Emmeline talks about losing one of her twins in pregnancy and the conflicting emotions and isolation she felt.
How to announce such happy news when I was filled with so much grief, fear and anxiety? How to honour the twin that was lost and yet be excited about the one that was healthy?
I write this as my son is now 20 weeks old. What most people don’t know is that my son is a ‘sunrise baby’ – the surviving twin of a baby who dies in the womb. It’s also a time of year that will always be difficult me as it’s Baby Loss Awareness Week and coming up to the anniversary of when we found out that one of our babies didn’t make it.
My husband and I were both quite anxious when I found out I was pregnant – I knew of the risk of miscarriage so we tried not to get too overexcited when the pregnancy test came out positive.
At around 9 weeks gestation I had some spotting so panicked and we went straight to A&E. After a gruelling long wait we were finally taken for a scan, and the lovely midwife told us “the babies are fine”. I couldn’t quite believe my ears. Babies?! We watched as she showed us 2 little heartbeats flickering on the screen. It looked like one of them was clapping. Never will I forget this image. It will be engraved in my memory until the day I die.
A few days after the scan I was filled with panic. How would we look after two? How would we afford two? I spent hours googling ‘how to cope with twins’. Not once did it occur to me that we may not end up with twins.
It was at my 12 week scan that we found out that one of the twins hadn’t made it. I remember the room feeling very small, like a dark cave. I didn’t react. It was quiet. It was only when we left the hospital that it suddenly started to sink in. I collapsed in my husband’s arms. “I killed my baby!” – I was convinced that I was being punished for having negative thoughts about twins. It was only when we got home that we looked it up: Vanishing Twin Syndrome.
Then began the long wait for my little baby or, as the health professionals so coldly put it, for the demised twin, to be reabsorbed and effectively disappear so they could do all the routine tests for the surviving twin.
I have never experienced so many conflicting emotions at once. So much grief. Deep grief, but confusing grief. Grieving for a baby you have never met and will never meet is hard. And fear for the surviving twin – would we lose the other one?
I think I spent most of my remaining pregnancy expecting more bad news. As other people were getting excited about their baby’s arrival and talking about what he or she would be like, I remained very cautious because part of me never really believed there would be a healthy baby at the end of all this.
We waited as long as possible to tell people I was pregnant. I know for a lot of parents this is a happy time. For me, if there had been a way to hide it until I actually gave birth, I would have waited. How to announce such happy news when I was filled with so much grief, fear and anxiety? How to honour the twin that was lost and yet be excited about the one that was healthy?
What I found about pregnancy loss is that it is a time when you really need support and to be surrounded by people, but I found it to be one of the loneliest times of my life. Your baby was never born and so people don’t know how to grieve with you.
In my case, people found it easier to focus on the positive and my healthy baby, rather than remembering the one that was lost. Crying silently behind sunglasses and feeling my heart cramp up as I’d see twins playing in a park. Laughing politely as people made comments such as “are you sure you don’t have two in there?”. You learn how to grieve silently.
Every day I hold one baby in my arms but in my heart I’m a mother of two.
There is a phrase that has brought me some comfort: Not all twins walk side by side, sometimes one has wings to fly.