Remembering the Other
Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. In years past, I would have a moment of silence for my friends and anyone else who had reason to observe this day. It never occurred to me until this year that I was one of them. Our surrogate pregnancy with Daniel started out as a twin pregnancy. Our first ultrasound was at around 9 weeks, and we were able to see clearly two sacs and two embryos but only one heartbeat.
I don’t know why I never considered that we had lost a pregnancy. Maybe it was because we never had the opportunity to think of our pregnancy as a twin pregnancy; by the time we had the ultrasound, the other embryo had died. Maybe because I preferred to focus on the huge positive that we still had a wriggling embryo who became a wriggling and active baby and now little boy. After all, that was one more wriggling, thriving embryo than we had ever had before.
The truth is, though, I’m still haunted by the vanished twin. The other sac and embryo is present in our ultrasound pictures from weeks 9-12. My excitement at being able to show Daniel his first “baby” pictures is tempered by the fact that I’ll have to explain what is so clearly visible next to him. I didn’t expect to feel so gutted that day when I saw the the lifeless embryo. When I find out someone is having twins, I feel slightly envious. It’s like a sore that has never quite healed all the way.
I suppose on a practical level, it would have been nice to have twins in order to have our parenting journey reach a neat, tidy end. It’s something I think about a lot lately as Daniel grows older and I wonder if our family building efforts will peter out quietly, the victim of circumstance, finances, age and time, despite having 5 embryos on ice. Having another child requires us to make a lot of decisions, decisions that will force us to weigh the needs and potential of our existing child against what it will take to bring a potential child into being. And as many of us in the ALI community know too well, what worked once may not work a second time, may never work again.
It may be that what I mourn with the loss of our twin is the belief that for a few weeks, the decision of having two children had been made for us. No need to try to roll the dice again. No need to long for a second child, yet feel guilty and worry that the longing means that Daniel is not enough. No need to try to justify the financial hardship to achieve a “spare,” no matter how desired.
When we were about two years into our infertility journey, I was in a dark and desperate place. There was someone in an online forum to which I belonged who was psychic and would perform readings. I paid her and asked my question: unsurprisingly, it was “will I have a child?” Her answer was that she saw twins or maybe one very active, strong-willed child with a lot of personality.
I might be reading too much into it, but I think her answer describes Daniel perfectly. I never asked about a second child and if given the chance, I’m not sure I would. I’m afraid to.
So tonight, I’ll light a candle for us too.