Loss of multiple(s)
“We don’t know what to say to the school. They keep on talking about what is best for our twins. But I explode inside-“these are not our twins, they are our surviving triplets”. Yet I say nothing. I know if I say this, they will think I am sick-the other one died at birth, so be grateful you have two healthy twins.’ What do we do?”
With the rapid increase in twins and higher multiples, this situation is going to become ever more common. It emphasizes that a key event in the loss of a multiple is the loss of status. Not “status” in any derogatory sense, but simply that there is something very special about being the parent of multiple(s). When this mother tells the school about her two surviving triplets, she is not trying to say to the world “Look, I am special, one of the few women who has conceived triplets”. What she is quite reasonably reluctant to do is to dismiss the third one she carried till birth.
The loss of a multiple goes well beyond the school situation but there are two specific situations which the school may face
(i) older siblings and the loss of twins or higher multiples. Telling all your classmates you are going to be the older brother or sister of multiples is really special. What happens when one or more dies, especially at birth?
- “You’ve lost your Mum who is still in the hospital
- You’ve lost your Dad who is so occupied with grief and arranging the funeral(s)
- You’ve lost that specialness everyone has been speaking about for months.”
Teachers can hardly be expected to be bereavement counselors and they need to share the burden with others. But they need to keep this possible scenario in mind with every multiple pregnancy. Yes, bereavement can happen with any pregnancy. It is that it is so much more common with twins and especially with higher multiples, that means we need to signal this possibility.
(ii) discovering you are multiple.
“One of our students went back to visit the extended family in Europe and discovered she was a twin. They thought she knew but it had been kept from her. What really grated was that her younger sister knew but had been told never to tell her.”
This may be an extreme situation, but it may be into the school years before parents think a young person knows enough about babies and life or death to handle this information, putting more pressure on the school to handle their side of the situation.
Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB), Inc
‘Provides support to parents throughout the United States, Canada and beyond who have experienced the death of one or more, both or all their children during a twin, triplet or higher multiple pregnancy, at birth, or in infancy or childhood’
Twins and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
SIDS and twin loss
Teachers, Do you know how many children in your class are from multiple births?
The key thing is knowledge. The parents need to feel comfortable to tell the school this child is a surviving twin, triplet or even higher multiple. But the school needs to feel equally comfortable that this is knowledge they need and can handle. For example, are the parents pushing their child(ren) to succeed to make-up for the one(s) no longer there? This is an agenda the school needs to know, not so that they query the parents raising the issue of loss of a multiple, but so that they get a fuller understanding of the family and the child(ren) in their care.
The school may choose to access information such as Woodward to get some idea of how adults who grew-up without that lost their twin feel about this situation. The significance of the loss of a multiple is shown by the number of websites that deal with this for families and for professionals.
Just to give one example:
“We usually do something special in the class when it is their birthday. The others try to have a ‘surprise’ but six-year-olds are not the best at keeping secrets…. It went so wrong with James. He burst into tears. It turns out Mum and Dad had been crying that morning. It’s his birthday, but also the day his twin brother, Charles died, a few hours after birth. Do you call it ‘Charles’ birthday’? I feel furious with myself-why didn’t I think of this- and a little bit furious with the parents-why didn’t they tell me more about this.”
It is important for the young person to realize they are not alone and that lots of other young people have experienced a similar loss. In particular, they need to know they were NOT responsible for the loss of their twin or higher multiple.
References: See here