The loss of a twin at 13 weeks
This is a story of “going longer”, five years down the road.
My husband, Scott, and I lost one of our twin babies at 13 weeks gestation. We had struggled with unexplained infertility for four years, attempting various treatments before finally braving IVF. Our plan was to give IVF one try, then to switch from the emotional roller coaster of infertility to that of adoption.
I conceived on that first try. Twins!
Because the pregnancy was IVF, we learned of our twins right at 6 weeks. That ultrasound of our two little “grains of rice” is very precious to me. At 8 weeks, with another ultrasound, all was looking well, so my Reproductive Endocrinologist released me to an Obstetrician. At 12 weeks, we heard both babies’ heart beats by Doppler, and the next sonogram was scheduled for the following week.
On Wednesday, August 13, 1997, during the end of my thirteenth week of pregnancy, Scott and I went to the radiology lab for a “routine” sonogram. Both babies measured the same size, consistent with 13 1/2 weeks. Baby A was very active. Baby B was not. No heartbeat. Our world crashed.
My immediate reaction was “what did I do wrong?” Life seemed so unfair. There are so many accidental and unwanted pregnancies in the world, and babies being born into squalor. Yet Scott and I desperately wanted children and had the means to provide for them, but we struggled with infertility. And then this happens – a gift given then snatched away. It must be something inherently wrong with me. I must be doing something wrong: eating wrong, sleeping wrong, praying wrong, … something.
My doctor was very kind and reassuring, in his clinical manner. He assured me that it was not something that I had done, and mentioned that this was not all that uncommon. I never felt anything happen, or spotted, or had any other indication of our loss. After the “These things happen …” speech, we turned our focus to Baby A. There was a slight risk of toxemia, since I did not miscarry Baby B, so we were to continue monthly sonograms.
At the September sonogram, Baby B had gotten smaller, measuring about 12 weeks size, and stayed that way for the next two sonograms. By the December sonogram, Baby A had grown so much that the sonographer couldn’t find Baby B anymore. My doctor mentioned the possibility of the second baby being reabsorbed (Vanishing Twin Syndrome).
Scott and I had decided from the beginning of the pregnancy that we did not want to know the gender of our babies until their birthday. I later regretted that decision, because we never named Baby B since we don’t know if he or she is a boy or a girl. I later learned that 13 1/2 weeks was a bit too young to check gender by sonogram anyway. And for Baby A, even with all of the other sonograms, we chose to be surprised at delivery.
Thankfully, the rest of my pregnancy progressed without any medical hitches. My due date was Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1998. Around Christmas time, I started to feel the need to do something special for our lost twin. Scott and I decided to have a very small private memorial with a priest from our church the month before my due date. We then sent this letter:
Dear Family and Friends,
As the very exciting day of the birth of our baby approaches, we are filled with the joy of anticipation. We recognize the many blessings that have come our way, and thank God with grateful hearts. We are also thankful for each of you, our family and friends. Your kindness and prayers have been an invaluable source of comfort and support.
On January 14, one month before our due date, we brought formal closure to a sadness that has weighed on our hearts since mid-August. At 5:00 in the evening, standing outside of St. Louis Church and watching the mysteries of a beautiful sunset, we held a private memorial service for our baby’s twin sibling who died in-utero at about 13 weeks. For the short three months that we reveled in the excitement of twins, the spirits of both babies were welcomed lovingly into our hearts and yours. That special summer will always be remembered fondly.
Fortunately, we seem to be beyond the scary risk of carrying both a surviving twin and one who didn’t make it, as this pregnancy is progressing very nicely right now. In order to alleviate some of the grief that may overshadow the thrill and immense joy of delivery, we felt the need to formally offer prayers of love in memory of our special angel. Spiritually, one baby has already arrived at his or her very special place in God’s arms in heaven.
Thank you very much for your love and prayers, as we celebrate together both the upcoming joy of our baby’s birth and the loving memory of his or her twin sibling.
Meg & Scott
As February approached, my amniotic fluid level dropped, so my doctor decided to induce me a bit early. Our daughter, Kathleen (“Katie”) Elizabeth, was born on February 10, 1998, healthy and happy, weighing 6 pounds 13 ounces. Her twin was delivered with the placenta. My doctor showed us the kidney-shaped sac about 4 inches long attached to the placenta. That’s all that we saw, and that was OK for us. Our baby’s spirit was in heaven and in our hearts, not inside that sac. (I never liked that name “Vanishing Twin Syndrome”. Our twin didn’t vanish, physically or spiritually.)
As Katie has grown, we’ve remembered her twin to her at nighttime prayers. We began praying “God bless Mommy, Daddy, Katie, and our baby in heaven.” Scott suggested that we change to “our guardian angel,” which felt more uplifting, and we’ve prayed that way every night for as long as Katie can remember. Katie just turned five this month (February 2003). I had expected more questions from her by this point, but there have been very few. She knows what “twins” means – Scott is a twin, and there are twin girls in her preschool class. But I don’t think that she’s yet made the connection that she and our guardian angel are twins, like Daddy and Uncle Jeff, or like Cory and Lynn.
Around the time she turned four, she went through a phase of asking about death, which is typical of kids that age. All parents cringe at these questions, but as Christians, Scott and I were able to impart some of our faith in God and to discuss heaven. I took the opportunity to matter-of-factly remind her of her twin, who was with her in my belly before she was born, but who now lives in heaven with God. I didn’t expound, and Katie didn’t ask further questions. The door is open, and we’ll cross the next bridge when we get to it.
Because of our diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” I was hoping that my body would somehow figure out how to become pregnant on it’s own, without having to undergo infertility treatments again. No such luck. So when Katie was three, we decided to pursue medical help again. My Reproductive Endocrinologist suggested that we skip right to IVF since that’s what had worked for us before.
The emotions of infertility are too complex to list. Added to those were our mixed fears and hopes of conceiving more than one, as well as the feeling of “here we go again.” Yet, I learned one of my most important life-lessons during our first bouts with infertility, and it helped me the subsequent time as well. For a long time, I had prayed for God to please send us a baby; and each month when my period arrived, I was depressed, anxious, and angry with God. Yet, when I changed my prayer to, “Lord, Thy will be done,” and asked for patience, I felt an amazing sense of peace. Sadness wrapped in anxiety and anger is extremely depressing; sadness enveloped by a sense of peace and love is much more bearable.
So it was with this gift of wisdom that we were able to embark on our attempts to expand our family. IVF didn’t work on the first try this time, but it did on the second, and resulted in a singleton pregnancy. Our second daughter, Ellen “Ellie” Marie, was born on May 23, 2002.
Ellie looks so much like her sister that several people have commented that it’s as if the girls are twins born 4 years apart. That usually makes me cringe, but I smile and choose not to mention the irony. Most people who make that comment don’t know about Katie’s twin.
There are certain “why” questions to which I do not want to know the answer; at least not in this lifetime. Whatever the reasons our twin baby died in-utero, I feel sad, yet at peace. It has taken a long time to be able to say that, but it has given me a sense of strength and faith that has permeated every aspect of my life.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Peace be with you.
Celebrate All of God’s Blessings