Twinsters: A Movie Review

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Imagine that a friend sends you a Youtube link to check out. You open it only to find that it features you… except that you never did what you see in the recording. There’s someone out there who looks and moves exactly like you. Could you possibly have a long-lost twin?

This is how Anaïs learned that she might have a biological sister. Samantha was adopted from South Korea when she was and raised across the Atlantic Ocean. The story of how Anaïs and Samantha learned of each other, connected, and eventually met is shared with us in intimate documentary form in Twinsters, currently streaming on Netflix in the US.

Twinsters Movie flier. A remarkable story of identical twins separated at birth.

My 11-year-old identical twin daughters and I watched this movie together. We knew all along that the two young women would confirm through DNA testing that they were identical twins. Still, we were swept up in the suspense as they waited for answers.

As we got to know Samantha and Anaïs, one American, one French, both adopted, both artists, my daughters couldn’t help but reflect on their own relationship, a connection they hold sacred and special. In one of her frequent jaw-dropping insights, M wondered out loud whether twins raised apart might become more alike than those raised together. After all, she pointed out, they don’t have the same pressures on them to claim their unique identities. She’s well aware that both she and her sister sometimes make choices simply to be different from one another.

Although you might be tempted to head over to Netflix immediately to watch this movie with your young children, I offer a word of caution. Samantha has a foul mouth, and Anaïs’ isn’t much better. There is a lot of casual profanity in this movie, so if that is something that bothers you, save Twinsters for the grownups. My kids are mature enough to know that hearing F-bombs used by others doesn’t make using them acceptable in our family. They had already had exposure to these words at school. (In fact, the only profanity allowed in our home, by order of my daughter J, is “Brad Dingleman.” Jenny Lawson fans will get the reference.) Still, we discussed how uncomfortable her language made us feel and I reiterated that her swearing choices made it harder for us to connect with her.

Twin expert Nancy Segal, who has been kind enough to guest post for us in the past, plays a prominent role in helping Anaïs and Sam find answers. Her understanding of twin relationships, in all their guises, has literally filled books. Even more than her presence on the screen, her understanding of twin relationships and what can make them so wondrous is apparent throughout the film.

One huge thing we loved about this story is that it wasn’t just about discovering twin identity. The young women also explored their identities as adoptees, as South Korean in name only, as infants given up by a woman who still insists that they were never born to her. They reconnected with the Korean women who fostered them as infants. They don’t share a language with these women, but they do share love, compassion, and gratitude.

While not a primary focus of Twinsters, we also get some insight into how Sam and Anaïs’ families deal with the shock of discovering that they have another family member out there. Obviously, families with adopted children are already ready to open their hearts to atypical relationships. Nonetheless, my heart warmed at seeing the way in which Anaïs gained not only a sister, but all her sister’s brothers too. I can’t even imagine the feelings the parents had, realizing that there was another child out there that could have easily been theirs.

The thing about real life is that it doesn’t have neat endings. The circumstances of their birth and the reasons they were split up continue to be mysteries to Anaïs and Sam. Sam embraced the exploration of her history more easily than Anaïs, for whom adoption presented a greater trauma than it did for Sam. In each other, though, they both found healing and joy.

Take the time watch Twinsters (without the kids, please) and let us know what you think!

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Liz’s Story, Continued: Finally Expecting After Embryo Adoption — 10 Things I Didn’t Expect

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Liz reflects on being pregnant, thanks to embryo adoption, after extended infertility. This post was originally published on her blog, Wishing on a Snowflake.

I spent some time reading through my blog from my very first blog post back in 2012. I found myself thinking about all of the incredible things that pregnancy has brought me, much of which has surpassed my dreams.

It was emotional going through some of the very dark posts, but doing so makes these wonderful moments today that much sweeter. It got me reflecting about some of the things I expected to happen and feel when I was pregnant, and how the reality turned out to be different in some cases. This isn’t a bad thing, just an observation about how I had no idea how the pregnant-me would feel in a lot of ways.

Pregnancy with embryo adoption has its own set of surprises.

Some of these are lighthearted, some are not. But NONE on this list are complaints – just reflections about how the reality of pregnancy isn’t what I had pictured it would be while dealing with infertility.

  1. I expected to live every day in fear. I really can’t believe this, but I’m not fearful. Sure, I have moments where I worry about Sammy surviving or that we might get some heartbreaking news. But it’s not gnawing away at me during every moment of every day like I pictured it would. I think that part of this is because I’m intentionally shoving any scary thoughts to the side and purposefully focusing on what we have today. I don’t live in the “what IFs”, I live in the “what AREs.” I’m only drifting my thoughts to the future if it’s in a positive way. I am grateful to God because my mental state is such a polar opposite compared to when I was trying to become pregnant.
  2. I expected I’d have lots of pregnancy-related complications by now. Before getting pregnant I had elevated blood pressure and insulin resistance. I am gluten intolerant and have MTHFR mutation. Heck, I even have a fairly rare infertility diagnosis and suffered two devastating miscarriages. I figured I’d always draw the unlucky card, even if I was lucky enough to get pregnant. Even believing that, I didn’t care and was willing to do whatever it took to bring a baby home. But to my surprise, I’ve had been blessed to have a very easy pregnancy. I know it’s not easy for everyone, and I acknowledge how hard it must be to have complications. I also know I’m not out of the woods yet. But I’m beyond grateful I’ve made it this far with nothing serious.
  3. I expected pregnancy to be full of cravings. I was sure I’d be chowing down rocky road ice cream, German chocolate cake, and would be sending Kevin to the store at 2 am for some calorie-ridden craving. I did not expect to have such a tumultuous relationship with food. Sure, I figured first trimester to be rough followed by insatiable, weird cravings in second and third trimesters. But overall, I just hate food even to this day. I really don’t have any cravings to speak of. Well, maybe chocolate milk but that’s about it. Everything else pretty much sounds like sawdust to me. I love to eat normally, so this surprises me.
  4. I expected to gain a bunch of weight from the above mentioned expected cravings. But in fact, I’ve actually lost a pound. I have a good explanation to this one, aside from the fact I hate food. I had some extra padding to begin with! Women with my BMI tend to gain less during than other women who are thinner. For what it’s worth, My OB isn’t worried whatsoever because I am making a point to get nutritious (usually liquid) calories down whenever I can. I’m surprised to learn that this is pretty common!
  5. I expected baby kicks to feel like butterflies fluttering or popcorn popping. They don’t feel that way to me at all. I have had GI issues most of my life and have had my share of intestinal spasms. And hands down, to me baby kicks feel like intestinal spasms. They are so similar that they are nearly indiscernible from them, but I know that’s not what they are. It doesn’t change the fact that I find them just incredible!
  6. I never expected to have a recognizable baby bump. I expected to just look fat, not pregnant. As mentioned above, I’m not a tiny chick with a tiny body. I’m 5’11” and have some padding. I expected I’d go through pregnancy with everyone wondering if I just ate too many cupcakes or burritos. That didn’t bother me too much, but I secretly coveted the ladies who had obvious baby bumps. I figured that would never be my reality. But I’m shocked and elated how much this belly has rounded out and is obviously full of baby. I’ve even had a couple of strangers approach me in public and ask me when my due date was! I’m proud of my body for finally being kind to me in an unexpected way.
  7. I expected my parents to be involved. Before infertility, I always pictured my mom and dad being involved and excited about my pregnancy. Then weeks after being diagnosed with DOR in 2011, my mom died of cancer. I didn’t expect that and it sent a ripple through my world. After years of treatments and now I’m finally expecting I hoped at least my dad would be involved. Sadly, this one isn’t true. For reasons far too long to list here, my dad is distanced. This is a sad realization for me and not what I expected.
  8. I expected to still have difficulty with others who had children the “easy way.” No doubt infertility has forever changed me. But I have genuinely embraced all things baby, regardless of how they came to be. I thought a future-me would perhaps be capable of that someday, but I had no idea how quickly. This makes me proud of myself because it scared me thinking I’d hold onto some difficult feelings for so long. I’m so glad to finally feel somewhat normal again. I never EVER thought I’d feel 99% normal during pregnancy.
  9. I expected to be an advocate for embryo adoption. But I had no idea how passionate I’d become. Becoming pregnant has lit a fire in me that is impossible to put out. I shout about EA from the rooftops whenever I can. I am working on ways to get the word out on it whenever possible. I give the elevator speech at any opportunity. I want to help others who want to know more. This is to a degree I never imagined and I feel fulfilled to a degree I never would have imagined either.

And the one that will certainly make me cry. Yup, here come the tears, I feel them…

  1. I expected to love my baby, but I had absolutely no idea how much. I love her so much more than I ever thought was possible. I imagine every day what it will be like to hold her in my arms, to enjoy those gleeful moments on Christmas morning, and to have the soapy mohawks in the tub. I knew I would be in love, but my brain couldn’t comprehend it would be this much. And I’m sure I still have no idea to the degree I can ultimately love this little girl until I meet her and watch her grow.

This post was submitted by Liz.  Follow her inspiring story of pregnancy after infertility, embryo adoption, and loss at Wishing on a Snowflake.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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Nichole’s Story: The Path to Adoption

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This story was submitted by Nichole, who blogs about life with her amazing duo at Love at First Smile.

I’m a planner! My entire life is a well thought out, well constructed plan! I think things through. I don’t make rash decisions. I make sure everything is squared away before moving on to the next step! I’ve always been this way and it boggles my mind that there are people who fly by the seat of their pants! Those people stress me out and I feel the need to make a plan for them!

I’m a rule follower! I do things the way you are supposed to. Society tells us the sequence of events for our lives and that’s what I do! I don’t stray from the rules…ever! (I am known to speed, so I’m not a full-on buzz kill.)

I’m also terrified of needles! There, I said it! It’s silly and ridiculous and extremely embarrassing but it is what it is! I’m talking the mere mention of a needle will have me in a cold sweat. Don’t let me see a needle or I’m going down! As a kid, adults would rib me about how I was going to have children and my answer was always, I’m going to adopt!

Before I married my husband, we, of course, had all of the talks about having children and how we would raise them… all of the talks that you are supposed to have. I had always hoped that I would adopt a child at some point in my life. I had known a few people who had adopted and I felt a certain calling for it. I loved the idea of giving a child a chance that they wouldn’t have had.

Boy, did I learn that when you adopt, you aren’t giving them a gift… they are giving you a gift.

My future husband was totally open to adoption too so in my plan I thought the ideal situation would be for us to have a biological child and then later on adopt our second child. I had it all figured out. Can you tell?

 I’ve learned that some of the greatest things in life were discovered by getting off the sidewalk! Infertility led to the adoption of two lovely daughters.

Now that I’ve given you a 10-cent tour of myself, here’s my journey through infertility to adoption!

Remember, I’m a rule follower! I got married when I was 22 and I knew that I wasn’t ready to be a mother yet. I was always terrified of getting pregnant before I was ready. The stars needed to align just right and my ducks needed to be in a straight, non-curvy, no bumps in the road, line! My plan was to be selfish for a little while: enjoy being married, travel, spend money on myself, do exactly what I wanted to do! I knew that for me to be the mother that I wanted to be, I needed to be able to give 100% of myself to motherhood, when the time came. That time was NOT my early 20s!

I’m a planner, remember? Well, according to my well-constructed, I’m-in-charge-of-my-life plan, we were going to start “trying” to get pregnant on our 5th wedding anniversary! That anniversary was celebrated in Las Vegas and we followed the plan. We started “trying” that week in September, 2008.

I believed we would totally have a baby by Christmas, 2009. We probably needed to go ahead and talk about baby names. We should probably pick out nursery colors and furniture. Writing all of this makes me giggle out loud. I just knew how everything was going to go because I HAD A PLAN!

My husband and I continued to “try” to no avail. After a couple of years, the word infertility kept creeping in to my brain. I wanted to be a Mom so much that I would literally ache. My husband and I considered starting out on the fertility journey but I was not on board with being poked and prodded and tested. Remember my fear of needles!

We started to throw around the adoption idea but getting started on an adoption journey is so hard! There just aren’t any resources out there that tell you how to start the process. We learned early on that with adoption, you either have a lot of money or a lot of time, meaning you can either spend a lot of money for a quick adoption or you can spend a lot of time waiting on an adoption opportunity! Well, we had time!

Adoption had always been on my heart and was always part of my plan. I believe that infertility affected me so that I could let go of my plans and the “rules” and go down another, different path than I thought I would. After lots of research, emails, phone calls, tears, and many late night talks, we decided to start the adoption process in 2010. Our home study was completed in 2011 and we began the wait. Since we chose not to go through an agency, we decided we would just let God’s plan be. Everyone we knew was aware that we wanted to adopt and we knew that when the timing was right, God would plant a child in our lives!

I’ll save all of the adoption details for a blog post on adoption. Fast forward to 2012 and we were blessed with not one, but two of the most beautiful, sweetest little girls in the world! They were 4 and 6 at the time they came to live with us, not babies! Remember my plan? I was prepared for a baby, not 2 little girls!

Nichole's very loved daughters. The family was united by adoption.

In August of 2013, the adoption was finalized and we are now the parents to 8 year old Hazel Kate and 6 year old Kellie Caroline and life could not be any better!

God’s plan was so much better than mine! We jumped in head first and we haven’t slowed down since! Life is so full and the biggest miracle! I thank God every day for these 2 little lives that we’ve been chosen to parent!

Our infertility/adoption journey was heart-wrenching, exhausting, sad, infuriating, and confusing. However, that 4 year journey was also marriage-building, motivating, and a bigger blessing than I could see when I was in the middle of it! I learned so many things about myself and my marriage during that time, but most importantly I learned that my plans are not always the right plans.

I needed to let go and get off my path. Otherwise, I would have missed the most incredible gift!

Many times, we have to let go of the way that we think life should be to head in a different direction. I’ve learned that some of the greatest things in life were discovered by getting off the sidewalk! It’s amazing what life can give you if you change the way you think it’s supposed to go!

Everyone’ s journey to motherhood is different and that’s OK! Being a mother is the greatest gift in the world, no matter how you got there.

Whether you get pregnant on the first try (congrats to you, if that’s the case), go through fertility treatments, adopt your little one, help someone else take care of their children, stand in as someone’s mom, or fill any other type of “mom” role, you were chosen for that role.

Make it count!


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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Lea’s Story: From Infertility to Adoption

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This post was originally published as “Fast Forward to 2010” on LeaTheBlogger. You can also find Lea on Twitter.

My IVF ended in 2008 after we decided not to continue with any more treatments. To be honest, I thought once we stopped ‘thinking’ about it, that it would just happen. We did stop thinking about it for a while. We had other things to think about…

In 2010 we got a phone call that changed our lives forever. It was early July, a weeknight. My Mam called to say her cousin had been killed. I had never met him. We talked about how it happened and what a shame it was. He was in his 40s and she said he had 2 daughters he would be leaving behind. I did think about them, thinking “poor things”, but I assumed they were older children.

The next week, I talked to my parents again about my Mam’s cousin. They mentioned that the children he had were both 3 years old: one was almost 4 and once had just turned 3. I couldn’t believe how young they were and immediately said, “We’ll take them in“. Obviously, there was more to it than that. They had a birth mother, but had not seen her since being under a year old. They had a stepmother also who, due to complicated matters, couldn’t care for them. They were staying at their dad’s niece’s house but she had children of her own and couldn’t cope.

My husband and I spoke about it. My Mam had already spoken to the girls’ great grandma, who had mentioned us as potential long term carers for the girls. (She knew we had no children of our own.)

For Lea, the road from infertility to adoption wasn't a straight one, but she now has two daughters, the children she always wanted.

The next step was to get in touch with social services. We had a home visit and we arranged to take the youngest out for the day. She had fetal alcohol syndrome and they wanted us to be sure this was something we could do and wanted to do. That day was the most stressful day of my life, but in no way did it put us off. We wanted the girls.

So the ball was rolling with social services and the girls’ cousin was keen to get them out of her house. Things had to move quickly. We had a further meeting with social services. It was then mentioned that we could potentially be long term carers for the girls, but the birth mother and step mother had taken an interest in caring for them. If we took them in, it might not be permanent. We would be classed as family foster carers with no financial help.

This changed everything.

We heard this news on the Thursday – 5th August 2010. The social services representative contacted us the next day after. She needed our decision ASAP. If we said no or didn’t answer, she would have to look for a foster home for the girls. The girls could even be split up. We made a decision that morning.

The girls arrived at our house with a bag of teddy bears and a bag of clothes between them at 5.30pm that same day.

It was a quick turn around to make their teas, give them baths, put them to bed. My hubby had to make a quick trip to supermarket. We needed things we hadn’t anticipated. The youngest, who had tuned 3 a couple of weeks before, was still having milk! 9 bottles a day in fact, and still in nappies!

It wasn’t the best of nights. They didn’t come with PJs and the oldest one wet the bed. We had to change her into the clothes we had. The next day we hit the shops. They needed everything. When you know something is happening you can plan. A baby for instance, gives you so many months to buy things and prepare. We had a few hours.

I took 2 weeks off work. My husband and I both worked full-time. As it was foster care and not adoption we were not entitled to any time off other than annual leave. It was hard. I’m not going to lie. They needed constant attention and they were fragile too. The oldest was very quiet and withdrawn and always wanted to act like a baby. The youngest had behavioural problems and had very testing behavior! She was really hard work. She had also seen her father be killed. At that time, she could remember what had happened and some things affected her more than others.

Within a month of being told that these 2 girls existed, they were living in our house. We had gone from 2 to 4 basically overnight!

Lea is the mother of her 2 adopted daughters, married for 8 years. She lives in Durham, North East England, with her husband, daughters and Labrador. She is unable to conceive naturally due to PCOS, and has had various fertility treatments including IVF. You can find her blogging at LeaTheBlogger or follow her on Twitter.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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Making a Difference: Ollie Cantos

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Throughts on the Storycorps conversations between Ollie Cantos and Leo, Nick and Steven Argel

Every so often, I come across a story that stops me in my tracks. Such stories remind me that what seems like a small gesture can change the path of a person’s life for the better. They remind me that it’s okay to accept help as well as to offer it. They make me proud to be human.

The story of triplet brothers Leo, Nick and Steven Argel, and their mentor, Ollie Cantos, is one of those reminders. Go on, listen to it. I’ll be here when you get back. If you’re not able to listen to it right now, perhaps the transcript will work better for you.

Ollie Cantos with his soon-to-be adoptive sons

Done wiping your tears? I told you I’d be here.

This story touches me on so many levels. Yes, there’s the obvious triplets thing. Thanks to my sweet twin daughters, M and J, as well as their triplet cousins, I’m a sucker for happy stories about multiples. That’s not all, though.

I have the privilege to know an extremely well-adjusted, smart, sweet, highly energetic little girl who happens to be blind. She’s 9 years old and a role model to my daughters, both academically and socially. She recently took first place at our regional Braille Challenge. Several months ago, one of my daughters was driving a scooter on the sidewalk and not paying attention. Her blind friend reached out for the handles from behind her and turned quickly to keep both girls out of the street, then lectured my daughter on street safety.

This little girl’s mother is one of the few NICU moms I know in real life. The grace with which she navigates single motherhood and encourages her daughter’s independence and self-advocacy is an inspiration to me in my newfound single mom life. The matter of fact way in which she faces her daughter’s disability has been a model for the way I discuss my own daughter M’s birth defect with her.

I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can provide for my children. However, I don’t do it alone. While I am well-equipped to feed, clothe and educate J and M, I lean on my church community for their spiritual formation. I know that Nick, Steven and Leo’s mom did her very best, but simply wasn’t in a position to know what her sons were capable of. I can’t imagine it was easy for her to let Ollie into her sons’ lives, putting in relief all the ways in which she hadn’t been able to nurture them alone.

This is a story of love. It’s a reminder that family isn’t just a group that you’re born into, but one built on love and chance meetings. I am newly invigourated to not only to continue to deepen my relationships with children in my community who, for whatever reason, have crossed my path and been drawn to me, but to accept help from others in raising my own two daughters.

Thank you, Mr. Cantos.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Transcript of the Storycorps interview of Ollie Cantos and Leo, Nick and Steven Argel

Ollie Cantos: I had a lot of trouble growing up because I didn’t have any friends really. I was made fun of a lot. There would be people who would put their hands in front of my face and say, “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Leo Argel: Same thing.
Ollie Cantos: Same thing with you guys, right?
Leo Argel: Yes.
Ollie Cantos: So, what were things like growing up?
Leo Argel: Well, every day was like wake up, go to school, come back home, and then you stay there for the rest of the day. There were certain things that I wish I could do like go out and play in the snow like everyone else. ‘Cause I’ve heard kids through the window… we could hear that they were having fun. The only thing I remember when I was seven, we went to McDonald’s, and we went to the park. We rarely went outside.
Nick Argel: It was getting so bad that I wanted to die. But it was one of the decisions I’m glad I did not make because I would have missed out on everything.
Ollie Cantos: Do you remember that night when I first arrived?
Nick Argel: Oh yeah, I do. Because I… I certainly didn’t know that there were other blind people except me and my brothers.
Ollie Cantos: You didn’t believe me that I’m really blind. So, I’m like, “Well yeah, here’s my cane.” And then you left and came back with a book, and you put my hand on it, and it was the Bible. You couldn’t believe that I actually read Braille.
Nick Argel: It just made me feel like I had a person that I could trust, because I didn’t trust anyone.
Ollie Cantos: I took you guys individually to learn how to use your canes better, and we’d just go to the corner store, and I remember, Leo, one day the store clerk, she said, “Is that your son?” And, you know, before I could answer, you put your arm around me, and you said, “Yeah, it’s my dad.” And I said, “Do you know what that means?” You said, “Well, you take us places, you protect us, you help us with our homework. Sounds like a dad to me.” Whenever I hear you call me “Dad,” it’s the highest compliment to me. You three used to be in the same situation that I was, and to see you come out of that and to be the way you guys are now, it’s impossible to describe how grateful I am that I get to be your dad.

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Special Needs: Adopting the Drug Exposed Newborn

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Adopting from foster care means being open to the reality that the child you take into your home is likely to have been exposed to drugs in the womb. Many folks would love to adopt, but are afraid of the issues that they might face. The “scariest” reality for most is caring for a newborn who experienced drug exposure in utero. I have lived out that reality more than once, and two of those children are now my darlings for life! In fact, we are just emerging from year two of having functional multiples, who are also special needs kiddos. I’m here to tell you, it was SO worth it. It was beautiful! And, it isn’t as scary as you might think!

In the Beginning

Our journey started out with preparation. I found all the info I could get my hands on about drug exposure and its potential effects on newborns/infants/toddlers. The very best source of information that I have found is the Pediatric Interim Care Center, in Kent, Washington. They have a very helpful website, but, it is a lot of information to sift through. So, instead of just leaving you with the main link, I will include the two specific links that provided the most helpful information for our journey.

  • The first is the potential symptoms exhibited by newborns who have been exposed to drugs.
  • The second is the tips they provide on the care and handling of such a newborn. This is lifesaving information at 3am when baby is screaming, let me tell you! Absolutely essential!

I cannot say enough about this organization! They take phone calls from panicked foster parents, 24 hours a day and will walk you through what baby is exhibiting, and why, and how to address the need. Again, they’ve saved my bacon more than once!

Sensory Processing Disorder

The list of possible issues that any given child can develop as a result of drug exposure in utero is nearly endless. The many variations are just as daunting! I won’t try to cover all that info here. In my experience, the top issues that can interfere with a child’s ability to manage life well fall under the umbrella of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Our two kiddos were on opposite ends of the spectrum of SPD in many ways, so I have had two of the most common kinds of extremes under one roof.

Here is my very, very, very favorite video explaining SPD and its effect on the people who have it.

That is one brilliant child! He and children like himself (and my own kiddos) have opened my eyes to a broader view on life. There is value in every day. And every child has something to give that is unique and precious!  Take it one moment at a time, mining for the gold that is in each day. But I digress!

Isaiah’s Journey

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Isaiah boy’s first bath. He looks like any other newborn and in many ways he was very much like any other newborn. Yes, he smiled like that from day one!

Isaiah was born at 37 weeks with a very “small cup” for tactile stimulation, especially oral tactile stimulation. It overwhelms and confuses him. He also had a very poor suck reflex. He was easily overwhelmed by taste, scent and sound, to the point of completely shutting down and sleeping around the clock because of an odor that had assaulted his exquisitely sharp senses. Therapists refer to his issues as sensory defensiveness. This translated into feeding difficulties.

I was horrified to realize that the nurses at the hospital are not trained specifically in how to handle newborns who are drug exposed. So, the nurse had been just holding him on his side and letting formula dribble into his mouth. She did not understand what he needed to have any hope of coordinating his movements and eating successfully! We initially fought against failure to thrive. And Isaiah was put on the same formula created for preemies. He was simply burning too many calories in his efforts to eat! Isaiah required feeding every hour to an hour and a half, around the clock, for the first several weeks of his life. And, he had trouble keeping the food in his system for any length of time. At one month of age, he had just gained back up to his birth weight.

He also exhibited signs of “dyspraxia”, a general term covering all sorts of developmental coordination issues and very low muscle tone.  At ten months old, he still could not sit up reliably on his own. His nervous system was unable to keep signals straight. It was difficult for him to translate brain signals into muscle motions. Or to coordinate movements for things like chewing, swallowing, or catching himself if he began to fall. Those things were very real challenges. But, he is living proof that early intervention is everything to the special needs child. Today his nervous system has caught up in that area to the developmental level of a child who is older than himself! He still has issues with food. But, honestly, what two-year old doesn’t? More and more, the issues I see don’t look all that different from those of other kids of the same age.

Zoe’s Journey

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Zoe girl at roughly 2 months old. Those bright eyes lit up our days!

Zoe, on the other hand has a very “large cup” for tactile stimulation (especially oral). She will put anything and everything in her mouth, even at two!  As an infant and young toddler, she would chew on everything. All infants learn by mouthing objects in their world. Zoe simply could not get enough sensory input no matter how hard she tried. People would come into our home and ask where the puppy was! To this day, she sleeps in a crib that is the very cute equivalent of a padded room: she has special safe bumpers that go around each crib slat, rather than just lining the bed. They work great and keep her from chewing on the wooden crib slats. She is what they call a “sensory seeking” child, always striving to fill her very large bucket that requires sensory input and is never full.

Always… that is, until it comes to proprioception and vestibular movement. As an infant, she would stiffen her whole body up and push you away. I had never experienced anything like it with a newborn. I often heard people comment that she was hard to hold because they were afraid that her pushing would cause them to drop her. Now we understand what she was experiencing. The therapist called it gravitational insecurity.  Zoe has a very hard time judging where her body is in relation to everything else in her world. At that time, she found certain movements dizzying and incredibly unsettling.

Today, she will enjoy a mild amount of swinging, has started climbing more, and even goes down the slide at the park! All of that is thanks to Early Intervention.

Early Intervention Programs

drugexposedThe good news is that the Early Intervention programs in most areas are able to pick up on these issues from very, very young, and work with the child to develop the skills they need. So, the thing to keep in mind is that these issues do not have to be permanent. With some help their nervous systems can mature and learn to process the information needed to navigate their world. Zoe may never be a ballerina. But, she can now run and climb and play. She is developing new skills every day!

These issues are not unique to infants who are born with drug exposure. There are many children who live with SPD and other cognitive issues who are helped everyday by these same therapies.

The chances are that many who would consider adoption through foster care programs have already been exposed to kids with these same needs. For example, that child who seems very clumsy? Trips over their own feet? Perhaps bumps into walls more than the average kid? That could very well be a child with dyspraxia. It’s really not so different. Don’t let the labels scare you. These are children! While it is challenging, caring for a newborn who has special needs is not much different from caring for any newborn. You find out what they need, how to do it, and you provide for that need.

I hope that if you sense the call to adopt on your life, this information will encourage you to do so! Do not let fear of drug exposure stop you.

Today, looking at my darlings…I really don’t see anything but typical two year olds! As our doctor recently told us, if no one had known that they were drug exposed newborns (and thus immediately placed them and their development under a microscope from day one) our doctors would be reassuring us all along that they are well within the “range of normal” and to “just give it time”.

They are so very worth our time!

Jeanene and her husband Kelly are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting their boy/girl “functional” twins, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. Both kids came home as newborns in 2011, and were adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day, November 17, 2012! She shares the perspective of raising multiples through adoption. She also speaks from the position of raising kids as “older parents,” something that Jeanene and her hubby have found is becoming a more and more common experience. Jeanene is a passionate landscape, wedding, and portrait photographer, but has put the business side of photography on hold to focus on the special needs of her kiddos as a SAHM. Her days are now spent in a mixture of play, occupational therapy, and everyday life with two year olds running around. Think messy! When she has time, she enjoys casual photography, hiking, fly fishing, hunting, reading, writing and working researching the best ways to meet the needs of her sensory challenged kiddos! She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at A Miraculous Mess.

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Identical Twins, Separated at Birth by 7000 Miles

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Categories Adoption, Identical, Multiples in the News4 Comments

I just heard a story on the radio show The World that made me pull over in the nearest parking lot. I wanted to concentrate on the story and wasn’t sure I could trust my driving until I’d gathered my thoughts. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

A young American man, Dan Matthews, was adopted from South Korea when he was an infant. After many years of choosing not to, he decided to see whether the adoption agency involved could help him locate his birth parents. When they responded, he learned that not only were his birth parents still married, he had a sister and a twin brother. Genetic testing eventually found them to be identical twins.

I confess that I’m as fascinated as the next person by stories of twins separated at birth. I often wonder about how many of my identical daughters’ similarities can be chalked up to simply being raised in the same home with the same set of expectations. Looking at twins who never crossed paths between birth and adulthood is a window into what sorts of things genetics can contribute to. That said, I expect those stories to be about older people, from a time before people understood how much a newborn can understand, from a time before people understood that the twin bond starts in utero.

I look at my daughters, M and J. I see the primacy that Sister holds in their lives. As they tell me, frequently, “Sissy is the importantest person in my life.” They get on each other’s nerves more often than I like to admit, but they share a bond that I can only watch and wonder at. I will never experience anything so visceral, intense, and beautiful. The mother-child bond comes close, but the twin bond as something else.

Separating multiples, whether identical or fraternal, seems to me to be a form of abuse. Dan, the American brother, is impressive in his forgiveness. He says that although he’s never asked directly why his birth parents chose to relinquish their rights to raise him, he suspects that they were unable to afford his early medical care.

The two brothers-by-birth-only are both rappers. They share quirks such as the way they eat. It sounds like Dan’s parents are wonderful ones, supportive and accepting. Perhaps he wouldn’t have survived had his birth parents been responsible for his infant medical care. Perhaps separating the brothers was the right call.

What I know is that I, having seen twinship up close and personal, would never in a million years want my daughters or any other multiples to be raised separately unless they so choose. When my ex and I divorced, there was no question that the girls would stay together, whichever parent were to raise them. My sister is adopted. Her biological mother was a child herself, so my sister probably has biological siblings out there in the world. I don’t consider that separation to be abusive. There is something special about multiples. I’m pretty sure I thought that even before I got to join the exclusive club that is the twin universe.

What are your thoughts on separating twins to be raised by different parents? Does it make a difference if they’re fraternal as opposed to identical?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Why Not? (And Earplugs)

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Categories Adoption, Balance, Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Guilt, Infants, SAHM, Special Needs, Toddlers, Twinfant TuesdayTags , 8 Comments
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Yeah, that look on Isaiah’s face? We all had that look in that first year after she came home..often!LOL!

Famous last words! “Why not?” Those were the words that kicked off my first year as a mom of functional multiples!

It was two pm on Friday, November 18, 2011. I was standing in my living-room-turned-nursery, bouncing my four-month old (then) foster son when the phone rang. They had a little bitty girl, a little bitty girl they had thought about calling us for placement ten days earlier when she was first born, but there was a family who “had waited longer for placement of a little girl.” So, they tried placement there first.Thing is, it didn’t work out for that family. I laugh looking back at it now; I didn’t even ask why! I just said “Sure, why not?”

After all, all of our paperwork as foster to adopt parents said “female 0-2 years of age”. Everything. This was the moment we had waited for and dreaming about for years! I had suffered a pregnancy loss of a daughter midterm over 17 years ago. The desire for a little girl of my own never went away.

Of course, we hadn’t planned on two babies. There was nothing in our paperwork that said “boy”. I have four boys by birth! But when they called us for him four months earlier, we just knew that this was our boy. So, there I stood. Nodding, twinkling, smiling at my husband who was shaking his head in wonder, and boom! It began. Our first year of life with two teeny little people!

First quarter. Year one.

Zoe was a screamer. Yes, really. She was sweet. She was beautiful. AND she was a screamer! I already had some experience with having two. We had another little girl for a month, off and on, as a respite baby. Seriously, I thought we had experience! So, yeah–small detail–that other little girl was not a screamer.

We didn’t even make it back home before we knew why it “just wasn’t working out” for the other family. That foster mom was a single mother and had to work full-time. Dealing with that shriek all night every night was just not in the realm of possibility for her. Heck, it pushed the limits for me!

Yes, really! This is survival man!

So, while the other MoMs here have touched on organization, asking for help, and keeping a positive perspective, (all absolutely critical to surviving the first year. I guess that last one could be a part of my strategy as well.) I, on the other hand, will address ear plugs. That’s right. You heard me. Don’t have any, do ya? Ear plugs!

I don’t know about you, but crying babies have always created a great sense of alarm in me. I am really sensitive to sound anyway. On the flip side of this issue, I am very musical. I can get lost in a melody for hours. I can hear a song one time and sing it back to you note for note, verbatim. It’s of like a photographic memory, but in my case audiological memory, for lack of a better word. Unfortunately, this was no melody!

The incredible urgency to fix.it.right.now.whatever.it.takes has always been an issue for me. And that was before I heard Zoe cry. Zoe’s cry could make the hair stand up on the neck of any parent. We finally dubbed her “Sonic” because we were pretty sure that even after she stopped shrieking 24/7, some of the sounds she emitted were dolphin-speak and could only be heard on dry land by canines! Really.

Once in a phone conversation my sister asked me, “Is that a car alarm?” My reply? “Um, no. That is my daughter.” It made me want to pull my hair out. Honey cried all of the time. The first three months were just torture for all of us. There were moments when I had to just go lay her down in her crib, walk away, and cry myself for a few minutes before trying again.

Epiphany

The earplugs entered the game the first time I was alone on a road trip with both babies. I was delivering one of my older boys to college. Holy-Screaming-Banshees-Batman. They both started in. It was dark. Exhaustion loomed. I had already been crying. Dealing with empty nest feelings while raising two toddlers is an interesting experience, but I digress. As the decibel level began to climb, I simply could not imagine enduring the remaining two hours ahead of me!

It was then that I remembered that I had read about a mom of twins who used ear plugs in the car, among other places. I laughed when I first read her story, but suddenly it made sense! And in my fervor for better preparation, I actually had some in my bag.

At first, I felt foolish pulling off the freeway to dig for earplugs. Then I felt guilty.

After a few miles of relief from the most intense of my physical responses to their crying, I was able to think clearly. I realized that there really was nothing more I could do. I had already stopped and fed everyone; Zoe had cried through most of the meal anyway. They had clean diapers. What they needed now was sleep, and to get home. There were over two hours of road between us and home.

The earplugs remained in use. After a few miles of my being calmer and not fussing about them fussing, there was silence. I have never been a CIO mom. I just can’t do it. I wear my babies. But, I had to learn to separate myself a bit from the crying when there was nothing more I could do to help them. And drive. That was a big epiphany for me.

Today

Earplugs are now a very important part of my life in parenting multiples. I have two-year olds, and Sonic Girl is alive and well! Add to that the fact that there are mornings when my son is obviously going to have more sensory issues than on the typical day–or maybe I am just not really awake yet–and you can see where these could come in handy!

They allow me to ignore two-year old tantrums. They enable me to stay calm when caring for a child who has suddenly gone all “exorcist” on me. Have you ever dealt with a tantrum from a child with seriously high muscle tone? They sort of levitate! And it is usually during a diaper change. Earplugs allow me to step back, think calmly, and make good decisions. And they keep me from adding to the stress/tension/chaos.

Please note, the earplugs do *not* make it so I cannot hear them at all. They just take the painful edge off of the screaming/crying/hysteria.

Of course…it didn’t hurt that they were so darn cute!

So, there ya go. My big tip from the first , and now second, year of life with two little screaming babies: earplugs and deep breathing. It saved my sanity more than once! Try it. It just might save yours!

 

Do you have any unorthodox approaches to handling tantrums? How do you stay calm and ignore two-year old behavior?

 

Jeanene

Jeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional” twins, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.

 

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Functional Multiples

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Categories Adoption, Different Gender, Frustration, Functional Multiples, Loneliness, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Relationships, SAHM4 Comments

Zoe and IsaiahThe first thing I noticed when I arrived here at HDYDI is that the focus is on “moms of multiples”, and not specifically “moms of twins and triplets.” Because of that, and the invitation to share my perspective, I knew I had found a place to belong!

In a recent conversation, I mentioned that most folks have referred to my kidlets’ particular situation as being “virtual” or “pseudo” twins.  However, I think it is more accurate to call them “Functional Multiples.” The next question was “what thoughts lead you to that conclusion?”

I had to think about that. Until that moment, I just knew it “felt right.” I am a word person way down deep in my soul. The meaning of a word matters to me. By definition…a “twin” is  one of two children produced in the same pregnancy. Period. I am all about validating the experiences of those around me. We all have a story to share. I don’t need to claim elements of your experience to confirm my own! I am not the mother of twins. I am most definitely a mom of multiples!

I can relate to many of the first year experiences of mothers with twins. I remember the 2 am feedings. I remember holding my breath, hoping the other baby would not wake. Of course, that was before I learned to go ahead and wake the other baby and feed them so that I wouldn’t need to get up again in less than an hour!  I also remember the first real road trip that I took alone with both babies screaming in the backseat. I thought I would lose my mind. It’s amazing how quickly you learn that screaming will not kill them, and is sometimes unavoidable! *Secret confession #1…I have since developed the habit of using ear plugs when the screaming is unavoidable and going to push me over the edge!

That is why I am here! I want to share in the common experiences. Having two little ones at the same time is incredibly isolating!  I have always been a “run for the hills” outdoors kind of person. Any chance I get I am *outside*. I am a landscape photographer by passion and profession! But, in that first year, I often wondered when I would be able to get out of my house on a blue sky day again! In fact, there were days when my response was more about sleep deprivation and less about logic where I wondered if I would EVER get out of the house again!? As far as I could tell spontaneity just exited my world, stage left!

Early on I searched for support. I researched the subject of “pseudo twins” and looked in vain for online groups of moms who are like me. There is a ton of “research” and opinion on the subject, most of which is very discouraging to a vulnerable mama with two growing babies in her care. Loads of criticism and debate are available at the click of a mouse, but little to no support for those of us already walking out this dynamic. The only advice I found that was of any comfort came from moms of multiples by birth. I can relate to the mom piece of this in so many ways!

I hope that by calling my babies “functional multiples” I can communicate my respect for the difference between what my children are experiencing and that of multiples by birth. At the same time, I hope to draw in other MoMs who may not fit into the typical scenario.

Thank you so much for inviting me to pull up a chair!

What do you think when you hear the phrase “Functional Multiples”? Does it make sense to you?

 

 

JeaneneJeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional multiples”, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. Both kids came home as newborns in 2011, adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day, November 17, 2012! She shares the perspective of raising multiples through adoption. She also speaks from the position of raising kids as “older parents,” something that Jeanene and her hubby have found is becoming a more and more common experience. Jeanene is a passionate landscape, wedding, and portrait photographer, but has put the business side of photography on hold to focus on the special needs of her kiddos as a SAHM. Her days are now spent in a mixture of play, occupational therapy, and everyday life with two-year olds running around. Think messy! When she has time, she enjoys casual photography, hiking, fly fishing, hunting, reading, writing and working researching the best ways to meet the needs of her sensory challenged kiddos! She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.

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