In April 1995, I was born 3 months premature at 2 pounds and 8 ounces, small enough to fit in the palm of my mother’s hand. I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit from that April until the following July. I was dying, but I was lucky. The general speculation was that if I survived the first few months, I would be mute and brain dead. My family had to prepare themselves for my being unable to communicate, unable to live a normal life, and my being confined to their care for the rest of their lives.
I became a miracle child.
I grew up with a normal childhood. I went to the park, my mom dressed me up for Easter, I always had birthday parties. At the age of 5 I asked mommy and daddy for a little sister, and at the age of 6 I got one. I was in the “Gifted and Talented” program at school, I was polite and
friendly, I played with my toys. We were a happy little family of four.
Until middle school. In 7th grade I began being mercilessly bullied. Having moved to New Jersey from New York City a few years prior, I was still trying to make friends with kids who had known each other since grade school, and it was hard. I cried at school, my grades slipped, I lied to teachers about completing assignments and I fought with my parents unrelentingly.
My life was as socially miserable as you could imagine for a twelve year old girl. One day after a massive meltdown, my mother walked into my room, closed the door, and sat next to me on my bed. “We need to talk.” We always needed to talk about my bullying, my behavior, my report card, the last thing I wanted was to talk. But the door was closed, the tell tale sign that I wasn’t going anywhere.
My mother explained that when she was pregnant with me, she was overjoyed. But when her water broke three months earlier than it was supposed to, she knew something was dangerously wrong. I always knew that I had been born a “sick” baby, but what I didn’t know is that an emergency C Section left her and I almost dead. What I really didn’t know is that I lost a sister in the process.
I am an identical twin, and I didn’t know it until the age of 12.
My parents never told me, my grandparents never dropped hints, nobody let their tongue slip. My entire extended family kept this secret hidden from me for my entire life up to this point.
Why would my mother keep something like this from me, and why would she choose to tell me now?
My mom never wanted to me remember her as in mourning during my childhood. I can’t say that I ever remembered her crying or sad. She didn’t want me to feel guilty about being the one who survived against the odds. At this time in my life, and so young, I felt worthless. I hated myself and my life. I felt good for nothing. I lacked confidence and compassion for myself. My mother’s revelation gave it to me.
Knowing how much I mean to my family and how much of a true gift my life is enabled me to care about myself in ways that I didn’t before.
Whether you believe in destiny, religion, fate, or otherwise things must have happened the way they did for me for a reason. I have to be on earth for more than just being somebody else’s punching bag. I have to be “me” enough for two. At the age of of 12, I understood that. It took me until the age of 16 to truly embrace it. For six years I also kept it under wraps, afraid others would treat me differently once they knew or knew that I knew, too.
But, for my Sweet 16, I wanted to have my twin, Brianne Faith, as part of my celebration. Then is when I chose to unveil my guardian angel to the world. I told everyone who needed to know in order to understand the importance of the milestone for both of us. It was the best choice I could have made for my sister.
The world deserves to know about her. You deserve to know about her. Losing a sibling is tragic, but for me who never got to know her, see her, play with her, it is a loss I never knew I had and a pain I will experience for the rest of my life. It’s almost like watching your life as a TV soap opera: it happened to you, but at the same time, it didn’t. It’s not something to be ashamed of, rather proud of.
People look at me and don’t see just me, they look at me and see in their hearts of heart’s of somebody just like me, but altogether not. Would she have liked pink like me? Would she have been the sporty one? Would she part her hair the same way that I do, or have the same beauty mark on her right cheek? Would we have been inseparable best friends? In my soul, I believe that we are. In a way, I know her better than anyone. She is a part of me, in a way, she is me.
Knowing other people know and that they don’t view me any differently lets me be more me than ever before. At 21, every morning I wake up and I know it is a blessing that I am here. On days that I wish I was anyone other than myself, I remember I am here in the name of someone else who wishes she was here at all. She makes me strong, and she makes me whole. She makes me a beacon of hope for so many. She is what makes me myself, unapologetically.