Tag Archives: twins

You are not alone

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Next week, starting on Sunday the 9th to the 16th of March is multiple birth awareness week. It’s one of those things that, even as a mother of twins, I would usually pay no attention to. When I discovered I was pregnant with twins, despite the urging of friends and medical specialists aplenty, the last thing I wanted to do was join AMBA or BMBA or whateverBA or anything related to to twins or mothers’ groups or the like. I didn’t want to talk about it, be advised about it or have anyone cook me a lasagne for the freezer. I was in DE. NI. AL.

I lived in what I thought was normal for quite some years. I just thought I had lost myself and that my children had swallowed me whole. I just had to deal with it and come to accept what was a really difficult experience for me because they were my kids and nothing was going to change that. The sense of entrapment was profound. There was a constant sense of outrage, helplessness and despair that was unescapable. On top of that was the mother guilt, which every mother on this earth knows deeply. It’s about as real a state as the photoshopped cover of Cosmo. It’s not how life is meant to be. I didn’t really ask for and commit to help until I was desperate. There was no way you would get an honest answer to the question ‘how are you?’ from me, ever. I hated hearing ‘you’ve got your hands full’ or ‘it gets easier’ or the nauseating,’ twins! what a blessing!’. I simply couldn’t. I couldn’t ask, answer or listen.

It’s multiple birth awareness week. Can I tell you something? Having multiples is not like having kids close together. It’s not easier because you get it all over and done with in one go. It’s not the same as a house full of singletons. It is different. For some it will be a dream. For some it will not. For me it was complicated by the fact that at the very same moment I was scanned and found two little babies, someone very close to me was realising she’d never bear her own children. It was made harder because I wanted to bitch about my lot but I was surrounded by women in the painful throes of miscarriage, IVF and infertility. Fate deals a bitch of a hand.

It’s multiple birth awareness week. With a combination of good therapy, time, medication and prayer, I am getting my life back. I joined BMBA. I’m writing for AMBA. I am looking forward to BMBA Market Day (*details below). I even went to my day care centre’s ‘Mum’s Night’ tonight. SO not something I would have done a year ago. I am falling so deeply in love with my children; something I imagine most Mums do when their babies are born, but something that took me a little longer. It is no less exquisite. I am happy. The inner rage is gone. I am excited on Friday afternoons instead of apprehensive.

Even if you are not ready to ask, answer or listen, you are still not alone, we are here. There are lots of us who struggled hard with this journey, even hated it at times. We are here. If you need us we are here at the drop of a hat, but we will not force you because we understand that sometimes you need to hide in a cave for a few years. If you need a listening ear without advice, we are here. If you need to get drunk and feel numb, we are here. If you need someone to sit there right next to you and not widen their eyes at the amount of baby noise, then yep, we are here. Advice, you can get it anywhere. I am unlikely to give it. What I can give is empathy and complete lack of judgement. You are not alone.

Please consider supporting the Brisbane Multiple Birth Association Market Day on Sunday the 16th of March. 

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How to drive your mother insane

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Brothers, it’s me. Twin 2 she calls me, or Trouble, or Baby B. When she is in a good mood, or has had a couple of glasses of that yellowy water, she might call me Bunny, or Sausage, or Chicken. Anyway, I’ve snuck away. There may only be moments to spare. Not a sixty second period goes by where she doesn’t suspiciously say where is your brother? Or she shouts my name, quickly followed by what ARE you doing? Honestly that woman does not trust me alone for a single moment. If we tally up the number of times she shouts all the names, I’m way out in front. I am not suggesting for a moment that I am the innocent in all this, but I do think she overreacts at times.

Take for example the time I flushed the bath plug down the toilet, followed by the face cloth, and my teddy, undies and other things she doesn’t know about. She and Daddy pulled out their serious, deep voices that day. So overdramatic brothers. And I can’t help it if I like to empty things. Like bottles of Dettol, and whole bottles of bubble bath, and cooking oil, hand sanitizer, toothpaste tubes and my cup of water into my dinner. Just trying to be helpful people what’s the big deal? Sheesh. And why not bring the business end of the garden hose into the house to speed up the cleaning? She is always wiping things and cleaning food off the floor, surely the hose is more efficient brothers?

I am a born risk taker brothers. When I am a teenager this quality will ensure I am on a first name basis with the local Emergency Department nurses. As an adult, it will make me a millionaire in stocks. And then bankrupt. And then a millionaire. But at 3, well it’s a tricky skill to balance. Mum freaks out when I come out of the garage with a razor sharp pocket knife that I’ve managed to locate (those parental types continually underestimate my detective skills). She also loses her shit when she finds me in the playroom with Dad’s screwdrivers, secateurs and lawn mower.

I am also an unsung artist. We all know about my previous escapades with poo painting. Now that I hold a somewhat more mature view of excrement, my media are less offensive. Or so I thought. She seems impossible to please brothers. I thought that the white floor tiles downstairs were, well BORING!! I thought some dark brown paint would look GREAT! She is always carrying on about how freaking amazing my drawings are so why the big meltdown about my paint work? Brothers, do not try to understand adults.

If the stock market is not my future, then Junior Masterchef certainly is. But still I go unrecognised for my skills in my own home. Let me tell you, grated cheese and breakfast cereal IS a delight, no matter what your mother tells you about having to pick all the cheese out of the cereal box. And why am I the first to discover that custard and orange juice is a match made in heaven? People please.

Brothers, I will soldier on. If only to carry your faith in me as a valiant warrior would. But I am not without self reflection. Before I go (get caught) I must bare my soul in order to seek absolution. To the innocent fish at Day Care, I am sorry. I am so very sorry. You did not deserve the terror that was visited upon you. Please forgive me.

A post about nothing

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This photo was taken on my couch when my first little man was about two months old. We were living in Suzhou, China. It was early January 2008 and it was snowing and hovering around or below zero. It was an amazing time. I don’t think snow ever gets old for Australians. I feel like a kid, every time. Just walking in it and listening to it crunch and squeak under your feet. I remember visiting my neighbour that winter, she lived in the same building as me, but in the adjacent tower, so there was a 10 meter walk outside between our front doors. I took the pram and the snow was so heavy I got bogged in that short little walk. I still thought it was awesome. Bogged in the snow with my pram. How cool.

My baby boy was at that wonderful baby age where you can take them anywhere and they will just eat and sleep. I remember a magic afternoon when my husband and me went into town to a bookstore/cafe/bar with more character in the door knob than all of old Shanghai put together. Well, maybe a slight touch of hyperbole there, but look, I thought it was a special place and I was high on new baby happy so I can’t be held responsible for my adjectives. I keenly recall looking out the snowy window, warm and happy, baby beside me, husband there, warm drink and I think even a game of scrabble or something. It was a perfect moment in my life. In that moment, I knew I’d never forget it.

Shortly after the bookshop day, we, like most other expats, escaped the winter for warmer shores. It was the Chinese New Year holiday and school was out so we hopped on a plane to Boracay, a small island in the Philippines with a heavenly long white beach. It was the perfect age to travel with a baby. He slept most of the way, fed, slept, fed, slept. It was a 24 hour journey door to door and some of it was a little hair raising, but my just three month old was the perfect travelling companion. We had a small pop up baby tent for the trip and this little gem proved to be the greatest holiday accessory for a couple with such a young baby. Restaurants lined the beach and tables and chairs sat along the sand. At night we were able to pick our spot and put out little guy to sleep in the tent, set on the soft sand. We were free to sit there all night if we wanted to. This kind of freedom, for a couple on holiday with a young baby, was priceless. There was no being confined to our hotel room because of the baby. No stress over should we or shouldn’t we leave him with hotel baby-sitters. No better get home, the baby will be waking soon. Another perfect moment in time that I will be thankful for, always. A footnote, he chose the first night of this holiday to sleep through the night for the first time without waking for a feed. At 6am I sat bolt upright in panic, knowing I hadn’t had to get up in the night, thinking something must be wrong. Wonderful, thoughtful child.

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Our boy in his Made in China shirt.

I haven’t sat and absorbed moments in recent years in the way I did back then. There have been a few moments about which I hope to one day develop selective amnesia. But just recently I’ve taken some moments, some lovely long moments, to stroke a soft cheek, memorise the sweet curve of a little mouth, and love the perfect innocence of a wonderful face. I will never wish it back, those long, difficult days of yuk. And no, it hasn’t flown by. But I can feel just enough space now, to begin to burn some perfect moments into my collection. Alongside the bookshop and the beach.

I lie to my kids

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Didn’t I just have so many smug fantasies when I was a non-parent about how good a parent I’d be. I’d be firm on guns, idealistic on television and an organiphile in the kitchen. My children would turn out to be vegetable eating, TV shunning, outdoor loving creative geniuses due to my exceptional guidance. Me? I’d be a serene, honest, zen like, ever patient goddess-mother in flowing dresses. My home would be filled with wonderful craft I’d invented and created on fun filled afternoons, toys would be wooden, carved from sustainable forests and my perfect children would tend their own gardens and ant farms.

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I never had any of the moments as depicted in the top picture. I’ve had many of the second. Let’s see how my pre-children children plan turned out.

I’d be firm on guns, idealistic on television and an organiphile in the kitchen. My children would turn out to be vegetable eating, TV shunning, outdoor loving creative geniuses due to my exceptional guidance.

So far, I have been firm on guns with the recent exception of a pump action water super soaker that I felt Mr 5 should have in order to compete with his cousins. Television! Let me count the ways I love thee. I can name all the Octonaughts, all of Thomas’s friends and, god help me, the trippy freaks on The Night Garden. My children’s vegetable consumption is negligible apart from what frozen offenders I can hide in the mac and cheese. Organic schmanic. They do love to play outside, but only after I have REALLY put my foot down and said no more TV.

I’d be a serene, honest, zen like, ever patient goddess-mother in flowing dresses.

These words are not ones I would apply to my parenting style. I do not own any flowing dresses. I try really, really hard, but I am not serene. In fact, I’ve discovered a new strategy in my quest for parenting competence. It turns out that dishonesty with one’s children, carefully applied, can avert many small disasters. When my children are yelling at me for one thing or another (gee I wonder where they learnt that), I am often known to reply yes darling, mummy is coming! Knowing full well that by the time their 90 second attention span kicks in, they’ll have forgotten that they were waiting on some demand from me and have moved on, leaving me free to continue [insert household chore here].

My home would be filled with wonderful craft I’d invented and created on fun filled afternoons, toys would be wooden, carved from sustainable forests and my perfect children would tend their own gardens and ant farms.

My home is filled with wonderful craft. Piles and piles and piles of freakin never ending craft. Craft that comes home from day care, grandma’s house. holiday club….and occasionally craft of my own making. So much craft that I have to craftily figure out how to throw it out without them finding out about my callous disregard for their artistic genius. Mr 5 has in the past found said craft in said bin and I’ve had to employ the above strategy (ie lying) to evade blame for crushing his blossoming ego by binning his incredible creations. Incredibly prolific creations. He’s the Bryce Courtenay of kiddie craft. Toys, oh mary mother of plastic. We have a handful of Poppy-made carved wooden toys and the rest is plastic-made-in-sweat-shop-shit. Stuff that honestly sometimes lasts for less time than it took to get it out of the packaging. We do have a great garden. Which is destroyed daily by my garden trashing kiddlers. Sometimes we have flowers and they last about a half a second before they are ripped from their moorings and ground into mush. And in fact we do have an ant farm. An abandoned ant farm that my husband took more of an interest in than it’s 5 year old recipient.

Ahhh…motherhood…I’m all over it!

Annus mirabilis

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I won’t be sorry to see the back end of 2012. Every mother has heard the well meaning comment ‘it all goes by so quickly’. I thought it myself the other day when I saw a twin mother-in-arms who I hadn’t seen for a while and marvelled at the miraculous growth of her two treasures. She rolled her eyes at me and I qualified: when it’s someone else’s babies it goes fast, when it’s your own it’s like grain by grain of sand through the hourglass. For my own experience, it does not go by fast at all. Growth is in millimetres, progress is incremental, life is dilatory.

I feel like celebrating while at the same time I feel like I have been flattened by a steamroller. Cots are gone. High chairs are gone. Pram is almost gone. They are feeding themselves. They sleep 11 uninterrupted hours per night. No bottles, no dummies, no bibs. We can walk from the car to the door of day care without an exploratory sprint though the suburb. They talk. They ask to use the toilet (although we don’t do much when we are there, at least we are interested). I looked at year old photos yesterday and was struck by the babyness of them 12 months ago. I have no babies now (HOORAY!). I am on the cusp of turning my little toddlers into little boys. I can look a year ahead and know that this will be the last Christmas where I have to gate doorways, monitor windows, check the oven for teddies before I turn it on, wipe yoghurt off the walls after breakfast and generate my own body weight in nappy landfill on a daily basis. Oh sweet underpants, surely you will soon be mine.

But what a cost. I’m getting to be a better mother, but it’s been no easy ride. My mental health, physical health, relationship health and budget health have taken big hits over the past few years. 2013 is our year of recovery. It’s our year to get the hell out of the house, kids and all, screw the hassle. It’s our year for weekends away with and without the kids. It’s our year to have conversations with each other, be just a family, not a family struggling to raise baby twins. 2013 is the year when we become a little more normal, one grain of sand at a time.

Check out ABC Radio 612 on Tuesday the 18th of December at 10am (QLD time), I’ll be chatting with some other Mums about Mum stuff.

The 30% ers

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Thank God we only need to get this parenting gig right 30% of the time. I was told this recently in a professional development course on trauma and infant attachment. During the first 20 minutes of the session, I was sweating it, hearing all about what being ignored as a baby does to your brain development. I was thinking of all the times when the twins were very very little, and they’d cry at the same time. I was only able to comfort one at a time, seeing as how I’ve not got 4 arms and all. Or the time when poor twin two fell down the stairs head first and all I could do was watch as I was carrying the other one at the time. Or the many times when I was so physically and emotionally over it that yes, I did ignore them and let ’em cry it out. I thought many times during those months what is this doing to them? How do twins even survive to be fully functional human beings? Catastrophising as I am wont to do at times. But then the presenter uttered the magic words. In the absence of trauma and neglect, with a stable base, parents only need to get it right 30% of the time. Whew.

At the same course I learned something that floored me. If a child does not use his eyes by the time he is 4 months old, he will never see. There will be nothing wrong with his eyes, but he will have missed the chance to develop the pathways in the brain he needs to have sight. Likewise, if by the age of between 9 and 18 months a child does not learn that he has a safe, secure, soft place to fall, the damage can be close to irreparable. I’ve seen the end result of that damage from the pointy end of highly disordered attachment. It’s pretty devastating and if you’re into bang for your tax paying buck, the cost to society is enormous. These kids grow up to be school refusing, impulsive, risk takers. They are the road rage guy. The kids your kids are scared of at school. The chronic shoplifter. The woman who can’t hold down a job. The violent husband. And worse. Much worse.

If we could just catch these kids while they are still in utero. If we could just keep their mothers safe. Safe, healthy and stress free. If we could just teach her about how her little baby’s brain is developing and why smiling at him, touching his soft skin and making silly noises at him is so important. If only more of us understood why a baby needs to go to bed fully able to trust that his little world is going to be just the same in the morning when he wakes up. If only we could teach as much as we need to, support as much as we need to in those first few years of life. If only we could catch them all in time. Imagine.