Not all twins walk side by side

Writing this is hard. I have wanted to talk about my loss from day one, but when I compare it to others, I feel like a fraud.

I guess I should start back when I first knew – I woke from a vivid dream, a nightmare – you know the type, the ones where you suddenly wake up, believing for a second that it’s real, sitting up, then realising it’s just a dream and lying back down again. I dreamt I was in a hospital bed, a baby in a crib next to me, whilst I begged the midwife to let me have my baby – not the one lying there, which I didn’t even glance at, but the other, the one I hadn’t seen, whisked away as soon as it was born – I didn’t even know if it was male or female. Then I was suddenly standing in a hospital corridor, my husband in the doorway to the carpark behind me, holding a baby in a car seat – I had my back to them, I was trying to get back through the other door – to the ward. I was begging the nurse to give me my baby, screaming and crying, she said ‘you have one, be happy with that’ and closed the door. I woke in tears, believing there had been twins and that for some unexplained reason one had been taken, could never come home.

When I realized it was just a dream, I also realized I might be pregnant – not planned, not really affordable or particularly wanted. I went to a midwife, who looked at dates; 4 weeks later I went for a scan. My husband had trouble parking, so they let me wait, but then said I’d have to go in. I prayed he’d park in time to join me. They did the scan before he got there – there it was, a baby, healthy and growing, and then she showed me – next to it, a much smaller foetus, undeveloped, no heartbeat and said the words “I’m very sorry, but as you can see, there was a twin which unfortunately hasn’t survived”. She asked if I was ok; at that point I said I was, I said I knew – I told her in brief about my dream. She looked surprised and then told me the twin had stopped developing at roughly 8 weeks. At that point someone appeared to say my husband was there, and to check it was the right room and could he come in. The sonographer asked if I wanted to tell him or if she should. I asked her to, he didn’t really react. When the scan was over, we were asked if we wanted a photo – we both said yes. My husband took it. We were asked to go and wait in the waiting room as I had said I wanted the test for Downs Syndrome.

The waiting room was crowded – we sat down in the only place with two seats left together. I looked at the photo – my beautiful baby … no twin! I was shocked and upset – the one chance to have a lasting memory of that twin and they hadn’t given it to me, they hadn’t even asked, just cut the dead baby out. I looked around, wanting to get another photo, and saw signs “please make sure you are happy with your scan photos before leaving the room as scans cannot be repeated”. Then I looked straight in front of me –we were sat directly in front of a board with information on multiple births, twins and more, TAMBA. I wanted to cry but no tears would come.

We were called to go into a room by a nurse who explained that because of the twin, they couldn’t do the blood tests – the DNA would potentially give an incorrect result. I was asked if I wanted to talk to anyone about the twin. By that point I was just in shock, I shook my head – I couldn’t speak, and my husband said no, we were fine. We went home.

I remember telling people – I wanted people to know it had been twins, for me, they had to know that there were two babies. My husband told that to his family but not to others. I told everyone. I remember the reactions – a very good but very tactless friend told me “yes, it’s sad but when you think about it it’s probably for the best, you struggle with one baby so wouldn’t cope with two”. Another good friend who isn’t particularly fond of kids and definitely not religious lit a candle for my baby and sent me a photo of it burning – it was so comforting to have it recognized in that way. I was distraught – I cried every night after my children were in bed and my husband had gone to work. I guess at this point I should explain-he works nights, I have two older boys (older, but only 4 and 2 at that point), I use a crutch to walk, and had had post-natal depression fairly severely twice – perhaps now you agree with the first friend? In my head, I tried to convince myself that was logical, it was how I should feel. But I didn’t. I was distraught. My baby was dead. I needed to know if it was just a thing, that my body would reabsorb, or a baby with a soul feeling the love in heaven I could never give on earth. My minister spoke to me. She was reassuring but didn’t give false hope – she said we couldn’t know for sure, but that we could hope it was with God and pray.

Time passed. At the next appointment with my community midwife, I told her it had been twins and then she checked the notes to confirm that. She asked if I wanted to hear my baby’s heartbeat. I did. It took her a while to find it. I think she could see I was starting to panic. She tried to reassure me – she said it didn’t normally take that long, but the noise I could hear was the baby’s blood flow, so it was definitely there and the reason it was taking so long is that every time she found it, it moved, so she knew there was a heartbeat. I hadn’t realized how much I was panicking until she finally found it, and I felt the relief wash over me.

The twin wasn’t really mentioned after that in the hospital, they simply confirmed it had vanished by the 20 week scan. I had regular appointments for gestational diabetes – the team involved in that side of things never mentioned it at all.

My minister has promised me that when my son is baptised, we can include the twin in the ceremony – I don’t know how, but I’m glad, although I know it will probably have me in tears and confuse a lot of those attending. She was lovely – no body, no burial, but she organised a private ‘funeral’ – she did an order of service, just herself, me, my husband and our boys, at the church. It was simple, but perfect. My husband told me he hadn’t realized how much he needed it until he attended – until that point it hadn’t felt real to him. I guess men really do feel things differently. The minister asked if we knew if it was a boy or girl, or if we had a name, my husband said no. I knew what I was having with my first two…with this one, I didn’t – I kept veering from one to the other. This was a non-identical twin, so in my mind the reason I couldn’t decide is because there was one of each – we’d have to wait for the birth to see which had survived.

When our son was born, the midwives in the birth suite and nurses on postnatal knew nothing about the twin, or didn’t mention it. His health visitor didn’t know until I told her. There is nothing on his birth certificate to state he ever had a twin.

I took a photo of the pages of my notes that mentioned it – I should have checked at the time, but I wasn’t thinking – now I can see they are blurred. I needed people to know the twin existed, so I included them in the birth announcement. My mum was surprised – she had forgotten he was a twin, and wondered if it would surprise others.

Each of my children has a stamp used on their birth announcement – for my son, I chose a rabbit looking up, but I needed something for the twin too – I chose a butterfly. The twin also needed it’s own words in the announcement. I spent hours trawling the internet, looking for how to word it. In the end, I went with a simple quote, which I had already had made into a Christmas ornament. The final announcement had the rabbit looking up, at a cut out butterfly swooping down. Inside was my son’s birth announcement – on the inside cover was his twins stamp, a beautiful sparkling butterfly, and the quote “Not all twins walk side by side, sometimes one has wings to fly”. I didn’t need to find more words than that, it was enough to tell people and to invite them to acknowledge it.

When we went home, the tears started again, when I looked down at him, so small in my arm, my other arm hanging loosely by my side – space for another baby; space on his playmat; space in his basket – Ok, he’s grown, he fills those spaces now, but the gaping hole in my heart is still there. I love him. I grieve for his twin. I feel guilt that he isn’t enough. I feel guilt that people with one baby who miscarry loose everything and carry on somehow and I make a fuss about a twin when I have a beautiful healthy baby. I feel guilt that I ask for my baby to be remembered with theirs when I carried a baby to term; I didn’t have to go through a physical miscarriage – my body reabsorbed the twin. I feel so unbearably sad. I feel my heart is broken. I look at him, and just sometimes I see a shadow. I have to remember – I’m not sure how yet, but that baby is there, with me, part of me forever, and I need its brother to know too. I need him to know he is enough, he is loved, but that he had a twin whom I will always love and miss too.

When I count to where 8 weeks in the pregnancy was, it’s this week, baby loss awareness week, and I really do believe we need to talk about it. I’ve seen people say it in various ways, and here’s mine – I’m a mum of four; 3 boys and one angel. I’ll never forget.