Update: Beloved nephew rang last night. Twins have been born: one girl hale, healthy, perfect, the other not: she is not expected to survive for more than a few hours longer.
'But at least,' said Beloved nephew - of his two sons and the healthy new baby 'At least I've got three beautiful children. I have to be glad of that.'
Yes, indeed. But it isn't quite so simple. Two babies were in the womb for nine months, two babies came to feel like real people. For the surviving baby the non-survivor was her companion all those months - modern technology makes clear that twins in the womb do have a relationship that differs from pair to pair. When one of the pair dies shortly after birth, or even before it, that relationship has been prematurely swept away. Granny, a surviving twin herself belonged for a while to an organisation called "The Lone Twin Association". She did a survey of its membership once; more than a third had twins that died at birth, before it, or within a year. Many did not know till much later in life that they had been born twins, but had always felt an incompleteness in themselves. Granny herself knows of two artists - one a very dear friend - who only found out about their twinship as grown-ups but whose art, long before that, centred round objects or designs that always came in pairs.
And then there are the feelings of the parents - ready for two babies and now only tending one: loving the one, rejoicing in her, but still longing, grieving for the other. What would she have been like? Who would she have grown into? Noone will ever know.
Those who have only ever expected single babies - still more those who lost single babies and ended up with nothing- may find this strange: why should they mind? They have a baby. Isn't that enough?
But no it isn't. Not after nine months of gestating, loving, expecting two; that special thing. Granny a twin herself, may know this better than most. Of course she too is grieving, crying, as she writes this, but hers is a small grief compared to that of the parents, and, over her lifetime. of the surviving twin.
Update: the sick twin died last night as expected. Time for grief.