Monday, 9 November 2015

The Daily Grind

Anytime from 4:30-6:00 - gently wake up to bloodcurdling screaming from toddler. Put toddler in bed next to me, close eyes and pretend my life isn't happening.

After 20 minutes - toddler is bored and screaming/putting her finger up my nose. Time to relocate.

6:00 - Downstairs. Cbeebies.

6:30 - Twins appear and lie on sofas like they're hungover.

6:45 - Make cup of tea. Forget about it.

7:00 - Tempt them away from the television with breakfast. Have 10 minute argument about various breakfast options.

7:30 - Everybody upstairs. Lay out uniforms, say "get dressed" 56 times. Dress toddler in 3 different locations at a slight trot.

7:45 - Remember cup of tea, place in microwave, forget about it. Have shower, get dressed, wonder why I'm bothering.

8:00-8:30 - Unknown lost minutes.

8:35 - Run around the house shouting "teeth!", "shoes!"

8:40 - School run.

9:10 - Home. Cbeebies. Clear away breakfast things, tidy living room, answer texts, panic about dinner.

10:00 - Playgroup. Drink tea, chat, compare vile toddler behaviours, all the while feeling guilty that I'm not at home ironing/sorting out the crap drawer.

12:00 - Home. Make lunch, toddler throws lunch around, put lunch in bin. Give toddler crisps for lunch. Cbeebies. Guilt.

12:30 - Put toddler in bed. Creep downstairs. Pray. At light speed have lunch, empty dishwasher, panic about dinner, clean sink, treat myself to a solo wee, blog, crochet, feel guilty about crocheting and blogging.

13:30 - Toddler decides she misses me and screams her face off.

13:40 - Still screaming.

13:50 - Toddler is quiet with a dummy, muslin, biscuit and cuddly toy, on my lap watching Keeping up with the Kardashians #parentinggoals.

14:30 - Wrestle toddler into pushchair.

14:40 - School run.

15:00 - Attempt to settle 174 arguments on the way home as both twins tell me about their day at exactly the same time.

15:10 - Television goes on. Guilt. Unload washing machine, discover 2-day-old dryer full of clothes, transfer dry clothes to ironing basket, forget about them for 2 weeks.

16:30 - Make dinner.

17:00 - Present dinner to children. Have the following exchange:

Child: I hate this dinner!
Me: Don't eat it then
Child: But I want pudding!
Me: Eat your dinner then
Child: I hate this dinner!


17:30 - Vow to do something creative and stimulating before bedtime. Consult Pinterest, prepare resources, gather children, begin.

17:35 - Television goes on. Guilt.

18:00 - Put toddler in bath. Shout "bathtime" downstairs 246 times.

18:10 - Run downstairs to get twins, all the time imagining the toddler drowning in the bath.

18:15 - Everybody is in the bath. Settle various disputes about soap, shampoo, splashing, bath toys, saying "bum" and the amount of bath space available. Sing bathtime song until children request that I stop.

18:25 - Bath comes to a natural conclusion when toddler does a poo. Get everyone out, into pyjamas and back downstairs.
In The Night Garden. Relative peace.

18:50 - Toddler starts losing her shit. Girl twin is performing enthusiastic gymnastics in the living room, boy twin is screaming that he can't see the television.

19:00 - Put toddler to bed.

19:15-19:45 - Put twins to bed (I know that this shouldn't take half an hour. I know).

19:45 - Wash 2 saucepans while cooking dinner (again) and run a cloth around the sink so that it looks like I've achieved something today.

20:00 - Husband returns home. Give 3-minute synopsis of day. Open wine.

20:30 - Find cup of tea in microwave.

21:30 - Remember the bath is still full of poo.

22:00 - Collapse into bed. Try to convince myself that tomorrow might be different (spoiler alert: it isn't!)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

With a Little Help From My Friends

We've recently returned from a family holiday and although we had a lovely time it was also pretty hard work at times and I was reminded of a comment from another mum who described her holiday as "all the same sh*t I normally do, but with none of my stuff and none of my friends".

Friends are a key tool in the parenting arsenal. I rely on mine for all sorts of things and I probably spend more time with them than my husband. Becoming a mum has meant that I've had to make friends with a completely new group of people for the first time since going to university. Many daunting, cringeworthy and awkward moments have lead me to this list of friends you need when you become a mum:

The "all-weather" friend

This mum gets top billing as she is easily the most important person in your day-to-day life. She's the friend you call at 11pm with a screaming baby in the background having run out of Calpol. The friend who you can count on to babysit when you just want to go to the hairdressers. You often don't have to vocalise your needs; she just gets it.

The "slightly ahead" friend

When I had my twins it was really useful to have a fellow twin-mum-friend whose babies were a couple of months older than mine. It give me an insight into what was coming up next and she was brilliant at passing on her newly discovered wisdom. 

The "seen it all before" friend

You'll probably see this mum at a playgroup having an in-depth conversation about the state of the economy whilst changing her toddler's nappy and simultaneously breastfeeding her baby. She'll have at least 3 children, not that you'd know it because she breezes through  each challenge and obstacle without breaking a sweat. She's capable of anything and nothing phases her. A GREAT friend for occasional emergency childcare. Her attitude is "what's one more?"  

The "first-time" friend

It is possible to get a slightly cynical as you have your third (fourth...fifth...) child, so having a friend who is experiencing it all for the first time is just lovely. When you're feeling a bit jaded, and you're casually working out the number of days until your children turn 18 on the back of an enormous childcare invoice with baked bean stains on, she reminds you of the sheer wonder and excitement of the first smile, first tooth, first steps. 

The "neurotic" friend

A bit cruel, I know, but this friend is seriously good value. She'll disinfect everything her child touches (and definitely everything of his that your child touches), get daily development alerts to her phone, visit the doctor for every sniffle, and follow every parenting forum and blog. She'll do baby yoga, signing, swimming, crafting, gardening, music, dancing, cooking and massage. She'll give you the odd giggle, the occasional top tip and the reassurance that there is always someone more uptight than you.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Our Story

So, the long and short of it was that we needed fertility treatment. 

Firstly we embarked on IUI (inter-uterine insemination). We did 8 rounds of IUI in total, most of which were back-to-back, over the course of a year. 12 exhausting, draining, emotional, expensive, stressful months when every one of our treatments failed. Eventually we came to the conclusion that we had to move on to IVF.

Like most people I had my own perception of IVF and to be honest I was absolutely dreading it. All you really hear about is how many cycles couples have had to do in order to get pregnant, so to say I was skeptical about our first is an understatement. 

I started a programme of drugs to firstly halt my own natural cycle, and then to stimulate my ovaries to produce as many follicles as possible, each one potentially containing an egg. I had an ultrasound scan every other day to check how many follicles were growing and measure how big they were. When they were nearly ready to pop I went in to the clinic to have the eggs removed. Or so I thought...

What had actually happened was that I had reacted early to the final injection that I had taken the night before, causing the follicles to pop before I got to the clinic. I was sedated for the egg collection so I didn't know anything about what was going on, but was told afterwards that the consultant started the procedure and the 20 or so follicles I'd had the day before had ruptured and were empty.

That could have meant abandoning the whole cycle, but luckily our consultant was able to alter the procedure and after a lot of looking around he found 7 follicles that were still intact, each containing an egg. 3 days later 3 of the eggs had fertilised and become embryos. We decided to have 2 embryos implanted and freeze the remaining 1. Then we waited 2 weeks to take a pregnancy test.

The morning of the test I woke in a foul mood. I'd had some bleeding from around day 9 after the embryos were put back, so I really had no hope whatsoever that the treatment had worked. I grumpily did the test and left it on top of the toilet, not even wanting to look at the result. As I was brushing my teeth my husband came in to the bathroom and glanced at the test. In the mirror I saw his eyes widen in disbelief and I knew I was pregnant.

5 anxious weeks later we had our first scan and saw 2 tiny flickering heartbeats. Crazy.

So you know the rest of this story; I had twins and started writing a blog to myself. The end? Not quite...

For me there was always a feeling that the journey was unfinished. I often thought about the embryo in the freezer and so 3 years after the initial treatment we decided that we would investigate putting it back. We were told that the chances of success with an FET (frozen embryo transfer) were less than a fresh IVF cycle, but that as our embryo was good quality it was worth a shot. Once again I started taking drugs to halt my cycle and booked in to have the embryo transferred. We got a call that morning to say that it had defrosted successfully and all was looking good. The transfer was very straight forward and overall the experience was a great deal less stressful than the last time. Then we waited 2 weeks to take a pregnancy test.

It's funny, but this time I knew that it had worked. I remember sitting on the sofa thinking "well, clearly I'm pregnant", but I've no idea what gave me that idea. This time when I took the test and climbed back into bed I barely needed to look at it before I passed it to my husband and we both started giggling. 

5 weeks later (and a sleepless night) we were more than a little relieved to see just the one tiny heartbeat flickering. In all honesty if it had been twins again I would have been devastated!

So, there you go: one (nearly disastrous) cycle of IVF, 3 embryos and 3 babies who are sort-of-triplets, born 3 years apart.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

And baby makes..errrrr... FIVE!

Yesterday we had a really lovely family day out. The sun was shining, the picnic was delicious and no one fell in dog poo. We arrived home at teatime, unpacked the car (pram, changing bag, wellies, picnic remnants) and it was only when I'd taken off my shoes, been for a wee and had a beans-on-toast/cheese-on-toast debate with the twins that I realised we'd left something in the car.

The baby.

We'd left the BABY in the CAR.

Now I know that this wasn't a major disaster (she was sitting patiently in her car seat, looking disapproving when I went to get her. I get the feeling that had she had the neck strength she would have been shaking her tiny head). I also know that having mentioned "the incident" to a few friends we're definitely not the first parents to have done it, but it just highlighted to me how although loads of things have changed hugely since the we went from 4 to 5, compared to the overwhelming impact of going from no babies to two babies, our third baby has slipped virtually unnoticed into our lives. Possibly a little too unnoticed if I'm leaving her in the car like a forgotten umbrella.

It might seem like having twins and then a singleton has made me into some sort of super-experienced uber-mum, but funnily enough in many ways I feel like I'm doing a lot of this baby stuff for the first time. Until recently I'd never carried a baby in a sling before, gone to a breastfeeding group, slept with a baby next to me in bed, or pushed a pram one-handed whilst carrying a latte. I'm really grateful that, although I've got two other children to think about, I've also had a taste of what it's like to have a single baby. I don't think I enjoyed having the twins much at first, and the first few months (OK, OK, 12 months) were a long, slow slog of sheer hard work. Now don't worry, I'm definitely not turning into an earth mother, but this time I find myself picking my baby up because I fancy giving her a cuddle, lingering over her bath, entertaining her with my tuneless singing and well, dare I say it, I'm sort of enjoying it.

For me the other major difference is that breastfeeding has (thankfully) been a bit of a success so far. 9 weeks in and although I still feel like I really have no clue what I'm doing, luckily the baby does and given the opportunity to feed she will just get on with it. Given that it never really got established last time, and that I gave up after 7 weeks of misery, I'm amazed that I'm actually managing to feed her myself. Funnily enough having wanted desperately to breastfeed this one I now feel that it really makes absolutely no difference how a baby is fed as long as the mother is happy. I could give up tomorrow and not feel the slightest pang of guilt or regret.

There have been a few surprises along the way, as well as a few things that I'm writing here just so that I remember them, so here is what I have learnt about having a baby this time around:

  • Never underestimate the restorative properties of a really hot shower
  • Leave the house every day
  • Babies often sleep better on their own without a parent hovering over them
  • Boots own-brand newborn nappies are rubbish - don't bother
  • Compared to the performance of bottle-feeding (scrubbing, sterilising, mixing, warming, administering, burping, mopping up sick) whipping out a boob is convenient and (for me) much less stressful
  • Look at the baby, not at the clock
  • Shopping for nursing bras is fairly tricky when you're in constant fear of leaking milk all over the changing room (I'm offering no solution here - if you've got one let me know!)
  • If someone offers to entertain your older children for an afternoon, always say yes
  • The sun really will come out tomorrow (and then maybe you'll get some sleep)
And above all - always remember to get your baby out of the car.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Back in the babyhood

So, I've had a baby! How strange. She is a girl, she's very small and pink, grunty and wriggly. This is all I know so far (but she's only 5 weeks old).

Here's how it all happened: I'd been back and forth with my decision about how to give birth and after speaking to my midwife, a VBAC specialist midwife (VBAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean) and various other mums with a variety of birth experiences here's what I had decided:

1. I didn't want to be induced
2. If I went past my due date I would have a cesarean
3. If my labour started and seemed to be progressing then I would have 10 hours to deliver, otherwise I'd have a cesarean

Overall I was fairly happy with this plan. Knowing that I wouldn't have a really long labour again, and that I was giving myself the opportunity to do what "normal" women do and have my baby naturally was the best way forward for me.

Of course my baby had other plans and all the soul-searching, VBAC research and planning went out of the window when she was confirmed as breech at 38 weeks. Gahhhhhhhhh! So we booked in for a planned cesarean 5 days later.

I'm pleased to report that my experience of having a cesarean this time couldn't have been more different. Waking up in the morning knowing that I was having my baby that day was really exciting, and the fact that we could get the twins organised with childcare was a big relief. In terms of the actual operation it was very calm and organised, there was music on, and the medical staff were all aware that my epidural had been inadequate last time and that I'd had a large blood loss. Because of this I had a spinal block rather than an epidural and the anesthetist took the time to ensure that I really couldn't feel anything. I even had that "have they started?" moment (they had!). Most importantly I got to see my baby as soon as she was out and she was lying on my chest having skin to skin contact straight away - all things I had totally missed out on last time. I was in recovery for about 20 minutes (in contrast to 3 hours with the twins) and the midwife fed me Belgian chocolates as I gave my daughter her first feed. Bliss!

36 hours later we were home and after 2 weeks I didn't even feel like I'd had surgery.

Here's my top tips for a cesarean birth:

  • Don't beat yourself up about it! This is not the easy way out, you're not "too posh to push" (presumably!), this is the safest way for your baby to be born and who cares how you give birth?? Probably only you. Give yourself a break
  • If you have any concerns tell the medical staff about them. I had a pre-op appointment 2 days before where I got to meet the anesthetist and talk through the procedure
  • Have a really good dinner the night before as you won't be allowed to eat or drink until after you've had the baby
  • Take a book -  although we'd got there at 7:30am we waited all day to go to theatre and it was the longest day of my life!
  • High-waisted granny pants are a must. Buy them in a larger size so that they are nice and comfy
  • Have your baby in your hospital bed with you so that you can easily pick them up when they need feeding
  • Say yes to painkillers every time they are offered! Take paracetamol and ibuprofen alternately every 2 hours for at least 10 days
  • The spinal block made me really itchy (particularly my face) - this is totally normal, but no one mentions it!
  • If you want to breastfeed, feed all the time in the first few days to get it going. When my milk came in (day 4) it was really painful, but only lasted 24 hours until it was much more comfortable. Bear with it and ask for help
  • Press your buzzer and get help with everything - I got them to wind her, change her, pass me my phone, get me a snack...
  • The next morning when my catheter was out I could get out of bed and have a shower. You'll need to move slowly and stop if it hurts, but you should be fine to do this on your own. I was walking about fairly normally by the time we went home
  • Take care of your back: you won't have any support from your stomach muscles so your back can get really sore. Hunching over when breastfeeding is really easy to do - put pillows behind you, bring the baby to you and drop your shoulders (mine always seem to creep towards my ears)
  • When you get home take your baby to bed and stay there for a couple of days. I didn't do this the first time and my recovery was a lot slower
  • If you don't want visitors, just say no!
Right, now to work out how to deal with 3-year-old twins and newborn. I feel another post coming on!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

"Watch that stick!"

I've recently realised that I'm guilty of a bit of "over-parenting". Basically for me this means interfering/intervening in my twins' play when it's not necessary, hovering over them and "advising" them when they are eating, telling them how to play with something and charging in to diffuse any potentially hostile situation. I've been spending far too much energy and getting uptight about things that, to be honest, are none of my business and it needs to stop.

As a mum I've always felt that it's my duty to control whatever is happening regarding my children. If one was about to hit the other I'd step in, if a cup was about to drop off the table I'd catch it, if they weren't playing with a toy "correctly" I'd "help" them. Urgh! What a pain in the bottom! No wonder my son would tell me to go away! Now that they are 3 years old I have made a conscious effort to take a step back, let them discover things for themselves and constantly ask myself "what's the worst that could happen?" 

Well, nothing too terrible so far. If my daughter decides that she wants to eat all her potatoes, then her carrots, and then her chicken, who cares? She doesn't need my helpful advice on mixing mouthfuls so that they taste yummy. It's her dinner and she should be able to eat it however she likes. My son is massively into jigsaws at the moment, and can complete one in record time, but he always does them upside down. Does this matter? No. Does it take every fibre of my being not to intervene and demonstrate how much easier it would be the right way up? Yes! When it comes to their disputes I've realised that I can't intervene at the first whimper or whine. It's the hardest thing not to jump in when you hear playful laughter switch to a wail or an indignant "hey!", but I've forced myself on a number of occasions recently to take a step back and not charge in on my white horse to try to resolve the situation. Not least because I often have no idea what has occurred and we all know that taking a toddler's word for it is dodgy ground. I'm hoping that letting them resolve their own disputes will mean that they are more independent and capable of compromise, as well as understanding the importance of taking responsibility and saying sorry. Big dreams, I know! 

As I've noticed this tendency towards over-parenting in myself I have also noticed that it really is all around. On holiday I witnessed a Dad coaching his 7-year-old around a climbing frame, barking instructions from the ground about the importance of having "3 points of contact" on a ladder at all times. It really made me giggle (maybe he was a health and safety inspector or something) and I wondered how this child was ever going to function in the big, bad world if he couldn't be trusted on a climbing frame? (By the way, the child was very cautious, obedient and didn't look like he was going to do anything terribly adventurous, ever.) I was quite proud of my twins who were running around, swinging off things, falling over and getting in a pickle as Mr R and myself sat on a nearby picnic table with a glass of wine. "Benevolent neglect" I call this particular style of parenting! 

I've also seen a 4-year-old on reins, grandparents doing the "follow the child around the playground" thing, packets of crisps being opened the "correct" way for children who must surely be school-age, a panic-stricken mother screaming at her child to be careful of a stick that was lying on the ground and couldn't have presented any sort of danger unless the child suddenly decided to pick it up and poke himself in the eye.

Of course we have to look after our children and keep them safe, but we also need to leave them alone and give them some space. With the arrival of baby number 3 only about 4 weeks away, my twins aren't going to have much choice!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


A funny thing has happened... I appear to be having a baby.

Now, I know what you're thinking: we must be bonkers, right?! too....

Well, I would like you all to know, dear, dear readers, that this has nothing to do with adding to and enriching our family and everything to do with keeping you all entertained with comedic accounts of my (usually fruitless) attempts to breeze through parenthood in an effortless and elegant fashion.

A quick example of the calamities that frequently befall me:

I took the twins to my Mum's at the weekend, which is a couple of hours away in the car. Obviously because I was on my own and it was 28 degrees outside we got stuck in a massive traffic jam. We were stationary for about an hour, during which time the girl did a massive wee all over her carseat (don't ask me why I didn't put nappies on them - I'm pregnant and deranged). So, I stripped her off, put a nappy and dry clothes on her, stripped the boy and put a nappy on him too. By this point the people in the car next to us were openly laughing at these two naked wee chimpanzees jumping around the car. Her carseat was soaked through, and unfortunately the only thing I had to hand was a paper bag. So I sat her on the bag, strapped them both in and off we went. The girl then decides to eat the paper bag (now soaked with urine) and promptly throws up all over herself. Yum. By the time we arrive at Mum's we're all in a right pickle, so the girl gets showered off, changed into another set of dry, clean clothes.... and within 10 minutes falls into the pond. You can't make this stuff up!

I bet you can't wait to see what happens when I try to cope with 3...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Working Mother

The vast majority of mothers I know have a job of some description; be it in an office, working from home, childminding or running their own business. It doesn't make them superstars, martyrs or villains, it's just life.

I'm actually struggling to put into words what it's sometimes like having a job when you are a parent. There are days when I am flying by the seat of my pants; just about on time getting everywhere, stressed, worried, always looking at the clock, feeling guilty that I'm not where I ought to be, wondering whether I put on deodorant this morning and knowing that I didn't brush my hair. And then there are days when getting everyone up and out of the house in the morning is a breeze; when the children wave me off absent-mindedly as they launch into an activity that is so much more interesting and stimulating than anything they'd ever get at home, and I go to work, drink hot cups of tea and have proper grown-up conversations.

The point is it's a massive undertaking to combine working and parenthood, and the two rarely cohabit peacefully. Indeed, they will often have stand-up screaming rows with each other over who gets priority. This means that there are certain truths about working mothers that need to be universally acknowledged:

  • Working mothers will not put in as many hours as non-mothers
  • They will likely have more time off work (due to child's illness, lack of childcare etc.)
  • They will be less flexible when it comes to working overtime and business travel
  • They will be out of the door at the end of the day
  • They will be less "social" outside of working hours

  • I'm not saying that these things are good, bad, justifiable, deplorable or lamentable. They just are facts.

    Unless of course you are Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, who appears in September's Vogue draped sexily across garden furniture in Yves Saint Laurent stilettos. I'm going to try to say the next part without venom (but you can probably guess whether I'm a fan or not) - Mayer got the job when she was 5 months pregnant with her first child, worked up until the day she gave birth, worked later on the same day she gave birth, took 2 weeks' maternity leave (because it's the law), built a nursery in the adjacent office for her baby and full-time nanny and proclaimed: 'The baby's been way easier than everyone made it out to be.'

    Maybe that's because you're not actually doing anything, Marissa! How can someone who has 24-hour help, including cleaners, housekeepers, gardeners, personal assistants, chefs and full-time nannies claim to even be a mother, let alone a working one?

    Mayer ingratiated herself further to her staff by demanding an end to flexible working hours and working from home, insisting instead that all remote employees report back to the office full-time. Does this mean that she built nurseries and paid for nannies for everyone she therefore screwed over who had to scramble to find somewhere to put their children? It does not.

    The irritating thing about this whole situation is that people might look at Mayer and thinks that's what a working mother is. A woman who can earn a gizillion dollars, be at the height of her profession, be a devoted wife and mother and still find ample time to frolic around being a sex symbol on the pages of fashion magazines. This is not what a working mother is, and not what a working mother should ever attempt to be. This might be the least feminist thing I've ever said, but after 2 years of juggling work and children, I really don't think we can have it all. What's more, I don't think we should try.

    After feeling perpetually inadequate when faced with Mayer and the like I have decided to prioritise and concentrate on doing the important things well. This means that I probably won't be a CEO by the time I'm 35, appear on the cover of Time magazine, have an immaculate house, finally lose the babyweight, do another master's degree, travel to foreign climes, volunteer for charity or get my freezer in order. But it might just mean that I enjoy my twins' childhood and every so often have a nice sit down and a biscuit.

    Wednesday, 31 July 2013

    The House of Wee and Poo

    Goodness I've been away for a long time! I didn't realise I hadn't posted since April (not that I imagine there are hordes of you on the edge of your seats hanging on my every word). Anyway, I've changed jobs, moved house and most significantly of all......


    Now, as I always do with these posts, I'm not going to tell you how I think you should do it, I'm just going to tell you what I did (and there may be the odd amusing/mortifying incident to keep you entertained along the way).

    So, my twins are 2 years and 8 months old. We've had potties around the house for quite a while and both were happy to sit on them from time to time (son: wees and poos, daughter: nothing. ever). They were in the garden a couple of weeks ago (naked) and my son happily used the potty I'd left out there without being prompted, so we thought the time was about right for him. My darling daughter had never really shown much of an interest, had never produced anything on a potty, and barely sat on it for 3 seconds before she would declare "no poo!" and spring up and on to the next adventure. So the plan was to try it with the boy and see if the girl showed an interest.

    I got 2 new (well, donated from a friend) very fancy potties that look like real toilets and bought about 15 pairs of pants/knickers each. Then we picked a day and just went for it. With everything that's written about potty training I thought there would be more "science" to it, but in actual fact all you do it take their nappy off and see what happens.

    What happened was the girl decided that she wanted in on the action and both used their potties perfectly! You could have knocked me down with a feather when the girl produced a massive log of a poo. What a lovely family moment. They were also fine with putting nappies back on for nightime, which I thought they might kick off about.

    The next day we decided to be brave and go out. Now, I thought that during the dreaded "training week" we would be confined to the house (Gina Ford even recommends staying in the kitchen for the first 2 days!), but we were naive and foolish and decided to be reckless. We took a potty with us and kept asking them if they wanted to do a wee. At this point I would highly recommend a car with a large boot. At one point, the boy and my husband were both in there avec le pot. So, all fine until the girl did a massive wee in Next. I whipped her into a nearby changing room, captured the remaining drips, changed her clothes, apologised to the shop assistant and legged it. Sorted.

    Then came lunch. All fine, took both to the toilet with us one at a time (boy: wee, girl: nothing). To be honest we were feeling quite smug... until my daughter looked up at me with sheer panic in her eyes and uttered the immortal words "poo coming". What could we do? I sprang into action, dived under the table, whipped off her trousers and knickers, sat her on the potty - where she produced the most foul-smelling, grown-man-sized poo I have ever seen. If I hadn't been crouched under a restaurant table (our table was in the window, by the way) holding my breath against the stench I would have paraded the potty around the tables, proudly showing it off to our fellow diners. It was awesome. Anyway, the problem was now I had a potty full to the actual brim with poo, what to do? I settled on grabbing a large number of tissues and scooping the potty contents into a nappy bag, before giving the potty an anti-bacterial wipe and emerging from under the table as if nothing was amiss. Thank goodness we had paid the bill, so we swept out of there, leaving behind a room of traumatised customers and a waft of sewerage treatment works. Ta dah!

    So, I won't pretend it has been particularly glamourous or trouble-free, but generally (like most milestones I tend to regard with total dread) it's been a great deal smoother than I expected.

    Here come the top tips:

    - wait until they are ready, but also until you are ready to do it. If you're going to do it half-heartedly there's really no point

    - pick a time when you have some help. My husband and I were both around, which was really useful when both twins needed attention/wiping at the same time

    - nappies can go back on for naps, although funnily enough mine haven't had any accidents (yet) whilst sleeping

    - try not to panic, but make it fun to race to the potty when they need a wee

    - let them take their own trousers and pants down and put them back on again if possible. You really don't want to be doing it for them for longer than absolutely necessary

    - forgot modesty and social decorum. If your child needs to do a poo in a public place, just get it done

    - the portable potty with the bags is good as you can just tie the bag and chuck it in a bin rather than walking through shops with a full-to-the-brim potty looking for somewhere to empty it

    - weeing in the garden, on beaches and down drains is absolutely fine (for children)

    - try not to show your utter disgust at what they produce on the potty. Grin and bear it, praising them constantly

    - keep nappy bags handy for the wipes, tissues and faeces

    - anti-bacterial wipes are good for keeping everything vaguely clean and sweet-smelling

    So my next step is to get them to go on the toilette, so I'll be getting kitted out with toddler seats and steps. Thankfully the new house has 3 bathrooms; I've a feeling we'll be needing them.

    Thursday, 11 April 2013

    The Ages of Baby

    I've been asked quite a lot recently what the most enjoyable age is for babies and children. The answer is always that there are pros and cons to every stage of babyhood so, as ever, here's what I think:


    Pros: they don't move, they only eat one thing and generally like it, they sleep a lot (they do! I know it doesn't feel like it, but they do!), you tend to get lots of visitors who offer to do your ironing, they are portable and can easily live in their pram for an entire day, they are awfully cute and smell delicious, if you only pick them up when absolutely necessary it's quite similar to looking after a plant.

    Cons: you pretty much have no idea what you're doing, you may be in pain from a caesarean or assisted birth, newborns are fairly dull company, you are constantly worried about breaking them.

    3 months

    Pros:  you now know what you are doing, a feeding routine is established, you may even be getting a night's sleep! They smile and look at you as if they understand who you are, but are still happy to be passed around at family gathering. They don't move and they are still only drinking milk, which is straight-forward and portable.

    Cons: they will have their first vaccinations and may get their first cold, they are still a bit boring and you often have to work your socks off to get any kind of reaction.
    6 months

    Pros: food is much more interesting than milk and you can experiment with different tastes and textures, they will start sitting up and holding toys, which is a lot more interesting than lying on their back. They are generally a bit more robust at this age, easier to handle and more reactive to tickling and pulling funny faces.

    Cons: they want to be on the go and get involved, but can't move yet, which can be quite frustrating (for you and the baby), weaning starts and feeding becomes a lot more complicated, they may get more picky about who they are happy to be passed to.

    (just a note on this age: this is when my twins started sleeping consistantly through the night, from the "dream feed" at 10:30pm until around 6:45am. Words cannot describe the joy!)

    9 months

    Pros: they are crawling! Happier to be left to play and move around on their own, enjoying their new-found independance, they start to entertain you with their noises and faces. Solid are established and they can do a lot of their own finger-feeding.

    Cons: they are crawling! You need to keep an eye on them constantly, install stairgates and move everything in your house up to eye-level. They may not be as content to sit in their pushchair as they want to be on the floor moving around. If they can pull themselves up to standing they will do this in their cot if they wake in the night. Persuading them to lie down again can be a challenge.

    12 months

    Pros: they are starting to become real little people, clothes are really cute at this age, you get to buy little shoes and take endless videos of their first steps. Walking with your child holding your hand is really special, and you might get away with occasionally leaving your pushchair at home. They could be on just two milk feeds a day, which can mean a lot more independence if you are breastfeeding.

    Cons: They are into everything and have no idea of their own limitations. Children this age are often totally fearless and think they can run, jump and throw themselves around like bigger children. The number of injuries my twins got went up massively after their first birthday.

    Tuesday, 15 January 2013

    Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

    You've incubated them for 9 months, watched them make your tummy move, tried to fathom their scan images, planned for them, shopped for them, squeezed them out of your body, fed them, changed them, bathed them, checked their breathing and watched them grow. But there is a truth universally acknowledged that at some point you are going to have to leave your children with someone else.

    It could be a family member, a childminder or a nursery. It may be a regular happening from the beginning (I have heard an extraordinary tale of grandparents who look after the baby overnight once a week to give the parents a break. Nice), or a necessity when you go back to work. Either way I would encourage you to leave your baby with a babysitter when they are fairly young, even for an hour while you pop to the supermarket, just to get you both used to being apart. Basically the longer you leave it the weirder it's going to be. I vividly remember the first time I left the twins - my husband and I dropped them off with my sister and went out for an anniversary dinner. They must have been about 5 weeks old, and I felt like wearing a sign around my neck saying "I've just had twins!". I couldn't believe that the world was still going on with its business as if nothing monumental had happened.

    Leaving your little darlings with someone else can be tricky in terms of the children's reaction, but also yours. You might feel a variety of emotions: anxiety, guilt, worry, sadness, lack of control, joy, ecstasy, uncontrollable elation. It's going to be a bit strange, but you get used to it and every time you leave them it feels a bit more normal.

    When I started leaving my twins with family, and then later with childminders when I went back to work, they were too young to really grasp what was going on, so I just used to disappear when they were distracted. This worked well at first and I would definitely advocate spending as little time dropping them off as possible. As they became more aware of what was going on around them, I realised this wasn't working. When we were at home I couldn't pop into another room without them screaming the house down, and I quickly realised that they didn't trust me not to disappear for hours. So, I started saying goodbye and giving them a kiss whenever I left them. I still got going as quickly as possible (no long drawn-out, emotional farewells here), but telling them I was going to work or shopping, even if they had not idea what that meant, seemed to satisfy them and they quite often gave me a kiss and a cheery wave goodbye.

    Of course there are still times when my lovely childminder (who has the patience of a saint) has to peel a hysterical screaming child off my leg so that I can leave. This is always a bit traumatic and definitely not the best way to start a day, but if this happesns she usually sends me a text a few minutes later to say that they are happily playing. She has even sent me pictures messages of my twins giggling manically a mere matter of minutes after I have left them in the throws of a massive tantrum.

    I think the main way of dealing with leaving your children is to always remain calm, be determined to leave, say goodbye quickly and ask for an update from whoever is looking after them. They are usually so much better as soon as you are out of the picture, it's actually sometimes hard not to get quite offended!!

    In terms of casual babysitting, I will generally ask family or my friends who have children. This is usually on a reciprocal basis, which I find works really well. If you and your husband want to go to see a film, and so do your friends then why not babysit for them and then they can return the favour. Guilt-free, payment-free and you get to watch someone else's television and eat their food. Delightful!

    There's no real magic formula to leaving your children in someone else's care; you have to relinquish control and trust them to do the job. My twins usually look quite relieved to be in the care of a professional for a change!

    Tuesday, 8 January 2013


    This is generally how greetings go in my world:

    Friend: "Hi there!"
    Me: "Hi!"
    Friend: "How are you?"
    Me: "Good, thanks!"
    Friend: "How are the twins?"
    Me: "Lovely!"
    Friend: "Great. See you soon"
    Me: "Bye!"

    I am always the person who is "fine".

    Except recently I realised that I wasn't fine. At all. So, I was forced to do the one thing that is harder for me than giving birth. OK, maybe that's a slight exageration, but let's just say I'd rather jiggle down the high street, naked, in all my stretch-marked glory than ask for help.

    But ask I must, and in a nutshell this is why:
    1. I was shouting a lot
    2. I was crying a lot
    3. I felt out of control when dealing with the twins
    All of which, I think you would agree is hardly a healthy way to live one's life. So, I started by contacting the health visitors in my town. I felt a bit silly at first doing this because I was under the impression that this service was for new parents to get help with feeding and sleeping. When I contacted them, however, I was told that they are availble until your child turns 5 years old to offer advice about all sorts of things: development, behaviour, health problems, emotions, and the revelation for me was that they were happy just to pop in so that I had someone to talk to.

    To be honest I wasn't expecting much from these visits, but when the health visitor turned up she uttered the following magic words:

    "My name is Jane, and I have twins."

    Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Even better; she'd managed to keep hers alive for THIRTEEN YEARS!!!!!!!!!! It was so lovely to sit down and have a talk with someone had a bit of distance. Even though I know quite a few mums with twins, they are all around the same age as mine, and because I'm obsessed with giving advice and telling everyone I'm "fine", I felt the need to talk to someone who had done it all and survived to tell the tale. Jane went through some of the key times I felt overwhelmed and just talking about it made me feel better (such a cliché, I know).

    In total she came to visit me 4 times, and I genuinely felt better each time. She gave me some practical advice (about getting them into the car, for example. I now do it as a race to see who can get into their car seat first) and she also told me the stuff I knew, but needed to hear from someone else: that it's OK not to be fine all the time. Who knew?!

    Tuesday, 13 November 2012

    Sad Mums Blog (apparently)

    There's an interesting article doing the rounds at the moment on how mothers who write blogs about being a mum are sad, lonely, boring losers who are oppressed by the hand of patriarchy and "duped into thinking the world exists in their tiny, safe, fragrant homes, that life revolves around burps".

    The author (who makes pains to differentiate herself from bloggers by calling what she writes "art") bases her juvenile assumptions on the essentially pathetic nature of the mum; the idea that she is powerless, brainless, narrow-minded, self-obsessed and lacking motivation to get a "real job".

    Allow me a retort.

    One of the main criticisms this author seems to have is that women are staying at home to look after their children (shock! Horror!) and writing blogs. The point about blogging, and particularly blogs that earn money through advertising, is that women who choose to be mothers are no longer isolated, they are liberated by their laptops and able to communicate with other people who have the same worries, concerns, questions, and often, sense of humour. More than that, they are also contributing to their household income and not relying on their husbands to provide the daily bread, whilst raising their children. Never have I read a more anti-feminist argument.

    What really gets my goat is this idea that mothers are a different species. We (if I can speak on behalf of mothers everywhere) are the same ambitious, energetic, spirited women we were before we had children. We've just had this monumental life change and sometimes feel the need to reach out to others in the same situation and say "this is crazy, huh?". I can't tell you (or if you're reading this maybe I don't need to) how reassuring it feels to discover that you're not alone. If you're not the type of person to rock up to a playgroup, plonk yourself down and tell the other mums that you're their new friend, having children can be an isolating and incredibly lonely experience. Reading the experiences of others, and perhaps writing about your own, is a way to feel connected and engaged with the world.

    Of course blogs written by mums are going to talk about burps and colic and sleep patterns and breastfeeding: all the things I'm sure seem pathetically dull and insignificant to non-parents. But trust me, when you've had 2 hours' sleep in the last 48 and every time your baby cries it feels like someone is taking a cheesegrater to your eyeballs, finding a tip online on getting them to sleep for a few hours feels like you've just discovered the holy grail. These things are important. They are what our lives as parents revolve around, and yes; we are also aware of climate change, immigration and political unrest because we are the same people we were before!!!

    I purposely haven't commented on the article itself as provoking a response is clearly the aim of the piece. And after all, I'm just a sad mum writing rubbish about nappies and tantrums; what do I know?

    Read the original article here:

    Wednesday, 24 October 2012

    The Waiting Game

    Exactly two years ago, I was approaching 36 weeks pregnant and nearly into my forth week of maternity leave. After consulting various websites and forums, and disregarding my doctor's frankly laughable suggestion that I finish work at 28 weeks, I'd decided that 32 weeks was about right to call it a day, work-wise. Although at the time it seemed really early, looking back I probably made the right decision. My commute to work was 45 minutes each way and my feet and ankles were permanently swollen. I wasn't sleeping and found myself watching the clock all day until I could go home and go to bed (yes, I used to go to bed at 5:30pm). More importantly, I'd grown out of all my maternity work clothes and there are very few professions in which an exposed, stretch-marked midriff is an acceptable look. Mine is not one of those professions.

    So, I packed up my mug, accepted my colleagues good luck messages, activated my out-of-office and off I went.

    And I waited....

    ... and waited....

    ...and waited...

    My theory (based on no medical facts whatsoever) was that as soon as I'd finished work I'd probably have a couple of weeks getting the last few things sorted out for the twins' arrival and then they'd be here. Not so much.

    As both my babies were head-down (cephalic), and as I'd had no problems during my pregnancy, my consultant was keen to wait it out for as long as possible so that I would go into labour naturally and avoid an induction/ possible c-section (those of you who have read my birth story post will know that I avoided neither of these in the end!). The earliest she wanted to discuss induction was 38 weeks, so I just had to wait.

    Looking back on this time now, I really wish I'd have been better prepared for the waiting bit of maternity leave. I suppose I thought I'd be busy getting ready for the babies, sorting stuff out, buying things, and generally "nesting". Well, maybe I'm missing this particular gene, because once I'd folded and re-folded each tiny babygro 40 times there didn't seem to be an awful lot of romance in it. Of course there were tons of things that needed doing: painting the lounge, cleaning the windows, scrubbing the grout in the bathroom, putting things in the loft - all tasks I was completely unable to undertake due to the sheer size of me + full-term twins.

    After some outings in the first few weeks of maternity leave I didn't even feel comfortable going out on my own. I could still drive (just about, and only an automatic), and I certainly didn't feel like I was going to launch into labour at any minute, but I was very aware of falling over, or worse getting stuck somewhere. On one memorable solo trip to the supermarket I arrived back at my car to find a van packed very close to the driver's side. Not only could I not fit through the gap, but I couldn't even get in the passenger's side and climb over because I couldn't bloody climb over! Instead I had to stand next to my car, embarrassed and fuming, waiting for the van driver's return.

    The stares I got when I was nearing the end of my pregnancy were the main reason I stopped going out on my own. I was clearly enormous, and any fool could see that I was having more than one baby, but the general public are a great deal thicker than the average fool, so people would actually recoil in horror as I approached, presumably on the assumption that I'd swallowed an elephant and was just about to eat them too.

    So I was huge, uncomfortable, bored to tears, frustrated, exhausted (although I soon learnt the true meaning of exhaustion when my babies were born). Here's how I should have spent my time:

    • Watching films/boxsets that I've always wanted to see (whilst lounging on the sofa eating chocolates)
    • Reading books that I've always wanted to read (the trashy and the "important")
    • Cooking for the freezer
    • Mastering a handicraft (I've since learnt to crochet which would have been a brilliant way of whiling away the hours)
    • Having long phone/Skype conversations with family and friends
    • Inviting people to visit
    • Booking in helpers for after the babies' arrival
    • Looking at useful/interesting things on the internet, rather than reading about twin birth horror stories and getting scared
    • Putting all my photos in albums
    • Packing a useful hospital bag (FYI: 3 pairs of knickers is not enough)
    • Practicing with the pushchair and carseats (when we were finally discharged from hospital, we couldn't get the carseats out of the car)
    All of the above would have diverted my energies from obsessing about the birth into much more healthy pursuits. I might also have seen all of Mad Men. Oh well....

    Tuesday, 2 October 2012


    Hi, Twin-Dad here.  I thought I'd say a few words on Wednesdays.  Wednesday is a day when a lot of things generally go wrong.  And not by coincidence either.  You see, every week, Wednesday is the day when I have the twins on my own. It is the day when the standard of service to which the children are accustomed to receiving falls considerably, when laughter and squeals quickly turn to screaming and writhing around on the floor, and when the little terrors' anarchic tendencies appear at their strongest.

    But whilst it seems that a lot of things go wrong on a Wednesday, I guess the purpose of this post is to remind and reassure myself that it's never really that bad.  That Dads might not be as utterly incompetent as they sometimes feel. In a year of 'doing Wednesdays', I've only had to dash to A&E once (I'll come onto that later), never had a visit from social services, and almost always ensured that the children are dressed, fed and watered before my wife comes home from a day's 'real work'.

    My top tips for a Wednesday:
    • Going out is better than staying in.  The time goes quicker and there is more distraction (and dare I say it, fun) to be had
    • Stick to the same childcare routine as your wife.  (No I'm not under the thumb... much.  It's just a case of not messing with the body clocks of people so prone to complaining!)
    • The more energy you put into playing with them, the less moaning they will do
    • If you go out with them whilst wearing something comfortable (e.g. tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie), be prepared for people to give you looks which say 'get a job, and stop scrounging benefits off your kids'.  In this instance, just smile back. It's probably not worth mentioning that you work very hard at a job which includes weekends (hence why you are off today) and that you don't even watch Jeremy Kyle let alone intend to be on his show.
    • (Linked to the above point) Don't be offended if people ask if you are a stay at home Dad - they often mean it in an admiring way
    • Don't think of it as being a day off
    And now some anecdotes:

    The A&E story.  It wasn't that bad, and it was actually the minor injuries unit at our GP, so not 'proper hospital'.  Basically I had temporarily left the room for a few minutes.  The girl had been generally very upset at my wife leaving that morning, and I had finally got her calmed down in front of Timmy Time, so I took the opportunity of nipping upstairs to brush my teeth and get properly dressed (you know, those little luxuries).  I then heard a lot of crying again from the girl, so reluctantly trooped downstairs fully expecting there to be nothing really wrong, only to find her with a face full of blood, streaming out of both mouth and nose and splattered around the lounge.  After cleaning her up and getting to the aforementioned minor injuries unit, the receptionist asked me 'how did she do this?'  Now I felt that saying 'I don't know, I wasn't paying any attention' didn't quite sound right so I said that she fell into a glass table.  Anyhow, it must've sounded plausible enough because the social have never been in touch.  And the girl was fine.

    I have many stories of leaving the house without the proper supplies (and on some occasions, no supplies whatsoever - getting the terrors into a car is sometimes so tricky that remembering anything else becomes impossible), but no blog post would be complete without a talking about child poo.  The most challenging situations I have encountered have been during the phase where the boy takes his nappy off before he's about to do a poo and, once again, I've not been paying enough attention.  On more than one occasion, by the time I've noticed, there are several surfaces to clean in addition to the boy himself - which is made more tricky by the fact that I don't seem to have a free arm to steer the girl away from the poo - and usually the result is that a lot of things go into the washing machine 'just in case'.

    But if scrubbing a whole heap of poo from a fabric sofa cushion is the worst thing to do during my 'day off', bizarrely I find myself thinking 'I'll take that'.

    Things I never thought I'd say

    Here's a list of ridiculous things myself and my husband have said over the last 2 years, or heard others say to their children, or things I imagine have been said by a mum at some point. Please do add your own gems in the comments box!

    • (Me to my twins) "Stop working as a team!"
    • (Overheard in a supermarket) "If you don't stop it, it's chicken and pesto!"
    • "No thank you, I don't need any help... but could you just tuck that teddy/changing mat/dirty nappy under my chin?"
    • "What is it? A bogey? Just wipe it on mummy's skirt, darling"
    • (Me to my son) "If you headbutt me again you're going on the step". Like one headbutt is acceptable??!
    • (Me to my husband) "What do you mean 'is it clean?', I have no idea! Sniff it!"
    • "Is that chocolate, or poo?"
    • (Me to my son, again) "Stop headbutting the floor"
    • "Oh look: you're naked!"
    • "Oh good: you've both got your socks on your hands now"
    • (A mum in a playground to her child on top of the climbing frame) "If you don't get down right now, Christmas is cancelled!"
    • (My husband to our son) "How clever; you've taken your nappy off. Again."
    • (My husband to me at 6am) "We've had a lie-in!"
    • (Me to a total stranger in Starbucks) "Excuse me, could you just hold this for me?" *hands stranger a baby*
    • (Fellow twin mum after hers had both sat in a puddle) "Right, well you're going home naked then"
    • (My husband through sleep-deprived bleary eyes) "I just can't imagine them being awake and not crying"
    • (Me whilst changing a dirty nappy and trying to hold the other twin back from crawling into it) "Your brother's poo is not a toy"

    Thursday, 13 September 2012

    The Twin Heptathlon

    My twins have invented a new game this week. I'm not sure what it's called, or what the rules are, but it involves taking off your shoes and socks, replacing the socks on your hands, and then charging about the house as fast as possible, whilst squealling. In many ways this game is a follow-up to the equally popular "trying to fit in the pots and pans cupboard and close the door" game that enjoyed much popularity over the summer. In fact, it's entirely possible that my twins have been inspired by the herculean efforts of Jessica Ennis and are aspiring to be heptathletes in their own twin-version of the sport. Other events in the twin heptathlon appear to include: throwing teddies into each other's cots, diving off the side of the sofa head-first, jumping on Mum's caesarean scar, and pushing each other off a small block onto a cushion.

    I'm definitely currently in the phase where having twins is starting to pay off. They really do entertain each other, and I never have to think "what am I going to do with them next?" Even in really small ways it's very useful that they always have each other. It means that when I'm running around the house in the morning getting ready for work I can leave them at the breakfast table to go and get dressed without the sad, forlorn image of a lonely child left on their own. Charging around the supermarket carpark trying to find a two-seater trolley (impossible, by the way. Shop online) is less guilt-inducing because they are happily having a chat in the car in their own language.

    You might not believe it, but in many ways having twins is easier than two children close together. Yes, initially you have two newborns to deal with, but you don't have a newborn and a two-year-old trying to stuff jelly babies up its nose. The thing with having a second child is that you usually decide to have the second when it becomes obvious that the first needs a playmate, but of course the problem is that it's well over a year into child number two's life before they can be any use to you as such. Up until then you're basically keeping them apart, constantly telling off your older child for fiddling with, waking up, and generally annoying your new baby. And when they not doing any of those things they're leaving tiny bits of toys all over the place for the baby to swallow.

    I'm trying (and failing) to remember when my twins started to entertain each other. At first, all you're trying to do is get them to interact and getting frustrated, because young babies will look pretty much anywhere other than at the thing you're pointing at them. I've definitely got a photo of the two of them in bumbos looking quizzically at each other as if one is interviewing the other on Newsnight. When they started pulling themselves up to standing they really enjoyed facing each other and pulling faces. I heard a really lovely story from a mum whose identical twins did a double-take when they noticed each other for the first time!

    The challenges of having twins are well-documented (mainly by know-it-all twin mums like myself), but the benefits of having twins are numerous. Not least, having a constant playmate means that you don't have to invite other people's horrible children over just so that your child has someone to play with.

    Tuesday, 21 August 2012

    Working 9 til 5

    My colleague received a phone call this morning. Whilst eavesdropping I deduced that it was her child's nursery informing her that said child had had an accident and she was to come and collect him. The word "hospital" might have been mentioned, although I couldn't lean over any further to hear what was going on without the risk of tipping back on my wheelie chair. As she hung up she made a funny gasping noise, and then (horror of horrors) burst in tears. Now, I'd like to think that I'm a fairly compassionate person, but I'm afraid when something like that happens all I want to do is laugh and feel mortally embarrassed. Well, I'm proud to say that I didn't laugh, I held it together and offered a sympathetic arm-rub in a hopefully-comforting fashion.

    I'm not sure what the upshot of all this was (I'm going to assume that the wee terror had their head examined by some sort of brain expert and was declared fighting fit), but it does highlight one of the many challenges of going back to work after you've had children. Here's a list of random points, advice and stuff I wish I'd have known about The Return from Maternity Leave:

    • There are basically 3 options for childcare: nursery, childminder, family
    • When you are looking for childcare, start with friends and family and find out what they do. Are they happy with their choice? What do they wish they'd done differently?
    • Speak to your employer as soon as possible about your hours when you return, but don't worry too much about this. Most importantly secure your child/children a place wherever you want them to go. Exact hours can be sorted out afterwards
    • There is quite often a "chief childminder" in your area who can give you the names and contact details of those childminders who have spaces available
    • Visit every nursery or childminder you are considering and ask LOADS of questions
    • Be selective. If you are not happy about something, or you don't get a good feeling, go and look somewhere else
    • Don't feel pressured into making a choice
    • Bear in mind that you will pay for childcare even if you are on holiday!
    • If you are only need childcare during term time you may still have to pay a reduced amount over the school holidays as a retainer
    • Ask for discounts! Negotiate! Ask that they include meals in the price
    • Have a back up plan in case your childminder is sick, otherwise you're going to have to take the day off
    • Think about whether you want your childcare to be close to work, or close to home
    • If you're going to have several people collecting your children you need to have car seats in all their cars
    • Register for childcare vouchers - basically part of your salary (up to £243 per month) goes straight to your childminder/nursery before tax. Both parents can register and pay in this way
    • If you have twins you will basically be paying double for childcare (possibly with a slight discount if you negotiate). Everyone who has 2 children has to pay this for childcare - the only difference is that you pay for it all upfront!
    • If you are deciding whether or not to go back to work you need to weigh up the soft options (a route back to sanity) as well as the hard options (cold, hard cash)
    • Ask your childminder to keep nappies/wipes/spare clothes/drinks bottles at their house so that you don't have to take a bag every day
    • Beware of nurseries that charge you if you are late to collect your children. If you have a job where you could frequently be delayed you might need a more flexible option
    • If you have a random day off, and you've already paid for childcare, for goodness sake drop them off and go and have a nice day to yourself!
    Overall, my advice is don't feel guilty if you enjoy going back to work. It's lovely to feel like a real person again, to have proper conversations with adults, walk around without shoving a pushchair, and don't get me started on the utter heaven that is drinking a hot cup of tea from start to finish. At first you will probably feel like you've had one of your arms cut off, which is perfectly normal after having a baby (or two) attached to you for up to a year, and of course you will miss them, but I firmly believe that I'm better at my full-time job of mummying by having a part-time job as well.

    Tuesday, 31 July 2012

    Perfecto-Mums and Hot Moments

    You know those mothers who just look absolutely comfortable and totally in control? They glide along with their light-as-a-feather pushchairs (complete with stylish, yet educational toys), all slim, with casually-styled shiny hair and flimsy scarves. Effortlessly popping in and out of shops whilst holding a soya latte, stopping for a chat with a fellow perfecto-mum on their way to an organic baby massage class.

    Now look over to the other side of the street. You see that hot-mess of a mother with the pushchair that looks like a cross between a tank and a train? The one with sweat streaming down her face, tugging at the hem of her too-short top that keeps riding up to reveal a saggy, stretch-marked stomach that looks like an empty hold-all? That's me, that is.

    As a twin mum I have realised quite a few things about myself over the last 20 months or so. I can get myself and 2 toddlers ready for work/childcare in under an hour. I can lurch from red fury to convulsed in hysterics depending on my twins' mood. And I will always, always look just a wee bit chavvy pushing a pushchair. This is a fact. I don't know if that's because the pushchair is twice the size and trickier to manoeuvre, so it always tends to look like a bit of a struggle, or whether the chances of both twins sitting there contentedly are fairly slim and therefore I have more "hot moments" than a mum of a singleton.

    A "hot moment", by the way, is a term coined by my sister (or my mum, can't remember) which perfectly describes how you feel when you are in public and you are wishing with all your might that you were in private. A good example is taking your baby to the weigh-in: essentially you sit around with other mums and their babies until your number is called, you strip you baby off and place him/her onto the scales, find out the new weight and it's all written in a little red book. Simple. Except when all the other babies are peacefully asleep in their perfecto-mums' arms and yours is screaming his face off, you're wearing a winter coat that you can't take off because there's nowhere to put the baby down, and then he does a massive poo on the scales. Hot moment. Weigh-in with twins? Double hot moment.

    Maybe it's other people that make me feel like a mess rather than a perfecto-mum when I'm out with my twins. I do get pitying glances and comments that people think I can't hear (I've had twins, I'm not deaf ...and by the way you're standing a foot away from me). The first time I went out on my own with my babies they were probably around 4 weeks old. I'd planned the trip carefully in-between feeds, got them into the car, driven to a shopping centre, proudly parked in the parent and child section and transported them inside in their pushchair. As I was going through the entrance a woman passed me, turned to her friend and said "poor cow". It stopped me in my tracks a bit because I thought I was doing really well up until then. The twins were both asleep for goodness sake! How could it possibly have looked like I was struggling?! I've also overheard comments about my pushchair - someone once loudly declared it a "monstrosity", whilst another nudged her friend and said "look, there's a double pushchair" to which she replied "yeah, but LOOK at it!" (By the way, it's a Baby Jogger City Select and it's brilliant).

    I think when you have twins you have to accept that it's quite a different experience to having a singleton. Yes, your pushchair might not be the most elegant, there will usually be at least one baby crying, your tummy will never be the same and you can't get into some shops, but I'm fairly sure most people in the street are looking at you with wonder and awe. Just the way I look at mums of triplets.

    Wednesday, 18 July 2012

    Calamity and the Twin Mum

    I've managed to get myself into a few unfortunate situations recently, so I thought I'd share and hope that I can trust you all not to go to social services.

    I locked myself out of my house. With my children locked inside. I was putting a bin bag into the outside bin and the front door slammed shut behind me. The twins were at the dining table having their lunch (well, throwing it around) and suddenly I found myself outside, with no keys and no shoes. Of course I did what everyone does when they're locked out; I pushed pathetically on the door in the vain hope it would open. It didn't. So I had to go to my neighbour's house (who I'd never properly met before), explain the situation and ask to jump over her fence. In the end, she volunteered her husband who jumped over the fence into my garden, went through the patio doors (nodding at my startled children still sitting at the table) and opened the front door for me. Humiliating? Yes. Mortifying? Yes. Great.

    In a separate and equally horrifying circumstance, I've also recently locked my children in the car. With the car keys. This all came about because I've developed a rather irritating habbit of opening the car and throwing the car key onto the passenger seat while I get the children into their carseats. I duly carried out this little ritual when I collected my children from the childminder, but must have pressed the lock button before throwing the key onto the front seat. So, when the twins were safely in their seats, I slammed all the doors shut, locking them and the keys inside. Panic stations! I had to borrow a phone (because mine was locked in the car), call my husband who was thankfully at home, and get him to drive to the childminder's with the spare key. The worst thing about this particular stunt was the look on his face when he arrived. I think wonder and dispair sum it up. Brilliant.

    These unfortunate situations have made me think about the stuff I did to the twins when they were younger - including dropping curry on one baby when I was desperately trying to shovel some dinner down whilst feeding, getting another baby soaking wet (and not realising) when they were in a sling and I was trying to wash up, and slicing the top off my son's thumb the first time I tried to cut his nails (he screamed for about an hour).

    Great comfort can be found by telling myself that they're not going to remember any of this, but as they approach 2 years old I know that my window is closing. I'd really better stop doing stupid stuff.