Love makes a family and adoptive families are just as real as non-adoptive families. I believe this to my core. Even so, adoption makes a family unique. Adopting while pregnant is even more unique.
We have the privilege of raising virtual twins. We call them “almost twins,” “twins of sorts,” or “twiblings.” What this means is: two siblings who are not biologically related, whose ages are within 9 months of one another, and are made siblings by adoption or birth.
Raising virtual twins is all I know when it comes to raising kids; I have a group of mama’s who are walking this journey with me who have helped me piece together the hard, the unique, and the joy of it all.
It is both entirely hard and entirely worth it. It is the most joy-filled experience wrapped up in tragic loss. Adoption in general is cloaked in loss; there are different layers to loss with virtual twinning.
HARD PARTS OF RAISING VIRTUAL TWINS
Having two babies at two different developmental stages is hard – even if just a few weeks apart, it’s hard. They’re both babies, but their needs and developmental stages are vastly different.
It constantly feels like I am cheating them both. They are both under one and fully dependent upon me as their mama and primary caregiver (and their dad when he is home). I am perpetually forced to choose which baby to tend to first. It is a gamble of guessing which baby’s need will be met quicker, so I can move on to the next baby.
As a mama who works towards attachment-parenting, it rips my heart open to hear one of my babies crying for longer than 5 to 10 minutes while I’m soothing the other. I find myself justifying whichever decision with petty excuses: “You’re biological and probably won’t have attachment issues, therefore you can wait” or “You’re older and can wait a little longer” (even though “older” is literally 6 months old). These excuses never make me feel better.
The comparison game. Though these two boys are so close in age, less than 5 months apart, they are not twins. Even if they were biological twins, we shouldn’t be playing the comparison game. My boys are two different humans with different biological make up and different personalities. They are going to hit their developmental milestones differently just as any other two babies would. We can celebrate one without comparing him to the other.
There is a sense of loss in knowing neither baby received an entire year or two of being “the baby.” They shared that spot which means they lost a lot of one-on-one time with us and we are often in survival mode. There is less time to focus on developing skills and deepening attachment bonds, as you would with one baby at a time.
Along with this came a loss of me being the sole comforter for my first son, who was adopted. When little brother arrived, he needed most of my attention so I had a village of women in my home every day helping with my first son. This was such a gift, but I was entirely saddened to miss out on so many moments with him.
Something I have found in the “mamas of almost twins” world is that when your first babies are your set of virtual twins, that first year for many feels like you’re drowning. First you are learning to be a new mama, and then bam! Within 9 months or less (the average is 3 months) you have a second baby to care for.
A definite loss I (ignorantly) did not foresee is the ability to blend in and be viewed as a real and normal family. With that comes the very real loss for my first-born son (joined via adoption) to avoid the constant label of “the adopted son.” My soul cringes at how often people introduce us as “The Brenner’s, Ira is biological and Sage is adopted.” I don’t want Sage to ever think he is less-than or any less our son because he was adopted. He is so much more than “adopted.” Yes, adoption is a major and beautiful part of his identity that we celebrate, but I crave for his sake for people to see him and know without a doubt he is simply “the Brenner’s son.”
UNIQUE PARTS OF RAISING VIRTUAL TWINS – ALSO, FUN!
There are many unique aspects to raising virtual twins, but I would dare to say these couple as the fun parts too.
Because they did not share space in a womb together, their bond is not the same as that of biological twins. Their bond to one another takes more intention, but is entirely sweet to witness as it unfolds. I marvel when they choose to hold hands or when one of them places their hand on the other’s arm/leg in the stroller. They don’t wake up at the same time in the morning, so when I bring the early riser in to greet the later riser…the smiles they give one another is too much to handle.
They are more than siblings because they are so close in age and “share a birth spot” so to speak. But they are not twins.
The questions. Oh the questions! This should probably also be in the “hard part” of raising virtual twins. I don’t know any conspicuous family that doesn’t encounter intrusive questions. Every single time we adventure out of our home, the countless questions hurled our way by intrigued strangers can be fun but also abrasive, and definitely exhausting:
What happened here? How old are they? How is this possible? Are they your real kids? Are they cousins? Are they real brothers? Why does one have curly hair? Interesting that one has curly hair. Where is he from? Did you have trouble getting pregnant? Did you get pregnant because you adopted? I hear adoption works that way – you get pregnant after you adopt. Are they both yours? No, I mean YOURS. [Yes, they are both mine].
I understand completely why others are curious, but it becomes exhausting answering every single question so often only to receive the raised-eyebrows and confused looks every time. And honestly, sometimes people are rude or say hurtful things.
Not all virtual twins are “made” in the baby years, but ours were! Wearing my tiny 5-pound son in the Moby Wrap on top of my 20 week rounding belly is an experience and joy I’ll never forget. I absolutely adored those 4.5 months of caring for our tiny, brand new baby while being very pregnant. The questions and stares we received made me giggle quite a bit. As my tiny preemie son snuggled up to my womb-baby, the three of us would nap, and my heart was fuller than full. I’ll forever cherish those first months of being a brand new mama while also pregnant.
These boys will never know life without the other. Even two year olds have to adjust from being the only child to sharing their parents. My boys will never know life without the other, and this is a sweet bond that you cannot create with spaced-out-biological siblings.
Double the work, double the sleep deprivation, but double the fun! We have so much fun; it’s unexplainable. I absolutely melt watching my boys play together, even while under a year old. I have been spit up on constantly for the past year, the diapers are unreal, and the sleep is non-existent, but the joy is exuberant and all encompassing, wiping out the frustrations.
This isn’t the story I would have dared to plan for us five years ago, but it is far better than anything I could have conjured up on my own.