There is so much joy and sorrow in losing a twin. It is so complex. You are so thankful for your baby who is living, but you are grieving the baby you lost. Everything was supposed to be in multiples, and now it is not.
by Ally Anderson
Jacob and I were expecting twin boys due May 2nd, 2020, and we could not wait to start our little family. I was having such a healthy pregnancy and both babies were growing great. I loved being pregnant and was starting to feel them kick and move, and it was such an amazing feeling. Our high risk doctor even called us a “textbook twin pregnancy” because everything was going so great and I was feeling wonderful.
Unexpected complications and an emergency delivery
The morning of January 24th I had some increased discharge and went to the doctor to make sure everything was alright. We learned I was already 2cm dilated, and labor started progressing quickly. The boys came quickly by emergency C-section by that afternoon. To this day we still don’t know why my body went into preterm labor or what may have caused them to come early.
We hadn’t solidified our names yet. As they prepped me for surgery, we decided on Liam Jude and Ryder James. Both boys were stable, were quickly intubated and taken up to the NICU as I was stuck in recovery. Thankfully Jacob was able to see both boys and take pictures before they were taken from the operating room. It was an entirely different birthing experience than I ever imagined I would have. Even writing out my birth story makes me sad because so many memories of what I thought it would be like to give birth, become a mother and hold my babies were no longer a reality.
After two weeks in the NICU, Liam passed away from complications due to his prematurity.
The grief of losing a twin in the NICU
Grief overwhelms you after losing a twin; however, you also have a large amount of trauma that is associated with the loss. We were in a large NICU room specifically for twins, and after Liam passed away they moved us to a different room. Every day we had to walk past the room where we first got to hold our sons and where we said goodbye to Liam to get to our new room where Ryder was staying. The first few weeks we would take a short cut and go through the family lounge instead of walking past our old room. It held too many traumatic memories, I was too scared to walk by. Seeing it fill up with another set of twins was too much for me to handle.
After a few weeks, I looked at Jacob, took his hand and told him I was ready to walk past that room. No more shortcuts.
Similarly, while we once had NICU entry codes for both boys, now we only had one code. The familiarity of the first two weeks in the NICU was already being reshaped by our new circumstances, and it added to the grief. Certain doctors, nurses, noises and smells reminded me of the night Liam passed away, but there was no avoiding it because we still had our other son fighting for his life a few rooms over from where his brother had taken his last breaths. Walking out of the NICU 97 days later with only one car seat was one of the hardest moments.
Acknowledging Liam’s life – and our grief
We were given a bear that we started calling our “Liam Bear,” and our NICU made us a box with all of Liam’s memories from his two weeks in the NICU. One of our primary nurses made us a sign with Ryder’s hand and foot print that said, “Liam – my womb-mate, ‘big’ brother and best friend. I miss you so much and love when Mommy and Daddy tell me all about you.” It meant the world to us and is now hanging up in Ryder’s nursery. They acknowledged Liam, and that was really important to both Jacob and me, as he was and still is our son and Ryder’s brother. They continued to walk along side us for the remaining NICU journey with Ryder and have become some of our closest friends.
Grief and trauma are a journey
If I could speak to another parent who has endured losing a twin, I would tell them that they are not alone. There is so much joy and sorrow in losing a twin. It is so complex. You are so thankful for your baby who is living, but you are grieving the baby you lost. Everything was supposed to be in multiples, and now it is not.
Give yourself grace. Give yourself time. Grief and trauma are both a journey. Allow yourself to experience sorrow because this isn’t how it was supposed to be. Don’t allow yourself to feel shame or guilt for the sadness or ache in your heart. Your surviving baby knows you love them, and now you have an even more fierce love than you could ever imagine after losing a child.