Separating Twins Is So Wrong

I belong to a moms group with quite a few twin families. I’m certain they could not imagine separating their twins. Most of the comments from my all things adoption group center on how terribly wrong separating twins is but looking through some google images, I find that what is but should never be, happens more often than one would think. The image here is from a story “Oklahoma girl hoping to find a forever family after adoption of her twin sister” featured by Oklahoma station KFOR.

One comment in my group was this – I can’t understand a system that separates any siblings, but separating twins even more so. I have identical twins and they would be devastated. To which another chimed in – Twin mom here also and the thought of them being separated literally breaks my heart. How in the world did this happen? Yet another, The very idea of my twins being separated makes me feel sick. It 100% should never, ever be allowed. Another theorizes – if they were separated at birth, the thinking might be that they never lived together, so there was no bond. However, twins incubate together in the same womb and so they are born already sharing a bond.

Yet another notes – This happens more often than people think. The system says that it’s okay to do because a single child is “more adoptable” than a sibling group. It’s terrible.

Another commented – This happens all the time, I’m sure. It’s crazy how, when one foster family decides they are done with one of the siblings, if they have behaviors documented – the county just completely stops trying to find a home that will keep them together and sides with the foster parents every time.

The KFOR story says – “Those who know her best say Nemiah would do well in a family where she could be the only child, the center of their world. The adoption group commenter who is a twin said – “I’m sorry, but what the actual f**k??? No, I’m pretty certain she’d actually do best being raised in the same family as her sister. As a twin who was lucky enough to be adopted into the same family as my sister (but was separated from my other siblings), this is so horrific to me.

And this personal experience – This could have easily been me. I was threatened with being “sent back” or “rehomed” on a number of occasions, always due to what was perceived as “behavioral problems”, and was often told I was “making the household unsafe” (starting as young as about 6 years old). I wasn’t provided with the supports I needed, and because I struggled so much to cope, I was made into my family’s scapegoat, while my twin sister was often seen as the golden child, essentially because she hid her trauma and was able to contort herself well enough to fit into our adoptive parents impossible expectations – at least a lot better than I could.

Another personal experience – As a twin who lived separately from my sister this hurts to my very core. A relationship that was meant to be life-long and inseparable will probably be forever broken. I don’t even have the energy to be angry about this, I just grieve for her.

One tells it like it is judging – Let me get this straight, state of Oklahoma. You take twin girls away from their family, allow them to languish in foster care for NINE years, then decide that allowing a foster family, I assume, to only adopt ONE of the twins is a good plan? You have caused irreparable harm and trauma to both twins. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a special place in hell for whoever gave the okay on this egregious plan.

Another added – The fact that they let them be adopted separate is pure evil. And I’m also curious to know who the shitty humans are that said “we’ll just take one twin” and left the other one behind.

Regardless of Why

Coming on the heels of yesterday’s blog, I encountered this article in The Guardian – My brother has two new children – and it’s making me sad. When you want to be a parent and can’t, this is a loss to be mourned, says Philippa Perry.

A woman writes – My partner is older than me and has a grown-up son. He is not keen to have more children, so I feel I’ve missed the boat. I also feel a lot of guilt and shame in my response (to my siblings having children). It is causing problems within my family because my older brother has stopped communicating with me. I’m unsure how to relate to these new children and also to my brother now. It’s constantly nagging on my mind. I feel like a terrible person and very alone.

Ms Perry replies – Reading between the lines, I wonder if there isn’t a whole lot of loss here to process. We think about mourning when we lose someone close to us: when we lose a parent or a friend everyone around us expects us to be sad or angry or confused, in denial or simply deadened for a while – wherever the journey of mourning takes us – and even if it is a hard journey, we know that unless we allow ourselves to mourn, we won’t recover our equilibrium. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has usefully charted this complex journey, and her thinking is instructive. Above all, we learn from her that the only way beyond loss is through it. When you want to be a parent and, for whatever reason, you can’t be, this is a loss and like all losses needs to be mourned.

This point is made frequently in my all things adoption group. The need to mourn infertility, rather than papering over it with adopted children.

The advice columnist goes on to note – It’s much harder, isn’t it, when the loss we experience is situational rather than personal? Often nobody notices or names it, and there is no expectation that we may have work to do. Instead of finding loving support for the process of grieving, we can lock ourselves in a silent, agonizing world in which we feel increasingly isolated.

Whether it is choice or circumstance that has led to you not having a child, you’re clearly sensing that as a loss, and I wonder whether now that those who are close to you seem to be abounding in new children, it is easier to cut off, or feel jealous, or over-rationalise, rather than having your feelings. Gaps are tough – and they’re real, at least to us. Reality is often disappointing.

You do not say why your brother isn’t speaking to you. Echoes of some long-distant childhood rivalry playing out, maybe? Or has something happened to create awkwardness. You’ll know – but I’m wondering what part you not engaging with your sadness and loss may be contributing to this awkwardness? After all, when the task of processing loss doesn’t happen in us, we find other ways of dealing with our feelings: projecting disappointment and envy on to others, rather than owning it ourselves. This makes us unhappy and creates avoidable friction with others. And, no, I don’t think you are a terrible person – just a person in pain with nowhere to place it.

Then there’s what you describe as your own loving relationship. You don’t say how long you’ve been together, nor whether there was a chance to consider having a child, but what is now encroaching is this sense of a gap. What, I wonder, would happen if you were to name it – not in terms of any “right” to have had a child, nor in terms of “blame” that the two of you aren’t having one, but simply in terms of the sense of loss and sadness it is creating in you? It’s not that he has to fix it by having a child with you, but not speaking about it may stop you keeping your relationship as “loving” as it can be. If you are not being heard and understood by him it may deny you the support you need to move forward – speaking simply about it may open up whole new ways of being fulfilled together. We might feel that if we own the disappointment and name the gaps, our feelings will become more intense and unmanageable, but more often the opposite is true. To talk about your loss will begin to process those feelings and will be, I think, the first steps to healing all of this. I don’t want you to carry that “chasm of sadness” on your own. But even in the most loving of partnerships we cannot be everything we need for each other and if your partner is more of a problem-solver – no one wants to hear the “well-you-should…” in response to their pain – you may try for extra listening and understanding from a therapist.

When you can own, then contain, your sadness I am hoping you will be able to relate to these new nephews and nieces in your life, not as reminders of what you are missing out on, but as new people to have rewarding, lifelong relationships with.

Contemplating Death

Yesterday, I was stung on my little finger by a Red Wasp. Whether we simply collided or it came after me as I passed by the wooden post that has become nest – through a knot-hole opening into a large hollow space, I do not know. It happened so fast, I never saw it. I only felt the hot iron pain. All I could do was put a couple of ice cubes on it at the time where I was.

It brought back memories of the time when my adoptive maternal grandmother gifted me with a trip to England with her. We were going to attend a 4 week long summer session at the University of Cambridge and it was a lifetime experience that I do not regret. That morning I was stung on my middle finger also by a wasp I never saw. There was no time to do anything about it, even if we would have had some remedy.

My hand became painfully swollen over the time it took to make the transatlantic journey. My grandmother pretended not to notice my suffering and I knew better than to make a issue of it. In my dorm, not even having washcloths and towels yet, I used my socks to make compresses and by dinner time it was bearable. Last night I reflected on how it must have been for my mother growing up with such an emotionally cold woman. I do know that when she died, lots of appreciative comments about her mother came my mom’s way and simple reminders of her perfume on her clothing were bittersweet for my mother. My mom yearned for a reunion with her birth mother but she had died several years before my mom’s effort, which came months before the state of Tennessee changed its own perspectives to allow the adoptees or their descendants to have the adoption files related to the scandalous Georgia Tann. I now have that file that would have brought my mom so much peace. In my own spiritual perspective, I believe she was reunited with her birth mother after death and now knows even more than I do.

In my all things adoption group this morning I read –

I was surprised at how many adoptees truly loved their adoptive moms and were devastated when they died. Is it strange to not seem to feel much of anything? Some days I think I might be sad and then I realize it might just be residual feelings from long ago. I’m so confused and feel so cold.

A soothing comment followed – Know that your feelings, whatever they are, are valid.

The next comment was this – My adoptive mother and I were not close. I loved her, but didn’t much like her.

One honest adoptee admitted – My adoptive mom was an awful person. I only felt relief when she died. Yet another wrote – I won’t grieve, I have no relationship with my adoptive mom or adoptive dad, as cold as it sounds ill feel like a weight will be lifted from my shoulders when they pass. They still think they haven’t done anything wrong and blame me for everything

I could appreciate this perspective – I think how people grieve and process loss depends on their relationship with that person, whether it’s adoptive family, biological family, friend, coworker. If you’re close to someone and love them, you might feel sadness, a sense of loss, emotional pain. If you weren’t close to them, you might not feel much at all. None of these feelings are bad, they’re just a reflection of your relationship to that person. Not missing or grieving someone doesn’t make you any less of a person with emotions.

The original commenter went on to share – It’s sad because I could never connect with her. She had bipolar disorder and always asked me why couldn’t I just love her. She tried to live her life over through me and it seemed to suck the very soul out of me. It’s hard to love someone when it’s only one sided. It’s like we are baby dolls meant to fulfill all their dreams instead of human beings with our own destiny, personality, and dreams to explore.

Another wise perspective was this – I think every relationship is unique and one should always honor whatever they feel, or don’t feel when dealing with death. Try not to compare your experience with loss to others. This also, grieving is different for everyone, and the way you grieve (or seemingly don’t) is valid.

There is this sad story – The last few months of my moms life were difficult. She was difficult (in general). Our relationship was difficult. I had to step in and took over care the last 4 days of moms life. She had a rapid health decline. I didn’t know for sure I was adopted at that point. And I never got that moment. My adoptive mom was a broken person. The Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents book helped me see that this year. I’ve been able to see her different and with a kindness that wasn’t there before. We had a hard relationship. And it’s helped me reach some of the grief that I’ve had shoved down inside.

And yet another sad story – My adoptive mom is still alive but I feel absolutely numb towards her. I think it’s the abuse and bullying and constant threat of sending me away as a child. I had one moment once where I felt for her, it was some random moment by myself that made me realize that perhaps underneath the hurt, I did care for her, but I am unable to feel it because of how much she has hurt me.

Another perspective – As adoptees, we have *all* lost our mother, during our formative years. So when my adoptive mother died, I felt that pain of losing a mother again. My adoptive siblings don’t quite understand why I reacted so strongly (and they also don’t realize how deeply her death impacted me, because I never really showed my grief in front of them). They are all her biological children, and also much older than me. So while we all lost our mother, I was losing *another* mother. As adoptees, we have difficult relationships with our adoptive parents, and however you felt is completely understandable.

The Reluctant Birth Mother

So sharing with you today the tale of two women.  One gave birth to the little girl – the other adopted her.  I’ll let the adoptive mother speak here –

I am looking for advice. My daughter is 8 months old. Without sharing too much of her story, her birth mother initially preferred a closed adoption, however, after getting to know each other she was willing to let it be open. She initially didn’t want her daughter to know that she was her birth mother, she just wants to be a “family friend.” I cannot and will not lie to our daughter. Her birth mother and I haven’t spoken about this again, but as our daughter gets older, this will need to be addressed (sooner rather than later). Suggestions on how to address this with her mother?

Her birth mother has gradually decreased our communication from a few times a week to now monthly. I continue to send her text updates every 2 weeks and regularly share photos/videos to our privately shared album. She is no longer responding to any texts and only comments in the album maybe once a month. She rarely, if ever, answers my questions to her regarding her life, family, health etc.

I KNOW that she loves our daughter and that she is grieving. Her birth mother really is a wonderful soul and I believe she thought, in her circumstances, she was doing the best thing she could for her daughter. I also know that she is trying and struggling to care for herself and get herself back on her feet. Since she initially preferred a closed adoption, I am afraid if I give her too much space, she will stop responding completely. (I thought over time, her and I’s (and my husband) relationship would get closer and then better communication, and I had hoped visits, would follow).

My questions are –

What do I do? I have so many questions for my daughter. I want to be able to give her a “family tree” of her birth family. I want her to have visits and memories/pictures with/of them. I care very much about her birth mothers mental and physical health and am worried of pushing her too much too fast. Any suggestions on moving towards more regular communication and a more open relationship? Am I being impatient and need to give it more time? I’m afraid of looking back and thinking “I should have tried harder then”. Or, am I completely in the wrong here and need to follow her lead instead?

To some, this first bit of advice may seem extreme but when one considers the goal of family preservation it makes a lot of sense.  Adoptive parents are significantly more financially strong than the original parents which is often the main reason babies are surrendered.  Here it is – What if you invited her to live with you and get on her feet? Honestly, her daughter should be with her, and your role should be as a god parent, and letting her have the resources to stabilize will help her parent her daughter.

Another woman bluntly explains – Every communication may be horribly painful and fraught to her, this isn’t a casual friendship. You have her child.

And regarding semantics –  I suggest you use “lost a child to adoption”, instead of “placed.”

The adoptive mother is attempting to get a lot of information out of the birth mother which so far she does not answer.  In response to this effort by the adoptive mother, she is told – do not ask her questions! None of your business! Her business is her daughter. Your job is to facilitate contact however mom desires…and, it will change and vary for her lifetime!

And in an honest assessment – you can not force anyone to communicate or share anything and I don’t feel you’re giving adequate enough time for her to even begin to process anything ! (Again note – this child is only 8 months old !!)  You need to take a step back and stop trying to force anything before you ruin the chance of her daughter knowing her at all in any capacity – that’s how people push away! Keep putting in effort to show mom you’re willing when SHE IS READY – even if she decides not to! Still her choice !

Yet another woman added – I read your post as desperate to control, but not selfish per se–at this point it seems to me that you are trying to create a reality for your daughter that you see as ideal. There isn’t an ideal in this situation. You can’t create the ideal. You can forge a real relationship with the mom based on respect and care and awareness of pain and even unspoken boundaries.

The bottom line advice to the adoptive mother about the reality of the birth mother is this – time & space, she needs to grieve.

Help Rather Than Hinder

So you are preparing to adopt a child.  You may feel uncomfortable, protective, or defensive about the reality of your child’s pre-adoption loss of the first family.

“The moment the subject of the adoptee’s woundedness and loss comes up, it’s like a shield goes up and they can’t hear a word you say,” Jayne Schooler, adoption professional and author.

It’s painful to enter into your child’s suffering.  It’s so much easier to assume that all is well inside your child, especially if she hasn’t manifested any obvious problems.

The first thing your child wants you to know is this: I am a grieving child.  I came to you because of loss—one that was not your fault and that you can’t erase.

Present circumstances can trigger unresolved loss for an adopted child.  They can and do mourn the mother who carried them for nine months in her womb, whose face they never saw, and whose heartbeat was their original source of security.

Most adoptive parents, instead of helping their child to grieve the loss and find closure, deny his past losses and romanticize his adoption.  Denying loss and failing to grieve can keep parents and children at arms’ length instead of in a healthy, invested relationship.

Webster’s defines romanticism as “imbued with or dominated by idealism; fanciful; impractical; unrealistic; starry-eyed, dreamy; head-in-the-clouds; out of touch with reality.”

Could it be that you have unknowingly been an adoption romanticist all these years ?

The best thing you can do to help your child is to grieve your own losses which may have occurred prior to adoption—losses such as infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or death—and to let yourself feel sad for your child’s losses and your inability to protect him from whatever happened to him prior to joining your family.

Thanks to Sherrie Eldridge for expressing these thoughts that I have excerpted for today’s blog.  You can find her thoughts here – https://sherrieeldridgeadoption.blog/.