Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The trouble with twins - Part I

NB DO NOT READ if you are feeling low, or even just a bit frazzled, at the prospect, or actuality, of raising twins. 

1. Pregnancy - I was always unconvinced that the female form was designed to carry one child, let alone two, and a twin pregnancy did nothing to change my mind. Carrying my two whoppers to 37 weeks, at which point they weighed in at 5lb 15oz and 6lb 6oz, was an inventive form of torture. It started with three months of throwing up or at least feeling as if I wanted to 24/7, followed by a brief lull until my bump reached such gargantuan proportions that by the last few months it was all I could do to shift myself far enough forwards on the sofa to reach the remote. Everyday activities like painting my nails, turning over in bed or walking were beyond me from about 30 weeks. Still I guess it's all good preparation for the inconvenience of being a mother of twins and more. 

2. The birth. Imagine how hard it is to squeeze one baby out. Now double that and you have twins. Is it any wonder that this time round I was too posh to push? 

3. Money, money, money. I'd imagined that baby number three would live in castoffs just as Max had. And if it turned out to be a she at least she'd be bang on trend by wearing boyfriend jeans from birth. But when one became two the bill doubled overnight as suddenly we needed two car seats, cribs, cots and two mortgages to pay for it all. 

4. Transport. Whether its the gas guzzling seven-seater bus I now have to drive, and even worse park, if I want to move all four of my boys around together, or the double buggy that defies any doorway to actually fit around it, getting about with my twins in tow is a pain in the proverbial. Is it any wonder I have resorted to staying at home and working my way through a chocolate biscuit mountain (ordered online of course, online shopping being mum's best friend as I wouldn't dare unleash the brood in a supermarket)? Soon it won't just be the buggy that gets stuck in doorways. 

5. Feeding. A perennial problem with babies. If they aren't screaming for milk, they are refusing to take it from your chosen delivery method, sicking it up, developing an allergy to it, complaining vociferously that it gives them wind or transforming it into unbelievably copious amounts of poo. Twins do all that too - twice. Just when one is fed, burped, clean and settled, the other will start up the whole merry-go-round again, which is a game we parents love, particularly at 3am. 

Stay tuned for Part II when I am next feeling particularly bright and sunny about being a mum of multiples. 

Monday, 30 March 2009

Family photos

Any parent of small children knows what fun it is trying to get a pretty photo of your progeny. I find the moment I whip out a camera they start gurning like fools or run a mile leaving me with a blurry impression of a boy rather than the cute snap I was after. The babies are just as bad. They will be gurgling gorgeously, then out comes the camera and instantly they are crying like possessed children and look all red, blotchy and tortured in the ensuing photos. 

So imagine my joy when I was told that the newspaper I write for wanted to send a photographer and stylist to shoot me and my motley crew to accompany a piece they may (or may not) deign to publish. Add to this the fact that mummy had come down with a horrible throat infection, which left me feeling dreadful and looking like a chipmunk, thanks to my puffed up glands. What better way for my family to be captured for posterity? 

Things didn't start well as my five year old ran away from the glammed up me, screaming 'I want my real mummy back'. Presumably he meant the haggard, tired, tracksuit wearing version, as opposed to this woman wearing make up, back-combed hair and ironed, fashionable clothes? I tried to placate both stylist and child while simultaneously balancing on agonisingly painful, too small high heels - it's a good job mums are experts at multitasking. 

The next trick was to get all five of us (hubby having sensibly retreated to watch the Grand Prix in the next room) smiling for the camera. Well clearly the babies weren't playing ball as they have yet to master this gentle art. Luckily they did keep their eyes open, probably because they heard the snapper threatening to wipe them down with a cold, wet cloth if they dared to shut their peepers. 

The boys were happy to smile, scream, and run around in an entirely uncontrolled manner. I am not sure that's quite what the photographer was after, particularly as they began to destroy his expensive white backdrop - but then he should know never to work with children or animals, and I think that on this particular afternoon my boys fell into both those categories. 

At the end of the day we managed to get some lovely pictures of me looking uncharacteristically human, despite my smile becoming increasingly forced as the shoes gradually sliced off my little toes and the boys attempted to dismantle all the photographer's expensive equipment. 

Whether the results will ever see the light of day in the paper is up to the editor, but at least I will have some lovely photos to remember our day (and those shoes) by. But I am sure that when the boys look at them in the future they will ask who that pretty lady in the photos is, as she sure as hell doesn't look like their dishevelled mum.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles...

Another new entry for my book proposal The Dummies Guide to being a Bad Mother. I took the twins for their six week check with my doctor yesterday. I won't go in to the hell that was negotiating the tiny surgery corridors with two babies in car seats, or trying to fit doc, me, medical student and said babies and car seats into her diminutive consulting room, but the bit that left me most red around the cheeks was the smile check. 

Doc asks me 'Are they smiling at you yet?'. I respond 'Erm. No not really'. Well says doc 'Do you smile at them?'. I respond 'Erm. No not really'. 'Well,' she says 'perhaps that's why'. 

Oh dear I've failed the mummy test once again, as I must admit that when the babies aren't crying or feeding I tend to file them under not causing trouble and ignore the poor mites. So today has seen me manically grinning, singing and talking at the bemused twosome, whose completely understandable response to this volte face on the part of the mad woman left in charge of them is to close their eyes firmly as soon as they see me coming. 

I suspect this constitutes a step in the wrong direction, but I live in hope that if I keep a lid on miserable mum they will finally give in and crack me a smile. 

Friday, 27 March 2009

Little heartbreakers

I have just been staring at a photo sent home by son number two's nursery. It's of him last summer, aged two, at his nursery sports day. It's hard to believe its almost 12 months ago as, in that cliched way, it seems like just yesterday that his chubby little legs were propelling him down the field in the egg and spoon race. But now looking at those soft baby cheeks I see how much he has grown up over the last year and I can't help but feel a pang of nostalgia as I realise how quickly my boys are growing.

As we wade through the early weeks with the twins its easy to wish away the constant feeding and wakeful nights, the boredom of sticking to a six-week-old's schedule and the inconvenience of having to pack everything but the kitchen sink into the car for a five minute trip to the supermarket. But looking at this old photo of boy two and realising just how fast he turned from a toddler to a little boy, I know I need to hold on tight to every moment of the twins babyhood as it will be gone before we know it.

Although I do relish the independence growing children offer, allowing me that all important time to myself and perhaps the ability to earn an honest crust again, a little piece of my heart breaks with every 'last time' in my baby boy's lives.

The last time I attended a Gymboree class with boy number one, my throat closed with held back tears as I remembered taking him there a just a few weeks old to lie bemused in a babygro at the antics of Gymbo the Clown. As I drove away on the last day of nursery the tears flowed as I knew I would never never drop him at its brightly coloured door, that I wouldn't go to another washed out sports day in the nearby park, chat with his adorable teachers or watch him waltz off hand in hand with his best girlfriend to play in their garden.

When he started school last September I found it hard to reconcile the tall boy standing in front of me, so handsome in his uniform, with the deliciously, pudgy little baby who had, it seemed, been sleeping in my arms just weeks ago. Sometimes I still snatch a glimpse of that baby in a certain angle or expression on his face, but then its gone, replaced forever by this tall, gorgeous young boy.

This hankering for the past is part of the reason I ended up as a mum of four. Last year as I looked at what I thought was my last baby boy throwing off his nappies, learning to feed himself, racing out of his buggy and on the brink of starting nursery every day, I was in an agony of longing for one more bite of the baby cherry.

I wanted one more chance to stroke the silken curve of a baby's cheek, to lose myself in the liquid darkness of that impenetrable newborn stare, to hear that first word, witness that first step, hear uncontrollable toddler giggles as I push a swing higher and higher and watch one more baby grow up.

Since I ended up with two this time round, I am hoping that this double dose will be enough to cure me of my baby addiction forever as there are only so many times a mummy's heart can break as she watches her boys on their journey to become men.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

They're plotting against me

After six weeks of lulling us into a false sense of security the terrible twins have decided it's time to have some fun with their parents. Where once sleeping and eating were sufficient entertainment to get them through the day, they have now added screaming like stuck pigs and messing with mum's routine to their repertoire. 

Now I know that the question of routine is routinely (geddit) debated amongst mothers - some are for, some against, and some like me are halfway in between. I think that sticking to some kind of timetable helps to retain motherly sanity, but holding to it to rigidly has the opposite effect. I have had friends who wouldn't leave the house unless Gina (Ford for the uninitiated) says they can, but then other friends have been so incapable of enforcing bedtime that their three-year-olds are still inflicting the same sleep torture as a newborn. 

But dealing with two is a whole new ball game, and the reasoned approach that saw me coerce my two previous sons into sleeping and eating at relatively regular intervals is falling down in the face of the twins combined forces. It's as if they are working in tandem to wear me down by preventing me from sleeping or sitting down for more than a few snatched moments at a time. 

Never in the history of humanity have two babies taken so long to eat so little, thereby simultaneously preventing mummy from leaving the house, doing anything useful or spending too much time, or indeed any time, in her bed. Nice work boys. 

And now they've got their big brother, son number two, in on the act of wearing mummy down persuading him to swap his happy routine of spending days at nursery playing with his friends and copious amounts of playdough, for crying and wailing 'I want my mummy' all morning long. So much so that his teachers have taken me aside to tell me to pay him more attention. 

I'm sure its conspiracy designed to make mummy feel increasingly inadequate and exhausted and I am beginning to suspect that son number one lies behind this evil plot. Inspired by the collective plots of Cartoon Network he is using his powers to control his baby brothers with the express aim of wearing me down to the point that I will give in to his demands and agree that an education is a poor substitute for spending your days shooting things on the Wii. 

Monday, 23 March 2009

The mother of all days

OK, so I am a day out in posting this as the big day was actually yesterday, but forgive me as I was too busy being showered in home made cards, presents and breakfast in bed - literally in the case of that last treat as we are still trying to get the croissant crumbs out of the sheets. 

My boys certainly made a proper fuss of me, though as ever despite the money spent the best presents were the hand written cards - Max managed his name for the first time - and the gorgeous, windy smile from one of the youngest members of the clan, Jonah, who at six weeks is just starting to get his chops around this tricky manoeuvre with heart melting results. 

But as I lazed around amidst the mess of wrapping paper, breakfast debris and cosy warm small boys it got me thinking about Mothers' Day back when I was a child. My parents were never great believers in any festivals or celebrations aside from birthday and Christmas, for which my mum made an uncharacteristic, but extremely enthusiastic, exception. 

They were the archtypal rationalists and I don't recall a time when I believed in Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, and don't even get me started on religion. This had the result that my poor mum was rather short changed when it came to celebrating her role within the family. 

The best she could hope for was to get the wilted remains of a bunch of primroses wrapped in soggy kitchen paper. And these were a freebie handed to all the children at our local church on Mothering Sunday, one of the few days I would actually attend with the express purpose of snaffling this helpful gift. 

Not, I think, that she minded as back in her more youthful days principles were more important than presents, but nowadays she seems to have caught on and I don't think a little posy of free flowers, or the modern day equivalent, a bunch of blooms sold by the roadside, would really cut it. 

Though when it really comes down to most mums would trade any amount of gifts for an uninterrupted lie in and someone else doing their chores for the day. Come to think of it I am pretty sure my mum would have loved that present the most too, so perhaps times haven't really changed that much. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Caution mum at work

I just finished reading Mary Pols book Accidentally on Purpose about becoming a single mum after a one night stand (I find myself weirdly attracted to all writings on motherhood since becoming a mummy myself; plonk a bottle or a baby on the cover and I'm sold). While as a smug married I can't identify with most of her struggle I found a passage about locking her screaming son in another room to hit a deadline strangely mirrored my own frantic existence as a freelance/mother. 

I am sure it's a case of grass is always greener but sometimes I envy those mothers who can step out of the house, onto a tube and into work mode, whereas I work from home which means every boundary is blurred. The office is after all designed to elicit productivity, the home, especially when filled with screaming children, most certainly is not. 

So while office bound mums can take calls, write reports and sip coffee from the peace and tranquillity of their desk, I have scribbled down commissions from editors whilst changing a nappy, relied on the babysitting services of Cbeebies more often than I would like to admit and trained my children never to speak while I am on the phone on pain of permanent cessation of said Cbeebies. 

I have also, like Pols, locked myself in a room where the screams were muffled sufficiently for me to ignore them as I bash out an article for the next day's edition. I'd like to say it was down to a dedication to my career, but I think it's more due to (a) needing the next pay cheque and (b) because I am more afraid of saying no to my employers than to my children. 

To overcome my children's objections to mummy hiding away in the office to work I have come up with a cunning scheme by which, instead of saying I work to pay the bills, I claim that my income is all spent on toys, holidays and chocolate. This ruse resulted in them shooing me off to get back to the grindstone with days of  returning home with my newborn twins and had my five year old shouting thank you to the daily newspaper that is my chief employer as we embarked on our last family holiday. 

But while my fragile work life balance may tremble on the pinhead of this minor deception there are benefits to working at home. While in the office you can drink your tea while it's still hot and chat with a colleague without constant interruption from a toddler determined to get your attention, at home you can snatch a 15 minute cuddle break and take time out to do the school run. 

There is no perfect solution to combining working and mumming, and we all make it up as we go along, but I think my children would agree that the odd spell of squalling incarceration is a small price to pay for a mum who is prepared to swap her hard earned cash for chocolate, toy cars and tickets to Disney World. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Our survey says...

I'm never entirely convinced by the conclusions of academic studies because most seem to have wasted months of intelligent (or so the letters after their names would  have us believe) people's time and undoubtedly plenty of money too, to reach a conclusion so bleeding obvious my three year old could have come up with it. You know the sort of thing, where it's taken researchers years to conclude that grass is green or the sky is blue, like you need a Phd to work that out. 

This is why I never have any faith research designed, it seems to me, solely to make parents guilty. Those surveys that tell you are emotionally scarring your child for life if you work/don't work, send them to nursery/don't send them to nursery, let them watch television/don't let them watch television. For such clever people these academics are disturbingly indecisive.

The latest quack theory to come out is that we are ruining our children by praising them too highly. Now I admit I am guilty of telling my sons that everything they do is amazing, from their tuneless songs to their scribbled drawings, but that's because, to me, they are amazing. 

What do these boffins suggest I do when my son presents me with his latest glitter-coated offering? Question his excessive use of Pritt Stick and critique his colour combinations? I don't care what any survey says, I am sure that would leave my boys with a whole lot more emotional problems than growing up in the sure knowledge that mummy is the one person in the world who will always appreciate their efforts, no matter how cack-handed. 

The only thing that slightly weakens my theory is that I fervently pray it doesn't lead to any of my children becoming one of those deluded X-Factor contestants who warbles like a stuck pig at the judges and when asked who told them they could sing, answers 'My mum'. 

Monday, 16 March 2009

Boy Flu

Boy Flu - an infant version of the better known, but no less debilitating, Man Flu (also see hypochondria, malingering and moaning). 

A case of this serious ailment has blighted our household this week, with son number one coming down a battery of complaints including a sore throat, high temperature and mild skin rash, all of which he insists must be treated with unlimited access to the Cbeebies website and endless re-runs of Ben 10 and Power Rangers. Given this diet of untramelled screen time it's no wonder he feels ill - I am certain I will come out in hives if I hear 'Now he's got super powers, he's no ordinary kid, He's Ben 10' one more time.

Of course with a house full of nascent males I'd better get used to nursing this particularly masculine illness, which cannot be cured by mere medicine and bedrest, but is only soothed by the services of a full time slave, in the shape of a mother or wife, it matters not which, to tend to their every whim.

Now while I accept its my motherly duty to supply gallons of Calpol and apple juice, and can even be persuaded under such extreme circumstances that chocolate and crisps constitute a balanced meal, what drives me round the twist is the constant desire for entertainment. My son feels that my suggestion that he might go to bed and have a sleep, what with him being unwell and all, is tantamount to neglect and the only way I can make amends is to take a minute interest in everything from his colouring in to how many apples he can catch in some particularly inane kiddie game he is immersed in. 

I guess it's yet more evidence that I am a BAD MOTHER that this is about as fascinating as watching paint dry and that I am now counting the minutes till he can go back to school where the teachers are responsible for keeping him amused between the hours of 9am - 3:20pm. 

In my defence, own my mother, having only daughters and therefore no knowledge of the tender loving care required by a bout of Boy Flu, thought that bed rest, Radio 4 and a new colouring book was ample entertainment for a sick child. While this probably explains why I am no Florence Nightingale myself,  it was also perfect preparation for motherhood, because while the boys may wallow in being unwell, everyone knows that mum's aren't allowed to be ill.  

Friday, 13 March 2009

Comic relief

I am sure the school was pleased with the joke they played on us poor parents in aid of charity today, with the decision to invite the children to come into the classroom for breakfast at 8:30am accompanied by their harried parents. As if we don't have enough trouble brushing teeth, getting dressed and feeding and watering four children without sadistic schemes like this being dreamt up to trip us up on the school run. 

I will admit the kids did look sweet all dressed up in their PJs. Although I am not sure that the sight of the school caretaker cutting a dash in his Wee Willie Winkie nightshirt is something I ever want to start my day with again.  

But perhaps it was marginally less scary than the sight of all of us mums pre-caffeine and Touch Eclat application, although to be fair the school had instructed us to wear something funny, and looking at our collective shiny-faced exhaustion at this interruption of our normal routine it was either laugh or cry. 

Perhaps next year we should put up a petition that we would all chuck in our pound into the collection bucket to be able to start the day half an our later, rather than earlier - after all they do say charity begins at home. 

The dating game

I am thinking of hiring a social secretary. Not for me you understand, as since the arrival of children a big night chez nous consists of a chilled bottle of supermarket plonk, a plastic tray of Singapore noodles fresh from the back of the delivery bike and a new episode of Grand Designs, but for my five-year-old son. 

Since he started school in September he's had more dates than I ever have. Not really that surprising as my boring history of serial monogamy means most of my relationships fast forwarded through the romance and passion phase straight to the sofa and Sky remote stage. 

Every week brings new invitations for a play dates, and as this involves another mother picking up, entertaining and feeding my child I say bring it on. The only problem is that now the twins are out and I can't hide behind my blossoming bump anymore I am expected to reciprocate. 

I have tried using the line that with four children of my own I already have a full house, but Mr Sociable ain't falling for that one, and while he's happy to go round and show off his one man demolition skills at other children's houses, he thinks it's time we returned the favour. So now we have three play dates lined up and if his tales from other people's houses are anything to go by poor mummy will have to combine the skills of party entertainer, cordon bleu chef and, most disturbingly, peep show owner. 

Yes, it seems that not only is my firstborn more in demand than me, he's also seeing more action (again not surprising as with month-old twins and a throbbing c-section scar our bedroom is reserved exclusively for sleeping). After his last play date he was hardly back inside the front door before he revealed that his little friend's big sister had shown him her boobies. As all are primary school age I doubt it was that much of a thrill, but I am not sure how I will be able to live up to this standard of entertainment. 

I just live in hope that by the time they are at school I will be able to sell the twins on the idea that they were born with their own personal play date for life, and they'll just have to save their booby spotting for their teenage years. 


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Goodnight sweetheart

Night feeds are hellish for parents of a newborn. Not that I would know that much about them as if my time as a career girl taught me anything it was the value of delegation, so my other half has been designated night feeder for the duration. That is apart from when he drafts in grandma to take over night nanny duties.

However, despite my best efforts I haven't managed to get off entirely Scott free, and I still sport dark bags under my eyes that almost match my baby change bag for capaciousness and I am, like most mums, permanently exhausted. But perhaps because I am not caught up in the grind of night feeding I have a secret affection for them, and watching my babies dark, beautiful eyes stare up at me as they suck in their milk fills me with love for them.

I think my strange affection stems back to one particular moment with my firstborn. I was ragged with grief as I mourned the loss of my old, independent life and I found it hard to find much love for this problematic new arrival who was busily turning my world upside down. But it was during a night feed that everything changed and I fell into an abyss of love for him that I have yet to reach the bottom of.

I had been ripped from my slumbers by his insistent cries once again and was sitting, exhausted rocking him in a nursing chair, bottle in his hungry mouth, desperate to return to sleep, perchance to dream. He pulled away from the teat, looked up at me, his mummy, who was failing in her duty to love him properly and gave me the most beautiful gummy smile. His whole baby face lit up with adoration, and instantly it was mirrored by my emotions. I was in love at last with my perfect baby.

So while I, just like any new parent, count the days till my twins sleep through, there is a part of me that will miss these treasured dark and dreamy moments with my boys once they are stolen forever by sleep.

On the parenthood piste

When I first went skiing at the grand old age of 28 I was instantly amazed by the discovery of a whole new world that I had previously been blind to. From the airports filled with braying Brits bundled up in down jackets to learning the tricky knack of staying upright on the slopes, something I am still working on a decade later. 

While I lay awake last night waiting for the familiar cry of 'Eh, eh, eh' to emanate from the baby monitor, heralding the next night feed, I began to think about the parallels between learning to ski and becoming a mum - not an obvious comparison, but it was late at night. 

Not only do both mothers and novice skiers have to get used to an environment where physical discomfort and emotional distress are everyday sensations, and where you would be often left weeping and paralysed with fear with no rescue in sight, it also introduced you to experiences that were previously a closed book. 

Getting know about carving skis, blue runs and 'ze snowplough' was like learning a different language and apart from the clue in the name I wouldn't have had any idea what Snow and Rock sold, ditto nipple shields, epidurals, travel systems and Mothercare

Just as once I'd been introduced to the joys of skiing, I developed a sudden and unhealthy interest in Ski Sunday (and who can blame me, have you seen the thighs on those downhill racers?), as soon as that blue line appeared on my first pregnancy test I couldn't stop surfing the upper reaches of the Sky channels to Discovery Home and Health for a daily dose of Baby TV. As I watched in fascinated horror as other mums pushed and screamed their babies out the sight induced the same clammy-palmed terror as contemplating an icy red run. 

Like Posh Spice and her famous Chanel skis,  I also convinced myself that  an inability to actually control yourself on skis should be no barrier to buying lots of nice shiny new clothes to parade on the piste, and motherhood presented another fantastic retail opportunity. Instead of wasting money on overpriced skis covered with features I'd never use, I found myself adopting the same ignorance when it came to choosing a pram and dropped hundreds of pounds on one I could never work out how to fold down. It, like my skis, now gathers dust in our loft. 

But perhaps the closest similarity I can draw between skiing and motherhood is that tanking up on strong alcohol never fails to make me feel like I much better at it than I really am. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Be careful what you wish for

In my other life as a freelance journalist, the one where I earn money and respect, and which is fast fading to a distant memory as I submerge myself ever further under a mound of nappies, bottles, dirty washing and discarded action figures, I have been asked to pitch an idea for a piece to a newspaper. The story is about, not surprisingly, my ever-burgeoning family, but one of the questions the editor asked me to think about was how I felt when I found out I was having twins. 

I am not sure what I could charge for a two word piece, as the honest answer is 'Shit scared' or, more accurately as it's a family paper, 'S**t scared'. 

Bizarrely during this pregnancy, and only this one, my husband was convinced from the outset that it was twins, and this was long before my gargantuan bump advertised to the world and his wife that there were two on board. This was strange coming from a man who had so strongly resisted the addition of one more baby to the family, let alone two. Clearly there was a warning in there somewhere, but I just brushed it off with an airy: 'Good god I hope not, that would be my worst nightmare!'. 

Imagine my surprise when at my 12 week scan it turned out that my (bad) dream was to come true as when the scanner hit my stomach the image of two tiny, grainy babies was clear as day. But while my husband turned the air in the ultrasound room blue, expanding the foreign sonographer's knowledge of British swear words immeasurably, I was convinced that there must be some mistake surely? I even wondered if perhaps the expensive Harley Street scanner had a split screen mode no one had thought to mention - talk about clutching at straws. 

But no, it really was twins and as we paced the tasteful corridors of the clinic trying to persuade baby A, or was it B, I really couldn't tell back then, into the right position to complete the scan we quietly panicked about just what havoc the twins would wreak on our model family of four. The car was too small, the house was too small, the bank account was too small and all in the middle of a credit crunch. 

While my husband, being a man, wrestled with such practical considerations. I was, being a woman, in emotional meltdown desperately trying to suppress the dark memories from my postnatally depressed newborn days with baby number one, when the only thing that got me through was thanking my lucky stars that at least I didn't have twins - only now I would. 

Now who looked a fool for wanting  that third throw of the baby dice? Not only had it failed to land on pink, we'd inadvertently thrown a double. So as the saying goes be careful what you wish for as you might get one more than you bargained for. Though at least I get the last word as now even hubby admits that three would have been a breeze. 

Monday, 9 March 2009

First the worst?

I'm the second child in my family, not that you'd know it from looking through my parents' photo albums. There are pages filled with shots of my sister's childhood; every developmental stage is documented in painstaking details, but you can count the number of photos of me on the pudgy fingers of one tiny, baby hand. Clearly by the time they reached number two the novelty had worn off. 

This doesn't bode well for my numbers two, three and four sons and indeed history is already repeating itself. Even in pregnancy the signs were there. First time round I spent nine months preparing attending antenatal classes, pregnancy yoga sessions, touring the labour ward and learning more than any woman should about episiotomies and just what those giant forceps are for. 

I armed myself with arnica, raspberry leaf tea, massage oil, birth ball and TENS machine. Little did I realise back then that labour is far less about whale music, deep breathing and soothing oils than throwing up and begging for an epidural. 

Fast forward five years to birth number three and my preparation consisted of picking up the phone to book myself in for an elective caesarean. Forget raspberry leaf tea, I was in it for the free bottle of champers doled out by the posh hospital that my insurance company was treating me to. 

And it isn't just during gestation that these boys will have to deal with third class treatment. My first son's babyhood was a social whirl that would put any 'it' girl to shame. If it wasn't coffee with NCT pals, it was Tumble Tots, Monkey Music, Gymboree or baby massage classes. Never mind that I was paying through the nose for him to resolutely sleep through these improving activities. 

With son number two I just about managed to book him in for a music class, only to skive off most of them because I was too tired (lazy) to schlep him out of my house, where the quality of the chocolate biscuits was so much higher after all. 

With the twins I guiltily asked a mummy friend of three if she thought it would be terrible not to bother with baby classes at all this time round. I felt that by reaching number three and four child I deserved a reprieve from communal nursery rhyme singing in draughty church halls surrounded by over eager first timers. 

That said I am not so sure that my children don't prove that playground rhyme 'First the worst' right, as thanks to my intense hot housing my eldest is now incapable of amusing himself without my full and undivided attention - most annoying when you are trying to catch up with Mistresses on Sky +, scanning Twitter or updating your blog - all must do activities for a modern mother of course. 

Son number two swiftly learned the futility of trying to attract mummy's attention when she was deep in the latest copy of Heat, and with a bit of luck, and a lot of Cbeebies, the twins will soon learn that the fastest way to mummy's heart is to leave her in peace. Clearly there's a lot to be said for a spot of benign neglect. 

Friday, 6 March 2009

What's so bad about boys?

Just by breeding extensively enough to spawn four children I have marked myself out as a weirdo in a world were families of 2x2 are the norm. I have no excuse for this over extension of my family; I am not a member of a religious cult that encourages excessive childbearing, nor do I come from a family over-endowed with offspring - there are just two of us in the family and if you count the siblings I actually speak to, I am effectively an only child. But even worse than daring to overpopulate the world with my four kids - all of them had the audacity to be boys. 

I often wonder to myself, do mothers trailing gaggles of girls behind them inspire the same degree of pity that I do with my brood of boys? Do they get that sad-eyed stare when they say that they have only managed produce girls when I admit that, yes, not only do I have four children, they are, whisper it, all boys

Everyone assumes that I must be desperate for a pink-flavoured baby (and OK, hypocrite that I am, I will admit that my twin boys were meant to be a girl), but how insulting is this horrified pity to my beautiful boys? The implication being that to have four boys is a curse, rather than a blessing. 

I will admit that when I trawl the aisles of Hamleys or Toys For Us (as the boys have appropriately rechristened it) - and with a husband suffering from arrested development when it comes to toy shops that is more often that I might wish - I do linger by the sparkly Barbie displays, wistfully stroking the violent pink mane of her fully adjustable pony, and coveting her frothy ball gowns. But I long ago resigned myself to a house littered with Power Rangers, Ben 10 branded bric-a-brac and lethally sharp-cornered Lego bricks. 

To be honest perhaps a penchant for mindless violence with the odd unconvincing alien thrown in for good measure is easier to cope with than a pre-pubescent obsession with blusher, bras and boys. At least my sons show no signs of wishing to dress like underage hookers the moment they cast off their school uniform (with the possible exception of my eldest who is a sucker for nice fairy frock).

But the best thing about boys is the love they shower onto their lucky mummies. Whatever romance might have exited from your marriage the moment kids arrived, is more than replaced by the adoration heaped on any woman who has birthed boys. No bunch of long stemmed roses from an ardent suitor could ever match the clutch of wilted flowers brought home from the park in a sweaty little paw just for me, no diamonds could outshine a string of poster-painted pasta painstakingly treaded into a beautiful bracelet and no words whispered in passion could make my heart contract with joy as much as my son declaring that he loves me as much as he loves chocolate (and believe me that's a lot). 

So next time someone gives me that horrified look as they breathe 'Four boys....' in terrified tones - I shall smile and say: 'Yes, lucky me'. 

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Things I would never have said before becoming a parent

Of course there are all the usual things that you promised you would never say when you were a kid, but I am thinking of the more surreal utterances that parenthood adds to your repertoire. 

'Take that bag off your head before you brush your teeth, Max'

'Don't lick that, Max' (referring to the fence between the South Bank and the Thames, really don't ask)

'Max, don't sit on the dinosaur'

'Why are you walking backwards across the road Max?'

'Get your face out of the hummus pot Max'

'Stop eating the cat food Max'

The inspiration for this post is my second son who at just three years old has already shown an early talent for getting into tricky situations. 

Things you should never say to a mum of multiples

Firstly, anyone thinking of stopping a twinmummy on the street to share the following pearls of wisdom, just bear in mind that it has probably taken her the best part of a hour just to cobble together buggy, babies and baggage and manhandle them out of the house. She has a scant few moments between exiting her front door and one or both of the babies screaming blue murder for food, cuddles, a nappy change or the hell of it, so ask yourself does she really want to waste those precious minutes chatting to you? If you still think the answer is yes, then make sure you've read this handy guide before you open your mouth. 

1. 'Are they twins?' Err, why else would I be pushing around two newborns and sporting the pallor of a recently exhumed corpse. Of course they're bloody well twins. 

2. 'Are they natural?' Nope they're made of plastic - realistic aren't they? Oh I see you were actually expecting me to share my fertility history with you, a complete stranger? Forgive me if I would like to keep the details of my sex life a private matter. 

3. 'Are they identical?' Well if you take a look then the answer is self evident - do they look the same? This is a particular favourite of mums with girl/boy twins. 

4. 'My sister/neighbour/friend had twins. It was a NIGHTMARE!' Well thanks so much for sharing, that made my day. I shall proceed home to wallow in post natal depression following these kind words. 

5. 'You've got your hands full'. You don't say? So why are you wasting my time by stating the bleeding obvious? 

6. 'I always dreaded having twins. One was hard enough'. This one holds particularly fond memories for me as it was said to me by a midwife who had been sent out following a tearful call to the local hospital as I was in the throes of postnatal hormonal hell. Though a variation on the this theme was said to a fellow twin mum at a playgroup as a smug singleton mum told her 'Whenever I am having a really bad day, I think of you and feel better'. Sure didn't make my friend feel any better though. 

7. 'I don't know how you cope'. Well what do you suggest? I can't send them back where they came from now can I?

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