To Womb Twin US - Monica,
My husband and I have two sons, a 3 year old and a 19 month old. Our youngest is a twin, and unfortunately we lost his brother 6 months into the pregnancy.
I have often wondered if the difficulties he is facing is linked to losing his brother. After today and reading blogs and information, I am almost sure of it.
For the most part he is a happy and healthy child. He laughs and runs and does everything little boys do. He isn't saying as many words as the "typical" child his age, but I am not worried as I know he understands a lot.
The "problems" are with his sleep and moods on some days. He will not fall asleep without me next to him. There have been times he has taken a nap on his own, but that is rare. He has now dropped his nap altogether. He still wakes up every 2-3 hours at night, and cannot sooth himself back to sleep. It takes me laying with him again to get him to go back to sleep. Frequently he wakes up screaming and is hard to sooth.
He is also very attached to me. Which is fine. But he wants to be held all day long or be right next to me. He will go off and explore around the house, or play with his brother, or play on his own, but it seems like he "checks in" with me a lot more frequently and intensely than his brother did.
I know he is only 19 months old. I know he can't go to therapy. But I was wondering if you had any advice or knew of anything I could do to help him.
Anything you can provide or any direction you can point me in would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much,WTS Mom ---------
Dear WTS Mom,
First of all, let me say that being the kind of Mother you are to research this is validating to your son and to us all. In fact, it heralds a new day for WTS (womb twin survivors) and their families everywhere. For you to have the inquisitiveness and courage to ask what you can do to help your son, regardless of your own feelings about this loss, is hugely rare and I can’t thank you enough for contacting us.
Baby WTS are in extreme twin replacement mode. In order to manage the shock of living on earth without their twin, mother becomes “m(ain)other” as do the primary relationships in succession of their twin. The pain of loss is buried in adapting to making these relations their twin since that’s all they know. They are here so they must cling to survival but they have already learned it is a perilous journey and people cannot be trusted because they disappear and cause pain in ways too big for a tiny baby to navigate.
Toddlers get worn out with separation anxiety, checking to make sure the world is reliable. Trust and consistency are huge in a world where things come and go without saying goodbye. Where mastery of the universe is hard-won but empty without their twin. Incessant crying and irritability, seeking mom out, unable to self soothe are all signs that a WTS needs assurance that the people with whom they are bonding, won’t disappear forever. They are frustrated with good reason, they are vulnerable, insecure and limited and must cling to life. They often feel their twin got the better end of the deal as they learn to navigate solo. They need constant assurance that they will be ok, others will be ok, life is ok.
Sleep becomes a regressive womb time when babies can feel the watery world of their twin memory, not bound by air, time or light or people who aren’t their twin. This regression to their true nature is important for their replenishment as they sleep, it soothes them from the shock of living solo. On the other hand, this can be the time when PTSD-charged memories are accessed – where the baby relives the unspeakable horror they experienced during, and following, the demise of their twin. Depending on when and how this happened, all details will shape the complex which continually gets laid down as the brain develops, since much of the original trauma is stored in body memory due to timing of the trauma against limbic embryonic development. Your son was already 6 months a twin before they were separated (to put this in perspective, I was born at 6 months and am a fully functioning person developmentally.) The key is to download it into the brain as it develops, so that it can be expressed and healed, rather than repressed and buried. What you resist persists, ignoring it won’t make it go away, it will most likely make it worse.
Thus begins a lifetime of synchronistic extreme duality, which is also an expression of his twoness.
Although nighttime/dreamtime is synonymous with the subconscious, and can be scary for all little ones learning to be conscious, it sounds as though your son may have lost his twin at night and may be waking up in terror at that time for this reason. The realization that he is alone while suffering the PTSD loss of his twin causes him to need a twin replacement and mother more than normal. You are doing the right thing by being this "twin surrogate" and bless you for having the courage to face this in light of the fact that you suffered the loss of a child and have your own grief process. On that note, any info you can share about how the twin went at 6 mos would be helpful in understanding the dynamics of the womb imprint. I strongly encourage you to stick it out – you must walk through the flames to get to the other side, not around them. Avoidance, ignorance, separation only adds fuel to the fire. Meanwhile here are some tips:
-Give in to being the twin replacement as much possible, in order to ease his transition to trusting relationships again. Play peek-a-boo games to remind him that people disappear but come back smiling.
-Leave your scented scarf in his crib at night to ease the pain of sleeping alone. Sleep with him as needed (no Ferber Method) knowing this is a surrogate bonding time that helps your son, which you both will outgrow when it’s right for you.
-Teach boundaries, yes, by all means this is crucial to WTS who have little/none, but give in to them without beating yourself up for it. WTS need constant duality as an expression of their twin nature, so don’t feel hypocritical, tune in to their flip-flop game so you can honor their alpha/beta duality and not get worn out in confusion.
-Give him several twin replacements so that he learns to rely on more than one, this will give you a break and allow you both to transition from each other – it also provides an all-important back up if one gets lost. On that note, whatever symbols you use as twin replacements should be replaceable, this means buy several and store them away so that if ever one is lost there is another to avoid retriggering the trauma of loss.-Allow your son to put his favorite stuffed animal into a pillowcase (or cover it with a laundry basket) and then reveal it, this control over such events will go a long way in helping him feel secure following the uncontrollable disappearance of his twin.
-Use the power of symbol over words and engage all senses: sight, sound, smell, space. Recognize his hypersensitivity and brilliance.
-Use aromatherapy: lavender and marjoram in baths, in room at night, will calm his separation anxiety and promote sleep.
-Recognize your own grief/loss and keep it separate from his; when appropriate, bring it together with his so that he isn’t alone with his loss.
-Elicit info about his womb story while it’s fresh, figuring out the dynamics of the intrauterine imprint will help us help him. Talk about what you remember of his twin too, commiserating may seem like bringing up pain but it has the opposite effect to a WTS who always feels pain, it helps them feel less alone with it which is a huge comfort when being alone is the problem to begin with. Identifying details that will help guide his course of treatment: was his twin identical or fraternal? male or female? how did his twin perish? how long was the twin in distress? what name shall be given to this lost twin? birth details? premature/nicu/incubator? (provide timing) IVF/ART? other complications/circumstances?
-Be the vehicle of expression for the unspeakable, encourage him to talk thru you and then speak very matter of factly about his twin, the WTS energy and verbal reactions will guide you and you will be amazed at what he knows.
-Read “Two Little Birds” and “Koko’s Magical Gift” to your son, it will go a long way toward bridging his inner and outer realities. See more age appropriate info and resources by going to Womb Twin Kids: http://www.wombtwin.com/womb-twin-kids/4578498382
-Read the work of Allesandra Piontelli. John Bowlby’s work on Attachment & Loss, Louise Kaplan Oneness to Separateness: From Infant to Individual. Consider contacting Claudia Pinheiro of Womb Twin Portugal, she has extensive knowledge about working with babies and is a WTS as well as the mother of a WTS.
What you are already doing for your son is on track and beyond what any of us could hope for. Thank you for this tremendous gift. I look forward to advising you as your little WTS grows, so do keep us posted. This work can begin at any age, in fact it already has so let’s keep our blinders off as we walk the road of preventative healing together.
Please feel free to share more about your son and how these techniques may have worked for you both.
Monica - Womb Twin US