Monday, August 1, 2011

I just don't belong anywhere.

Warning: This is like three posts in one. If you get to the bottom, I am sorry to say that there will be no cookie. And you may even dislike me for what I have to say or think I am crazy or even find offense to my thoughts, but that is a risk I have to take, because this is where I go to vent and spew my thoughts so that I don't explode in the "real world".

This blog stuff is tricky. Often I want to write here, but I have so much anxiety about putting it “out there” for potentially the entire world to see. (Not that the entire world is actually looking or gives a sh*t.) I wasn't sure where this anxiety originated, until I thought about it for a while. I realized that I feel like I would write so much more if I’d simply lost a singleton pregnancy, honestly. I’d feel much more like part of “the club”. The dreaded “dead baby club” (or DBC), as many in the loss community call it.

My son died. I have every right to be here writing about him. I have every right to grieve him. I am a broken person. Yet I feel like many BLM choose to not follow my blog (possibly) because they don’t want to read about my living daughter. Just as they may not want to read other BLM blogs who have living children from previous pregnancies. Maybe I trigger their pain. Maybe that’s why sometimes I send a BLM a friend request via FB, and it just sits there. They don’t want to see photos of my infant daughter.

I get it, but it is still incredibly and painfully isolating to feel shunned at times by the BLM community.

What I want other BLM to understand is that yes, I still brought a baby home from the hospital. However, that does not mean I'm okay, that I don't need their support, that I'm going to be "over it" more quickly, or that my pain is any less. It is surely a different experience, but not better, not worse. I'd like to think my voice in this community still deserves to be heard, even though I brought a baby home with me.

You may think that I would find comfort in bonding with other mothers who have lost only one twin. And sometimes, yes, I do. Other times, I just feel more alone when I can't relate to what they are saying or vice versa. I wish more of the women I have "met" would blog about the loss of a 3rd trimester or full-term healthy twin, but they don't for whatever reason, and I must respect that. However, I'd be lying if I said that doesn't amplify my feelings of isolation, as there are limited blogs for me to read that reflect my experience. We chat on FB and communicate via forums, which I find incredibly helpful, but I need blogs. If more women who suffered a full-term loss of one or both twins put themselves out there, then perhaps future twinlostmamas coming home with less than two babies from the hospital wouldn't feel so freakish and alone. (I say that to include mamas who have lost one or both.)

* * * * * * * * *

I posted about grief-induced manic-depression and feel that calls for some sort of explanation but am not sure how to convey it here. A stillbirth and a live birth within three minutes. Just try, try, try to imagine that. I know, it’s impossible. I still can’t imagine it, and I lived it. I’ve said before it was the best and the worst day of my life.
I’ve heard other mothers who have lost one twin or triplet say that they felt numb, that the pain and the joy kind of cancelled each other out.
I did not experience numbness. If I ever said I did or blogged that I did, I take it back. This is one of the ways I feel so different than others in my kind of situation.
I experienced extremes, and those extremes continue on a daily basis. That is the polar opposite of feeling nothing.
As a result, I compartmentalize. I put my pain over here, and my joy over there.

And THAT, my friends, is why I feel manic depressive.

I’m forever in this in-between place, stuck grieving my son while celebrating my daughter. To solely focus on one at the expense of the other would be so incredibly unfair to myself and to them. I must juggle, and in that respect I truly still am a parent of twins, even today as I type this.

* * * * * * * * *

You will probably think this next section stems from my bitterness at what happened to me or think I am denial about what I truly lost. Go ahead and think away. You might be right, but I don't think so. Parenting twins from what I’ve heard from countless mothers is largely a big juggling act. Many twin moms say they never feel they are doing a good enough job. There is this nagging feeling of failure. Any time both babies are crying, they can only comfort one. They have enough love in their hearts for two, as any parent with more than one child does, but they can’t focus on more than one baby at once, and with twins their milestones are in sync and so there is always one baby taking a back seat to the other with any step. The moms express feeling more bonded to the “good” baby, and there’s horrible guilt that ensues from that. Basically, the gist of it is they feel perpetual dissatisfaction at never being a good enough parent to both twins.

It’s the truth of parenting multiples that these moms only discuss with other women in the “twin club” (as outsiders may simply judge them or say they are taking things for granted or throwing a pity party), and I was exposed to all of that for my entire pregnancy. It never diminished the love I felt so intensely for both of my sweet babies. It never made me wish I was only pregnant with one baby. But what I want to emphasize is that most people outside of that community have a hard time “getting it” because they don’t see the whole picture (or haven't really thought about it, haven't heard about it or been exposed to it). The real deal, where you learn what it’s really like from everyday moms, not the romanticized version you see and hear about with celebrity’s twins who have several nannies taking care of them, the matchy matchy clothes, coordinating Halloween costumes, and weekend-long festivals dedicated to twin status.

Society definitely puts it up on a pedestal, but ask any OB, and they will tell you that the womb was not designed to carry more than one baby. Carrying more than one is not what’s best for your child(ren), so no…It’s not a jackpot to land twins or triplets. I don't know where that idea originates. Obviously being able to get pregnant at all is an absolute blessing, but it just stings when people put the twin thing up there as the most "perfect blessing". (I'll admit it; I felt "special" too...Until my son died. Now I will NEVER build a woman up solely on account of her pregnancy - whether it's one or two or six babies, pregnancy is nothing you should say makes someone "special", nor is their pregnancy something you should be "proud" of them for. I'm actual in therapy partially due to people building up my self esteem through my pregnancy and consequent feelings of failure and lack of "specialness" now). Let's stop the hype, people. Twins are cute, fine. But this "perfect blessing from above" means higher risks all the way through the pregnancy, and many times a constant feeling of inadequacy during or after pregnancy (or both). A feeling of so busy you don’t get to stop and soak up their infancy (I hear). People constantly referring to your children as “the twins” with little regard to their names or individualities. Unwelcome attention and ridiculous questions from strangers. For many moms, their twins may be their only pregnancy (as I had figured mine would be, which is a topic for another day), and they find the time flies by so fast with multiple babies that they didn’t have time to breathe, didn’t have time to keep their own sense of identity intact, didn’t have time to stay connected to their husband, etc. I remember on the twin forums reading about the high rates of divorce after twins, and it terrified me. That the loss of identity outside of being a mother to twins was a very real phenomenon. That countless moms posted about having no friends in addition to their lack of identity.

Now, I have to worry about my marriage on account of having lost a child, not because we have twins. Now, I have to worry about my loss of identity because I may solely become "the woman who lost a son", not because my identity is simply twin mom. I've never heard a story with more irony than mine, and it's never a funny irony but one that sinks my heart.

Why I am writing all of this here I don’t really know. I can think of a few possible reasons.

First, maybe I want to “look on the bright side” or find that "silver lining" to my situation, as many babylostmamas tend to try and do (although I’d give anything to have my son back and would suffer those hardships for his sake in a heartbeat because I already loved him from the day I knew about him!).

Or, maybe I want to just put people in check who sit there and idealize the twin thing, because let's face it - it does far more harm than good, regardless of whether the twins survive or not. (And it's a lie anyway.) If one or both of the twins die, you are setting the family up to feel they have even more to grieve; you are making the loss more massive than it already is. And if both babies do survive, their reality won't likely live up to how much you've built it up for them, which (I'm guessing here) could only add to the feelings of inadequacy that many twin mamas already experience.

Another possibility - maybe I want to help other mothers who have lost one twin to “let go” of the twin fantasy.

Maybe I need to let go of that fantasy myself, as I will admit that I am still grieving the loss of my “twins”. I still struggle every day to not obsess over the fact that I should have twins here to snuggle and raise. I have to stop myself from thinking about how perfect it would all be. Again with the romanticizing. I am guilty as charged.

Maybe it's a little of all of these combined, but more so, I think the reason is this:
I am just angry as hell, because I will always feel like if my son and daughter were conceived during separate pregnancies, then I may have been able to avoid this pain. I'd rather them just both be here, alive, than have carried that special twin "status". All of our issues were related to the twin thing. Even though my OB says this wasn't twin-related, I have done my research. Placental issues are more common with twins. Stillbirths are more common with twins. My daughter being small for gestational age is because she had to share my womb. ALL of my pregnancy issues were related to it being twins. The excessive vomiting, GERD, preterm labor, bedrest, and in my non-medical opinion possibly our loss. So when I hear people idealize it, I just want to freaking PUKE. Especially when they know my story and shouldn't be so seemingly ignorant. Especially when they are babylostmamas.

I also find myself thinking a lot lately about what that means – to be a twin, to have a twin, etc. How much of it is real and how much of it is imagined? Is there anything to it beside being born at the same time? Women in the loss community (who have living twins) tell me that in all honesty their twins are no more bonded to each other than they are to their singleton children. They love their twins, just as they love all of their children, but confirm that the picture they had painted in their minds during pregnancy (about what it would be like to have twins) is mostly a lie that society perpetuates. That there is no secret language shared by twins, that it may or may not exist for any two siblings, that having a set of twins doesn't make the family have this perfect balance.

There was a study in which researchers interviewed different twin types and asked them to pick who they would save if they could only save one person on the earth (I forget the actual wording of it or where the hell I saw this…), and most identical twins wanted to save their twin first, while fraternals were much less likely to give that response. Fraternal boy girl twins were in fact found to be least likely to respond that they would save their twin (most of them said both parents first). The studies showed b/g twins to be the least bonded of all the twin types. All of these things help me sort through what is real and what I may have built up in my mind. Or what others built up in my mind about the “perfect family” I was creating. I don’t know what it would really be like, because Elias is not here with us, so I try not to stay stuck in that place of imaginings. I assume that many women with boy girl twins are told millions of times “One of each, ooohhhhh, how perfect!” only to see their fairy tale ending isn’t reality, one way or another.

And I will not sit here and accept that my daughter will forever feel something missing, because that is just BULL and diminishes her being her own full healthy whole person.

* * * * * * * * *

At the end of the day, I have shifted from the twin club to the DBC.
And you know what? I still very much feel that I am parenting twins.
In much different ways, obviously, and I’ve written about that before, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
I struggle between feeling like I am never grieving my son right or raising my daughter right due to one twin pulling me away from the other.
When I am sad I feel like a crappy mother to Evelyn, and when I am happy I feel horrible that my son isn’t around to enjoy it with me.
I feel society is judging me for the way I parent each of my children.
Many people judge me for even surviving this, “Oh I would just die!” while others judge me for being sad, "Oh you should just enjoy your new daughter! This time goes soooo fast; just ENJOY!!!"

And I feel that women in both of these clubs don't truly accept my membership, either, and want me to give my card back.

I.can’ My life is a constant juggling act. This feeling? Sounds a hell of a lot like what those mothers to living twins express. Yet I can't go on a twin forum and vent about it, because I would just be that "horror story", even though I'm not. I'm a human being, not a horror story.

I feel I still deserve my “mother to twins” card, even though only one of my twins is here with me physically, even though other twin moms would probably disagree and say I don’t have it because I only have one child to diaper, bathe, and feed. My heart is constantly being ripped in two, as part of it stays here while another part of it wants to journey afar to find my beloved Elias. I am being pulled apart by the seams, and many mothers to twins (the ones who will tell you the real deal) say that that’s what it feels like to have two babies the same age. I’d obviously rather be in their position than mine, even with their complaints, and I will forever miss that opportunity to have my own twins, but it’s such a strange feeling to try to “let go” of the twin thing (and fully acknowledge that it is a fantasy largely not rooted in reality), while still feeling that I am very much a mother to twins in many aspects of the word.

I always feel like I am and am not something at the very same time. One foot in the twin club with the other foot in the DBC.

The loss of my son, the loss of "twins", the feeling of failure, the insecurities about my marriage, the fear that I will be incapable of doing my job due to my grief - those things have me feeling lower than low. One little thing can set me off. All it takes is the wrong comment from my husband to trigger my insecurities, and I spiral down. Friends around me are starting new marriages while I watch mine seemingly fall apart. I watch women flaunt their twins (or even triplets, which to me just seems like a cruel cosmic joke) out in public, and I feel toyed with. My entire day could be ruined just by a glimpse of a double stroller, and half the time they aren't even twins, but I imagine they are.

Am I still holding on to the twin fantasy? Maybe. Or maybe I just miss my son, and I want my double stroller back, because I wouldn't have had to return it if he'd lived.

Then my daughter smiles at me and cackles, and I feel on top of the freaking world again. I had convinced myself that I would never birth a living child (after my traumatic miscarriage), and so when I look at her and how amazing she is, an incredible feeling grips me. I think about how lucky we are to even have her, as I know how fragile life is. I think about women who lost both twins at term or women who will never have the experience of carrying their own baby ever, and I think okay, this isn't so bad. I think if I can learn to live without my son somehow, then I must be this invincible person with a strength I never knew existed in me. I think, what's the point in ever worrying or stressing over things in life when nothing is truly in our power? And that is so freeing to me. I think about how Elias would want me to live fully and be happy, so I have little tolerance for minor complaints and for a lack of spontaneity. My son has changed me so deeply, and most days I feel that he has changed me for the better. I look at my husband snuggling with my daughter, and my heart just melts. I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have them both here and our son waiting for us when it's our time. I fall in love with my husband all over again and think about how solid we are to have sustained this horrible pain. It seems our relationship is shatterproof. I realize we have been together for over a decade, and my insecurities fade (only to return when I am having a bad day, of course, and then I wonder with how much I have changed, are we still compatible? Will this still work?)

I feel more alive than I ever have in my entire life, but my son is dead. That is the single most confusing point to me.

My sister once told me, "I imagine things now will forever be shades of gray to you."

I thought for a few minutes, and said, "No, it's more like when I'm missing him, it hurts more than anything I ever imagined in my entire life, and I feel like I'm going to break in half from the pain. I feel it fully, and then I put it away for a while and try to honor him by enjoying the life I have left. On good days, it actually seems there are fewer shades of gray, and colors shine more vibrantly than ever before."

What I don't know is whether that vibrancy comes from my son or my daughter, and I hate not knowing myself anymore.

I hate not being able to trace the raindrops that form a puddle back to the clouds from where they fell.


  1. You're in a very tricky position, but not one I see much different (from a singleton BLM perspective) than how I relate to those who already have a child and lost their second... or those who are BLMs but go onto have a rainbow.

    While I know you'd prefer to be part of the twin mommy club, you're totally welcome in our court. I'll admit that earlier in my grief, I didn't want to read blogs of people with other children. Now, some of my best BLM friends are you ladies who HAVE other children. You should not be shunned or punished when you are already experiencing the worst nightmare of your life. Shame on those who refuse to accept your friend requests (facebook?-- I've quit). As for blogging, I think you're insightful and rightfully mourning the loss of your child.

    Small tidbit: My grandmother was a twin and her sister was stillborn. She lived a wonderful life and was no defined by the loss of her sister. She deserved it.

    You live in both universes-- the one of parenting a living child and one of parenting a deceased child. I think that we will ALL get there once our subsequent children are born. You happen to be living a much different life than you ever anticipated but not one you should hide. Be proud of your motherhood and your daughter. Mourn your son. All is normal.

    I can't speak for the twin mommy group as I think, sadly, you would be the tragedy and they would likely delete your posts because of how it makes them address reality of loss.

    I secretly want(ed) twins now that Andrew died because I wanted to make up for lost time. I wanted to be ahead, for once, when compared to my other mom counterparts who kept their firstborns. But I know that twins doesn't mean a free ride to all things easy. It's a blessing when our children are healthy, but not something that should be taken lightly and without concern.

    You should be allowed to talk of you daughter. Come to think of it, I've never seen a photo!

    I hope you will find a balance. I can't relate on this divide you feel, but know you are always welcome in the BLM circuit, at least if I have anything to say about it.

  2. Thank you, Brandy. I relate so much to what you said about wanting twins so that you feel less like others cut in line. When we discovered it was twins, my OB said, "Making up for lost time!" (since I had suffered a miscarriage before). There was a sense of balance to the world, NOT that it erased my pain, but I'm sure you know what I mean. Now, everything is just so out of whack. There is no sense or balance to this world. Twins run everywhere in my family but not in my home, and it still stings, and I'm still trying to let go of that fantasy.

    Maybe eventually I will come around to posting photos. I just feel so vulnerable already that it's difficult for me to feel comfortable sharing even more. I fear the wrong people will find my blog, but then again, that could happen anyway, and I suppose those people will quickly recognize my blog even without my posting photos on it. : / I'm a teacher so I am always paranoid about everything. I know you know how that is.

    Thanks for reading my long rambling blog and for your heartfelt response. I especially appreciate the tidbit about your grandmother. xo

  3. I know how you feel about some BLMs not wanting to follow you bc you have a living child... I do also (she is older) and blog about our happy times, too. I just had to respect their feelings and realize that it might hurt me if I didn't already have a child. It is viewed as "easier" to deal with since we have someone to snuggle and be happy about, but like you know, easier it is not. It brings a whole new set of challenges. I've often felt so guilty for grieving my son and worrying that I'm slighting my daughter. In time, it may get easier for some to hear about your happy times with your daughter, and they'll join in. Don't let it hurt your feelings--you have EVERY right to be here as do I. I CANNOT even imagine how hard your specific circumstances must be for you. Thinking of you often, even if I don't always comment. :)

  4. Somehow I just knew the comments you would have here would be from these 2 fabulous ladies.

    I have nothing new to add, they basically covered my thoughts (ie, why I covet twins, why people may not read your blog, and that you definitely belong in the blm community). Just wanted you to know I read ;)

  5. It's funny (funny isn't the right word, but I don't know what is), but it's {something} how we all are in this club for one reason. . . .we lost a baby who was and is so loved and who should be here, who should be alive. You'd think we'd all just be able to relate so well to each other, yet EVERY situation is different. And it makes grieving a little tricky to do with others. I'm so thankful for all the women I've become friends with in this shitty club, especially the bloggers, but I will always feel that no one understands my pain. Because they don't. It's mine and mine alone. Just like yours is your pain, while I can relate to how horrible it is to lose a son, I will never understand the emotional toll it takes for your heart to be pulled in such drastically different directions.

    Don't really know where I'm going with all this. I guess it's just to say that I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you are here. I'm sorry I am too. I think I can understand a LITTLE better now that I've been lucky enough to have another living child since my first died, but it's still so different. But I appreciate your perspective. And I'm glad that in some small way, I get to hear about Elias. I'd love to hear all about your little girl too - to help (via blogland) you celebrate both their lives. And like Brandy said, you are certainly welcome in this "community" and have every right to be here even though I wish that just weren't so . . .

  6. Oh, Sweetheart, there are so many things I wish I could say to you. Mostly, I would just like to give you a big hug, swear at the world, cry and laugh with you.

    In answer to yesterday's post about depression, yes, there is stress induced bi-polar, more or less. I don't know what the manual would call it, but here is a non-medical explanation ~ Something outside of your brain triggers depression, I've had this called "Environmental" or "Situational" depression. The birth of your children and Elias' death. This upsets the chemical balance relating to moods. When this imbalance last for more than a short time, the brain, instead of resetting to your previous state, goes nuts. Starts throwing all kinds of chemical cocktails at you. This stuff is beyond any kind of simple control, i.e. "looking on the bright side" won't help. As a child of the '60s, my answer was - try drugs. Self medicating is very iffy, start with a doctor's Rx for anti-depressants. You may have to try several. Again, there is a balance you want, it needs to take the edge off of the deep, dark, pain, but not turn you into a zombie. There is probably one that can do that for you. Won't stop the grief, won't stop the joy, but may give you enough room to live with both.

    You are alone in your grief. That's both normal and intensely frightening. No one but you, not even the kids' dad, has lived your life and experienced what you have. And you have been broken into a thousand pieces. Some of us can touch this piece or that one, but only you know all of them, or at this point, most of them. You don't have to know it all right now. You can't. What Elias and Evelyn are teaching you, giving you and how your love of them both changes you is a lifetime of learning and loving. That they are twins is one of the pieces. It might be a big one, or it may wind up being a side issue.

    There is no way for you to tell at this time. You said you are a teacher. Think of it this way, right now you are learning. Learning means you don't already know. Learning means taking baby steps to knowledge, not having the answers. Learning means, don't push it, absorb each new piece slowly, so that it becomes yours. This first 18 to 24 months of having a child to raise for the first time, and having a child who has died, is not going to give you any answers. Except, maybe to find out how much you don't know.

    And I believe you are right. Doing both at the same time is going to be "bi-polar". Is going to jerk your emotions around in a way others will never understand. But, we'll still stand with you, and help you in any way we can. We don't know about having one twin live and one die. But we know about pain, and vulnerability, and joy, and love. You are alone, but not quite "all alone".

    Jill A.

  7. I just want to send you my love and support. And echo B's first paragraph.
    I too feel as if some shun my blog because I now have a living child and am now pregnant with my second child after loss. I also found it hard to read some blogs early on, especially written by those who had living children already, but I did still read them and always commented and some of them are among my best babyloss friends now.
    For me, it wasn't so much about being jealous of their living children, but it was a deep fear that had set in to my bones that I'd never get to parent a living child. I was convinced my daughter was it and that I'd never be so lucky. I even thought if I went on to have a subsequent baby who only lived a day or two, at least I'd have got to parent them. I think that is one of the awful things about stillbirth specifically. That the only time I got to spend with her was when she was already dead.
    I also think there are a lot who don't read my blog (not that I post much these days) because I'm three years out from my loss, but one of the few from that "era" of babyloss who is still actively reading and commenting. I think some might assume that it is easier for me, because all this time has passed. But I can assure you it is not.
    I don't really know what else to say. I am rambling. Our situations are very different, but also very similar. This post really touched me and there was so much I could relate to. That may or may not be surprising to you, but I just want you to know you are not alone and there is a lot of support out here for you.

  8. I don't know what to say that the other ladies haven't already said, but you do belong here, along with the rest of us BLM's. All of our stories are different, and all of our experiences are different. But we are all experiencing pain, and can understand that part. I too have a living child, who preceded my loss. Sometimes I feel "bad" for having a living child when talking with a BLM who has no living children (bad isn't the right word, but you know what I mean). In those cases, there is definitely a difference, but we are all grieving the loss of a child, and that bonds us together. I think I am rambling, but I just want to say that you belong here, on the blogosphere, with the rest of us BLM's, sharing your experiences: your joys, your sorrows, the things that piss you off, and the nice things that people do that surprise you. It's a mixed bag. I am glad you are here, telling me about your experience. Even though it differs from mine, I can understand all that you are feeling.
    Hang in there. Keep sharing. Keep venting. Keep grieving your son, and keep celebrating your daughter. However you do it, it's the right way. Someone once told me that if my son gets toast for 3 meals a day for a while because I am having a tough time, THAT'S OKAY. I don't know why, but that stuck with me. Give yourself permission to grieve. And to laugh! I'm rambing again, so I will stop there.
    Hugs to you. Thinking of you and Elias and Evelyn.