Monthly Archives: February 2012

Phases past

Standard

My little Mr 4 is growing up. I got my first genuine teenager style eye roll today! It was in response to one of my jokes too, which gives it even more street cred. His latest word is magical. He uses it when he means cool or tricky or amazing. Example, Mummy, I did something magical! Look! And he walks up the stairs on his tippy toes. You are magical darling, every piece of you. He also refused to take his teddy to day care last week for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic because it wasn’t cool.

I think 4 has been my absolute favourite age so far. Zero to one I don’t mind (ish), once you get past the night feeds. I don’t mind admitting I am no fan of one to about two and a half, maybe three. But once they hit the toilet trained, can put on own pants and hold a semi logical conversation stage, I’m lovin it sisters. The talented Mr 4 is my best reminder that all things must pass, so I remind myself that he too was once pooing in his pants, drinking from a bottle, screaming with irrational fervour and demanding every minute of my attention. It’s definitely good to look back at what we have achieved together (my husband and I) and know that this too will pass.

So far we have made it through:

  1. Night feeding phase
  2. Spewing after every feed phase
  3. 10 nappies per day (each) phase
  4. Dribbly messy pureed baby food phase
  5. Can’t look away for a minute lest they fall off the couch/bed/chair phase
  6. Have to carry them everywhere because walking is just too random and unpredictable phase
  7. Head banging phase (pretty much)

We thought we were through the waking in the night screaming phase but twin 2 has an ace up his sleeve. He is flying the flag for screaming night wakers everywhere. We are torn between the ignore and let him cry himself to sleep strategy and the create another crutch and hope he grows out of it strategy. Trial and error I guess. I look in on my gorgeous, sleeping Mr 4 and remember, in 3, 6, maybe 9 months, this will be a memory, we’ll roll our eyes as we remember this time. I just hope the cuddling Mummy phase never ends.

Crystal ball

Standard

My husband and I were predicting our sons’ future occupations tonight. It was so funny I laughed until I cried. That kind of can’t breathe properly laughing. We totally must retell this story to them at their 21st parties.

I remain adamant that I knew the twins in utero. I knew which one was which and what their names would be and what kind of people they were.  I knew Twin 1 would come out first and I knew he’d be the quiet, thoughtful type. A little more emotional than his brother, but more thoughtful too, kind and gentle. I knew Twin 2 would be louder, more boisterous, the first one to break a bone, but an infectious sense of fun, a grin full of mischief and a heart full of love. My predictions so far have proved correct (except the broken bone part, but he has split his lip open and fallen off a table). They are both loving, beautiful, kind and smart. When one is crying often the other will go and hug him. They give each other things like teddies, drinks, and biscuits when it seems like there’s a need. They sit close together on their little toddler size couch in the play room. Often I’ll leave them playing in the back yard only to come back a few minutes later to find them sitting side by side on the edge of the garden, just hangin’.

The talented Mr 4, according to me, will go into some kind of leadership career. Perhaps teaching, perhaps a writer or storyteller of some kind. Maybe a journalist. My husband says maybe an architect or urban planner. Funny that both our careers are reflected in those predictions.

Twin 1. I said a job that hasn’t been invented yet. Some kind of IT start up maybe. Something that we will both find a bit hard to understand and explain to others. Andrew said maybe a trade and I added that if he did, he’ll invent some new niche, create a ground up business and work for himself. It will be ingenious and meticulously run.

Twin 2, I said, will bum around Byron during his twenties and teach surfing. Or maybe he’ll travel and be a ski instructor. Either way, he won’t consider university until his late twenties. He will spend the bulk of his time after high school travelling, working odd jobs and at some point, predicts Andrew, become a stand up comedian.

His brothers will be in the front row.

From China to eternity part 2

Standard

I felt hellishly smug that I had finally got some value for money out of an insurance company. I figure even with a lifetime of the maddeningly futile ‘private health insurance’ that we are forced to pay for and never use in Australia, I may still yet come out on top. Strangely the insurance company did not feel as happy about their 7 to 1 shortfall. When I enquired about renewing my policy the next year, not only had the premium increased to about $5000USD, maternity had been capped at $18,000 and there was a new clause whereby I had to buy TWO policies (one for my husband also) as maternity was no longer available on a single policy. So I may have been single handedly responsible for screwing international health insurance for the rest of you. Sorry about that.

Anyway, home with Archie, parents visiting from Australia, getting on with finding out how to be a mother. I did suffer from early baby blues, but took some action which really helped me feel better. I invited a friend around for a glass of wine, had a chat to the GP and bought some feel good DVDs (in a shop that may or may not have been legal). Finding Nemo cheered me up so much that it will always have a very special place in my heart. I started to find that motherhood was actually fun. I remember thinking how tiring and exhausting it was at the time. Oh you, I think now. All tired with your one little baby.

Generally speaking, the custom in China is that the mother and newborn baby do not leave the house for the first 30 days. This is mainly to ensure that the baby and mother do not get sick and to help the mother recover from childbirth. It makes sense, on many levels, but it wasn’t something I would consider. I was told by my husband’s boss that because I wasn’t housebound and swaddled in warm clothes that I would suffer from arthritis later in life. Can you imagine the ruckus I caused at the local supermarket when I took Archie out at one week? I had a gaggle of squealing (yes, actual squealing) Ayis (older ladies considered to be about my Mum’s age) flapping their hands to their faces like they were about to faint. Anyone would think Justin Bieber had just swanned in.

This brings me to the curious case of pseudo celebrity. Prior to Archie, we were an anomaly that was worth a good stare whenever we went out in public. After Archie, we were a travelling freak show. I was completely uncomfortable with the almost frenzy to touch, look at, photograph and fuss over my baby. Once, I heard running steps behind me on the street and suddenly a breathless young girl appeared and tried to shove her camera in his pram. Another time, we were standing at a hotel check in counter and the pram was beside me. I noticed too late that the lady standing next to me had reached in under the shade cloth and was gleefully snapping away. Once, while changing Arch in public (partially hidden behind some shrubs, I turned to see a line of women watching. Even young men would go silly in the presence of my mini celebrity. At an art gallery a super cool group of 20 something dudes were giggling and pointing like schoolgirls. At our local shops, next door to our apartments, Archie was known by name. As we’d walk past, a line of Ayis would gather on the verandah above calling out his name as we passed. I could go on and on.

It is important to me that I don’t sound as if I am trashing China. It’s an amazing place with some really incredible sights, people, customs and history. Some of the challenges in living there were hard to overcome, and this was the hardest as it went so much against what I was used to, how my own country operated.  In our own country, we largely close the doors and get on with the business of raising our children alone. Customs, history and the advice of others be dammed. In China, the child is kind of like communal property. You only get one shot at it (for the most part) so it is a hugely exciting thing that everyone wants to share. And with that one shot, why take any chances of infection and illness, especially in brutal winters with no heating in your house. Hence the 30 day confinement. It’s easy as a foreigner to deride antiquated or strange customs. Thinking about where those customs come from and the intent behind them though often reveals that we are the ones doing it strange.

From China to eternity part 1

Standard

My husband and I really wanted to live somewhere overseas for a few years. This was pre-children of course. We both had a preference for somewhere in Asia. I landed a teaching job in an International School in Suzhou, a lovely canal ‘town’ (of a mere 2.5 million) near Shanghai. My husband took a TESOL course, took leave from his government job and looked forward to not being locked into any particular course of action. Amid visas, packing, shipping and farewelling, we researched a really good international health insurance policy. We knew that there was a very good possibility that we would have a child while we were in China. I didn’t want to take my chances with the public hospital system over there (of which there kind of isn’t one, for a foreigner anyway). We got the kind of policy where ‘covered’ means ‘covered’. 100%. I am not even sure if such a policy would even exist nowadays. For a one year policy with full maternity cover, we paid $1600USD. Our second year of cover cost us $1800USD. This seemingly inconsequential detail will become much more interesting later on in the story.

I fell pregnant in our first year in China and had Archie in 2007. There is nothing quite like an intense experience with the health care system of another country to really highlight that although you may like to think you are over the culture shock, you are most definitely not. My first appointment of a, shall we say, intimate nature, was enough to alert me to the fact that the concept of patient privacy was somewhat different in China. There is no fury like the fury of a woman in stirrups in a room where the nurse keeps going in and out leaving the door wide open. As waiguoren (foreigners) we got stared at wherever we went. Most of the time you could ignore it. Not this time.

Bedside manner was another story. After some early (minor) complications, I had to attend the local emergency department and was given shots of something. No gloves was alarming enough, but the spent sharps all over the floor was quite another matter. What was worse, was when talking to the obstetrician, and having checked that everything was alright, she told me flatly, your baby is alive now but might be dead next week. She took my breath away.

I was also very much in charge in many ways, and used Dr Google to self diagnose a few times. It was hard not having that absolute faith in the medical advice you were getting. One doctor told me to take aspirin for headaches. This advice came after 30 minutes of conferencing with his boss about the question. I was already taking blood thinning medication so to take aspirin would have been quite dangerous. Dr Google said paracetamol so I went with that.

I was able to dictate more than I would have in Australia what happened with the delivery. When told, on day 7 of week 40, that Archie would be at least another 10 days away, I said no, he won’t. I asked to be induced two days later and I doubt that in Australia the doctors would have agreed. We were also camped out in Shanghai at a hotel near the hospital and we didn’t want to be cooling our heels for days. Suzhou on any given day could be up to 4 hours drive from Shanghai and I didn’t want to take that risk of sitting at home waiting. We were actually told that if something were to go wrong NOT to call an ambulance but to call a taxi instead. Ambulances are not paramedics in China and do not come quickly. Knowing the way Chinese taxi drivers drive, I knew a taxi would get me there way faster anyway.

In the end we arrived calmly by taxi in the early evening, ready to be induced overnight. The hospital was one of the (if not the) most expensive in China. Given we had a kick ass insurance policy, it was reassuring we didn’t have to worry about a thing once we’d arrived. Our talented Mr (now) 4 arrived by emergency caesarean the next day just after lunch. Pretty much everyone has caesareans in China, so I wasn’t surprised when my labour went that way, although there was a legitimate reason. Archie had his cord wrapped around his foot and with each contraction his heart rate dipped dangerously low. I was never desperate for natural birth so this seemed fine with me, and a good way to get the whole thing over with.

The hospital was like a 5 star hotel. The best food we’d ever had. On our last night they wheeled in a white draped table with a 3 course dinner and bottle of lovely red to go with it! Being a really private person though, I didn’t like the endless parade of ward assistants who came in and out of my room, keen to help in any way they could. A friend who stayed in a Suzhou hospital actually had the assistants sleep on the couch in her room every night! Then there was the nurse who gave me a needle in the leg muscle (the most painful kind) at 5 am after I’d only finally fallen asleep at about 3. Kinda took me by surprise, you know, being ASLEEP AND ALL!!

Still, I was sad to leave as the whole hospital experience had been wonderful. My Midwife (MK) and Obstetrician (Nini Ji) were simply fabulous and I knew I’d never find food that good anywhere else!! As we left it was a formality to sign the discharge paperwork and the bill even though the insurance company was picking up the tab. I nearly fainted when I saw it. I would have if we’d been paying for it. $24,000USD. You read right. My Archie is the twenty four thousand dollar baby.

It might have been eye opening being pregnant and having a baby in China but actually HAVING a baby in China was a whole new world. To be continued…

I did a blog while living in China and it can be found here: http://nancyshack.blogspot.com.au/

 

 

It’s a passing phase!!

Standard

Something has passed, a change blew through and the sun is a little shinier today. Every time it happens, I am surprised.  It happens again and again and again, yet I still forget, still get despondent, still feel hopeless.

I really can’t believe how things have changed around here in the past few weeks. For a start, I feel a world away from the way I felt when I wrote Listen on February 5th. Putting it out there, both here and to my GP was not only therapeutic, but incredibly empowering. I felt truly in control of my own story, my own world. Strong enough to say well, I’m here and I’m not coping. Far from feeling weak and like a failure, I felt completely lifted, whole and hopeful.

Six weeks ago we thought we’d never see the end of twin 2’s screaming. And his night waking. I thought regularly, why can’t they just be happy for just one whole day? I thought, will I ever feel anything other than total exhaustion by 10 in the morning? Let alone 5 in the afternoon? Will this be fun anytime soon?

I haven’t heard twin 2 do his special scream for….actually I can’t remember when I last heard it. The twins seems to have stopped or greatly reduced their frustration head banging. This morning I sat quietly on the couch drinking my coffee while chatting with Mr 4. Twins downstairs playing happily. Just when we set up the portable cot downstairs because we had decided to separate the twins at night due to one of them screaming through the night and waking his twin, the neighbours and Siberia, he’s stopped. We only split them up for one night. My toxic hour afternoons (on my own until my husband gets home) have been largely peaceful and very enjoyable. I’ve been falling in love again. With each one, individually. Having fun.

We sat down last night and remembered, again, that a phase had passed. Just like all the others. Ready for the next one. It’s not the end, we will tear our hair out again, I’ll be imperfect, yell, cry in a toilet, then up will come the sun, the phase will pass, we’ll laugh and love, and round again.

Shock

Standard

I posted a week or two ago about dark thoughts like wondering if I’d really be sad if I lost one of my twins. It only takes a couple of near misses to shock you right to the core of what is actually real in your heart.

We moved house about three months ago. On moving day, we were waiting in the backyard for the Parents in Law to come over and pick up the kids. We were all just hanging out and playing. We had a fence to a steep driveway that led to a very busy road. The twins had worked out how to open the fence weeks before, but we were in close supervision that morning so (we thought) all’s fine. I was holding S and I saw R heading toward the fence. In the two seconds it took me to alert Andrew, R had opened and closed the fence and was running down the steep driveway. I screamed as Andrew got the gate open and ran for it, grabbing our boy by the arm less than 2 meters from the road. We sighed in relief and locked the gate again. About 10 or 15 minutes later I dissolved into tears. It was a weird delayed reaction. I couldn’t get the image of my boy running toward heavy trucks out of my mind.

This morning I was heading down the stairs to the playroom. I had R in my arms and S was walking down the stairs himself. They have been pretty good on the stairs lately so we’ve been letting them climb down independently. He slipped. Right in front of me. All I could do was watch him fall. He fell forward and then flipped over on his head continued down about 6 steps. I screamed like an idiot. I guess when you physically can’t do anything your body goes to the only other thing you have – make a loud scary noise so people come running. It was awful. And this is one of the things about having twins which is really hard. What do you do if you actually can’t save your child because to do so would be to drop the other one? My husband was too far away to have helped, and I traumatised poor R in my arms with my screams. Poor darling. Thankfully thankfully my little tripper was OK, but I was a shaking, crying mess. My reaction surprised me more than the fall I think. I couldn’t stop shaking or crying for a good while. The twins were over it before I was.

I didn’t need a reminder that I wouldn’t want to lose any of them. Of course not. That love, that utter fear when they run a little too far, too fast toward a danger that you may not be able to protect them from, what a reminder.

Dumb things I’ve done lately

Standard

One of the reasons I went to talk to my GP about my state of mental health a few weeks ago is that I have been doing things that are arguably out of character. At the time you tend to think what the hell is wrong with me? But now with a little distance between me and those things (although the best one was only last night) I feel I can look upon them fondly as one might look upon a giddy, slightly crazy Great Aunt.

It was whilst driving that I had my first concerns about my flakiness. I’d be cruising along and think, was that light red? Or, am I supposed to have any of the children with me? I began to worry that I’d forget a child one of these days. As silly as it may seem, my husband and I always do a kid count when we leave anywhere and I always check the back seat when I get out of the car.

Then there is the classic going to the supermarket for milk and coming back with $150 worth of groceries and no milk. In my own defence though, I reckon everyone does this, kids or not. It’s that blasted Gruen Transfer.

As for work, I have not yet forgotten any appointments, but I am playing a dangerous game of having two calendars – computer and paper. Its only a matter of time. Remembering to take my lunch is a daily challenge, remembering to eat it is another. Still on work, I have hung up the phone from conversations and opened my case notes to write the details down and for the life of me, 5 minutes later, I can’t remember who I just spoke to. Scary.

Two days ago I fell down the stairs at home. Carrying too much, looking one way, thinking of six other things and it was all too much for my poor feet, who had nowhere near as much of my brain attending to them as they needed at the time. No injuries other than my dignity.

Which brings me to the best, and most embarrassing. I like to consider myself a good, sensible, safe driver. And in another life, I was, I am. So let me preface this by saying it was almost 1 in the morning, I was tired, I’d been babysitting for a friend, and she has one of those really skinny streets where you can’t park on both sides of the road. And a letter box that is really hard to see in the dark. OK so I thought I’d just gone over the gutter and scraped the underside of the car. But no. I ran down my friend’s letterbox like a feral teenager. I don’t know how I managed this without so much as a scratch on our car, or even feeling it, but there you go. I am a vandal.

Cutting corners

Standard

Here are my top 9 ways to cut corners and save time. It was going to be 10, but it’s late and I’m tired.

1. It’s summer, they eat outside. I make up three plates of ham, corn, cheese, beetroot etc in the morning and they can chuck as much of it as they like. When dinner is over, the hose takes care of cleaning the floor and the high chairs.

2. Are they dirty? I mean really dirty? Like, can you see it? If not, then hey, a missed bath from time to time never killed anyone. Especially good when they’ve been swimming at Grandma’s house. A swim’s as good as a bath I always say.

3. Pack your stuff up the night before. Mornings are nutty enough without having to pack, find shoes, water bottle and so on and so on and on and on.

4. If you know they’ve had a hot meal at day care that day there is nothing wrong with a cheese toastie for dinner.

5. UHT milk. My cupboard is full of it. Better than constantly running out of milk for the toddlers and running down the shops for fresh milk. Seriously, what they don’t know won’t hurt ’em.

6. Make up a big pot of lovely organic brown rice on Sunday. Mix it in with everything for the rest of the week. It makes that can of Heinz ‘Beef Whatever’ for toddlers seem a little less like child neglect and it also goes nicely with yogurt and fruit!

7. I fill my glovebox with snacks that are easy to hold, eat and are not too messy. Plain biscuits, fruit bars like True Fruit (no sponsorship here I swear!) or Fruit Poles are good because toddlers can manage them without reupholstering the car seats. Keeps them settled when car trips are teetering on the brink of disaster.

8. I have to choose my battles. I used to have this thing about dirty shirts, food all over the face, sauce on the pants, etc. Now I can add rocks from the garden all over the pathway, toys all over the backyard and dirt from the potted plants everywhere but the pots. I’d spend all my time cleaning it all up. Forget it.

9. Nutrition is (a bit) negotiable. If they won’t eat dinner but will run round the backyard knocking back half a banana and a bit of yoghurt, where’s the harm?

Guest bloggers!

Standard

I put out the call to a few multiples mums and here is what came back…

Chloe from Lilyfield, NSW, Mum of Viviane and Dylan 11 Months says:

I’ve got 5 mins at work free to write this up for you.

[The day we found out was the] strangest day of our lives. We were in for our 7 week scan – and all was looking good for bub number one. However, the sonographer wanted to have a “closer look” at something … so a quick trip to the toilet and a few minutes later “Congratulations.. you’re having twins!”.

Both my husband and I were silent for the rest of the appointment – and we both moved very quickly between shades of green and white.

Initially [I thought] Oh My Goodness – I am going to be HUUUUGE! Then – wow – that’s exciting…. then for the rest of the day – a major see saw of emotions from highs ( how exciting – two at once! We’ll have an instant family) to… lows (how on earth are we going to manage and afford two at once!?)

Life since then has been a continuing see saw of expectations. There are the lows and the very lows – feeding two babies at once isn’t nearly as easy as the hospital made out to be….. how can two babies cry so much and … I didn’t think we’d need this many nappies! To the more magical times – never realising how special twins are and how many comments and compliments you get while out walking with them, the joy of seeing them both laugh at each other for the first time, and realising very quickly that mums of twins are super heroes.

Samantha Ingram says:

The day we found out.. for my husband and I it wasn’t too much of a shock. We’d gone through IVF so we knew there was a very large chance that the two embryos we had put in would both still be there. We found out sooner than most, at 5 weeks. It was pretty cute, the ultrasound technician was trying to be all coy and not letting us see the screen. Then when she told us, “Looks like… two!”, my husband and I both nodded and smiled at each other. The technician looked a little disappointed that we weren’t more shocked!

We had done a lot of research before knowing we were pregnant, and although we had definitely factored in possibly having twins, it was still a bit of a readjustment. I think the feeling that overtook us was excitement. Two meant that we wouldn’t have to go through IVF anymore. Two meant I’d only have to go through pregnancy twice. I grew up with five siblings, so we were definitely having two because I wanted my kids to have siblings, same as I did. So it was great that we were getting everything done all at once.

So far, at eight months, almost everything we’ve encountered has been fairly expected. Like I said, before and while I was pregnant I did a lot of research. I read up on other people’s twin experiences so we weren’t going into this totally blind. I have yet to have more than a day or two where I feel like giving up, and every morning when I wake the girls up and see their smiling faces I think.. this is so worth it. Some of the things have been different though. A lot of the warnings we got from other parents “Oh, you just wait! It’s not as easy as you think! Blah, blah, blah..” we dismissed because, like new parents, we thought we could handle anything and that they were just babies. What on earth could babies throw at us that we couldn’t deal with!? A lot. I’ve learned to actually listen a little more intently when I’m getting advice from someone, unsolicited or not.

Mum of twins who shall as yet remain unnamed says (and I paraphrase):

OMG are you kidding me? My husband is going away, we’ve just started at multiple schools and I’m sick as a dog. I’m drowning. Ask me again in a few weeks.

OK so I may have chucked in some artistic license to that last one, who may I add, is a bit of a blogging and multiple mum inspiration to me (www.seanasmith.comhttp://themumsdiet.com). She very graciously demonstrates the skill all of us mothers (multiples or not) need to have – the skill of saying ‘no’ or ‘not right now’. I included all these guest responses because they together make an accurate picture of the crazy,  the perfect, the ugly and the joyful life of mothering twins.

I may in future weeks have guest posts from one or two others, including one who is expecting triplets. I for one can’t wait to hear that one!! In the mean time, I love to hear other multiple stories so please leave a comment and an email address if you’d like to add your story.