A Meeting Place for Early loss twins

This is really my twin's Enjy's place, not mine. S/He does not have any other place in this world. S/He was miscarried at age four months in the womb. We were twins and made to be together for years and we were torn apart within seconds. This is the place where I go to talk to him/her and about him/her. Anyone who has lost a twin in utero or very early is very welcome here to read and share.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Drums of Survivor's Guilt

Early loss surviving twins have these words like a drum beat in the background of their lives. While twins who lose their twins later in life may be subject to a shrill cacophony of these very words, piercing their souls - especially when suicide is involved - early loss twins may go for years without consciously realising the drums are there. They have become a part of everyday life. But they are there, and they are beating on. And on. And on.

Sometimes they are fuelled by heartless - and thoughtless - remarks like "you ate all the food" or even "you ate your twin". Such remarks are not only heartless and thoughtless, theyare utter nonsense. If one twin in utero isn't nourished as well as the other, there are medical reasons for this, never, NEVER, an activity by the other twin. The most common reason is Twin To Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), in which a pathological connection between blood vessels in the placenta causes the malnourishment in one twin. This, still severe, complication may result in the death of one or both twins, but the twin who is more at risk is almost always the one who gets more blood and seems to be better nourished. The added fluid the so-called Receptor-twin receives puts the heart under severe and possibly fatal stress. So not even in that case when the BS remark quoted above MIGHT be backed by a medical condition would the twin who "ate more" be at fault. Not. One, Tiny. Bit.

In those rare cases when a medical condition MIGHT be interpreted as "you ate your twin", when a fetus-in-fetu is found (the remnants of a deceased embryo found within a living child, mostly found at an early age and at first diagnosed as a tumor), the underlying process of one embryo absorbing the other one happens very early in the pregnancy, long before the twins interact, so that not even a shred of anything similar to a voluntary action can have been present.

In most cases survivor's guilt doesn't need stupid remarks to be sparked. It's just there.
The WHY-question harasses parents, grandparents, siblings alike every time a baby dies, before or after birth. Why should a baby die? It's so completely without sense or reason that life should be gone so soon after it even began, but statistics show that a third of all confirmed pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Singleton babies die unexpectedly in the womb and everybody admits it's a tragedy. When a twin dies, it's more complicated. Mothers think they have no right to grieve since they still have one living child. People, well meaning but every bit as heart- and thoughtless as the ones quoted above, might even say "you still have one baby left."
Nobody, NOBODY, would say that to parents of two children, born two years apart, when one of those tragically dies. "So little Adrian drowned when you were on holidays at the seaside? How very tragic, but at least you have his sister Corinna left. " You see? Unimaginable.

But because grief for a twin baby is complicated for parents the survivor's problems with it often go unnoticed. They, too, may think "I'm not allowed to grieve. I never 'knew' my twin. I have to be happy to be alive. I mustn't add to my parents' grief." Etc.etc.
And all the while they still do grieve, unallowed, they did 'know' their twin with all their existence, physically and emotionally, if not consciously, they are not happy to be alive and they know their parents are worried over them. Tough load for a five-year old, a twelve-year old, a fifteen-year old, a twenty-one-year old.
And there never seems to be an answer. Why me? Why not you?

The co-twin may have been too weak, growth retarded, genetically impaired. There may have been a cord accident, a faulty inserted cord or misplaced placenta. Things that also happen in singleton pregnancies and cause the demise of an unborn child. The moment life is there, the possibility of death also is. We know that, but it isn't an answer.

Naming a medical reason only shifts the WHY. Why didn't I have a cord accident? Why wasn't I a breech? Why were my chromosomes normal?
The drum beats on and on. Softer some days, harsher or even earsplitting and heartbreaking other times. Why me-why not you-why you-why not me...

We try to stifle them. We tell ourselves our twins wouldn't want us to suffer.
Of course they wouldn't. But they're not here. Because of that gigantic WHY.
Our twins are better off. A priest once said that to me. I firmly believe it's true, but it's not an answer. Not to THE WHY.
We will understand it all when we are finally reunited in heaven.
I firmly believe that, too, but not all survivors do, and the drum harasses them on.

Personally I try to see the drum of survivor's guilt as a constant reminder that my twin lived.
If I feel guilty about what happened or may have happened in the womb, if I feel it so strongly that it effects my everyday life even decades after it happened, than it's because something actually did happen. That drum roll doesn't come from nothing. It's an echo of my twin's heartbeat. S/He did have a heartbeat. S/He existed. Take that survivor's guilt! The drum doesn't spell doom, it spells fact. The only answer I can and will hurl at THE WHY is: S/HE LIVED. And his/her heart beats on in my life.
So if I feel survivor's guilt, it doesn't mean I'm less. Less worthy of living. Less capable to deal with things. Less deserving of good things in life. It actually means I'm more. More than my feelings tell me. I'm a twin who lost her co-twin. I'm me. I'm a survivor. I'm the one who felt you, heard your heart beating (unborn babies DO hear things), lived with you.

Survivor's guilt doesn't mean your guilty, it means you're a survivor. And you can only be a suvivor if there was something to survive. A terrible tragedy, even if nobody realised. Your twin's death. Because there as a twin. Because you are a twin. For always.

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