There are two things in life for which we are never truly prepared: twins,” wrote American humorist Josh Billings.
But then he never met Dan and Dawn. Nothing could have prepared them for the roller coaster of their adoption journey or for the joy that Amy and Lily have brought to their lives.
High school sweethearts Dan and Dawn loved to travel and cherished the opportunity to expose their son Matthew to new places and experiences. But something was missing.
“I really just wanted to be a mom. Not that I wasn’t still a mom to Matthew. But I wanted him to experience having a baby in the house and loving another person in our family,” Dawn said.
Matthew, their first child, was long-awaited, and though, Dawn and Dan pursued fertility treatments for a second child, they quickly turned to adoption to grow their family, calling the decision “amazingly easy.”
They came to American Adoptions at the recommendation of a friend when Matthew was five years old. Overcoming any reservations (“You always do have some. You know, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting yourself into,” Dawn said) and coping with a wait time (“What can you do to make yourself more attractive? It’s hard to know what some birthmothers are going to look at,” she said) Dan and Dawn were elated to receive a match call about a year after their activation.
They proceeded to get to know the birth mother Jane and traveled to Ohio to pick up twins when they were born. Dan and Dawn introduced the twins to Matthew and had had custody of the infants for about a week when the call came. The birth father wanted to raise his children and had filed with the state to do so. This meant a custody battle ahead for Dan and Dawn and no promise that they would become the parents of the twins. Had the state not been behind on case files, Dan and Dawn might never have even made the trip to Ohio.
“I just couldn’t even talk… I was just clutching those babies and saying, no, no, no…That was a bad moment,” Dawn said.
Dan asked for the twins to be picked up immediately, and the couple began down the road to healing. “You know, in retrospect, I wouldn’t have introduced them to Matthew. But what are you going to do? So we spent the summer kind of healing from that,” Dawn said.
With the support of family members and friends, Dan and Dawn put themselves back on the active list with American Adoptions.
“We had a little philosophy with our son. If he falls off his bike, you tell him to get back on, and it was a little of the same. We were all right. It was not ideal, but waiting didn’t make it any better. So we signed back up,” Dan said.
The couple was especially relieved when Babies’R’Us graciously took back many of their baby items, some without boxes or receipts.
“Of course, we ended up needing it all three months later anyway,” Dawn said.
The first call came on a Sunday afternoon in August 2010 nearly three months after the first match. A pair of twin girls had been born in New York City, Brighid, a Birth Mother Specialist told them. Dawn was dumbfounded. “They told us this kind of thing could never happen,” she said.
But at nearly midnight that night, Brighid called back to say they’d changed their minds. “I almost threw up,” Dawn said. “At least we didn’t travel, that’s what we kept saying.”
In the morning, Dawn drove Matthew to school and broke the news to him. The then seven-year-old realized the family might not get twins again, and exclaimed, “But Mom, twins is what we do!”
Dawn promised they would still eventually adopt, “although we had toyed with the idea of taking twins off, since it was bad karma,” Dan said.
Dawn was furniture shopping when Kelli, their Adoptive Family Specialist, called later that Monday morning. “Good. There’s a chair. Sit down,” Kelli said. She proceeded to tell Dawn that the twins’ parents continued to call American Adoptions. “That never happens. Once they change their minds, they’re done,” she said, trying not to get Dawn’s hopes up but leaving the door open.
It wasn’t until Tuesday night that Dan and Dawn received the call that the adoption was official. The twins had been signed right over to them. Dan and Dawn carried their sleeping son to a neighbor’s house, packed until the wee hours of the night and hopped on a plane at 7 a.m. Wednesday. They spent the plane ride picking names for their daughters.
And then they walked right into a bustling NICU in Jamaica, Queens. They laid eyes first on Lily, who was ready to be discharged. Amy, born smaller than her sister, stayed in the hospital for a couple weeks. The hospital staff bundled Lily up in her car seat, gave the couple a quick run-down of the girls’ birth and medical history and briefly showed them Amy.
“We had like ten minutes, and all of a sudden, we had a baby,” Dan said.
“We didn’t even hold her till we got back to the hotel because they put her in the car seat for us,” Dawn said, “And we’re sitting on the bed with the car seat, and we’re like, Ok!”
The hotel had promised a crib, but there was none. “So Lily’s first night was spent in a drawer,” Dan said. They lined it with blankets and quickly found another hotel for the rest of the stay in New York.
Two weeks went by. Matthew flew to New York and was stunned at how small his baby sister Lily was. But the couple heard very little about Amy, who was still in the NICU. Finally, the couple’s attorney called to say that Amy was fine, just not taking a bottle well.
Amy was discharged on the Friday before Labor Day weekend amid the winds and rains brought by Hurricane Earl. Dawn made a point to speak up at the hospital to learn how to best feed Amy but was pleasantly surprised when she took her bottle perfectly. “She had this look on her face like, oh there you are. I’ve been waiting for you,” Dawn said.
The couple spent about another week in New York City following ICPC regulations but decided it was best for Matthew to get back to Kansas for school. “So he flew back by himself on the plane. He loved it,” says Dan. Dawn elaborated, “He thinks that’s one of his best stories.”
Dawn, who taught piano, put her lessons on hold, and Dan was able to work remotely while in New York and even after the couple moved home.
“Just managing the two at once, what a blessing,” Dawn said. “But what a handful.” The couple learned that one person could feed both girls at once, but only if they were in their car seats. For those first couple months, Dan took the early night shift from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Meanwhile, Dawn, often going to bed before Matthew, took the late shift from midnight on.
Thank goodness Matthew was around to help. Dawn called him the “little parent,” while Dan said, “he’s so helpful.”
Matthew bonded quickly with his sisters. Amy calls him “Bafoo” and claps when he enters the room. Lily points to his picture while he’s at school as if to say, How soon is he going to get here? “He completely adores them,” Dawn said, “And they laugh at him all the time.”
And as Dawn pointed out, “he waited just as long as we did to have his sisters.” Dawn has also taken the time to explain that a mother’s heart is not broken into smaller parts with more children but instead grows with even more love for each of them.
Amy and Lily are Indian-American, which often prompts strangers to ask where Dan and Dawn got them. “We like to respond Jamaica,” Dan said, referring to Jamaica, Queens, where the girls were born, “That always throws them for a loop.” Dawn said Matthew is the first to tell a stranger, “Aren’t the cute? They’re my sisters.”
Though Dan and Dawn have been consumed with surviving the first year as parents to twins and a vivacious eight-year-old, they are looking forward to learning more about Indian culture together and have resources nearby in friends and neighbors.
Dan and Dawn never had the opportunity to meet Amy and Lily’s birth parents, who wanted a closed adoption. And though talking about the disruption still brings a quiver to Dawn’s voice, she said she’s glad she had the opportunity to meet the birth mother in their first match.
“I guess I wish I’d had the opportunity to tell our birth mother thank you, having seen our first birth mother Jane go through it,” Dawn said. “No matter how much you want the baby or don’t want the baby, it’s not an easy decision. When it came time to let go, it was so hard. I felt this kinship to her. And it was the happiest day for us, and it was the hardest day for her… I want the birth mothers out there to know that we love them so much. We wouldn’t have loved them more if I had carried them.”
Dawn said she’s read a lot about twins, and the couple has enjoyed watching personalities develop.
“It’s pretty early,” Dan said. “It will be interesting to see if they really play out this way. Lily seems to be more of the dreamer, artist, drama queen. And Amy seems to have a little more spunk to her… but they’ll flip-flop too. There’ll be times where Lily gets a glint in her eye like, let’s just see what happens. And Amy just tends to watch and say, let’s just see what happens when Lily does this.”
The couple also enjoys hearing the girls communicate. “You’ll hear them in bed… the cribs go kind of toe-to-toe, so that they can yap at each other. And they’ll sit in bed and just be laughing,” Dawn said.
“Every once in a while, one of them will do something and the other will start laughing and then the first one will start laughing. It’s just hilarious to watch sometimes,” Dan said.
The family has also gone back to traveling, and at just over a year old, the girls have seen the ocean and the mountains.
“We went hiking, and they loved hiking. We had the backpacks,” Dan said of the family trip to Colorado.
“We looked like quite a scene,” chimed Dawn. “They eventually fell asleep in the backpacks, which was adorable. We have these pictures with their heads hanging out.”
Though the couple readily admits that it felt like the world was ending after the disruption, they can hardly remember life without the girls now. It’s as though they were always part of the family.
Dawn said, “The fact that they’re adopted comes second to me to the fact that they’re twins, that there’s two of them!”
Dan, Dawn and Matthew set out to bring a new member into their family, and as Dawn said, “we got that in spades.”
*The names of the birth parents have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
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