Featured image via Shutterstock and does not show Jenna Fletcher. Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Jenna Fletcher was 32 weeks pregnant with twin boys when she received life-changing news.
During a routine ultrasound, Fletcher and her partner found out one of the twin boys, Nicholas, had died. The other twin, M, was in danger after contracting an injury from his brother’s passing.
The doctor sent Fletcher straight to the hospital, and five days later her sons were born.
“The death of any baby is awful, but the unique situation of losing a twin is its own special kind of hell,” Fletcher wrote in a HuffPost article.
Fletcher recounted how no one knew what to say to her or her partner.
“Instead of engaging in a dialogue with us, people avoided us or got uncomfortable when we responded honestly about how many children we have,” she noted.
Some things people said were “at least you have two other children,” and “you can have more kids.”
“There is no ‘at least’ when you have lost one of your children,” Fletcher wrote. “My surviving twin is not a consolation prize. Children are not interchangeable or replaceable.”.
Fletcher reflects on the difficulty of choosing appropriate language when discussing the loss of a baby, especially in comparison to discussing the loss of a spouse or parent.
“What do you call a parent who has lost a baby? What’s more, how do you refer to a twin who’s lost a twin?” Fletcher wrote.
Earlier this week, Fletcher learned about the death of soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo’s son, who was a twin. Despite knowing she shouldn’t, Fletcher started to read some of the comments on the athletes’ social media posts.
She found that among the genuine comments, others contained the same cruel words that were said to her when she first lost her son.
Some of the comments included “I send condolences to the family, but doesn’t this man have like five other children?” and “at least you know you can have babies.”
“I was appalled by the savage insensitivity of these types of comments when they were said to me and again as I read them in reaction to another family’s unthinkable loss,” Fletcher wrote in her HuffPost article.
According to the Center for Loss in Multiple Births (CLIMB), twins are about five times as likely to die in infancy, and triplets are 10 times as likely.
“That’s why the death of Cristiano Ronaldo’s son is important,” Fletcher wrote. “Because of his openness, another parent of a twinless twin can see a piece of themselves in places they haven’t before. They can feel less invisible. Less alone.”
The loss parent community has made a lot of progress. Nowadays, these stories are being shared more widely and openly. However, almost no one talks about losing a child who’s a twin.
“After the death of our son, I searched for stories of parents who lost a twin. I came up mostly dry, but I did find one woman who wrote about the death of two of her triplets,” Fletcher recounted.
Fletcher reached out to the woman on the day of her son’s funeral.
She asked, “can you look at your surviving triplet without being sad about your other children?” the woman replied, “while the grief never does go away, it changes over time. I’m the happiest I’ve been since before I had children.”
That small email exchange gave Fletcher hope that the path to moving forward after loss can become less difficult.
“Hopefully, by hearing my story and Ronaldo’s story and more and more stories like ours, we can find a new language to talk about ― and to ― people in our painful situation that supports us and honors our loss and the joy that remains at the same time.”