Vanishing Twin Syndrome

Today my baby is 5 months and 1 day old. It should be a day of celebration. However, this time last year we were told the devastating news that E’s twin had not survived and at 10 weeks there was no heartbeat from the second sac any more. In medical terms this is known as vanishing twin syndrome (VTS).

I had a hunch I was expecting twins. I had horrible morning sickness, everything I was experiencing was to the extreme. I took a pregnancy test a day after I was due and the two lines appeared immediately. When I had it confirmed at the GP her comments were “ooooh, that appeared very quickly and is a very strong result”. Only a couple of days after ovulation I accused my usual hot chocolate jaunt of changing their soy milk and going back to the crappy cheap stuff (not bonsoy). They hadn’t changed it, my taste buds were already changing dramatically only a few days after implantation!

However, at about 6 and a half weeks my symptoms subsided again. I was relieved, but worried at the same time. I just had an inkling something was wrong. Our first OB appointment was during the last week of February. I remember our OB telling us that we were expecting twins, however one fetus was underdeveloped for 9 weeks. She wasn’t very optimistic about the chances of bubs 2 surviving. The next week I was very careful. I did everything I could to give bubs 2 the best chance at surviving. I rested lots. I tried to relax and not stress. Unfortunately, bubs 2 didn’t survive and at the 10 week appointment there was no heartbeat.

The thing about VTS, is that apart from the ultrasound, there’s no physical evidence of a miscarriage. There’s no bleeding or cramping. The fetus is absorbed by mum, or in some rare cases by the other twin (this usually happens when VTS occurs during the later stages of pregnancy).

When the loss was confirmed, I bottled all my emotions up inside and didn’t grieve for E’s twin. I just soldiered on. I have a healthy baby, some people don’t even have that, I am fortunate. However, any loss requires grieving. I found this out the hard way after E was born. I still held guilt from bubs 2 loss, blaming myself for losing him/her. Combine that with difficulties getting pregnant in the first place, emergency cesarean, hospitalised for mastitis 2 weeks after the cesarean and I was an emotional wreck. I kept shrugging it all off, trying to be superwoman and convincing myself I have a healthy baby, I have no right to be sad, anxious and upset about everything going wrong. There’s people out there who have lost babies, who are struggling to get pregnant. I had no right to be feeling the way I was. I had a wonderful healthy baby.

I also had supply issues, another failure of mine. Breastfeeding was not working out well, with E constantly cluster feeding and me struggling through more bouts of mastitis. My energy levels were depleted, I wasn’t getting any sleep as I was overly anxious about anything and everything or I was trying to massage out the lumps from the blocked ducts. I was riddled in guilt, constantly blaming myself for everything going wrong and always thinking the worse was going to happen. I was not living in the moment at all. I also started to resent E because of her cluster feeding.

I cracked. It was bound to happen. I was constantly crying for 3 days straight at about the 7 and a half week mark. I lost it in the middle of the pharmacy, on the verge of a panic attack. I wasn’t coping with my husband going to work. It was so unlike me. My family and husband were so supportive. My husband took me to my GP and I was diagnosed with PND and we created a mental health plan and was referred to a psychologist. I knew I wasn’t myself. I knew from all my psychology studies that I was a prime candidate for mental health issues at the time. I knew the earlier I seeked therapy, the better I would feel. And I’m so glad I did.

With the support of my husband and extended family, I made the choice to formula feed so hubby could help out with feeds. Instead of cluster feeding, E became very unsettled. E was then diagnosed with reflux. She was cluster feeding as breast milk is a natural antacid. So she was just using my boobs to feel better. I didn’t know this at the time though. Secondly, I came to terms with not having a natural birth. I look back on it now and still wonder why I was so upset about having a cesarean. I had placenta previa (that was mistakenly determined clear by an ultrasound in week 33). If I hadn’t had a cesarean, E and I would not have survived! Finally, I came to terms with bubs 2 loss. It wasn’t my fault. I did nothing wrong. I finally grieved for the loss of Ashleigh.

The things I have learned from my experiences:

  • Find a good GP close to home BEFORE you give birth. The important parts of this are CLOSE TO HOME (not work, you’re not at work while on maternity leave) and BEFORE! I have an awesome GP close to home now, but should have sought one out before the pregnancy.
  • Deal with losses, no matter how great or small.
  • Breastfeeding is not natural. It is hard work. Join up to Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) before you give birth and attend one of their workshops. I rang them numerous times, but face to face is way better.
  • Live in the moment and stop worrying about what ifs. Trust your motherly instinct and never doubt it. So much had gone wrong, I was preoccupied with what was going to go wrong next.
  • If you are feeling overly anxious, depressed or just not yourself — seek help. Talk to your GP. The earlier you sort yourself out, the better it is in the long run. Don’t feel ashamed about asking for help, there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. It takes a super woman to acknowledge they’re not Superwoman!
My happy and healthy E!
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