“I feel as if all the joy has been sucked out of me,” Dawn remarked. “I’ve never mourned for anyone before in my life.”
She stopped for a moment to compose herself. She smoothed out her skirt and adjusted her position on my sofa.
I tried to read her facial expression and body language from the moment she entered my office and sat down. She was well-poised and graceful, and possessed an inner sadness that belied the shaky smile that did not reach her eyes.
My patients are not always forthcoming with information. Yes, they’ve made an appointment to see a therapist, but they’re not all ready to gush. In some cases, like this one, there were painful memories that had to be teased out carefully.
“Please, go at your own pace,” I encouraged.
Dawn took a deep breath as she played with the strap of her handbag and averted her eyes towards the windows. A light rain had just started this afternoon, dotting the panes with little beads. We could hear the cars on the streets below splashing through the puddles.
“Last month I was pregnant with twins,” she began. “Today, I’m n-not pregnant and I have n-no twins.” Her voice started to falter, but she held on. A tear managed to escape down her left cheek, but she quickly dispatched it. I could sense that she was not one to publicize her grief.
“I’m so sorry,” I empathized. I got up and offered her the box of tissues on the coffee table between us. She took a few, dabbed her eyes, and blew her nose.
She looked over at me through glistening eyes. “I’m trying to be realistic about this, doctor” she continued with a deep sigh, “but sometimes, it’s-it’s just too much.”
“Can you tell me what happened?” I asked.
After a long sigh, she started, “I got pregnant last October and found out I was having twins. My husband and I were really excited just at the thought of having twins. We already have a 3 year old girl and she was also thrilled about becoming a big sister.”
I nodded and waited for her to once again dab her eyes and blow her nose.
“About three months into my pregnancy, I had an ultrasound done. The ob/gyn then informed us that there was a problem. My babies had Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome and the prognosis was not good.”
She trailed off here and seemed as if she could not continue. I wanted to ask more about this condition, but now was not the time. I’d have to research it later, if she was not forthcoming.
Dawn closed her eyes and went on, as if to read my thoughts. “It’s a rare condition between prenatal identical twins,” she started, and explained in detail the predicament of her unborn fetuses.
“We were told that they had a 50-50 chance of survival,” she quavered, looking downward. Her nervous hands were twisting knots into her purse strap.
“They passed away in my sixth month,” she finally managed to say, and then let loose the tears she had been fighting so hard to control.
Crying generally provides a cathartic release and Dawn was letting it all out. Her body shook uncontrollably and she bawled and clutched her abdomen for the children that were no longer there.
I arose I sat next to her and held her hand as she sobbed away her grief.
As a mother, myself, it was impossible not to be affected in some way by her tears, but I had to keep my professionalism about me and not become emotionally consumed by her grief.
Minutes later, her tears subsided and she attempted to wipe the residue from her face.
“How is your husband taking this?” I asked.
She shrugged. “He acts as though this is all par for the course. He hasn’t cried once, while I haven’t stopped crying. The worst part is that I had to tell our daughter that we’re not — that she’s not — going to be a big sister….” Dawn could not complete her sentence. She blew her nose once more.
Dawn went on. “She’s a little young to be affected by all this, thankfully. But I feel as if I’m all alone in my grief. My husband doesn’t even talk about them. It’s like the last six or seven months never happened. But they did. I have two baby blankets that I had knitted for them and now they’ll never use them…I just feel like I’ll never be happy ever again.” She broke down once more.
I let her cry a little and then asked, “Were they boys or girls?”
She looked up and a smile peeked through. “Two girls. I would have named them ‘Olivia’ and ‘Jasmine’. It was going to be me and my three girls,” she added wistfully.
I looked directly at her. “Dawn, I know you might find this hard to imagine right now, but in time you will begin to feel better. You may never get over the loss of your unborn children, I know. But one day you’ll realize it’s the afternoon and you haven’t cried. Another day, you’ll find that you can think about them and not cry at all. But it will take time.”
She nodded. “I hear you, doctor. But it just feels so impossible right now. I was carrying two babies inside me and now they’re gone. Forever.”
“Time, Dawn. Believe me. It will take some time to recover from your loss.”
She dabbed her eyes and looked away towards the window. The rain had stopped and a sliver of sunshine had just started to peek through.