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A different kind of grief

By Aideen McCanny – @ivfmumblings

Heartbroken yet happy might sound like a contradiction but it’s the best way to describe how I feel right now. Like many, over the years, I’ve lost people close to me. An ex-boyfriend, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. I grieved in what society deems the appropriate way; privately and behind closed doors, responding with: “I’m okay” when anyone asked.

I thought I knew what grief was until I suffered the loss of my son at 7 weeks. The loss I experienced in my past didn’t prepare me for the sheer agonising pain that followed. My heart did and still does physically ache.

My loss is raw, with our little boy Eoin having passed just a month ago. I’ve been told that it gets easier over time, which is something that I find hard to believe right now. While it’s uncertain how my grief will unfold, what I do know is that however you choose to grieve the loss of a child is your prerogative. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to do this.

For me, my situation is little more complex. You see, Eoin was a twin. We never got to bring him home from hospital but his twin sister Lucia is here with us now.

The past 5 years have been filled with heartache, endless tests and IVF cycles as we struggled to achieve what comes so easily to others. Finally, our seventh IVF transfer was a success and just a few weeks after seeing those long-awaited for lines on a pregnancy test, I found out we were expecting twins. I thought once I got pregnant, things would be easier. However, after a difficult pregnancy, pre-eclampsia and an emergency C-section under general anaesthetic, the babies arrived at just 30 weeks. What followed was weeks spent in the NICU of two hospitals.

Initially, things were going well. Both babies were making progress and we were counting down the days until we got to bring them home. However, Eoin contracted NEC, a severe infection in the bowel, which sadly is common in premature babies. He seemingly started to get better before we were told he needed emergency surgery. A week later, he was back in theatre again but this time we were met with the words: “There is nothing we can do”. In that second, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t understand how our little boy, so full of life and fight could be taken from us.

Just a couple of days later, Eoin took his last breath. And a few days after that, we brought his sister Lucia home.

Losing a twin is devastating. It’s a strange kind of grief and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. “How are you?” is a question I’m asked daily and there’s no straightforward way to answer it. The truth is, I don’t really know how I am. It’s a conflicting thing to feel heartbroken and happy all at once; my heart aches for Eoin, yet I’m overjoyed every time I look at Lucia.

The loss of a twin is a whole new type of grief. It’s hard to describe. I question everything I do. I get dressed and put makeup on as usual every day, which is something I questioned when someone commented that I “look well considering”. It made me wonder if I’m not grieving in the typical way you would expect, but then again, these aren’t normal circumstances.

I’ve learned never to judge someone’s grief. We’ve been out for walks, gone shopping and even had lunch out so, to the outsider, it looks like we have it pretty good. Friends and family have come to visit us and we’ve laughed and enjoyed doing all the typical things you do when you bring a new baby home. We’ve loved every second of having Lucia home but that doesn’t mean that inside we aren’t aching. I spend much of the day thinking about my little Superman and how different things would be if he was still here.

During my pregnancy, I planned a future for them. Everything was done in twos. Our nursery was decorated for these two babies, we bought a double pram, read all the books on what to do when you’re having two and even bought a bigger car. The hardest thing was modifying those plans to suit just one.

I wish I had some powerful words of wisdom to offer – a quick fix to mend your grief – but I doubt that’s possible. People say to take it day by day but we’re taking it hour by hour. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a month from now but I know that however I choose to get there and however I’m feeling is valid. Grief is a very personal thing and it should never be judged.