When I was about 12-14 years of age, my mother told me I was a twin but that my twin was stillborn. I asked questions: were they a boy or a girl? Was there a burial? But my mother shut down. Refused to discuss it any more and said “it’s all in the past now”. So I was left wondering and carried on with my schooling, my friendships, my teenage angsts, my life.
When I was in my early 30s I started researching family trees for friends and family. After an exhaustive search and some phone calls I was still completely in the dark about my “twin”. I found no death certificate. I found no trace anywhere. Again, my mother said “it’s all in the past, forget about it”.
A couple of years before my father passed away in 2007, I was in my mid 30s and I asked him. My father shook his head and said he didn’t know anything about it. I was confused. Again, my father also shut down and said “just forget about it”.
So, I continued my life, talking to my reflection as I did constantly growing up and believing I was talking to my deceased twin who I could have loved, who I could have supported and shared great times with. I always felt like there was a missing piece.
Now fast forward to 2018. I met up with a cousin on my father’s side of the family that I had never met before but whom we had messaged via social media. We shared family photos and chat and agreed to finally meet up. It was a lovely afternoon. We spoke constantly about our families and how they all knitted together, sharing stories and truths and finding out where we come from. I mentioned me being a twin. My cousin also didn’t know anything about it but she did say that there was a history of twins in the family and that an occurrence was long overdue. Now I was really confused. Perhaps it wasn’t true then? Or perhaps it was but were they adopted not stillborn? Perhaps that was it. They were adopted? My mind was all over the place. I decided I needed answers from my mother.
A few weeks later, perhaps not the best timing but it was my mother’s 80th birthday. My mother and I were driving to my sister’s for a little, private birthday get together in the May sunshine. As the radio played and the sun streamed through the car I told my mother I had met up with my cousin. My mother has Alzheimer’s now so her short term memory is shot to pieces but her long term memory is good still. She can’t remember what you told her 5 minutes ago but she can remember the long lost uncle once removed and what colour socks they wore!!
As we spoke about long lost family in the car I thought it was a good opportunity to ask her again. My mother seemed quite vociferous and comfortable with this discussion. “I told my cousin about me being a twin. Can you give me more information on this?”. My mother sat, in the passenger seat and started to talk. She told me my “stillborn” twin was a boy who she would have given the same name as my father. She told me the hospital “just took it away so I don’t know what happened to it.” I thought to myself, well it was the 1970s….things were done differently then. I asked, “was there a burial? Is there a death certificate? And why didn’t daddy know anything about it?”. My mother didn’t have any answers. She kept saying “I don’t know, I don’t know”. I felt as it was quite a traumatic event for her that it was time to stop discussing it now. My mother confirmed I WAS a twin and that was all I needed to hear finally, after all these years.
As we drove on listening to the radio, I could feel a lump rise in my throat. I could feel my eyes stinging with the onset of tears. I felt like I really wanted to finally mourn this brother I never had. I wanted to cry and sob for the loss of him but I painted on my clown face for my mother’s birthday and continued to act happy and ok about life. I didn’t discuss it with my sister as it was not the right time but I vowed I would soon to get her take on it.
The next day, I sent an email to my closest friends to tell them what my mother had confirmed. I told them I was so sad and confused as to how I should feel. I got reply after reply back with support and empathy and warm words and love. That night, I cried for the first time in bed. I was so sad. For myself but also for my mother. What a terrible time that must have been for her.
I also sent my sister a text and said I needed to talk to her but she didn’t reply until the next day. I told her what mummy had told me in the car. My sister advised me to search for records, I confirmed I had but found nothing. My sister told me that our mother had confirmed to her that our parents would have given the twin a different name, not after our father. I asked her why she hadn’t discussed this with me before. My sister assumed I knew already. However, my sister seemed to think it wasn’t true as she’s 6 years older than me and she couldn’t recall a sad time when I was born. Only happiness.
A little while later that day, my sister called me again. She said she’d called mummy and demanded to know the truth once and for all and that I was believing I was a twin because of what mummy had confirmed in the car. My sister told me mummy was going to call me soon. I was nervous. Confused.
To cut a long story short, as it turned out, my mother is a narcissistic liar. My mother lied about the whole thing for the past 30 years. She called me and said she lied because it was easier than telling me the truth! The truth (IF this is the truth!), is that the hospital, in the 1970s, made a mistake with the scan. They thought they saw two babies but in fact there was only one so my mother was only carrying one baby from the onset. She thought I’d liked to have had a twin so she told me it was so. She apologised and was very quiet and said she wanted to tell me years ago but she just kept it going. I had been mourning a loss for nothing. I had been feeling empathy and sadness for a woman who lied blatantly to my face. I literally forgot how to breathe at this moment.
My sister and I discussed it over the phone afterwards. My sister told me some things that mummy had told her over the years which I said were total nonsense. Likewise, I told my sister stories that my mother had told me over the years and my sister told me they couldn’t possibly be true. My mother’s lies were unravelling like a piece of knitting being unravelled. Additionally, I was in contact with a family member whom I discussed this revelation with. This family member told me that my mother was never liked by the family, that she would lie to them too, that she was a drama queen and argumentative and difficult. My mother always told me that my father’s family disliked her but she “had no idea why”. She told me her own mother didn’t like her & “tried to sell me”. She told me everyone had it in for her. She told me she couldn’t understand why no one liked her ever. I also remember her telling me as a child, repeatedly, that “whoever crosses me gets their come uppance” and she’d wave a finger in my face angrily and say “don’t you cross me or you’ll know all about it little girl!”. It’s a habit of hers that I will never forget and I always feared.
Some background info: my mother has always had issues – with alcohol, wanting to be the centre of attention, with anger management, with not being maternal – showing maternal actions but I never felt her maternal side. Her cuddles were cold and perfunctory. I felt her pride but not her “bursting with love” care for me. I often felt like a burden. Her temper was quick and fiery. Her patience was nil. Her wrath with others was demonstrative and loud. To others, she was “adorable” and “so sweet” and “you’re so lucky to have such a lovely mother”. To me, she was my mother with the anger, who liked to drink herself into a stupor on the sofa every night, who didn’t care about her child standing on the pavement when she was getting into a car totally pissed out of her head. The mother who would think nothing of screaming in the street at someone while I, a little girl, watched.
With this revelation, everything became so clear, everything just fell into place. It was like someone was wiping a window that had misted over. My sister told me things that our mother had done to her that were despicable. I told my sister things that our mother had done to me that were despicable. My sister and I have always had a fractured relationship – good friends supporting one another and laughing till we cried yet dark distant enemies at different times of our life. We’ve both suffered at the hands of our temperamental parents but we never mourned together or shared memories properly. We were sisters that were sisters simply by name. This was a whole new chapter being re-written. I will never forget the 6th May 2018. Ever.
I am going to write another blog to detail my thoughts on family and this event in more detail. Things have changed alot for me since then….