Wednesday, 14 November 2012

All change

Flo and Archie are nearly nine months old.  It’s an age since I last wrote my blog and in the few months since I last posted, my whole world has changed.  Archie is crawling, standing up, knocking things over, eating paper, climbing out of his moses basket when he’s meant to be sleeping, smearing cauliflower cheese in his eye, choking on rice cakes and generally making mischief.  He has also developed a tickly spot and has a Terry Thomas-esque gap between his two front teeth.  I gather this (the tooth gap not the tickly spot) is a marker of good luck so I shall be rubbing his lovely teeth on my Euromillions ticket every Friday.  Flo is determinedly sitting still, not crawling and not being a pudding kind of girl (which must be some kind of rogue gene).

Evie is settled and happy at school although it appears she was forced to sign the Official Secrets Act on her first day as she seems pathologically unable to share with us a single detail of what she does there all day every day.  While I rack myself with guilt about sending her to after school club at four years old so I can selfishly earn a living, she berates me for coming to pick her up too early.  And so I relax - guilt assuaged.  Homework has entered our world – homework, for four year olds, who knew?  I begin with intentions of gentle, liberal encouragement , only to morph accidentally just days in into an Amy Chua-style Tiger Mother, yelling that her  ‘H’ isn’t straight enough and that the only way to get good at something is to practice it over and over as she writes Jones for the 100th time - so motivating and inspiring for the young mind.  Captain Von Trapp would be so proud, I really must polish my whistle and shine those jackboots.

So just a month or so ago, my fledgling wee solo PR outfit stumbled and blinked into the daylight, coughing and spluttering with fear and trepidation.  I invented a name, wrote a business plan, built a little website, printed some jazzy business cards, got an accountant, and sent out a flurry of emails to people who knew me before my brain fell out or who met me since and were still prepared to talk to me.  Then in a very quiet voice, I practised saying:  “I’ve got three children and I run my own business”, just to see how it felt.    

Next I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers and hoped that a little bit of business might trickle my way, easing me gently back into the world of work.  But the trickle didn’t happen - because I won the first few things I pitched for and KA-BOOM, suddenly I feel like I might just have a one woman empire-in-the-making, with clients, campaigns and work coming out of my ears.  It’s all happened so quickly that I’m still catching my breath but it feels good to be chasing deadlines and talking to journalists again.  Of course the biggest shock to the system working for and by myself rather than in the comforting bosom of a big London PR agency is that I no longer have lots of lovely people to do what I ask.  As I build my own media lists for the first time in about a hundred years, I hear the distant strains of account execs past saying: “I told you it took two hours, not ten minutes, now stop bloody nagging”.

Mornings and evenings are frantic getting everyone up, dressed, changed, fed, watered and transported to their various destinations but when I’m back sitting at my desk, planning my working day, and the house is quiet, I take a minute to sit back and think: “Well here I am - mother of three and running my own business”.  I think it in a loud voice this time.  And it does feel good, and quite grown up and RIDICULOUSLY exciting. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

An alien in our midst

Flo and Archie were six months old this week.  I don’t know how that happened but happen it did.  Only about ten minutes ago they were tiny new-born dots with nose tubes, squished up together and looking up at our anxious faces looking down into their little shared cot.  As I stand at the hob, Annabel Karmel puree cookbook in one hand, blender in the other, two thoughts come to mind – firstly, how can my tiny bubs be eating already and second, surely I am far too old to be pureeing veg and won’t I be about 65 by the time I do their school run.  As far as weaning goes, so far so messily good.  With me as dextrous octopus armed with flailing spoons, bibs, sippy cups and wipes, they do all the things you want babies to do when they eat real food for the first time – wince, taste a tiny bit, spit it out, hold then drop the spoon a hundred times, chuck food around, suck their bibs, rock perilously in their bumbo seats etc.  One day, Evie helps feed them carrot puree made from the fruits of our own veg patch and I feel a delicious sense of earthy continuity.  All is comfortingly chaotic yet familiar. 

Less familiar is the interloper that has entered our lives, seemingly without us knowing.  Flo is a girl, Evie is a girl, I’m a girl, Just has a sister, I have a sister – we know girls.  Evie’s a gentle soul, loves dancing, dressing up, pink and all the usual ‘girl’ stuff.  But Just has always played plenty of rough and tumble with her, hanging her upside down, chucking her around and chasing her around the garden.  She loves that stuff.  And I’ve been sure to tell her that women can do any job a man can do.  She thought about that one long and hard and I got a bit twitchy about any come back – she then asked me if men can be mermaids which was a surprisingly challenging one to answer. 

When we found out that one of our babies was a boy, I just presumed he’d sort of be like a girl, only in male form.  I imagined we’d just treat him the same way we’d treat our girls.  As I righteously declared that I believe in the power of nurture over nature and would be raising Flo and Archie just the same, friends with sons stifled laughter.  When I said I didn’t think it was a given that boys need to sit in mud, hit other children with sticks, eat like animals and pull the legs off bugs, they scoffed politely.  Then I saw that the shelves of most bookshops carry Steve Biddulph’s “Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men”.  Well, you can imagine my thoughts on THAT illustrious tome.

But hey, here’s the thing.  For the first five months, the only discernible differences I could see between Flo and Archie were physiological: Flo petite, vocal, smiley, brunette, olive skinned and hazel-eyed; Archie bigger, quieter, serious, pale, blond and blue-eyed.  But in the last few weeks, things have definitely changed.  Archie’s suddenly much more physical - rolling and crashing into toys and furniture without fear, desperate to sit up by himself, often using Flo as purchase to pull himself around, grabbing toys purposefully and hurling them, grunting when he can’t reach something he likes the look of, touching my face during feeds and shoving his bottle away when he’s had enough milk.  And it’s not a character thing – Flo has a strong personality.  She’s forthright, highly vocal (deafening at times when she’s telling us she’s hungry – we call her Flo Foghorn), obvious about what she wants and likes.  She’s just distinctly more dare I say it: “feminine”.  I struggle to find other words or excuses for what’s happening, but god damn it, it looks like when I wasn’t looking, Archie became a boy.   

Monday, 16 July 2012

New beginnings

Flo and Archie are four months and three weeks old and time is just flying past.  This past week, under cover of seemingly innocuous smiling, sleeping and googoo gaagaa-ing, they have been busy hot-housing.  Unbeknownst to me, they have enrolled in a novelty circus act for very small wriggly people, in which they roll incessantly in every conceivable direction – off their play mat, onto the floor, onto toys but mainly onto each other.  Mini completer-finishers they are not so the glee of initial accomplishment is rapidly followed by puce-faced rage as they realize they are stuck, tiny arms simply too puny to bear their weight or turn themselves over.  With faces planted firmly in the floor, they proceed to vent their fury at multiple decibels until rescued by yours truly.  I look them in the eye, advise them soundly with a helpful “now this is just getting silly”, at which point they smile and then repeat the trick ad infinitum.  Meanwhile, we’re having some cracking vowel-sound conversations and Flo’s taught herself bubble-blowing which is nice, if messy.

Evie is having her own adventure as she prepares to leave the happy, loving arms of her nursery and start the transition to our village primary school this September.  A fantastic welcome meeting for parents reassures us of the nurturing environment she’ll be entering and we’re asked to commit our hopes for our children to paper, which we’ll revisit in a year’s time.  In the Q&A session with the class teacher, there’s much questioning about how much sport the children will play and I already fear the parents’ race at sports day next summer.  Must get fit.         

I realise my blog’s been a tad gloomy to date.  Sorry about that – I think I’ve tended to post on tough days when writing has served as therapy.  I wouldn’t want you to think for a minute that I’m not enjoying this new parenting lark.  I know I’ve probably over-focussed on the tougher aspects of raising twins but it’s because there are a fair few of those and they knock me for six at times, plus I need bucketloads of sympathy.  At times when I’m struggling, woeful posts on my beloved facebook trigger a mass of wonderful virtual hugs from friends far and near that lift my spirits no end.  Challenges aside - the fun bits are plentiful and heart-warming but I’ve tried not to bang on about that stuff because everyone hates smug parents with cloying tales of prodigal offspring.  Bearing that in mind, you’ll be pleased to know that these last few weeks I’ve been feeling much more chipper, less knackered and dare I say it, HAPPY. 

The cause of this epiphany is something I vowed not to do til September.  Yep, strike me down but I’ve been doing some WORK.  Now don’t judge me, I know the babies are still very young and I should be devoting each waking moment to their every need BUT in my humble opinion, all play and no work makes mummy a terribly dull and ever-so-slightly resentful old bag.  So, I’ve been researching and prospecting for my fledgling PR outfit and have unashamedly enjoyed every minute of it.  Daddy and Nanny daycare step in to play Mum while I network with some great local businesses.  As initial meetings lead to further meetings, I feel my horizons widen and get a glimpse of what I’ve wanted to do since we moved here two years ago - use everything I’ve learned in my career so far to run my own business promoting the brilliant ‘hidden gem’ companies on my doorstep.  A local glossy mag gets in touch wanting to feature our ‘escape to the country’ story, then out of the blue comes a request to work on a really exciting pitch.  I jump at the opportunity to dust off the grey matter and get the adrenaline pumping.  Despite some late night keyboard-bashing, it’s SO good to feel the pleasant pressure of a looming deadline instead of clock-watching for the next round of feeds.

This unexpected but very welcome spurt of industry makes me feel like a new woman.  I bounce back to my family with new relish, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the realization that in every aspect of my life, it’s a time of new beginnings.    

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Flo and Archie will be four months old this week.  I can’t believe how quickly time is flying past.  They’re much more aware of each other now and are making the most wonderful sounds.  Flo attempts a few roll-overs most days now and Archie did a full flip onto his front today without any warning.  His expression of permanent surprise (a la Father Dougall from TV’s Father Ted) is still highly entertaining as is Flo’s ability to crack a smile at any given moment.  Feeding is increasingly a juggling act as they become more and more wriggly in their bouncy chairs and it doesn’t seem possible that in just a few months, we’ll start weaning. 

I don’t know if it’s post-natal comedown, hormones getting back into synch, overtiredness or just my somewhat gloomy nature (or possibly all of the above?) but I seem to be at the complete mercy of my emotions.  I thought because I’ve had a baby before and being an older mum, I’d be better at all the emotional stuff but it appears not.  It goes without saying that I love these babies with all my heart.  They’re joyful, flourishing little chaps, fun to be with, cute as buttons, and in rude and robust health.  On good days, I feel like Supermum, skillfully juggling the demands of our expanded household and smugly lapping up praise from strangers in supermarkets while rustling up a tasty supper, keeping my body hair in check and even doing a spot of light weeding in the garden.  But on tough days, I feel overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility, stifled by the tedium of domesticity and wrung out by the military-style logistics required just to do the nursery run or to meet a friend for lunch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so nerve-janglingly hyper-sensitive and seem to go through days of being constantly and inexplicably on the brink of tears.  I well up when singing nursery rhymes to an oblivious Flo and Archie at ‘Bounce & Rhyme’, get a full throat lump and lip tremble when those peskily adorable kids and military wives do their Jubilee thing, and can’t even look our local Big Issue seller in the eye for fear of wanting to adopt her.   

A few weeks ago, an(other!) unkind comment from a thoughtless geriatric reduces me to a gibbering wreck while at the supermarket.  I go home, unpack the shopping, and add: ‘Grow thicker skin’ to my to do list.  It sits just below: ‘Don’t be too proud to ask for help’ and ‘Stop denying that having twins is hard work when people say “that must be hard work even when you know bloody well that it is‘. 

Respite comes in the form of my wonderful Mum (and fairy godmother) who comes to stay for a few days while my Dad is overseas.  I meet her off the train and even as I see her crossing the platform, I’m fighting back tears of relief (again, the crying thing) as I know she brings with her unconditional love, fuss-free help with the babies, and endless patience to read every single Meg and Mog story to Evie each night of her stay, not to mention a Marks & Spencer’s store card and a devout love of coffee shops which we indulge fully during her stay.  We talk, talk, talk and she tells me I’m doing a great job of this motherhood thing and that I should be proud of myself.  It’s the very best kind of praise and when we hug our goodbyes at the end of her stay, I cling to her like a child and miraculously manage not to sob – well, at least until I get back into my car anyway.    

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Dusty wedges and rusty edges

Our lovely little chaps were three months old last week.  We’ve watched them grow from tiny mites into robust, smiley babies.  Archie’s taken a three pound lead over Flo and as he gets bigger, she seems even smaller somehow, even though she’s growing well too.   They’re finding their voices - Archie has an owl-like “hoooo” while Flo coos and babbles, smiling constantly.  And then there’s the hands.  We’re loving watching them randomly pointing, staring at their own fingers and brandishing a Superman fist.  A truly delightful sight is watching Archie stroke his own fuzzy peach-skin head.

The last few weeks have been the most exhausting by far.  While the babies are pretty much sleeping through the night, the trade-off is very wakeful daytimes.  Even now we’re using bottles, feeding still takes up a huge part of the day and I’m frustrated at the lack of tangible evidence of anything vaguely productive to show for my day.  I never seem to have a long enough run at anything before the next epic double feed/burp/change round starts.  I leave snatched meals uneaten, the ironing pile half-creased, emails half-written, exercise abandoned.  A diehard completer-finisher, I struggle with what to me seems chaos.  Just asks: “Did you have a good day?” when he gets in from work and I woefully tell him I’ve not achieved a single thing, nothing to report, just the nursery run, baby duties and domestic drudgery.  He hugs me and tells me I’m a great mum and that Evie, Flo and Archie are growing and flourishing under my care – that that is my biggest achievement.  He says all the right things but the fact is that while I’m very good at working, I’m a pretty hopeless housewife.  Sadly I’ll never get the same buzz from baking a sponge as I will from cracking a strategy or pitching a great idea.  I give myself a good talking to about making the most of this special time with Flo and Archie as my return to working life will come round soon enough.  At that, I switch my brain down several gears and slow the well-oiled cogs, stick a muslin on my shoulder and put on my pinny (spotless and for show obviously).

Well-meaning friends and glossy magazines tell me I need ‘me time’ to separate mummy-me from me-me.  But I don’t know how to fit that in.  I used to think of ‘me time’ as being a spa day or shopping splurge, solo cinema night or long soak in the bath with my book.  Now it’s more likely to be going to the loo without a four year old in tow or an evening trip to the supermarket to pick up forgotten groceries.  This weekend though, I finally get me some of that elusive time.  I winch myself into skinny (ish) jeans, dust off my towering wedge sandals and attend a drinks party at my local art gallery.  It’s wonderful.  Chilled white wine soothes my ‘new mum alone and out of the house in going-out clothes’ angst, the company is charming and bohemian, and the art baffles and intrigues me in a most pleasant way.  While I’m there, something happens deep inside my head but I don’t recognize the feeling.  Then today I go to the Hay Festival to listen to my favourite columnist, proud and potty-mouthed feminist and mum Caitlin Moran, discuss her caustic take on the modern woman’s lot.  Her witty rantings are bitter-sweet and entertaining and create much chatter amongst the crowd afterwards.  Then that thing with my head happens again.  I drive home and as I put my keys in the front door and hear the familiar sounds of my family, I realize what’s happened this weekend.  I’ve done something I’ve not done for a good few months.  I’ve done some THINKING.  I’d like to try doing it again, just as soon as I finish this ironing.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

People say the funniest things

Flo and Archie are twins.  We’ve always known this.  When we saw two dots on the screen at our first scan, I behaved mortifyingly inappropriately.  I swore – really badly, a lot, out loud.  I had to apologise to the sonographer and I was ashamed of myself.  She laughed and said: “Don’t worry, it’s quite a common response.  Hey, it could have been triplets.”  I loved her for that.

We’ve always had trouble calling them twins.  From that very first scan, we choked on the words - I think it was the shock and fear of it all.  When pregnant, we found that if we called them ‘the babies’, it made the prospect feel less terrifying, less daunting, even a bit exciting.  We’d had a ‘baby’ before and we did OK with that one - she’s turned out lovely so there was comfort in the familiarity of that word.  And so we agreed that once they arrived, we’d avoid ‘twin talk’ and raise the babies to be individuals, not a single unit.  It helps of course that they are fantastically different in pretty much every way possible, even beyond the gender difference.  One’s small, one big.  One’s noisy, one quiet.  One’s dark, one fair.  One’s animated, one steady.  Perhaps I actively seek out differences to justify our decision but to me, they are two entirely separate little people.  Even though their hands touch many times a day as they wriggle around alongside each other, they seem blissfully unaware of each other at the moment and I’m loving watching each of them develop their own personalities and characteristics.

One aspect of twin-ness we could never have prepared for is the attention of other people.  Newborn babies are always magnets for attention but the power of twins seems a particular crowd-puller.  People stop us to take a look, they point and stare at us when out shopping, they comment on our chariot of a buggy, they call over friends and family to have a look too, they tell me they don’t know how I cope and ask if I feed them at the same time.  Some (weirdos) even tell us they make them feel broody.  Complete strangers openly share their own twin stories (I’m a twin, twins run in our family, I married a twin …) and it feels like we’ve joined a club in which members wear their badge with deep pride.  People tell us there’s something magical about twins, that they’re special and different, that they’ll have their own unique bond, that they’ll speak their own language, that they’ll always have each other, that they’ll look out for each other.  They ask if twins run in our family and after some awkward exchanges early on, we fudge an agreed response to avoid divulging our entire medical history to complete strangers in the supermarket.  We smile and nod, smile and nod, and I ponder whether the attention will wane as they get older, how it will make them feel when they’re old enough to take it in, and whether it will ever bother Evie.

Even when people are looking straight at the babies, even when Flo’s in pink and Archie’s in blue, even when I tell people their names, we’ve had to learn to stop sniggering like immature teenagers when asked: “Are they identical?”  

Friday, 4 May 2012

A year in the making

A year ago last weekend, we went to the wedding of one of my oldest school friends.  We enjoyed every minute of that sunny day, sharing in their special day, catching up with friends, taking photos on the beach, dancing til the next morning and enjoying some much-needed grown up time while Evie stayed with her grandparents.  We drank loads, far too much.  We planned it that way because we knew that the following week, we’d be starting the rollercoaster journey that we hoped with every bone in our bodies would bring Evie a brother or sister – booze would be off our radar for a while.  We’d agreed that after previous heartache, years of treatment and our savings much-dwindled, this would be our last attempt.  Every drop of that wedding booze was delicious as we put off the uncertainty of what lie ahead.

52 weeks later, Evie has two little chums to play with and they are two months old already.  Flo was first to smile – a lopsided little grin with accompanying gurgle.  Archie followed a few days later with a more beatific effort.  I’m getting the feeling that this will be their pattern in life!  I struggle to keep up with their appetites and realise with a fair measure of angst that my breastfeeding days are numbered.  I just can’t keep up with the babies and they berate me with shouting and angry little fists when I can’t deliver the same effortless and plentiful service provided by those damned convenient fast-food-mongers Tommee and Tippee.

It’s not just the physical and emotional wrench I feel at stopping feeding, it’s the quality reading time.  I’ve been ploughing through books while feeding, unashamedly nose-down in mum lit - when not gazing adoringly at the babies obviously.  Pamela Druckerman’s ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’ gave me much Gallic food for thought about how to reduce the stress of family mealtimes with a child that eats like a mouse.  My current (failing) strategy of yelling “JUST EAT IT” while trying to shovel food into her closed mouth is possibly not the best way forward I acknowledge and almost certainly a route to a teenage eating disorder.  ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ made me feel damned grateful that psychotic sadist Amy Chua wasn’t my mother and made me cherish my own parents’ gentle-but-firm encouragement when it came to school work and learning musical instruments.  I certainly know where I’d have shoved my violin if I’d have been Amy’s long-suffering daughter.  Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a woman’ is the very finest manifesto for 21st century feminism and should be compulsory reading for every schoolgirl in the land.  She’s been my writing idol since I was a teenager reading her in the Melody Maker and I hope she’ll write tons more books as she’s a genius.  And last but no means least, no working mum can possibly not read Allison Pearson’s ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’.  Mum-lit lite it is not as she gets right under the skin of the working mother’s essential dilemma and wrings out your very heart in the process.  Ignore the film, it’s not the same.  I’m breaking out of mum lit next – ‘50 Shades of Grey’ is coming, pardon the pun.        

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Leisurewear and Chanel No 5

Our lovely wee chaps are 7 weeks old now.  Archie is now so big he’s already secured himself a place at Eton and will undoubtedly be one of those clever but weird socially inept genius kids that go up to Oxbridge at 12.  Flo eats the same volume of milk as Archie but remains resolutely tiny, yet brilliantly perky like a little meerkat.  We go to a baby massage class this week and Archie is the teacher’s ‘dolly’.  He sleeps, wriggles, gazes around with gorgeous eyes and generally looks adorable.  I am immensely proud and almost certainly quite smug as both babies adopt zen-like silence as the rest of the class descends into crying.  Because I’m quite shallow, the part I like most about the massage class is the vocal admiration of the mainly first-time mums at my coping with newborn twins and a 4 year old.  I’ll be going to the massage class again but will wear more make-up, better clothes and possibly carry a briefcase next time just to show them what I can really do.          

My post natal wardrobe continues to vex me.  Nothing fits properly so I surrender a little too willingly to the comfort of leisurewear, much to my chagrin.  While I revel in the soft baggy sagginess of my sweatpants and Uggs, my vow never to wear them outside the house has been well and truly broken and they become my daily uniform.  Special occasions call for an upgrade so out come leggings or jeggings – the equivalent of my ‘best dress’.  On a supermarket run, I catch my reflection in the door and realize that the tragic figure looking back at me is in fact not straight off the ‘true life tragedy’ pages of Bella magazine – no, it’s me.  Urgent action is required but options are frustratingly limited: any new outfit must accommodate my still-very-much-present twin tum and frequently-in-use E-cup boobs, plus I can’t do any proper exercise yet in case my mystery stomach pain (which thank the lord is abating) returns.  I know a major shopping expedition is required but I just can’t face the demoralising squeezing of my post babies body into unsuitable outfits in overlit changing rooms manned by skinny teenagers.  Accepting my post babies shape is a challenge too far at the moment and knocks my self-esteem when I’m having a tough day.  I try to reassure myself with the thought that all my friends with older twins look to be in great shape so perhaps I’m expecting too much too soon.

Once I’m pain-free at last, I shall dust off my trainers, lose a stone and a half, and purchase a stylish and flattering new wardrobe.  Until then, I shall wear my diamond earrings, liberally apply Chanel No. 5, snuggle into my sweats and avoid mirrors.                   

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Great Middle Aged Mum Hair Dilemma

Flo & Archie were 6 weeks old yesterday and pass their check with flying colours.  I don’t know where the time has gone.  Those early days in hospital seem a lifetime ago and our chubby, healthy, wriggly little chaps bear little resemblance to their tiny, skinny former selves.  With my mad and unexplained pain of recent weeks fast subsiding (unlike the stubborn remnants of my twin tum sadly), I’m given the OK to drive so get behind the wheel for the first time in forever.  The instant high of impending freedom is rapidly replaced with a raft of new logistical challenges just to leave the house and an overwhelming sense of responsibility as I pull out of the drive with 3 sets of precious cargo on board.

With Justin back at work after weeks of heroic invalid support (me!), I get used to my own company again, which in the absence of adult conversation, means only one thing: list-making.  I’m no domestic goddess (we’ve been living off my Mum’s freezer meals for weeks now and austerity measures are yet to impact our cleaner’s weekly visit) but though I say so myself, I do make a cracking list.  And shallow pinny-avoider that I am, top of that list is not in any way related to housewifely tasks or family life – nope, it’s My Hair. 

I’ve had the same hair for years – big, long, thick, straight, blonde (almost entirely natural if it weren’t for the highlights) and ‘naturally styled’ (go to bed with it wet and too busy/lazy to blow dry, straighten or curl in the morning).  When hairdressers ask excitedly: “So what shall we do with it?”, my inner rebel always yells: “Something radically different, something dramatic, something young, brave and short”.  My somewhat more introverted actual self mumbles: “As many highlights as you can cram in, let’s take an inch off the length and I don’t want to chat about my holiday plans”.  I realize that at 41, I may have to face up to the fact that I have possibly come to resemble variously a middle-aged Alice in Wonderland (when it’s down), Sandra Dee (ponytail) and even down-on-her-luck ballerina (bun), only with way more tangles.  Tangles are the bane of my life.  I reached a new low last week when I actually had to cut out a tangle that refused to budge.  It wasn’t just a tangle – it was a dread, a disgusting matted, BROWN dread.  It had to go and with it went my resolve to keep long hair. 

I think I’ve kept long hair all this time because I thought it represented sexy, youthful abandon and general funkiness.   But I think I might have been in denial – I think it might just have been sheer laziness and avoidance of having a ‘hair style’.  I’ve not really had a ‘hair style’ since my 1980s Princess Diana flick or my short, funky but very high maintenance ‘wedding hair’ in 2003.  Justin wants me to have my ‘wedding hair’ again but I remind him that it took an expert stylist over 3 hours and an ocean of noxious chemicals to create it which is possibly a little unrealistic bearing in mind our recent family developments.  So begins The Great Middle Aged Mum Hair Dilemma – do I pontificate and stay long-ish wondering what could have been, do I carpe diem and go short but worry about looking manly, or give in to the obligatory Mum Bob?  What else is there?  I’m lost and need help.  While I deliberate and crowd-source views on Facebook, I shall pour over hair mags, eventually braving the salon clutching a torn-out picture of a highly-styled, airbrushed celebrity half my age.  “Make me look like that please.”            

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Good days, bad days and a truly shocking day

Our babies are a month old this week which we’re pinching ourselves to believe.  They’re feeding well, piling on the weight and growing like mad.  Flo is bright-eyed, alert and busy pointing, stretching and shouting.  Archie’s more sedate – cuddly, sleepy, fluffy-haired and decidedly more slothful.  Nice mix of gene pool going on there between them we reckon.  Good and even brilliant days far outweigh bad days so far – when feeding and sleeping works like clockwork, we get some decent rest in the day and sleep at night, and even get some grown-up evenings with supper and a DVD (and call each other by name instead of Mummy and Daddy).  Our families have been amazing this first month and I don’t know how we would have survived without them.  We’ve been spoilt rotten with their love, support and time.  They’ve shushed, jigged and cwtched restless newborns, changed more than their fair share of nappies, run scores of nursery drop-offs and pick-ups, done endless supermarket trips, and fed, watered and hugged us.  At the same time, friends have showered us with generous gifts, cards and good wishes.  It feels like our first few weeks have truly been the ‘babymoon’ we always joked about having but never thought possible or likely.  In secret, I weigh myself too much but delight in losing almost 3 stone in a month.

On the less good days, I’m glued to the feeding chair for what seems like hours on end, we’re sleep deprived, I’m still in PJs at lunchtime, we surrender  to too much TV as after-nursery childcare and the house looks like a bomb’s hit it.  I confess this tests my control-freakery to the limits and I have to give myself a good talking to about needing to embrace the brave new world of life ‘a cinq’.  I avoid the mirror on these days to avoid catching sight of my still-sizeable bump, cadaverish complexion, eye bags with eye bags,  and mumsy smockery of my post natal wardrobe.

And then there was yesterday.  I’ve been having some hideous abdominal pain (like I’m being ripped apart) for the last fortnight which has me doubled up, weeping and hobbling like a limpy old crone whenever I do anything vaguely strenuous.  By strenuous I mean like turning over in bed, walking to the end of our lane or getting something out of a cupboard.  The midwife, health visitor, GP and emergency locum press, poke and prod me, assure me that my section scar is healing beautifully but fail to identify any recognizable problem, instead citing numerous possible but vague and untreatable causes.   

Throwing my toys out of the pram, I insist on a referral to hospital and am advised to go to A&E.   I arrive there at 4pm hopeful and in good spirits with babies and my stoic sister-in-law in tow.  Four hours in, the spirits are fading fast when a Neanderthal and probably demented octogenarian kindly berates me for feeding the babies in public, having no man with me and being ‘a little bitch’.  I shake and sob with rage, yell at him hysterically, and other people waiting wade in and yell at him too on my behalf, bless them all.  On the plus side, we’re given our own room to wait in and the horrid old codger is taken to task by hospital staff who tell me a verbal abuse inquiry will be launched.  To top off the day, I leave hospital after 10.30pm, six hours after arriving, a shadow of my former self with no diagnosis beyond ‘see how you feel in another couple of weeks and if the pain is no better, ask your GP what you should do’.  I’m too tired to battle for better information even though I know I should have, and leave feeling beaten up and none the wiser about why I’m not recovering.          

On a lighter, more rustic note, our sprawling garden bursts into colour with spring bulbs and we smile at its green loveliness.  Just and my Dad build and plant a veg patch.  The same night, Justin watches a vintage episode of The Good Life – the one where it transpires that the only reason Tom and Barbara can actually afford to lead the Good Life is because Tom paid off the mortgage when he still had a ‘real job’.  Just gazes wistfully upon gorgeous Felicity Kendall in her wellies, dungarees and adorable mud-slicked nose and I know exactly what he’s thinking – she is his perfect woman.  I watch his little smile fade when I remind him that sadly (for him), I will be forever Margot.  

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A glass of prosecco and a doughnut

Heck, it's been a busy two weeks.  After a long, very painful and largely unproductive labour on Leap Year's Eve, our lovely natural birth plan (largely built on yoga breathing, the power of positive thought and sheer bloody minded rejection of all things narcotic) fast went out the window and we ended up having an emergency c-section after pre eclampsia came on really quickly and our smaller baby started to struggle.  My fear of all things Caesarean meant I glossed through that section of the book in complete denial so I ended up going into surgery shaking, sobbing and petrified.  BUT all went just fine and our two gorgeous babies came out only a minute apart after just 5 minutes into surgery, yelling and in great shape.  Small but perfectly formed, we at last met Archie and Florence and fell instantly in love with them.  Flo went to the Special Care Baby Unit but returned after just a few hours so we could all be together for the first time.  Needless to say, there was much emotional sobbing and wondrous gazing at our little miracles.

Two weeks later (including almost a week's hospital stay to get their weight up), F&A are eating for Wales and England combined, are piling on the weight and have today beaten their birth weights.  We're just delighted at how they're doing and are more smitten every day.  Big sister Evie seems to have grown up over night and is fantastic with them, deciding she will now dress herself for nursery, clean her own teeth and get washed each morning.  Our families rally to support, help and cook for us, bless them.  

At the weekend, a dear and thoughtful friend sends me a touching text reminding me of the daunting journey we faced all those years ago when our chances of ever having a family looked extremely bleak.  I take a minute to thank my lucky stars and to be grateful for caring friends and family who have supported us through some tough times on that long journey.  And with my strange, infuriating and inexplicable pregnancy Coeliac symptoms now gone, I celebrate with the two things I've dreamed of for 9 months - a large glass of Prosecco and a jam doughnut.           

Monday, 27 February 2012


Tomorrow's D-Day and we go into hospital to be induced.  We've got to nearly 39 weeks but our smaller twin isn't growing as much as they should be so we're giving things a helping hand.  Can't believe we've made it to only a week off our due date.  Everything's packed and sorted, bar our heads which are still coming to terms with our impending new life as a big family of five instead of a little one of three.  I went to see The Artist this morning to try and take my mind off tomorrow but sadly the lack of dialogue proved to be not quite as distracting as I'd have liked.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Day 1 - 18.02.12

I'm Julie, a working mum of one from London, wife to landscape gardener Justin, and expecting twins any day now.  18 months ago, we changed our lives completely by escaping London for country life, the novelty of which is yet to fade.  We both divide our work lives between the red soil of Herefordshire and the Big Smoke and enjoy having a foot in both camps: a bumpkin urbanite is how I describe myself these days.

I'm a PR consultant currently on maternity leave, so missing writing, I've started this blog.  I'll be chatting about our new life with twins and a four year old, life in the countryside (which is still a new and lovely novelty to us despite my husband's farming roots and my diehard London-ness), and general goings-on in and around our beloved family home, 'Bumpkin Towers'.

Hope you like it,