From the beginning, CLIMB has included a number of families who did bring both or all of their babies home from the hospital, often healthy and thriving, only to have one of them die weeks or months later from the mysterious killer, SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. One of our first members was a mother who is an identical twin herself, and lost one of her healthy identical twin daughters to SIDS when they were 4 months old; another was Alice Check, whose story of her Patrick along with her poetry and article on SIDS in multiples we are grateful to include in this section. Since then we have been concerned with providing some special support for these parents who suddenly find themselves grieving many losses – the loss of a precious baby, the loss of the special joy of raising twins or triplets or more, and the loss for the surviving baby, who now must grow up without his twin to share the joys of childhood. If you are visiting this section because one of your multiples has been the victim of SIDS, recently or no matter how long ago, we are very sorry and hope that it can be helpful in some way.
Although the overall rate of SIDS has declined in recent years, the cause of SIDS is still unknown, and we continue to hear from families who have lost a twin or triplet baby to SIDS. Twins and multiples are represented disproportionately among SIDS deaths, because prematurity is a known risk factor and twins overall are more premature than singleton babies overall. As with single babies, SIDS also strikes twins who were not premature – and whether the babies were premature or not, it’s another situation of anything that can affect a baby being twice as likely to come up in a pair (or three times as often in triplets). With the continued boom in fertility technology and the increase in multiple births, especially twins, we are afraid that this may not change – the numbers of multiple births may rise as much or more than the risk of SIDS declines, with at least the same number of victims among multiple births as there has always been (while being an unrecognized risk of multiple births, often to parents who have undergone years of trying to conceive with fertility technology). Alice Check’s research for her updated article in this section confirmed that that was, in fact, the case as of the data through the year 2000, in the United States.
This is a major reason why we urge SIDS organizations to provide specific information and support in this area in a variety of ways, and to encourage research on SIDS in multiples as well as on multiples in regards to SIDS. Multiples, after all, whether ”identical” or fraternal, share so much of the same genetics and environment from the time they are conceived and are usually each other’s constant companion after birth – there must be something to be learned about how one could suddenly die and yet the other one or ones continue to live and be healthy. Nowhere is the mystery of SIDS more evident, as well as the tragedy. As far as we are aware, nothing specific to triplets and SIDS and the needs of these parents has yet been done anywhere, another major need.
As one mother wrote, There are so many stresses: how to grieve when meeting the demands of a little baby, the loss of so much attention, the constant worry for the surviving twin, and the continuing pain of seeing half of what was once a whole. While a SIDS death is a crisis for every family who experiences it, when it occurs in a baby in a set of multiples there are many factors that make it extremely stressful which are not always apparent to other people, even those trying to provide support to the bereaved family. The article “Coping the loss of a multiple to SIDS” below describes what some of the stresses are for families who have lost a multiple to SIDS.
Finally, while most of the SIDS losses in our group have occurred from the age of one week to 10 months old, there are 10 or so families we have known over the years who have experienced what some call “older SIDS” with one of their twins, triplets or higher multiples who was past their first birthday, and sometimes between 2 and 3 years old. The story of one of these families and their son Christopher is included in this section. There is a website which some have found very helpful for what is called SUDC, Sudden Unexplained Death of a Child, www.sudc.org, with further information and support (see also the Bibliography) (and please see also our section Loss of an Older Multiple).
We hope that the items in the Bibliography for this section may be helpful, along with Alice’s article. Special thanks to those – including several fathers – whose story is included in this section (and others are available in back issues of Our Newsletter and our special issues on SIDS in multiples), and extra to Sophie for sharing her five years of updates and poetry.