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One of the loneliest and difficult types of losses is selective reduction, i.e. the choice to reduce one or more fetuses for either health reasons (mother’s health or deformed fetus) or to reduce one or more in order to give the remaining fetuses the best chance of survival, e.g. five to three, three to two and such.  It is not as simple as reducing one or more in order to give the rest a chance.  That decision seems, on the surface, to be obvious.  There is another part to the equation: that of the family.  The family, after a decision to reduce, must live with their choice for the rest of their lives.  Not always is this an easy spot to be in.

As a mother looks as her healthy twins playing (reduced from triplets), she will fantasize about what should have been, considering of course, another healthy child.  The decision was made with the best of intentions to reduce, but there is pain and residue and quite often, an inability to come to restful terms about such decision.  Some parents ask themselves if they are murderers.  Some have tried very hard to get pregnant and are now counselled to reduce.  This is opposite from how their journey began and can be more than they can bear.

Finding support for reducing families can be extremely difficult.  Those who have chosen to reduce want to “forget” their decision and just get on with their lives, coping as best they can.  These parents do not want to write about their journey, explore it, join any bereavement groups to look their feelings nor offer any one-on-one connection or support to other families who also may be struggling with their decision.  Understandably the decision to “forget and move on” becomes their main focus.

Selective reduction is not something that one would discuss around the dinner table, nor would parents have necessarily shared the quandary with family members or friends.  There is an inherent feeling of guilt and shame associated with this decision and families considering it may have stuck to discussions only with the healthcare professionals looking after them.  So even sharing what Mom or Dad is feeling with caring family or friends is out of reach.   Others may not even see their grief as real grief because, after all, they made the decision to reduce.

Struggling and grieving families need to be encouraged to look for supportive help and counselling in order to assist them in coming to terms with their decision and looking for ways to cope with what they are feeling.  It will not be an easy journey, and as I said, I think is a very lonely journey as so many others will not understand or have cruel judgements about what has happened.  We cannot judge what another’s journey is.  The decision to reduce is made with, I believe, love for all the babies, including those reduced.  A decision where the head and the heart are in conflict.

Nothing about the decision is easy, even when the decision is made regarding reducing a fetus with anomalies.  It may be the loneliest loss decision to be made.

 

 

I have been asked what to do about thank you notes when a baby or babies has died.  There is no easy answer and the choice is yours of how to handle.  Here are some suggestions which may be of help to you.  If you have something you would like to add or share what worked for you, please let me know. 

A suggestion is to choose a trustworthy friend (or two – we all have friends in different areas of our lives) and ask her/him to let others know of the loss(es) for you so that you are not continually reliving your story over and over.  It can be emotionally exhausting to have to do so.  Request as much or as little of the loss details as you wish to share or feel comfortable with to be passed along to others.  The “others” could be neighbours, co-workers, committee members, recreational areas or folks you know or come in contact with regularly, e.g. tellers, yoga teacher and such.  You might decide to write out the particular details you only wish to share so that things are clear.  It is not necessary to get into anything deeper than you wish to.

I do not believe thank you notes are required for the gifts nor is the return of any of them obligatory.  It could be emotionally devastating to have to write out such thank you notes. Rather, this is your and your family’s time to focus on remembering, healing, loving and supporting each other.  Have your trusted friend take care of explaining your situation.

If any of the gifts are difficult for you to keep, you might donate them to a local, needy location, e.g. home for unwed mothers, Syrian refugee association.  If a gift is particularly expensive, you might consider returning it, or not.  The gifts are yours to decide what to do with.  You may wish to keep them if you and your partner decide, in due course, to try again.  Some parents wish to get rid of all baby gifts as they are a reminder of what they lost and not they do not want to cast any possible shadow on a new pregnancy.  Whatever you decide and feel comfortable with is the right thing to do.

I have heard from one Mom who received a phone call from someone who did request her gift back after learning of the death of their baby, and this request, IMO, was in very bad taste.  A gift given is a gift given, belongs to the recipient and is no longer yours.  Mom indicated she did return it because she did not feel able to deal with any long, drawn out discussion. Understandably, their relationship was never the same afterwards.

Loss of an infant

Supportive article:  http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/08/20/488991373/for-parents-who-have-lost-a-baby-some-aid-in-their-grapple-with-grief

Kate Polley has written a book in memory of her twin son.  In addition, it can be personalized in memory of your own Little Angel(s).  Check out this special memorial children’s book at  www.thestoryof-books.com   You won’t be disappointed.  It also makes a great gift for anyone you know who may have a surviving twin or multiples.

~”4 years (ago) I l lost my brother.  I still want to take my life. Why should I struggle through life? It’s so hard ..”

I receive a lot of messages such as the above and each one puts a lump in my chest.  The sadness, unhappiness, loneliness, and inability to see any future that so many survivors feel is astounding – understandable, but also astounding.

It is an enormous challenge to go from We to I.  There is no proper preparation for such a state.  From the very beginning two or more souls have been together, aware of each other, caring and “checking in” with each, sharing a birthday, sharing so much.  When the connection is cut, forever, what now?  Who is watching my back?  I have lost my best friend (some survivors say the feeling is worse than losing a spouse).  How can I possibly be anything or move forward without my special partner?  There may be survivor’s guilt. So many messages indicate that the survivor wants to die and join their co-multiple.

How do we help and support these very vulnerable folks at the worst point in their lives? How do we assist them in recognizing what they are feeling but encourage them to continue on to be the best they can be, without guilt: get an education, meet someone, perhaps have a family, travel, share their experience and still remember their true roots?

~I think understanding professional help is a good start.  Speaking with someone who is aware of the unique bonds between multiples and who won’t pooh-pooh a survivor’s deep-seated feelings is essential.  We know that multiples are aware of each other in the womb and these intense connections survive beyond the womb and remain throughout their lives.  A professional who is aware of the unique bonds and honours them when counselling a survivor, is a gem indeed.

~I feel quite strongly that the deceased co-multiple would not wish their survivor to join them in death.  What they would want is for their co-multiple to mourn and move on to live a healthy, happy life and enjoy what they can from life, free of guilt, while remembering and keeping a small part of their heart to remember their deceased.  I do not think for a moment that a deceased co-multiple would choose death for their co-sibling.  It just does not make sense that this would be the case.

~Suicide is, in my opinion, something that a desperate person chooses.  One who feels this is the only recourse left open to them.  They have convinced themselves that no one would miss them and the world would be a better place without them.  They cannot take the pain any longer of living.  Living is not an easy thing to do day in, day out.  We need tools in our toolbox to handle a lot of what is handed to us over a life time:  house burns down and we lose our things, crash our car, didn’t get the job we wanted, our best friend moved away, have trouble losing weight, to name a few – or we lose our co-multiple.  This can be a monumental challenge, but seeking the right support and resources can get us through and tomorrow can be a little brighter, promise.  The world would NOT be a better place without you and so many family members, friends and colleagues would miss you beyond belief.  Please, please, please don’t choose suicide as an option.  Life is not bleak every minute of every day and with the right support, you can get through.  You are not alone.  Plus who better to remember your co-multiple than yourself?  Only you know the details of your lives and are in the best position to remember and honour your special sibling.

~Don’t be shy about reaching out to speak with others.  The Internet is full of Web Sites, books, resources, grief information to help you help yourself get through.  Speak to your doctor, clergy person, or someone who feel safe with.  Every one of these resources is ready and waiting to support and assist you.

~Some surviving co-multiples have written books sharing their experiences of being with and being without their co-multiple.  Maybe writing such a book would also be good for you. Or simply keeping a journal for your own eyes can be very cathartic.  I will list some of the books written below.  I have read them all and each and every one of them is worth their weight in gold.

I sincerely hope you can find some solace in this world until your own time is decided and live a full and happy life, while honouring your unique birth experience and partner.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                                                      Lynda  (July, 2016)

Support For Survivors

Books

Living Without Your Twin, by Betty Jean Case
Who Moved the Sun?  A Twin Remembers, by Ron McKenzie                                            

The End of The Twins: A Memoir of Losing a Brother, by Saul Diskin                                

The Lone Twin, by Joan Woodward
The Survivor, by Lynne Schulz

On the Internet

Lynda’s Site

http://www.jumelle.ca

Multiple Births Canada

Loss Support Network

http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Twinless Twins Organization   (US)

http://www.twinlesstwins.org

Hello,

Today, 1/11 marks the 30th anniversary which made me a twinless twin. Until this year I had never thought to search for anyone else  who may have shared the same feelings I do about losing a twin. The loss, even my full lifetime later, still feels isolating to a point that it seems “no one” will ever understand, however, this article is assurance to me that people do. This realization brings comfort in a way I needed today.

My twin, Amy, died at 6 months old from a congenital heart defect after multiple surgeries and attempts to save her she was unable to survive on this day January 11, 1986. When we were born the beginning for both was rocky – between her heart and my weight at 3.4lbs., our outcome could have both been grim. However, after weeks I built strength and her situation turned the opposite.

My parents and older sister have always been supportive and we remember Amy and celebrate her life. I, however, harbor survivor’s guilt daily questioning why was I given a life that was taken away from her? It leaves not only a loss but so many unanswered questions.

Although these emotions will always be with me it brings great comfort to know that others can empathize with something I felt I was experiencing alone. Thank you for researching this project! It has been impactful and if I could help in any way don’t hesitate to reach out. – J W

Hi JW,

I am so pleased that the article on my site was helpful to you.  I am also very sorry to hear of the loss of your special Womb Mate, Amy.  it is wonderful that the rest of your family has been so open to allow you the space and safety you need to mourn your loss.  That is not always the case.

I wanted to address your concerns re survivor’s guilt, if you don’t mind.  It is very common for survivors to feel such guilt.  What I can tell you (which I am sure you already are aware) is that while humans can control so much of our circumstances, there is still so much that we cannot, e.g. weather, illness, who lives and who dies and when and how.  Mother Nature has the final say in many areas yet.  It is no one’s fault, certainly not yours or your Mother’s that you gained strength and Amy was unable to overcome her challenges.  It is so much luck, and things could have easily gone the other way, but they didn’t.  You are not “bad” because you survived.  This was completely beyond your control.  Another pain in the neck is that not everything can be explained or answered.  Why? has to be one of the most annoying of questions.

I feel very strongly that Amy would be delighted that you remember her and that you are living a full and rich life.  I am quite sure that she would not want you to change places with her.

Wishing you the very best of the best,

Lynda

This is the first place I’ve found that can I talk about the guilt the twinless twin feels, playing basketball, what if my twin brother could have played?  When I was a child I thought about him all the time.  Never told anyone.  At one point wanted to die to be with him. For for years I put it out of my mind. Till I see some twins, the feelings come back

M.

Hello M,

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your twin brother.  It is not easy going on physically parted from him.  It is OK to think about him.  In that way, he lives on, beside you and in your heart.  A suggestion would be that if it ever seems appropriate in a conversation, do talk about him and a little bit of what you feel.  It is another way of keeping him close as well as ensuring his memory survives.  This doesn’t mean that everything will be hunky-dory, but it is bringing him foreword in a loving way and if that is something that might work for you, I say go for it!  You may also open a door for someone else to share their beginnings and how they were affected.  We are never sure how we will positively impact someone else simply by being our selves.

Please try very hard not to die to try and join him.  I am sure that is not what he would want for you, i.e. a short life.  It is not your fault that you lived and he died.  We cannot pick how our cards will play out.  What we can pick is how we respond to something we cannot control.  Looking for the bright spots and expanding on them whenever possible would be ideal.  So many people would miss you dearly if you were not around.  If you are having trouble at all, do seek some professional help.  It will be worth it all around, promise.

Please accept my sincere condolence on the loss of your brother,

Lynda