The terms virtual or artificial twinning are common terms in the adoption world for when a family brings a child home that is born in the same year as a child already in the home. But have you heard of unintentional twinning? It’s OK if you haven’t, because as far as I know I just made it up as that is the best way to describe life with our two youngest, one I gave birth to and one we adopted.
Allow me to explain.
My husband and I started researching adoption when our third born was just three months old. You see, we agreed on some things before we married: four kids (at least), open to adoption even if we were blessed with bio kids. Our road to our three kiddos by birth literally began on our honeymoon and they came one after another!
Little did we know that the journey to our fourth child, who would be adopted from China, began around the same time, when I was diagnosed early in our marriage and right after the birth of our first with some serious heart issues that I had been born with yet had gone undiagnosed until I was 27 and pregnant for the first time. It became apparent over the course of carrying our three oldest that my heart just didn’t do very well when under the extra strain of pregnancy.
It was due to these heart issues, a medical emergency during her pregnancy, and the resulting medications that our third child, our second daughter, was born in August 2013 as a small gestational age (SGA) baby at 5 pounds 9 ounces at 38 weeks. She really looked like a skeleton as a result of intrauterine growth restriction. We knew she would need a little more TLC especially in the first several weeks, despite no major medical concerns.
What we didn’t know, since we were not yet familiar with the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis, is that we had just been handed a baby from a “hard place” straight from my womb. At her 2 week doctor’s visit, she was the in 0 percentile— not even on the chart y’all – despite nursing and supplemental formula feedings. She finally gained weight and got on the chart, though she has still yet to pass 20% in height or weight. No major concerns or illness. We thought that maybe there was no real harm done and that maybe she was just small as my side of the family is on the smaller side.
She appeared to be developing typically. That is – until she started trying to speak. The first few words came, but then disappeared. I hated to compare her to our two other children but I knew this was not normal development and it sure wasn’t progress. This mother’s instinct was correct, and so, speech therapy entered our lives when she was 22 months old. Since then we have realized that not only is she still very petite for her age, but emotionally, in regards to independence, and with learning/retention she is, even now at four, not typical.
Now that I have shared our daughter’s story, let me take you on a brief version of our adoption journey. We knew a few families in our church who had adopted, or rather, waited and waited to adopt. So, soon after Lil’ Miss was born, we knew if we were to have that fourth child we had agreed upon before marriage, then it was going to be by adoption, thereby fulfilling another dream agreed upon early on.
When our Lil’ Miss was not yet two, in the summer of 2015, we applied to adopt a young boy, keeping with birth order, from China, fully expecting and prepared to W-A-I-T. We were so prepared to wait that we started when we did only because we fully believed that it would take as long or longer than the 12-18 months quoted by our agency (because doesn’t it always?) and by then our daughter would be three. We were expecting that this “wait time” would end in all our kids being roughly 2+ years apart. I even had a conversation with God that went something like this, “OK Lord, I know this will happen in your time, not mine, and I will submit myself to your timing.” HA!
Insert eye roll at myself here.
Now when I said we were prepared to wait, what you need to know is that this mama still worked furiously to get each step of the process where the ball was in our court completed asap, and expected everyone and everything else to be the speed bumps and cause the slow downs. The way I saw it was I’ll go as fast as I can while homeschooling three littles and all that comes with being a mom, because the governmental offices will be slow, and the mail is slow (it’s not called snail mail for no reason), and being matched with a child will go slow… Um, yeah, that’s not exactly how it happened.
*For those of you who did wait an unbearable amount of time, please do not take this as boasting, or bragging. Please know also I am not complaining at the quickness by which our journey happened. But the irony here is that I was so prepared to wait, that I was just as dismayed, shocked, confused, panicked by not waiting as some are with their wait!*
What did happen is that the very week our dossier arrived in China in November of 2015, even before we were LID, I received a call from our agency and when I heard who was on the other end (the director of the China program) I knew that this was *the* call [insert joy, panic, and breathlessness here]. She told me about an 11 month old boy born in Dec 2014 who seemed healthy, except some delays.
Well, honestly, I was surprised – surprised at the quickness, by his seemingly minor needs (I say minor relative to life-threatening needs as the doctors here were concerned that he may have little use of his right side based on the referral info) since we had been open to several major, more involved medical needs. I felt so sure that the agency director was surprised at the lack of excitement in my voice (I had checked out and was doing the math between his and my youngest’s birthdates) that I verbally promised her that I was excited though I knew it didn’t sound like it.
It was the week of Thanksgiving that we reviewed his file, talked to an adoption doctor, prayed, and discussed. It wasn’t an instantaneous, this-is-our-kid-kind-of-thing. But we knew God places children in families so we prayed that if he was meant to be ours that a special love would grow for him in our hearts by the time we had to respond. God is always faithful and the next time my husband and I discussed it – we agreed that he was indeed ours! And then began the next part of the journey — a race we had no idea how fast we were running.
Looking back there were some clues that the speed was moving along faster than we thought – like when we went to get fingerprinted and the person told us that it took around four weeks for approval, but it was sitting in our mailbox exactly a week later! Before we knew it, we found ourselves in March of 2016 waiting for travel approval!
Our agency used travel groups and we knew that the window was closing quickly to get TA in time to travel in April as his province was the first travel group in each month. We knew though that if we traveled in May that we would have to miss our oldest daughter’s dance recital and as a mom that misses nothing, that idea just tore me up.
So I found myself having a very different conversation with God than I had at the beginning. This time it went more like this, “Lord this has been your time, by your hand, and I have seen you move this along despite the normal time frames and setbacks. Now I’m asking you to bring us TA in time to travel in April.” Right before this I had been convicted on speaking the promises of God, to really believe your prayers will be answered. So in faith I called the person that was in charge of the travel groups, consulate appointments, etc and I asked when the latest date on which we could get TA and still travel in April was, because I wanted to know what date to specifically ask God for and went as far as telling this person that we would be on the April travel group…
And we were. I think the travel person may have been a little shocked at how the timing worked out the way it did. We left for China just about a week after TA and a few days after all our appointments were in place. On April 12, 2016 we met our son, who was by then 15 months old though more developmentally like a 9 month old, in the civil affairs office in Guangdong province. The whole process had taken just barely 10 months. And on top of that, in the four short months since we had seen his file, our son had made enough developmental gains for us to know he did have use of is right side, though a little differently than his left.
Even after we got home and settled in, the “twinning” wasn’t apparent as our son came home tiny, unable to walk, talk, still taking a bottle of formula, and with feeding issues – all which after many doctor appointments, tests, scans, and evaluations proved to be products of coming from a “hard place.” We are so thankful that by the time he had been home about a year, his progress was substantial. He needed physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
Soon after he was two, he graduated OT and PT, and weighed more than his petite older sister and is now only slightly shorter than she is, despite being almost 17 months apart in age. They both are in speech and have come a long way. She is about to graduate! But she still is a bit delayed in some areas and he is too. However, what one struggles to do, the other has it nailed. And, vice versa. For instance, being an almost graduate of speech, she often translates or speaks for him when he is struggling. He has learned to recognize all the letters and sounds all on his own (I’m still perplexed as to how) and without intentional instruction, whereas she struggles with retention despite my repeated efforts to teach them to her. Therefore, many days he reminds her what letter is which.
At first, as a stay at home, homeschooling mom, I found myself saying to my husband, “I feel like I have twins.” (Granted – this is coming from a woman who doesn’t have bio twins.) But then people in our tribe, friends, family, church members have started noticing it too. They really are two peas in a pod. They are both lovers, nurturers, tender-hearted, and sincere. They are quick to forgive (at least each other). And, whereas it’s hard to be so needed by two preschoolers, I have had sweet glimpses into a very special, ever-growing friendship, siblinghood, a deeper understanding and acceptance between them that even surpasses what I had seen in our kids that came to us from birth. I would have never chosen to have kiddos so similar developmentally and in needs. I would have never chosen to have children closer in age than my comfortable 2+ year age gap. They are my “unintentional twins.”
But… whereas the timing was all unintentional on our part, this was the very timing – His timing – I had submitted myself to in the beginning! I love when I expect or think God will work a situation one way, but He does something completely different and I am in awe of how much better it is then what my human mind could conceive!
Our family is His perfect plan. He knew our two youngest needed each other. I am so thankful that even in the midst of adoption, where it often feels like we get to make such big decisions (gender, age, special needs) that are out of hands when children come to us by birth, that He is in control over it all.
And that His timing is always right whether you have to wait or play catch up. He does not make mistakes. Everything He does is intentional. And for this, I’m thankful.