On the way to our first ultrasound, my husband and I were giddy with excitement. I was eight weeks pregnant with our first child. We spent the car ride dreaming about our baby’s future, talking about the nursery design, and even joking that today we may find out that we are pregnant with twins. Subconsciously, maybe we knew.
We arrived at the doctor’s office for what we thought would be a normal, routine appointment. As the doctor and nurse looked at the ultrasound, I had a feeling there was something out of the ordinary. I couldn’t see the screen, but I heard my husband say, “is that two?”
I was elated. I had won the jackpot. I was chosen to be a mother of identical twins.
A few weeks later, we found out the sex of the babies—two little girls. As a girly-girl myself, I couldn’t help but plan their matching outfits and bows in my head. I daydreamed about them holding hands and bonding as they grew up together. I couldn’t wait to play Barbie and shop for prom dresses. I was living in complete maternal bliss as I planned out every stage of their childhood in my head.
The Types of Twin Pregnancies
There are three different types of twin pregnancies, each with varying levels of risks. Often referred to as fraternal twins, dichorionic-diamniotic (di-di) twins are considered the ‘safest’ of the twin pregnancies because each baby has their own separate ‘home’ or chorions and amniotic sacs. On the opposite end of the spectrum, monochorionic-monoamniotic (mono-mono) pregnancies are considered the highest risk as the twins share the same chorion and amniotic sac.
Our risk was somewhere in the middle. With a monochorionic-diamniotic (mono-di), our babies shared a chorion but had separate amniotic sacs. Our doctor explained the risks to us but reassured us that we would be monitored frequently with extra ultrasounds and appointments. I felt confident.
My 32 Week Ultrasound
My pregnancy just happened to collide with the height of the pandemic in 2020. My husband was unable to attend my bi-weekly ultrasounds and doctors’ appointments. Like the rest of the world, we sat alone in our homes—there was no baby shower or celebration. While it was hard, I decided to not let it take a toll on my mental health, and I remained optimistic and charged ahead.
After attending so many ultrasounds alone, in July 2020, the Cleveland Clinic announced it would allow one guest to attend prenatal appointments. Someone must have been looking out for us from above, because I am so thankful to have not been alone at this appointment.
Someone must have been looking out for us from above, because I am so thankful to have not been alone at this appointment.
What we thought would be a routine ultrasound turned into one of our worst nightmares. Our technician made small talk as she scanned my belly, but she looked flustered. She excused herself from the room for a moment, but we didn’t think anything of it. As she returned, she looked at us with teary eyes and told my husband to hold my hand. We braced ourselves as one of our worst nightmares came true—we had lost one of the twins at 32 weeks.
What’s Different About Losing a Twin or Multiple
There were no physical signs I had lost one of the babies. With a singleton pregnancy, you might notice a decrease in movement that signals something may be wrong. With a twin or multiple pregnancy, you can’t really tell—you may continue to feel movement across your abdomen.
With our surviving twin’s life in danger, we rushed immediately to the hospital. I tried to remain calm but was in complete shock over the news I just received and was not in the headspace to deliver in the next few days.
Two days later, our surviving baby girl, Vivienne Rose, was born.
Losing a pregnancy, no matter at what stage, is hard enough on its own. But when it happens to someone who is carrying twins, it presents an array of emotions. On one hand, you’re elated to bring life into this world and begin your journey as a mother, on the other hand, you’re stricken with sadness and loss.
You’re grieving for your surviving twin, who just lost their sibling. You’re grieving with your husband for the life you’ve dreamed about during your pregnancy.
Decisions You Never Thought You’d Be Making
Along with the grief and flood of emotions, there are other decisions you’d never think you’d have to consider following a twin loss.
For example, we had two names for our daughters, Vivienne and Chloe, and had to choose a name for our surviving baby and a name for our deceased baby. We had to make a deeply personal decision whether we wanted to hold our deceased child. We had to choose a funeral home and decide whether to cremate or bury our child.
While making these decisions, your mind is clouded with worry for your surviving baby. While we were relieved our daughter was here, we knew we had a tough road ahead of us in the NICU. Vivienne, weighing just 3lbs 14 ounces and born eight weeks early, spent 24 days in the NICU as doctor’s monitored her health (NICU nurses are angels, by the way).
We left the hospital seven days later after Vivienne’s birth, alone, with no baby in the car seat, battered, bruised, and bracing ourselves to enter an empty house.
How to Support Someone Who’s Lost a Twin
I was lucky enough to have an incredible support system. My best friend and mom swooped into my home to take down all the “double” items we had and stashed them in my basement. They completely transformed the nursery from a room with two cribs to a room with one. Flowers from friends, family members, and coworkers adorned every room in our house. Despite being empty, the home looked full of life. It made coming home that much easier.
Still, the road was unique and difficult to navigate, and the people around you aren’t quite sure what to say or do.
Some made comments like, “aren’t you glad your [other] daughter is healthy?” Of course I am, but it doesn’t mean I’m not experiencing intense sorrow, too. Some made comments that twins would have been a handful, insinuating one child would be much easier. Others just simply downplayed the loss because you were lucky enough to have one child and lucky to know what Baby B would look like since they were identical twins. These remarks were mostly made by well-meaning people, but nonetheless, they still hurt.
Healing From Losing a Twin
While the pain from losing a twin during pregnancy has settled over time, it’s still there. Three years later, I still think about it daily. Like a knife in the gut, I get a twinge of sadness seeing twins in movies or playing on the playground. Ironically, I’m writing this at 32 weeks pregnant with our second child, and I’d be lying if I said this week of gestation was easy.
Since it’s an incredibly unique and uncommon experience, it’s hard to find others to connect to that have gone through something similar. During my six-week postpartum checkup, the nurse who had been with me throughout my entire pregnancy gave me a hug and started crying. She, too, lost a twin during pregnancy and now had a nine-year-old son. We looked into each other’s eyes and felt the same pain and heartache. For the first time, I felt seen and recognized — someone knew the pain and heartache that I was going through. Our paths were truly meant to cross.
I often think about how I have the unique challenge of sharing with Vivienne that she has a twin in heaven. Right now, we use butterflies in our house to signify that Chloe is a part of our lives, even if briefly. We will celebrate and honor her twin, who is watching over us, and birthdays and other milestones will be bittersweet, but we will find ways to ensure she is not forgotten.
To the Mom Grieving a Similar Loss,
Losing a twin during pregnancy is an isolating experience. It’s a loss unlike any other. If you’ve just experienced a loss during a twin or multiple pregnancy—I see you. I know the emotions and feelings you’re experiencing are indescribable.
Know that you are not alone. I encourage you to lean into your support system, take time to grieve, journal, and seek out a great counselor that specializes in traumatic births and loss. Finally, don’t forget to check in on your spouse or partner. While everyone is looking out for the mother, sometimes the partner’s well-being can be overlooked.
The loss of a twin during pregnancy will never go away. Remember, you are, and always will be, a parent to multiples.