Being pregnant is special, being pregnant with twins or multiple births is extra special. Most people don’t count on multiple births right away and sometimes have to get used to it.

From the moment you know that you are carrying several children, you are also aware that good control is essential to keep a close eye on your babies and the progress of your pregnancy. The chance that one or even all of the babies will suddenly not do well is greater than with a singleton pregnancy. Each additional child brings more risks. The extra checks can provide peace and confidence, but they can also give extra tension and make the pink cloud fade a bit.

Twin

My twins died

Losing twins means grief for two separate children, each with their own personality and a life that could have been. There are several situations in which you can still hope to keep one of your twins for a short or longer period of time. If you know you’re going to lose one, that’s already a blow, if it turns out that you’re going to lose both, that’s another blow. Losing twins means losing two people. Two highly sought-after, welcome babies.

That lack of sleep that everyone was talking about is never going to come. You no longer have to make a decision about breastfeeding or bottle feeding. At home, time has stood still with the newly purchased beds and new station wagon. Maybe you already had the whole nursery with everything “times two” ready. You’ll never hear jokes about twins again. And you no longer have to decide whether or not they should be in the same class. And whether they might often know what the other person is thinking. Losing twins means losing your children and losing a special life yourself.

One of my twins died in the womb/immediately after birth, the other baby also died later.

The main difference in the case of the loss of multiple births where one of them lives (for a while) is that there is actually no room for mourning for the deceased baby. There is a baby that needs attention and lives. That’s where your energy goes. The mother often has this more because she needs all her energy for the living baby but is also recovering from childbirth herself.

‘There is 3x bereavement: 1x for yourself, 1x for your partner and 1x together. Don’t judge what the other person does and regularly ask what the other person needs. And make sure you do what works for you. The grieving process was very different for Laura than it was for me. I went faster, because I didn’t need any physical recovery. So Laura wasn’t working on some things, like cremation, at all, while I wanted to do something with that. So I waited for her to say: I can think about it now. We were coordinating a lot with what the other was doing so that we understood each other. You tend to do things yourself and assume that the other person will understand, but it doesn’t work that way.’

Marius, father of Alex, Pekka* and Tobias* and Ruben

‘I was overwhelmed by a lot of conflicting emotions. Grief for the daughter (Kiki) we had lost, joy for the daughter who was still alive (Meijs). I’ve often had the feeling that I fell short; too little attention to mourn Kiki, because Meijs needed us. Too little attention for Meijs because of the grief that preoccupied me. And also feelings of guilt towards my son whom I had promised two sisters and then saw little mom and dad for a long time, because we were confined to the hospital. And after a long wait we came home empty-handed. It made me feel completely numb for moments and thought I had become a degenerate mother. As I expressed my concerns, it gradually became clear to me that it was my own protection mechanism. It was way too much.

For two months I had pinned all my hopes on Meijs. Debilitating times with a lot of uncertainty, but slowly we were moving in the right direction. And the moment we dared to believe that she would go home with us, fate struck and we had to let her go too. Her death is the darkest day of my life, but the moment she was put out of her misery also felt like a relief.

The grieving process I go through goes in stages. While I feel an infinite amount of love for both of them, Meijs is more often in the foreground. Again, I could feel guilty about this, but I’ve learned that it is what it is. That all those different emotions are allowed to be there and that I don’t have to judge myself for it.’

Katinka, mother of Faas, Kiki* & Meijs* and Duuk

Also read: died at or shortly after childbirth and my baby is going to die.

One baby died in the womb

When it turns out that one child has died in your belly, a confusing time begins. Two very different emotions overpower you: sadness for the child you can’t see grow up and joy for the baby you will soon be able to hold in your arms. But it’s also normal to be scared about what the next few weeks or months will bring.

Can you carry the pregnancy to term and what will your deceased child look like? How will the delivery go? Sometimes it will be decided to induce the pregnancy a little earlier in order to limit the risks for the living child as much as possible.

But sometimes the delivery also comes too early for the living baby and this makes for an extra exciting time. Even though you are “prepared” for your child to no longer be alive, you don’t know what to expect. And you don’t start planning the farewell the moment you know it. Many mothers think: “As long as you’re still in my belly, you’re still mine! And no one can take you away.”

After that, it is important that you are still very aware of your deceased child during those precious days after birth. And that is quite difficult because you are so focused on the still living child (who is sometimes still fighting for his life). But you only have the deceased child to “enjoy” for such a short time.

Also read: stillbirth

One baby died due to premature birth

The risk with a twin pregnancy is that your babies will be born prematurely. From a term of 24 weeks of pregnancy, the doctors will do everything they can to keep the babies alive. However, they are still very small and fragile and the risks remain very high. The first few months will be very exciting

Also read: died during or shortly after childbirth

One baby died after birth

If you are told during pregnancy that one of the twins is ill, you are in a state of all-encompassing survival instinct for both your children from that moment on. All dangers and risks are discussed at length and repeatedly, but your gut tells you that you have to fight for two lives. They need to be together. As a parent, you start thinking about what should happen when you can take your child home after the operations. Can he go to daycare? What kind of care should he receive? Will he be able to keep up at school? Can we both continue to work? How old will he become….? How do you divide your attention between two babies when one is in the hospital and the other is with you? Actually, after birth you don’t have time to think about anything, you’re on a roller coaster, an express train, a rapid and you feel like you’re just keeping your head above water. Even though there is constant fear, the reality, the belief in your child and his recovery keeps you going as a family and you cling to it. And then all of a sudden it stops, that routine you’ve been in for days, weeks or even months. No more going to the hospital, no more examinations, no more hope.

Also read: my baby is going to die

Triplet

Being pregnant with triplets is not very common and is therefore very special. In the beginning of pregnancy, you may be in shock and worried about all the practicalities. Does it fit in the car? How can I breastfeed three babies? Who can help us with the care? Can we still sleep? Soon the worries about this risky pregnancy also arise. When am I going to give birth? Do they stay in place long enough? How am I going to give birth? You will be extra checked because there is a good chance that something is not going well.

Many of the feelings when losing triplets are similar to those of twins and so we refer you to the text above. Below you will find experience stories of parents who have lost triplets.

The moment we heard that triplets were on the way, we had to catch our breath. How do you do that, three babies at once?! I didn’t doubt for a second that it wasn’t going well. I felt great and every ultrasound was incredibly positive. After 25 weeks, things suddenly went horribly wrong. Our twins, Jacky and Macy, had passed away due to TTS. Ruby was born a day later. Suddenly, the pink cloud was over. Something that hits you hard, and that you sometimes still can’t realize. But I try to turn the sadness into happiness. How lucky we are to be parents of triplets, how special is that! Of course we would have liked nothing more than to have the girls with us, but they are together now and I am very proud that they were allowed to be with us for 25 weeks.
Lisette, mother of Jade, Ruby*, Macy* and Jacky*

FACTS

Chance of having twins

In recent years, about 3000 twins have been born in the Netherlands every year. A few years ago, there were more, mainly because more embryos were transferred during fertility treatments than now.

The chance of a spontaneous twin pregnancy in the Netherlands is about 1 in 80 or 90. This means that 1 in 80 or 90 women who have a spontaneous pregnancy (i.e., without medical assistance) have multiple pregnancies. In 2007, 1 in 60 pregnancies in the Netherlands occurred!

Chance of triplets

The chance of triplets is much smaller. Every year, about 40 triplets are born in the Netherlands. There used to be many more, but the number of triplets has been greatly reduced after the adjustment of fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI. Apparently, in the past, it was ‘easier’ to transfer several embryos, causing a woman to become pregnant with triplets.

The average gestational age of triplets is 33.4 weeks. The longest was 37.5 weeks. In many cases, the doctors will also be very satisfied with 32 weeks. What is important is not the term, but the right balance between the health of the mother and the health of the children.

32.7% of triplets are born by normal delivery, and 67.3% by caesarean section.

Complications in multiple births

  • Fetal complications: premature birth, growth retardation, congenital anomalies, blood interfusion (TTS), umbilical cross-linking.
  • Complications in the mother: morning sickness, high blood pressure, anemia, gestational diabetes, too much amniotic fluid, present placenta, urinary tract infections.
  • Complications during childbirth: position abnormalities (breech position, transverse position), umbilical cord compression, placental detachment, contraction weakness, a lot of blood loss after delivery.

Learn more

On the website www.tweelingengeltjes.nl you can read the experience stories of other parents of deceased twins or multiple births. In the private Facebook group Twin Angels, more than 400 parents of deceased twins or multiple births help each other.

Foundation for Twins Born Alone in the Netherlands: https://www.stichtingatn.com/

When Jorie was about six years old, her mother confided in her: she actually had a twin sister, but she was stillborn. Her mother urges her never to say her sister’s name out loud. “Be happy that you have a healthy daughter,” her parents were told after her birth in 1981. Their grief was not understood, and they did not say goodbye. Everyone was silent.
More than thirty years later, Jorie Horsthuis breaks the silence. She wants to know if anything is known about her twin sister and starts looking in the hospital, the basic registration and the crematorium. She interviews obstetricians, gynaecologists and scientists, and above all she talks to her parents and brothers. Why was the girl never allowed to be named?


This booklet was written by Ramon van Loon, the father of Fiene and Kai*, especially for single-born twins, their family members and caregivers to support them in dealing with the loss of a twin brother or sister. The story can be helpful to start a conversation with children in an accessible way when the time is right. A visual explanation is given about how a deceased twin brother or sister is always close by. It’s a story with appropriate illustrations to keep precious, priceless memories alive.
More information and ordering can be done via: www.mijnbroertjeiseensuperheld.nl

“ I thought that after more than two years, we had finally hit the jackpot with twins. But it was taken away from us and we got the biggest pot of grief in return. Also the biggest mountain of unconditional love, only we couldn't give it in the way we would have liked. ”

~ Saskia, mother of Alix* and Liza* and Boris

“ We had overcome the twin transfusion syndrome (TTS) and a possible premature birth. The real fighting started after birth. For two and a half months, the four of us lived in the Intensive Care Unit. Loek had a serious heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), and his treatment would be very intense, but we always believed that he would make it. All the attention went to Loek, and Kai was OK with that, as if he knew his time would come. After Loek's death, that also happened. Kai drags us out into the world, getting up, eating, getting dressed, walking outside, playing. He deserves love and nice and caring parents, doesn't he? But you still have two children and for us it is really very important that we also (continue to) give care and attention to Loek. And so we consciously make time to grieve, together and apart. It is a very complex and mixed feeling, but it can and may exist side by side and together, sadness and joy. ”

~ Steffie and Tom, parents of Loek* and Kai

“ We have tried to experience it as consciously as possible with the help of Francien, Make a Memory, the laying out of water, but sometimes I feel that I have shortchanged her, because the time with her was so limited. You can never turn back that time, and fortunately with the other daughter we still have a whole life to experience beautiful moments. ”

~ Kim, mother of Zoë, Evy Nova* and Ruby Ilva