for when… one or some of the babies in a multiple birth die

Being pregnant with twins (or more) feels like a very special and exciting time. Very sadly, sometimes things do not always go the way we dream of and one of the babies dies. The loss of one twin babies is such a confusing situation to find yourself in. To be full of sadness for one baby who has died but, at the same time… if it really is possible to feel both these feelings together… to be overwhelmed with happiness for another baby who has survived. There is also a very real grief over the loss of the dream of parenting twins.

In the early days after the loss of your baby, things can seem confusing, numb, maybe a little like you are moving in slow motion. Also, for the mother, there is a physical recovery to make while grieving for a baby but needing to be fully present for another baby. Everyone’s feelings and reactions are different but there are some important things that can be done in these early days which most parents find helpful and that give an opportunity to create some precious memories which can be carried into the future.

Spending time with the baby that has died, is especially important even though there may be many demands on your time and energy with the surviving baby. This is the only opportunity that there is to be with this baby and so spend as much of this time together as can be arranged because it passes all too quickly. If help is needed with memory gathering, then ask others such as hospital carers, other family members or friends who can assist with making this all happen. Sometimes it can feel as if you don’t have the energy you would normally have so ask for others to carry you during this time.

Take plenty of photographs together and apart with your surviving twin (if this is possible) and with your family, and taking footprints, handprints, is so important.  If the baby is too small or fragile to dress or handle often, wrapping your baby in a tiny blanket can be beautiful and many hospitals provide little baskets. Even if the baby does not look the best, still take photographs or get someone else to help. These will become precious and art work or digital work can be done on original photos to make babies look they way they would have had things gone differently, if you feel later you would like to do this.

Gather other mementoes from their birth… hospital cards, bracelets, locks of hair, baby blanket, measuring tapes, anything that you think will later become meaningful to you. No one usually regrets the time they spent or the things they did for the baby… only that they wished they could have done more. Try not to miss any opportunity and do all the things you would like to do… no matter what you think others might think… don’t be afraid to listen to your heart.

Something as parents we never wish to do is to have to organise the funeral of our children and quite often this is our first experience of having to organise something like this. With all that has just gone on it is quite a daunting thought. Take your time and don’t feel pressure to hurry. It is your choice to do whatever you feel is right for you and your babies. Time can be taken to allow a mum to recover from a difficult birth so she can take part in the funeral arrangements and attend the funeral itself. Choosing the way to honour your baby that works best for you and your family plays an important part in the grief process. There are probably less rules and restrictions than you imagine regarding funerals and burial. We encourage you to refer to the Sands leaflet on “your baby’s funeral” for some more details about options for funerals, transporting babies and burial.

Parents often have many questions as they go on to raise their surviving multiple. How do we celebrate the life of our surviving child at the same time as honouring our child that has died? This often raises the most strongest feelings around birthdays and anniversary times. How to we tell our child about their twin? Will our child grow up to be happy and contented? These are things we may not be thinking so much about as we leave the hospital or maybe even in those early hectic days of sleepless nights and endless nappies but later as we journey on we are quite often surprised by the depth and the on-going nature of our feelings.  It can be most helpful at this point to read others stories and find ways they have raised their survivors so that we can go on with confidence and the knowledge that we aren’t doing this alone.

From our experience with so many twin loss families, we can encourage you to know that it seems to always be helpful to talk to your survivors about their twins in a way they can understand for their age. It seems to always be good to include these precious children in the story of your family and talk about them whenever it feels right. It seems that when this happens, survivors have every chance of being wonderful, happy people but with a unique and special story and outlook to their lives.

It is very important to talk to anyone who understands and is willing to listen. Knowing you are not alone is an important part of healing. Many parents have found it helpful to talk to others who have lost twins (or more) and we encourage you to make contact with us at Twin Loss NZ.

Our quarterly magazine Hearts & Wings is the main way those who have lost twins can be connected together and for many it is the only way. Inside, there are stories, poems, articles and an anniversary column, “Always in Our Hearts”, where our lost twins names appear in print… just another small way to acknowledge their precious lives.

Take care and do seek out all the help you can find at this time and in the future… it doesn’t matter how long ago your loss happened… it is never too late to be in touch or to create memories or remembrances or find new ways to honour your baby.