15 September 2022

The day we lost Oscar and Oliver was the day my life, as I knew it anyway, also ended. That might sound dramatic but that’s honestly how it felt, and still does. It’s almost as though my life has been divided into two parts – before loss, and after loss. I’ve had to learn to accept things will never be as they once were and neither will I, and be ok with that.

I’ll never forget the day we found out we were expecting twins. It’s something we’d joked about, given there are twins in my family. But we never really believed it and went into our first early reassurance scan just praying and hoping there’d be one heartbeat and a viable pregnancy. When we were told there were two you could have heard a pin drop – initially I couldn’t take it in and was lost for words (which is very unlike me!). I’ll admit that to start with I panicked, and reading Google only fuelled that. In our early scans we were advised our babies were sharing a placenta and were identical, which I came to learn presented various risks to both them and me (it later turned out they actually had their own placentas and were non-identical, but their positioning had made it look like there was just one). I had many a sleepless night worrying about how I’d get through a high-risk twin pregnancy, and look after two babies at the end of it when I had no experience of even looking after one! But in time, as things progressed and we passed important milestones, my confidence started to grow, and I couldn’t help but feel excited about what was to come. We both were. It really did feel like everything was falling into place, after us talking about having a family pretty much since we first became a couple. I felt like I was part of an extra special club which not many people get to join – not only was I pregnant but I was expecting twins! Looking back, I’ll treasure that time forever, when I was naïve and able to believe things would work out. When we began telling people our news, I delighted in seeing their reactions to not only being told I was pregnant, but that it was twins. We’d tag that bit on the end and watch as it sunk in amongst our family and friends.

I had pretty much a textbook pregnancy, although at times it was tough going, especially as I got bigger and bigger and my body started to feel the strain of carrying two babies. But all that drastically changed in the space of a few days, as did life as I knew it. With little warning, just over 22 weeks into my pregnancy, I went into premature labour (although at the time I didn’t realise that was what was happening – no-one did). It was only at my insistence something wasn’t right that I was admitted to hospital. Oscar and Oliver entered, and also left this world, on 5th February this year in the early hours of that morning in extremely traumatic circumstances. Oscar, who always seemed the livelier and more mischievous of the two, decided he couldn’t wait any longer and was born whilst I was still on the maternity ward I’d been admitted to. Due to how ill I’d become, Oliver, who was always a bit more reserved, then had to be delivered in theatre a couple of hours later. Oscar passed during his delivery but my husband was able to spend a couple of precious hours with Oliver whilst I was being operated on, before he also slipped away to join his brother. On that day I became a part of a very different club – the one no-one would ever choose to be a part of, the bereaved parents club.

At times, even all these months on, I still can’t believe this happened to us. In those early days I felt like I was in a living nightmare, which I was going to wake up from soon. But over time it dawned on me I wasn’t, and this was now my life. There are still big parts of that early period which are a blur – I think when you go through any massive trauma you effectively enter survival mode, which is what we both did, stumbling from one day to the next doing the bare minimum needed to get by. Looking back, I don’t know how we did it. Some days it was literally about putting one foot in front of the other and taking things an hour at a time. I spent lot of that period searching for answers as to why this had happened to us, angry at the sheer unfairness of it all. I’d often wonder why other people got to keep their babies when we didn’t. At times I’d ask myself what we’d done to deserve this, as we were good people just trying to be parents like so many others. I noticed pregnant women and twins everywhere, and at times it felt like the world was mocking us. There were points at which I didn’t know how I was ever going to get past those feelings and found it hard to imagine being happy again.

One thing which did bring me comfort during that time, and one of the reasons I volunteered to share my story, was reading about other people’s experiences. I found Twins Trust quite early on after one of our bereavement midwives mentioned them. I soon realised I wasn’t alone and there were many others also walking this journey, all at various stages. Hearing they’d been able to survive the trauma of losing a child, or children, and how far they’d managed to come was truly inspiring. It gave me a sense of hope I hadn’t previously had, and for the first time in a while I had belief things could get better. Over time I was able to build myself a wonderful support network, both through the charity and also reaching out on other forums. I’ve made some friends for life. Whilst I already had great family and friends I’d honestly be lost without my fellow bereaved parents – you can say things to each other you might not otherwise be able to say, and there’s just this implicit understanding between you. There’s no pretences or explanations needed – you all just get it. Shared grief really does bond people like nothing else in my experience.

My progress has been slow and there have been various setbacks, which is also something else I’ve had to learn to accept. Someone told me grief isn’t linear, which really stayed with me as my experience has been anything but. Gradually though I started to have more good days, small wins, things which have made me smile again. Initially I’d set myself goals to strive towards, even if it was just going out for a walk or having coffee with a relative or friend. In the beginning I felt terribly guilty about that but know in my heart my boys would want me to continue living life in the best way I can.

I’ve also come to see some of the traits I now have as a gift from them, as they’re things I probably didn’t possess before, or at least not to the same degree. I’m a much more understanding person, more sensitive and more empathetic. I’ve also learnt I don’t have to please people all the time and it’s ok to say no and put yourself first, which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. This has done wonders for my mental health. I’ve also found I place value on different things now to what I did before – I used to always be up for a night out and had this need to constantly be out doing something whenever I had any free time. But now I’m quite happy just being at home with my husband or seeing a small group of family or friends for a low-key evening. I’ve learnt to savour simple things and find happiness in those moments, and to be more grateful for what I do have. That’s not to say I wasn’t before, but grief does change your perspective on things and makes you realise what’s truly important in life.

I still have a long way to go – this is an ongoing journey and something I know I’ll be on for the rest of my life. I’ve accepted that, and as much as I’d like to skip through the difficult parts I know I need to experience those to get to the better times. I also accept there’s no timeline for this, or right or wrong way to handle a situation. When I look back at what I’ve accomplished and the milestones I’ve managed to survive so far it gives me the strength to keep going and strive to do the best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt. Oscar and Oliver are tied into everything we are and everything we now do and will always be an important part of our family. So, I owe it to them to keep going and try to live the best life I can.  

Two wooden ducks