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August 5, 2015

IMG_2284-1Less than a month ago I sent away for a twin zygosity test from a company that specializes in analyzing DNA for twins and triplets. I sent away for a bit of science to tell me if my twin and I were fraternal or identical

For a variety of reasons, straight answers are hard to come by in adoption stories, and I have spent the better part of five years trying to track them down in my own story. The appeal of the zygosity test is that it isn’t loyal to anything or anyone. It isn’t affected by time and emotion. It has no intent, no desire, other than to be accurate.

The adoption counselors at Lutheran Child & Family Services told my parents that we were fraternal twins. Two sacs. Those are the words in the notes my mother took during a conversation with one of the counselors. Two sacs = fraternal, she wrote.  Our birth mother was told that, too. Definitely fraternal, she confirmed when I asked shortly after meeting her.

In fact, even today, with all the leaps in scientific understanding, some medical professionals still confuse the presence of two amniotic sacs as evidence of fraternal twins. That’s not always the case, though. One-third of all identical twins are born with two separate sacs, indicating that a single fertilized egg split into two before the fifth day following conception, at which point the sac forms, one around each twin. For the other two-thirds of identical twins, that splitting occurs between the fifth and ninth day, after the formation of the sac; in that case, the twins share a single sac.

One summer, during college, I took a biology class at our local community college with one of my high school science teachers.  In high school science classes, I could barely get through the units on genetics. As somebody who was adopted, I felt alienated, and depressed, by the discussion. But in the college class, Mr. Thistlethwaite, who knew my sister and me, reminded me that I had something to go on when it came to questions of heredity and genetics. I had my sister. And so I dove into the unit and emerged convinced that my sister and I were identical, despite what we had been told, despite all of the differences people saw in us because, well, because we were fraternal. I went home from class one day and broke the news to my mom. “That’s not what we were told, honey,” she said kindly.IMG_2287

Two weeks ago, I handed my sister a test tube and six cotton swabs and told her to swab. I did the same. Three swabs on the inside of each cheek, once before dinner and once again the next day before breakfast. There was no fanfare to the procedure. We were racing to do it before one of the six boys between us interrupted us with the crisis of the hour. I put the tubes in an envelope, and we mailed it from a box in front of the post office in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

When I opened the e-mail today with the DNA results, I was secretly hoping that science would confirm what my heart said. If that weren’t the case, I still had irrefutable proof about something related to my birth, something that hadn’t been incinerated or amended or lost or forgotten.

Test Results #20556-150715 were based on an analysis of 15 standard DNA markers used in human identity. That analysis indicated that there is a “greater than a 99.9% probability that the twins are monozygotic.”

In other words, my sister and I are identical twins.

Immediately I called my twin to tell her the news.

“I feel like I’ve been born all over again,” I teased.

I could hear her shrug through the phone. “It only confirmed what I knew all along.”

But in the silence that followed, neither of us could stop smiling.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Ty Wenger permalink
    August 6, 2015 3:24 pm

    Could have saved yourself a lot of trouble and just asked me! I distinctly recall driving to meet Jackie when she first moved to LA in 1992 and deliver some sort of “Welcome to U. Magazine” packet to her. And you’d come out with her to the city. You remember this…? And I think I gave the packet to you because for some reason Jackie was indisposed. And then I spent the next few years convinced that it had actually been Jackie, and you guys were playing a prank on me. Indentical twins…? Of COURSE you are!

    • twinprint permalink*
      August 6, 2015 6:03 pm

      Ha! I don’t remember that at all, Ty! But then, I was playing the role of myself. You were worried you were being played. The only time Jackie and I ever purposely tricked someone was to try to catch a high school kid in the act of trying to woo both of us when he was only supposed to be dating one of us. But that’s another story….

  2. August 6, 2015 12:18 am

    In the photos that you share, I always assumed you two were identical twins! Congrats on having verifiable proof to match your guts.

  3. August 5, 2015 11:40 pm

    I should have put some money on it! I was quite positive!

  4. Meg permalink
    August 5, 2015 10:46 pm

    I never doubted it. But talk about burying the lede. Sheesh.
    So are you two going on a crime spree now that the cops can’t catch either one of you by DNA evidence?

    • twinprint permalink*
      August 6, 2015 6:03 pm

      I think we’ll play it safe. But stay on your toes. 🙂

  5. Dina permalink
    August 5, 2015 9:03 pm

    Tears and chills, even though I am not surprised at all. How wonderful. xo

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