Sometime in the fall of 1989 I was set to have a routine laparoscopy for the endometriosis that had plagued me since puberty. What should have been a one hour day surgery became a five hour full blown surgery to remove a very large growth. One that was larger than a softball, considerably smaller than a basketball.
Two days later with my mom and late husband in the room, something I experienced frequently in my night dreams was about to move from the liminal world and into the real world. The doctor said it was different than a dermoid tumor with usual hair skin and teeth. In this case it included some spine and organs but very little brain tissue. My mother stepped forward turned and smiled upon me in a way we never seemed to easily capture. “She is your twin. When I was pregnant there were two of you. One heartbeat vanished.” She wasn’t actually a vanishing twin. They are common, about one in eight births. They are absorbed into the mother. Terms that are used for her being in me are as confusing as it gets and I hate them all.
The general medical wisdom is that the stronger, identical, almost always conjoined twin, envelopes or enfolds the one who does not develop with full body function. We make an attempt to “feed” the other twin. We absorb them into our body. This is very rare, happening in about one in five hundred thousand pregnancies. Where she was placed within in my body, left me with very little chance to ever have a normal pregnancy in my life.
There are many people who suffer with a variety of disorders as a result of “Vanishing Twin” or “Womb Twin Survivor”. I have listened to their stories of loss, inability to maintain relationships, ever searching for their other, often heading into different addictive behaviors. I in no way diminish their very real pain. Let me be clear. For me, she was always a profound experience that I had “known” about since the beginning of my life, in the way that children can surprise adults around them with already knowing things “well beyond their years”.
To my dear sister Eileen,
Thank you. Where else could I have ingrained such a sincere and deep seated love, as we reached out, one for the other, in the amniotic sea of our mother? How else could I have been born understanding death, as I willingly gave you a resting place within my body? I am told you had little brain. I am sure that you had a heart, if only for a short time. We individually had a heartbeat that matched each other. I have dreamt of it, over and over throughout my life. I still, on certain days, feel your spirit just centimeters away. We are definitely individuals. There is no confusion between my voice and yours, my desires and dreams and yours. Not once have I attempted to live two lives. Not once have you asked or come any closer. That makes us very rare, in this rare world of twins, with only one living. From you I learned to be compassionate and giving. My one sadness is that I can only reach you in the liminal world. Usually in my dreams. You took nothing from me. My life has been filled with happy, loving, long relationships.
*You gave me a great gift, the knowledge that sisterhood is very special. When I hear the words “Gather The Women” or “Circle up the sisters” it is you who reminds me that there is nothing more powerful than women together. It is you who taught me how to have friends who become sisters. I have so many. I am grateful to each and everyone of them. Without you, I would have let those relationships stay more distant, just friends. Today, so many women I claim as sisters, soul sisters, and sistars because I know the love, wonder, beauty, support, tears and laughter we have brought to each others lives. My sisters of choice are diverse in so many ways. For other people those diversities might divide them and end the relationship. Somehow, we each have chosen to rise above those differences and seek our commonalities in love. Some, I have known for years, others for just a few real moments. Love doesn’t need time to form. Just a second that opens us up, to let it happen forever. Even if it seems that the door shuts…well…I still love them. Nothing can change that. They are family. You taught me how to make this kind of family. You guided me to treasure these many women. To hold fiercely onto one another. May I never forget.
I love you my beautiful sister.