A Twin Less Twin: Sunrise and Sunset babies

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A Twin Less Twin

Everyone has heard of a rainbow baby, a baby born after a loss. There is so much amazing awareness in regards to miscarriage and infant loss. I, myself, have a sweet rainbow baby, my 21-month-old named Frederick and he has brought so much indescribable joy into my life.

But have you heard of a twinless twin? A sunrise and sunset baby?

Odds are you have not.

I had never previously heard these terms until they were used to describe the nightmare I was living a mere four years ago. My road to motherhood was not easy. After a year of trying to conceive it became clear that we were having trouble. A PCOS diagnosis gave me a reason and fertility treatments gave me a chance.

Infertility and Two Pink Lines

My husband and I knew that the chance of multiples was higher when undergoing fertility treatments but we never thought it could happen to us. After four rounds of treatments, I FINALLY saw those faint pink lines appear.

I couldn’t believe it! It was finally our turn! At 6 weeks along we went in for our first ultrasound. As I was laying on the exam table staring at the screen I saw what looked like two circles. I thought to myself there is no way there are two babies. I blurted out, “why are there two circles on the screen?!” The ultrasound tech lovingly said, “well that’s what happens when there are two babies!” I immediately was overcome with anxiety. So many thoughts swirled around my head. How can we afford this? How can we juggle two babies? We went on to hear the most soothing sound in the world: their heartbeats.

Despite my initial panic, we were on cloud nine!

Our hearts were full and we felt like all of our previous heartache and debt over failed cycles were all finally worth it. That is until our world came crashing down a few weeks later.

The Panic and Pain

At 10 weeks along I began to bleed. The sheer panic I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced. I vividly remember screaming for my husband from the bathroom trembling with blood on my hands. In these moments I thank God for my husband because he is the calmest and most level headed person you will ever meet. In situations of chaos and panic, he is my voice of reason. He calmed me down and we were off to the emergency room.

To be honest the thought of losing my babies never even crossed my mind. I ignorantly believed that after our struggle to conceive God would never take my babies away from me.

Vanished

Those hours in the emergency room were the longest of my life. The physician taking care of me had terrible bedside manner and I had to fight to get an ultrasound. After what felt like hours of waiting I was finally wheeled to the ultrasound room. The screen was not facing me and as the tech put the cold jelly on my stomach I began to pray that two little heartbeats would appear.

After what felt like an eternity, the ultrasound tech spoke and asked, “are you sure you are having twins?” That’s when I knew something was wrong. My heart began to race and I thought I was going to vomit right there. The tech very reluctantly turned the screen towards my husband and I. I saw two circles on the screen just like before but this time it looked different. One circle had a tiny little figure bouncing around that resembled a gummy bear…the other circle was empty. 

Nothing.

No sign of life.

Just gone.

I could not process what was happening. I needed to hear it from the ultrasound tech. She finally spoke and told me that there was no heartbeat and essentially our second baby had vanished.

Facing the Facts

The next day I had an appointment with my midwife, who to this day has remained one of the most supportive women I have ever met. She explained the situation further and gave it a name: “vanishing twin syndrome.” There was nothing we could do. I was put on rest for weeks to keep my remaining twin safe and to allow for our surviving baby to absorb the remnants of his sibling.

After researching vanishing twin syndrome I found many blogs about this very situation. The surviving twin absorbs their sibling often referred to as “becoming your own twin.” Many mamas have written about instances that occur when their surviving twin is older. The child will ask questions about their missing sibling because no matter what, twin telepathy can still be very real after one twin passes. My son is only 3.5 years old now and we have yet to field any questions about a missing sibling. I will not lie, I will never be ready to face that situation. I know that one day I will have to explain but I will cross that bridge when I get there. 

The Sunrise and Sunset

Losing one of my twins will always be one of the hardest journeys of my life. I was, and still am, heartbroken. However, I was immensely grateful to still have one of my babies survive. My grief came in waves and I knew I needed to seek help. I was given information on local support groups but I never attended. Despite desperately wanting to attend I knew that still being visibly pregnant would be a trigger for every woman in the room. I pushed through on my own and with the help of my family.

The day I stumbled across the terms “Sunrise” and “Sunset” babies gave me the little bit of closure I needed to move forward. The surviving twin is the sunrise baby because the sunrise brings a new day and a sense of hope. The twin that passes in the womb is the sunset baby because it symbolizes the end of the day and the slow fade of light. These terms and their symbolism for whatever reason have always given me hope. Time truly has helped heal my heart but the fault lines will forever remain.

My son, Teddy, is a twinless twin and his twin’s life, although short, will always matter. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. While the circumstances were a bit different, I too have a twinless twin. He is 4 and his twin sister died of complications from Trisomy 18 about an hour and a half after birth. I have recently made sure we talk about her more and his older brother is helping with that, but it’s a tough situation to know what to do. Thank you for sharing your story because I know how hard it was to find resources at the time I was pregnant.

  2. Thank you for writing about this. My 10-year-old daughter is a Twinless Twin. We lost her brother at 11 weeks gestation, and our doctor said that she absorbed his cells. Until this blog, I had never heard the words sunrise and sunset baby, although I’m loving the phrase. My daughter started ‘seeing’ her twin brother (we have always known it was a boy even though it was too early to tell on ultrasound) when she was about 2 years old. She would always talk about the ‘boy’ in the fan in her room and how he wanted to play with her at night. She no longer sees him, but we feel his presence in our home, and both she and my younger daughter know they have a brother who watches over them.
    Today, on Infant Loss and Remembrance Day we pray for all families who have lost babies.

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