posts are so moving. It sounds like you have a wonderful family, full of love. Looking forward to reading more!

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