peas on toast
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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....
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.
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."
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....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
You never feel so judged as you do running down the street wildly pushing a pram, with a screaming baby inside it.
People without children openly stare as if to say, "Er, what's wrong with you? Make that thing shut up already."
If I could, I would darling, why don't you give it a try?
It's true what a friend says. It's very easy to judge parents (and their spawn) when you don't have children. I can put my hand up right now and admit that I was an extremely judgemental non-mother.
"Ooh look at those children glued to their iPads, I'll never let mine do that."
"Is there a reason she isn't trying to make her child stop crying?"
"Why is that person bringing her three children into a restaurant on a Saturday morning? That's just inconsiderate."
It's so easy to judge when you have no flipping clue what you're actually talking about. I was guilty as charged.
Now I am the one being judged when Sebastian starts screaming in the doctor's room (save two octogenarians who were sitting there like statues, you could hear a pin drop), my baby then decided to start PASSING WIND and screaming. Really really loudly.
(Cue, "Oh I beg your pardon young man!" Blushing like a virgin nun, and then with only pleading eyes begging him to stop screaming...)
I've learnt now, that when my baby needs his nap, he needs it immediately. No fucking around.
At the first niggle he needs his head on his mattress, with his dummy and his doudou. The muslin thing that makes him look like an Arab.
If that isn't happening, he starts having a shit fit.
It happened in Hyde Park a few weekends ago, and it happened today. When he starts winding himself up to a high decibalic wail, whereupon it feels like the world's collective of pedestrians around me stop to stare.
Yes. I KNOW he's bloody crying. No, I'm not deaf, I AM hearing what you are hearing.
Of course, I still judge to a certain degree. When mother's feed their children shit or condone bad behaviour. But chances are one day I'll have to make them a sandwich using [gasp!] refined white bread if we've run out of the wholemeal granary.
But here and now, suddenly I'm the one with the kid having a meltdown in the middle of the world's most visited park in the world's busiest city. I am aware. And it's EXCRUCIATING.
Well, it was.
Then suddenly you don't care. Suddenly you realise that this is it. When he is 2, he is going to be writhing and crying on the ground having a temper tantrum in a shop and I am going to have to let him do that. And not give a shit what anyone around me thinks. So I might as well start now.
Perhaps it's other things manifesting as this thing, but even so I am not feeling good at all.
I had a dream last night that we had Sebastian cloned. So there were two little Sebastian's running around, both little boy twins. I still missed Molly deeply in my dream, but also felt joyously happy that we could somehow just 'recreate' another Seb. And they were at walking stage, running around together in their identical little outfits.
"You lost a twin? No problemo, just bring the one twin into the shop and we will clone him for you for a hefty sum."
Then I woke up. Gah.
I also bumped into one of the twins club ladies at a weaning class. While the rest of the world takes yoga and craft classes; I went to a session to teach me how to introduce solid foods to my baby.
Fuck, he is growing up too fast.
Anyway. She was there, her twins the same age as Seb. It was awkward as she was so lovely, but also aware I suppose, that I had said, "Sure, let's meet up in say 2020 when I feel like spending time near twins again."
Her twins were gorgeous, and she looked like she was glowing and handling everything in her stride.
I am REALLY MISSING HAVING MY TWINS NOW.
There's a piece of me that also realises that everyone has forgotten Molly mostly, and that by now they think I should have moved on. I've been told this will happen, family members and even close friends will tell me to stop dwelling on it.
So I just feel a little alone. In my feelings and with whom I can express them.
Now that Sebastian is pretty much starting to sleep through the night (long may it last, God help me), that he is in a routine and that his little personality is starting to shine through - basically, now that I have a little more of a handle on being a parent, I think I could've coped with two now. At the same time. Easily.
Anyway, before I drag down everyone with me, I've seen that lots of people are doing this (frankly, a little twee) "Three positives in my status bar a day" thing.
So. I shall end this post, before the weekend with not 3, but 10! Yes 10! positives to compensate for the sadness I feel right now.
1) It's summer. The days are long and hot, I'm getting my basic quota of Vitamin D. And there's a storm on the way - hooray!
2) I'm getting out more now. But out out. Visiting parts of London I haven't been to since before I was pregnant with them. Like Kensington Palace and Hyde Park with a friend, and another cheeky visit to the baby spa so that Sebby could swim.
3) Sebby loves to swim so far. I was always scared of water as a child, so this has got to be a good thing.
4) Getting a pedicure with She Who Also Loves Tweed, tomorrow.
5) For having such a lovely network of friends and fellow mums around me
6) For my wonderfully supportive mother - even from afar. We Skype everyday
7) For not getting stretch marks on my tummy. I got everything else, but amazingly no stretch marks even though I was the size of a Volkswagen Sharan.
8) For losing 1 kilo. One little kilo. On WeightWatchers. Am back on a diet plan.
High protein, no carb.
9) For coffee. My one cup a day is my new cigarette. It's my vice and it keeps me awake.
10) Last, never least: my beautiful son. Who is my everything. He is 4 months old today.
Either by shooting down full planes of people in aeroplanes, or going to full-out war - once again, in its 4 000 year history of conflict - in the Middle East.
And these are just the headline grabbers.
But the thing that really got to me, and made me almost vomit (I haven't been able to read beyond the headline and only know the basic details otherwise I fear I will go mad), is the story about the little boy and the hijackers in South Africa.
It makes me so sick to my core, I want to scream.
Why is the world so fucked up?
When there's a heat wave in Britain, everything breaks. Much like when there is snow in Britain. Extreme weather turns this place upside down - newspapers create double page spreads showing natural disasters occurring across the country in the form of skyscraper high waves or buckling train tracks from scorching, or an avalanche heading towards London.
"Broken Britain!" the headlines cry. All because it is 31 degrees today. So drastic and melodramatic when it comes to weather here.
Make no mistake, anything over 28 degrees in London is uncomfortable. It's sticky as fuck, and there's no escaping it. (No backyard swimming pools), and the moment you go outside you turn into a lobster. Just like how people here are inclined to do.
Taking a tube on a day like this feels like what I imagine the fiery depths of Hell must feel like, and I have to take one this evening to go to a birthday party. (Yay!)
Having a child in this weather gives the scenario a nice panicky edge - cot death and overheating warnings mean I am paranoid and constantly going to check on him.
But, even so - a British summer, and a lovely sunny one like we've been having so far is the best time to be here.
I went on a picnic with my mum's group this week to Battersea Park. I used to cycle through this park daily to get to work when my office was closer by than it is now. I haven't been there in ages, and it's only a over mile from our house.
It's still arguably London's best park. Right on the river, overlooking Chelsea, beautiful manicured gardens, a boating lake, and once I saw Rowan Atkinson there.
Swapped my bike for a buggy...
I miss my bike. But it was brilliant to push Sebastian around in the pram, find a patch of grass and talk babies and pooh with the ladies. The babies lay together on the blanket kind of staring and drooling at each other.
We had Sebastian christened on Sunday. A formality that actually turned into a lovely day. He was dressed up like a little girl though, which he may never forgive me for. (In which case I'll blame his granny, because the outfit was her family heirloom.)
Herewith my decidedly Amish-looking son:
I just want to EAT him.
He looks peeved. Does he look peeved?
E, a great friend of mine from South Africa, was in town this week too. She hung out with Seb and I, and we went for lunch on the King's Road.
Having a two year old son herself, she let me in on what I can expect.
Apparently, "You now own a hurricane. Boys Do. Not. Stop. Ever."
I am so lucky to have a little boy. They sound like a fuckload of hard work, but also so much fun. Apparently he won't stop grabbing his willy from about now until the end of time, he will pee everywhere but in the toilet, he will jump, pounce, climb on everything (read: wreck my home), he will play everywhere you are, and he will be an endless bundle of squirming energy. While girls can busy themselves for 40 minutes at a time, boys will do the same for 2 minutes.
But the best part? He will love his mum forever. At least that's what I have read.
I also met a friend who lives close by and works with me, also on maternity leave. Her little boy is 8 months, so is crawling, standing and grabbing things. As fast as a flash, he would disappear past us and into the cafe kitchen.
"He ate a handful of coal right out of the fireplace," she said.
It looks very very exhausting. But I'm still excited he's a little BOY.
It's been four years since I immigrated to the UK from South Africa.
A lifetime has been squeezed into that time, it's difficult to even remember what I was like back then, but I do remember the excitement and sadness of leaving a place I may never return to permanently.
In that time I’ve felt sadness, gratitude that Sebastian didn’t suffer the same fate. I’ve also felt anger and extreme frustration. It’s taken some time to grow the balls to write this, but here goes.
To Whom This May Concern at the NHS
In time, I might be able to find out who to direct this to, but for now, consider this an open letter to the chief executive, all heads of sonography, high risk birthing unit, the board.
In order to save you the long story, attached is my NHS number so you can delve through my now massive medical file you own. One of my twins died in utero at 34-35 weeks.
‘Oh here we go,’ you say. ‘A letter from a grieving mother with an axe to grind.’ Perhaps let me start by saying this: the expert staff who looked after me, my baby, and who guided us through our tragic circumstances at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital were wonderful. I saw so many midwives, consultants, neonatologists and doctors during my two week stay there, it’s difficult to call out specific names. They know who they are, and while it was the most difficult life-changing two weeks of my life, I wouldn’t have got through it without the expertise, kindness and help of these people. The obstetrician who I counted on to deliver my twins, give me the post mortem results and advise me the best way in which to give birth, was nothing short of phenomenal.
This is not a letter about how awful I think the state health system is, far from it given the assistance my husband, myself and my living child received. What I’d like to address specifically is the frequency of sonographs/ultra sounds, specifically with reference to multiple pregnancies. From the moment I found out I was carrying twins (7 weeks) I was told that twins are high risk. Higher risk of everything from pre-eclampsia, to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Mothers of singletons and twins are flooded with warnings from the get go, especially about the first trimester. Usually most mothers sigh with relief at the initial 12 weeks come to an end - no more nausea and suddenly risk of miscarriage falls dramatically. But twin mothers are still plied with warnings: basically lots of shit can go wrong when you carry more than one child.
As a result, twin mothers are offered more scans. Specifically, three more scans. I carried dichorionic diamniotic (DCDA) twins, which is supposedly the least risky situation when it comes to multiples. This essentially meant that they each had their own ‘rooms’ and placentas, while the seriously risky twins who share amniotic chorionic sacs, who share placentas are given scans from 16 weeks, every two weeks. This is because of risk of twin-to-twin transfusion, cords wrapping around necks, etc etc - this I know.
I got an additional three scans every five weeks from 20 weeks. Now, before you throw a load of data towards me about how many DCDA twins don’t die in utero, please hear me out. I’ve been told that it’s not a money issue, it’s a need issue. Do mothers of DCDA twins need to be scanned as frequently as those carrying monochorionic/monoamniotic twins? According to your data, no.
Because perhaps only one mother out of 500 has a stillbirth, so unless there’s reason for concern, additional scans don’t need to be offered.
My last routine scan was at 30 weeks. All the data pointed towards healthy growth for both my twins. While Twin 1 (Sebastian) had always been the larger twin, there was no reason for concern for Twin 2 (Molly.) She was smaller, but all her growth trajectories were within the normal range. I even asked the sonographer whether there was reason to be concerned as she was noticeably smaller. “No, she is within the healthy range,” after measuring her heart, head, abdomen. Why question the professional OR the data?
My next routine scan was 35 weeks. Five long weeks passed, and during that time, Twin 2 stopped growing. The post mortem estimated this to happen at 32 weeks. By the time 34-35 weeks rolled around, Twin 2 had died. Had they been MCMA twins, I would've had a scan at 32 weeks. The scan would’ve picked up that something was wrong and she was not growing. So while having them at 32 weeks is not ideal, such is the case with twins. They come early, and many have been delivered at 32 weeks before, in order to save their lives. Yes, they would’ve been in special care for a while. It would’ve been harsh and difficult. But perhaps I’d have two healthy twins here today. Who knows.
Nothing you do will bring Molly back. And this isn’t the intention of the letter. But I need to ask why you do not give all twin mother’s the right to to receive more scans in the latter half of pregnancy. Had I been given that option, even asked to pay for that option, I would’ve taken it. I would’ve had a choice, and because I mostly had no idea what was going on with my body during my first and first twin pregnancy, well it would’ve been nice to have had the choice.
While 1 in 500 mothers losing a twin to stillbirth just two weeks before they were due means nothing in the grand scheme of things, I am writing as that one mother whose child did die. And for any future mother of twins whose child may die because they didn’t receive enough scans. ‘Count the kicks,’ people told me throughout pregnancy. Unless you’ve actually been pregnant with two children at once, you will know then how difficult it is to tell whose foot or hand is which. Your stomach never stops moving, and you cannot tell who is who pretty much 50% of the time.
What is a scan really? It’s someone’s time, it’s money, but it’s a relatively short and painless procedure that could save a life. There’s a good chance it could’ve saved my daughter’s.
So, in short, I have a simple appeal: why not offer mothers the choice to pay for more scans. Offer them, give them the choice. To me it’s a short cut; an oversight not to offer more scans to women who carry multiple babies, whether there is cause for concern or not.
New record in poonami stakes. My baby managed to emit a pooh all the way up his back to his neck.
Yes, his headstem; his neck actual neck. Boys will be boys, and my boy has officially broken his own pooh record - what a proud mummy I am. Excitement and jubilation in our household!
(Spent morning washing him and his clothes, went through half a jar of Vanish).
For those wondering, the shade is almost exactly the same colour as the cardigan I'm wearing today. Coincidence?
Also, Dear Diary:
I've joined WeightWatchers [again.] I get more points as I'm breastfeeding, but I am officially going to get my pre-pregnancy body back!
(I carried twins for 8 months, so my stomach and hips will never look the same. I was a heavy mama, and I have a lot of work to do. I don't think it'll ever look like it was...)
But before shit gets totally out of control, and I start to look like LaShonda Shaniqua Devine above, I'm planning to lose about 10 kilograms.
Dear Diary, related: doing some serious pelvic floor exercises! Squeeze and breathe squeeze and breathe.
Lovely Lulu Jay of Berrydairies who so kindly came to visit Sebastian and I to check up on our progress told me that something called 'prolapse' can happen if you don't do your Kegels.
Just the word sounds diabolical, so I have invested some serious time to tightening up my undercarriage.
(Prolapse means your uterus falla down into your vaginal passage. I think. Basically gravity takes hold and everything goes into a big black hole never to return to the right place unless surgically.)
Also she noticed something with one of Seb's hands and foot. As a result of a small placenta. She has done her best to put me at ease, and has mostly succeeded, but I am still worried. His foot curls slightly and he fists his left hand a lot - more than what he should be.
Dear Diary, thank goodness for wonderful physios like Lulu Jay, I now do daily exercises with him.
Dear Diary, my best Irish Gay friend has taken it upon himself to internationalise my son. Teach him about diversity and, well, the EU. The uncle that makes him a European mascot.
He has bought him a strapping pair of lederhosen and a vest with leprechauns all over it. Next up are clogs and a kilt.
You know you're a London mum when:
1) You travel on a bus with lettuce leaves in your bra.
True story. Having milk flow issues in one of my milk jugs.
God forbid they fall out. So am sitting tight.
2) You force your baby buggy into the tiniest of crevices/shop doors/aisles/buses
It's wedged between something more often than not.
3) You call it a baby buggy.
No prams here, guv.
4) You spend at least one portion of your summer's day wandering on some sort of green space.
The Common knows me and my buggy well. I go there everyday, to the point where the geo-location on my phone thinks its 'work' and keeps on wanting to update my settings.
5) You start looking at whether your child can get Received Pronunciation elocution lessons when he is old enough to talk.
True story part deux. I would like Sebastian to speak BBC English. Call it posh, call it whatever you like, but he might even thank me one day.
(The Queen speaks Heightened RP, I just want him not to talk in any sort of London accent. At all. Cockney, Estuary or other. Cannot stand it. Yes I'm a snob.)
Off on a night out for tapas in Maida Vale with two great friends of mine.
Again, hope the old boobies don't explode.
It may be because he is doing something new almost every day. Or he is now in a little routine where I can read his signals, and he is sleeping. My God my child is sleeping when he needs to sleep!
You have no idea what a difference this makes. Even if he still wakes up at 4am for a feed, I don't care. I even enjoy it it to some extent.
That's right. I even enjoy the 4am feed.
I know. Seriously.
He smiles all the time, and he has started picking up little foibles unique to him. Perhaps it's because I spend 24/7 with him, but I feel like I know my son now. Inside and out.
Speaking to friends in South Africa who also have babies has been interesting. Mainly because most - no all - get help. Domestic help is cheap and easy there. Here? I dread the day I have to go back to work and watch most of my salary disappear into the nanny fund. I still have a few months to go - thank goodness - I am really not ready to give up this Full Time Mummy thing up yet - until we have to start being very careful with our spending. Right up until he starts school.
It's a hard concept. Those overseas holidays and OMG Waitrose foods are going to be few and far between from January.
Fuck. OK backpeddle. Where was I.
One of my friends asked how I do it. "How do you manage to look after Sebastian every hour of the day?"
Well, when you don't have a choice you just do. You get used to it. And the pros are I don't miss a thing. If he starts sitting up or rolling over, guaranteed I'll be the first to see it. The cons are I that I never get an afternoon nap or a regular night out with the husband like you do.
I've gathered already that I have a bit of an eccentric child. (Yay? I think?).
He likes to sleep with his doudou over his head.
He has little security blanket with a head sewn onto it, made of muslin. It's breathable and safe, but to other people when I am walking him around in the pram, it looks as though I am either slightly neglectful or am trying to rear a child who is really into burqas.
I mean, look at him. This is all his own doing.
He pulls it over his face and that's how he settles himself to sleep. Cute or what? Scary or what?
I have to go and check on him all the time, as you might just imagine.
He's also found himself. Discovery via mirror. And stares and smiles at his reflection while I massage his back.
Gosh, I just love him. *
*Trying to swear less. Mummy might say a few fucks behind his back, but is making a concerted effort not to say fuck anywhere within ear range. And [mostly] winning.
There were some readings, and we got to light a candle and place a Gerbera daisy in a ring.
It was tremendously sad. Seeing a room full of weeping parents who had lost babies. Another reminder that we are not alone.
There was a couple next to us who had lost both their twins. My heart just aches for them. There was a tea session after the service, but I noticed that they didn't come to that.
I desperately wanted to approach them. But then I thought, "But why?" Here I was, standing with Sebastian who was gurgling away, and say, what, "Hello, I lost a twin?" Surely they would immediately look at Sebastian and say "Well lucky you, you have one at least."
Best not approach them at all. It would only hurt them.
Sebastian reminds me of Molly a lot. I'm not sure if that would happen if someone loses both their twins. I always wonder if she would look similar to him, or be loving my milk and turning into a little fattie like he is. Would she be trying to roll now like he is?
This week we are taking him to his first wedding. I'll be wearing a giant maxi dress to hide the staunchness of my heaving hips. I'll put him in a white romper with sailboats across the front.
(Dressing boys can be fun. He has shirts and things with dirt diggers, tractors racing cars and boats on them. It's fucking cute.)
The Brit is one of the groomsmen, so I'll drive up to Buckinghamshire with him separately, and then after the ceremony I'll tuck him in and leave him with his first babysitter.
Eeek! I know it's normal to be scared and anxious - right? Mummy is going to need a few glasses of champagne just for the nerves.
Then on the weekend, we travel south to the Brit's hometown to see his family in Hampshire. Taking him out of his little London routine and bubble is freaking me out.
The joy I feel when he smiles though.
It's really hard to describe how much you love your own child. It goes beyond anything you have experienced in your life; you live for this tiny little thing. You'd do anything, literally anything for your child. (Like register him for two private prep schools that we can't currently afford, but plan to win the lottery before he attends. Or loot something.)
The love you feel for your child runs deep within you, and just when you think you couldn't love it anymore - you're too full - you love it more than you did the day before. To the point when you think if anything happened to you child, you'd die. You'd break in half. I am completely paranoid something will happen to Sebastian. I check on him every 10 minutes when he sleeps during the day.If anyone were to try and harm him? This Mother Ship would destroy them.
I love my little boy more than anything in this world; my life is no longer my own.
He was 3 months old yesterday, so to celebrate I met up with a friend and her baby who is roughly the same age as Sebastian.
I noticed she'd been frequenting this baby spa whereby babies get to swim around in a pool, get massaged and generally pampered.
While my vice is buying too many baby clothes, hers was visiting this delightful place every week.
I wanted a piece of that.
It's amazing. Owned by a South African couple from Cape Town, natch. They patented the 'Bubby', this foam floatation device that the baby's head rests on while they swim freely around this warm, jacuzzi bath. Classical music in the background.
Only in London would you get such a thing: a spa just for babies.
Well, it was just the most heartwarming thing. Watching my little boy and his baby buddy swim, while their heads floated above water.
Such a clever piece of equipment, well didn't I bloody think of this? Could be a hashtag millionaire by now.
Then they get massaged. By the time it was all over, both babies were lying conko in their buggies, passed out from all the action. Seb's never done so much exercise in his little life.
Definitely going to go again. Will ditch buying any baby clothes for a while to replace expenditure.
Look at those chubby legs. He's a sumo wrestler.
Chilling in the tub with his buddy.
My sweet baby child.
Fascinated by the toys.
How cool is this business?
The back story goes like this: the Brit has always been keen on getting some new kitchen knives. The ones we currently own are blunt and crap, so I thought since I fucked up with the gift scenario on our first wedding anniversary, I thought I'd - on behalf of Sebastian of course - make up for it on Father's Day.
I bought a bunch of really really sharp Jamie Oliver knives and a bamboo chopping board to go with it, purely for his kitchenic bliss.
You can probably see where this is going.
Third World Ant and her hubby are in London this week (yay!), and so the Brit decided to embark on some culinary grandeur for their arrival yesterday. A fancy Italian dish that I can't pronounce.
Well, he went and chopped the tip of his thumb off didn't he.
He chopped off the tip and it landed somewhere in the salad. Just as we had put Sebastian down to bed in his room, (which involves a lot of to and froing, crying, settling, etc etc).
The blood was gushing, the Brit was slumped on the floor feeling faint and sweating, while I was digging around for the first aid kit wondering if I should try to bundle him in the car and whisk him off to the emergency room. But wait, fuck! We have a baby, what do I do with the baby?
We sealed off the gaping hole in his finger with tape and plasters, while he kind of moaned on the floor, and then Sebastian kicked off. Started screaming blue murder in his room.
So for about half an hour, I was running to and from the kitchen where my husband was basically dying, and my baby who was basically screaming his head off.
Which boy to settle first, who to attend to longest? This must be what parenting and being the matriarch of the house must feel like. Put Rescue Remedy on the Brit's tongue, fed him water, dashed to Seb's room and put his dummy back in his mouth and patted his chest reassuringly. Dashed back to kitchen, mopped Brit's brow with an ice pack so that he didn't completely pass out. Mopped up the blood. Ran back to Seb's room and jiggled his cot and shoved dummy back in.
"I think I'm just going to lie down," gasps the Brit.
No no. Don't do that. Lying down means sleeping which means I wouldn't be able to drag him unconscious out of the house and into the car.
Seb is wailing in the background.
"Two secs. STAY UPRIGHT."
Eventually, the bleeding stopped and Seb fell asleep.
Then yesterday while our guests were here, a wine galss dropped off the table and punctured a full on gaping hole in the Brit's foot.
I'm serious. He is either trying to amputate himself or nature is trying to kill him off.
Blood everywhere, out came the first aid kit not 24 hours later, bandages, plasters, tape.
Mopping up of blood, wondering if we should get him to the emergency room for some stitches. Luckily this time Sebby was fast asleep.
Not letting my husband near knives, glasses or sharp objects for a few days. Not that he wants to chop anything again anyway.