I’ve debated off and on whether to post about this. I guess you can tell which of my inner-dialogue teams won.
My birth story didn’t end with my daughter’s birth. Some things happened afterward that I would say were an extension of that birth. They’ve been sitting on the back burner in my mind, waiting. I suppose I’ve been holding them back because I just wasn’t quite ready to process them yet. Pondering and writing this post was an intense journey of realization and discovery and spiritual revelation. I don’t know exactly why I feel like I need to share it, but I do. What follows is a little graphic and a lot personal. If you choose to comment, please be respectful. Here goes…
My uncle somehow always seems to know when I’m pregnant before I make it public knowledge. This last time, after we shared the news, he said, “I think you’re having twins.” We laughed.
Then, three evenings after my daughter’s birth, we were getting ready for bed around 9:00 or 10:00. I was in the middle of a potty visit when I felt something strange and startling. I looked down and called to my husband, “Something’s coming out of me!” I don’t want to go into too many details, but it was difficult for me to tell what it was. It wasn’t sliding easily out, and I didn’t want to pull on it without knowing whether it would be safe for me to do so.
With my heart pounding in distress, I told my husband to get me the phone so I could call my midwife. I woke her from a dead sleep, bless her heart, but, once she had her bearings, she started asking me questions about the color, texture, whether I was having pain, what my uterus and bleeding were like, etc. We determined that it was probably pieces of trailing membrane and blood clots, so she instructed me to tug on it gently. Slowly, slowly I eased it out… it just kept coming and coming. There were parts that looked like pieces of placenta to me and had me worrying I was going to start hemorrhaging, but my midwife assured me that they were most likely blood clots. They had examined my placenta thoroughly and knew there weren’t any parts missing. She said it was also possible there had been a “vanishing twin.” She wanted to take a look herself, however, so she instructed me to keep it all in a baggie in the fridge until my appointment a couple of days later and bring it with me. After determining that I was OK, we hung up.
As soon as we arrived for our appointment, Mary, her assistants, my husband, baby, and I all went together into a small room to take a look at the baggie contents. Mary emptied it onto a chux pad and with her gloved hands started spreading it all out, squishing the clots with her fingers to show me and her assistants how they fell apart under pressure, assuring me that they definitely weren’t pieces of placenta. It was, as she had suspected, amniotic sac with some blood clots stuck in it. Nothing to worry about.
But… there was one little thing.
It didn’t give way to pressure. It wasn’t a blood clot. It was a familiar curved shaped. Just a couple of centimeters of firm red tissue. Mary said, “You know what I think that is?” She didn’t even have to say it out loud ’cause I already knew what she was thinking. I nodded my head.
It’s likely that my daughter shared the womb for a brief time with another tiny soul.
As that realization washed over me, I was full of mixed emotions. Even now, nearly three months later, I am still trying to wrap my mind around it. I have never wished for twins, always felt that twins would be far too overwhelming for me. So part of me was/is very relieved. Despite that relief, part of me was/is also sad. And I can’t help wondering whether the loss of that tiny little soul explains some of the uncharacteristic aspects of my last pregnancy.
Could it be that my heart and spirit knew I had lost a child even though my conscious mind was unaware of it? Could that loss have contributed to the overwhelming darkness and gloom I felt for much of the middle of my pregnancy? Could the hormonal shifts from carrying twins and then losing one of them be partially responsible for the unusually intense mood swings I was plagued with? I don’t know. Maybe.
When I think of that possible little soul, my mind often pulls up a memory from the second half of my pregnancy. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but one morning I was snoozing in bed, probably drifting back to sleep after using the bathroom. The rest of my family was still in bed. After falling comfortably back to sleep, I suddenly heard an urgent whisper right next to my bed say, “Mom!” I opened my eyes, expecting to see one of my kids standing there wanting something. But there was no one there. I looked at the foot of my bed and toward the door… no one.
At the time I wondered whether it might have been the spirit of the child I was carrying—the daughter I was soon to meet—just saying hello. Or perhaps it was just a voice from a millisecond-long dream? But after the birth and discovery of the possibly vanished twin, that experience felt weightier in my memories. For whatever reason, my brain keeps connecting that event with that tiny little vanished twin. And who am I to question my body’s wisdom? I don’t know why he/she would have appeared in that moment, calling me from my sleep. But I can’t forget it, and maybe that was the idea.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that pieces of membrane waited a few days to emerge. If there hadn’t been something noticeable to grasp my attention, that tiny piece of firm red tissue would have been lost without ever being acknowledged. I would never have known of the possible existence of another child in my womb. And it seems clear to me that this child desperately needed to be acknowledged and remembered.
Maybe he/she knew that I was going to doubt my abilities to welcome any more children into our home? Maybe he/she knew that I would consider closing up the baby shop for good? Maybe that explains the urgency in that whisper? Retrospect certainly lends weight and power to that one word: “Mom!” Now, looking back, that one word multiplies into a torrent of potential meaning in my mind… “YOU are my mother. I’m coming back to YOU. Please don’t forget me…”
We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true, especially when I’m in a room with my family and keep looking around for the one who’s missing, only to realize we’re all already in the room. Or when my baby girl’s face lights up in a huge grin, as though she’s looking at an invisible someone she adores, sitting or standing next to me.
Thinking and writing about it all, I can feel that bit of sadness and loss fading away, leaving peace and understanding in its place. And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.
P.S. I gave birth to a baby boy in my dreams two nights ago.