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Vanishing Twin Syndrome :: A Mix of Grief and Gratitude

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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