Being pregnant is special, being pregnant with two or more babies is extra special. Most people don’t count on a multiple pregnancy and sometimes they have to get used to the idea.
From the moment you know that you are carrying more than one child, you are also aware that good supervision is essential to keep a close eye on your children and the course of your pregnancy. The chance that one or even all of your children suddenly take a turn for the worse is greater than with a single pregnancy. Each additional baby carries more risks. The extra checks can provide peace and confidence, but they can also give extra tension and make the pink cloud or pregnancy fade somewhat.
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 imaginable in which you can hope to keep one of your twins for a short or longer period of time. If you know that you are going to lose one, that is already a blow, if it turns out that you are going to lose them both, it’s another blow. Losing twins means losing two little humans. Two very wanted, very welcome babies.
That sleep deprivation everyone was talking about is never going to happen. You don’t have to make a decision about breastfeeding or bottle feeding anymore. The home has been frozen in time, with the newly purchased beds and new estate car big enough to hold them both. Maybe you already had the whole nursery with everything “times two” ready for them to arrive. You will never hear jokes about twins again. And you won’t have to decide whether or not they should be together in class. And whether perhaps they know what the other one is thinking. Losing twins means losing your children and losing a special kind of life.
One of my twins died in the belly/directly after birth, the other baby also died later.
The most important difference in the case of loss of one a multiple where one 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 experiences this more strongly because she needs all her energy for the living baby but is also recovering herself from the birth.
‘There are 3 mourning processes: 1x for yourself, 1x for your partner and 1x together. Don’t judge what the other person does and ask what the other person needs regularly. And make sure you also do what works for you. The mourning process was very different for Laura than it was for me. It went faster for me, because I didn’t need a physical recovery. So with some things, like the cremation, Laura wasn’t occupying herself at all, while I already wanted to do something about it. So I waited until she said: I can think about it now. We were fine-tuning what the other person was doing so that we could understand each other. You tend to do things yourself and assume that the other person understands, but that’s not how it works’.
Marius, father of Alex, Pekka* and Tobias* and Ruben
“I was overwhelmed by a lot of conflicting emotions. Grief for the daughter we had lost (Kiki), joy for the daughter who was still alive (Meijs). I often felt that I was lacking; too little attention to mourn Kiki, because Meijs needed us. Too little attention for Meijs because of the sadness that took me. And also feelings of guilt towards my son, whom I had promised two sisters, and then for a whole period of time saw little of mum and dad, because we were confined to the hospital. And we came home empty-handed after a long wait. It made me feel completely numb for moments and thought I had become na unhinged mother. As I expressed my concerns, it gradually became clear to me that it was my own protection mechanism. It was far too much.
For two months I had been pinning all my hopes on Meijs. Excruciating times with a lot of uncertainty, but slowly we went in the right direction. And the moment we dared to believe that she would come home, fate struck and we had to let her go as well. 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 mourning process I’m going through is in stages. While I feel infinite love for both of them, Meijs is more often in the foreground. I could feel guilty about this too, but I have 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 that’.
Katinka, mother of Faas, Kiki* and Meijs*
Also read: died during or shortly after childbirth and my baby is going to die.
One baby died in the womb
If it turns out that one child in your belly has died, a confusing time begins. Two very different emotions overpower you: sadness for the baby you can’t see growing up and joy for the baby you will soon be able to hold in your arms. But it’s also normal to be afraid of what the next few weeks or months will bring you.
Can you carry the pregnancy to term, and what will your deceased baby look like in that case? How will the delivery go? Sometimes the choice will be made to initiate the pregnancy a little earlier in order to limit the risks for the baby that is still alive as much as possible.
But sometimes childbirth comes too early for the living baby and this makes for an extra anxious time. Even if you are “prepared” for the fact that your baby is no longer alive, you don’t know what to expect. And the moment you know, you don’t plan to say goodbye right away. Many mothers think: “As long as you are still in my belly, you are still mine! No one can take you away then”.
After that, it is important that you are still very mindful about your deceased child during those precious days after the birth. This will be quite difficult, as you will be so focused on the baby that is still alive (who, in some case, will still be fighting for his life). However, you only have such a short time to “enjoy” spending with the deceased baby.
Read also: stillbirth
One baby died of premature birth
The risk with a twin pregnancy is that your babies are born prematurely. From a term of 24 weeks of pregnancy onwards, the doctors will do everything they can to keep the babies alive. They are only very small and vulnerable and the risks remain very high. The first months will be very exciting
Also read: deceased during or shortly after childbirth
One baby died after birth
If you are told during pregnancy that one of the twins is ill, from that moment on you will be in a state of all-encompassing survival for both of your children. All dangers and risks are discussed extensively and repeatedly, but your feelings tell you that you have to fight for two lives. They have to be together. As a parent, you start thinking about what to do when you can take your child home after surgery. Can he go to day care? What kind of care should he get? Will he be okay at school? Can we both keep working? How old will he be…? 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, 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 on your feet as a family and you cling to that. And then suddenly it stops, that routine you have 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.
Being pregnant with triplets is not very common and is therefore very special. At the beginning of the pregnancy you may be in shock and worry about all the practicalities. Will it fit in the car? How can I breastfeed three babies? Who can help us take care of them? Can we still sleep? Soon the worries about this risky pregnancy will come too. When am I going to give birth? Will they stay seated long enough? How am I going to give birth? You will be checked more frequently because there is a good chance that something does not go well.
Many of the feelings when losing triplets are similar to those of twins, so we refer you to the text above. Below you will find experience stories from parents who have lost triplets.
The moment we heard that triplets were coming, we had to take a break. 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 very positive. After 25 weeks everything suddenly went wrong. Our twins, Jacky and Macy, had died of TTS. Ruby was born a day later. The pink cloud was suddenly over. Something that comes in hard, and sometimes you still can’t realize. But I try to turn grief into happiness. How lucky that we can be parents of triplets, how special! Of course, we would have loved nothing more than to have the girls with us, but they are together now and I am very proud that they could be with us for 25 weeks.
Lisette, mother of Jade, Ruby*, Macy* and Jacky*
Chance of twins
In the Netherlands, about 3000 twins a year have been born in recent years. A number of years ago there were more, mainly because more embryos were replaced during fertility treatments than now.
The chance of spontaneous twin pregnancy in the Netherlands is about 1 in 80 or 90. This means that 1 out of every 80 or 90 women who have a spontaneous pregnancy (i.e., without medical help) is a multiple pregnancy. In 2007 there were still 1 in 60 pregnancies in the Netherlands!
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 following the adjustments to fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI. Apparently, it used to be ‘easier’ to replace several embryos, resulting in a woman becoming pregnant with triplets.
The average gestational age of triplets is 33.4 weeks. The longest term recorded is 37.5 weeks. In many cases the doctors will also be very satisfied with 32 weeks. What comes first 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 regularly and 67.3% are born with the help of a Caesarean section.
Complications with multiple students
- Fetal complications: premature birth, growth retardation, congenital abnormalities, inter-baby blood transfusion (TTS), umbilical cord strangulation.
- Complications for the mother: pregnancy sickness, high blood pressure, anaemia, pregnancy diabetes, too much amniotic fluid, misaligned placenta, urinary tract infections.
- Complications in childbirth: lying defects (breech position, transverse position), umbilical cord compression, placental detachment, contractile weakness, a lot of blood loss after childbirth.
On the website www.tweelingengeltjes.nl (Dutch) you can read stories of experience of other parents of a deceased two- or multiple parent. In the private Facebook group TweelingEngeltjes (‘TwinAngels’) more than 400 parents of a deceased twins or multiples help each other.
More information can also be found at:
Stichting Alleen Geboren Tweelingen Nederland (‘Foundation Twins Born Alone’) in the Netherlands): https://www.stichtingatn.com/
"I thought after over two years of trying we'd finally hit the jackpot with twins. But it was taken away from us and replaced by the biggest pot of grief. Also the biggest mountain of unconditional love, only we couldn't give it the way we wanted it to."
Saskia, mother of Alix* and Liza* and Boris
"We had overcome twin transfusion syndrome (TTS) and a possible preterm birth. The real fighting started after birth. The four of us spent two and a half months in Intensive Care. Loek had a severe heart defect, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), and his treatment was supposed to be very intense but we always believed he would make it. All attention went to Loek, and Kai thought that was OK, as if he knew that his time would come. So after Loek's death, that's what happened. Kai dragged us 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) care and pay attention to Loek. And so we consciously make time for mourning, together and separately. It's a very complex and double feeling, but it can and may exist side by side and together, sadness and joy."
Steffie and Tom, parents of Loek* and Kai
"We tried to experience it as consciously as possible with the help of Francien, Make a Memory, the water preservation, but still I sometimes feel that I was too short for her, because the time with her was so limited. You can never turn back that time, and with the other daughter we fortunately still have a whole life to live beautiful moments."
Kim, mother of Zoe, Evy Nova*