peas on toast
1) Go for my last Hartbeeps (songs and play group) class (I might cry. I'm naff. I know all the songs off by heart and I sing them everyday.)
2) Write a post about the items I found most valuable during my maternity leave.
I wanted to leave something helpful on the Internet, in the case a pregnant mummy is Googling a list of things she needs to get before her baby is born and happens to come across this.
I got s twins list. The person who gave it to me had twins, so I trusted that everything on there had to be bought. They were 'essentials' not 'nice to haves.' As a result, before they were born, I had 40 muslins, 20 bibs, 8 bath towels. I still have those things, and I obviously haven't used half of them.
If there's one thing I can suggest: literally buy only the essentials. You won't need or use even half the stuff you buy, even if, like me, you thought you were bringing two home. Trust me.
The things I found most valuable, throughout maternity leave, were:
Without a shadow of a doubt, my new highchair.
You get so many types of highchair; some clip onto the side of a table (if space is an issue), some look lovely (beautifully crafted in wood, painted and have a Victorian feel about them), others look cheap and plasticy ugly but work incredibly, while very few look good and actually do the job.
I wish someone had really put emphasis on this for me. If there's one thing you should spend money on; it's a highchair that works. I went for aesthetics - the East Coast white wooden one. A bitch to clean, funny straps that don't work, he would slip through it, wouldn't sit properly, and become distracted so wouldn't eat. Looked nice, but also took up room.
I've eBayed back to where it came from and got myself a Baby Bjorn. It's small, looks better than you think, and the child is locked in. Easy to clean, no mess anywhere, no distractions, he sits like a regal aristocrat, and he can push blueberries around the tray easily to pick them up.
My only regret? I never did it sooner. I should've got this when he was just learning to sit, as it helps them to sit upright too.
Tommee Tippee milk feeding bibs
Except I use them for any feeding. They have this dribble/milk soft thing at the neck. So nothing gets past it and seeps through.
All other bibs have a gap between the neck and the neckline. If you have a baby you'll know that by the end of the day, things start growing under there. You'll find everything under there, from last week's brocolli to hairballs to milk goo to unthinkable things. It's a catchment zone, and most bibs don't stop shit from getting stuck there.
Except these bad boys.
A few small, ceramic bowls
I found using my Granny's old ceramic bowls from her dinner service, the best thing for all of Sebastian's meals. You can safely heat them up in the microwave (heating plastic is bad....), and it seems to serve just the right amount for lunch, breakfast and dinner. I also store all sorts of finger foods in them in the fridge.
They've been the most useful things in the kitchen, ever.
Everyone will tell you to get tons of these. I was told I needed 80 for twins. I bought 40, and as you might imagine, we are overrun with the bastards. This place is one big muslin fortress.
You don't need that many. If you have five big muslin cloths, or ten smallish ones, you'll be just fine.
You'll use wipes and tissues and everything else too.
I bought some cheap cream muslins off eBay.
Different from feeding bibs. (I didn't know these kinds of things when I was pregnant. A bib was a bib was a bib.)
My baby dribbles a lot. He has been teething for, like, eight years. If he doesn't wear a dribble bib/neckerchief, the front of his clothes are wet within minutes.
They're essential. Seriously. I need to change his over a few times a day.
Again, a bit of an investment, but it's wonderful and soft for babies and really helps them sleep in their buggy. It keeps them cool in summer, warm in winter, and you don't need to worry about top sheets and lining blankets.
Buy this app for your phone/a device you're happy to leave near your sleeping baby. Immediately. I have so much to thank this app for. It would help settle my child and help put him back to sleep at all hours of the night, for months on end.
There are a few sounds to choose from, and in the end he liked the sooothing sounds of crashing waves. But the vacuum cleaner, shushing noise and heart beat were favourites for a while. He couldn't get to sleep without it, and honestly, it really helped him realise it was sleepy time.
Car seat to pram brackets/converters
It means you can put your car seat on the pram, for when you travel. It's genius and it makes life so much simpler, especially when you fly.
Just two little plastic thingies that clip onto the frame of the pram.
We could take our car seat away, and simply put it on the pram frame when we needed to push him around. It became known as 'the travel system,' and this is what we are taking to SA too.
Goes without saying...
....the play gym I was given (things hanging off it and music, flashing lights), and the Baby Bjorn bouncer were lifesavers. Before they crawl you can put them in there while you do stuff. My baby screamed for the first two months I put him down, but after that, these two things were brilliant.
Stuff I didn't need:
Muslins wrap them up so much better, tighter and softer. As long as you have a large size muslin, you can swaddle so much better than anything else marketed for 'miracle swaddling.'
Or a top-to-toe bath. I was given a baby bath, but never used it as I already had a bath seat I could lay Seb on in the bath. I preferred this, as it was less fiddly, and the baby bath seat lasted a long time, until he could sit up.
Excessive cot and moses basket sheets
For some reason, before I had children, I was under the impression that babies regularly shat themselves throughout the night. They do pooh a lot, but they don't soil through five layers of sheets. Every single night. Especially when they are just drinking milk.
I had fuckloads of sheets, ready for two cots and two moses baskets. I have reBayed these too. You only need two for each cot and moses basket.
I was also told by a mother whose child scratched the bejeesus out of his face - never seen anything like it since - it was weird - and told that if I don't buy at least ten pairs of scratch mitts, he will damage his face with his nails.
I cut his nails. That's what I did. So buy a baby nail kit instead. The mitts really aren't worth it.
Some babies/mummies love this thing - swear it's the best thing
ever - hmmm....meh. Sebastian didn't love it at all. For one, his legs were a bit fat to fit into it, so it didn't look helluva comfortable. For two, he twisted back, and wouldn't sit upright in it.
Not an essential, I'd say.
Now if only I could take the high chair to South Africa tomorrow....
Amongst a din of other things going on, my maternity leave has suddenly come to an abrupt end.
I am officially 'back at work,' but have taken my accumulated holiday for the rest of the year. After South Africa, I am back.
Sebastian has been to his first settling in session at the nursery (which was fine, although I still feel like I'm fumbling in a sad darkness, not knowing if I'm doing the right thing and just hoping it is...)
I am starting to pack, do multiple loads of washing in preparation for home, wrapping and giving out Christmas prezzies, trying not to stuff my mouth full of mince pies knowing I'll be putting my pasty white thighs on display, and in almost unyielded reaction, packing extra maxi dresses in my suitcase. (Free-flowing, floaty and bums and legs hidey hidey, in veiled disguise, even though everyone knows why you're wearing one.)
Looking back on maternity leave though; it really has been the most epic, challenging adventure of my life. Everything else I have done that has been remotely challenging, comes with some sort of steadfast manual or predictability. Backpacking alone through a third world country on a shoestring? There are books, countless tips and tricks, maps, beer, couchsurfers, other backpackers, and only yourself to fend for. Starting a new challenging job? There's a job description, mentors, managers, manuals and experience to count on.
Running a marathon? You can train, eat the right food, stop for water along the way.
Motherhood is a baptism of fire into the complete unknown and unpredictable, and it is completely different to anything I have ever embarked on before. As every single baby is different, there isn't a surefire way to get your baby to eat/sleep/stop crying/latch on/the list goes on. It's a journey of complete trial and error; and you may be blessed with a textbook child that does everything like it's meant to, or not, like mine, who had colic, lost his twin so needed extra comfort and couldn't be put down for the first 2 months of his life without screaming.
It's been incredible, and the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. Juggling time, routine, and basically living for something else. No time for anything but for baby, you don't do anything for you anymore and you don't mind it one bit. Breastfeeding and pumping my boobs sometimes four times a day sometimes meant I couldn't pluck my eyebrows for weeks, and I'd only get to brush my teeth by the afternoon when he slept.
Watching my little boy grow, his little milestones, his giggles and smiles. And his vomit. Pooh. And like recently with a monstrous cold, snot.
Meeting other mums going through the same thing is solace in the storm, and it's been wonderful to have so many nearby that I could grab a coffee with, both of us grappling with buggies and babies while we try to get a sip in while the cup is still hot.
What an adventure. I cannot believe it's just about over. And I become a working mum.
If I could compare my day job to being a full-time mummy for almost 9 months, this is what it looks like in a corporate strategy type of way:
Mummy: Getting child to start eating finger foods before December.
PR Woman: Getting a promotion before December.
Short term goals.
Mummy: Getting child to finish at least 500ml of milk by the end of the day.
PR Woman: Talk to five journalists, send them details of, plus give them, new product in lieu of launch tomorrow.
Mummy: Remember to add flaxseed omega oil to his cereal so that he grows up to be extremely clever, plays the violin and gets a music scholarship to the Wetherby School.
PR Woman: Take editor out for a boozy steak-laden lunch at the Hawksmoor and sweet talk him through a piece he is writing about something bad, so that by the end of of lunch, his story is at worst, neutral and at best, nice [about the company I work for.]
First thing on my To Do list each day.
Mummy: Arise at 4am (early days) or 7am (from 6 months onwards) in order to offer breast to baby. Later on, this was a bottle; so get up, make up milk and give bottle. Bribe, distract, do anything to get him to take most of it.
PR Woman: Read a copy of the Metro on the tube so that I know the top stories circulating before I get into the office.
Typical outline of a strategy.
Mummy: If he sleeps until 3pm, that means I can give him his milk by 3:30pm, which means by 5pm he will be hungry for dinner and therefore tired, and ready to go to bed. The bath will put him in a nice, relaxed mood before, so that he winds down just enough to go to sleep. If this strategy is largely ignored (it mostly was), abort the above and feed child CoLief so that he when he starts to cry for no reason at 4pm until 9pm, you can anticipate it before it happens, and then get ready to rock, sing to, bounce around, lay on chest, knees, in pram, anything to make it stop.
PR Woman: Meet with Marketing, to ensure we are aiming for the same audience, and prepare a campaign that targets consumer magazines in the 20-30 range, by giving one of them an exclusive on a vital bit of information that we hope will be picked up by another five papers after it has landed. Prepare folder of high resolution pictures and brief spokesperson on the FAQs, briefly retraining them on difficult corporate questions that will be asked by the Daily Mail. Line up a set of radio and television interviews for the spokesperson, while selling in the story elsewhere and briefing those about something that isn't of massive importance, but because you've come up with a killer angle, everyone thinks it's a brilliant story.
Mummy: As about to exit the door, child does a massive poonami, soiling five layers of clothes, my shirt and pram lining. You're already late, and now have to peel these off, soak them (because they're from Petit Bateau and are therefore 1) nice and 2) expensive), and redress.
PR Woman: Your story has been shifted off the page because something more current/exciting/diabolical has happened and even if your story was amazing, this news is much more important.
Mummy: You can't find a changing table/high chair/you left the wipes at home - basically rookie errors - when trying to dine/go out/do something outside of the home with a baby.
PR Woman: A newspaper seems excited about your story, invites you in, only to start talking about the thing you most want them not to write at all, and ends up as a page four in the Sun, which means every builder/plumber/Sun reader in the country will see it because the opposite page always has a scantily dressed woman on it showing off her boobs. The only solace is the Sun is behind a paywall, so the Big Boss in America won't see it, but all the directors who have a copy of the paper in London will.
Mummy: You have a bottle of Vanish Oxy Chrystals on the sink at the ready, as you've discovered it removes every stain known to man, save beetroot. When he does eat beetroot you make sure you only dress him in dark navy blue, so that any seepage and stain, never gets noticed.
PR Woman: You call a competitor newspaper, hoping that they don't know that there's a massive scoop about to explode across the original newspaper you called, and sell them the exclusive.
Mummy: You can't find a changing table, so you find a bench in the middle of a park and change his nappy in full view of ogling strangers, and just repeat to yourself that you are a good mother and you'll probably never see these passersby again.
PR Woman: A story has landed that you never managed to grapple off the journalist/your talking to him has somehow exacerbated it, and you try to find all the positives before you hide every copy of the Sun in the building. It's only on page 4, it's below the fold, the journalist is a known hater, he got the story slightly wrong so we can 'leverage' an apology, no one else picked it up.
Mummy: He ate all of his food, took all of his milk and is sleeping soundly like an angel. Mother of the Year potential, right here.
PR Woman: A six page spread, you have been working on with a magazine, has finally been published, and it has a captive market (it's an airline magazine), and mentions all your products, praises them, and on top of it, he wants to do a follow up in a few months time.
Mummy: He put a piece of broccoli in his mouth! All by himself!
PR Woman: My work nemesis looked visibly jealous when I casually laid the six page spread over the bosses desk with a casual, "I'm really pleased how this turned out; I really had to hold his hand on this one."
Mummy: Vom-splatted boyfriend jeans, a top with buttons/flaps/easy access to boobs, a cardigan (also for easy access to boobs.)
PR Woman: Depending on who you're visiting, today it's Vogue, so everything that is completely stylish, and fashionable, but not too fashionable because you're not a try hard. You need to show that you have effortless style, so you settle for a button up silk shirt, black skinny jeans and a massive necklace.
Mummy: Cold coffee, water out of a Camelbak to keep your milk flow up.
PR Woman: White Americano, mineral water, herbal tea.
Mummy: Not the boss, but feels like the boss because it tells you you're doing it wrong/what to do/gives excessive and conflicting information: The Health Visitor. "He should weigh this," or "Don't feed him Weetabix, it's full of sodium."
PR Woman: Your manager. "You need to lead these two big projects from start to finish, so that you have enough visibility with the director for promotion in the next cycle."
Mummy: Mummy friends. The ones at the same play group, visit the same Rhyme Time at the library, or belong to the local community meet-up. Some you talk to, some you don't, but you're all doing the same thing, and your project is to keep the child alive, happy and flourishing. You talk about bodily fluids, food, milk, sleep tactics, recipes, more sleep, schools, childcare.
PR Woman: Your workmates. Some are brilliant at their jobs, others are not so good, some are in positions of leadership and should be, others shouldn't be at all. You're all going for the same thing: visibility, recognition, Story of the Week, and ultimately, more money. You banter about things - office gossip, hilarious stories (in and out of press), which pub to go to after work, and work itself.
Mummy: Hard work. 24 hour job. No holidays, no lull periods. No pay. No help (unless loaded/live in third world country), satisfaction quotient is extremely high. When your baby is predictable/happy/does something cool, all the sleep deprivation is forgotten.
PR Woman: Competitive, cut throat, 12 hour days. Perks. Holidays are sporadic, but taken in exotic place. Pay is good, but not as good as a job in finance or marketing. Satisfaction quotient oscillates between extreme high and extreme disappointment, depending on what you land and what you don't. You're only as good as your last story.
Mummy: Make bottles, put a load of washing on, make his next meal, get dressed (both of you), go to a class.
PR Woman: Write the press release, call the Telegraph, come up with five interesting campaign ideas, listen to pitches from other agencies to help with said campaign.
And now? I need to do both. With a little less intensity on the Mummy part, as I will only be playing this role in the mornings and nights.
I'm trying not to feel completely overwhelmed....
We're falling like soldiers in this house.
Not only am I excited to go home for Christmas after six years of doing it elsewhere (here mostly, and one stray year when I was backpacking in Argentina), but it's the first Christmas my Brit will be spending down south.
He's never experienced a sunny, warm Christmas; the mere concept of it blows his mind.
"I can't imagine what it's like...do you just hang out on the beach?"
Well, yes, if I lived by the beach.
I explained that we do pretty much everything that people do here, but without the Christmas jumpers and Seasonal Affective Disorder lamps. Brits generally put on a better show though. It has to be said. Because it's so cold and dark, they really go all out on the food, the cosy atmosphere, decorations and things like Black Friday. When the weather is shyte, it's something to really look forward to, so people here really embrace the festive.
They wear lots of sparkly things, drink loads of mulled wine and spiced cider, and warm fruity puddings. Certain streets have big "switching on of the Christmas lights" evenings, where Christmas markets come out, we all bundle up warm and go and watch.
We did it the other night with our other baby-addled friends. We bundled up the babies, went down to Northcote Road, sunk a few glasses of prosecco, and felt all Christmassy.
December in London is wonderful.
It's January when you pack away the sparkles, Christmas jumper and there's nothing to look forward to until the spring (and longer days), that you want to suicide yourself.
Anyway, we are spending Christmas in Cape Town with the extended family for a few days, having rented a house with a swimming pool.
We are making an extra special effort - for the Brit's sake, and as we have a new member of the family to celebrate.
We'll be whacking a turkey on the weber, crisping ourselves in the sun as we do so, eating cold gammon and salads, and drinking chilled wine. Afterwards, we will have meat sweats and will sleep it off for three hours as we fight against the heat and digesting of a massive meal.
I cannot wait.
I also can't help myself.
"I need to tell you about a family tradition we do, but I'm not sure you're going to like it."
Peas: Well, you know how it's about 30 degrees and after you eat Christmas lunch you usually need a sleep and a swim?
Peas: Well. In our family, we all strip down and go skinny dipping. We've done it for years.
Peas: It's nothing hectic, you just jump in the pool and that's that.
Brit: With your mother? And father?
Brit: That's just weird. Not doing it. Can't do that.
Peas: It'll be fine, promise.
Brit: That's so weird. Are you having me on?
Peas: It sounds worse than it is.
Brit: No. You guys crack on. I'll go for a walk.
And never come back.
Peas: It'll be fine.
So he thinks that's what we do. Am I being cruel?
(We don't. Just in case.)
Back to my Lem Sip and 8000 tissues.
'Tis the season, after all.
Seb is too small to know anything right now, and since we will be in South Africa for Christmas (I haven't had Christmas at home for 6 years. I am SO excited), we haven't gone bonkers this year round.
Bonkers being getting a Christmas tree, decorations, all of that stuff. But I have been watching my Twinless forums closely to see what others do as families to remember and include their deceased twin.
Most of the people on the Twinless Twin forum are from the other side of the pond, and are, understandably, very American (read: large) in what they do. Here, in Britland, where remembrance over Christmas time and birthdays is a more low-key, poignant sort of affair, I had a good think about how we can include Molly without it being 1) cheesy, b) over the top and c) sad.
Many families hang a Christmas stocking for their other twin. I liked this idea, but I wasn't sure what we would really do with the other stocking. It's all very well, but what would we stuff it with? Surely anything that goes in there wouldn't be meaningful, and wouldn't it just die away after a few years anyway?
So, after some thought, our Christmas family tradition will be as such:
We will fill Sebastian's stocking with things from Father Christmas; and we will fill Molly's stocking with old toys and things we no longer want for children who are less fortunate than us. That way Sebastian will be comforted knowing his sister is very present with us at Christmas while also learning that it's about giving and thinking about those who aren't as lucky as we are.
I had their stockings lovingly crafted, by a lovely lady called Carol who runs her shop on Etsy, and they arrived yesterday.
I have mixed feelings looking at them, but am also comforted - she is with us at a time where families traditionally bandy together, and she hangs out right next to her twin brother. Just as she was meant to.
The other thing we managed to do, (actually, this was the Brit's project mostly), was create a 3D stamp of Molly's footprints.
When they were born, they took her prints in ink. Her little feet are enclosed in a booklet in her memory box, and we thought having them on a stamp meant we could possibly make something out of them/use them.
I had her feet cast in silver not long ago, but they managed to do that from a piece of paper. For the stamp, the Brit used a 3D printer - to create the right diagram, and mould for the stamp.
Had they been born a generation ago, we never would've been able to do such a thing.
And the results were absolutely astonishing.
Dipped in paint, the detail and texture is quite surreal. Bearing in mind her feet were really tiny - the size of a ~33 week old baby - so we stretched them out to make them a little bigger, roughly the size of a 6 month old baby.
Again, technology can be an incredible thing.
It's almost like she has stood there.
All these things may seem like overkill - jewellery, foot stamps, stockings - but it is absolute therapy for me. Again it falls into the acknowledgement basket, and it's a way to process things and remember her, feel close to her.
Now to think of the most appropriate way to acknowledge her on their birthday. Sebastian is 8 months old today, so his first birthday is on the horizon, it's crazy!
I have such mixed emotions about it - I anticipate the day with extreme excitement and utter dread. It's kind of how I felt about the day they were born.
Like most things, pictorials tell it best, so I'll litter this post with enough photos to slow your internet speeds down considerably, (still loading? Are they?), however please note that there is a recurring theme that pops up within the slew of photos below. And it isn't intentional.**
Going to Finland on a weekend break is an extremely strange thing to do. Most people travel to Helsinki for business (massive telecom centre etc etc), or they go to Lapland up near the Arctic circle to see the northern lights and/or go dog sledding.
Finland is evidently a very flat country, and Helsinki itself was apparently created as a port for a Swedish king back in the viking ages. He had his little post that he could stop off in on the way to Russia, and somehow, it remains very much like as was intended. It's a bit of an outpost, and is Swede-like in nature: clean, somewhat featureless and fucking freezing.
As I've said before, I like visiting places nobody else likes to go to. I also like bleak, 'featureless' places, because therein lies the adventure. When you have to look for the cool stuff, because it isn't blatantly obvious. This is why I had a love affair with Johannesburg when I first moved there. I had to find the pretty. Once I had found it, (and one man's ugly is another man's pretty - I think Ponte City, for example, is a sensational structure), I went down the rabbit warren of love. Cape Town, it's all glaringly aesthetic, you don't need to work to find stuff there; it's all pretty two dimensional.
Some of the most special places entail you having to dig a little deeper.
Anyway. Finland is probably the least well known of Scandinavian countries, and for fairly good reason. It certainly doesn't shine as brightly as Denmark or Sweden, but Helsinki did remind me a lot of Oslo (minus the exorbitant expense. It's expensive, but nothing is as expensive as Norway.)
My baby is a trooper. He is a traveller like his mama. Sebastian caught a cough on the way there, and yet still managed to smile and happily be bundled in five layers of clothing to go out.
This church, carved out of rock, is one of the main tourist attractions.
Luckily, it did get better.
Helsinki Cathedral. See what I mean? It's not especially outstanding, it is kind of vanilla, but honestly it's not just Nokia handsets and blonde people.
We put on all the clothes we owned and walked downtown to the design quarter. This was apparently where is all happens. Someone once told me Helsinki is the New Berlin - they were wrong - don't listen to everything backpackers tell you - but this part of town was where things got interesting.
My little urchin was so dressed up, he couldn't really move.
We went to the Design Museum, as I imagined that if this place is anything like it's other Nordic siblings, it should have some beautiful shit inside.
It did, but it was creepy. (Even better.)
To get into the Design Museum with a baby buggy meant we had to go through the back of some basement porthole, where a lady wearing her granny's curtains (looked much better than it sounds) let us in, through a secret passageway.
When we arose to exhibition level, the first thing we saw was this:
Plaster dolls, wedged in boxes, bound up with tape.
And scissors in plywood. Just standard Finland, I have come to realise.
Turns out it isn't just a nation of horror film design and creepiness. They have designed some almost sunny-looking things too, and some stuff is globally classic. (Including the orange-handled scissors. They made those.)
I love the high chair. Finnish people made the bubble chair. See?
Stopping for a coffee.
The Finnish are into their ceramics too. It happened to be a ceramic exhibition, but all sorts of stuff came out of the woodwork.
Like these creepy little soldier boys.
And awesome retro 70s murals.
And creepy masks, because they love a scary mask, as we've already seen at our hotel.
And anime-type Japanesey viking sculptures.
And viking aliens.
Back in the outside world, the shops in the area were festooned with beautiful Nordic Christmas decorations and design pieces. Nothing beats real Christmas decorations. The festive season is fraught with plastic tat; but here it's all wool and beads and silver and fur.
The building below reminded me of communism and it got me all nostalgic for places like Poland, east Germany, Czech Republic, Estonia.
This place could've been communistic, but it wasn't. Those clever vikings managed to avoid most colossal twentieth century hazards.
Yeah, I don't know what that means either.
There are areas of the city that are fiercely eccentric; you just have to find them.
...And try not to spend your mortgage on cool designery things for the house.
"When I was 8 months old, my parents took me to Finland. What for, I'll never really know."
* Not really. Just Finland.
** See? Completely terrifying.
...the creepiest country I've ever been to so far?
The hotel is a cross between a Stephen King novel about masks that come alive in the dead of night, and The Shining. (Hotels with red carpets.)
On coming into land, you see clusters of little islands that make up the jagged coastline of Helsinki, just stuffed with these talk Nordic fir trees. Between all the buildings are these Twin Peaks trees.
It's creepy and weird. I LOVE it.
On closer inspection, so on ground level, the trees are all tall and packed together, very Blair Witch project.
I have a feeling that we won't have to venture too far to find something INSANE here. Finland might be Scandinavia; clean, expensive, dark and cold in winter. But it's definitely creepy and strange.
God it feels good to be in a ridiculous place again.
So far my son and husband don't seem to mind it either, mostly ignoring the red carpet and masks and living it up in our upgraded room (a suite!)
And, according to my Favourite Irish Gay Friend who is a genius at languages, accents and linguistics in general, all I have to do is add 'leinen' to the end of everything to be understood in Finnish.
'Televisionleinen, Sebastianleinen, sofaleinen....'
The thing is though, it's not that cold. It's 1 degree. That's nippy, but it's not Baltic, which is the seaboard we lie on currently.
I am wondering if we will even see snow on this north pole expedition?
It's gone from being a storage dumping ground, to a muddy hole, to renovated into a functioning abyss. It's now a half laundry room, split into a spare room.
We painted it white, put tons of bright lights down there and added a day bed. To make it look less like a Fritzl Bunker and more like an inviting place for a guest to lay their head. My mother slept in there for 10 weeks without too many issues. I think.
So, because I thought Sebastian would be spending his days at home with a little pal and a nanny, I decided to really deck out the thing. Create a hybrid room.
A spare bedroom for adults, blended with a play room.
So not too much 'playroom', but not too much 'adult guest room' either. A nice blend, so that whoever is in there, feels comfortable and at home.
I love an interiors challenge.
I wanted the room to feel bright and open, given it is a small space. I also wanted to do this for another reason. Sebastian's nursery was created for both my twins. It still has two mobiles hanging on the ceiling, and much of it still reminds me of having two babies, but only filling the nursery with one. It's not the end of the world, and I don't want to completely change this. But I will be tweaking it slightly too.
We went to IKEA. I vowed never to go back there after last time. But we needed new wine glasses and luckily for everyone involved, Seb really loved his first trolley experience.
By accident I found this little circus tent - loved a 'fort' when I was a child so am sure he will too - and the circus theme formed the basis of the decor in this room. (I should add: circus sans clowns. There will be no clowns in the Fritzl chamber.)
He will only really start to use and appreciate this room when he is older, but I wanted to get it done before I went back to work.
So with the tent forming the basis of the room, this is what I did:
Mum made these flag tapestry numbers for us a few years ago, and the little quilt with elephants on was from a friend for Sebastian.
I bought some cushion covers in circussy prints. These Cath Kidston and Kirstie Allsopp ones were the best I could find, after scouring Pintrest and Etsy and Amazon and eBay and every other site on the internet.
Coincidentally, Cath Kidston and Kirstie Allsopp are actually cousins. How's that for a bit of interior design trivia?
The day bed is a wooden bench, that serves as a single and double bed, when pulled out. So when it's not in use it can be piled up with pillows, and be the perfect place to snuggle up, read books or chill out.
I wanted something that was slightly whimsical, gender neutral but fun, and these looked just right.
Then we added these funky hooks to the wall, and also bought these storage thingies from IKEA, to put books, toys or other bits in.
Then I took down the bunting in his bedroom/nursery, and put it downstairs. It works much better down here in the circus room.
We also added the shelf, so he had a place to stack his teddies, or when guests comes, their stuff.
I covered the existing pillows that were white in circus theme pillow cases - and these worked so well with the others I got too. Now anyone can rest easy when they're sitting here - boys, babies or adults.
Then, I saw H&M were selling little boys road rugs, so I got one of these for the floor.
My mum found this little chair at an antique shop for £4 when she was here.
For the side tables, and adult side of the room (which will be climbed on and pulled down no doubt), so let's assume this will be here for all of five and a half seconds - I stacked a collection of our old trunks and suitcases up, with a print and lamp.
Et voila. I'm just pleased he has an extra bit of space to play in. Our flat is rather small!
(Note baby gates that still have to go up - top and bottom of the stairs)
It's small, but it should work. The large drawers under the bed should hold a lot of storage and toys.
Am really happy.
You have three basic choices here: nursery, childminder or a nanny.
A nanny is the most expensive, and the most sought after - your child gets one-on-one attention, they get to stay in a home environment, probably won't catch measles in five seconds, and you can control what they eat.
In London, most nannies, for one child, costs anything from £1 500-£2 500 a month, depending on experience. It's extortionate, and one would see why many wouldn't bother going back to work.
We thought we'd be clever and set up a 'nanny share,' a new thing that has come out of this economy, where families that live near to each other, with similar-aged babies share the cost. The price tag comes down, but the flexibility ratio also goes down, and suddenly you realise you're at the mercy of not only your child's schedule, but three other people's too.
To cut a long story short, it hasn't worked out.
I'm sad and disappointed for Seb, as I think it would've been nice to have him under nanny care at least until he was one (he will be nine months when I return), but on the other hand, I am slightly relieved too.
We registered him at a nursery just in case, which is usually the second best option to a nanny. When I first started this process - looking for nannies, budgeting, looking at childminders and then realising most lived in high-rise council estates so aborting the mission after three separate visits - I was adamant that a nanny was the only thing that we could do for Seb.
I was convinced he wouldn't get the 1:1 care at a nursery, he was too little, many nurseries seemed like a 'dumping ground' for people's children. These are still concerns I have. No doubt.
But I'm trying to see the positive too. He will only go four days a week, (I'll work from home one of the days), and since meeting new mums this year, my feelings towards nursery have started to change.
"Nursery is definitely the right choice for me. It'll give Eleanor all the stimulation I can't give her, and it'll socialise her too."
"They seemed so nice, and he can do things he wouldn't be able to do at home - like messy play with paints."
"Sarah cries whenever another baby looks at her, so nursery will be really good for her to teach her how to be around other babies."
"Nursery is much more flexible in terms of holidays. When we had a nanny, I was always completely stressed out. I was running around trying to please the nanny more than anything, and then paying for her holidays while she wasn't looking after him was heavy going."
That's the other thing. When you employ a nanny, you employ her like a company employs a person. You pay their tax, their holidays, their everything. When you are on holiday, you still pay the nanny. When they are on holiday, you pay them still.
It's fine if you have lots of cash floating around, but I was panicking a bit about that already. Goodbye any 'lavish' holidays to Europe or South Africa; hello holidays in Southend-On-Sea?
Still, I am nervous. I just hope we are doing the right thing. We will go for a few 'settle in' sessions, but then we head off to South Africa for four weeks and Seb won't remember much any of this. I just hope the staff are dedicated and genuinely love children (and aren't just there because it's a 'job'); I hope he is happy and the food is of good standard.
Am I dreaming? I hope not.
We registered him and checked it out over the summer, and it seemed fantastic in terms of all the stuff they have - music room, garden with big jungle gyms and sandpits, lots of toys and facilities, even a messy play room which is white and spray-downable after the babies have wreaked havoc in there. But the thing that gnaws at me, is that he is going to be one of the youngest there.
He will either be in the group of 3-9 month olds (so oldest in the group), or in the 9-16 month old group, and therein the youngest. They'll assess where he fits best. It's three kids to one adult supervisor.
Am I being paranoid? Is there anyone out there who can offer some advice or hopefully, better still, some comfort in that I am doing the right thing by him?
There are a few things - rites of passage - that one must fulfil when becoming a true Londoner.
Most of these things can only be fulfilled over a number of years, and thereafter, as if by coincidence, you usually get a passport at the end of it. (I can apply for mine next April/May. I can hardly believe it.)
My little cousin from New Zealand (New Zaylin) is fresh off the boat; been here for 6 months. She still has much to learn. (Even if she doesn't think so.)
"British people love chain stores. Love a chain store."
No, they don't, actually.
The Brits love an independent, local, very British, small, homegrown, business. In fact. The big chain stores are all closing down and people would rather support the local small guys than the big "money guzzling" guys. At least, the educated middle-class do.
Her: "I love the tube and taking buses across town! It's so easy!"
Me: Um...until you are working. And you have to do that every morning and every night. And when you're on a mission, it's extra fun. Especially if you have to see a friend on the other side of the city. Eventually you won't bother, and you will gradually lose contact with that person."
Some of the things one realises as the years roll by, in no particular order:
1) People here don't actually eat crumpets all day long. Or much. Even at all. Maybe your gran does in deepest, darkest Lincolnshire for her 'tea' (which is supper), but I have yet to see anyone actually eat crumpets since I've been here.
2) The tube is a novelty for people who are fresh off the boat, or tourists. The novelty lasts no more than one week. Ever.
3) You will start eating organic, superfoods into your diet. All the supermarkets have an organic range, and stock gorgeous, beautiful ranges of fruit, vegetables and weird things like goji berry-infused quinoa. You have so much choice here, and if you do it wisely, it won't break the bank.
4) You will eventually buy a sleeping bag coat.
A guy came into work last year, and proudly chortled that he had invested in a Canadian goose down (very trendy and expensive) padded duffle coat. mobile sleeping bag.
Positively balking, "Oh dear, say goodbye to getting laid ever again," I said. "What made you do it?"
He said: I got sick of being cold.
I got sick of being cold.
He was closer to being a Londoner than I was. One year closer, in fact. Because I have also decided that I don't want to be cold anymore.
Not only is it a rite of passage for living here; it's a rite of age. One sounds old when they declare that they're sick of being cold.
One is old when they're sick of being cold; just like one is old when they're sick of seeing the inside of a nightclub. Or that one plays one's music too loud.
It's not that I was freezing in my wool coats, and these I will wear on warmer days.
It's just that, the moment I pulled on my new, duffley, entirely waterproof, windproof, coldproof, mobile sleeping bag, I knew there was no turning back.
Gosh, but this IS nice.
I am now, after all this time, a true Londoner. Where you don't bother fucking around, you instead buy something that forms a warm, soft barrier between you and the biting elements.
I did my research, and I went for this incredible Ted Baker number. (Best £300 quid I've ever spent?) It will last a lifetime, and it's all shiny and brassy and comes with an enormous hood filled with luscious faux fur.
It's quilted and lined with feathers, (not quite Canadian goose, but feels just as brilliantly warm), and it doesn't come with a belt, but rather pull rings to give it some shape.
One of the drawbacks of the mobile sleeping bag is that you look like you're in a tent, and you might as well kiss your shape (and sex life?) goodbye.
Not always so. This parka fits me like a glove baby. My only regret is that I didn't buy one winters ago.
No fuss, no wet wool, no belts hanging in toilets (that's happened so many times, I can't even tell ya. Going for a wee whilst wearing a coat with a belt. After too many mulled wines), no blustery freezing wind going down my neck.
And a zip that goes from top to bottom, no fannying about with buttons. (I'm not even product placing here. For real. I'm just so goddamn chuffed with my winter purchase.)
And like most Ted Baker jackets, it has a beautiful satiny lining. Yum.
It's parka time.
(Just in time for Finland. Also my son is literally being pushed around in a mobile fleece bag, so I'm in good company.)
Can I climb in there with you too please?
Sainsbury's delivers my groceries, and sometimes I get more or less than I bargained for. Last week I got a pumpkin the size of my fist. (The usual size, it seems, was not available.) This week I got bunch of 23 beetroots.
This kid is going to be eating red for a while to come. And staining everything within a five metre radius, myself included.
Sometimes I am completely content. So grateful for my son, for the new friends I've made, for the very simple pleasures that help me truck on through the day: coffee.
Coffee is my best friend, actually.
And so is this book, because Sebastian finds it endlessly entertaining, more so than anything in this world, apparently.
(Giving me time to actually drink my coffee. Hooray!)
Sometimes I am endlessly hungry.
Back on the Cape Town Beach Diet, 2.0. I only have about a month. Which means, a healthy dose of air, leaves and a sprinkling of quinoa are the only things allowed, basically.
Sometimes I am deeply sad. When I take time to think about Molly, I feel close to her, but it also means I go down a dark tunnel, do a left and there I am, in a hole that sucks me in. When I'm inside this hole - and it might only be for half an hour - I feel like the Sadness grips me and never lets me go. I feel so helpless and small in comparison to the Sadness.
Once I am out of the hole, I am alright again. I only visit the hole of Sadness a few times a week these days, but it still pulls me in.
Sometimes I get cataclysmically frustrated. Because I believe people still think, it seems, that I should be 'over' my sadness and focus on my living child. I focus on my living child pretty much 23 out of 24 hours, he is his own person. My dead child was also her own person. Just because I had one left out of two doesn't mean you just forget about the other. It does not work that way. My loss is slightly more complex than those who have simply lost a single child.
So if you think I should be 'over' this, fuck you.
Sometimes I wish more people have lost something human so that they understand. Only people who have lost really get it.
Sometimes I wonder how I will transgress back into my old life. Work, in other words. Well, I went in for half a day last week. Absolute mindfuck, but somehow not. Same same, but different. Watching marketing strategy presentations and wondering how this will fit in with my strategy at being a functioning working mother.
We had cocktails afterwards. And then some good Mexican food out of a hole in the wall somewhere in East London. That was quite nice. And we didn't even get food poisoning. Total bonus.
Sometimes the thing that used to make me stir inside the most, comes back to itch me again. I have parked my favourite hobby, for the most part, this year, because my new favourite hobby - growing and rearing a child - takes priority.
The Brit travels a lot for work, but most of the places he goes to, we have been before or otherwise don't appeal, so I haven't joined him on a trip for a while.
Until he said 12 magical words two night ago.
"Shit, I forgot, I am going to Finland in two weeks time."
Hold the bus, where?
I say, that doesn't sound like Germany (where he is now) or France. That sounds cold, weird and foreign. Possibly even communistic. Probably bleak and brutalist.
Just the kind of places I love.
In fact, Dove and I had made plans to go there on our Baltic trip, but ran out of time.
"Sebastian and I are coming to Helsinki with you."
It'll be dogs balls freezing, and Seb will need to be transported around in a featherdown sleeping bag, but it will be a winter wonderland full of startlingly Scandinavian people who speak in Eskimo Language.
Yeah, I mean, it's practically the North Pole.
But I get to tick another country off the list. And maybe see a real igloo and stuff.
I can't wait.
They say having a child(ren) helps to chill you out.
Boet, I don't know about that.
In some respects, yes. Like, at the moment I am wearing a pom pom beanie when I go outside because I can't be fussed with actual hair brushing. How I don't have dreadlocks, I dunno, (washing regularly maybe?), but yes, I have become completely chilled out about my barnet.
I also, like most mums, exit the house with baby detritus on my being. So yes, in a manner of speaking, I have chilled out about what my trousers manage to pick up over the course of a day.
Two things I haven't chilled out about at all, and may cause foreseeable issues, are:
Everything else that slides towards unkept anarchy, is mostly fine with me. The two things above - well, I feel nauseas just thinking about both.
Let's start with Mess. When I refer to Mess, I mean in general. I have been blessed with a little boy, and this means that from now on, he will try to trash my house. In fact, just last week a woman at a playgroup (with a boy on her lap) turned to me, winked, and said, "Girls wreck your head; boys wreck your house."
Whichever you determine is worse, at the moment my baby is already wrecking mine. House, that is. I'm giving him finger foods, which if he doesn't put in his mouth and then spit directly onto the floor in a salivary ball, he will just smoosh them around his plate and then push it onto the floor.
I dress him like he's going paintballing, because he will smear foodstuffs all over his clothes, often things like blueberries and bread.
There's shit everywhere. I am forever with dustpan and cloth, and while it's exhausting cleaning up after him and his destructive trail, I am aware of two things. One, it's only going to get worse as he ascends into toddlerdom. Two, if I don't have a clean house, I have a panic embolism.
I'm ridiculously houseproud. My house has to be in order - from having an immaculate basin and toilet to clean surfaces and gleaming dishes.
Obviously most of the time these days, these things aren't to be. But I'll be damned, that if I have guests over, my house had better be spotless.
I'm in a lot of trouble aren't I? I mean, when he learns to pee standing up, he is going to decorate the bathroom floor all over, all the time.
He will smear mud and all sorts on the floor and couch. But still, I have to control it; I will control it. I cannot function otherwise.
When you have a kid, there are three bodily fluids you'll be exposed to (explosed to?) multiple times a day. The fluids will explode from all orifices, everywhere, and two times out of three, your conversations will revolve around them: their colour, how big, frequency and with what force they exited the body.
I don't mind this chat, never have.
Pooh, vomit and snot. I have become accustomed to and have mastered - I'd like to think - the first two. I can wipe Sebastian's ass with one hand, while using the other to stop him wriggling; I have dealt with three consecutive Man Chunders that he projectiled over me in quick succession, so I've earned my stripes, so to speak, there.
Now that he is on a full array of foods, this new menu has done wonders for the smell. The Brit and I need gas masks when we change him, and yet, it still - still - doesn't repulse me as much as much as snot.
When I was an au pair about a hundred years ago, the family introduced me to this utterly unforgivable snot-clearing device to extract snot in the event the baby got a cold.
It was a tube that you suck on to help pull it out.
Dude. I am about to vomit over this keyboard, (as am sure you are too), but for the love of Christ, what the fuck.
I find it difficult to clean Sebastian's nose of the nasal offerings that he presents to me most days. Tissues, earbuds, I really only go there if I really have to. If it's right there, I'll immediately wipe it away but I'll throw up a little in my mouth when I do so.
If it's up his nose and takes some wrestling to get at it, no thanks, I don't even try. He is going to be one of those children that learns to wipe and blow his own nose at a very young age.
I'm honestly considering doing this as a priority before potty training.
I love my son more than anything conceivable. But I cannot handle this snot.
Or mess. But snot more.
Dove: Nice machaan, you doing some shopping?
Peas: Yes, but shit shopping. I have had to buy myself some new...work clothes.
Dove: Why isn't that nice?
Peas: Because it reminds me that in about 8 weeks, I'll be back at work. And I can't fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, so I've basically had to buy myself a new wardrobe.
Dove: Hashtag first world problems.
Peas: It's three pairs of enormous trousers, a few smart tops and a coat.
Dove: What is the size of your new pants?
Peas: I was a 10 when I got married. Fast forward almost two years later, and I am sitting in a tight 12, comfortable 14. FUCK.
Dove: [Sad face]
Peas: So I've had to get a bunch of new trousers, as I've been told my child bearing hips will never fit into my old pants again.
Peas: My hips are like the opening of the gates of Troy.
And apparently they'll never go back.
Which is GREAT news.
Dove: I'm sure they must. Look at the celebrities.
Peas: The celebs must have some kind of vice grip surgery.
Dove: Um, what's a vice grip?
Peas: The jaws of life. That thing that opens and closes car wreckages. Giant, hydraulic, steel calipers.
Dove: Oh. Those.
My baby has the longest eyelashes
Nirvana? Oh, nevermind.He also came home with his first certificate ever, today.
Dude. I'm so proud. I've stuck it on a wall in his room.
He gets his lashes from his father. But the eyes? They're all me.
I heard the best acknowledgement and compliment last week
Last week I wrote a post giving those willing to listen some suggested ways in which to acknowledge my loss/my daughter.
Well, add this to the list: "Aw come on, don't be so hard on yourself about your weight, you're fine. You're a mother of two for godssake!'
Best. One. Ever. Nicely rolled together. Was music to my ears, and was said to me on a night in a gay bar in Soho.
Jeez, it's been a long time since I went to a gay bar in Soho. Years.
But on my night off, I went with my Favourite Gay Irish Friend to help him pick up some man meat over a few drinks.
(After we'd polished off some German sausages at Herman Ze German).
I had a few glasses of wine, which was enough encouragement for me to wave guys over who I thought would suit my Irish pal's tastes, and pinch their bottom if need be, to get their attention.
I've always been super aggressive confident like that.
Look, as a straight mother of two, I'm invisible in a gay bar ok. One needs to resort to drastic measures if one is to be a successful wingman for one's friend.
He got lucky, once I departed after my third glass of wine (and God did I feel rough the following day), but goes to show: if you want to come right in a gay bar, get a straight, married, motherly female to be your wingman.
Oh, and pay her the best compliment(s) ever and she'll eat out of your hand. Or just about.
Thank you, Irish.
Twin Peaks just gets better and better the more you watch it
That's why cult series' are cult series. I'm a Peakie. Yes, even that word and everything.
We've bought the newly HD'ed version of the series, now that winter is upon us, we cracked it open, from it's new box.
It's just marvellous. The music, the eeriness, how every character is completely fucked up and eccentric, the scenery and setting, you can almost smell the Douglas fir trees.
I'm absolutely dying to go to Washington state (where it was filmed) one day and drive around, eating cherry pie and visiting some of the places it was filmed. Yes, again, I'm one of those people. It's embarrassing; but I honestly have zero fucks to give.
Once again, absorbed into the freaky world of TP.
This has been the longest, most beautiful summer I've experienced since living here (my 5th! Can you believe it?), and we got at least two months extra sunshine and warmth out of it this year, so I am grateful.
It also means when autumn rolls around, you're ready for it, as summer hasn't been a complete wash out.
I've cracked out the cashmere, tried desperately to try and fit into more of my pre-pregnancy trousers (still too tight. Aargh! My hips are staying stubbornly widened and seem to have no intention of shrinking again. Why?)
I am in the boots and my hats. I love hats. They hide all sorts of hair afflictions (mine is falling out, so a hat is especially handy), and they keep your pip nice and warm.
I have another first cousin who has moved to the country. That makes two now!
This one is on my dad's side of the family, from Cape Town, but has been living in Straylia for the last four years. They've come over here as her husband is studying a phD at Oxford. Bright couple of folks they are.
So Sebastian and I headed up there yesterday - in hats and boots of course - to visit.
We went for a walk in the afternoon with our babies, and as we shut the gate behind us and turned a corner, I had a crazy feeling of deja vu. I had definitely been here before.
From this angle, I never would've recognised that I'd been here before (especially as it was snowing at the time).
I realised it was the church a friend of mine had got married in, in December 2012. The church looked so different from the back angle, but on turning the corner I couldn't believe it. Out of all the places or churches in Oxford, my cousin lived right next to one I'd actually been to.
We walked along Iffley lock, it was so quaint and autumnal. I often think about moving out of London, especially if our family grows, and while five years ago I wouldn't consider living somewhere rural, now it really appeals to me.
Bring on the country vibe, I say. Cow crap and everything.
Sebasticle met his second cousins.
Last week, we walked around Hyde Park with a friend, and even in London, autumn is breathtaking.
(Royal horses and guards galloping past, ever so nonchalantly.)
Tonight, I head out with Irish for a hot German sausage and some beer, at Herman Ze Germans. Goodie!
While I am looking after my baby and sporadically thinking about sadder things, I have discovered the art of compartmentalising. And its rather handy.
In truth, I discovered how to stuff things into a box in my brain and park them, if you will, for later, years ago. I have just managed to fine tune it now with everything that has happened.
In other words, thanks to my Favourite Irish Gay Friend, I sometimes even manage to have conversations like the one below, even if I'm having a particularly bad (or busy with baby) day.
(Back story in five seconds: He's on Tinder, and he sends me pictures on WhatsApp of men he needs a second opinion on before he swipes.)
Irish: Check out this picture.
Peas: What a strapping man.
He is DEFINITELY Canadian.
His parents were lumberjacks.
He eats Quaker Oats and maple syrup in the mornings.
Takes his coffee black.
Owns an impressive axe (from his lumberjack dad)
His British relatives come from...Clitheroe.
But he doesn't talk about that. Ever.
Irish: I found out his name. It's Zane.
He is probably from Murica.
Now I am sure as ever he is from Canada.
Irish: His name rhymes with my surname.
Peas: I'll bet he catches wild salmon in the rivers of the Yukon Territory and eats them raw.
Irish: He's probably building a house with his bare hands.
Peas: Using 100% organic volcanic clay from Yellowstone.
Irish: He wrote back.
'Hey' he said.
Jesus. He had better have better chat than that.
Peas: He's Canadian. I wouldn't expect too much by way of chat.
He is beautiful to look at, will be very friendly and have a kind, quiet soul. But sadly, euphemistically dull.
Irish: My children will be dull but have shiny hair?
Irish: Well done. He says he is from Calgary.
Peas: Shut. The. Door.
Are you serious?
I should do this for a living.
Irish: He works for National Geographic.
Peas: Course he does.
Once he did an inuit pilgrimage to Labrador and ate pemmican - pure whale fat - out of a raw salmon carcass.
Irish:...He's an accountant. For National Geographic.
But he likes the outdoors.
Peas: He's a CANADIAN ACCOUNTANT.
Get out now. Otherwise you will end up having a soliloquy with yourself for your first date, because that's the amount of chat he is bringing to the table.
New day, new dude:
Irish: New guy. He's posh.
Peas: Send me a photo.
Right. His name is Roger. Or Arnold or Rafferty or Barnaby or Rufus.
Grew up in the home counties, my guess is Berkshire.
Has a horsey mum, but never really got into foals himself.
Preferred shooting hares and drinking whiskey.
Gets his tweed suits tailored in Vietnam, but don't tell anyone.
Is confident with a rifle, but often fires it too soon.
...Much like his bedroom rifle, unfortunately.
Irish: I see.
3 out of 6 so far.
FUCK I need to change careers.
Irish: Dude you're good.
Peas: Which did I get right?
Irish: Berkshire. Not horsey. Prefers whiskey and shooting.
Peas: What's his name?
Peas: Benjamin. That's what his parents call him.
Irish: He's a 'landscape architect.'
Peas: This man has stories. Architects are mad. Half the members of my family are architects and they're all mad as a bag of frogs.
Put it this way, your first date with this one will be the EXACT opposite of the Canadian one.
He will entertain and shock you.
Irish: He also likes polo.
Peas: Yeah, he is a raving lunatic and votes conservative.
Boozes himself bolshy; while being strongly opposed to the new high speed rail plans. Prepare your liver.
Irish: Bitch please, I'm Irish, I'll take him on.
Peas: Oh and. He definitely doesn't call it a 'lounge.' Or a * shudder* 'settee.'
Irish: Dude. Ew.
Never say those words.
Peas: 'Settee' is worse than - and I never thought I'd say this .....'innit.'
Benjamin is a Catholic. It's all going a bit Brideshead.
Peas: I love this conversation so much. I'm putting it on the blog this week.
Thanks for keeping me sane, Irish. I love you.
The Brit and one of his friends had a little joint birthday do, in Hampshire this last weekend.
Most people who came along had babies or small children, but I have yet to attend a small gathering where a couple walks in to join us, proudly carrying a pair of twins. Until now.
I see twins all the time, and while it hurts - it shouldn't, and I wish it wouldn't - mostly these twins are in passing. On the street, in one of my playgroups, but mostly they are gone, in the blink of an eye, and I don't know them.
There are a lot of twins here. In southwest London anyway; a day doesn't go by when I don't see a set of twins passing me on the street in a double buggy.
But this was the first time twins came to join our party. And I have to admit, my heart leapt right up into my throat, and I caught my breath, not being able to tear my eyes away from the two sleeping angels in their Maxi Cosi car seats. The same car seats Sebastian and Molly had ready to go.
I got emotional, and so did the Brit. It wasn't easy.
And then I felt angry. Those parents, so happy, smug and oblivious, it's not their fault. They don't know. Just like everyone else, they have no idea. No, I wasn't angry at them. I was upset that the people that invited them didn't say anything to me or the Brit beforehand.
Obviously they didn't think to, and obviously they didn't intend for us to get sad, and clearly I am asking for too much, but it would've been great to get a head's up. In a perfect world, our friends would think about this.
In a normal world, people are busy, have other stuff to think about, and if they do think about this, don't want to rock the boat by saying something.
But it makes me realise more than ever that there isn't a manual out there for people, on what to say or what to do, or what to consider, when someone you know has lost a child or someone they love.
Mostly people don't say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. The safest thing is to say nothing at all - and I have been guilty of doing this in the past to others who have lost, too.
So. If there was one, a manual I mean, this is what it should say:
If there's just one thing you can do to someone who has lost a child or baby, it's acknowledge it.
Some of my friends, acquaintances, colleagues, long lost friends, relatives, have yet to say anything to me about Molly.
It astounds me, especially the family members, and I yearn for them to just say one thing. Just one sentence.
What they have said is "Congratulations on your little boy, he is beautiful!" This in itself is obviously very sweet, and they are focusing on the joy, the miracle, the wonderful shiny thing over here, mainly to avoid the sad, empty bad thing over there.
All know I had twins. All know, or realise, or have seen, that only one survived. But they can't, or don't know what to say.
I've even gone on to say to some I haven't seen since I was about to pop, "A lot has happened since I last saw you, and as you might've seen, I lost one of my twins just before they were due."
I don't blame them for not knowing what to say, and I am not angry. I do get frustrated though. Because no matter how hard they avoid it, there is a massive big pink elephant in the room. I had two babies, and only one of them was alive.
So if there's one thing you can do, if you ever find yourself in this situation (or God forbid, meet me!) is simply acknowledge it. Acknowledge her. I carried her my entire pregnancy, I expected her to be here with us.
Acknowledgement can come in various forms. It can short, sweet and we don't need to dwell on it:
"I'm sorry about what happened."
"I'm sure you miss your daughter, I'm sorry."
"How are you feeling these days?"
"I'm sure you still miss Molly very much."
"Just to give you a heads up, there is someone with twins coming to the party today, I hope that's not going to be too sad."
"I'm sorry about Molly."
Using her name is also like music to my ears. Just hearing 'Molly' means you are respecting that she was a little person too. Actually using her name carries so much more weight than "I'm sorry you lost a baby."
I have to talk about her, and the fact I had twins, because I did. When someone asks if I knew I was having a boy, I am honest.
"I had twins. And yes, I always knew deep down one was a boy and one was girl."
So if you don't acknowledge it, I'm going to. Simply because it is a part of me. Talking about it also hopefully makes others realise that I am happy to talk about my loss, and Molly. It's not forbidden territory. Not only am I happy to talk about it, I want to. I need to. I simply cannot ignore it if conversations turn to children, or twins, or pregnancies.
I have a lovely friend who I hadn't seen since I was 7 months pregnant, and although we had chatted throughout it all, I saw her again a few months ago with Sebastian for the first time since the birth. The first thing she did was take my hand and say, "I just want to acknowledge this. I am so sorry about everything. Just know that I think of you and Molly all the time."
(Clearly, she had read a manual somewhere, because it was the best thing I have heard since!)
Another way of acknowledgement is asking questions. Maybe you don't know what happened, but you can ask. People think asking questions will open up wounds and be hard to talk about it, but more often than not, it's better than saying nothing at all.
"What was your pregnancy like carrying two?"
"What happened with Molly, do you know why she died?"
"How do you cope when you feel sad?"
"Did you get to hold her or take pictures?"
Questions show interest. Questions are good.
Don't try to make it better by offering solutions
This is where I find people say the wrong thing, and it can be very easily avoided. Often people try to make it better, or make the other person feel better by making them see the positive.
It comes from a good place, and they are trying - it is better than saying nothing at all - but these don't work:
"You're lucky. At least you have one. Some people lose their only child."
"Just focus on the fact you have a beautiful boy."
(This is all very well, and trust me, I do. But I lost another entire person. A daughter, not a handful of oranges.)
"It's a blessing. Twins are so much work." (My hairdresser said that to me.)
I can see why people say these things, but they just make me feel worse, and often guilty. It makes me feel as though I am not a good mother to Sebastian because I miss and grieve for his sister. Then I feel guilty that I don't acknowledge Molly enough. I just end up feeling sad and guilty.
"Are you feeling like you're getting over it?"
(Yes. I have good days and bad. But this isn't something I just "get over", and you are making the assumption that I should.)
"Things happen for a reason." (I don't believe things happen for a reason anymore. Why would I get pregnant with twins only to have it taken away? This just happened. Why does there need to be a reason attached to it?)
A bit of thoughtfulness goes a very long way
It's hard to please everyone, but things that I might appreciate might be:
Acknowledgement of Molly on their birthday
(It'll always be Sebastian's celebration, and he'll have parties, but I'll be thinking about both of them on the day, believe you me)
Letting me know if someone is coming to a party with twins
Putting me in touch with others you know, or sharing similar stories if you hear of them - it helps to know I'm not alone
That's really it.
Must say, I looked up at the sky the other day and thought of how coincidentally twisted life can be. Or maybe there is a reason, but either way, I had a moment at a playgroup last week that I could only observe sadly and shake my head and laugh (in a bitter, sort of way. The worst way.)
Out of the twenty people sitting in a circle, Seb and I managed to be the coupling that found themselves squeezed between a set of twins.
Two little identical-looking boys, on either side of us, held by granny and grandad. A few moments later, one crawled over to the other and the granny asked if we could please move up so that they could sit together as they 'hated to be apart.'
Seb and I moved over, so that the twins were now both to the one side of us.
The little girl we were now next to had the name that Molly would've had if she had been alive. Isn't that ironic? We wanted Molly to have her name as it meant something to us, and Molly was a name we loved for a little girl. A little girl who would always be a little girl.
It's only something me and my husband would notice, but nevertheless it sticks out and slaps me in the face when these little things happen.
Someone pointed out that it could be Molly reminding me that she is with us. A sign that she is looking over us, and is here.
I'd like to think she is. Especially over her (little) big brother.
I knew it was going to happen at some point, and I knew that when it did, it was going to be most foul.
Sebastian and I have been half lucky, half very very vigilant, not to be sick yet. This is why I give myself a veggie smoothie every morning, take all my pills and watch myself.
I also hoped, as he was being breastfed (now he is still getting a very small amount of my milk, just enough, I hope, to top up his antibodies to avoid getting really ill, like 'flu and whatnot), that he would avoid all the baby AIDS and lurgies around.
We have managed to, up until two nights ago.
I started to feel like Captain Vomitbucket in the afternoon, but like most things, tried to ignore it as I just don't have time to feel sick.
I was also having a friend over for dinner, and the Brit was still on his way back from working in Germany.
Put Sebby to bed, and around 8:30pm I started to feel the Thing. That unmistakable feeling whereby a cork being is being dislodged at the base of your oesophagus, and you're going to blow.
Then Sebby started screaming. So I went to his room, and immediately saw him literally lying in a massive, horrible puddle of vomit - the largest I'd ever seen. Was this little baby even capable of expelling so much?
Him and I were in shock - as myself, my friend and I stripped his bed, showered him down and sorted him out.
After putting him back down, I started to lose my lunch, breakfast, dinner, head over the bath.
And therein for 24 hours, that's how it was.
The Brit came back from Germany and was thrown into Daddy Daycare and doing five loads of laundry.
I could hear him running around, not being able to sit for very long, while he got on with everything. Coming into the room sweating, every now and then with a piece of dry toast:
"What time is his bottle again? What food do I give him for lunch? How long does he sleep again? Where is the Calpol?"
You just can't indluge in your own sickness when you have a child. You want someone to mop your brow, bring you chicken soup, basically be your mum, but you can't when you have boobs that need to feed a baby, and all the other stuff that goes on.
The Brit admitted how much hard work it is looking after a baby (and wife, especially when both aren't well), and the poor guy even managed to make dinner at the end of the day, and ensure nothing fell apart.
It's a very special birthday for him next week, and I can't wait to spoil him.
(Things I never would've expected....)
I became more social
It's true. One thinks when you have a baby that your social life just stops. The complete opposite happened to me, and it's been so good.
I tend to hermit a little bit. The older I get, the more I enjoy my own space. In fact, before I had my children, I started to cosy up to Sartre and his (frankly, brilliant) mantra of 'Hell is other people.' Hell is other people, still. I am incredibly picky as to who I spend my time with, and most of my friends here were my colleagues at work. As a result, I'm a horrible person.
My baby has changed that. I joined clubs, groups, made an effort with people I see, got back in touch with people I had lost touch with from years ago. The one thing we all have in common? Children.
Even if we had nothing to talk about before, now the subject matter is infinite. Pooh colour, sleep tactics, which brand of nappies we use, Annabel Karmel's chicken casserole recipe, how tired we are, nursery preferences, catchment areas for schools, Freddie the Firefly, what is that rash?, how long were you in labour for?, oh you had forceps too? - the list is fucking endless.
And it's wonderful. I have made (and remade) a bunch of new friends I see regularly now. Being on maternity leave is obviously extremely helpful because I actually get to see them on a regular basis, during the week.
It's taken me away from being a travelling, working, loner, to a much more socially balanced human being. And I have Sebastian to thank for that.
I like other babies now
Before I had mine, I could take or leave other people's babies to be honest. I didn't know what the big fuss was about, I just knew that you loved it a lot if you were it's parent.
There were very few babies I found cute. Some people get all broody and their ovaries start shaking when they hold a baby. I wasn't repulsed by babies, not at all. I just wasn't besotted with them. Every now and then I'd see a cute little tyker and think 'Hmmm. I might want one of those actually.'
Other times, I felt like I really had to Fake Coo. (Oooh....he's....so...pretty...)
Until now. I LOVE babies now. I appreciate what they are, their smell, their chubby little cheeks and flawless skins, their beautifully oozy fat rolls that I could just squeeze all day long. Their giggles and smiles.
I watch all babies now. I don't just look, I observe. I love them all. Even the slightly ugly ones.*
I am more maternal than I ever thought possible
Perhaps it's because I have not spent more than five hours away from my son since he was born. We are attached by the hip boob, but it's way more than that. I literally want the best for him, and I am seeking to give this to him - whatever it takes - and whatever cost, if I can.
I always knew I'd be heavily invested in my child, but I really am having trouble imagining being away from him for so long [during a work day.]
I just want nurture my little lad.
I didn't imagine that I would take to being a mum like this, and yet here I am, dreaming of raising him on goji berries and hand-reared free-frolicking Welsh lamb, while siphoning my salary - if I must work - into private schooling.**
I question - and ignore - child 'experts'
In the beginning, I would try and absorb every bit of advice hurled my way by health visitors, midwives, Gina Ford's, mother's who seem like they have it all under control.
Now, I deflect 99.9% of it.
Most of the time, baby advice only leads to one thing: paranoia and stress.
("Why isn't my baby sleeping like that then?" "You say my baby should have three naps a day, but you say my baby should have four?" "You say I shouldn't wean my baby before 6 months, while you say I should because he was premature?")
Almost all the advice I got in the early days was conflicting. (Still is.)
This is what my brain was filled with.
There is no manual for this job. There is no right way to do ANYTHING. The only predictable thing about a baby is that they are completely unpredictable.
No baby is the same. And that's why I wear a tin hat when an all-knowing midwife gives me her opinion on why my baby isn't sleeping through the night.
I really - no really - don't give a shit what anybody thinks anymore
When my brain is half-fried, my reactions are slow, my sharp-tongued wit is non-existent***, and I have nothing to offer strangers/friends/anyone anything accept a smile and ZERO chat? Before having a child, I'd care.
My fear is this: never be dull. Until now. I don't care if I'm fucking dull, my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, I have vomit in my hair, pureed butternut squash down my front, and I haven't put makeup on all week.
That's not to say I've let standards slip. I just choose when to up my game and when I can't.
When I go out without my child, I dress up. When I go back to work, I'll do the same.
I also have yet to keep giving a shit about the state of my stomach and my thighs. Ideally I'd like them to slim the hell down, but if someone thinks I'm fat, well, so be it.
* They're never ugly for long.
** Wish list
*** Like now