What would it be like to learn that you had a sibling when you were 30-something years old. What if you were told she was your twin, and identical? And if all that weren't enough, what if you then found each other and learned that you were part of a study? Can you even imagine?
But this is what happened. In fact there were several sets of multiples born in the late 60's and adopted through this agency in New York that had been separated in order to study them.
In this case Elyse decided to request information about her birth mother. In doing so she learned that she was an identical twin. Because Paula, her twin, had requested non-identifying information several years previous, the adoption agency was able to contact Paula and inform her of this news. The two were reunited shortly thereafter.
In addition to looking alike, they had much in common. Everything from their chosen professions to being allergic to the same medication. They made identical gestures with their hands, liked the same movies, and even traveled to some of the same places. Still, in the back of their minds each had some realization that despite all these similarities, they were strangers.
The women learned that the agency where they had been adopted decided it was best to separate twins. They first, however, had them placed in foster care for the first few months of their lives so that they could be studied. As best as they can tell, they were kept separate during their stay in foster care, although they were placed with the same caregiver.
They tell their story of how they each learned about the other and what happened since by taking turns sharing the narrative. It is interesting to glimpse each woman's perspective of the same events. It is just another way to reiterate how they are alike, and yet not the same.
In the course of their searching for answers, they learned that the data for the study was donated to Yale University and is sealed until 2066. They will be 98-years old. They made an attempt to have the records opened, but were unsuccessful.
Their story will make you think about everything from how much of our behavior is encoded in our DNA to what it means to be family. It will also make you think about what information should be disclosed to families adopting children. And of course, how far is too far to go in the name of science and research.