That should be taking baby steps
Embedded in my heart.
Now walking, take their baby steps
They should have walked together
But only one will blaze a trail
His trailhead marked by
Left there by his stillborn twin,
Buried wombmate memories that linger deep within.
-By Elizabeth A. Pector M.D.
For this post I have tried to imagine what it might have been like to deal with the birth of 2 babies, the death of 1, and our eventual homecoming with a singleton. That is no easy task. I cried at the thought, but I pulled myself together because this post needed to be written for the moms out there who have been given this reality. We have a handful of members who it has happened to and there are countless others who exist. At first I wanted to write this post to give you resources, coping mechanisms, and stress relievers. However, when I sat down the thought of that last sentence sounded shallow and cold. I am not saying that all three of those things are not necessities, I just feel that being a twin mom myself what I would want more than anything would first be an understanding from others about what my thoughts and feelings were. An understanding to let me be until I was ready for stress relief, coping mechanisms, and resources. Let me sit in my sadness and my joy. Let me sit somewhere in the middle of life and death, because that is exactly where I am.
I imagine being torn in half and ripped apart, and having to face each day that lay ahead with a precious baby who will no doubt feel my conflicting emotions of joy, anger, and grief on a daily basis. What would help me the most to face each day without my other twin? How would I cope, how could I, do I even want to try and cope? For each mom the answers to those questions will be different and will be dealt with at different times. It depends on so many elements. It depends on your personality type, your faith, your support, your husband, your family, your friends. How they treat the situation. How they help you to keep your lost twin alive. How much you pray. If you seek counseling. If you seek medication. The list is endless, it is ever changing, it is infinite. How you cope will be a battle you face for the rest of your life. It will never go away. You will never be the mom of a singleton, no matter how many people treat you as such.
As one article states, "Going home from the hospital with one baby is perhaps the first time that parents will begin to realize the full extent of what has happened. It can be a lonely mixture of joy and relief and also intense sadness. It can also be a major step along the way to realizing that indeed one of your twins has died. You may find it difficult to understand your conflicting emotions - joy and relief of one twin and a complete sadness and loss of another baby. In addition to your intense grief, you may feel very let down. As a parent expecting twins, you may have been the focus of admiration. Suddenly, the prestige is gone."
One of the most common human reactions to the death of a child is to avoid or underestimate the loss, even if it is unintentional. I hear this often from the moms who are part of our angel group and have experienced a singleton loss. They long to hear their baby's name, for people to ask questions about their baby, for people to keep their memory alive. Yet that does not come naturally for many people. It is uncomfortable for them and so instead of facing that head on many choose to ignore or avoid your loss. It seems the easier road is to just not talk about it and unfortunately by doing that they are only making the pain and healing harder on the parent who is actually experiencing the loss. For a parent who loses a twin I imagine this experience with others to be even worse. After all at least when you have twins you still have a baby who will smile, laugh, and make it even easier for the passerby, friend, or family member to act as though every thing is okay. You are doing okay. After all you have to be happy...you are a new mom!
For me in my imaginary tragedy, I think the only thing that brings me comfort is knowing that my twin, who is alive on this earth with me, is also in some way feeling the loss that I am. I know that is is very different but it does exist. I am comforted in knowing that we will share that loss forever. It will never go away for either of us. I will always be a twin mom and my son or daughter will always have a twin sister or brother. That fact would bring me comfort. They were in my womb together sharing the tightest of living quarters, sharing food, sharing oxygen, growing together, sharing me for months. The three of us. They feel the loss too. I know full well that if my twin girls did not have each other they would not be the same, they would feel something wasn't right, they would know. So I imagine bonding over the loss with my twin I will share the rest of my life with. Maybe that sounds sad, but it is sad. That is the truth. I have to figure out how I can go on each day and find joy with my twin who is alive, so that they can grow up healthy and loved. If finding joy in our common loss is how I can grieve the loss of my twin and celebrate the life of my living twin then that is my answer...at least for today. I know their grief journey will be a very different one than mine, but I have peace in knowing that my living twin will know of his or her twinship as they grow up. I find comfort in knowing that I will be the one to teach them about twins and their sister or brother, and that one day they....we....will all reunite again in heaven.
So now for some actual words from parents who have lost a twin:
I encourage you to read this article where 4 families who have experienced the loss of a twin are interviewed. It is one of the best articles I found when researching for this topic as it explains in depth some of the feelings these parents face first hand.
Now to the necessary ways to cope:
This is a list compiled from my research, my own past experiences with loss and grief, and from what I have learned from my angel parent friends. Please as always feel free to comment below with more coping techniques.
Research books on amazon, at the book store, or at the library until you find a few that call out to you. The right books have a way of finding you. There are also Internet articles, websites, and blogs devoted to twin loss.
Prayer, church, and visiting with spiritual, supportive, and prayerful people
Find a face to face support group with people who have similar experiences
Join an online message board or angel group
We have one on facebook just visit the following link and ask to be added to our angel group. This is great for interaction at any time of the day or night with people who can relate.
Find a simple pleasure to enjoy
Like going to Starbucks to get a coffee, finding something on you tube you know will make you laugh, or finding a sitcom that is "light, fluffy, and funny" that you love. Playing a game on your phone, baking, knitting, listening to music, etc.
Don't numb your feelings
Don't numb your emotions by shutting out the world, and denying your pain. Accept your pain, embrace it, feel it, and work through it.
Know this isn't the end
Believe that your child always surrounds you, and though you may not be able to see or hear him, he’s always there, and in your darkest hours, you will feel him or her near. If you don’t shut them out, your angels, will give you signs, little things to let you know, they are near and haven’t left you. You will see your loved one again one day. Hope, faith, and love, is boundless & important, in life and in death.
Cry & Laugh
Both are irreplaceable outlets for emotion
If you need to seek professional help seek it
There are grief counselors, christian counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. Do not allow the feelings of others on the subject of professional help to influence your decision to seek help.
Create a way to remember your child
One of our angel moms planted a peach tree in her daughter's memory. Find a special song, create a memory book. Attend a memorial gathering once per year - here you will share your loss with others and honor your child's memory. October 15th is a national day for infant and pregnancy loss remembrance day. Find a gathering near you at this website http://www.october15th.com/
Resources on the web
This website is filled with personal stories, inspiration, and more for parents who have experienced a multiples loss of some kind.
Articles and lecture handouts on multiple birth, prematurity, loss, and other topics. Written by Elizabeth A. Pector, M.D.
This website is for twinless twins but has many great articles for grieving parents of twins as well and how to deal with having a twinless twin.
This website/blog is devoted to womb twin survivors. This group includes survivors of a stillbirth, miscarriage, abortion, and a vanishing twin pregnancy.
A prayerful christian blog site devoted to child loss, infertility, and adoption.