If you are visiting this section because you have experienced the death of both your twins or all of your triplets, quads or even higher multiples, we are very sorry for your loss. There are simply no words to express the devastation, or fill what Becky Crandall here first called “the deafening silence.” We know it seems impossible that you could be “so” pregnant with two or more babies and yet not be able to bring a child home. Many of you are also facing this tragedy as first-time parents, sometimes after years of infertility struggles; for others, it is after successfully having a child or children and never imagining that this could be the outcome of your next and very special pregnancy.
The first thing that we wish you to know is that you are not alone. Sadly, since the very beginning of CLIMB, we have heard from parents on a daily basis who have suffered total loss in multiple birth. About one-third of our members have lost both or all of their babies. While statistics seem not to be kept, we think that total loss is not much less common than the loss of one twin, or loss of one or more but not all triplets or higher. There seems to be a high rate of miscarriage in the first trimester, and many more parents are aware of it now because of the prevalence of early ultrasound. Besides miscarriage, the most common cause of the death of both or all of the babies seems to be prematurity, often between 20 and 24 weeks in what had been good pregnancies, from a variety of causes or no known cause. For some, it came after the difficult decision earlier to undergo “selective reduction” (multifetal pregnancy reduction) in order to give the remaining babies a better chance; and for others, after the decision not to have reduction. Another cause of total loss which we hear about so terribly often is Twin Transfusion Syndrome, causing prematurity or death in-utero, as well as other problems of “identical” (monozygotic) twins including birth defects or being monoamniotic (in the same sac). Some were conjoined twins, or twins who shared a heart. Over the years, we have known many, many families who have lost both their twins in the third trimester, sometimes near full term, when everyone including their caregivers believed that nothing could happen because they were safely past prematurity. Most of them, from what we were told, were “identical” and shared a placenta. More rarely, both twins live past birth but are lost later to illness or accident, SIDS, or problems not evident at birth.
We have also known many parents who have lost their twins or triplets at different times, and in some cases from different causes as well – another unique aspect of multiple pregnancy and birth. The death of a child or children is more than enough to go through once in a lifetime, and no one should have to go through it again in a period of weeks, months, or years. We have known families who lost twins from a miscarriage and a stillbirth, a stillbirth and SIDS, or a stillbirth and long-term brain damage from Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Others have lost each of their triplets to prematurity at different times over a period of months. Also, some parents have lost twins after the loss of a single baby in a previous pregnancy – and some others have experienced the loss of more than one set of twins or triplets.
Many books are written about how difficult it is to cope with the loss of one (single) baby. Ironically (especially considering how many people there are), the loss of two or more babies and losing “my twins”, “my triplets” or more, has received less attention. We hope that this is changing, and that this section (which includes much of what there is) will be helpful in breaking the silence that surrounds so many of you in your loss. It includes a few of the many hundreds of stories and poems that parents have written and shared, and some of the birth/memorial announcements that parents have created for their babies. You are welcome to be in touch about receiving our newsletter (see Contact us), which always includes stories and updates which touch on topics such as ways to remember the babies, trying again, and what it’s like 3 or 5 or more years later. If you join the mailing list, you’re welcome to also join the parent contact list.
You may also want to check out two books written by CLIMB members: A Different Kind of Mother, by Christine Howser, about the birth and deaths (at different times) of her twin sons Timothy & Steven, from prematurity, and Donnali Fifield’s William & Wendell: a family remembered about the premature births and deaths of her twin sons. Both are listed in our Bibliography, which also includes other items of interest.
Caregivers are also encouraged to refer to our article “Multiple Birth Loss and the Hospital Caregiver” (in For Professionals), as well as the article for counselors and others below.