Monday, November 15, 2010

Mixed Blessings - Part 1

mixed blessing

something that, although generally favorable or advantageous, has one or more unfavorable or disadvantageous features.

I wrote this post last week and then forgot to post it.... I think it's fitting today given how I was feeling yesterday and really, how I've been feeling in general lately. I am feeling better today, more at peace and definitely less sad. Anyway...

Recently I was reading a blog entry of another TTTS mom who also lost one of her sons. She was writing about ‘how one person can feel so mercifully blessed and so totally gypped all at the same time?’. It was like she was inside my head... hearing the thoughts that I try not to speak because some may seem to think that makes me ungrateful. Okay, maybe that is what I think people think but I know from the responses I get when I say things like this that people do really think I am not counting my blessings.
Trust me, I count them.. all the time. I know that I am so very lucky to have the great family I have, the house I have (heck even the debt I have as it means that some bank thinks I am trustworthy enough to loan money too). I know that for so many reasons Cameron should not have survived as well as he did, or really, even at all. I know this because Dr. Ryan told us, I know this because so very few babes survive what he did with no negative outcome, I know this because the stats on babes remaining in utero after a mothers’s water breaks are so very low.
So tell me why I can’t be happy ALL the time. Why do I have to feel so cheated, so gypped? It really sucks to feel this way. And why, after all this time, don’t I feel better about the whole thing, why am I dreading this lead up to Cole’s angelversary so much. Like Megan, I thought I was doing so much better than last year but time will really tell.
I recently read an article about a woman in the UK who lost one of her twins, actually she had to choose to end the life of one twin as there were so many complications involved for him. She wrote about how hard it is and I found myself really connecting to this article and although it’s long, I decided to cut and paste some of it for you to read... for you information, to let you other twin mom’s raising a lone twin that we are not alone in these feelings and for those who, thankfully, haven’t been in our shoes, understand a bit more... and maybe see that I am not alone in how I think too.

Is he your only child?’ An innocent enough question, but one that always makes me catch my breath. It may be that I’m at our local playgroup, drinking tea and chatting with another mum as our children play together. Do I simply say yes and feel I haven’t done justice to the truth, or do I explain the situation and risk opening up an emotional can of worms? The reality is that our two-year-old son Ezra is our only living child, but he is also a surviving twin. His brother Oscar died shortly before their birth.
When my husband Simon and I found out we were pregnant with non-identical twin boys following fertility treatment, we were ecstatic.But 20 weeks into the pregnancy, we discovered that Oscar had a severe brain condition which meant he was unlikely to survive long after birth, if he didn’t die in the womb. We were told his condition wasn’t caused by his being a twin, but was complicated by it – a singleton would probably have been terminated at 20 weeks and, although traumatic, his loss at that stage would have made it easier for us to mourn and try to move on.
I felt I’d failed them both before they’d even been born. I worried about Ezra’s lone-twin status because I feared it would affect him when he grew older and became aware that he’d had a twin. I worried that he’d feel lonely and bereft, knowing that he should have had a brother. I tried to do everything I could to collate information and joint experiences for him, such as playing the piano for them because I thought that hearing classical music in the womb would help them to feel calm and contented. I also kept a diary while they were still together inside me, telling them about places we’d been together. I wanted Ezra to know that good things happened in my pregnancy (I imagined him one day saying, ‘What did we do when I was in your tummy?’).
But whatever I did, it didn’t feel good enough, because I couldn’t give them a future together.
Oscar died on 10 August 2006 . As anticipated, the procedure led to my waters breaking and just hours later, at 30 weeks and six days, in the early hours of 11 August, our two sons were delivered by caesarean.
As I came round from the general anaesthetic, I was told that Ezra, tiny at three pounds, had been taken to the neonatal intensive care unit. The nurses brought me Oscar, wrapped in the quilt I’d made him, and we lay there together. For those first few hours, Simon and I both felt unexpectedly calm, as we sat in a room with Oscar and were able to marvel at how beautiful he was. Simon says it was like spending time with someone we felt we’d always known. We felt humbled by his presence.
Congratulations cards and gifts poured in for Ezra. Some people mentioned Oscar in Ezra’s birth cards or sent them one each, but most people didn’t mention him at all, no doubt unsure of what to say.
In the meantime, Simon organised both birth and death certificates, and made arrangements for Oscar’s funeral, as well as managing our house renovation and his new mobile-phone business.
People would tell me that I now had ‘twice the love’ for Ezra and that Oscar’s death was ‘for a reason’ or ‘meant to be’ . I now appreciate that they were making real efforts to soften the blow. To the outside world, perhaps it did seem as if I’d ‘won’, because I had at least come out of it with a baby, unlike a mother who has lost a singleton. But it was never ‘buy one, get one free’. We were expecting two babies and we ended up with one – we lost 50 per cent of our children when Oscar died.
Jeanne Kirkwood, my supportive listener at the Tamba bereavement support group, says: ‘When you lose a twin, whether before birth or after, there are terrible dichotomies between loving and grieving, all at the same time. Most people think that if you focus on the joy the grief will go away, but it doesn’t work like that.’
In her book Twins & Multiple Births, Dr Carol Cooper even says that the loss of a twin is ‘harder to bear’ than the loss of a singleton because of the need to care for the surviving twin and carry on with family life while your natural reaction is to mourn – something that has certainly rung true for us. In the weeks and months after the birth, I felt something was missing, that a part of me had died..
We often talk about Oscar and go to his grave. I frequently contemplate how we’ll tell Ezra about his brother, which we will as soon as he’s able to handle the information. I have to trust that we’ll know when the time is right.
When Ezra was about eight months old, I asked Jeanne Kirkwood, ‘Can you ever feel happy again after losing a twin?’ because I felt my joyful days had gone for good. Every good experience was tempered by memories of Oscar.
I remember people saying, ‘Aren’t you lucky you’ve lost all your baby weight,’ and I wanted to say, ‘I’d rather be fat and have them both here!’
‘You will be happy again,’ Jeanne told me. ‘You’ll still feel pain but as time goes by the pain will be surrounded by more joy.’ She also reiterated what other people had said, which was that Ezra would increasingly help us to heal. I remember saying, ‘I’m looking forward to that time because I can’t imagine it.’ Jeanne gave me hope and she turned out to be right. Ezra, who is now two, has been my salvation. He has been like a tornado, sucking me back into real life.
Living with a single twin is truly bittersweet, a constant reminder of what you’ve lost as well as what you’ve gained. When people ask if Ezra’s an only child, I generally tell them about Oscar because he is part of our collective reality.
When Ezra was recently seen by the paediatrician, I told him we felt very lucky because we have a child, and he answered, ‘Yes, but you’ve been very unlucky, too.’ We definitely feel both.
Perhaps that sums up twin loss best of all – good luck and bad luck, all in the same package. The trick is learning to live with the joy and the pain.

It is such a mixed blessing to be the mom of twins…one who survived and one who went to be with God. Learning to live with the pain and the joy is a balancing act but is one that I am trying to find my way to. Mixed blessings are something that, although generally favorable or advantageous, has one or more unfavorable or disadvantageous features. And no matter what slant you put on it, no matter what way you think of it, always and forever the lives of Cameron and Cole and twins like them will be one of mixed blessings.

After I wrote and copied the above post…but before I’d had a chance to post it here I went to church…with my kids at school. I went in with this feeling of anxiety, of anger, or bitterness almost. I know those feelings aren’t productive, I know that they drag me down. But they are part of me and of who I am sometimes. Regardless, I went feeling like that and came out feeling a sense of peace. I felt comforted, almost hugged during mass… and this is tells me that I am accepting my pain more and opening myself up to God more. My fellow TTTS mom reminded me in her blog though that sometimes I have to seek peace, especially when I am feeling the way I am lately but by doing so it means I need to open my heart deep enough to drive me to God's feet. It means I have to knowingly set aside the anxiety and anguish I feel that, despite how sad it makes me also provides me protection because in doing so I can make room for the most honest of pain and sorrow. If I can only open up my heart I can get to the other side and find peace, love and joy.

I thank her for reminding me just how damn hard this journey is at times and that sometimes it is just so much easier to be angry, bitter etc. Opening up that wound is so hard but it needs to be done to make room for the peace, the love, the joy. It will soon be the season to prepare the way for Jesus, for His birth, for the time of celebrating what a wonderful gift God gave each of us in the way of his son, Jesus. God lost his son too, He knows the pain. And I know He’ll help me with it. I know it will hurt before it heals, I know that it will be easier to not push myself to heal but I also know I can do this too.


  1. Jodie, Thanks for posting this. I have read the article before, but it was good to re-read it and I met a mom last week that I'm going to send this to. I have found great comfort in knowing that God knows my pain...and what a sacrifice he made for us to willingly give his Son.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I have been feeling really sad lately. I love you Jodie and all the other TTTS moms that have to go through this. I don't know what I would do without you...