Max & His Twin
I stared dumbfounded at the little pink stick. It couldn’t have happened so fast; we’d only been trying for a month! But there it was. I was pregnant. My husband David and I were overjoyed.
I set up my initial doctor’s appointment for the next month, early September. When I went in to the doctor’s office, she did a vaginal ultrasound. This was all new to me, but I was excited about the possibility of seeing the baby, no matter how small it might be. The doctor pointed to the screen: “There’s the baby, right there.” I saw a second little blob off to the side and asked her what that was. She grinned impishly and replied, “That’s the other baby.”
TWINS! That was so far beyond what I had ever imagined happening. I was elated and scared all at the same time. I had promised to meet my husband for lunch after my appointment and tell him how things had gone. I brought the ultrasound to the restaurant and did to him the same thing the doctor had done to me. He reacted the same way I did–shock, disbelief, and joy. Now I no longer had to refer to the baby as “it”; it was now “them”.
Having had two abortions in my younger years (I was twenty-nine when I got pregnant), I felt sure that these two babies were somehow God’s way of giving those lost babies back to me. Thinking this made the twins even more special. Everyone at work was so excited and supportive, and I basked in the glow of having a “special” pregnancy.
Everything was going along well; I was eating like a horse and was only nauseous every once in a while. I went to the doctor frequently and had an ultrasound each time, just to keep tabs on things. It was so great being able to see the two babies nestled in there together and was reassuring to hear the ultrasound tech say each time, “There’s the heartbeat…and there’s the other heartbeat.” That all changed in late November.
I was almost five months along and was going for a prenatal visit and ultrasound. Everything was going smoothly when the tech looked at Baby A. She found its heartbeat right away. I knew something was wrong, though, when she moved on to Baby B. She got really quiet and didn’t say anything until I said, “Is something wrong?” She replied, “I’m concerned about this baby. I’m not getting a heartbeat.” She left me alone while she went to get the doctor, who confirmed what the tech had found: Baby B was dead in my womb, and had been for about two weeks, as best they could tell. I was devastated. My husband was supposed to meet me for this appointment but was running late, so I had gone in for the ultrasound without him, and I was so sorry that I did. When he finally arrived, the doctor showed him in to the examining room and we cried for a long time.
The doctor was as kind as she could be, telling us that we would have to go to see a perinatologist the next day to confirm that Baby A was still okay. We went home in shock. That night, David and I held each other and just cried. Everything was falling apart. Not only was one of our babies dead, but we might lose the other one too. That entire night, I was wracked with guilt; there were many times during the last three months that we had said, “What are we going to do with two? How we will manage financially and emotionally?” I felt sure that God was punishing us for not being entirely and unfailingly glad about having multiples. “Doubt Me, will you? I’ll show you!” My mind also kept flashing back to the two abortions. I wondered if God wasn’t somehow punishing me for that, too. That night was the longest one of my life.
The next day, we visited the perinatologist, who told us not only that Baby A was a boy (we hadn’t wanted to know the sex, but after what happened, we thought we’d now like to know), but that thankfully, the twins were in two different sacs and Baby A seemed fine, but that I would be watched carefully the remainder of my pregnancy. We went home grateful, but still saddened.
The second half of my pregnancy was fraught with worry, even more so than the first half had been. My worries kept me up at night: what if Baby A stopped kicking? I haven’t felt him move for a while; is he okay? It made me frustrated and angry that no one could seem to answer my question “Why?” If I knew why this had happened, had some reasonable explanation, maybe it wouldn’t be so scary or hurt so much.
People were very nice to David and me, but they seemed to want to not talk about it and move on as if nothing had happened. At my baby shower, I passed out a CLIMB article, a packet of sunflower seeds, and a note asking each guest to plant the seeds in the spring as a reminder of our angel baby. While I had hoped that this would help people find a way to grieve with us, it seemed to make some people uncomfortable, and I didn’t receive a whole lot of feedback on it. Maybe people just thought it would be better to pretend it never happened, but a few people responded positively, and it certainly made ME feel better, at any rate.
I can’t describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it how bizarre it felt for the next four months to know that my body had betrayed me, to carry around one living, growing baby and one dead one. I couldn’t shake the idea that something might happen to Baby A (who we had named “Max”, “the greatest” in Latin, and given the middle name “Jacob” after the Biblical story of Jacob and his twin Esau) as suddenly and inexplicably as it had to Baby B. We were advised by our doctors that we would probably not want to see Baby B at birth, because the deterioration would be so extensive, and the sex could not even be determined, so Baby B will forever be “Baby B”. That’s one thing that really keeps me from having a definitive sense of closure; we can’t even really give the baby a name.
My water broke one day after my due date and we went to the hospital for Max to be born. There were quite a few complications, none of which really had anything to do with Baby B’s demise: Max’s heart rate was consistently high (which we later discovered was probably a result of him being born facing the wrong way and his nose being smashed against my pubic bone) and my labor was inefficient and I got stalled at 8 centimeters. After an epidural and internal fetal monitoring, Max was delivered by cesearean section at 10:55 p.m. The doctor confirmed at that time that we probably would not want to see Baby B, that it would not even look human, but more like a lump of tissue. We opted not to; I know people say you should always see the dead baby, but I was afraid that if it really did look like a lump of tissue, as the doctor said, that it would be frightening and would make me feel worse than if I just held my imaginary picture in my head of what the baby would have looked like. Since the baby died so soon in the pregnancy, a death certificate was not required. The pathology results were inconclusive, and like so many other parents who have lost a baby, we will probably never know why Baby B was not able to live.
Happily, Max is now nine months old and as healthy as he can be; he has yet to be sick a day! He is developing well and he is a joy to his father and me. Sometimes when I look at him, I imagine his twin and wonder what she/he would look like and be like if s/he were alive today. We have done everything possible to make sure that Max knows that he is a twin. In his scrapbook are the ultrasound pictures of him and his twin together in utero. The very first page of his scrapbook tells the story of Max and his twin as a fairy tale: how the king and queen wanted a child to make their lives complete and were blessed with two babies, one of whom was very lucky because it got to live with God and run and play in heaven, and the other of whom was lucky in a different way, because he got to run and play with the king and queen on Earth. Over Max’s changing table hangs a print of William Bourgeareau’s painting of two cherubs, one kissing the other on the cheek. On Max’s first birthday, we plan to release a balloon so that his twin in heaven will have a birthday too.
Some days we feel guilty for feeling bad about our loss. After all, many people experience what we have, only instead of losing one baby, they lose both or all. At least we have one of our pair. Some days we feel guilty for feeling bad because of all the other people in the world who are unable to get pregnant at all. Most days, though, we look at Max and feel deeply blessed for all that God has granted us, and we know that in time, the meaning and purpose of all that has happened will be made clear to us. In the meantime, we treasure our surviving twin and hope that we will be the best parents to him that we can be.
About her baby shower, she wrote: “Later on in the pregnancy, my friends threw a shower for me and the surviving twin. It was important to both my husband and me that we not allow the death of the twin to pass by unacknowledged, even as we celebrated the impending birth of the other twin. So in order to acknowledge the loss, but still not detract from the joy of the shower, I asked the hostesses if it was ok to make up a packet to give to each guest as she left. In the packet I included an article about dealing with loss in a multiple birth, and a cover letter that explained why the guests were receiving the packet. (All the guests knew about the loss ahead of time.) I also included a packet of forget-me-not seeds and requested in the cover letter that they plant the seeds in the springtime (the shower was in February and the due date was April) and say a prayer or special wish over the seeds in memory of our lost baby. The reaction I got was mixed (some people thought it was very nice and some were not sure how to take it, but no one reacted negatively). I certainly was not a situation they were used to dealing with, but I hope if there is ever a “next time” involving anyone else they know, the article will make it easier for them to know what to say or do. No mater how it was perceived by the guests, it was an important healing measure for me to take for myself, and I’m glad I did it.”