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Curtin University of Technology
Twins and Multiples

Loss of multiple(s)

"We don't know what to say to the school. They keep on talking about what is best for our twins. But I explode inside-"these are not our twins, they are our surviving triplets". Yet I say nothing. I know if I say this, they will think I am sick-'the other one died at birth, so be grateful you have two healthy twins.' What do we do?"

With the rapid increase in twins and higher multiples, this situation is going to become ever more common. It emphasises that a key event in the loss of a multiple is the loss of status. Not "status" in any derogatory sense, but simply that there is something very special about being the parent of multiple(s). When this mother tells the school about her two surviving triplets, she is not trying to say to the world "Look, I am special, one of the few women who have conceived triplets". What she is quite reasonably reluctant to do is to dismiss the third one she carried till birth.

The loss of a multiple goes well beyond the school situation but there are two specific situations which the school may face

(i) older siblings and the loss of twins or higher multiples. Telling all your classmates you are going to be the older brother or sister of multiples is really special. What happens when one or more dies, especially at birth?

Teachers can hardly be expected to be bereavement counsellors and they need to share the burden with others. But they need to keep this possible scenario in mind with every multiple pregnancy. Yes, bereavement can happen with any pregnancy. It is that it is so much more common with twins and especially with higher multiples, that means we need to signal this possibility.

(ii) discovering you are a multiple.
"One of our students went back to visit the extended family in Europe and discovered she was a twin. They thought she knew but it had been kept from her. What really grated was that her younger sister knew but had been told never to tell her."

This may be an extreme situation, but it may be into the school years before parents think a young person knows enough about babies and life or death to handle this information, putting more pressure on the school to handle their side of the situation.