FAQs: How do I deal with living twins and multiples?

It’s very, very difficult for me to see or hear of successful multiple pregnancies and living multiples, especially those of the same number as mine. I don’t wish anything bad for them but I can’t help feeling jealous and angry, is this normal? I never really noticed them before, but now sometimes I feel like a walking magnet for multiples.

When this first happened to some of us, it was so painful, and we soon saw that the same was true for almost everyone else. Parents, mothers especially, who have lost one or more of their multiples find ourselves hiding in the corners of supermarkets, turning off the TV or running out of the room, and being just plain deeply hurt whenever something comes up about living multiples. It has a way of happening when we least expect it. We often also get blindsided by someone talking about multiples or talking about their multiples, even if the children aren’t there to “warn” us that this is about to happen – plus all the images on TV and in other media. Quite a few of our members have also had an experience that most of us fear: a co-worker, friend or relative becoming pregnant with multiples, bringing up an array of feelings and difficulties. Many of our members are also dealing with childbirth and multiples in various ways in their professional lives as doctors, nurses, teachers and counselors, and have needed to go to extra measures or alter their work in order to cope. Some parents have other, living multiples from another pregnancy and see vividly every day what they are also missing. Many of us had been involved or in touch with a twins and multiples club and suddenly found that our friends there are now “them”, the lucky successful ones, and we’d now rather do almost anything than see their children.

These feelings about what we call “close encounters of the twin and multiple kind” ARE really normal. All of us have lost not only our baby or babies, but we have also lost “my twins”, “my triplets” or more. We lost knowing how the special joys and challenges of the number we began with would have turned out for us. If we have a single survivor or no survivors, we lost the special attention that goes with multiples and being visibly the parent of multiples, and if we have two survivors of triplets or more, the special attention that goes to parents of high order multiples. Parents who have lost one or both of a second set of twins lose being those parents of two sets of twins. We lost knowing “how it would have been” and how we would have managed. Parents who lose a multiple from SIDS or at an “older” age did experience how it was, did experience the world recognizing them as parents of multiples, but now lose the reality of having both or all the children here, along with their multiple birth status and attention.

All of us, even when we know the risks, have to ask “Why me? Why not me being the one to have them?” Add to that the fact that, unlike in single births, none of us can say that next year, we will try again and (with luck and effort) have the same experience and outcome that we would have had this time. No one replaces anyone, anyway, but none of us can say, Well, next year I’ll have my next twins or triplets. Most of us feel that we have lost our one opportunity for something so special, a peak parenting experience.

All of this, in whatever situation we experience it, is a HUGE and complicated loss and shouldn’t be underestimated – all of us need support in the grieving process for “my twins” or multiples as well as for our baby or babies, and we all need understanding and support for our pain with living multiples (especially of the same number).

Knowing our pain is valid still doesn’t make it easy, and many of us have felt that – like the loss itself – twin and multiple encounters remain painful for many years…it’s just that over time and experiences we get used to it more and find ways to cope that work as best as possible for us. After managing to just survive our way through the first year or two, many of us have found that speaking up whenever we can about our baby(s) or child(ren) – the fact that we also did have multiples of a certain number – and the realities of multiple birth loss and how often it occurs – can really help take the edge off some of this. It can give us the recognition that we need and deserve, and helps give others more of a clue so that “hoopla” about multiples is more likely to include some awareness of loss and how many bereaved parents of multiples there are. And many of us have found ways of expecting others who do already know of our loss, to remember and treat us with some sensitivity and respect when it comes to things about multiples.

Sadly, things are not always as they seem. Here is a poem by an original member of CLIMB that has been popular in our newsletter, and links to some articles which have appeared in it. Our website section for members includes a place for people to share their ongoing experiences in coping with living twins and multiples.

You May Have Seen Me

You may have seen me,
Out with my boys.
I’m a painful reminder
of your stolen joys.

The joy of twins,
Something you should have had.
I know when you see me,
you turn away sad.

But I share in your tears,
when you see me.
Because for us,
There should have been three.

– Terri K.
Close Encounters of the Twin & Multiple Kind
Twin (& Multiple) Encounters…continued
Coping With Your Feelings About the Septuplets (by Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.)