Share This: Unplanned Twiblings, a birth story of international adoption

It’s about to happen again, in Aisle 9, just as I successfully navigate the kids’ bulky side-by-side double-stroller, past the mountain of soup cans and stop in front of the supply of diapers. The stranger smiles at me and beams at the kids. Makes straight for us. And I know what she’s going to say before it comes out of her mouth, it’s what they always say: “Ooooh! They’re adorable! Are they twins?”

That’s the opening paragraph of the coming-to-motherhood story of one of the most amazing women in my real life, Evelyn Ackah, a Calgary business immigration lawyer. I met Evelyn when Ender was growing in my belly and when she was actively pursuing adoption as a single, black professional women. We were expecting together–and her “pregnancy” was much longer and emotionally much tougher than Ender’s merely biologically difficult gestation. I’ve been privileged to witness her story and as her babies turned two, we thought the world should really hear about her path to motherhood through international adoption, as a single, professional woman of colour. I reached out to one of my former editor at The Globe and Mail (that would be one of Canada’s national newspapers to my Yankee and global readers) who connected Evelyn with the fabulous Jane Gadd who edits The Globe‘s Facts & Arguments page. If you read The Globe, you would have seen Evelyn’s story featured on The Globe and Mail’s Facts & Arguments page  on the Wednesday, October 23, 2013 as Why my kids aren’t twins but twiblings.

Evelyn called the original version “Unplanned Twiblings,” and she’s graciously allowed me to share the full, unedited version here. Enjoy. May her story inspire you–and make you think.

Unplanned Twiblings

by Evelyn Ackah

It’s about to happen again, in Aisle 9, just as I successfully navigate the kids’ bulky side-by-side double-stroller, past the mountain of soup cans and stop in front of the supply of diapers. The stranger smiles at me and beams at the kids. Makes straight for us. And I know what she’s going to say before it comes out of her mouth, it’s what they always say: “Ooooh! They’re adorable! Are they twins?”

I do what I always do. I smile. Nod my head. And thus, effectively, lie. Because they’re not twins―they’re three-and-a-half months apart, actually. I call them my twiblings. My beautiful, unplanned twiblings. But that answer has a backstory that’s too long and complicated to get into with a stranger in a grocery store aisle or that other mother at a playground, who’s pushing a stroller with “real” twins or the people in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

They all ask. And, much of the time, when they ask―even though I usually do feel the question is intrusive―I am grateful, very grateful, that they do not ask, “Are they yours?”

Mine. They are mine, my children, my family. The end of my journey to become a mother, and the beginning of my parenting adventure.

I always knew I was going to be a mother. No question. The future held a child, maybe two. And when, in my late 30s, I had to accept that my body would not be the route to motherhood, my long-term boyfriend and I immediately looked to adoption. My vision of the future, in 2007 was clear at the time. We took the courses, underwent home studies and dealt with the copious amounts of paperwork becoming an adoptive family entails. I would be a mother. An adoptive mother. I was excited about the process. We planned to adopt from my native country of Ghana, West Africa.  Unfortunately, as Ghana is not a common destination for international adoptions, it was uncharted legal and procedural territory. Every step had to be discovered. And every step took much longer than anticipated.

In 2009, still unmatched in Ghana, I had to revise my vision of my future once again. My partner and I split up. I was 39, single, and with a very demanding career. What was I going to do? Pursue adoption as a single professional woman or give up the dream?  I had no illusions: I knew parenthood wasn’t all smiles and roses. I knew it was a lifetime commitment and incredibly hard work. Could I do it?

Could I afford to wait until I would not be alone?

In the end, I decided that my desire to be a mother was separate, or perhaps even greater, than my desire to be a wife. I was not going to put my adoption journey, already two years long, on hold and wait for the right man to enter my life before continuing. I would do it on my own.

It was, frankly, a difficult, terrifying decision.

But not nearly as difficult as what came after. Between early 2009 and the spring of 2011, I was matched with three children in Ghana. Each match fell through. Each one was heart-breaking and devastating. I was not sure how much I could endure.

I decided to look closer to home, at Canadian private adoptions. And I was shocked to find out how difficult it would be to be chosen to adopt in Canada as a single woman.

My continued research led me to the United States, where I found out certain states accept and encourage single parent adoptions. I settled on Florida as the best fit, both in terms of the legislative process and the fact that there were more children of colour available for adoption. I may have given up on adopting from Ghana… but I still wanted a child that looked like me.

Do you understand how important it is to me, when people see me and my children, that they don’t automatically make an assumption that they are “not really mine,” that they “must be adopted” because their skin, hair, eye colour is different? Think about that the next time you see a Caucasian dad with an Asian daughter, a white woman with a black baby. Don’t ask them, “Are they yours?” “Are they adopted?”  If you must say something, simply smile, and say, “What a beautiful baby or child.”

I was chosen by a family to adopt their fifth child within weeks of starting the application process. I was delirious. I skyped and talked on the phone with the family throughout the final few weeks of the pregnancy. The baby was born, a healthy baby girl. My mother and I had plane tickets booked to fly to Florida… and the day before we were to leave, the birth family parents changed their minds. They were going to keep the baby.

Another heartbreak.

I am a strong woman, truly. But this… I took to my bed. I could not work or think – nothing.

I booked a trip to Mexico for my mother and me to get me away. And again―the day before we were to leave for Mexico―the agency in Florida called. Another match.  A baby boy, born three days ago. The mother picked me, loved my application and album and was ready to sign all the papers immediately. Was I coming right away?


I can’t quite put into words what was happening to me―I was mourning that little girl that I thought I was going to adopt. I didn’t even have nay boys names picked out. I was in such pain, I could not be happy about this turn of events. I was terrified I would be heartbroken again.

My mother and I went to Mexico. It was supposed to be a week on the beach―we lasted four days. And then, we flew to Florida.

And I met my son.

I fell in love with him―immediately and repeatedly. My world spun, and changed. I was a mother. I was a mother! I was sleep-deprived and living in an apartment hotel in Florida, doing all the final paperwork required to take him home. My plate was full. So full.

So of course, that was when I got the call from Ghana. A little girl had been identified. Four months old. Was I interested?

No. Absolutely not. I wasn’t even going to go there. Neither for another heartbreak, or for parenting two children as a single mom. No. Absolutely not.

But after a couple of weeks and lots of family meetings and promises of support, I decided to go for it―somehow it felt like things were meant to be―things had come full-circle.

I would not meet my daughter for another 14 months. I am still both regretful and grateful for that year. I was able to take her out of the orphanage and place her with my extended family in Ghana, so she spent that year surrounded by lots of love and attention. Both she and my son spent the first year of their lives effectively as only children, first children, and I am grateful for that. And I talked and Skyped with her constantly. But yet―she was so far, far away. And was she real? I knew how intensely I loved my son, the impact of his physical presence on me. Could I love another child this much, ever?

I learned birth parents often feel this way when expecting their second―yet she was the oldest child! And when I finally met my daughter, when she was 18 months old, my heart leaped out of me and into her and she was mine, as much as my son was mine. We were a family.

And now, I push a stroller with my twiblings, who are both well into the terrible―er, terrific―twos. I don’t want to underplay it or sugarcoat it: life as a single mother of two little people is challenging. The path to motherhood for me was hard and full of heartbreak and disappointment, and the real journey, the one that begins when the children came into my home, into my life, is emotionally and physically exhausting. And yet so worth it. These are the children I was supposed to raise.

My twiblings.

Evelyn Ackah is a business immigration lawyer with Ackah Law, a Western Canadian boutique practice focused exclusively on business immigration law. Born in Ghana, raised and educated in Vancouver, the one-time Torontonian now lives in Calgary with her two beautiful children.


P.S. You can tell she’s fabulous just from this story, right? If you want a more detailed peek at her professional life, here’s a profile I wrote about her when she was “just” a source and not a friend.

P.P.S. Next week on Nothing By The Book, I think I’m going to tell you why I’m so tired of being an adult.