Tuesday, April 14, 2015

opening the curtains

Was reading something the other day and was struck how honest and forthright the piece of writing was. I was transfixed. While I am always honest about one teensy percentage of my life up here, I choose to leave out the other 80%.

Mainly as it would bore anyone to tears. (Being a mother makes you instantly dull. I needn't elaborate.)
I'm also not 26 anymore. Which means I don't need everyone's opinion on every aspect of my being. As you age you just get naturally more selective about what you share.

I've always prided myself on being frank though. If I do choose to engage in a topic, I'll tell you everything, even if it involves pooh, or a wank or setting fire to myself.

So much of what I spill out on here these days is my grief and being a parent. I use this space to spew and talk about Molly, as there isn't another space. But, sometimes if I write too much about Molly I feel guilty about not expressing how much I love and appreciate Sebastian. If I go on too much about Sebastian, I feel guilty about not remembering Molly. It's a complex beast, this kind of grief, when you have one dead twin and one living one.

The journey isn't pretty or simple, and it never will be. But it got me thinking. It would be quite (fun? liberating? energising? synergising? stupid? risky? irreverent?) to give myself a shot of Truth Serum, pretend I'm sitting in a KGB cell somewhere in Crimea, and have someone interrogate me. About anything.*

So here we are. Honesty Hour (or Happy Hour*, however you see it):

What's your favourite colour?
It used to be red. It was red my whole life. Then two years ago I decided it was too vulgar, and now it's my favourite colour if I have to have one that isn't black, grey or navy blue.


OK, so you're emo.
No, I'm a Londoner. Most Londoners with any sense of style do red in summer or at a festival. It's just too stark. I take style fairly seriously these days - which is mental, I know - I'm a mum and have baby secretions and last night's supper smeared on my trousers - but I was told that you can never have too much black, and you should always wear black/muted colours in front of your fashion friends.


Right. Has grief bought you and your family closer together?
No. It's made me realise a few very important things. I've seen some true colours emerge, and while you'd think love would be the ultimate thing to throw at this situation, I haven't got that at all. I think there are two things that have happened. One, I am grieving and I have found that some of my 'closest' family members don't understand my anger or sadness or why I need certain dates and things to be acknowledged. I am the mother of two children, that's never going to go away. Some of them refuse to talk about 'it', and brush my emotions under the carpet without even knowing or asking. The second is, I've become a parent. This in itself means I have now experienced things my parents have experienced. I have a lot of questions. That haven't been answered. So in short? Losing Molly and gaining Sebastian sadly hasn't been a matter of one child lived and one child died and everyone lived happily ever after.

It's this.

How does your husband deal with the grief?
I am thankful that he talks about Molly and he expresses his emotions and anger. He acknowledges how I feel and he acknowledges her existence regularly, which I am so grateful for. However he deals with his emotions differently to how I do, and it's been tough on our [young] marriage. Losing a child is a dynamic that is incredibly complex and hard to deal with.

What scares you the most in this world?
Anything happening to Sebastian. Or my future children, if I have any. I am also terrified of getting cancer. That seems to be the illness en masse in this country. I try and live a healthy life, but I wonder if stress, sadness, anger all those negative things is what kills people, not what you eat or drink.

Is being a parent everything it's cracked up to be?
Parenthood is heavily romanticised, and most of the focus does lie on the fact that you love this thing more than anything you can even conceivably imagine - which is true - but I don't think anyone truly realises the impact it has on you when you have years of broken sleep and the changing dynamic of your relationships (spouse, friends without kids, parents, in-laws). You primarily exist for something else. Your sense of Self goes, and like yesterday, I burnt my fingers on the stove but couldn't stop and wrap it up - Sebastian was thrashing around on the floor angrily after I confisacted the candle he was trying to gnaw on.
That said, any mother would tell you she wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't. But I do remember the life I had before they were born, and the person I was before they came along. The things I could do. The freedom. The disposable income. Yeah.
But all I have to do is look at his face, and that stuff doesn't matter anymore. So I can't travel much anymore. So I can't go shopping at Ted Baker every month. I really don't care about that stuff like I used to.

What are some of the things you face as a parent that's lost a child that no one else knows about?
Those awkward conversations. Seeing one of the mums I used to 'hang' with at the twins club before they were born, at a local baby shop on the weekend. Having to see her twins, Sebastian's age. And try to duck out past the baby dungarees before she saw me, but I know she saw me.
Having to have that fake conversation when I see her that goes something like, "Hey, wow, the twins have grown....they look great...." and she kind of awkwardly feels she has to over-compensate, "Sebastian is so big! Wow he is amazing!!!!"....and there's a massive luminescent, glowing, neon pink elephant in the room as we have this futile little dialogue. To think there was a time when we used to speak about where we could get a two-for-the-price-of-one car seats and that one of our babies was breech...

Or the fact that the obstetrician delivering Royal baby number 2 (and one, for that matter) is the same consultant that advised me what to do with my twins when I found out Molly died.
It's all over the news at the moment as they wait for Kate to pop again.

He headed up my 'case'. Guy Thorpe Beeston was due to deliver them. He never did in the end, but he was the chief counsel on everything that unfolded from that fateful day on 18 March, and sat with me everyday to guide me through how he thought I should birth them. I had a lot of people advise me on what they thought I should do for their birth. He was the guy I chose to listen to. (If the Royal Family hire him, then his word was good enough for me...)

The fact that I suddenly seem to be working with a lot of Molly's at work. Not even a joke. At first I thought it was just because I noticed the name 'Molly' more, but it's not even that. Two new Molly's have shipped into the office and I am working directly with them. Everytime I have to respond to one of their emails or call them, or simply say their name, or even when someone else says their name, I flinch.

I can't tell anyone this random stuff. Who would be interested? It's not something you bring up in casual conversation. It's something that jumps out at me in my news feed, at the shops or in the middle of my work day, and just takes me back to a dark place. It's nothing to everyone else. It's huge to me. And this is why you feel I so alone - it's these things that make me feel like I'm running on a different hamster wheel to the rest of the world.

What's it like being back at work?
I am lucky to work at an amazing company. My career has always given me my purpose in life. Without it, I feel kind of rudderless. Even as a mum, who supposedly should have the most purpose in the world. 
I am very good with pushing things aside and managing to focus on work without anything distracting me. I miss Sebastian so much, but I don't allow myself much time to indulge it.
It's hands down easier being a Working Mum than a Stay At Home Mum. You run from pillar to post, but it is much easier. I want to be able to do both jobs well, even if it means I'm spinning 7 000 plates at the same time.

Do you have regrets?
So many.


Are you happy?
Truthfully? Half the time. 50% might not be great odds to some, but I choose to view this as a glass half full scenario, not a glass half empty.


What surprising thing have you got out of therapy?
To be kinder to myself. Recognise that I am good enough and I have done the best I can.

Do you miss South Africa?
I do and I don't. It's my fifth year here and I feel like, for the first time since immigrating, that I don't ache to go back there. It's quite foreign to me now. I am on the periphery of the politics, the statue bullshit, the loadshedding, the everything, and while I miss  - and always will - the sunshine, friendliness and beauty of the place, I think I have moved on now.

Not to say I feel like I am British. I will always be a foreigner here.

Your best attribute?
The ability to get on with almost anyone. If I have to. 

Your worst attribute?
I am mad.


Oh, you're mad. What keeps you sane?
Running. I run to feel happy, it's my alone time and it's another form of therapy. The bonus is that it happens to also help me lose weight.

Favourite things about living in the UK?
It's quite civilised.  Britain in the summertime makes up for most things. We don't have people shitting on statues or building whole estates with money that should go to the poor. You have five types of quinoa and five different supermarkets if you want it; there is choice everywhere. Fashion, shopping, so much weird stuff to see and do. A thousand brunch choices. You never worry about your safety, even if you're wondering through the common at midnight, a little bit drunk after three glasses of wine, with your iPod in, like I did the other night. I come across some very intelligent and funny - as in they are highly amusing - individuals everyday. Satire is admired here, and it surrounds me everyday. People are mostly polite and cheerful. You can pop over to Europe for lunch. Working here is fascinating for me - not the least, because I work with the media and the British press is a particular sort of beast.

Worst things about living here?
Standard Saffa complaints - the weather is a total balls-up (all forgiven when there is ONE sunny day), we all live on top of one another, property is crazy expensive, London's commute sometimes makes you want to kill yourself, too many people, people are too scared to rock any sort of political boat, so are completely passive aggressive and overly PC. Chavs and East End accents. My. Worst.

If you died right now, what will you see?
A lot of beach scenes in Thailand when I was young, carefree, unbaggaged. My beautiful son. His face. Everything about him. My daughter. My husband.

What's the best thing you could give to a mother?
Things money can't buy. Sleep. Love. Patience. Gratitude. Offer to take the baby for an hour while your mate has a nap. She will never ask you for this, even if you say, "Just let me know when you want me to come round." Just do it. Or even better - buy her a massage. That way she gets to sleep while getting pampered. Best present ever,  and from since last year, it's all I've really wanted in my Christmas stocking going forward.
Oh and a million pounds. To pay for private schooling.

* It should be noted that it was Gin 'n Tonic night in the Peas On Toast household. And I was three drinks in. 
It's taken me three days to gain the courage to actually post this.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

my new friend: the peephole

I'm going to sound like a proper weight wanker, but sorrynotsorry.

I've worked fucking hard for this, and finally, I am back in the jeans I was wearing in the summer of '13.

I'm not one to brag but fuck it, I was fat and pregnant, post-pregnant and frumpy and now I feel good about my body again for the first time in a year and a half.

It's taken the better part of three months, and I have [mostly very much] dieted like a freak and worked out like I'm training for a marathon.
And I have dropped two pants sizes. And lost 7 kilos. That's, like, a stone in old money.

Fucking right.

Someone told me my hips would never be the same [sadly true], but I could be the proud new owner of a gap - a GAP - if I played my workout right. Because when your hips realign for birth, they widen out like a runway, so while you're wide, you might adopt a new peephole between your thighs.

And today, in my new jeans, I took pictures of my crotch in the gym changing room, because I found my freakin' gap, people.
 My size 10s!
Say hello to my teensy weensy Gap.

For a while I was wearing a sturdy size 14 over my rump, and gradually whittled down to the pants sitting folded in the bottom of my drawer like secret presents I'm not allowed to open until an important day.

It's good to feel strong and fit again. This is what I did - give or take - for three months, and will largely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

There's no secret method, and no quick fix. I lost the weight slowly, simply by moving more and eating less. 

Gym 3 x a week. Mixture of training, including stop-start sprinting, power walking up tough gradients, endurance running.
Cross-trainer, mixture of fast and slow.
Weights and machines: arms, legs, but mostly legs.

Calorie-controlled diet. One starch/carb a day.
High protein lunch, lots of veg.
Fruit breakfast or high protein breakfast with a juice and soup for lunch.
Veg and protein supper.

Friday I'd have a treat - massive piece of cake.  Sometimes I'd have a treat more than that. I'd be lying if I said I didn't.

I go out once in the week to meet up with friends or attend a work do, so factor in a few glasses of wine and things like tapas platters and finger foods.

On weekends, the diet slips a bit - we go out for brunch, or the Brit makes a fry-up, or we have a takeaway or something. Basically, weekends were made for falling off the wagon.

Ideally, I'd love to lose just one or two more kilos if I can. That would make me Bikini Ready not just Size Ten Jeans Ready. But given I ate a massive Easter Egg the shape of a cock (as in chicken, before you get tetchy) last night (I thoroughly blame my mother-in-law for giving us this massive chocolate beast and trying to make us me fat. Only my mother-in-law would give us a massive chocolate cock for Easter)....there's not much hope of the last two kilos shedding anytime soon.

I'm due to be in Spain in a couple of weeks, (sangria...chorizo....varied and beautiful cured hams...manchego cheese...), and would like my arss to see the light of the actual sun, so I aim to at least try and strut around in a bikini on a rooftop hotel.

that is the aim, anyway.

For now, I'm going to a gay bar with my cousin and Best Irish Gay Friend tonight to celebrate the fact that the sun has come out in this country finally. Hoorah.


Monday, April 06, 2015

defiance

Happy Easter folks.

We've been mainlining chocolate like heroin addicts; disaster for the diet, liberatingly great for the mind.

Easter is meant to be the dawn of new things, so it is no coincidence that it marks the dawn of a new vibe in our house.

Defiance.

My son turns 1, and inherits a new personality. I suppose it was going to happen at some point, but here he is. Easter Bunny took away my baby and has replaced it with a thing that throws himself on the floor in dramatic rage when I present him with anything he doesn't agree with.

After a [not tiring at all] game of Cat and Mouse with a plate full of mashed cauliflower, he aced me 10-0 by flinging it angrily all over the wall and cupboard behind him, splattering it and ricocheted it all over myself and my fancy chair.

Defiance. Cannot and will not, don't care what you bribe or offer.

Tipped off a Beaufort Scale 9 rage as resigned defeat and grabbed a biscuit for him and more chocolate for me.

Despite the temper tantrums, the boy is using energy like a gladiator at the moment, because he is benchpressing his own bodyweight. About 89 times a day. We are exhausted just observing this intense up and downing in front of our eyes, if anything my eyeballs have run a half marathon this weekend just watching this go down.




Play with a toy for 5 seconds, concentration span ends, pulls himself to nearest edge. Pull up. Stand, shimmy around, sit. Throw dummy across room. Excitedly go and grab it. Ram it into mouth with satisfied grin. Concentration span ends. Pull up onto nearest edge. Up and down. Up and down. Throws dummy. Grabs TV remote, waves it around to try and switch telly on. Pull up, down up and down. Then five more sets.

It's more entertainment than he's ever been, but throw in a temper tantrum, an attitude, general defiance, night wakings and then a ton of teeth-related whingeing and you'll have us: two knackered beyond fuck parents.

Those painfully dull but happy moments of throw the dummy/fetch the dummy and wave the TV remote around like he's Ghandi are why we don't paw at our faces and take 10 Xanax.

Plus he does smile a lot too, which is half gratifying.

But if this is the gateway to the years of tantrums and Terrible Twos, we are in for a long ride. Welcome to Parenthood. Two years in, another 100 to go and you can never resign.

Oh look, he just did another pooh.
This cloth thing he is holding? This is his dou dou, the thing he used to sleep with that covered his face. He will go nowhere without it. Nowhere. That includes benchpressing .
 
The sun has finally started shining on this dismal good for nothing "Spring" we are having, and couldn't come a second too soon.

We've eaten our way through the weekend, which is half gratifying. So has he. Growth spurt machine, the guy is decking two slices of toast, an adult-sized bowl of oatmeal and a whole fruit before it's even 9am. At least, that's what he did yesterday.
 Roasts, wine and chocolate. How else does one survive?
Easter 6am breakfast shift! Rise and shine, we are going to play and we are going to play HARD.

I'm loving seeing his little personality come through and how he is rapidly turning into, like, a proper human. But the defiance? That can go.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

sebastian's party

I think Sebby's first birthday party was somewhat of a success. Sure, I didn't rustle up a batch of homemade cupcakes, and didn't craft my way through a theme, so I'm sitting firmly on the gate exclaiming, "I'm a working mother! I do the best I can with the time I have!"

(OK?)

We invited lots of Sebastian's first friends - so there were actually quite a few babies at this gig. It was chaotic and crazy, and Sebastian got his first ever taste of cake and chocolate.

It'll be the last time we can host something like this in the corner of a pub again. Next time they'll be running around, high on e-numbers, and we'll be running right after them.

I wasn't going to do party packs and hats and things, but as I said before, I am fucking glad we went to a bunch of parties before Sebby's, because that kind of set the scene of what is expected should be done. And having bags full of sweets for adults and party packs is all jolly good fun. And we definitely need a bit of that around here.

I felt like Betty Crocker when I did these. Seriously.


I got toppers made for some of the cupcakes. While Molly was 'present,' 99% of the day was all about Sebastian.

I even combed his hair, gave him one of those annoying flashcards people use on Facebook, and made him pose for some pictures for his first birthday.

(He enjoyed it for 2 minutes, then lost his shit.)
I got a party pack of decorations in a circus theme, for no other reason that it was bright and colourful and pretty gender neutral for now.










Then we sprinkled a bit of joy over the tables at the venue.
 And hung up some party hats, in amongst blue and pink balloons for both of them.
 ...and then covered the table with wine and cider.
 This little monkey just had chocolate for the first time when this was taken. He bounced off the walls all night after this. In a scary sort of way. It was a nightmare getting him to sleep. Seriously scary what sugar can do.
I'm one! Actual.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

the first birthday



To think I was in full blown labour this time last year. Cheese and [egg fried] rice.

I was induced, and was told that labour might come on, oh, within a few hours, maybe it will maybe it won't, so just hang out on the beaching ball until I start to feel something.

I was terrified. Genuinely fucking terrified. I'm such a wuss when it comes to pain anyway, but now I was physically balking at the thought of contractions coming on, and having to literally squeeze out two babies.

I just kept thinking, "And once I've had my live baby, it isn't over. I have to do this all again. And for a baby that's not even living."

I went into labour almost immediately after being induced, (surprise! No time to even have a soothing bath and just let nature take it's course,  hell no) so while the Brit went home to grab a coffee and have a shower, I was suddenly having a contraction every minute, and lemmetellyou: period pains had nothing on this. By the time he returned, I was being propped up on the side of my bed by 10 people and having the epidural I was begging to be administered, and the last thing I recall is him opening the door to my room and almost dropping his coffee.

"Yeah. Things are going a bit fast around here. We have to slow the contractions down, so we are going to thrust this injection into you quicksticks."

And then I lay on my back in labour for another 17 hours until they were born [via emergency c section because Sebastian's palms were covering his face and blocking the exit door.]

His cries were immediate; there was a silence the three minutes she followed. With a shock of black hair, strong lungs and the sweetest face. We couldn't believe he was ours.

We got to hold Molly and Sebastian together, as was intended. I was catatonic, but I remember this like crystal.

So here we are, the arrival of my babies' birthday. My little Sebastian is a year old today, it's insane.

The Brit and I and Sebastian have survived a year with each other. We've survived the pooh, the vomit, the colic, the crawling, the new teeth, the hundreds of hours of sleep deprivation, the sadness and the joy, the breastfeeding, the weaning, the separation anxiety, the intense cuteness only a baby could be. And I couldn't imagine it any other way.

Happy birthday my most precious, darling child. And happy birthday twins of mine, one on Earth and one divine.

The love I have for this little boy is indescribable - he is my light, my joy, and pretty much the reason I do anything these days. Anything I do, indirectly relates back to him, even to my looking after my health better for the longterm - also I am paranoid that I am going to die of cancer one day - but I want to be the healthiest I am simply so that I can be with him in this life as long as I can.

Being pregnant and a mother to my children has given me some new perspectives I never thought I'd have or care about. Just being pregnant with Molly and Sebastian and having them kick me, grow inside me and seek comfort in my womb made me fall in love with them both the moment I knew they even existed. There is no doubt about it - the maternal 'thing' kicked in for me pretty much straightaway. The thought of being apart from them, someone hurting them, or getting anything but my love, even before they were born, was inconceivable to me. And yet I also realise there are mums out there that do the unthinkable, and I just can't comprehend it.
My children, dead or alive, have enriched me so much.  I've learnt new things about life and people, picked up new skills, and an appreciation for living every day, and my little family.

I get excited when I think of the things to come - walking soon, talking and seeing him everyday as I rush home from work.

He is such a happy little boy. Now finally settled - almost 3 months later - in nursery, to the point where he waves me goodbye with a giant smile and goes in for a hug with his key worker.

His teeth have finally surfaced, and all at once, so party party party. Over the course of ten days he has four teeth pushing through - and the nights are sleepless once again. They're like little razorblades, and more than ever he comes in for cuddles and hugs.

We are so proud of this little chap, who is such an affectionate soul. He has always loved to be close to us than not, from the day he was born. He holds his hands out for hugs now, and he buries his head in my shoulder. It's absolute heaven.

He is also such a smiley baby. He just beams and giggles at me and at anyone. He is not discerning in the slightest, he is a social butterfly, and just loves to smile.
My heart explodes when I hear his laugh and he looks up at me to check I'm watching him when he plays with his toys. When he scootches around on his bottom - he's a bum shuffler - or when he gets excited and pounces on the floor and commando crawls everywhere.

He is such a character. So funny sometimes, he makes us cry with laughter. 

Then there's the moment I walked into the sitting room and found him standing next to the coffee table, swinging his baby monitor around by the aerial. His first haircut the other day that's made him suddenly look a lot older than he is.

He is also getting naughty. I think we are going to have a spirited naughty little bugger on our hands. He now gets this look when he doesn't like something, and he has started to very gallantly throw his food off his plate while looking at me as he does it. He gets this infuriatingly cute but cross expression on his face, and then will throw his book to the side if I plonk him down somewhere he doesn't want to sit. he throws things to the side he doesn't like, and he is going to have to start learning how to deal with not getting his own way soon. It's the gateway to his tantrum years, I can see it. And while I say 'No' a lot, it's difficult to know how much he understands still.

He is my joy and while he looks like Daddy (mostly), everyone knows he has my eyes. Big, brown eyes - which mirror mine exactly.

He is my little survivor. He could've died, just like his twin. He could've suffered a similar fate, but he survived. He was always the stronger, bigger one, and so to me he is my ultimate little fighter.

I am so lucky to have him. I love you with all my heart my Sebastian George. I cannot believe you are 1 today. I love you with every cell that I am made of.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

one year ago today

My heart aches so much. In two hours I would've been leaving the house to go for my 35 week scan; tired and ready to slog my massive body across town. Ready to have my babies now.  It would be the last scan before they were due to be born at 37 weeks.

I was told that they couldn't find Molly's heartbeat  - Twin 2 at that stage - and I cannot describe for you what happened in that time. All I remember is the world caving in on itself and I was battling to breathe.

Today marks the death of not only my daughter, but the death of a dream. A life we had envisaged and had, over the course of the last almost 8 months, planned for.
This pic below was taken a year ago last night. My Brit used to hold my tummy and talk to the 'boompties', as we called them.

My boompties, together, a life that they were destined to share, in every conceivable way.

I didn't know she had died when the Brit took this picture. Life really can change in a second.

Here I am at work, at my desk, and it's all very civilised and everyone  - the world - just carries on around me. What would I do without Sebastian, I wonder. He is my light, my joy, my everything. I am so lucky to have him beyond everything that has happened. I live for this little boy.

But, I can't help but feel that society (and even some of my friends and family) prefers that I not talk about my deceased child, and sometimes I feel judged a lot of the time I do speak about it. But I refuse to not not speak about Molly. I choose to talk about her because it acknowledges her existence, and that is my duty as a mother. To ensure her memory lives on. And to ensure that she knows, wherever she is, that I, as her mother, will never, ever, forget her. Or stop loving her.

Another poem I loved by Dr Elizabeth Pector, who lost one of her boy twins, and dedicated a website of poetry to her sons. They resonate completely with me, and have adapted it for Molly and Sebastian.

I miss you my girl. Everyday.

Twin Maths

2 separates into 1+1,
One life lost while another's begun.
Is this why even now I hate
To see in print my twins' birthdate?

Registering for a toddler class
Recalls that day of sorrow past.
"What's your son's birthdate?" they ask on the phone,
Unaware the same date's on his twin's tombstone.

That fateful day, on 18-3
One born to earth, one born to heaven
My twins after months of waiting arrived.
We always thought they'd both survive.

My greatest fear: not a broken heart,
But how I'd tell my twins apart.
"Paint one's toenail," people would say,
But nature found another way.

Sebastian emerged, his small cry our thrill.
Molly came after, silent and still.
Distinguishing my twins became quite plain:
1 alive, 1 dead, twin joy and pain.

1+1 for most is 2,
But I've been given a different view.
1+1 is not a sum,
But rather, a paradox begun

On one cold Monday in March
"2's day," twin motherhood not as customary
But with loving, rejoicing and grieving combined,
The day my twins became untwined.

My 1+1 can never be 2
They're separate forever.  Now all I can do
When I see 2 followed by 1 and 1
Is feel pride and pain for my dear twin daughter and son.

Molly's teddy sits next to my bed. From the moment she was born up until she was cremated, this little teddy stayed with her the entire time. It's the closest 'thing' I have to her, other than her footprints.

Friday, March 13, 2015

battle of the birthdays


And it is the season of baby birthday parties.

As we (well, I, mostly, let's be honest) have primarily made friends with new parents whose babies were born pretty much the same time as mine were, we have a string (6!) of birthday parties coming up over the next few weekends.

I am not even joking when I say that I am tremendously excited. Mainly because the babies don't really know it's their birthday yet and it's more of a get together for big people with babies; to have a few drinks and a meal. Sebastian and Molly's day is at the end of all of them, which is a good for a few reasons.

1) I can check out what other people are doing for their 1 year old's first. Not that I am competitive or comparing or whatever, just curious and checking on the standards I have to adhere to here.

2) Ours is a slightly different party, of course, and always will be. There will be an element of sadness to it, especially as we release balloons for Molly. She will also have her own cupcakes, as will Sebastian.

But some people go big. I mean, I'm talking cakes made out of mile-high fondant shapes, piles of decorations, themes, dress-up, little mason jars filled with gluten-sugar-egg-free puddings, goodie bags. Actual craft. Where mums (stay at home mums, I would haste to add, come on), spend days tying ribbons around things, getting their child to pose for a professional photographer wearing a crocheted dinosaur suit sent in from a shop in Whichita. Or something.

I am all for this when Sebastian actually knows it's his birthday. I'm in, and I'm going to throw my euphemistic balls to the wall and endeavour - like all good Clapham mummies - to make his the most funnest coolest excitingest birthday on the frigging block. Minus the e-numbers where possible, and instead of hiring a pet zoo or a maypole for the garden, instead get one of the Brit's friends to dress up as a clown or do magic tricks. Or something.

There's an entire industry here. And just wait until I bust it open when he is 3. Apparently I can get away with two relatively normal and chilled birthdays, and then they turn 3 and it's like "Right. How do we differentiate here, people? All our babies are born in March and we are all doing the same fucking thing. Taking two Xanax and throwing a party."

I jest of course. Mostly. Because I don't want to be throwing huge, extravagant parties and going completely over-the-top. For one we don't have the space, and for two, I have now witnessed a handful to see how crazily exhausting they can be for the mothers. One of my friends had a Frozen party for her 4 year old a few weeks ago, and the whole class at school came.

It was like throwing an event for 25 gerbils. All running around in different directions.
She did helluva well, and the cake was the only really sugary thing she served, so none of them were vomiting on the furniture or climbing up the walls.

But I am also kind of excited for one day, when I see Sebby's little face when he has some friends over for a party. Where he blows out his candles, dressed up like Superman or Thomas The Tank Engine, and watch the delight on his face during the whole thing.
I also imagine how he will sagely, or maybe even nonchalantly, explain to anyone who doesn't know why there is a cake in the corner with the name 'Molly' written on it, by saying, "Molly is my twin sister in heaven."
Or "the pink balloons are for Molly in heaven, as it's her birthday today too."

Monday, March 09, 2015

letting go of both my babies

It's a funny thing as you lead up to the first birthday of your child.

A few things are happening to me at the moment. And I am fraught with nostalgia. The TimeHop app - both a blessing and a curse - is throwing up pictures of the nursery we had just completed this last weekend a year ago. With two little moses baskets, two mobiles, and 80 muslins ready for two little vomiting machines.
There are pictures of the daffodils starting to break through the soil after a long winter, covering the parks in patches of brilliant yellow; much like they're doing now. It's daffodil season. I was waddling through the parks being stared at for my sheer size, taking pictures of daffodils. I wasn't aware that this was the week that my second baby would've given up her fight. And her fluttering would've stopped. And I wouldn't have thought there was anything wrong, because she had turned from her breech position and we were all ready to go.

I was scared. So scared of what was about to be - two little babies, the birth, what lay ahead, but we were now ready to show off our twins to the world.

That's one thing that's happening. The breakdown of day-to-day. Leading up to the 18 March when I would've nonchalantly waddled into the hospital for my final scan, this day next week. I nearly didn't turn the radio or lights off when I left the house as I thought I would be back within the hour, back to being propped up on my bed.

Everyone was talking about MH307. And I never did go back home.

But there's another thing happening too. And every mother I've spoken to is going through this, just as their child reaches their first birthday - regardless of the individual circumstances.
We are all mourning the loss of our baby. To toddlerdom.

"Where did the last year go?" everyone says it. but what does it really mean? I was looking through all the thousands and thousands of folders of pictures I have taken of Sebastian. I want to put together a collage of the first twelve months of his life, and I am poring through all the pictures with complete sadness. Where has my baby gone?

He started out as a skinny, furry little yellow, clinging bush baby. So perfect, and so small, this thing that had just ejected himself in our lives under the most difficult and traumatic occasions of my life. Our time in hospital felt like eternity, even though it was just a week. They'd prick his foot thrice a day to check his blood sugars and jaundice levels and he would scream; a cry that would physically pull me from a place, it would haunt me, I wanted no one to hurt my child like that.

The love I felt for this thing, even though it kept me awake, caused me sleepless nights of worry, turned my life upside down, was immeasurable. He could do anything he wanted, anything, and I'd only love him more. After the initial baby phase, he turned into a new baby. He would smile, look into my eyes, bob his little head, lose all his body hair.
Then he transformed yet again, into a child who would sit, gurgle, laugh...he would know who I was and wrap his arms around my neck.

Now he bum shuffles, climbs, stands up, is starting to copy some of my words, claps, laughs, comes in for massive cuddles, has a full head of flowing, thick hair, and he has transformed again. He is now a little boy, but I can't help but mourn the loss of my baby.

I spend my day smothering him with kisses, smelling his hair, breathing in his soft, perfect skin. I want to hold onto him and scream "Stop, stop, the clocks, stop the time, freeze!" For there will be a day when he won't want his mummy kissing him and showing him affection, and I am scared my days are numbered already.

I look at the pictures and I just want my little baby back. All the night feeds and colic and screaming and sleep deprivation and "has he had enough milk?" endless Groundhog Day questions, and expressing - oh my God the expressing of milk four times a day - is all but forgotten. Life is easier now, without a shadow of a doubt. Now that he eats and can move around. But I miss my baby. He is growing up and transforming too quickly.

So if I'm crying on their first birthday, it's not just because I miss his sister. It's because I am letting my baby go.

Friday, March 06, 2015

meet jack


Crisis it's been a busy week.

Between conferences with our colleagues from other countries, it just feels like my work has suddenly ramped up to robust levels, and that I have to account for and squeeze everything I can into any spare half hour or ten minutes I have.

I get now why people say that being a working mum is one helluva juggle, they're not fucking lying lemmetellya.
I'm spinning about a thousand plates right now, and in between the noise of china crashing against the floor and walls, I also managed to injure myself while bowling.

I know. When giant balls mix with glasses of prosecco and a sleep-deprived person who has only ever bowled twice in her life, shit goes down.

Two very heavy balls clunked together at some point in the evening, and my finger happened to be, at that exact moment in time, sandwiched between the two balls. I even have a bruise.
It was mummy's wild night out with a large group of wily foreigners, and I came back with an obliterated finger.

Anyway, whatever. What I am really most excited about is tomorrow. Yes, yes it's the weekend and it's the first weekend we are having at home in what feels like months having spent the last two in Hampshire with the Brit's family, but that's not why I am excited.

You may recall - pretty much this time last year - the ongoing and highly volatile feud we had with our upstairs neighbour.

Well, they're not moving out. (Yet.) But wait. After this weekend, they might just.

Since their, frankly, terrible behaviour last year while we were trying to fix up our house before the arrival of our twins, we've had a frosty relationship. She hates us with every moving cell in her body, and we harbour a resentment of her most foul my eyes twitch involuntarily when I think about her.
If you want the running commentary, grab a cup of tea/jug of wine, and read all about these such delights.

For those interested in the short version only: She's French, screams a lot, loves causing a scene, and is about as rational as a dingbat. She's been nothing but rude and petulant to us, and seems like what rules are in place for us don't apply to her (noise, neighbourliness, the list goes on.)

Now that you have that firmly in your mind, I'll draw you to what is going down this weekend. Our garden is currently a mostly-unused concrete courtyard as it stands.
Having a garden in London, even if it is 5mx5m, is a highly sought-after commodity, and it's abysmal - criminal - that we've only used ours a handful of times last summer [to braai.]

In winter, gardens go mostly unused in this country and are about as inviting as a being enclothed in a cold, wet rag. But come summer - you ache for the poignant and delicious smells of meat being tanned on a Weber, of fresh green grass, music blaring out of the double doors, the baby crawling happily outside in the sunshine, the herb garden waving in the soft breeze and the detergent commercial thus springs to life. Sure, we'll only use it two months a year, but that really isn't the point.

All while our neighbour above looks down on us from their bedroom and says something like, "Putain et merde..." under her breath as I turn and wave.

So that's the long-term, two month goal. We want to lay down some lawn (unfurl it, slowly, from left to right) so that we can put down a blanket whenever we like and so Sebastian can crawl around happily. Redo the flower beds and herb garden and make the place COMPLETELY FUCKING TIT.

So in order to exchange our Eastern Bloc concrete slab out there with fresh grass, we have to dig it up.
Cue tomorrow morning at around 8:00am when the Brit and his friend bring in our little friend Mr Jack Hammer in from B&Q that they've hired.


Tomorrow they'll be jackhammering their way into the Earth's crust. Below her window. Before lunch time.*

*Not that I know anything about this of course, and because I'm actually fucking terrified of her reaction, I'll probably have left the house to push Sebastian around the common. Or need to go and buy lunch. Or something.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

some numbers

Two. Courgettes. I spiralised two courgettes in my new spirilizer last night.
What is it? It is a kitchen appliance that, with a few twists, turns a simple root vegetable into perfectly formed noodles.

Not owning a spirilizer in this country right now is like not owning air. It is the item du jour, gotta have it, everybody has it, nobody eats carbs anymore.

So I made courgetti bolognaise for us last night, and just last week I made flower-shaped zoodles with a tuna sauce.

The pasta industry is dead.Next week I'm going to try and make noodles out of a celeriac. I don't even know what a celeriac is, but I suspect it's some kind of bland, boring turnip that tastes great when topped with a creamy carbonara sauce. (Still no carbs baby, still no carbs.)

Eleven. Months. Today Sebastian is 11 months old. It's one month until his first birthday.

Sixty three. Kilogrammes. That is what I seem to [mostly] weigh right now. If I could just shift the final 4, I would be "my ideal weight" again. I'm going to have to eat a LOT of celeriac noodles with lashings of air and water in order to shift the last remaining kilos. Because hell, even after working out thrice a week, running up all the escalators I can, eating very sensibly; it's a long, hard race.

That said. Thirty six. The number of cupcakes I have ordered for Sebastian and Molly's birthday party. To be fair, we are also going to include Sebastian's little friend, who is one day younger than him, in the party too. So it's a party for three little souls.

Thirty two. Weeks pregnant. This time last year I was on my first week of maternity leave, propped up in bed by millions of pillows, battling to breathe, heartburn of marathonic proportions, piles - yes those - and skin so itchy I thought I would pass out. What's significant with this week was not that it was my first week off. Twofold, it's because I had a big fall. Which doctors insist had nothing to do with Molly's death. It was also the week that her body stopped growing. And I didn't have a clue. Had they been identical twins, I would've got that extra scan and it probably would've been picked up. But because they were non-identical and in "good health," there was no "cause for concern."

One. Skiing trip. Last week, me and my team from work headed off to Milton Keynes [sidenote: never go there unless you're paid/sponsored/don't have to get out of the cab] where there is a massive thing called the Snow Dome. It does pretty much what it says on the box. There are two ski slopes and a button lift, and lots of artificially-made snow.
We skiied up and down this thing all afternoon. It was actually pretty fun. But I did yearn for the open Alpine air and apres-ski charm of Val d'Isere, if I'm honest.

Zero. Sebastian still doesn't have any teeth. He's my little toothless wonder.

Two. Nights until I have a night out with the girls. Fellow mamas and keen aficionados of champagne. And good times.