It almost didn't happen. If it weren't for their matching red gingham dresses, twin sisters Mia and Alexandra likely would have never known the other existed. But there they were, two 17-month-old girls just adopted by two different families, ready to travel back to their new homes across the globe, when those dresses caused their new parents to do a double take and eventually make an amazing discovery that changed all of their lives forever.
The dresses were lovingly selected by the girls' adoptive mothers who had traveled to China to pick up their daughters. Angela Hansen flew in from Sacramento, California, with her husband Andy to officially adopt Mia, and Wenche and Sigmund Hauglum traveled from Fresvik, Norway, to pick up Alexandra.
"If everything had gone after the plan, we would never have known about each other," Wenche said. "The girls could have lived their lives without each other. I think it must have been destiny."
The couples had never met, and while both families knew their daughter had been found in a cardboard box, neither had any idea their daughter had a twin. As their official adoptions were on different days, the families' paths likely would have never crossed in a lifetime. However, on the day of Alexandra's adoption, Sigmund was sick, and the couple had to return the following day when he was well to sign paperwork — that just so happened to be the day the Hansens were there with Mia.
Still they probably would have just smiled and walked past one another, but there were the dresses the girls were wearing — those same dresses purchased in different stores, in different countries — that caused the families to stop. As they chatted, they realized it wasn't just the dresses that were nearly identical — the girls were too.
"It seems like more than a coincidence," Angela told SheKnows. "I do kind of believe it was a bigger power that was working to bring these two girls together."
When they questioned Chinese authorities, the families were told the girls were not twins, but they exchanged contact information anyway. They returned to their respective homes — a world apart from each other — and began building their lives with their new daughters. Still, they couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling that those dresses were more than a coincidence. About a year later, DNA tests confirmed what the families suspected after that chance meeting — the girls were twin sisters.
Once they had the answer, the question was where to go from there. Both had vastly different lives in different parts of the world but little girls who were so very much the same. They were already so loved, neither family considered giving up their daughter, so they started the journey of raising the sisters apart but keeping them connected as best they could.
"We tried to do the best out of the situation," Wenche said. "We never discussed moving, but decided we would keep in touch and meet again." And so they did.
Since that first fateful meeting in China, despite the challenges, the families have gotten together numerous times. The first time was when the girls were 6 in 2009 in California. While neither spoke the same language, both had somehow ended up with identical haircuts — short bangs with the rest long and straight. In the award-winning 2013 documentary Twin Sisters by Mona Friis Bertheussen, the girls' different lifestyles are shown in contrast — there's Alexandra's idyllic snow-capped Norwegian village in which she plays with a mouse while Mia's California life highlights include the McDonald's drive through and beauty pageant-themed birthday parties. Yet despite the distance and the differences, their bond is evident when the girls are shown together during a visit the Hansens took to Norway when the girls were 8.
In the years since the cameras stopped rolling, Alexandra has learned English and the girls have begun to communicate on Skype and social media. Angela says there is "virtually no warm up period" when the girls see each other.
"They get together right away; it's like they never left each other," she said. "It's really like no time has passed. We're doing the best we can to keep the girls in contact with each other and the girls seem content at this point. As they get older, they'll be able to make their own decisions."
The moms say the girls' similarities are vast and their differences few.
"Their personalities are very similar; they have some of same likes and dislikes," Angela said. "They have a lot of the same expressions, same tone of voice, the same way they express themselves. You would think they would pick up more of that from the people they are around, but we have found that's not the case. Their connection is undeniable."
While Angela admits the girls miss each other and probably imagine their lives together, they're "pretty resigned to their situation."
"All they know is living apart," she says.
The families feel lucky above all to have discovered this secret sisterhood. "We all feel fortunate that we found each other and that each of us wanted to keep in contact," Angela said. "When we first met them — who knows, they might not have wanted to pursue this. We're fortunate that we get along so well and that the girls have known about each other since they were old enough to know. That's something they will always have forever, and that's not something that a lot of adopted kids have. So it's really just been a great blessing."
What the future holds for them, no one can say.
"That's something that will be interesting for everyone to see how it all ends up," Angela said.
"We have talked about that maybe one day she can go to school in the USA when she gets a little older, and maybe then they can spend more time together," Wenche said. "But I think both girls are also strongly linked to their countries, Norway and the USA."
And strongly linked to each other, no matter where they live.