November 12, 2019

Raising a Twinless Twin

“The ultrasound technician places the wand on my daughter’s lower abdomen and moves it slowly across taut skin glistening with gel. I’ve been holding my breath since being ushered into the dimly lit cubicle to witness a sonogram that will determine if my daughter is carrying one or more babies. She is a twin, a survivor who beat the odds after my harrowing pregnancy left us celebrating her life while enduring the keen-edged sorrow of her brother’s death.

A flurry of gray dots appears on the monitor. I turn away, but my daughter reaches across the distance of 30 years and squeezes my hand. She knows that the fault lines in my heart have never truly sealed; that at any given moment, the cracks can shift in a quake of grief triggered by memories of Jason, her twin who lived for only hours after their birth.

I was five months pregnant when an ultrasound revealed two babies like bright orbs of hope on the dark screen.

Before I could process the idea of twins, I learned that one baby had an unknown obstruction preventing his kidneys and lungs from developing properly. It was 1989. Although pioneers were developing strategies for fetal surgery, the idea of trying to save one twin at that stage would have put the life of the other at risk. My perinatologist warned that if baby “B” died during the remaining months of my pregnancy, I would have to carry him to term to keep his sister alive. If he survived until the delivery, his inability to breathe on his own after birth would ultimately be the cause of his death.”

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