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Christopher


Thomas and Christopher came
into the world
To our surprise both boys,
not one a girl!

Our boys they did grow
On mother’s milk you know
Both strong and healthy
In kids…we were wealthy.

It was not always easy
Would make the faint-hearted queasy
But those two smiling faces
and four big blue eyes,
Were worth more than money could buy.

Next came the crawling
And then walking too,
The patter of four footsteps
No peace on the loo!

Who could imagine a more
beautiful sight
Than watching twin children play
together (and fight)!

Remember the very first
birthday they had?
We invited them all,
even Aunty Glad.

We were so proud of our
beautiful boys
We had never imagined
we could have such joys.

To be a twin parent
is to know love and fun,
Your cup runneth over,
I know…I am also one.

But my twins are not together
you see.
God decided He needed one,
more than me.
“How selfish God is”
I hear you all say,
We know that twins together should stay.

It’s been nearly four years
Since I held both my boys
and I still know the feelings,
and all of the joys.

Sometimes the pain is too much to bear,
and I sit and I cry,
and shout…”It’s just not fair!”

You know at times
it feels like a dream,
The reality hits and I
just want to scream.

I’m told in time
our heartache will fade,
I wonder if we will ever
reach that stage!

Carin

Carin and her husband were delighted to learn that their first pregnancy was twins, an “instant family”…

My pregnancy lasted 36 weeks with edema plaguing me from 20 weeks and pregnancy induced hypertension for the final 48 hours. The boys were very healthy at birth with Thomas weighing 5 lb. 10-My pregnancy lasted 36 weeks, at which …After I developed edema, Thomas and Christopher were delivered, each weighing nearly 5 pounds. Five days later we left hospital with two reasonably content, fully breastfed babies. This was soon to change!

For the first month, feeds were third-hourly around the clock. We were exhausted, but there was so much excitement in having two babies, we didn’t mind. (Although –at the time – we would have sold our souls for more sleep!) The next three months revolved around colicky, grizzling babies who didn’t sleep for much of the day, and finally crawling into bed at night only to be up dummy-hunting, or rocking and patting, babies who thought it was morning. It was very hard work, but we did have a lot of fun getting to know our boys. At 4-1/2 months, at the suggestion of our baby health visitor, we began the “controlled crying” technique when putting the boys to bed and finally we felt in control of sleep time. By now they were really interacting with each other and loved to play on their tummies, face to face. I loved watching the two of them together. The second six months of their first year was even more fun. Crawling began, then walking (with quite a few painfully erupting teeth in between!) They were different little boys, with Christopher emerging as the doer and Thomas as the thinker.

On their first birthday, we were so incredibly proud, not only of our boys, but of ourselves. We had managed to survive (what we thought was…) the hardest year of our lives, and at 1 year old our twins were happy, healthy and the best of mates.

Four months later, following a lovely summer with our “toddling terrors”, our lives were shattered, and the hardest year (? – years) of our lives really did begin. Christopher died during an afternoon sleep on the 25th March, 1991 from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), aged 15 months, 3 weeks. We had hosted our first (and only!) twin club coffee morning that day, and it still seems so ironic that it was that afternoon he had to die.

I could never have imagined the horror that was to engulf our little family.

At 5:15 pm, Jeff went to wake the boys from their nap. Thomas jumped up immediately, but Jeff says he remembers thinking Christopher looked too flat and still and picked him up straight away and ran out calling me. The boys had been immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella 7 days prior, and I assumed he had just had a reaction. Soon I realized it was more serious and began CPR while Jeff phoned for an ambulance. I was oscillating between hysteria and practicality. I am a nurse and couldn’t remember infant resuscitation. I had never resussed a child before, let alone my own.

I will never be able to erase the horrifying image etched in my mind of Thomas toddling around singing, as I frantically tried to resuscitate his brother. Resuscitation continued at the hospital for a total of an hour, during which I kept saying, “He can’t die, he is a twin”, as if this protected Christopher somehow. But he did, and now Thomas is on his own.

We stayed with Christopher at the hospital for three hours and placed him in a beautiful cradle provided, in the sister’s office, before leaving. It was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I felt like I was abandoning him, and at nearly 16 months, it had been a hell of a long time since he had slept in something that small.

We were driven home and went straight in to see Thomas who had been fed and was fast asleep in his cot. Never again would he see Christopher’s smiling face in the cot next to his. Our house seemed so empty.

We decided against taking Thomas to the funeral (a decision I regret now) as I felt it would be too much for all for us. We did take him to visit Christopher at the funeral director’s and had photographs taken, along with locks of hair and footprints.

I was physically sick with worry about how Thomas would be affected by Christopher’s death. I suppose we were also worried that he would die too. For about one month his behavior was very erratic, he seemed very confused and frightened. If I picked him up, he wanted to get down, and vice versa. One thing which I found rather strange was that he really resisted being put in the high chair. I hated seeing only one chair in the room, maybe he did too? I spoke on the phone to our SIDS counsellor and the Twin Club bereavement officer about Thomas’s behavior as I just didn’t know what to do. The poor little fellow! He looked in the bedroom for Christo-pher a few times and appeared perplexed, not distressed, when he wasn’t there. For the next six months, Thomas would wake up to six times every night crying, sobbing and in need of a reassuring cuddle. Thomas had been our good sleeper and for him to be so obviously troubled broke my heart. I found that I needed to be with Thomas all the time, but I couldn’t cope with the demands of a toddler. I wasn’t functioning well enough to be anywhere near an effective parent. Luckily my mother and mother-in-law were around constantly and took over the feeding, bathing, etc.!

Against medical advice, we put Thomas on a respiratory monitor for sleep. He was too old, you see…”Only little babies need monitoring” – !!*?!*! All we know was that Christopher had died and Thomas could too! We monitored Thomas until just after the first anniversary of Christopher’s death. He was two years and four months and theoretically far too old for SIDS but it was still a long time before we relaxed.

Adjusting to life with only one child was a nightmare. It’s like losing an arm. You may get used to it, but you are eternally lopsided and never the same. Some people didn’t mention Christopher for fear of upsetting us (as if anything they said could be worse than our son dying!) and treated Thomas like a singleton. I felt very alone, and angry that apparently my darling little boy could be forgotten so quickly.

For me, shopping was a particularly traumatic task. Only parents and grandparents of twins (or more!) know what it is like. Everything takes twice as long and people stop to admire your handiwork. “Are they twins?” “Are they identical?” “How do you cope?””Aren’t they beautiful!” I loved to show off my boys and was very used to people pointing and looking as we tackled the narrow aisles. No one takes much notice of a single stroller, no one stopped to talk to us …but I still had so much I needed to say!

Three months later I fell pregnant but miscarried at eight weeks’ gestation. I had been desperate for another baby, and was devastated. The next five months until I fell pregnant again were very lonely, but Thomas and I did spend all our time together and had a lot of fun doing things we could never do with twins. We visited the cemetery a lot and Thomas liked taking toys and reading books at the graveside. During this time Thomas became very clingy to me and seemed out of place when we mixed with other children. When people had asked me what sex baby I wanted, I replied “one of each” –I did so want twins! They thought I was crazy and would tell me so. It made me angry (and still does!) that people don’t see that we have had more than just the loss of our little boy to cope with. We have lost “our twins” and a way of life. We loved the specialness of raising two children at the same age and I know we will miss that for the rest of our lives.

Our little girl, Alessandra, was born 16-1/2 months after Christopher’s death, and she is gorgeous! I cried with joy when I saw her and cried with sadness that Christopher had died, and would not see his little sister. It still seems so unfair! She has made an enormous difference to the quality of our lives but her presence also accentuates a huge gap that remains and will never be filled. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I have two children of different ages and not twins any more. That is very special as well, but I supposed I still want it all. As well as my twin boys I had always wanted a little girl. I try to be thankful for what I have got (and I do love them more than life itself!) but I am also resentful for what I should still have.

As I write this, it has been two years and two months and the sadness is still as intense as ever. I still wonder why, after all the hard work of having twins for so long, we were robbed of our “inbuilt playmate” for Thomas. Twins miss out on so much of your time when they are little but they really reap the benefits as they get older – always someone to play with.

We put Christopher’s car seat and high chair away the day after he died, but could not bear to touch his cot. The thought of only one cot in the room was too horrifying to handle. It remained untouched for five months, then I put new sheets on and all of the boys stuffed toys inside. It stayed like this and was used as the “play cot” for 18 months, until Thomas went into his bed. Only then was I ready to pack it away.

Birthdays, naturally, are really tough –trying to celebrate as Thomas turns a year older, while grieving that Christopher is not, is agonizing. I have found that people tend not to ask how you are coping, but put all their energies into spoiling Thomas. I realize that they can do nothing for Christopher, but it is still his birthday and we need for this to be recognized. I suppose it will always hurt seeing Thomas get all the presents.

We know we must also be careful not to dampen Thomas’s special times, and as he gets older it will possibly be harder to hide our feelings from him. He is a very special little boy.

Thomas started pre-school this year, and he loves it. I have been surprised at how difficult I have found it though. Some days, I cry on the way to pre-school and other days I cry on the way home. I still find it so hard taking one child, when I should be taking two! The teachers encourage Thomas to talk freely about all his family. They are very understanding.

All our milestones will be painful, I guess, as we have a constant reminder. We can only try to take each one as it comes and handle as best we can. We talk about Christopher every day, as we do any family member, and Thomas is aware he has a twin who died. At 3-1/2 he probably doesn’t under-stand, but hopefully, by the time he does the words will be so familiar they won’t be so frightening.

Our involvement with the SIDS Association has been our lifeline, and we’ve been fortunate in meeting other parents of surviving twins. Their friendship and mutual understanding is wonderful. I am still a member of our Twins Club and have some good friends with twins, although at times I wonder if it would be easier if I severed all ties with anything to do with multiples! At times it is so hard, but Thomas is still a twin and I am still the mother of twins! I wonder about Thomas’s life as a “single twin” and at 3-1/2 he seems like a normal little boy (thank God!).

Update:
Four years have passed, Alessandra has survived and is over 2-1/2 years old, and we have had another little baby, Annelise, who is ten months old. Thomas has just started school. Another important milestone on his own! It is still so hard, even after all this time. I should have two little boys in school, my heart still breaks as Thomas makes little friends, and is invited to birthday parties, all on his own. Thankfully, he loves school and is very independant (a big relief seeing he was the clingy twin, Christopher was more dominant).

Having three living children has given me back my feeling of “family.” After Christopher died, I felt enormous guilt for all those times I had wished for a little peace and quiet. I did love all that noise, fun, and even the hard work! I have that back now (even though there is one missing!). When people ask, I always say I have had four children. I cannot deny Christopher his place in our family, or Thomas his twin.

Thomas talks about Christopher a lot now, and seems to relate to him almost like an imaginary friend. He also plays with the presents “Santa” leave for Christopher, and our birthday gifts, and acts like a “caretaker” in looking after these toys.

My sensitivity to other people’s twins is as heightened as ever, and I dread people telling me they pregnant, for fear they will also say “with twins”. I know I must learn to live with that, and hope that maybe…one day …I might be the grandmother of twins!

Carin

Dear Christopher,

Where are you twin brother of mine,
It feels like it’s been such a long time
Since we cuddled and kissed and rumble too,
and hid in Nana’s curtains, (they were new!)

How I loved to chase you round the lounge,
And then you’d turn and chase me back around,
We’d giggle and chatter all day long,
And not a lot of sleeping was done!

I’d take your toys and mostly you wouldn’t mind,
But then, sometimes, you would throw a tantrum behind.
Our pool too, was fun for me and you,
But then everything was, when it was just us two.

On my little train I’d love to sit,
And for you to push me was such a hit.
Our bathtime was such a sight to see,
Twins having fun, just you and me!

Shopping too, was such a treat,
We’d chat to all the people we’d meet.
“Are they twins?” people would say,
(No … Mum just borrowed one for the day!)

But now my stroller is half the size,
And there’s only me inside.
No more mischief, no more fun,
It’s because , you see, it’s only me – just one.

Next to me was always you,
So close in fact, your fingers I’d chew.
For 16 months (plus 9) you were by my side,
I don’t understand how you could have just died!

“Twins … how lovely, they’ll never be lonely,”
I wish they could see now, it’s just me only.
Wherever we went, you were my best friend,
“They’ll always have each other” … now I’m a bit frightened.

Our second birthday is nearly here,
But, my brother, you are nowhere near.
We had our first, that’s lucky, I know,
How long before this pain will go!

If only I could make it right,
I wish, I wish with all my might.
Mum is so sad, Daddy too,
It’s because we go on living without you.

I hope you know how much I miss you.
I’m sure you knew how much we loved you.
My brother, my friend … my twin.

(Written for Thomas to Christopher who died 25th March 1991, aged 16 months)