46 years, 157 days, two and a half hours.
For the first two of those years I cried. So I was told, keeping all around me awake. I pined.
Forty-six years, 157 days, two and a half hours later I still pine the loss of my twin. Legend has it that we were both a mistake. My twin never survived the error. My mother almost didn’t. There was much of me and little of my twin. I had what was rightfully mine, together with what was rightfully hers.
I made my debut into this world a murderer. So legend has it. That I know not to be true. The physical body of my twin died at birth, but she has always been part of me. We have played together as children, we talk and share many things. We live as one.
For forty-six years, 157 days, two and a half hours, these feelings dared not to be shared. Who could possibly understand? Who could believe the way that I felt deep, deep inside, deeper than any other person could ever reach!
A good friend told me about the Lone Twin Network. I wrote. I waited, not knowing what to expect. I opened the mail. The Lone Twin Network and Newsletter. I read, glued. There were others who felt as I did. I cried. I cried for my twin, for myself and for those who have lost twins. Some at birth, others as children, many as adults. Twins all. Taken peacefully, suddenly, restfully or violently – all taken from us painfully. I tried to write; too many tears. I could not see. I telephoned; conversation was impossible through the sobbing. Forty-six years, 157 days, two and a half hours later I was for the first time speaking of the way I felt about my twin. Somebody was there to help, to understand, to reassure. I felt helpless, but gained strength from their strength and understanding.
I cannot explain how I would have coped with that day without the Network, or even if that day would have ever come. Neither can I write how glad I am that it did come, for now my twin has recognition from people other than me. It was as if a sun had burst into her identity, giving it light and warmth in her own right.
For forty-six years, 157 days, two and a half hours later, both my twin and I have friends who know and understand.
Dawn, I miss you dearly and always will, even though you are, and always will be, such an essential and integral part of me.
I was described as a ‘mardy’ baby, which means I was rather miserable. With hindsight I would guess that I was grieving for my twin sister Jacqueline, who was strangled by the cord during her birth.
I cannot remember a time when I did not know I was a twin. But in my family this was quite a talking point as my mother gave birth to a second set of twins two years after we were born. I had a brother and a sister who both survived. I think that always knowing I am a twin made it easier to accept than if I had been told about this later in life.
The most difficult times in my childhood were when the three of us argued, two girls against one boy – then my sister would suddenly change sides and it would be The Twins against me. It always took me by surprise and if I went to my parents to have a moan and to say that I wished I had my twin to turn to, their reply, which was supposed to comfort me, was that if my twin had survived they probably wouldn’t have had the second set! It never really helped me, but obviously comforted them.
I never really asked much about what happened to my twin, but understood that she, as a stillborn baby, had been buried with a woman at Lodge Hill Cemetery in Birmingham. When I was coming up to my fiftieth birthday I rang Birmingham Cemeteries and was sent a map of the cemetery marked with the position of my twin’s grave.
My own children asked for more details than I ever did and my parents were always very open with them as they had been with me.
On my birthday I went with my father, sister and husband to look for the grave. It was a bit rainy but this seemed appropriate, and after a little searching we found the grave with a peg marker which the staff had put there to help me. I left a chrysanthemum, my birth month’s flower, and a sprig of rosemary (for remembrance) on the grave. I took a photo, which is quite a comfort. It is the only direct link to my twin.
I don’t think you ever get over the loss of a twin, even if you lost him or her at birth. There is always a feeling that you are searching for someone close enough to replace them, but of course you never can, and it is always such a disappointment when you face the fact that you can’t.
(Chairman of LTN)
Jigsaws can be frustrating and confusing but as more and more pieces slot into place you feel a mounting sense of excitement. Adapting a Forrest Gump quote, he might have said “Life is like a jigsaw, except you don’t have a picture on the box to know how it’s going to turn out.”
My life has been very much like that jigsaw which has become difficult to complete because a key piece was removed at the time of my birth. I had a twin brother or sister who was undiagnosed before delivery and in the distant days of post-war obstetrics, my birth was very problematic, with the result that both my mother and I almost died. After I was delivered the midwife realised there was a second baby and that is all I know, other than he or she did not make it.
Interestingly I only learned of this situation when I was in my early 40s and my wife commented during a programme on twins on the TV, “Well, as a twin you would understand that feeling.” I was extremely puzzled and asked her what she meant. My late mother had told her of the circumstances of my birth but had never told me! I queried this with my brother and sister who both commented that they were surprised that I had never spoken of it. Strangely, I had always felt a huge sense of something missing and when I qualified a counsellor, I specialised in counselling twins, followed anything about twins on TV or literature and always knew it was really important to get the names of twins correct.
Some years later I discovered a UK organisation, The Lone Twin Network (LTN) which exists to support surviving twins who have lost their sibling. I always felt that as my twin had died at birth, I would probably be less affected than other people but I have never been able to shake off the sense of loss that I felt. Because my father died when I was seven years old, I always put my sense of loss down to his death and my attempts form close friendships to combat loss and loneliness was due to his death. During my childhood and adolescence I was not at all close to my younger brother and sister or to my mother so we drifted apart when I was 19 and I hardly saw them for some years.
After over 60 years I decided to address the issue finally. I had been a member of the LTN for several years and even set up a website for them but had never attended a meeting. I went to a LTN regional meeting and met with some 25 or so other surviving twins in central Manchester. Although about half those present had attended previous meetings, there was a slight tension in the room but gradually as members started to share their stories, led by the organiser of the event and the chair of the LTN — both are named Jill coincidentally — everyone relaxed. Although the stories were deeply moving the meeting never became mawkish or depressing. I was shaken by the number of stories from the surviving twins who, like me, had lost their twin at birth. Most significantly I began to recognise traits in myself that the others spoke of. For instance, several had experienced real relationship problems with siblings which sadly had continued throughout their lives. Fortunately I’m now quite close to my brother and sister.
The biggest light bulb for me was a realisation that the real closeness I have never been able to find in friendships is probably unattainable. The simple reason is I was trying to replicate the intimacy of a relationship with my twin. Many of you may feel that because I never knew my twin after birth and indeed had never even been told about my twin until the second half of my life, my expectations are unrealistic. I can only say that nine months in the womb is a long time in a very small place. All of the other birth-lost twins expressed a similar view.
The recurring theme that was expressed time and time again in the group was how helpful it was to be an environment where everyone understood the unique loss that is only experienced by a twin losing their sibling. Several spoke of other family bereavements but none came close to the total devastation felt at the death of a twin. With one birth in 50 being twins, it is no wonder that the work of the Lone Twin Network is so needed.