Saturday, 14 April 2012

One for the boys Part II

Hi there.  I'm the other half of the rambling twin mum.  Much of what I'm about to say feels a tad delicate, but hopefully you can read between the lines of some of it. The content of my advice for my pre-paternal self seems like it is centred around damage limitation - and it sort of is to some degree - but when you look back on the most surreal phase of your life it somehow doesn't seem as bad.

With the pregnancy and birth side of things, I'm not sure I have much more to offer than what has already been said.  To be honest, at this point, none of your work has really started yet.  I found the pregnancy phase quite fun.  There is the obvious excitement, the opportunity to make an unoriginal but still hilarious joke about your wife's figure, the insincere sympathy and the unsuccessful efforts to make her feel comfortable.  With the birth, try not to get too excited too early as it takes a while.  There is a lot of sitting around, broken up by the occasional fetching of a drink etc.  And even though you may have spent the last three nights sleeping in a chair, the effect that this has had on your lower back is not something worth discussing in the delivery suite.

After the birth

This is the time when you're really winging it.  But you mustn't let it show, especially with twins when you have nowhere to hide.  You somehow have to find the right balance between following you're wife's instructions (usually to the letter) and thinking proactively of what needs doing next.  A trap I think men can easily fall into is to never be the one to suggest an idea, and assume that intrinsic maternal knowledge trumps anything you have to offer by some distance.  The truth is that your wife is as new and clueless to a lot of things as you are.  And in some instances, she will perhaps feel more pressure to find the solution because she ought  to know.  One of the things my wife has recently said to me (all through the lens of hindsight of course) is how much she appreciated me taking the lead on some things and assertively telling her what she needed to do at times when she couldn't think straight. But like I said, it is a balance, and a fine one at that.

Now this may come as a surprise to you, but your wife will be a tad more highly strung in the first few days and months... well pretty much the first year to be truthful.  The trick is to not compare her current character traits to anything you have experienced from her previously.  And reminding her of how 'fun loving' she used to be is not helpful.  Similarly, taking personal offence to her tone of voice is something that is easily done in the heat of the moment (after all, does she not appreciate how hard I'm working, at work and at home? And does she not realise how I don't deserve to be spoken to like this?)  But articulating these thoughts is not helpful.  Not helpful at all.

To continue this theme, there will also be occasions when you are managing to perform a baby task in a manner that you believe to be perfectly acceptable.  And it probably is.  However, you are not doing it in the precise way in which your wife likes to do it.  So, inevitably you get told you're doing it wrong.  Now, at this point you have two choices.  You can either suck it up, mumble an apology, and make a mediocre effort to follow what you now discover is a 'simple instruction'.  Or you stick to your guns; you use your skills in logical reasoning to explain to your dearly beloved that there are alternative methods that could be employed here, and that if she in turn were to employ some lateral thinking, there could also be a whole number of other tasks that could be made more efficient with a few gentle tweaks in technique.  I'm not saying that either of these approaches is the 'right one'.  With the former, you run the risk of allowing a precedent to set in where you play the role of incapable incoherent 'man' in all such future scenarios (and uphold a stereotype that probably forms the number one topic in Mum to Mum conversations); and with the latter you lose.  I'm not too sure how, but you definitely do.  So the choice is yours.  There probably is a middle-ground somewhere, but I'm not too sure if finding it will have any affect on the outcome.

With regards to baby care, you'll probably find that most of the jobs (nappy changing, bathing etc.) are not as difficult as you first thought.  You'll think at some point that you could potentially do anything if only you could get some sleep.  Twins tend to wake each other up, so be prepared for both of you to be up most of the night for the first few months.  The other thing you'll find is that there will be a point when you become immune to the sound of babies crying.  It will feel like you don't have enough hands to manage one baby, and because of this, the other one will probably be left crying for long periods of time.  So blot it out, it's just noise.  After all, what's the worst that could possibly happen?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

One for the Boys: Part 1

I'm going to have a guest blogger this week; my (long-suffering) husband will be writing about his experience of twin parenthood. Before he does so, just a few pointers from the female perspective for you Dads-to-be:

During Pregnancy
People won't want to talk to you much these days. They want to talk to your missus and your role seems to be standing there, nodding along and smiling ruefully as you try to look like you're interested, involved and not like other men. People also say really stupid and sometimes hurtful things to pregnant women, especially where multiples are concerned. Smile and nod and move your lady on as quickly as possible before she cries.

She'll cry quite a lot and it's really not (usually) about you or something you've done. My husband went out of his way to make me tasty meals to tempt me out of my morning sickness hell, and was understandably tad miffed when I would burst into tears at the table. It wasn't about him; it was hormones and wanting beans on toast, rather than seared tuna on a bed of wilted spinach with a soy jus.

Be nice about how she looks, but always be honest. You are more valuable than a mirror for her as you can see all the angles. If something she's wearing is too short for goodness sakes TELL HER. She'll probably cry, but thank you later.

During Labour
You need to educate yourself enough about this process to ensure that you're not having to ask her questions while she's in the throes of it all. This is a balance though - no woman in labour likes a know-it-all telling her she can't really be in that much pain as she's only 2cms and she's still got 8cms more to go. I've been there: trust me, it hurts.

Your main responsibilities will be:
  • making sure you know the way to the hospital and whether certain entrances will be closed at night
  • ensuring you have change for the car park if needed
  • packing a bag for yourself, including a spare t-shirt, boxers and socks, ipod (or something quiet to do), phone and charger, camera and charger, a non-perishable picnic (she will get fed, you won't)
  • keeping an eye on the time and updating the midwife when she asks (e.g. how far apart the contractions are, how long she's been biting on your lapel)
  • entertaining and distracting your wife in the early stages
  • fetching water
  • getting a midwife when she screams at you to do so
  • making sure if she wants to sit in the chair that you are not asleep in it
  • keeping quiet if you stub your toe/trap your finger/pull a nose hair out. No one is interested in your pain
  • disregarding insults thrown your way (or total lack of communication. I didn't even manage to make eye contact with my husband for 24 hours)
  • maintaining a calm and composed exterior even if you feel like legging it
After the Birth
Make sure that you get some sleep as soon as you possibly can. You need to be on your game over the next few days and you can't do that if you've been up all night tweeting about your new baby. Time to be sensible. On the subject of social media - by all means post pictures of the baby, but check first before posting any that include its mum. The last thing she needs after giving birth is a bedraggled photo featuring her boob to go viral.

If you get any time at home before they are discharged get the house ready. Open boxes of nappies and wipes, take tags off babygros, get the heating/hot water on, have a general tidy up, put the moses basket in the living room. Make sure there is tea, coffee, milk and bread. If there aren't any ready meals in the freezer get some.

Early Days
You will get loads of visitors in the first few days. Your job is gatekeeper and they first have to get past you. You may need to be firm with well-meaning family and friends who want to come over at an inconvenient time, or (my personal favourite) the ones who just won't go. Be strong and say no. Even to your own mother.

If your wife is breastfeeding this is the part where you can feel quite left out as it's pretty much a full-time job, but there's so much that you can do to help. Even something as simple as getting your wife something to eat or drink every time she feeds. Just a glass of water if that's all she wants (breastfeeding makes you really thirsty). This will ensure that she eats and drinks consistently throughout the day, which is absolutely essential for a decent milk supply. You can also put a DVD on for her to watch, get her mobile so she can chat with a friend, or just sit and have a cuddle with both (or all 3!) of them. If she is worried about feeding or finds it difficult it's your job to make sure she talks to someone (midwife, health visitor, breastfeeding expert, her mum).

Overall; don't worry and don't piss her off.