My first feeling was shock, followed by a messy crush of emotions—disappointment, guilt, relief.
After enduring three years of invasive fertility treatments, I could read the grainy fish-eye screen of an ultrasound scan. Black for fluid, white for tissue. I saw the outlines of two black ovals as expected, but one was noticeably smaller than the other. The ultrasound technician took several measurements, then excused herself to get the doctor.
I knew what was coming.
Together, the tech and maternal-fetal medicine specialist explained to my husband and me that one fetus was measuring on time at 11 weeks, but the other had stopped developing around 9 weeks.
There was no heartbeat. That twin was gone.
In the coming days, there would be no cramping or bleeding, no clots passed. I still carried one healthy twin, and the other tissue was reabsorbed into my body without fanfare. By my next ultrasound scan, there was no sign it had ever existed.
I didn’t grieve the loss of my son’s twin, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Each person deals with loss differently, and each loss is as unique as the circumstances surrounding it.
Some women feel sadness, some are stricken with unspeakable despair. Others acknowledge what happened and simply keep going.
I knew at 6-weeks pregnant I was carrying twins, the result of our third attempt to transfer embryos into my uterus. Twice we had implanted a single embryo, and twice we were unsuccessful. This time we hedged our bets by transferring two. Two weeks later, a blood test came back positive. Two weeks after that, I saw two round balls of fluid floating in my abdomen, displayed on the ultrasound screen in my fertility doctor’s office. Even before the ultrasound tech confirmed what I saw, I was flooded with worry.
Having grown up in a dysfunctional family, I had no idea how to raise one child, much less two at the same time. After years of doctor’s appointments, tests, and procedures—and now rising hormones—I already felt overwhelmed with anxiety and underwater with the changes that were coming.
I was panicked.
At 8-weeks pregnant, I heard two distinct heartbeats via the Doppler in my obstetrician’s office. I cried. Not with happiness, but with fear over how I—so fragile myself—was going to manage two helpless newborns at once. On some level, I wondered if this was retribution for defying the childfree plans God or Mother Nature had for me and superseding them with science. I knew there was a chance, but twins were not what I wanted.
Then suddenly, one was gone. I felt sadness.
Not an overwhelming anguish that stayed with me like a fresh scar, but a tender bruise that would heal in time.
I had desperately wished for a baby girl to name after my mother, who died when I was 26. I feared I had miscarried my only chance to raise a daughter and keep my mom’s memory alive in her.
For weeks, I struggled under tremendous guilt, as though I had wished the baby away. Had I cried so hard or been so distraught over the idea of twins that I caused my body to reject it? Had this growing thing felt me pushing it away emotionally and willfully took its leave?
I asked whether I had done something wrong by continuing to take my antidepressants or practicing yoga with its twists and inversions. Both my obstetrician and the specialist assured me that I had not, that miscarriage is very common, and it was likely faulty genetics that had caused the fetus to stop developing. Like most things about my pregnancies, this had nothing to do with me and everything to do with circumstances I couldn’t control.
My son continued to grow and develop and was born healthy. Though it may sound callous, I can confidently say I am glad he was a singleton. I had a turbulent, difficult transition to motherhood, and I’m not sure I would have survived twins.
I’m also not certain my husband and I would have tried for more children—we’d always planned on just two. If we’d had twins, it’s unlikely we would have attempted three additional embryo transfers that eventually, with our last two remaining embryos, resulted in the birth of my daughter, whom I can’t imagine life without. Despite my initial loss, at the end of our long and arduous journey, we had the exact family we’d envisioned. Maybe this is why I don’t miss the twin I didn’t have.
There are many reasons why a woman may not mourn after miscarriage.
It’s possible she didn’t plan to, or didn’t want to, become pregnant at the time. Perhaps the loss came so early, she had yet to feel attachment. Some women may find comfort or reassurance in the biological fact that miscarriage is the body’s way of ending a pregnancy gone developmentally wrong. Sometimes there is no definitive reason, it just is. Many emotions defy explanation.
There is no wrong way to feel about an early pregnancy loss. There’s nothing cold-hearted, unfeeling, or cruel about moving on from this experience that happens to so many women and couples. A woman can still feel this way and be a warm and attentive mother, a devoted partner, both, or neither if she chooses. A reaction doesn’t define you; it’s a small fraction of who you are.
Although I didn’t grieve, I hold compassion and understanding in my heart for my friends and family whose responses to miscarriage were different from mine. May we gently carry each other through.