twin_sisters-07-thumb-largetwin_sisters-06-thumb-largetwin_sisters-03-thumb-large“Even if I run and run I can’t stop thinking of her. My biggest wish is one day she’ll come here and see where I live. … I think about her every night because I miss her so much. I care about her a lot.” Alexandra, adopted daughter of Wenche and Sigmund Hauglum, Fresvik, Norway, population 234 (Twin Sisters).

“There’s a big ocean between us.” Mia, adopted daughter of Angela and Andy Hansen, Sacramento, California, population 479,686 (2013, U. S. Census Bureau).

I was given the opportunity to view the upcoming Twin Sisters in advance of its airing, a documentary that is a poignant examination of our notions of family—the genetic ones we inherit and the ones we create. Chinese twins Alexandra and Mia are separated, living respectively in Norway and the United States with their adoptive families.

I watched the documentary several times. I experienced feelings of anger towards the individuals who knowingly separated the girls; sadness that the twins were separated; hope that the girls’ connection continues and strengthens; and admiration for their parents who, despite this awful predicament, are dedicated to keeping the twins connected. They put their daughters first.

We know that the initial separation of mother and child is the first of many losses for adopted children. But what happens when the separation is created by the country of origin (China)? What happens when twins are adopted by two sets of parents living a world apart?

What happens when the mothers of these newly adopted daughters met by chance in China and were struck by the similarities of their babies’ features, and realized that their daughters shared more than a birthday and the same backstory? Adoptive mothers Angela and Wenche asked the orphanage personnel if their daughters were twins. Orphanage personnel told them that the girls were not. A DNA test a year later proved otherwise, proved that the girls were not only sisters, but also identical twins.

This certainly is not the first instance of Chinese twins being separated by their country of origin and raised by two sets of adoptive parents. Twin Sisters provides viewers with a glimpse into the contrasts and similarities in the sisters’ lives.

Alexandra and Mia were 8-years-old when the documentary was filmed. They are now 11. Angela Hanson shared with me that the girls have been together several times since the documentary was filmed, “Our visits together have varied in time from a few days to a few weeks. “

Additionally, the girls FaceTime every weekend, “Alexandra is doing great with her English and the girls have no problem communicating.”

Twins Sisters documents the sweetness, anticipation and excitement of Mia and Alexandra as they prepare to visit with and spend time with one another. Viewers will pick up on the uncanny connection between the sisters, despite the language and cultural barriers and being raised thousands of miles apart. Angela shares. “The girls are very much alike in their personalities, likes, and dislikes.  They are both outgoing and friendly.  The do not like carbonation (no soda for them!), spicy food or olives, and they love pasta.”

Tune in to watch Twin Sisters, produced and directed by Mona Friis Bertheussen, premiering TOMORROW NIGHT (Monday, October 20, 2014) on the PBS series Independent Lens from 10:00-11:00 PM ET (check your local listings). I encourage you to watch and then share your thoughts below, and/or comment on the documentary’s Talkback section.

~ Photos courtesy of ITVS

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Take Me with YouThis post is shares one of the exercises that I and many other adoption educators, social workers, and parent coaches have used to facilitate easing parents into the “pay attention” mindset when preparing to adopt or parenting their adopted child.

Adoption is seeded in loss. In other words adoption cannot happen unless there is loss. Are you mindful of what your child or the child you hope to adopt has lost?

You need a paper and a writing implement. You are going to make a list that will help you shift your perspective about the child you hope to adopt. I encourage you to take your time when answering the questions. Please do not skip ahead or read through the entire exercise before answering each question in order. Whether you have already adopted or are in the process this exercise will be beneficial in creating mindfulness.

PART ONE:

  1. Who the most significant person in your life? One person only. Their first name is fine.
  2. What is you favorite place? Keep it to one.
  3. What is the most important role you have? Only one.
  4. Who is your primary support group or person? Again, only one.
  5. What knowledge do you have that allows you to function on a daily basis? This answer may be quite substantial. For example you have the knowledge that you will not go hungry. *When you mover to Part Two, you will use the word “KNOWLEDGE” to encapsulate this answer.
  6. What is your ethnicity?
  7. What is your original citizenship?
  8. What do you know about your culture of origin first-hand? For example, do you know and practice the customs or do you speak the language?
  9. Write down the word “RESOURCES.” Resources are all of your material possessions, assets, and items of value.
  10. Write down the word “VALUES.” Values are the principles and standards you hold yourself to and possibly judge others by, how you order your world, your faith, rights and wrongs, likes and dislikes.
  11. What one thing brings you the most joy? This can be a person, place, thing, or activity. There it is again—one.

PART TWO:

  1. Choose FIVE things from your list that you can live without. Cross them off your list. How are you doing?
  2. Good. Now choose THREE more things from your list. Give them up. What are your thoughts at this point? How are you feeling?
  3. I will only ask you to give up ONE more. Write it down or cross it off your list..
  4. What remains from your list? What emotions and revelations are you experiencing? How might this impact your parenting?
  5. How do you think this might impact your child ongoing?

~ Photo by Caroline Gos

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Know Yourself, Honestly

September 6, 2014

Welcome! This post is part of Apart at the Seams blog tour that began yesterday. I was invited to take part by my friend Lori Holden, author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption. Frankly, while reading Apart at the Seams late this summer I scratched my head through much of it. The main character […]

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Going on Now! The Motherhood and Mindfulness Summit

July 1, 2014

I was asked to participate in a summit on motherhood and mindfulness by Australian mom and intuitive coach Carla Wood. To speak about motherhood via intuition within the realm of parenting adopted children. The focus of the Motherhood and Mindfulness Summit is to help moms discover their inner genius and ignite the extraordinary in their […]

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A Conversation with Friends about Adoption and Multiracial Families

June 27, 2014

It has been quite a while since I have posted. I have been busy with “projects”—producing and directing Listen To Your Mother, preparing for and presenting at a national conference, preparing for an international summit on motherhood and mindfulness, and working on my new book, Writing to Heal Adoption Grief: Making Connections & Moving Forward. […]

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Parenting the Adopted Child: It’s About More than “Heart”

February 13, 2014

Adopting parents often ask me how they can build a strong parent-child connection. They are nervous and excited about “getting it right.” I believe that building a strong parent-child connection comes down to several key points that must become lifelong commitments. Be proactive. Educate yourself by reading adoption books and websites. Create a library of […]

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