Today I met someone like me. It was the ladies' holiday lunch at work and we descended upon Logan's Roadhouse. (Yum! I highly recommend their rolls and baked sweet potato, and I'm sure the steak is great when your condition doesn't force the eating of a well done cut over a tender medium.)
As we were leaving, one waitress noticed the belly and asked when I am due. I explained that I have three more months and my size was due to twins. The other waitress, a mid-twenties, dark-haired, hemp-wearing girl, piped up and said she had twins. As happy for her as I wanted to be, my heart sunk to my stomach as it seems to do these days when other people have good news. She went on to say what a shock it was and how she wasn't sure she'd have any more kids.
Then she said it. "One of my babies wasn't viable."
I instantly felt a bond with her. I told her that my son wouldn't survive and explained why when she asked. My story was mild compared to hers.
She had been pregnant with mirror-image identicals. That means that they share all of their genes, but they are actually mirror images of each other. For example, one would be right-handed and the other left-handed. She learned that one of her babies was developing but was not growing a brain. This is a form of anencephaly, an unfortunate, but surprisingly common, neural tube defect.
Identical twins carry a much higher risk of complications than fraternals, and having one with a neural tube defect greatly increases that risk. The way her other baby survived is truly amazing. The two fetuses' cords were entangled, but somehow the cord of the ill-fated baby knotted six times, cutting off its nutrients while allowing the healthy baby to take in everything she needed.
The waitress said her healthy girl is a miracle. I couldn't help but think that the unhealthy baby made the ultimate sacrifice so that her sister could survive. It is a beautiful and tragic story. She told me to embrace the happiness that my healthy baby will bring me. She said it's all you can cling to.
This whole conversation lasted less than three minutes, but I will never forget it. I met someone who was proud to have had twins, suffered a terrible loss, and has gone on to enjoy her healthy daughter while never forgetting her other baby. She showed me that surviving this is possible.
Never underestimate the power of a simple exchange.