When I talk to my twin sister on the phone, it’s like listening to my own voicemail recording. Besides sounding alike, we have the same laugh, which begins as a low giggle then rumbles into a contagious soprano. The similarities don’t stop there. Our fine, light brown hair frames hazel eyes and is defined by narrow eyebrows. Tall and thin as young girls, we never deviated more than a half-inch as we matured. The adoption agency that placed me had informed our parents that we were fraternal twins, and for years we believed this to be true. Recent genetic testing revealed that we are not fraternal. We are identical twins.
Besides a strong physical resemblance, my sister and I are like-minded. We share similar habits, interests, opinions, and values. Although fiercely independent, we enjoy being near one another. As children, we shared a bedroom; as young women, we attended the same university; and, as married adults, our homes are a ten-minute drive from one another. Almost always in synch, my twin sister and I don’t just “get” each other–it’s as if we are stitched into the same skin.
My sister and I have been together since before we were born and throughout the life that our adoptive parents made for us. That single fact makes being adopted a different equation for us. Like other closed adoption adoptees, we have always possessed a strong curiosity about our biological background, why we were adopted, and which birth relatives we take after physically, intellectually, and emotionally. But by going through life with a sibling who is aligned in looks, thought, habits, and deeds, the sharp edges of adoption have not been razor-sharp.
When I had a breast biopsy in 2008, my twin got a free pass physically, but she was nonetheless immersed in my predicament. My health issues became the impetus for us to join forces and probe our closed adoption.
On the cusp of middle age, we deemed the timing ripe for gathering our truths, not only for ourselves but for our children. The right to own our adoption story and health background became a fight, one that my twin sister and I waged together. I detail this journey in my forthcoming memoir, Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging.
First, Jenny and I plotted how to attain our original birth records and the non-identifying information from our adoption agency’s file. After that, we tracked down adoption search choices that were both time and cost-effective. Aligned, we dealt with the concerns and misgivings that our adoptive parents fostered regarding our adoption probe. As we attacked each phase of our search journey, my twin sister and I walked figuratively hand-in-hand.
The process of making contact with birth relatives and deriving the information to complete our “personal story” turned out to be more complicated than we expected. Because of our bond as twins, we never wavered in our commitment to pursue all avenues until nothing more could be learned. We collaborated, commiserated, and supported each other in the wake of misinformation, lies, disappointment, and rejection. Through all of that, we sustained one another.
Likewise, with each adoption search success, we cheered and celebrated together. It took five whole years to attain our family medical history and genealogy. We utilized a search agency, our adoption agency, a social worker, a PI, a confidential intermediary, a judge, and a genealogist.
Being adopted, searching for birth relatives, and managing reunion are taxing events. I doubt that I could have endured such a complicated, elongated process had I not had such a tight mental and emotional bond with my twin sister. Because of my involvement in a post-adoption support group, I’m aware that this luxury–searching for biological relatives alongside a full sibling–is not possible for most adoptees.
Just as I’m unable to know what it’s like not to be adopted, I can’t comprehend what my life would be like without my twin sister. Both are at the core of my identity, melded and fused. I will be forever grateful to my adoption agency for implementing an adoption policy that refused to separate children from a multiple birth. Having grown up with my twin sister is the greatest blessing that resulted from my closed adoption.
Author Julie Ryan McGue was born in Chicago, Illinois. She is a domestic adoptee and an identical twin. She received her BA from Indiana University in Psychology. She earned a MM in Marketing from the Kellogg Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University. She has served multiple terms on the Board at the Midwest Adoption Center in Des Plaines, Illinois and is a member of the American Adoption Congress.
Julie’s debut memoir Twice a Daughter: A Search for Identity, Family, and Belonging was released in May 2021. It’s the story of her five-year search for birth relatives. Julie writes extensively about finding out who you really are, where you belong, and how to make sense of it. Her weekly essays focus on identity, family, and life’s quirky moments. You can follow her at JulieMcGueAuthor.com.