‘I am not sure you are ready to hear this but it’s twins,’ the midwife said.
My husband Dan and I looked at each other, happy but completely shocked.
The midwife explained that the twins were in the same sac and sharing a placenta, known as ‘monochorionic-monoamniotic twins’. This was potentially risky – the babies could suffocate one another, or one could take the majority of the food.
But my pregnancy with my first son George, who was four, hadn’t been plain sailing and despite a traumatic birth he was fine, so I had hope that everything would be okay this time round as well.
I was 15 weeks and four days into my pregnancy when I went for my next scan. Dan and I had been getting more and more excited and that morning, I had woken up with butterflies, ready to see my babies.
In the waiting room, I looked around at the other expectant mothers and wondered if my children would be at school with theirs. I couldn’t help but go online as I waited and hit order on a few sweet bits of clothing.
Dan and I were called in and I lay on the bed, smiling ear to ear as the sonographer probed my belly. Before I could make anything out on the screen, she turned it towards her.
I stared at Dan and silently pleaded for some kind of reassurance. The room was still for what felt like hours – a deafening silence. Then the sonographer placed her hand on my leg and said she was sorry.
I asked what she meant – had something happened? Had one died?
‘They are both gone,’ she said.
She stood up to get the doctor and as she left the room, I screamed. The future I planned, the family I pictured, the dreams I’d had, were all shattered.
Once the doctor confirmed the news, Dan and I were ushered into a side room. Through the shock and the tears, I asked when I’d be having the operation to remove my babies.
Gently, the doctor replied that I had to be induced two days later and would have to give birth. At 16 weeks, he said, there was no other way.
I had been scared of giving birth for as long as I could remember – the multiple chick flicks and soaps I’d seen depicting traumatic births probably didn’t help. I was the only woman I knew who was relieved when a low-lying placenta required a c-section for George.
Dan and I walked out of the hospital carrying a bereavement guide instead of my scan picture.
We discussed the baby moon we had planned. I dreaded running into people in our small community and having to repeat what happened over and over so we decided to still go away. But having only ordered maternity holiday clothes, I needed to go shopping.
I was paying when a woman came over, looked at my bump and asked me when I was due.
I felt my bottom lip quivering but couldn’t face telling her that I had two dead babies inside me so I just muttered my due date.
I prayed for the ground to swallow me up. I just wanted the babies gone, out of me. Every time I glanced down I was reminded of what I no longer had. That night I sat in the bath, sobbed uncontrollably and asked them what I had done wrong to mean they couldn’t stay.
When the day of the birth came, Dan and I left George with his grandparents and drove to the hospital. I was shaking, terrified of labour as well as what I might see. Would my babies look hurt? Sad? Would they look scary? I couldn’t shake the guilt that my body had let them down.
We were put into the ‘Forget Me Not’ suite. The room wasn’t as clinical as I had pictured it but it still seemed filled with sadness. I had never, ever imagined that I would have to give birth to two dead babies.
The doctor gave me morphine to help with the pain, then the midwife inserted a tablet to induce labour and it began fairly quickly. I bounced on a swiss ball for hours and when I stood up, my waters went. My babies were born within 30 minutes.
I was sick and out of it from the morphine, but after a nap I managed to hold them. We’d arranged for a local priest to come and do a blessing, but once that was over Dan I left the hospital with nothing but my bag of blood stained clothes.
We spent our babymoon in mourning. I tried to have the best time I could for George – we had told him that twins turned into angels after I gave birth – but I just felt vacant.
I had to continuously remind myself that the babies were gone; I felt like I let everyone around me down and agonised over the fact my body did not do as it was supposed to. As a mother, why couldn’t I protect them?
Nine months on and I still haven’t parted with their ashes, which sit on a shelf in the front room.
We are often so conscious of other people’s feelings that we forget our own. I haven’t allowed myself to formally grieve – I am worried how low I would get if I let myself go, and I am not sure if I could ever pull myself back.
George often asks about his siblings and I hear him praying for one that isn’t sick so he can play with them, which is devastating. And whenever he comes across a white feather, he brings them over excitedly to us to show that the babies have been to visit.
However, I am lucky to have had people around me acknowledge my loss. My heart goes out to anyone that goes home to empty houses after losing a baby.
There are times when you simply can’t find the words, but that’s okay – as is the jealousy that rises up every time you see a pregnancy announced, even if it’s your best friend.
I now know it is normal to not feel normal. My life was forever changed in that moment I was told my twins had died. I knew I would never be the same person again.
I also learned that miscarriage is devastating, no matter how far along your pregnancy is.