Monday, 31 October 2011

It's all in the bag...

There is a saying that you can tell a lot about a woman from the size of her handbag.   Apparently, the larger the bag, the more extroverted a woman's personality. My theory is that it obviously has more to do with necessity than personality - after all, I have gone from carrying no bag in my youth, to carrying one now under which boy scouts could comfortably make camp with no fear of getting wet in the rain.  I doubt that my personality has changed that much.

Not only that, the contents of a bag are supposed to say a lot about a woman.  I once won a prize for being the only woman at a ladies meeting to have a socket wrench in her handbag (don't ask!). The Sweetpea meanly refers to my present handbag as the Bermuda Triangle because he swears things go in there that never have a hope of coming out of there alive.  When sorting out my handbag the other day, I found (amongst other miscellaneous and unidentifiable half-sucked and discarded objects covered in bag fluff) a fleet of six vehicles, three bags of no-MSG-added chips, a half-eaten stale biscuit (it was still quite good - give me a break: I am a breast-feeding mom and pretty much starving all the time), three odd socks, four pairs of sunglasses (only two of which actually have lenses in them), my cell-phone, someone else's cell-phone (lovingly packed up by one of my kids on a visit somewhere), some rocks and dried flowers, a lipstick tube with no lipstick in it (industrious fingers have scratched it all out), various scribbled works of art that I have thought worth saving, and a dried chicken bone (Why? Why?).  Not sure what this says about me as a person, other than perhaps I am a mom of three busy and creative children who think nothing of using my handbag as a dumping ground.

However, when it comes to finding things, the shoe is on the other foot.  Invariably, as we prepare to go anywhere, I gather up my receptacle for all that I will ever need (i.e. my handbag) while I smugly wait for the Sweetpea to say "I can't find my......" (wallet, keys, cell-phone - you fill in the blank), and then rush around frantically trying to remember where he used it/saw it/saw the children playing with it last.  At that point, just as tempers are fraying and ire is running high, I calmly interject "We could always buy you a man-bag?"  Nothing is guaranteed to cause more consternation in a red-blooded, testosterone-flooded male than the mention of a man-bag.  It is like kryptonite to Superman.  All his power drains away at the thought of that ball-busting object.  For the next few days, keys are hung on hooks, wallets placed carefully in cupboard, cell-phones left on the loudest setting so that an emergency phone-call from the land-line will be able to locate them without fuss.  Until he grows sloppy and the cycle starts all over again.  

It appears that the eternally-raging battle of the sexes can be summed up in this one illustration (probably stemming from the days of the caveman): the woman, the gatherer of the tribe, carries all she needs with her; the man of the tribe, powerful hunter that he is, does not want to be weighed down by carrying unnecessary objects.  Yet while out and about, even Neanderthal man was likely to come up to his counterpart at some stage of the evening and say "Please could you just put my club in your bag?"

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sticks and stones....

When the boys were little, we could hardly wait for their first words.  We were lucky in that we did not have to wait very long for them - by thirteen months they could already say thirty words.  We were thrilled.  Life consisted of engineering opportunities for our marvelous children to show off their amazing skills.  We would introduce strange topics into the conversation in the hopes that the boys would overhear and demonstrate their unique abilities.  I once caught myself talking for almost ten minutes on end about the Crocodile Hunter, much to the bemusement of my guests (that was around the time the boys first started talking about crocodiles). One would have thought that we were the only parents ever to have witnessed their children uttering words.

Now, it seems, it is the getting them to stop talking that is the real key.  We have both been unpleasantly surprised to hear a loud voice echoing through the congregation at church: "Don't worry, I'll be back" - in true Rambo style as the boys left to go to their children's classes (to the amusement of the audience).

However, the latest occurred when, surrounded by my friends who were at my house for a play-date, one of my little firemen announced to me in a stage whisper: "I don't want to play with Sam anymore.  He is a miscreant." Where he would have learnt a word like that in the first place is still open to speculation, but to use it in such perfect context and with such assurance was what got to me.  When I tried to shush him with an Evil Eye stare, he merely thought I had not understood him and repeated himself with more emphasis and in louder tones.  Eventually, I had to hustle him out just to keep him quiet.

We all long for the days that those babbles turn into first words, but sometimes, the peace is something we look back on with fond remembrance.  The days of calmly walking through the supermarket not wondering when one of the boys will remark loudly on something they find unusual or interesting, like "I did a pardon-me that was louder than a monster truck" (referring to his breaking wind of which he seemed particularly proud), are long gone.  Well, it is not a smooth path, but it certainly is an interesting ride!

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding??! Part Two

Ok, so I had effectively been told I was going to need help to feed my twins.  That basically meant formula, and where I come from, that word is only said in hushed tones and while making several signs to ward off evil.   It is just not done.  Or if it is, it is not talked about.  There is a huge amount of guilt associated with being a mum who feeds her babies formula.

Due to this fact, and also that I so badly wanted to feed the twins myself, I went through a fit of depression where I blamed everything (including the modern culture of wearing clothes) but mostly myself for the failure.  All the reasoned, supposed-to-be calming comments of the Sweetpea (comments made in what I call his Gynae Mode, in which he quotes a lot of statistics and something called randomised control studies) made not one whit of difference to me - I was upset and I wanted to wallow in my pity for myself and my boys.

However, as every psychologist knows, the next step along the grieving ladder is that of anger, and as time passed, I got angry.  It was probably the best thing that could have happened.  Just who were these people, with all their degrees and experience, to tell me that I couldn't feed my babies?  I knew myself better than they did!  I could do anything!  I was incensed!  It became a challenge for me.  

I started reading books.  I read that if you take more, you make more.  I went straight out and bought myself the strongest pump on the market (think milking cows, and you probably will be somewhere close); bought numerous potions, pills and odious old wives tales to increase milk (like brewer's yeast, fenugreek and some truly awful teas made of wing of bat or toe of dog or something); drank copious amounts of milk stout (not too much of a hardship there!); and finally started on a course of medication to increase my supply.

From then on I worked really hard at nothing else but producing enough milk to feed the boys.  Twenty minutes after feeding them, I expressed milk (after every feed, day or night).  I used the extra to top the boys up. At first, there was only one sorry little bottle of milk in the fridge, about 50 ml, standing by itself on the top shelf.  But later, as time went on and I managed to increase the supply, I realised that I was producing two and a half liters of milk a day.  That is enough to feed the average family (not that I think the average family would want to drink it!).  And best of all, the boys drank up every scrap of what I produced.

Eventually, I was able to slow down all the interventions, and managed to keep feeding them until I was six or seven moths pregnant with my next little one (they were almost two by then, and probably able to cope without it).  And boy, did I love feeding my little ones.  Not a day went past when I was not grateful for just one more day of being able to feed them.  When we had to start weaning (I could not see myself being able to feed three hungry mouths), I think I cried much more than they did.  In fact they didn't cry at all - I weaned them very slowly, over about two months, and substituted my milk with other milk.  

This all worked for me, but does not work for everyone.  The most important thing is that babies are healthy and happy and not hungry.  While breast is (for very obvious reasons) the best, don't beat yourself up about it if you are absolutely not able to do it.  A happy mum is a good thing for a baby too - one depressed by guilt is not going to help anyone. So if you can, fight for it, and if you can't, make peace with it!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding??! Part One

When I was in hospital after having the twins, I was surrounded by poster images of the perfect mother, hair brushed, a gentle application of make-up on her beautiful, smiling face, gazing contentedly into the distance while she breastfed her angelic infant.  The emphasis on breastfeeding is really strong here (as it should be!), and there was never any doubt in my mind that I would feed my little boys.  I remember when the breast-feeding consultant first came around to see me, I confidently declared "I will feed my boys" and she warned me not to set myself up for failure.  "Feeding twins is a different story," she told me at that time.  "Especially hungry boys."  I couldn't see the problem: after all, two children, two boobs - what could go wrong? 

At first, all went well.  The boys were strong and huge at birth (for twins).  At almost four kilograms each, and almost full term, they were ready to eat.  After all, they had been hanging around for nine months doing nothing, and everyone knows boredom is a killer for any man, no matter how old.  So eating seemed a good option for relieving tedium, and from the second of their birth onwards, they wanted to do nothing else.  

One thing I had not prepared myself for was the very exposed (by necessity) manner of feeding twins.  A mom of one baby can discreetly tuck her little one under a blankie for a snack and no one is the wiser.  However, with twins, especially if you are tandem feeding, there is nothing for it but to get those suckers (pun intended) out on public display.  Being a relatively private person (in my "wild" youth backpacking around Greece, I sat primly on the nude beaches wearing a full swimsuit and sarong) this was really an unusual experience for me.  Having to make polite chit-chat to the pastor of the church while sitting bare-breasted and feeding twins was a novel sensation, and not one I particularly relished.  It is amazing how quickly you adapt to this though - very soon those two objects of sexual desire become effective baby-feeding mechanisms and lose all their mystery and allure (the problem is getting that sexual allure back, but more on that at a later stage).

Due to the extra strain of having a second mouth tugging on a very sensitive part of my anatomy, I managed to get every breast ailment known to man (or should that be woman?) during the next eight weeks: mastitis, cracked nipples, engorgement, thrush, etc.  That time was a period of non-stop howling (on the part of the twins) and gnashing of teeth (on the part of the Sweetpea and myself), but eventually we discovered that I had been effectively starving the boys.  Being such big boys right from the start, they needed huge amounts of milk, and my body was just not producing enough for them. We were advised to "top them up" with formula.  There are no words to describe the sense of failure I felt at that.  I felt that my body had betrayed me, that its sole purpose was to feed my littlies and here I was, unable to do even that most primitive of things.  I was devastated.  And the biggest irony of it all did not escape me - if I had been wandering about topless for the majority of my youth, I probably would never have had any issues with feeding - the open air works wonders for sore and cracked nipples, and they probably very seldom get thrush.  I blame the Westernised culture!

Be on the lookout for The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding??!  Part Two - coming soon!

Monday, 24 October 2011

This too shall pass...

It is the Multiple Birth Club Annual Garage Sale on Saturday, and for the first time in almost four years I have taken up the courage to get a table to sell some stuff myself.  It would be really great, I reasoned, to get rid of all the old things lying around, baby clothes, things we will never use again that just mess up the house (the house would still be a tip regardless, but my reasoning was sound).

So I set out to purge the place of all unnecessary paraphernalia.  In a self-righteous fervour, I started with the boys' old clothes.  I got as far as the old baby-grows, the ones with the little feet attached, and there I stopped.  Things I thought would be so easy to get rid of suddenly seemed like precious memories that I was heartlessly throwing away.  It seems like only yesterday that my two were in those tiny outfits, all snuggled and sweet-smelling, ready for bed (note I say bed and not sleep - they never actually slept).  Now I look at these two little men, all grown up now, with their long limbs and complex expressions, their hands that no longer have baby dimples, and sometimes I feel like they are strangers to me.  Wonderful, perfect human beings, who I have to get to know from the start again.  Are they still the little ones I held close to me in the start of their lives?  

I once heard an expression:  "This too shall pass".  At the time, I thought it must be an expression of hope, an exhortation to a struggling soul that the dark patch through which they were going would still be over.  Yet now, I think of it in a different way.  I see it not only as an encouragement, but also as a warning:  this time will pass.  And when the precious moments of holding and loving your tiny babies are gone, they are gone forever, and you can no more fill those abandoned baby-grows with their little warm bodies again than fly to the moon.

The other periods in life are just as special, each for its own reason.  I am loving the intricacies of life with my boys as they grow and develop.  I guess what I am trying to say is this: make the most of the time you have.  It may seem difficult, with crying babies, not enough sleep, loneliness, and what seems like precious little to motivate you to carry on.  But in those times, find the joys, no matter how small, and store them up in your heart for the times ahead.  I guarantee that one day, you too will be sitting, looking at a small piece of clothing that your child once wore, and aching to be able to hold that little baby to your chest once again.  And at that time, knowing that you made the most of each precious second, might just be enough to sustain you.

To life! And to living every moment!

I would love to hear from you all - let me know about your precious memories.  Click on the "Post a Comment" button and add your views.

Friday, 21 October 2011

A bird in the hair is worth two in the bush?

I always swore I would never tell lies to my kids.  It was one of my firmest resolutions.  That, and always keep my promises.  But lying is so easy - those little white ones creep in and before you know it you are caught in a tangled web with only yourself to blame.

I have been blessed with little ones with abundant locks of curly hair.  Now that they are older, it is less curly, but when they were young, they looked positively cherubic with their masses of golden curls.  Golden curls are all very well, but no one sees the effort that goes into keeping them either golden or curly.  With boys, a hair wash or brush is like trying to pull hen's teeth.  From the relatively tame screeching and kicking, to the tears, sobs and tantrums, teaching a boy proper hygiene and hair care is like trying to herd cats.  

However, I discovered the perfect weapon.  And it came in the form of a library book:  Ella Kazoo will not brush her hair.  It starts off relatively innocently, with Ella Kazoo not wanting to brush her hair, and hiding the brushes and combs, and then takes on a more sinister twist as her hair begins to grow longer and more snarled by the day.  Eventually, a bird comes to live in her hair and builds a nest there, complete with eggs and then chicks.  The upshot of it all is that Ella has to have her head shaved (she actually prefers it like this, but I cunningly never read my boys that part).  

Now for the lie.  With big eyes, they asked me "Will a bird come to live in my hair if I don't brush it?"  With very little hesitation on my part, I replied "Absolutely".  And so the myth was born.  Hair brushing became easy (or relatively more so) since all I had to say was "Do you want a bird to come and live in your hair?" and they would both submit without murmur.  At times, after an especially boisterous play session in the garden, I would use the pieces of grass I found in their hair as proof of birds starting to build nests to add fuel to the anti-bird-in-hair fire if they started to show reluctance in the brushing department.

This all broke down spectacularly on the day a bird (a real one), while sitting innocently in a tree above our heads, actually lifted his tail and did a poo in one boy's hair.  Instant hysteria ensued on all sides.  Me, trying to stifle giggles while looking suitably commiserating, he taking it as actual proof that there was now a bird living in his hair.  After no end of cuddles, pats and comforting, I had to let on that no bird would ever be coming to make a nest in his hair.

Let this be a warning - no matter how creative, a lie will always be overtaken by the truth.  My birds had definitely come home to roost (pun absolutely intended).

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Addendum: Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy on a mission

It never fails to amaze me what a young, impressionable mind can take in.   Having been either pregnant or breastfeeding for the best part of four years now, I have found that the existence of "baby brain" is not only conjecture, but is a provable fact.  I have become one of those moms who sits like a blob in front of the box (on those very rare occasions when I want to watch something) and falls instantly asleep.  

Little minds are not like that.  They are full of questions (in Autumn - "Why are the trees naked?"), comments ("You have a fat tummy, mama.  Mine is thin."), astute observations ("If I eat chicken, it goes straight to my muscles and I can be strong like a superhero") and nothing seems to escape them.  In all situations, this is great, though I can't help but wonder at the wisdom of partnering sleep-deprived mothers plagued by baby brain with inquiring young minds like these.

In all situations an inquiring mind is great: save possibly this one:  My two sat transfixed watching how the firemen pumped water to spray on the fires on the Fireman Sam video (forget the fact that not much makes sense in Fireman Sam, kids take it as gospel anyway.  Like why, when someone falls off the dock, wearing a full belt of tools, do they call the fire-station to come and rescue him instead of throwing him the life preserver clearly pictured on the dock not 10 feet away? But I digress.).  
After my two watched the fire being put out, action around the home for the next few days consisted of putting out imaginary fires all over the place. One or the other would suddenly, and without warning, screech "There's a fire in the playroom!" and true to form, they would both run to find their helmets, get on the bed with the brass headboard in order to slide down the "pole", and make their way to the fire singing the lyrics of the Fireman Sam song.  In most instances, this resulted in a harmless bit of fantasy play and lots of shushing noises as the fire was quelled.

However, that was before they discovered the pump.  On a camping trip, we used a person-operated pump (like a large bicycle pump with a long hose) to blow up the air mattresses for the tent, and the boys' eyes gleamed at this heretofore undiscovered piece of "fire-fighting equipment".  I should have taken more note of those gleaming little eyes.  The very next opportunity, the firemen sought out this valuable commodity, digging it out of the cupboard in the garage with ease and stealth.  But where to find a ready source of water to pump?  They were both too short to reach the basins or sinks.  One source sprang easily to mind.  With great ingenuity, they inserted the long hose of the pump down the bowl of the toilet and into the subterranean depths of the inner workings of the loo.  Then they stepped back, and proceeded to pump with great determination, dedication and energy....

It does not take much intellect to imagine what happened after that.  It would have been fine, apart from the fact that, having three kiddies, I always make sure that there is a nicely-coloured loo block in the cistern for those non-flush emergencies.  This block turns the water bright (and I mean bright) blue.  Which is fine as long as the water remains in the loo. When it is splashed over the walls, floor, miscellaneous bath mats, and parts of the ceiling, as well as over two not-so-thrilled and yelling firemen, it is not as attractive. An innocent firefighting maneuver resulted in about two hours of post-operation cleanup.

I totally forgot to mention the incident to the Sweetpea until relatively recently.  He looked at me with horror on his face. "Do you know how many times I have had the end of that pump in my mouth?" he exclaimed.  Turns out that since that toilet operation, the pump has been a bit faulty and has required the use of teeth (namely those of the Sweetpea) to hold the end on.  Oh well... what doesn't kill us, etc., etc.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy get down to the business of fighting fires

Some people are great gardeners.  They only have to look at a plant to have it flourishing and bearing much fruit in no time at all.  I, on the other hand, am not like that.  I am pretty much bad news for any plant under my care. Last year, when I decided to grow carrots in order to feed my family some healthy, organic fare, the best I could do was a few sorry and somewhat rude-looking specimens (I later sold these on the local auction site as aphrodisiacs due to their somewhat raunchy shapes, but that is another story).

However, one plant I can grow without seemingly trying at all, is gorse.  That prickly, ineradicable weed seems to blossom all over our property without a care in the world.  No amount of poisons, bush-cutters or the earnest attentions of the Sweetpea seem to do it any harm at all; in fact, it rather seems to thrive on negative attention (some children are like this too).

The result of this is an extremely steep section, almost straight down, sparsely covered with a sprinkling of grass and a dense, luxurious Amazon-forest like expanse of gorse.

 It was in this expanse of sharp-tipped, evil plant that Firemen Sam and Paddy discovered Something that needed Rescuing.  I was never privileged to know what that Something was, but suffice it to say that the rescue was performed at great speed and I only got to see the last part of the operation.  Fireman Sam took advantage of my attention being momentarily distracted by getting his baby sister out of the car.  He ran into the garage, grabbed his tricycle, and, while humming the theme tune to Fireman Sam, launched the trike over the edge of the driveway and down the not only incredibly steep hill, but the incredibly steep, gorse-infested hill.  He got a surprisingly long way down the hill before running aground in an especially stubborn gorse bush, and like Pooh Bear before him, discovered that gorse is not a particularly friendly plant.

That was all very well, but now I had a small and very forlorn fireman stuck in a gorse bush, halfway down a very steep hill, and no one to do the rescuing but me (his brother fireman had very sensibly not followed his brother's example and had stayed at the top of the hill).  The result of all this is that the "Hero next door" became none other than yours truly, who had to clamber down the steep hill through the jungle of gorse bushes not once, but twice (the first time to rescue the fireman, and the second time to rescue the bike, whilst also coincidentally carrying the baby sister who refused to be left alone at the top of the hill a second time around).  Like Pooh, I too discovered that gorse prickles in one's butt are not as exciting as one might think.

The Sweetpea insists that I add a post-script to this tale:  he asserts that he is in full control of the gorse infestation, lest "people out there think I am an incompetent husband".  In truth, since this incident, his slash and poison technique has worked wonders for the gorse and we are starting to reap the results of his hard work.  At last - Sweetpea: One; Gorse: Nil (so far).

Monday, 17 October 2011

Present tense: The dark origins of Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy

I don’t like my kids watching television.  I will be the first to admit that it makes a really great babysitter when you are rushing to get something into the oven, or just need a bit of breathing space, but there is something about those little impressionable minds sitting staring blankly at a box that gives me the heebie jeebies.  Call me traditional, but there it is.  And so, in my wisdom, I decided that they could watch DVDs instead (in a very limited number and for a very limited time).  That way, I reasoned, I could know exactly what they were watching and would not be surprised by an advert selling a feminine hygiene product or a condom (questions I don’t need to answer at this stage of life!). 

Fireman Sam seemed relatively harmless – the good-looking boy-next-door, who is a hero that saves people from burning buildings.  What could go wrong there?  And in essence, the hero lived up to his hype.  Perhaps too much. 

“Come boys, we’re getting in the car,” I called out the next day.
Loftily, the eldest regarded me.  “Our names are Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy,” he informed me.  Paddy?  Where on earth is that from?  I made a mental note to re-watch Fireman Sam at earliest convenience.  From then on, Firemen Sam and Paddy refused to answer to any other names.  Driving in the car at any time was punctuated by loud siren noises coming from the backseat – without letting up for intake of breath.  You see, with twins, there is one to take over from the other when he needs to breathe – intermittent siren problem solved! 

I would be standing talking to a friend, or unsuspectingly doing the shopping, when one or the other would slide down my leg – like a fireman on a pole!   I in fact lost my pants (held up only by baggy elastic – I am a mom of three after all) in this way on several occasions.  All the while, the Fireman Sam theme song was being sung loudly and tunelessly (or the lyrics they thought they heard):

So moosa maquay (move aside make way)
Fireman Sam
Gog sav deday (Gonna save the Day)
Fireman Sam

Looks like the alter egos are here to stay!  They don’t drop their poses for a second for me to catch them out.  One or the other will often come to me and ask “Where’s Sam?”  And my pointed response gets not a moment’s attention.

Look out for the next instalment in this saga!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Air-travel with carry-on luggage of a different sort...

About the time that I really started faining in earnest, we decided to fly 11 300 kilometers around the world, pack up a house and move to a new country, a move that included not only a household of furniture, but also a car and two very large dogs.  We could not envision trying to do this with twin babies in tow, so this appeared to be the best option open to us at the time.  In hindsight, I am not so sure. 

We arrived at the airport, with your's truly giving a good impression of being an ocean liner at full sail.  At seven months and counting, the boys were growing at a tremendous rate, and my stomach was by then already preceding me through doorways by several seconds.  The airline staff took one horrified look at me and promptly told me I was not able to fly without a letter from my gynae.  Smugly, I pushed the Sweetpea forward and said "I can go one better - I have brought him along for the trip".  Unable to deny this fact, they grugingly let us on board for the thirty hours of travel time to Africa at the height of summer (they don't call it suicide season for nothing!).

We made it there after what seemed like two weeks of traveling, and I spent the next weeks lying in the pool under an umbrella (literally!) calling instructions to the Sweetpea through an open window as he frantically tried to pack up an entire household (and two dogs) in time for us to fly back to have my kiddies on home territory soil. 

If the faces of the airline personnel dropped when they saw me the first time, imagine their consternation when I arrived back at the airport six weeks later and declared my intention to fly the thirty hours back around the globe in this state!  By now, people often came up to me in the streets and said, "You must be having twins!" so it was evident that the feeling of being enormous was definitely not only in my head.  Reluctantly on the part of the airline, I was allowed to travel back, although I was immediately moved to first class (yay!), which were coincidentally probably the only seats on the plane that would fit me in.  The Sweetpea got consigned to coach with about fifty screaming kids, and for the flight, I tried to sneak him goodies from first class to try to make his journey bearable.  I am sure that the airline stewards thought "Wow, that pregnant lady can sure eat a lot!"

Have you traveled while pregnant?

Ancient History: Part 3: How to cope with being a double room instead of a single

Although it sounds self-explanatory, what many mothers don't know or realise about having twins is that everything is double.  Many float through their days with visions of two cute sets of booties, two beautiful identical cots, two sets of all the adorable baby clothes.

What is not thought about is the two doses of hormones raging through your body.  For some moms, this barely affects them, and they float serenely into motherhood with hardly a twinge.  For others, this means double the morning sickness.  I, for example, acquired a loathing for Parmesan cheese to such an extent that I could not watch it on TV without running to the loo, a hatred that persists even to this day.

Twice the hormones also means twice the usual excitement on the pregnancy roller-coaster of emotions.  Ask the partner of a twin-bearing mom how easy it was to cope with all the usual ups and downs of pregnancy times two - the response might not be pretty.  About half-way through my pregnancy, I developed a craving for pickled onions that could be satisfied by nothing other then a particular brand, easily available from the supermarket 11 300 kilometers away.  No amount of persuasion by my better half that "these onions are just as good" would work - I was having none of them.  In fact, to this day (shamefully, I might add), we have an entire shelf of bottled pickled onions of various persuasions in our fridge, from the episode in our lives where the Sweetpea naively believed he could find a replacement for my pickled onions somewhere closer to home.

One interesting factoid that I had not expected was the fainting.  Around the six month mark, having felt amazing for a few months by then and well over the morning sickness, I blithely leaped out of a chair to answer the phone and promptly keeled over.  Romantically, my hubby had just returned from work and was there to catch me in his arms as I fell.  He remained calm throughout, talking to me quietly and not freaking out at all (something you would expect from a man who deals with heavily pregnant women every day of his life) but to tell the truth, I was a bit miffed that he hadn't freaked out even just a teeny bit.  After all, it was probably the most dramatic thing that had happened to me and here he was remaining calm. I expected some wailing and gnashing of teeth, to tell the truth.  But anyway, he explained to me that the reason I was passing out now was my extremely low blood pressure - a common side-effect of pregnancy and exacerbated with having twins.  This was good to know, but not very helpful when I continued to faint in the local supermarket, while at work, and also while at the theater.

Perhaps the least exciting of being a double room instead of a single was the fact that a double room, simply by its nature, is LARGER.  And when I say larger, I mean the size of a small ocean liner larger.  I think that in my last few weeks of pregnancy (I carried until 38 weeks, which is seen as term for twins) I was both six foot high and six foot wide, a phenomenon not achieved by many in their lifetimes.

What are your stories of surviving being a room for two?

Friday, 14 October 2011

Ancient History: Part 2: How to tell the folks...

Telling your own parents that they are going to be grandparents for the first time is always an exciting, and also somehow daunting exercise.  For any father of a girl, no matter how old, it is his final irrefutable proof that his little girl is actually having (dare we say it?) SEX.  After all, nothing like the existence of a baby on the way, a little "bun in the oven", to confirm that thought in his mind.  If you are lucky, the aged parent's fond thoughts of being a grandfather can obscure any murderous thoughts he might have towards the "guy who got his daughter knocked up".  

For the Sweetpea and myself, the whole difficult revelation to the family was compounded by the fact that the whole family was living about 11 300 kilometers away.  How best to do it?  A phone call didn't seem momentous enough for the news we had to convey - after all, they were not only getting a first grandchild, but first and second grandchildren all in one swoop!  We felt as though our extreme commitment to the propagation of the human race should be celebrated with a more portentous announcement.  And so we came up with a plan: we would make a Powerpoint presentation, that would masquerade as a cheesy, please-forward-to-all-your-friends type of slideshow, and only at the end, would the truth be revealed.  So here it is:

Of course, at no stage had either of us considered that, growing up in an age where pregnancy tests are not so freely available and a woman had to go to her doctor for a blood test to confirm she was pregnant, none of the prospective grandparents would actually know that they were looking at a positive pregnancy test.  In fact, my mom commented later that, although she got the message, she still had no idea what "that small, white plastic thing" was.  Could have been a big hitch in our brilliant scheme!  Luckily, they had our siblings on hand to explain things to them.  

My mother, in her excitement, forwarded the presentation on to everyone on her extensive emailing list (friends, acquaintances, distant relations, people she had once emailed about the phone bill, etc.)  - if you have already seen a copy of the above, my apologies!  

How did your parents find out?  And were they as thrilled (and shocked!) as ours?  Let me know!

Present Tense: The curious incident of the toothpaste in the moonlight

There is that special time that every mother knows, when her kids are off playing quietly somewhere and she has a few moments to herself to do what she wants.  The first 20 seconds of that time are wonderful, relaxing and filled with feelings like "Wow, they can actually cope without me for a while," and "This isn't so hard after all," and "They are such great kids," and "It's so peaceful and quiet".  But, like in any good western movie, there comes a time when some suspicious, nagging little voice pipes up "Yeah - too quiet."  Normally this results in super human, lightning-quick reaction times to get to the scene of the crime before too much damage is done.

In my case, not quick enough, as it turns out.

I had been doing my thing, getting beds ready, lulled into a false sense of security by the prevailing peace and calm of the evening.  The twins were off playing quietly in their room and anyone with even a hint of prescience would have realised that Something was Up.  I cottoned on to this a little late in the proceedings.

By the time I arrived, it was too late.  I opened the half-shut door to their bedroom, and caught myself thinking "I don't remember the walls being that particular shade of blue?"  That was when I caught sight of the boys.  In good James Dean tradition, they had slicked back their hair into fantastic styles with the aid of the Colgate Total minty fresh blue gel toothpaste (two jumbo size tubes) that they had rustled up in the bathroom cupboard.  They had obtained these precious items by boosting each other up onto the basin and from there it was a hop, skip and a jump to where the extras were kept.

As far as I can make out, their story went like this:  Captain Mac (a local superhero) wears a very fetching silvery-blue helmet, one which was greatly admired and coveted by the boys.  What better way to show admiration than by emulation?  They had helped each other to "put on" the helmets they so greatly admired.  Yet this was clearly not enough!  Each had to have the accessories to go with the helmet:  blue gloves (hence a sock drawer full of toothpaste), blue henchmen (likewise many miscellaneous animals caught unsuspecting in the firing line), blue capes (toothpaste-covered duvets and pillow cases), and finally, a blue rocket ship (the walls of their room).

At first I was at a loss as to how two relatively small people could have caused such chaos in such a short period of time.  I have since developed a theory that I now feel able to share with the world.  It goes like this:

One child = Mess
Two children (unrelated or siblings) = double Mess or (2 x Mess)
Twins = {Mess}squared

Of course the corollary to this theorem involves time:

If one child can achieve a certain amount of mess in a certain amount of time, then two kids can do it twice as fast.  So, if one child takes 25 minutes to make an appreciable amount of mess, two should do it in 12 minutes and 30 seconds. Following this to its logical conclusion, a set of twins, running at full capacity, should be able to cover the same amount of ground in roughly five minutes!

Let me know what you think!

As a post-script to the curious incident of the toothpaste in the moonlight, I have discovered an interesting fact about the nature of most cleaning products:  they are not (surprisingly!) self-cleansing by nature.  Two tubes of toothpaste required the following to remove:
1 500ml bottle of shampoo
2 boxes of laundry detergent
1 almost full bottle of Jif (the concentrated sort)
1 bottle of carpet cleaner
About 2 hours of elbow grease.

A word of caution - what are your kids doing at this moment?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Ancient History: Part 1: The discovery

Every new mother's experience of pregnancy is different - for some it is something they have dreamed about, for others it is something they fear or worry about.

For moms of twins, that first reaction is usually denial.

Mine went something like this:  I knew that I was pregnant very early on - we had been trying for quite some time and for various reasons had not been successful (a story I might go into later on).  My husband (henceforth referred to as the Sweetpea, for unknown reasons) is an obstetrician/gynaecologist, so when I first thought I might be pregnant, he cautioned me to wait.  He didn't want me to get my hopes up and have them dashed again.  So for an extra ten days we waited, and then did the pregnancy test.  We were both overjoyed to see the two lines appearing before our eyes.  "Do you want to go for a scan?" he asked me.  It was late at night, and he had access to the departmental scanner after hours due to his role at the hospital.  What a question to ask!  We furtively sneaked into the Gynae offices and he got out the scanner while I lay down on the bed.  He began the scan.  For the longest time, he didn't say a word.  "What is it?" I asked, immediately fearing the worst, like two heads or no limbs.  "What's wrong?"
"Just give me a second," he said, and my heart leapt into my chest.  There must be something terribly wrong! Then he turned the scanner to face me.  "What do you see?" he asked me.  

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am not at all medically minded, but when I looked at that scan picture, I could definitely see that something was different.  Two tiny oval sacs lay close together in the grey mass that was my uterus.

"It looks like there are two," I said, after a while.

And  there were.  And that is when we both started crying.  But I have to admit, not tears of fear or worry.  They were tears of excitement and joy. And that was the start of our journey - what a journey it's been so far!