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.