190111 Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo. Image Credit: AFP

When football star Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner, Georgina Rodriguez, announced that one of their twins had died last month, they were devastated. And quite possibly emotionally muddled, for one of the twins – their daughter – did survive. She was later introduced to the world by Ronaldo in a social media post with the caption ‘forever love’.

This gut-twisting medley of sadness and celebration is something that haunts many families with multiples – for each time you have more than a single child in the womb, competing for nutrients and resources, the risks of them all not making it to term rises.

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According to the website Reproductive Facts, by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, twins naturally occur in one in 250 pregnancies; triplets in one in 10,000; and quadruplets in about one in 700,000. The use of fertility treatments tend to spike these odds. Besides them, a person’s race, age, heredity or history of prior pregnancy may increase your chance of having fraternal twins.

What is the difference between identical and fraternal twins?
Identical twins (also called monozygotic twins) result from the fertilization of a single egg by a single sperm, with the fertilized egg then splitting into two. Identical twins share the same genomes and are always of the same sex. In contrast, fraternal (dizygotic) twins result from the fertilization of two separate eggs with two different sperm during the same pregnancy. They share half of their genomes, just like any other siblings. Fraternal twins may not be of the same sex or have similar appearances.
Source: National Human Genome Research Institute

Losing one baby is hard enough, but how can you keep the grief from overwhelming you, especially when you have a new life to look after? Bene Katabua, Educational Psychologist at Intercare Health Center in Abu Dhabi, says: “Grief is incredibly complex, and can feel overwhelming. This is one of the many reasons why people tend to push aside the emotions that come with grieving. Additionally, loved ones will often do the same, encouraging parents not to dwell on the loss and to put all their focus and attention on the surviving baby. Although the intentions may be good, the outcome could prove harmful. Be careful not to deny the feelings of grief and loss. That can unexpectedly be taken out on the surviving baby. Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychology, warns us, ‘Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways’.”

Accept and let it go

In the book, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom, there is a poignant chapter on grieving paving the path to acceptance. To get past the curtain of sadness, it is important to feel the pain. Katabua says: “There is a popular phrase in psychology for dealing with difficult emotions: ‘sitting in the suck’. Rather than pushing aside our negative feelings and focusing only on the positive, it's healthier to take moments to just sit in the suck (without getting stuck).

“This means noticing those incredibly conflicting emotions, naming them, feeling them, and allowing them to pass. These could be feelings of guilt, of anger, resentment, sadness, etc. This is not the easy route, but it is the most beneficial in the long run - both personally as well as for the surviving baby.”

Feeling guilty about the life you’ve had to say goodbye to? Remember, says Katabua, that celebrating and enjoying the surviving baby does not negate the existence and loss of the lost twin. They were siblings, and one does not replace the other.

Keep a little memory box, she suggests, where you home pregnancy scans and announcements, journal entries, special gifts, etc. for the little one. For the surviving twin, you may choose to maintain a baby book with locks of hair or a tooth inside, but for the one who has left too, keeping memorabilia can be a way to heal, to think about and to honour.

“It is important to remember that the conflict between mourning and celebrating is completely normal - especially in the beginning. It would be incredibly beneficial for parents to receive support in this time - be it bereavement counselling, journaling, etc.,” she adds.


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