Most everyone discourages artificial twinning, even me. Yet I did it and I don’t have any regrets.
Artificial twinning (sometimes also called pseudo twins, like-twins, or virtual twinning) is the purposeful raising of two genetically-unrelated children who are less than nine months apart. Families most often do this by adopting two babies at the same time.
I did it by fostering a newborn and then — assuming that newborn would be reunited with her biological parents — I accepted a rare straight-to-adoption newborn from foster care whose parents were surrendering their rights. When I learned that my first foster daughter would also be freed for adoption a year later, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. So boom: artificial twins.
Adoption and child development professionals are unified in their recommendations against artificial twinning. In fact, most adoption agencies have written policies which do not allow it for several reasons. First, caring for two babies is taxing. No one can deny that there is less attention to go around when it’s being shared. Plenty of love, yes — but logistical holding, cooing, direct eye-contact attention … that gets cut. While debatable, it’s worth arguing that, in adoption, extra attention plays a part in bonding. In my case, my first daughter, “Sandy,” was a rather high maintenance baby. I was at peak exhaustion at the fourth month when my second daughter Clementine arrived.
Clementine was a rather easy-going baby and I was wracked with guilt trying to balance the needs of both newborns simultaneously. I was already invested and bonded to Sandy and I oftentimes felt as if I was betraying her by bringing in a new infant. I didn’t know whether or not to literally split my time between them or to tend to the most demanding. It was a very complicated time.
The complexity of emotions in allegiance to one daughter over the other (which disappeared over time) is akin to the second concern discussed within artificial twinning, which is of bringing in a child who is of the same age as a child you’re already raising.
A family may have a 5 year-old child, whether adopted or biological, and then they adopt another child who is also 5 years-old. Parents hope for a “friend-for-life” but it oftentimes doesn’t turn out as well. The newest child is usually thrust into an already formed circle of friends, another child’s grade (and sometimes class) and a lifestyle that has been slowly formed for a very different child. Try as parents might, the overlap is inevitable. There are many success stories but the risks are high. Either child, or both, could struggle.
Third, it’s advised to avoid artificial twinning due to the inevitable competition and comparisons between the children. Indeed, this is typical among all siblings but it’s an unnecessary exasperation for the artificial twins. People can’t seem to resist the urge to put twins in disparate categories of the smart one verses the pretty one, or the shy one verses the bubbly one. Adoptees struggle enough with their identity, artificial twinning creates an additional layer that can be confusing.
So in knowing the downfalls of artificial twinning, why the heck did I do it? To be honest, I never imagined that I would have the privilege of calling both girls my daughters. Sandy and Clementine were my fourth and fifth foster children. The first three were reunited with their families. I saw an opportunity to build my own family and I knew the deep regret I would experience if I ended up without any children of my own. I have been very fortunate in that my daughters will avoid most of the artificial twinning challenges. They look nothing alike and their birthdays fall in a way that will require them to start school a year apart. Also, Clementine has an intellectual disability and is on her own timeline of development. People aren’t even tempted to compare them.
Alas, I pass no judgment on people who artificially twin their children as they build a family. It’s a very personal decision. Each and every family is unique and faces its own challenging and joys, artificial twins or others!More On