Baby Shower musings

Yesterday, I went to a fellow first-time twin mama’s Baby Shower, and it got me thinking…

You never get to a stage of parenting where you feel like you know it all. Every day brings a new challenge and a new delight. I hear parents of four and five children say how hard it can be, how they still don’t feel like they know what they’re doing, and how they’re no expert!

But I think there is something special, naive and wonderful about being pregnant for the first time.

Mummy friends assure me that their second (or more) pregnancies were different to their first. The first time was exciting, scary and full of the unknown in a way that cannot be replicated the second time around. Reasons include lack of time to pamper yourself because you have a crazy toddler to look after, lack of excitement to the same degree from your friends and family, and the wisdom of knowing what to expect (to an extent!).

Having twins the first time you conceive is a unique experience because you have the challenges of two kids without the experience of already having raised a child. Parents regularly tell me how much more relaxed they were with their second child. How they no longer felt the need to read the baby books cover to cover. How they forgot to fill in their baby book. How they didn’t obsessively baby-proof the house to the same extent. The list goes on. First time twin mamas are not afforded that luxury.

My girls are still very young and I have a lot to learn. Speaking to fellow mamas – particularly multiple mamas – has been invaluable. I looked at that pregnant twin mama yesterday and felt both envy and relief that I wasn’t her! Envy that she had all the excitement of two teeny tiny babies yet to come, and relief that I’ve managed to survive the same teeny tiny baby stage and don’t have to go through it again.

I know that every stage of development brings new challenges but I think there is something very unique about the brand new first baby (/babies!) stage. Fellow mamas, you know what I mean. The daily sense of wonder (OMG I created these! OMG how am I going to keep them alive? OMG they’re so small and fragile! OMG I’m so tired! OMG OMG OMG!!!)

When I was pregnant, one of my main emotions was fear. How would I cope? How would we afford it? What if I hated it? What if I was a crap twin mama? What if, what if, what if?!?

And so even though I’m still a complete novice, there was a part of me that felt proud to have survived this crazy twin mama life, and felt able to pass on some tentative words of wisdom. Even if it was just to say, “You are so lucky, enjoy every moment.” Because it really is a blessing.

 

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As if parenting wasn’t scary enough already

Fear. Is there a day goes by I don’t feel it since becoming a Mama? Fear of the unknown. Fear of what may happen. Fear of what may not happen. Fear of everything and nothing.

The burning love I feel for my twins means I am constantly terrified of losing them. I’m so grateful to live in a country with free healthcare (I wish every country had an NHS) but, as with all things in this messed up world we live in, those with money will always be privileged.

I’m talking here about the fact that the Meningitis B vaccine is not available for my kids, because I had the audacity to give birth to them too soon for them to be eligible. The only way to access the vaccine is to go private.

I’m not the only one panicking. Private stocks are currently run dry due to increased demand and an online petition has – at the time of writing – been signed by over 700,000 people (one of whom is me), urging the government to roll the vaccination out to older children.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about. As if we needed more reasons to feel helpless as parents, when all we want is to love our children and keep them safe.

I shouldn’t have to choose between my children’s health and spending money I don’t have. I have paid tax and national insurance for many years and for that, I would like to know that I can keep my children out of harm’s way. Maybe I’m living in Cloud Cuckoo Land but access to medicine shouldn’t be limited to those with big bank balances. But then I am ever the idealist.

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Losing a part of myself

Ick. I’ve become one of those Mamas. Otherwise known as a Pod Person. The kind of Mama whose original cool self has been kidnapped and replaced with an identical version who wears leggings every day and has very little to talk about apart from her offspring. The type of person who is itching to show her friends (the ones out having a life) photos of her children (because they the cutest and most beautiful human beings ever to grace the Earth).

I never thought this would happen. When I first started getting broody, everyone I knew thought I’d had a personality transplant and when we discovered I was expecting twins, even my own Mama admitted she wondered how I’d cope! [Thanks for the words of encouragement there!]

Come on Mamas. We’ve all been there. We’ve all stared in awe at this tiny little creature we created [Seriously! It’s amazing!!!] and found ourselves losing hours to this weird yet wonderful staring contest. The thing is, I thought maybe that would just be a New Baby thing. That maybe the novelty would wear off after a while.

But it doesn’t does it?

Every day brings a new wonder. And new kisses (I wonder how many kisses you can actually fit into one day? A hundred? A thousand? A MILLION?!?). New experiences. New moments where you could bloody kill them but then in an instant, another amazing moment. Like the fact that my 20 month old twins now actively cuddle me. I mean, they don’t just come to me with arms outstretched, they nestle their beautiful little heads against my shoulder and lean their weight into me. T1 even wraps her arm around my neck… and I just melt. I disintegrate. I become nothing because “I” cease to exist.

You lose a part of yourself to Mamahood. Maybe one day you get it back (ask me in 20 years) but now, in this moment, I am Mama. I forget sometimes that I am also Wife. Friend. Sister. Colleague. Or even just Me, sans label. It’s so hard to turn off from Mama Mode, even after the twins have gone to bed, because then I’m either clearing up after the day has finished, planning for the next day/week [a tricky juggling act when fitting kids around work and childcare] or simply flaking out on the sofa in my scruffiest clothes feeling comfy but exhausted.

And my kids aren’t even difficult. I mean, they’re just normal toddlers, which by their very definition means bloody crazy! And there’s two of them! AT THE SAME TIME!!!

A HUGE shout-out at this point to Mamas and Dadas dealing with children who have additional needs/disabilities that make everyday challenges even more difficult.

But let me just say this: I’m not complaining. Mamahood is the biggest challenge I have ever encountered but it is also by far the most rewarding. I don’t think there’s a day goes by where I don’t feel immensely grateful for what I have, or contemplate the potential life I would have had without the twins not with a feeling of nostalgia, but of sadness. Yes, a childless existence would have meant a degree of freedom that I am often frustrated I don’t have. It would have meant a financial freedom too that sometimes keeps me awake at night. And it would have meant holidays, sleep, restaurants, cinema, SLEEEEEEEP, socialising…

The thing is, for over 10 years before having children, I had all those opportunities and rarely took them. Once the novelty of partying started to fade in my 20s, I settled into a life of bills and a mortgage and didn’t appreciate the freedom I had. Most of my waking life was spent working [whereas now, I’m fortunate to have a flexible employer who has allowed me to work part-time after having the kids] with little sense of fulfillment. It’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone because I have only appreciated the amount of freedom we had pre-twins after having them.

But I think that if I’d never had kids, I wouldn’t really have known what I was missing. Pre-twins, I heard people talk about their love [or obsession!] with their children and just could not understand it. If you’re child-free through choice and currently reading this, you may think I sound like a complete nutcase! Five years ago, I’d have agreed with you. [Maybe I agree with you a little now lol]

In conclusion: I’m obsessed with my kids, and it is the greatest and most fulfilling obsession I have ever experienced. When it comes to my twins, I am a Kidoholic and proud. Maybe I’ll come back down to Earth at some point, but for now, The Hubs is going to have to put up with being married to a Pod Person.

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
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Who is this so-called “real woman” anyway?

There’s no denying that the fashion world favours skinny girls, and has done for a few decades now. I mean, that’s simply an objective fact. And it’s left the rest of us mere mortals feeling pretty crappy about ourselves. I tell myself that I’ll raise my girls to love themselves, inside and out, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite? Do I love my body, just the way it is? Heck do I. Having children just gave me new bits about my body to feel dissatisfied with!

Ok so maybe I wouldn’t feel so damn dissatisfied if I wasn’t constantly bombarded with images of flat-bellied, smooth-legged beauties in the first place. Maybe – many campaigners assert – if fashion embraced the body of “real women,” I would feel more confident about myself (which in truth, I generally am as long as I’m clothed lol). Then I could raise my girls to stuff their faces with pizza, avoid all exercise and embrace their cellulite.

Maybe not.

Herein lies my point: what we should be embracing and celebrating is a healthy lifestyle, something too many of us neglect (myself included). In the west in particular, we live our lives to excess, gorging until our bellies are full and throwing away our leftovers. It looks like the French government have finally seen sense in this regard, as explained in this Guardian article.

Celebrating obesity is no more helpful to society than putting all skinny people on a pedestal. There are large people who are healthy, skinny people who are not and midrange people who are either.

What might bring us together more is an acceptance of diversity. I was pleased to see the new Target Australia ad campaign as reported in the Huffington Post but wouldn’t it be great if all fashion ads showed women of all shapes and sizes? But with an emphasis on health instead of waistline? Is it a good idea to normalise being overweight? And who is this so-called “real woman” anyway? If my twins grow up to be naturally slim, should they be made to feel like they’re not “real women?” Or if they turn out to love athletics, dance or martial arts, will they be judged by bigger women to be “anorexic?” I wouldn’t want that anymore than I’d want them to be body-shamed for being fat.

When I contemplate things like this, I’m struck by what a weird species we humans are, constantly judging ourselves and others. Hopefully I’ll be able to help my girls fight their way through the maze that is our society and its bizarre ways.

Leaving a legacy

Earlier last year, my grandad died after years of dementia, cancer and general aging. It was a sombre affair but I didn’t feel particularly emotional because I was never close with my grandparents and saw them rarely.

A couple of months after his death, my aunt put together a scrapbook of photos and other memorabilia from my grandad’s youth. And that’s when it hit me: this frail, grumpy old man was young once. He lived a long life with stories to tell; how he came to the UK from a foreign land during the war; how he met my grandmother at a local dance and fell in love; how they raised their kids who then went on to give him grandchildren; and how one day, the love of his life was taken from him. And there was I, sailing through life in ignorance of this amazing life of his. All his stories had died with him.

And so I decided: I will not allow myself to become a mere faded memory, an old lady who my grandchildren can never imagine was young once. I want to be a Memorable Mama, a Never-Forgotten Nana and a Great Grandma who the kids all miss when I’m gone! I want to be there for them, and I want them to feel glad at the end of it all that I was part of their lives.

Having kids gave me a sense of purpose that I never knew I was missing. I don’t always get it right but I hope that one day, I’m remembered for being the best Mama my girls could have had.

Mummuddlingthrough

Why can’t I let go?

Every Mama does it. Lots of Dadas do it too I’m sure but there’s something in us Mamas (the infamous “maternal instinct” I guess) that simply won’t let us let go of our babies. It lasts well into your child’s adulthood and is a phenomenon that happens to otherwise sane women: Empty Nest Syndrome. I know because when I met The Hubs, he was a supreme Mommy’s Boy despite being a fully grown adult. I, on the other hand, had cut the loosely tied apron strings from my own Mama years earlier. The Hubs was not only tied up in the apron strings of the MIL; he was well and truly super-glued!

At the time, I found it annoying and off-putting. Who wants to date a Mama’s Boy? But since becoming a Mama myself, I have discovered a new level of understanding for the MIL and an absolute feeling of dread about the thought of my girls growing up. They’re not even 2 years old and yet I regularly find myself weeping over the photos and videos I took of them when they were fresh out of my uterus, still looking more foetal than squishy baby.

And yet I KNOW that I’m being stupid. I know, on a logical level, that I will love my girls at every age. I know that each age will bring different challenges and different amazing memories. I also know that I love them to the moon and back right now. I felt like that yesterday, and I’ll feel like that tomorrow. I’ve even googled the problem and found an inspirational (and upsetting) quote that said, “We hate it when they grow up, but we’d hate it even more if they didn’t.” It’s enough to set my over-thinking brain off on a really depressing adventure.

So why, when I know all this, do I still feel so sentimental when I’m reminded of how much they’ve changed? Why does it touch a nerve when someone stops me in the street and says, “Enjoy them while they’re young! They grow so fast!” [for the hundredth time] Why do I feel upset when fellow Mamas share horror stories of their nightmare teenagers and how I’ve got all this coming “TIMES TWO!”?? Barely 2 years old and I’m already looking ahead and dreading the day they move out.

“Baby, baby, it’s a wild world… I’ll always remember you like child…”

It’s like I want to stop time and just stay in this moment. I have a terrible memory; what if I can’t remember this moment? Or this one? Or that one? What if they grow up to hate me? What if something terrible happens to one of them? Or BOTH of them?

There’s that over-thinker again.

What I do know is that I do love watching them grow and develop. Every milestone is exciting and despite the subconscious dread of loss, I do also look forward to all the amazing things we’ll do together as they grow up. I imagine theme parks, holidays, shopping trips, spa days, weddings, BABIES(!) …

Is that the answer then? Positive mental attitude? Do you know… I really think it is. I started this blog feeling a bit depressed and have come to the end of it realising that the problem isn’t that they’ll grow up; the problem is with ME. The problem is my brain seeing the glass half empty instead of half full! It’s time I gave my brain a quick slap; I have so much to be grateful for, including two amazing girls who are indeed going to grow up, but who will always be my babies.

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows