Tribute to a stillborn twin

Guest post

In order to widen the range of perspectives demonstrated in this blog, I’m inviting guest contributions from others who’ve had experiences of the issues I write about.

For this first guest post, I’m very grateful to Phil for letting me publish this tribute to his twin brother who was stillborn.

When I was eight years old, I was seated at the dining table eating my breakfast, ready to run off to primary school, when my parents dropped a bombshell: ‘By the way you are a twin!’

This may not be the exact way I was told, but my memory certainly recalls the news being brief. My parents told me that I was a surviving identical twin… and that was it. Time for school.

I can genuinely say that, very oddly, I was not surprised, somehow this news made sense of this strange feeling of ‘something is missing’ that I had sensed all of my eight years on the planet. However I was packed off to school, where or course, being eight, and in a somewhat state of surprise, and not knowing WHAT ON EARTH to do with this new piece of information, I told anyone who would listen.

Merciless bullying followed, and being from a highly religious family, I couldn’t share with my family why I was being bullied, they had told me not to tell ANYONE. Furthermore, my questions regarding my twin, my birth, why he had died, why I survived, who was born first etc? Where greeted with the response ‘don’t be morbid!’

My Catholic guilt took over. I listened to the priest at mass talk blood-curdlingly of purgatory and limbo that awaited any soul NOT baptised into the Roman Church. It did not take long for my young mind to make the connection: one twin died, one twin living, dead twin’s death is living twin’s fault, dead twin not baptised, dead twin in purgatory which is living twin’s fault!!!

My parents’ reluctance to talk through my fears and the Church reinforced my twisted thinking. And to be fair mum and dad had two other children to tend to.

In the pre-internet age, finding any information on how and why my brother died was difficult, so I turned to my family priest for guidance. I tearfully told him, in hushed tones in a corner of my empty family church. I described the nightmares and horrors I had imagined of my poor little baby brother being tortured eternally in purgatory or limbo and how I felt that this was all entirely my fault.

At this point I was delivered another bomb shell: ‘Oh, we’ve decided purgatory and limbo don’t exist anymore!’

As I walked out of the church, my Catholic/religious faith collapsing around me, I resolved to find out the truth.

So I contacted the maternity hospital where I was born, arranged a meeting, and met the midwife, long since retired, who delivered me. Finally I was told the truth, my questions answered, my guilt was exploded by her Scud missile of honesty. I now know how and why my twin died, I even know where his little body is buried. I know it wasn’t my fault, and that he would have been severely disabled had he survived. Life can be so terribly bitter sweet, if that is even the correct phrase – it doesn’t cut it in my head or heart.

We were born in the ’60s, two months early, the medical team induced us as they could only detect my heartbeat. My mother had preeclampsia and toxaemia. She nearly died, to leave my father to raise two other children under ten. My twin brother was still born, I weighed less than two pounds but was alive, just! My mother and I were given the last rites. I was baptised and confirmed that day, the doctors said there was little chance that I would survive. But I did, I still have the silver tankard that the nurses hastily organised a whip round for. I also still have small hands, ears, short stature, and my eyes are a nightmare for opticians, odd cones, stigmatism’s in every conceivable direction, bizarre rods. My contact lenses have to be specially made specially!

A photo of Phil at about the time he found out about his twin

A photo of Phil at about the time he found out about his twin

I recently have been fascinated with a BBC programme The Making of You. The last episode gave the startling revelation that the foetus can see in the womb, my mind hearing this suddenly was flooded with the joyous knowledge that even though I cannot remember, I have seen my twin brother and he must have seen me. This, recently discovered gem has brought me tremendous comfort.

I think about my brother every day. I wonder whether it was a blessing that he didn’t have to endure the hardships and challenges that life would surely have thrown at him, but more often than not I find myself wondering ‘What if…..?’

But most of all I miss him.

Please contact me at ed@twinned.info if you’d like to write a guest post. I’m keen to hear other lone twin’s insights, or any experiences relating to growing up with a disabled sibling, grief, loss or traumatic bereavement.

About Ed Green

Writer and editor, Yorkshire bred, now living and working in Central London. This blog charts the writing of my memoir 'Twinned' - life with and without my disabled sister. It features disability issues, cerebral palsy, traumatic death, bereavement, twinless twins, guest posts, and throws in the occasional 'off topic' post.
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