One of our readers wrote to ask what we knew on this topic. I was unfamiliar with it, but in reading the research, am totally intrigued. Not much has been done on it, but Althea Hayton is making it her life’s work. She has graciously agreed to share, and we’ve broken it down to parts that will run on the Bereavement page the next few weeks. As you read, as questions arise, please write to the Bereavement Editor. The questions will certainly be included in the interview.
Part 1 Physical Evidence
2 Psychological Evidence
3 EMOTIONAL EVIDENCE
4 Interview with Ms. Hayton
5 January 2011, a review of her book
This article sets out some of the many ways in which wombtwin survivors can
Part 3 - EMOTIONAL EVIDENCE
Ali was told about her twin when she was a young child. In her parents’ photograph album there is a picture of the first scan, that shows a vague image of Ali’s lost twin. She often wonders why she was the one chosen to live.
Donna was about 6 years old when she overheard her mother telling a friend that
Donna was a twin but the other embryo just vanished. Donna never thought about it until ten years later, when she did some research and learned about 'vanishing twins', then all of a sudden some things made sense.
Sheila was always fascinated by twins from a very young age and would pretend
she had a twin. When she was little, she always wanted a sister and would beg
her mother to have a sister. It felt like something was missing. When she was 13 she started getting a bad pain on her lower right side. As she got older the pain got worse. After she graduated from high school, the pain got so severe that she went to the hospital. They took out a dermoid cyst a little bit bigger than a softball. They said it had contained teeth and hair. That was the first time she had ever heard about the vanishing twin theory, but it explained a lot about her.
Several cases where a twin has managed to survive and has been born alive with no physical ill-effects, but understandably the survivors don’t wish their stories to be made public. From their stories, it seems that there may or may
not be bodily damage to the survivor, but there is invariably some significant
When Jade was born her placenta was remarkably large and thick. Jade’s mother Ina has always wondered if she had been carrying twins. Ina was very large at an early stage of pregnancy but because this was her third pregnancy, she put it down to weakness of her abdominal muscles. Jade is developing into an exceptional person in many ways and is quite different from her siblings. It is
possible that Jade is a wombtwin survivor.
Liza has fraternal twins and identical twins on her mother’s side of the family. Her mother had some bleeding early on in pregnancy and this is a sign that Liza may be a wombtwin survivor. She has always been a tomboy, which leads her to believe that her twin was male. Taking on certain gender-specific characteristics of a wombtwin of the opposite sex is quite common among wombtwin survivors
Alice was told about wombtwins one day by a friend, who thought it might be the
answer to her long-term health problems of chronic fatigue, depression and
anxiety. The idea struck an immediate chord with her because her mother had
previously told her that the doctor thought that she might be carrying twins. She had an x-ray which showed only one baby, but Alice now thinks there may have once been two babies there and one died.
Cathy is lefthanded, and can mirror write as well as write the correct way. She has no idea where that gift came from, but she was doing it at a very early age and can take dictation backwards as well.
Sue had a dermoid cyst in her knee, that was surgically removed.
After the operation a little voice in her head, that she had always assumed was her twin, fell silent and never spoke again.
Hilary tells me that she is extremely sensitive to people, to the point that it startles her sometimes. She does love crowds and people but can get overwhelmed and soon has to back off. She is much bolder now and more confident but still recognizes her fragility as a person.
In later life, wombtwin survivors will inevitably be confronted with death or loss once more. At that point, the hidden memory of loss is triggered. The most traumatic bereavement for a wombtwin survivor is the death of a person
with whom they have had a very close bond and an intimate relationship. Faced
with too many deaths at once, some of them find it hard to cope without some
emotional support. They grieve deeply and often for a very long time. Bereavement counselling is of great value to wombtwin survivors. In the private intimacy of the counselling relationship, they are able to grieve intensely. It may not be death that does it: divorce and disability are all losses that can trigger deep distress, despair and depression.
Almost invariably, wombtwin survivors have a problem with food. This is such
a strong association that one is tempted to believe that all people with a food
problem are wombtwin survivors! Problems include sensitivity to various
food ingredients, eating disorders and obesity.
For example, Laura was always considered peculiar, strange, different, unique or unusual. She was regarded as having a “colorful existence”. Her strangeness
attracted people to her, but they seemed be in awe of the way she was. That held them always at a distance, so she was isolated in her strangeness.
Jo resisted the idea that she may be a wombtwin survivor for a long time. She has seen a doctor about her anxiety and insomnia; a spiritual director about the sense of meaninglessness in her life, and a healer about the despair and emotional pain that has tortured her every day. When told that there may be a simple and logical reason for how she has always felt, she wept with relief.
Sally has moments of very deep despair and a great sense of aloneness. Since a
very small child she has buried herself in painting. She is not sure whether she does this as an escape or just because she loves to paint. This self isolation rules her life. She does not feel at all normal. When she looks at all the happy human beings in the world around her, they appear to lead far more balanced lives than she does.
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