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Vanishing Twin Syndrome :: A Mix of Grief and Gratitude

Vanishing Twin Syndrome - Columbia SC Moms Blog

We recently (and quite unexpectedly) found out that we are expecting for the third time. Almost immediately after the positive pregnancy test, I was inundated with first trimester symptoms.

Only this time, it was different. The nausea and fatigue were unlike anything I experienced with my first two pregnancies. I was queasy or throwing up all the time. I could barely move off of the couch. I was completely exhausted despite sleeping 10+ hours every night.

And my belly? Holy cow, that baby bump came out of nowhere. Friends and family insisted I must be further along than I thought, but I had a different suspicion…

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I might be pregnant with twins.

The bump at only 8 weeks!

The bump at only 8 weeks!

I anxiously awaited my first doctor’s appointment. When the day finally arrived, I could hardly wait to sneak a peek at the little bean (or beans!) I held my breath as the ultrasound technician prodded around for what felt like an eternity. She spoke slowly as she pressed harder on my abdomen, “It… almost looks like… there is a second sac in there.”

She didn’t say anything else, so I figured it must have been a fluke.

Once in the exam room, the nurse asked how I had been feeling. I told her about my extreme symptoms and that’s when she explained what the ultrasound had shown. It appeared that it had indeed begun as a twin pregnancy. One twin was measuring right on track with a good, strong heartbeat. The other was no longer viable.

I was shocked and overcome by a wave of mixed emotions. I blinked back tears, determined not to cry in the office.

As I walked to my car, I struggled to process the news. On the one hand, I was deeply saddened by the loss of life, no matter how small. On the other, I was incredibly grateful for the healthy baby that I was still carrying. A part of me felt guilty for grieving, knowing that many who suffer this kind of loss do not have the same comfort.

As I did more research on my own, I learned that this occurrence has a name: Vanishing Twin Syndrome.

Unlike typical miscarriages that cause bleeding and loss of tissue, there are usually no symptoms at all. This is because the fetal tissue is either absorbed by the other twin or back into the mother’s body. (Isn’t the human body amazing?)

While not exactly common, more and more cases of Vanishing Twin Syndrome have been documented in recent years. This can likely be attributed to advances in ultrasound technology. Because women are having ultrasounds earlier, doctors are able to identify cases that may have gone unnoticed later on.

Earlier and higher resolution ultrasounds detect more cases of Vanishing Twin Syndrome.

Earlier and higher resolution ultrasounds detect more cases of Vanishing Twin Syndrome.

I also learned that the awkward combination of grief and gratitude is a completely normal response to Vanishing Twin Syndrome.

While I am still working through these contrasting emotions, I find peace through my faith in the Lord and his plan. The love and support of friends and family have been invaluable. As I told a close friend, “It feels strange to mourn the loss of something I didn’t know I had to lose.” She gently reminded me that we mourn the loss of what could have been.

So I’ll grieve for what will never be, and continue to give thanks for the blessing that remains.

Have you, or someone you know, experienced Vanishing Twin Syndrome? What words would you offer to someone struggling to process the mix of emotions?

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5 Responses to Vanishing Twin Syndrome :: A Mix of Grief and Gratitude

  1. Hilda Crowe
    Hilda Crowe April 15, 2016 at 3:06 am #

    I am so sorry for your loss! You are right, we mourn what could have been and I cannot imagine the mixed emotions that go along with this unique pregnancy.
    Wishing you health and strength as you carry your new baby!

  2. Nickie November 3, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    I don’t know how active this discussion is. I’m trying to find some support, as I’m going through this right now. I found out at 5 weeks that I was pregnant with twins. My husband and I were ecstatic. My Doctors office wanted to see me more frequently, and I would go every other week to get an ultrasound. Every single ultrasound was always great, both heartbeats around 170, both same size, both moving around. At 11 weeks we got another ultrasound and again, both looked fantastic same size etc., in fact, the tech said the placentas had formed separately and it was great news. Literally, the next week at 12w5days I went to the hospital to get my genetic testing and level 2 ultrasound and thought everything was going to be fine. I went by myself because I was confident, and didn’t have any worries. I found out in my ultrasound that baby b didn’t have a heartbeat. I was completely devastated and crushed. At the hospital it was medical and cold, and just felt like I was just another patient. It happened over a week ago, and I’m trying to find others that are going through this. I’ve been extremely emotional and almost in denial, that they made a mistake and the baby will come back (I know, it’s crazy). I still have the same extreme pregnancy symptoms like I did before. The throwing up, tired all the time, nausea, heartburn etc. My husband has been so supportive and my family too, but I just can’t stop thinking about it and crying. I feel like a piece of my heart has gone away. Although some remarks from people, it seemed like they were hinting at “accept it and move on”, I just can’t. I also am having a hard time in going to my next doctor appointment. I just have anxiety about the ultrasound and knowing what I will/will not see. If anyone else is going through this, can you please share? As I’m writing this, I am tearing up and just need to know that someone knows exactly what I’m going through. I feel alone and just need to vent. Thank you so much.

  3. Brandy November 21, 2017 at 11:09 pm #

    Trust me, i know how you feel. My son is 10-1/2 and i lost his twin. My emptiness, guilt and waves of many other emotions come and go. Even after all these years. It’s times like their birthday, Christmas, and even the smallest events and accomplishments that my emotions run very high. I get into a dark place and almost fall into depression. My heart breaks for you. It’s literally the most confusing life changing experience. My word of advice for you is cherish the surviving twin and never forget the vanishing twin. It too was a life.

  4. Grace December 9, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    I learned I’m having twins at 6 mos, though twin B has no heartbeat yet, I was hopeful and positive as it could have been just too early. I just went for my second ultrasound at 8 weeks earlier today, and I was crushed. Not only did twin B still had no heartbeat but the gestational sac also stopped developing at 5 weeks. I’m confused and conflicted and I just don’t know how to feel. I should be happy that twin A is healthy and has s strong heartbeat but i’m grieving twin B. And then i’m guilty thinking that my grief would affect twin A but i just can’t help it. The loss is just too much to handle plus the conflicting emotions with it.

    • Grace December 9, 2017 at 8:37 am #

      Sorry, i meant ^6 weeks

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