Wednesday, August 27, 2014

lisbon

So.

Tomorrow we going to.......


{drumroll}
{first real trip as a family}
{first city break for a long time}
{first flight since October last year}
{first flight with an infant. Eeeeeeeek}
{a two and a half hour flight with an infant. Eeeek.}
{first mini-break since our babymoon in France.....when I had twins :(}

...Lisbon.

We are going to Portugal for 4 days.

Why Portugal (you ask? Or maybe you don't?) Well, why not really?

We have been before, but to the Algarve on the south coast. This time we are taking in a city, and one which comes highly underrated I believe. Great food, vibe, and as someone pointed out today, "The Portuguese are very family-oriented."

We are Air b'n b'ing it, so that we can make Sebastian's food and lounge by our own pool. Grab the last of the European rays before Autumn well and truly hits.

We are packing as we speak. Well actually, I'm typing this blog post and my husband is fiddling with some technical virtual reality gadget in our lounge.

But we have been packing for almost two hours now and still not quite there. Packing for a child is a monolithic task, let me assure you.

Travel cot, muslins, toys, enough nappies, formula just in case, milk pump, clothes, wipes, bibs, spoons, bottles, swimming trunks, suncream, hat, car seat to be attached to pram, Calpol, a towel.

And that's just his stuff.

It will be a good practice trip for when we head to South Africa in December, nonetheless. Christ only knows how much we need a change of scenery/holiday around here.

Anyway, we are looking at this as a bit of an adventure.

I just hope it's an enjoyable adventure.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the cornershop

It was a bank holiday yesterday in the UK, and even though it was chucking it down outside, we thought we'd go and do something cool.

One thing a new parent in London doesn't have much time for: London. The galleries, the museums, the markets, the shops, and the popups.

Popups are one of the best things about London, and even though it's a very 'East London' thing, back before we had a child, we'd make the trek over there, simply because one does that.

Popups come in the form of restaurants, shops, stalls, galleries or exhibitions. It's simply a space that someone will rent for only a limited time, so when it's up, best you go before it's closed again. Apparently popups became a 'thing' not because it's hipster, but because of the recession. People  - and especially struggling artists - can't afford to rent a space permanently, so they do so for a month or two in hope they get their big break.

Anyway, you know all this already. Probably. I don't know what people know or don't know anymore, so bear with me.

We scooped up our baby and all visited an absolutely incredible popup exhibition- fuck, if only I'd thought of it myself. Tucked away a small street in Bethnal Green, the Cornershop is a full on off-license where everything inside is made entirely of felt.

Lucy Sparrow, the artist (and isn't that a delightful name?) has been all over the news, and is just so lovely too. Answers everyone's questions as they come in and gawp at the shelves of tins, packets, jars and newspapers, all beautifully sewn together in impeccable detail.

Took her seven months to make (which is kind of quick, given there are hundreds and hundreds of items - and she sells them too.)

I ordered a massive box of Kellogg's cereal, after grappling with choice - do we get a jar of Marmite or packet of Carr's water biscuits? Choice paralysis is a problem when you go there. You want everything.
It gets pulled down at the end of the week, and she then heads to New York to set up a convenience store there.
 A lot of her items have sold out, but you can order what's left online, right here.
I thought the cornflakes would make a nice pillow. For the kitchen. You know, when I need to sleep on the counter.
 The details are incredible - she got the tone and agenda right for each newspaper and magazine.



 If you blink quickly, it looks like a normal shop. Then you look a bit closer...

 Loved this.





 Seb and husband check out the ice creams.

 If I was still a smoker....

Made sure we dressed the part. It is east London after all.

Friday, August 22, 2014

losing stuff

I think I may finally be losing my mind.

I have lost more stuff in the last 24 hours than in years. And have no idea how.

I had my iPod in my hand in the morning - it never left the house - and I put it down somewhere. By the evening, I had turned the place upside down and nothing.

My iPod has literally disappeared into thin air. There is no other explanation.

I've lost Seb's dummies. A milk pump thingie. These don't leave the house, so where is the massive black hole they're hiding in?

I also exploded an egg. I put one in the microwave, which is always slightly controversial in cheffing circles, sure. But it went and exploded after I prodded it with a knife.

The thing about eggs is this. You have to be very careful with eggs. They're a universally recognised breakfast ingredient, and they're perfectly delicious. But there is a grey, gooey line with eggs, and while they're they're twelve parts great, they're also twelve parts disgusting. Eggs can be dreamy and revolting at the same time.

Anyway, sorry. Where was I after that eggy tangent?

See? This can't be normal. I can't remember anything, I am losing things and exploding things. I know baby brain is bad, but this is fairly diabolical isn't it?

Maybe someone is fucking with me. Maybe someone is entering my house and hiding his dummies, magically making them reappear elsewhere. Maybe someone stole my milk pump breast suction device, and I didn't lose it.
Maybe I threw my iPod in the bin thinking it was something else.

Or maybe I am really losing my mind. Once and for all.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

little boys

Sometimes, we see a snapshot of the future.

My snapshot was yesterday. I saw my child as a little boy yesterday, and I instantly could see what the next five years or so looked like.

I met up with one of my friends from my mum's group, who has a little girl exactly the same age as Sebastian.

Thus far, babies have been babies have been babies.

Babies all do the same stuff; there is no gender differentiation. Sure, I dress mine in French baby clothes Breton stripes and dungarees, while they wear little dresses and frilly nappy knickers.

Other than what they wear, and him peeing on me when his nappy is off, babies are fairly androgynous. They all eat, sleep, shit and repeat.

Until yesterday.
I suppose now my little chap is wearing little mini man clothes, not just babygrows and rompers, so that set the scene, but it was much more than that.

Yesterday, he was a little boy. While his female counterpart sat and drooled serenely at the table, cracking a toothless smile once in a while, she generally sat and gurgled in his direction.

He, on the other hand, squirmed, moved, arms flailing, 'talking' non-stop, bashing my mobile phone off the table, then while everyone was watching, farted really loudly.

He was a boy yesterday, not a baby.

I told the Brit.

"Our son became a boy yesterday. I saw the future. And it looks like a lot of hard work."

Brit: "He's both of us. He is going to be a little terror. Oh my God he's going to be a terror, isn't he?"

Peas: "Luckily I've seen it early on. We might be able to control this. With enough discipline...and making him run around the entire common once a day."

It's cute, but when my child becomes mobile? We won't need personal trainers.

Brit: "What are the chances we have twins again?"

Peas: This is something I ask myself everyday. I would love the chance to have twins again.

Brit: Yeah but surely lightning doesn't strike twice?

Peas: Well, I read something today that said if you've had one set of twins, your chances are quadrupled to have another set.

Brit. Shit...really?

Peas: Plus I'll be over 35. That also means greater chances.

Brit: Watch. We will get pregnant with twins. And both will be boys.

Peas: Three boys? Don't even say it mate.

Back to the present, we also started feeding him this week. With a spoon and everything.
 The boy is being weaned, and he's lapping up the cereal like a hoover. Loves the mush.


Carrots next week. It doesn't look like much, but fuck it's fun. Can't wait to get liquidisin' 'em carrots and 'em pears and 'em parsnips....


Thursday, August 14, 2014

things i think of everyday

They are fragments, like shards of glass that seem to pierce my heart as they pass me, swirling around my mind and body.

My coat. I remember the coat, pants and shirt and the Converse All Stars I wore the day I went for That Scan.
It had my Baby On Board badge on it. It needed a dry clean, but I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the dry cleaners, as everything at that stage was a humungous effort.

Being at home before I left for the scan. Sitting propped up on my bed, lying flat would suffocate me; my back was constantly sore. Everything hurt. I hated being pregnant, it was hard with two.

Oh how I regret feeling that way so much.

How much I could wish to turn back the clock and enjoy my twin pregnancy. It was so special. How I wish I could’ve enjoyed it more, even though everything seemed to go wrong - from incessant itching, piles, not being able to breathe, an infection.

How I cried on the way to the scan on the bus. And I had no idea why I was crying, but it didn’t matter. I always cried; my emotions were everywhere.

How we were talking about the missing plane. Flight MH370 went missing that day. It was all over the news, headlining everything.

We sat in the waiting area waiting for the scan, talking about the news. Not our babies, the hospital, birth, because we had nothing to worry about, remember? I didn’t feel like anything was wrong.

How the lady who did our scan was a young American woman. With freckles.
She said the words that changed my life.

“I can’t find a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”

“I can’t find a heartbeat. I’m sorry.”

Minutes before this, we were laughing, hearing Sebastian’s heartbeat, joking about how they kicked each other all the time.

The room suddenly became very small, I started hyperventilating, everything was a blur, I was grasping onto the Brit for fear I’d fall off the bed, and I just started begging. Please no, please. No. PLEASE.
I felt like I was being asphyxiated.

The other scanner guy who had done all my scans previously came in for a second opinion. By now, I was hysterical.
People were talking to me. Lots of people, then no one for ages. Where was the fucking consultant? Hello, I need a third opinion here, I need to talk to someone with an actual medical degree, where the fuck were they?

Very slowly and very fast. I didn’t look at any faces. I looked at the floor, at the machines, bleeping. Was this hell?
I didn’t want to hear my choices, I wanted to freeze time; I wanted to black out.

I cried so much my face swelled up, so I could hardly open my eyes.

They attached me to a monitor machine. The reassuring sound of Sebastian's heartbeat, one little heartbeat pumping away.

Then someone told me that Sebastian wasn’t doing so well either. And that if his heartbeat didn’t increase within the next hour, they’d need to rush me to theatre.

Turns out he was sleeping.

Tons of that graph paper showing the squiggles, peaks and troughs of his heart.

They took me to a room. Millions of midwives, doctors, conversations, telling me things, I don’t remember.

I’d be in this room for a whole week. I’d be in another for another week.

I had no idea. They said I could go home if I really wanted to. Were they mad? I needed to know Sebastian would be alright, I needed to hear his heartbeat.

The Brit went home to get my hospital bag, that I’d packed two months prior.

There was a tall water bubble lamp in the room. One of those long tubes with bubbles and colourful lights. I stared at it for 4 hours without averting my eyes.

The weeping. It didn’t stop.

There was a chapel in the hospital.
I went in to talk to Molly. And God. An atheist talking to God. Asking that he look after my child.

A homeless guy was in there. I cried openly and then left.

A piano in the main area was open for anyone to play it. People would stop and play tunes. I’d hear it and cry. I didn’t want to let her go. The decision to wait a week until I would deliver them meant I had one week with Molly.

I am glad I didn’t deliver her straight away. I needed time with her. While I would constantly monitor Sebastian.

On that doppler machine, all day and night to ensure his heartbeat was regular. My brave little soldier, so strong, hanging in there, suddenly on his own.

The tussles with his sister suddenly coming to an end.

He is so strong and brave. And now too. He is such a strong little boy.

My husband sleeping in a chair, or on a thin mattress on the hospital floor, every night. Going to and from the hospital to our house twice a day to collect supplies and take a shower.

My mother arriving on an early flight from South Africa.

These moments are seared into my brain, They drift across my consciousness every day.

That lamp, my coat, my maternity jeans, my belly, the chapel, the heart monitor, the tissue box.

And then the day I knew I’d give birth, in the early morning. A flash of excitement, fear, knowing I’d meet my baby.

Crippling sadness knowing I’d need to say goodbye to my other baby. I’d mentally prepared for this day all week.

Being induced. How painful it was. Labour. The Brit leaving to grab a coffee while I was all fine and coming back an hour later to me mid-epidural as I howled and wailed from having full-on labour contractions.

How I still cannot believe this has all happened.

And how I look at my son with admiration. There are moments now, when he talks to himself in the early morning in his cot how I know he would be sitting there with his sister and they'd be talking to each other.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

the milk marathon


I've had such a funny relationship with breastfeeding.

On the one hand, I'm lucky I even managed to do it from the start. With the trauma of losing a twin, and the stress of having Sebby lying under a lamp for much of his hospital stay (not allowing me to feed properly), it's a small wonder I managed to produce milk at all.

It's also strange how Sebastian suddenly overnight turned into a fat, pudgy little baby, pushing against the seams of his clothes - surfing the 97th percentile in weight - all because of my milk!

I've never had tons of the stuff. Some women complain of leaky breasts and have those nipple guards stuffed into their bras wherever they go. (Never used mine.) Don't think my breasts have ever leaked. Sure, they feel like they could explode if I don't do anything for a few hours, but they never do.

So how he got so fat is magic to me. I don't quite understand it, but i don't question it. I must just have enough.

But like this week, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes I have enough to fill a bottle for him for his dream feed at 10pm which the Brit gives him, other times, like now, I have to sit with a breast pump banging away at my nipple, trying to extricate every last drop, and nothing happens. Just me. Sitting on the couch. With a suction pump attached, evocatively, to my boob.

Jesus, you don't know romance until you've pumped milk in front of your husband.  I have a hospital grade pump too. It's not a pump, it's a machine. Sits on the dining room table, on permanent hire.

You get those mums who are like, "Can't get out of bed in the mornings. Real physical struggle. Boobs weigh me down. Too much milk."

(True story.)

Man, what I'd do for some leaky boobies. I am now supplementing his supply with formula.

Now, as everyone says, that's just fine. I've had a good run, right? He's been a breastfed baby for almost 5 months, I surely can't complain?

No. But the UK loves their breast fed babies. It's a big thing here, much like natural birth. But it's not the pressure of breastfeeding that I feel.

I feel like I've gone this far, so why I can't I stretch it that much longer? At least until I go back to work. Or maybe even to 6 months? You kind of get addicted to it. You're in a constant cycle where you have to put down whatever it is you're doing, at any cost, to feed your child. Whether it is in a restaurant, at home, anywhere.

I mean, there was a lady on the train the other day, boob out, going for it. Much braver than I. I have a little curtain thingie that hides my rack. Sebastian doesn't love being stuffed under there, but it does the trick when I'm out and about.

It does mean you're the only one who can feed your child (the Brit does one bottle), and it does mean you are likely to be up throughout the night in the beginning, which I was.
But you batten down the hatches and do it. And it becomes addictive. You bond with your child like no other, as you are his complete food source. And then, when the threat of low supply comes in you panic. But now what, you have to hand his hungry little mouth over to a bottle?

It's been a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, I am excited to start weaning him in a few weeks. On the other, it's nearing the end of a chapter - one that's been incredibly exhausting and difficult, but yet extremely satisfying. Right from when he finally latched on at hospital to now, where he falls aslepp on my boobs as his last meal before bedtime.

The other day I had to duck into Hyde Park, pull out a blanket as all the benches were taken, sit down and give him a quick feed. He was kicking off in his pram, so I pulled into the park to find a stretch of grass.
Two minutes later a mother, wearing a skirt just like mine, also in her thirties, stopped with her baby to do the exact same thing. We both made eye contact as if to acknowledge each other's plight.
Baby crying, hungry, and this is how we sort it out when running around Kensington High Street with a pram.

I hope I last until 6 months at least. It's a marathon. That's what this is. It's not easy, there have been times when I want to just throw in the towel (and nearly have) on several occasions. It's inconvenient when other mum's can pull out a bottle in the bus or in a class, and I can't.

But that's why it's my marathon. That I need to finish, even though it's been tough and I don't know if I have all the resources I need to go the distance.*

* Oh and! V. IMPORTANT. It's helping me shed the weight. I've lost 4 kilos in 4 weeks. Only 6 to go....



Monday, August 11, 2014

parents of twinless twins

I'm feeling so emotional at the moment. I feel my daughter's presence everywhere.

So I turned to the Information Superhighway (for one always does that in the end), and found an organisation called Twinless Twins.

It has tens of thousands of members from all over the globe; helping twins who have lost twins or parents who have lost a twin(s), cope and share their stories and questions.

I found the forum on Facebook, specifically for parents who have a 'twinless twin.'

It's SO unbelievably sad reading everyone's stories and questions. And yet, I feel like I've come home. These people have sadly gone through everything I have. They have had memorials, have released balloons, and they miss their children/brothers/sisters.

They ask all the questions I ask myself.

I don't want it to become 'my thing' or fixate on it, but every now and then I see something and it all makes sense. And therein, lies small comfort.

Perhaps Seb will find comfort here, and I'll know how to answer all his questions when the day comes when we tell him that he is a twin, he has a sister, but she is in heaven.

Friday, August 08, 2014

what lies beneath

Sometimes I feel as though I am not coping.

I can be wondering around a park with a friend, watching my child sleep, and everything on surface level is great. It's a small reprieve from my thoughts and worries.

Underneath, there's a wave inside me that peaks and troughs.
Depending on my emotions (and hormones?) the wave oscillates; swinging my thoughts into wild panic and despair, while at the next moment I am seemingly calmer and more positive about things.

Now, this could 'mommyhood' (is it?), or it could just be Me.

Let's take today. I went to meet The Quiet American at St James' Park for lunch and a stroll with Sebastian. The park was filled with tourists, it's a sunny day, and swans were waddling about, there was a live band playing, and the food was fresh.

But before that, and after, my mind churns.
Molly. How UNFAIR it is. How nobody important at the NHS will ever read my letter. How the pain never dulls. I'm alone in the pain, because no one else can possibly feel it.
Why is my baby battling to sleep in the day again? Why is my fuse so short? Why do I feel like I want to run away from this sometimes, then in a second regret I feel like that, and feel guilty that I had such a thought?
How I am terrified Sebastian will die at any second.Constantly need to check, must check, always check. Imagine finding him dead and lifeless in his cot. My mind is plagued with these thoughts endlessly. I panic and rush to his room.

But he won't sleep, and I want to scream and shout, why, why why won't you sleep? And I want to leave him there to cry, but I can't, I just can't.

How our young marriage has had so many things thrown at it, and how I feel it's taken strain. And how I wish for the day when we can hold each other and experience a moment without panic, anger or sadness about what's happened and how it would be nice to feel safe and secure in each other again.

How my milk supply suffers sometimes, and how I desperately want to feed my child as I have been from the beginning. How I try everything to keep it up, even though it's exhausting. And I fight for every drop of milk I produce.

How our families complicate things even further.
How I am scared to go back to work (only in January, but I am starting to fear it immensely), and how I will need to hand my precious child over to a nanny.

How nobody understands or gets what its like right now.

How we need a holiday away; how I miss home.

Then I breathe. The thoughts are only momentary. I savour the few moments of distraction. My bath time, when I can put a candle on, listen to my music and soak. My lovely friends who I talk to constantly. Have a glass of wine. Disappear into a 9pm movie.

But sometimes, I just wish it was us 3 in the world. Just us 3. It would make life and everything else so much simpler and easier. And perhaps we could address everything much easier. And I could address myself. Most importantly.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

baby class

Just took my baby to a class.
There are tons around in my area, and I haven't been able to go to one until now.

It sounds dumb, but my schedule has been nothing short of mental.

Mental I tell you. 

'Yeah yeah,' you chide. 'You mother's spend your days baking cupcakes, cooing and wiping bottoms. You could write a thesis you have so much time.'

Shut it. I barely have time to brush my teeth. Make up on my face is a bonus.

Anyway. So I finally got to a class, where the babies lie around while you sing songs, get bubbles blown at them, feathers thrown, all this sensory stuff, and it's all quite fun and sweet.
Like this:


Then as he slept like an angel in his pram, I thought I'd swan along towards a pavement cafe and grab myself some lunch and a coffee.

See, that's what I envisioned maternity leave to be about. Not classes or around-the-clock nipples out. (Everyone has seen my tiddies in the past 4 months. Including my father-in-law and the Brit's best guy friends. Testament to my tiddies' new role in life, so I couldn't care less.)

I envisioned maternity leave as a cafe crawling mother, pushing along a pram with a quietly napping baby at all hours of the day. Wearing dark sunglasses, drinking a latte, indulging in cafe culture at its best.

I obviously forgot that I don't live in Paris.
Or that babies don't sleep all day.
Or that there'd be times I couldn't leave the house, as I was still in my pyjamas at 5pm.

Today I lived that. Took in a baby class and then ate an omelette on a sidewalk cafe in Clapham Old Town.
While my sweet, balding Arab child slept peacefully with a muslin over his face.


Just pretend you don't see the chips. I'm not allowed the chips on the Operation Get My Body Into A Bikini In December In Cape Town diet.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

baby hair

It's time to face facts.

My kid, (as seen below at a few hours old),

..is losing his hair. (As seen earlier today.)

I've been in denial for a while. He was born with a thick mop of beautiful hair, and it has slowly been thinning as the weeks go by. I see his little wispy hairs collect on his sheets every morning, and the back of his head is totally bald.
He was a little monkey as a newborn, with hair on his back and arms. Soft, downy fur not unlike a tiny creature from the ape world. How I miss his...downy fur.

My question is, when, dear God, does it grow back?