The call came (mostly) out of the blue in February 2015.
On the other end of the line was the director of the adoption agency we were working with. Her question to us: Would we like to adopt twins? My heart and brain stopped. Just stopped.
We had an 18 month old that we had adopted at birth, and had signed up to adopt again as soon as the one-year waiting period had passed. We were head-over-heels in love with our daughter, and knew we wanted to add to our family and needed to get the process started ASAP. Our thinking was that we needed to get on the list as soon as we could because we are “older parents” (at the time, I was 39 and my husband 46). Also, since we had already adopted our daughter, we had heard that it might potentially put us farther down the list in the eyes of birthparents. We thought it would take at least a few years before we got the call, though! I had just gone back to work after a year off with our daughter, and life was settling back in to the ‘new normal’ after the excitement of an instant placement adoption.
We had known that the birth mother of our daughter was expecting twins, but her plan was to parent, so we had not given it much thought and celebrated with the birth family at the news that the boy/girl fraternal twins had been born and were in the NICU for a short stay (common for twins). However, shortly after the birth, things changed and the birthparents made the choice to place the babies for adoption through Adoption Options. They had requested that we be the parents, and that is what the phone call was about!
Perhaps we should have been anticipating this event, but we had not seriously considered parenting twins beyond fleeting thoughts in the past. Were we ready? We were NOT! We spent many hours in conversation as a couple and with our immediate family and closest friends. Was the timing optimal? No. Would there be other chances to adopt? Most likely yes. An added consideration was that the twins were of First Nations heritage. There was a different birth father than for our first daughter, making the twins her half-siblings. There are many sensitive cultural considerations (not to mention opinions) when predominantly white families adopt Indigenous children, and we needed to thoughtfully consider the implications of this decision. I’m a researcher, so promptly got to work gathering resources. We talked and talked and talked in just the space of hours. We debated. We went back and forth in our decision. However, in the end, the question we kept coming back to was the importance of keeping these kids together and connected. If we did not adopt the twins, how would we ever explain to our daughter later that we had had a chance to adopt her siblings and had chosen not to because we ‘just didn’t feel ready and it didn’t fit our schedule’? That made it a no-brainer. We needed to keep these kids together. Our decision was a YES.
Complicating matters was the fact that I was scheduled for major surgery in two days and would not be able to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for six weeks! Since the twins were in the NICU, we had a few days, and we also quickly devised a care plan combining my family and the birth mom’s family (see more on our open adoption story here) for the first few weeks. I had the surgery and recovery was going well. I did my best to heal and not fret about our new babes. Then, disaster struck. I woke up one morning (a week after the surgery) sicker than I’d ever been. I was rushed back to the hospital by ambulance, spending several more days there with a diagnosis of a hospital-caused infection. I was weakened, and all the violent throwing up had torn muscles in my pelvic floor. More rest and lots of physio needed! My husband was able to take some parental leave and holiday time, thank goodness! We relied so heavily on our friends and family once the babies came – I could not carry them both at the same time for the first weeks. Those first few days and weeks were a blur, and I will do a whole separate post to truly do them justice.
It Takes a Village
As soon as we had made the decision to say yes, we quickly spread the news to our broader family and friends and they started mobilizing the troops. We had kept all the items we had from our older daughter, but had nothing for boys. Luckily, I had family and several friends with boys, and people with extra cribs, high chairs, bouncers, etc. We gathered like fiends (mostly done by me over the phone and internet due to my surgery!). I am forever in debt to folks who helped us out on a moment’s notice. We have paid it forward and passed items on to other twin families and friends as we grow out of items!
A Stranger’s Gift
Sitting in the doctor’s office for our first visit to the family doctor days after we welcomed our new children, a fellow waiting patient oohed and ahhed over the twins and asked if we had our TTMAC membership yet. Our WHAT? I made her repeat the acronym several times for me and then tell me more. I had never heard of such an organization! They turned out to be lifesavers! When I got home I looked up the organization and discovered the full name was Twins, Triplets and More Association of Calgary. I signed up, paid the minimal membership fee, and had quick access to a list of merchants offering discounts to twin families, twice-yearly sales of INCREDIBLE baby gear, a Facebook classifieds group (where we purchased great quality items like double strollers and twin carriers, etc.) and, most importantly to me, the Facebook support group. I posed so many questions in those first weeks, and was met with such helpful and patient advice. Looking back, I’m sure my urgent questions may have seemed strangely out of place – where had this woman been before and during the pregnancy phase? – but every response was full of commiseration, wisdom, and encouragement. Lately, I have started to be one of the ones giving advice more than I’m asking it, but still turn to the group when I have questions! I found my peeps! I love that TTMAC schedules parent nights, mom retreats and have weekly play groups. I so value my time spent with people who ‘get it’!
Day By Day
Life with twins is never dull! It has seemed like many days are more about surviving than thriving and early on I expected things to get easier. I’m sure it does, but so far, I have clung to the consensus advice of the TTMAC group that ‘each new stage is different, not necessarily easier’! I concur so far! For those of you that think you know what twins are like because you have two children close in age – well – it is NOT the same! As a mom with three kids born within 18 months, I have one hand less than I need at all times. I look back and laugh at images of myself feeling stressed and stretched with only one newborn. Ha! What a laugh! I had absolutely no clue! However, despite the stress and constant demands, I’d say we are more than surviving and most days are on our way to thriving. We’re in close contact with the birth mother and her family and we keep love at the centre of all things. We have a tribe of staunch supporters and encouragers and I’m learning not to sweat the small stuff and to ask for and happily receive help. To all the parents of multiples out there, I salute you and appreciate all of your advice as you blaze the trail ahead and follow along behind.