Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Answers (Our surviving family)

The last of the questions I had from others followed the same theme... What about my Jonasen (my twinless- twin) and our family. I've decided to answer the questions from both Elizabeth and Catherine here.

When Joey started school, did you have a conversation with the director/teacher? What other things if any, did you do?

Joey actually went to preschool at an extension of our church and while I (assume) most knew about Andrew, I did not know his teacher well and so I did tell her about their story. I wrote everything down because I wanted to make sure that everything that I felt needed to be said, was. I also wanted to make sure the teacher had that paper to reference if she needed to- and being a teacher myself, I appreciate all information I get from parents that helps me better understand their child.

When Joey went to kindergarten, I again knew his teacher and have been in regular contact with her. She has shared with me when Joey has talked about Andrew (and yes he has) and how it has gone. I will be writing another letter this summer for his first grade teacher and every year he is in elementary school. I have learned that 'Andrew' has meandered his way into Joey's thoughts throughout his six years and I know he always will. I think it is important to make sure that those educating Joey will know about this very unique piece of him.

That being said, I will also let my younger children's teachers know too. Sometimes they include Andrew and Baby E in their pictures (and sometimes they don't) But I want the teachers to know my family's story- to know that these siblings my children sometimes talk about are not imaginary friends or figments of their imagination.

(And as a side-note, Elizabeth I imagine it is hard that the director had (I assume) healthy twins. I have found that most of the parents that I know that have intact twins have been very supportive of us... but I encourage you to write a letter and explain everything you need to.)

Can you remember when you first discussed Andrew with Jonasen?

I can. It was that night in the hospital. Andrew had left us forever, my husband was asleep on a pull out chair, and I held my son, hours old, in my arms as I told him his story. I told him that his brother- who had shared all that time kicking him- had gone to heaven- that we would see him again, but not until we are (God-willing) very old. I remember those quiet moments still. Looking into his little eyes and grieving for something so big.

Throughout Jonasen's baby and toddler years I would say Andrew's name in prayers. I would say, "God bless mommy & daddy... and my brother Andrew in heaven"- I did not want there to ever be a moment where I sat him down and said, "You know how on your birth certificate it says you are a twin... well..." And so Andrew's name has always been in our house- and it always will be. Doing it like we did- every day- so innocently allowed me to be comfortable with it- to talk about Andrew without tears. In doing so, Jonasen (and his siblings) have felt comfortable asking questions and not worrying about upsetting mom or dad.

Talking about Andrew in this way- (always) was one of the best choices we made in this journey and one that I have NEVER had second thoughts about.

Have you always mentioned Andrew to him and how did he grasp and come to terms with his twin's death?

I don't know when Jonasen grasped the idea that he had a twin brother- or if he fully has yet. He has a set of twin boys in his kindergarten class now and he talks about their eyes sometimes and how they look alike. All of my living children had blue eyes, and Jonasen is the only one who has brown eyes. He has asked me about Andrew's eyes and I can't quite answer them- just tell him that one day we'll know. Because our faith as a family is so strong, there has never been any doubt that one day we will see Andrew again. I think that that has been a comfort to him. I also told him that like God can read our thoughts- perhaps Andrew can hear them too and if he ever wants to just talk to him, he can. And he does. He's talked before about his "walks with Andrew" and while they make me sad, they also make me happy. He's finding his way and I'm ever so proud of that.

Has he asked any questions about his brother and the circumstances of his birth that have surprised you?

Not yet. He asks me to tell the story of his birth often. And I do. He knows that he is the only one in the family who had a brother with him in my belly- he knows that his brother was born first and that God felt it was important to call Andrew home before we got to truly know him. Though we don't know why. He knows that God felt it important for Joey to be on this earth with us. I have written his story in his baby book and in journals of notes I kept for him for later when he is better able to understand it.

His questions don't often surprise me- as I expect them to come- but I am always caught a little off guard when they do come- without warning often. That I haven't gotten used to yet...

Did Andrew's death change how you and your husband envisaged your future family?

Yes and No. When we were married we always dreamed of having four children at home. When I first became pregnant and it was with twins, I had assumed three pregnancies to get those four children- not five-and with two losses. Getting pregnant again (each time) was terrifying- and my husband was scared too. At the time I think he was happy just having Jonasen and his sister- I really pushed to have that original dream of four at home. We now have four children at home and my tubes are tied so there will be no more fears of pregnancy for me.

Did you both feel that you wanted subsequent children? Was it something you spent a long time discussing?

We knew that we wanted more than one child. We had always dreamed of having a larger family. After I lost Andrew, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant- and I did become pregnant just seven months after we lost Andrew. While I wanted nothing more than to be able to say that I had 'children' (plural) I was afraid to 'try'. Our daughter was not planned but I knew there was a possibility of her coming if God wanted to give us another child at that time- (She was conceived while out of town and we had no birth control with us...)

What we did spend a long time discussing was the fear of losing another-and that fear was gripping. I wanted nothing more to get pregnant and grow our family time and time again. My husband was more hesitant and he feared we would lose another. Especially after losing Baby E he was petrified. I felt that I had to talk him into trying again... I did go on to have our last child after that. Knowing that was the last time that I would be pregnant was freeing. We decided that either way- baby in heaven or baby on earth- that would be the last. Before, I was worried I would always want to have 'one more baby' trying to fill something that couldn't be filled. After my last son's birth all desires to become pregnant again have suddenly vanished. That has been very peaceful too. In the end I have four children at home- but in an odd sense I feel very blessed to know too that two are waiting for us- watching us- and proud of the family we have become- very strong- very intact- we are survivors and are so much stronger for it.


  1. Thank you so much for these answers Laura! I hope you didn't find my questions intrusive.

    My mother is a teacher and she had a single twin in her class. Her mother also wrote a letter to explain that her daughter was a twin and that her sister had died at birth. I'm sure that I will follow your lead here Laura. I would hate for there to be any confusion of whether J's twin sister is real or imagined.

    I'm really glad that you have always spoken to Joey about Andrew. I've done the same thing but I sometimes doubt myself. I think that my some of my family find it a bit . . macabre almost? . . that I will often mention G as I talk to J. Just in passing. But from those earliest days, when she was still in an incubator, I would tell her about her sister. I want G to have always been there too. It is reassuring to hear that Joey has always been told about Andrew. From his very first day. Just like J.

    I think it is amazing how Joey is finding his way with regards to his twin's death and it is a testament to your family how Andrew has always been included and loved.

    I guess I asked the question about being taken by surprise as, earlier that day, my niece had asked me if her own babies would die, would they need 'tubes' and that she knew what to do if babies got sick, you gave them oxygen up their noses! I was a little taken aback by how much she had taken in.

    I have always dreamed of four children too. But that would be an unusually large family by surburban UK standards! I'm so glad that you and your husband went ahead and had all your children. Each and every one so loved and cherished. I'm already worried that I wil always have the 'one more baby' that you describe so eloquently. But you've given me hope that I will know when my family is complete. Be that with the two children I have now or not.

    You should be proud of your family. I get such a sense of your strength as a 'group' from reading your words. You astound me.

    Thank you so much for answering my questions and for . . .well, everything. For writing this blog. For your eloquence and honesty. I often worry about how I handle the situation with my surviving twin, thus my twenty questions about your family and Joey. I'm so blessed to 'know' you and your family. Sorry for posting an entire 'post' of my own on your blog! x

  2. Thanks, Laura. That was very helpful. The directors twins will be my closest association with intact twins (so far).

  3. wow- laura- you amaze me.
    I know I have been rather absent from blogworld of late....but I have always drawn strength from your journey.
    Such insightful answers my friend....thankyou for sharing.
    I know Jason has very similar fears to jeff- this baby just has to be ok -or he may not let us try again!! God help us hey?!

    you remind me of a very special friend- your strength and your closely united family amongst other things. Loads of love m'dear!

  4. Thanks, Laura. That was very helpful. The directors twins will be my closest association with intact twins (so far).


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