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.