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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Day 10 - They Call Me Mellow Yellow

In the original Doomsday Book of 1086 the handwriting gets worse as you progress due to the writer getting knackered towards the end. The same will definitely happen with the spelling and grammar in this blog at some point, so thanks in advance for turning a blind eye.

I really didn’t think I could write this today. Not through tiredness (although I’m sure that’ll come) but the last week’s events have really caught up on me. Dashing between hospitals to see each son – neither critical but neither ready to come home – has sucked all the enthusiasm from me.

We were buzzing earlier as we thought we were on the verge of taking Ben home but a deflected last minute equalizer from Jaundice United has taken it to a replay. So we’re stuck here till tomorrow at the earliest and Ben is back under the baby sunbed. I think that’s the technical term.

To be fair, he does look quite yellow. It’s hard to look at him without humming the music to The Simpsons. Zac is doing well though – hopefully he’ll be out in a couple of days so we can start the life we’ve been excited about for months.

But I know we’re the lucky ones. We’ve met numerous parents in both hospitals with stories far too tragic to share in detail on here. That’s when the guilt kicks in - why should I be down? What have we got to feel bad about?

Maybe I am just tired.

At least we’ve got Ben in our room now. I always wondered how I’d cope looking after my own child for the first night. The answer is badly.

I couldn’t stop watching over him and when he jolted his head from left to right, planting his head into the side of his cot like an angry Sunday league centre half going up for a corner I went from nought to panic in a nanosecond.  Obviously It didn’t bother him in the slightest, I think he might have enjoyed it as he did it again. I decided to move him away from the side before he completed his hatrick.

The little sleep we got last night was lighter than Ryvita – every gurgle sounded like he was choking or eating his own head – me jumping out of bed to see him lying there having a great time. He was just seeing what he could do with his brand new face, like he was checking it out in the shop before putting down a deposit.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

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Read from the beginning here.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Day 9 - The Nappies They Are A-Changing

You know you really love someone when you can’t wait to change their nappie.

The first one I changed felt like a rite of passage, plus it was one of Zac’s first few after his operation which meant that all his insides were now working as planned, lending a party atmosphere to the occasion. If you’ve never changed a nappie while singing ‘Celebrate’ by Kool and the Gang you’re missing out.

I was also supervised by a very patient nurse who shouted encouragement and advice like an amateur boxing coach as he ducked and weaved out of my inexperienced grasp. With Zac still in his incubator I had to wear gloves and push my hands through the side holes so the whole thing felt like one of those crane games at the fairground, the only prize on offer being a clean bottom.

But I got to do it for real today when they finally let Ben move into our room at the Women’s Hospital.

He’s still got a touch of jaundice so he’s been under the phototherapy lamp for a few hours today. Eventually the time came and I took him out of his Baby Sunbed for my first solo nappy change. Nobody watching over me, no-one to make me extra nervous, just my son and I. That and a heftily soiled, disposable garment. Independence at last.

I took him out of the sunbed for this momentous occasion and took his nappy off, leaving his protective eye mask on.  He immediately pissed all over himself. Then he started crying because well, someone was pissing all over him. Wouldn’t you?

I decided to take his eye mask off so he pissed on me and somehow managed to get a load of it all over his own back, defying physics, gravity and common sense in one fell swoop. The guy’s clearly a pioneer.

What I’ve learned so far with nappy changing is that the absolute golden rule is:

FOR GOD’S SAKE MAKE SURE YOU’VE GOT ALL THE BITS YOU NEED BEFORE YOU START.

As a total novice, I can’t emphasise this enough. Nothing induces panic more than realizing that the cotton wool is out of arm’s length and you’re going to have to use your sock.

My wife went to see Zac again this evening at Alder Hey, a friend taking her while I looked after Ben. In a strange coincidence my wife’s best friend has ended up in the room next to us, having given birth to her daughter four days after our twins arrived.

So as my wife visited Zac and her friend took a nap, her wife’s husband and me sat in our room chatting about breastpumps while I fed Ben. To the midwife who popped in and saw two blokes sat on a bed together feeding a baby in the appropriately titled Women’s Hospital, the whole scene must have looked incredibly modern.

I don’t think we’ll get much sleep with Ben alongside us for the first time tonight but who cares about that?

Back tomorrow.

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Day 8 - A Trip Down Mammary Lane

Bonding with your children is important and with both lads being in different locations and looked after by so many different (albeit amazing) health professionals we were keen to get some quality time with Ben today.

There’s some seriously strict security measures at the Women’s Hospital and before the boys were born they’d seemed completely over the top. Now they’ve arrived and we can’t monitor them ourselves 24 hours a day I’d happily build a moat and gun turrets to keep them safe.

The first time I pressed the intercom I giggled like a schoolgirl after saying, ‘I’m here to see Ben Avery. It’s his dad.’ The words felt weird in my mouth.

We put those privacy screens up that they use for fixing manholes in the street and got Ben out of his cot. The midwife had suggested it might be a good idea to ‘introduce’ Ben to the breast which I thought sounded a tad formal.

‘Ben, this is your mother’s Breast. Breast, meet Ben.’
‘Er, lovely to meet you, Breast. What a nice ariola you have. God, I’m sorry, never been good at this small talk malarkey. So, do you have any sisters? Oh sorry, she’s right there. Hi madam, my name’s Ben. My word, are you two twins as well?’

The idea of this was to get him interested in the general area which I wasn’t worried about - if he turns out like his father it’ll be listed as one of his hobbies before long. Unfortunately he’d never seen a breast before and woke up to the sight of one right in front of his face that was bigger than his head. This made him blubber which was disappointing but in his situation I think I’d cry too. Tears of joy are still tears.

We’d hit the wall earlier on this afternoon. The emotional bouncy castle we were jumping on was energy sapping and our sleep was constantly interrupted with generic hospital sounds (which would be a terrible band name) and random night time visits from midwives.

And just as you’re about to start feeling sorry for yourself you speak to other parents who would swap places with us at the drop of a hat. What we’re going through is a mild inconvenience compared to some of the stories we heard today, including another mum who lost one of her twins at birth. The strength of these families is on a level I can’t comprehend.

My wife is still commuting between units on this old-school wheelchair. Today I realised that if I wheel it backwards instead of forwards I won’t prolong her stay in hospital. I only discovered this after a near collision with another new mum and her meathead husband who was less than jovial. I apologised and he glared at me with a mixture of pity and contempt. I felt like I was 19 again and I’d just stalled my mum’s Fiesta in front of a load of workmen.

We’re hoping that Ben can come and stay in our room tomorrow if his blood sugar levels are stable. We’ve told ourselves not to get our hopes up but it’s too late as it's all we can think of. It would be wonderful.

Back tomorrow.

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Day 7 - Look Who's Back, Zac

Today the midwife said my wife she could go and visit Zac at Alder Hey. It was the best news we’d had since his first poo. She hadn’t seen him since the morning after he was born so to say it’s been difficult for her would be the biggest understatement since an Austrian primary school teacher wrote ‘potential troublemaker’ in a Hitler’s school report.

I pushed my wife through the hospital corridors on a wheelchair with her hoodie covering her face, like we were breaking her out of a prison or recreating that scene on E.T.

In the car I didn’t negotiate the speedbumps on the way out as I should have – I ragged over them like I was evading a police chase and this wasn’t good for my wife’s brand spanking new c-section. She managed to remember some of the swear words she’d invented during labour which was both impressive and intimidating - I slowed down so much for the next set of bumps it seemed as if I was driving sarcastically, if that’s possible.

The walk from the car to the main entrance at Alder Hey took longer with the pair of us. This visit was emotionally essential but physically exhausting for my wife. It was late by the time we arrived and the hospital was quiet. The lift arrived quickly and there was nobody in the way this time which was a shame as I was hoping to road test some of the new expletives I’d garnered at the speedbumps.

We pressed the intercom at the Neonatal Unit and I waved at the security camera when they buzzed us in. The short, slow walk to his room began, the staff beaming at us as they realized what a huge deal this was. The young mother I’d met on my first visit there spotted us through the window to her son’s room and we exchanged smiles, her giving us the thumbs up.

We opened the door to Zac’s room and everything went into slow motion. It’d be a cliché to say that the past week’s events have felt like we were in a film but at times I’ve been expecting to hear a director shout for a retake, because a few of the scenes have felt like bad outtakes from a Ken Loach misery-fest.  But this was much more Hollywood – so much so the post-production team in my memory banks have already put this moment into soft focus with a classical music score.

She picked him out of his incubator and cradled him with tears streaming down her face. He was still connected to two machines which made the embrace slightly awkward, but only physically - a serenity washed over his tiny face as he heard his mother’s voice for the first time in a week.

She fed and winded and gave him a week’s worth of cuddles in the three hours we spent there and then it was time to go. We spent an extra twenty minutes saying goodbye and then headed back to the Women’s.

It was tough leaving him on his own again but the most important thing was what we learned on the way out. The surgeon had said he’s recovering well from his operation and from what the nurses told us he was taking to the bottle like Miles Davis took to the trumpet.

He is going to get better.

Back tomorrow.

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Day 6 - No Breast For The Wicked

If breastfeeding is ‘the most natural thing in the world’ then why is it so hard? I haven’t been trying myself before you think I’ve gone full-weirdo, although I was tempted to have a go on the breast pump, (see yesterday)

My wife is determined to breastfeed or at least continue expressing milk for the boys to bottle feed on. Especially as Zac is still in Alder Hey after his operation and despite Ben being here with us at the Women’s Hospital, neither are actually with us in our room yet. This is heart wrenching as she’s not seen them both together since the birth.

So breastfeeding has become even more important to her to fill the gap in what, as a new mother, she feels is neglect but in reality is necessity – she cannot leave the Women’s Hospital yet. And breastfeeding mirrors parenting in that every person you speak to tells you something completely different.

‘Rub hard.’
‘Softly does it.’
‘Tickle slowly.’
‘BANG THEM SHUT IN THE DOOR!’

The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the woman should be relaxed. This means that my role is once again to shut my mouth, as at the birth. I get this Tourettes-level impulse to mutter ‘milky, milky’ when she’s trying to get in the zone, which is helping no-one.

One woman we’d never met before came into our hospital room late last night and tried to demonstrate a much more aggressive technique on my wife’s chesticles. I'm still not sure she definitely worked there.

We got told B.A.M.B.I.S. (Babies & Mums Breastfeeding Information and Support) were coming in today. They’re a group of mothers who are passionate about breastfeeding and help new mums to get to grips with it. The way they were described to me they sounded like a 1970’s Nation of Islam style aggressive paramilitary group, bullying women into lactating through brute force. I was waiting to hear them goose-stepping down the hospital corridors while Darth Vader’s music played.

The truth was that they were the polar opposite – helpful, supportive, friendly and they really put my wife’s mind at rest. If you want to breastfeed, their website is here. If you don’t, I’d probably not contact them if I were you. It’d be a bit weird.

Back tomorrow.

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Day 5 - Breastpumps and Broomsticks

I don’t know what you’re doing with your Saturday night but I’ve just washed a double breast-pump four times.

The first wash was pretty thorough so I decided to grab a quick 15 minute nap but couldn’t relax as in my mind all the germs on the pumps had survived my onslaught and were doing a dirty version of the dance from Fantasia. I opened my eyes and noticed a bit of soapy water still on the inside.

I’ll give it another once over.

The second was done with the poise and patience of a bomb disposal expert. As I carried the pumps back to my wife’s bed a midwife casually enquired:

‘You didn’t use your hands to carry them, did you?’

As opposed to what? Juggle them on my feet like some kind of post-natal circus act? Of course, she meant I should have carried them one of those cardboard bowls that people puke in.

So the third clean was fueled by pure anger, which is definitely the most effective emotion for cleaning - I once had a massive row with an ex and vacuumed the entire house in 8 minutes flat, corners and sofas included. The added benefit was that the neighbours could only hear my hate-ridden expletives when I turned the hoover off to change plug sockets.

I tried to stay calm by reasoning that this was the closest I’d get to my wife’s boobs for some time but it didn’t work. Instead I got a horrific glimpse into what it must be like living with a debilitating form of OCD. I could sense the germs, those evil little bastards jumping around with plans to infect my offspring.

So after the kind of washing normally reserved for a new inmate at Shawshank Prison, this pump was now cleaner that Gary Lineker’s disciplinary record. Feeling disproportionately proud, I swaggered back to my wife’s room with a look on my face that said, ‘I’ve just washed a double breast pump three times. Don't mess with this cat.’

‘You’re supposed to dry it too you know.’

I trudged back to the hospital utility room wondering if my Saturday nights would ever be the same again. 

Back tomorrow. 

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Day 4 - Progress?

I woke up extra early this morning as I wanted to get myself and the breast milk shipment across to Alder Hey before rush hour. You don’t want to be stuck in a slow commute with a tube full of colostrum in your pocket. And after Zac's operation and subsequent first feed we were desperate for him to make some sort of progress. The operation was to remove a blockage between his stomach and bowel so there was only going to be one way of finding out if it had been a success – a good old fashioned poo.

I’d visited him twice yesterday, ending the evening standing over his incubator talking to him with a lump in my throat. It’s amazing how much you can find to say to a 4 day old boy who’s not listening. I told myself it was good for him to hear my voice but in reality it was more for my benefit - I needed to feel like I was helping in some way.

The machines he was hooked up to beeped at reassuringly regular intervals until now and then one would go freestyle and start bashing out some kind of jazz riff. This made me panic every time, dashing out to one of the nurses to ask them what it meant. I've watched too many TV shows where the wrong kind of beeping means something catastrophic. Each time they put my mind at rest until I became quite familiar with which noise was what. 

This morning I arrived at Alder Hey filled with hope and dread in equal measure. There’d been no movement yesterday so we were desperate for progress. I carried the milk and a bag packed with nappies and baby clothes as other parents shot me the traditional closed-mouth-with-no-teeth sympathetic smile. Still trying to get to grips with fatherhood added to the fact both my lads were in hospital, I felt like I was living someone else's life.

The lift seemed to take an age to arrive and I got needlessly angry when the doors opened and there was a family inside who didn't know what floor they were going to. Just pick a floor and go there you dopes. 

I buzzed the door of the Neonatal Surgery Unit and tried to read clues about my son's condition from the voice intonation of the guy who answered. The automatic doors swung open, I hung my coat up and squirted enough sanitiser into my hand to cleanse a skunk.

It wasn't a long walk from the Unit's front entrance to Zac's room but I might as well have been walking uphill into a wind tunnel on a down escalator wearing roller skates, the walk took me ages. The nurse was inside his room so I took a deep breath, knocked and opened the door.

She looked at me. Silence.

Then her mouth slowly formed a smile.

'He's had three poos! Massive ones too, huge!'

A confetti cannon went off in my head and the room span. There's been several bowel movements in life that have made my eyes water but never in this way before. I phoned my wife and shouted, 'HE'S HAD THREE POOS!' down the phone. Perhaps I should have done this before I got to the packed car park but the only thing that mattered was that the operation had been a success.

Back tomorrow.

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Day 3 - You're having twins!

When we got told we were having twins my brain went through the following 10 steps:

1. WTF?
2. How are we going to afford this?
3. I'll probably be waking up any minute now.
4. This is the best news ever.
5. Is this really happening?
6. Hang on, what?
7. THIS IS AWESOME.
8. What the actual fuck?
9. I’M SO HAPPY.
10. My sperm is majestic.
 
I’m not proud of thinking number 10 but it did enter my head because I’m an idiot. I later discovered that I had nothing to do with it as identical twins are down to the egg splitting during fertilization. This ego-blow was softened by the fact that I’m a big fan of omelettes.

Our initial scan was scheduled for 9am, first of the day. My wife had strict instructions to drink two pints of water and not empty her bladder before we arrived. The guy who was doing the scans got stuck on the motorway so the waiting room slowly filled up with pregnant women and their partners, all looking nervous and bursting for a slash. I’d had quite a large coffee that morning so I was pretty desperate for the toilet too but I’m proud to say I held it in to show solidarity with my new sisters-in-arms.

After 45 minutes the scene resembled that of a Japanese endurance-style game show, as urine levels reached a ridiculous and dangerous level in 50% of the waiting room. This led to every new person who walked through the door being eyeballed by the piss-heavy queue of hormone-riddled ladies.

Eventually this scruffy, long-haired guy with a beard meandered into the room, looking like he was late for his methodone prescription. My wife whispered to me, ‘Ha! Imagine it was that guy!’

It was that guy.

He called our names and we abruptly stopped giggling and shuffled into his room like naughty schoolkids. He turned out to be an absolute gent, professional and funny with it. My wife was convinced she had twins growing inside her so when he found the baby with the scanner she asked him,
‘Is there just one in there?’

‘NOPE!’ he yelped as he moved the scanner to reveal the other little guy. (This is when steps 1-10 occurred above.)

I then half-jokingly asked him, ‘Is there just 2 in there?’ The way I saw it, there was an extra baby appearing here every 5 seconds or so.

He looked me dead in the eye and smiled while shaking his head to indicate there wasn’t just two and I was going to become the father of triplets. My brain then went through the following 5 steps:

1. OH SHIT
2. I’M SCARED
3. I NEED A VASECTOMY
4. RUNNING AWAY IS AN OPTION
5. THIS MUST BE A HIDDEN CAMERA SHOW

The colour had completely drained from my face when he said, ‘I’m only messing, it’s twins.’

Jesus.

Back tomorrow.


p.s. Thanks to those of you who’ve signed up to receive updates from this blog via email, it’s much appreciated, as are all the shares / RT’s and comments. I think there was a problem with yesterday’s going out so if you missed it you can get it here

I post updates on my Twitter and Facebook pages if you want to keep reading but please don’t feel pressured into anything. You can also sign up to email updates at the top right of this page.

Read from the beginning here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Day 2 - First Feeds

With Ben's blood sugar still going up and down like James Bond's trousers, he was kept in Special Care in the Women's Hospital while Zac recovered from his op in Alder Hey.

My wife was fortunately given a separate room to recover from her c-section that was nicer than most budget hotels, we even had a lovely red chord we could pull for room service, although I don't think they liked me calling it that.

I became a breast milkman, ferrying some of the good stuff my wife had expressed over to Zac in the morning. First thing I did was get stuck in the revolving door and nearly poured it all over some posh guy's tweed jacket.

"What's that stain on your Cheviot Harris, Sebastian?"
"Just a bit of nork brew, Margaret, nothing to worry about..."

Once I got outside I held that boob juice receptacle like it had anthrax in. This stuff was going to help my son recover.

It wasn't nice seeing Zac with the nasal tube and drip attached to his head but he seemed pretty content with life and gave me one of those '20th Century Fox Lion' yawns that babies have got nailed.

I then made the drive back to the Women's just in time to see Ben given an electronic tag on his ankle to stop anyone stealing him. He looked like the worlds youngest A.S.B.O. about to go on a colostrom-fuelled nappie stealing rampage. I was so proud.

The day shot past in a blur, speaking to doctors and midwives about tests and procedures. I don't know about you but there's only so much medical info I can take on board before my brain stops digesting it, kind of like when you ask for directions in a foreign town, it just becomes noise. 

One thing I did understand was that Ben had jaundice which wasn't that much of a surprise - he was four weeks premature and looked as yellow as a Coldplay hit single. So they stuck him under this phototherapy lamp and it was time for my milk round again.

Apparently Zac had taken his feeds like he was on an infant version of Man Vs Food. This was wonderful but the big question now was whether he'd digest it properly. We were basically told to 'pray for poo', which is a part of Sunday School I must have missed.

Most fathers tend to go out and celebrate but as my wife had a private room they let me stay in the Women's Hospital on a fold up bed. So I smuggled some cheap, warm wine and a plastic camping beaker in and drank it in the pitch dark like a dirty squatter. I know what you're thinking, this guy knows how to throw a party. And you're right, if that party is an incredibly desperate one.

Back tomorrow.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Day 1 - Zac's Operation

I'm 36 years old and I've never had an operation. Zac needed one within 36 hours of being born.
We found this out on New Years Eve (24 weeks) at one of our regular scans when they picked up a blockage in his digestive system. This led to them telling us that there was a 40% chance that both twins would have Downs Syndrome.
While this didn't change how we felt about the lads or how the pregnancy would progress it was a massive shock to the system, and despite this meaning there was a 60% chance of the opposite we subconsciously decided to focus on the 'negative' and get our heads around what we thought would be our new future. We spent Dec 31st holding each other in bed while fireworks outside brought in the Happy New Year.
We also felt obscenely guilty for our sadness. So what if they have Downs Syndrome? They'd still be loved and given every opportunity to flourish as they would if they didn't. We chose not to get the full test done at that stage - it wouldn't have changed anything from our end other than peace of mind and it carried the risk of premature labour. But with Zac's blockage came an increase in fluid which needed draining twice, so we opted to get the test done at that point.
I can't remember ever feeling as sickly nervous as the day we went to the Women's Hospital to get the results. My wife lying on the bed with me sat on the chair the consultant was given an envelope containing our future and everything went into slow motion, like we were at the shittest awards ceremony in history. 
Thank god this woman wasn't a fan of the X Factor and didn't try to emulate the boot camp result scenes or else you would've seen me on the news that night.  God bless her, she opened the envelope like a well trained post room assistant in one sweeping motion, slapped the results letter on her knee, scanned it like Predator and barked, 'They're fine.'
Relief burst into the room and throat-punched me as my wife sobbed tears of happiness. The guilt also returned, instantly.  We did a fair bit of research whilst in this limbo period and spoke to some amazing people. The Downs Syndrome Association do fantastic work as do loads of the parents and kids themselves that we spoke to.
So after the birth Ben was taken to Special Care in the Women's Hospital and Zac spent 12 hours there before being transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital for his op.
Thinking back I was very calm about the whole thing, probably my way of dealing with it. Waiting for him to go down to theatre wasn't the wrench that it should have been as I just convinced myself that he'd be okay. I even joked with the surgeon when he told me that you'd barely see the scar and asked him to make it noticeable enough so we could tell him apart from his brother. Most scars seem to look like the letter 'Z' anyway, at least on cartoons.
So he went down for what was to be about a 2 hour operation and I went back to the Women's Hospital to see my wife and other son, feeling pretty fine with everything. That was until I got the call that he was out of surgery and doing okay and then I fell apart quicker than a game of Jenga on a bus.
I don't know where I'd been storing the anxiety and dread but as soon as I knew he'd got through it I felt like whatever stoic dam that had kept my emotions in check just collapsed in like a piece of soggy Weetabix.
Because I was now acutely aware of just how lucky we were. At Alder Hey earlier that day I'd got chatting to a young mother who's twins had arrived at 24 weeks with one of them not making it. The other had been in hospital for 5 months and both parents were staying at the hospital which meant neither had been to work since the premature birth.  There was a strange combination of strength and exhaustion in her eyes and it was mind blowing.
When she asked about Zac's ailments and birth weight (6lb 7) I was almost embarrassed telling her, such small fry it was next to what she and her young family were going through.
I went back to see him that evening, feeling this awful parental sickness in my stomach as I parked the car. These feelings were all new and not enjoyable in the slightest - I was looking forward to watching them at sports day or sticking their first painting to the fridge, not seeing them hooked up to medical machines on day 1 of their lives.
And at times like this, you look for anything to lift your spirits. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the waiting room this time next to a young dad who was with his 3 year old daughter. He was on the phone and asked the young girl, 'Porsche! Do you want to speak to Mercedes?'
This guy had called his kids Porsche and Mercedes. Wow. Then Porsche took the phone and opened the conversation to Mercedes with, 'Hiya, Nan.'
Nan.
Awesome.
I went into Zac's room and watched him sleep for about an hour. He looked pretty good for someone just over a day old who'd already gone under general anaesthetic and been sliced open. The staff (who were all staggeringly helpful) told me that he was on the right track and they'd try to feed him in the morning to see if the op had been a success. I considered signing him up for Tough Mudder but instead gave him a kiss and headed back to my wife and other son.
Is every day being a parent this taxing?
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Friday, 17 April 2015

Day Zero - The Birth Days

My wife opted for a natural birth because she didn’t want to miss out on the experience. I gently suggested that a c-section might be easier for her. Why take the scenic route when you can jump on the M6?

One midwife told me to get my camera ready for the ‘big moment’ which always baffles me. People often ask, who is filming their children being born?  But that’s not the real question. What I want to know is who the hell is watching it back? It’s great to have ammunition to embarrass your kids when they grow up but I can’t see any upside to screening the full birth on a big screen at your son’s 18th surprise party. I suppose you’d save money on the buffet.

So we get put in a nice big, room of our own and told to wait. A couple of hours of nervous chat go by before the inducement gel turns up. This went in and contractions started immediately.

My wife made it very clear that I was not to make her laugh during the birth, which meant I was very tempted to do my act. In all seriousness, I tend to deal with stressful situations by making inane and moronic comments so this was going to be a challenge. 

“Please, please don’t make me laugh.”

“Even if you poo the bed?” I decided definitely not to say.

In the end I just kept my mouth shut for 22 hours as we waited for the twins to arrive. I haven’t waited that long to see someone since I went to watch Guns N Roses.

My wife slogged through labour with strength, grace and a creative use of the English expletive system. And everytime we thought we were near they’d run a check and tell us that we were at least a couple of hours away from anything happening, until finally one of the twins was about to emerge through the front door. Then all of a sudden the other twin started ‘buggering about’ (technical term) and almost instantly they called the consultant who decided to opt for an emergency c-section. Turned out the scenic route led directly to the M6 anyway.

This was pretty scary stuff as we’d been together throughout but I was told I wasn’t allowed into the theatre for the c-section, the most crucial part. I should have been petrified but at this point I actually felt quite calm. It's amazing what a combination of chronic fatigue and childlike denial can do. They put her under and ushered me into a tiny waiting room that had 3 chairs and a coffee table with Take a Break magazine on. The front cover had the headline ‘My Ex’s Ghost Got Me Pregnant’ which I decided was wholly inappropriate under the circumstances. I remember thinking a good tagline would have been ‘He Put The Willies Up Me’. It’s strange how your brain deals with stressful situations.

I was just becoming enthralled in the true life story of a gypsy paternity battle on page 7 when the midwife came running in and told me I was now the father of two beautiful boys.

‘Beautiful! So they’re not mine?’ I un-hilariously quipped. She gave me a hug then ran off with my phone to take some pictures.

Now, let’s be honest here. New born babies aren’t nearly as cute as they become a few minutes later – like a good roast chicken they need to stand for a minute or two before they’re ready. So let’s just say that the first photos she showed me most definitely won’t be going on our mantelpiece anytime soon.

But then she brought them both into the waiting room for me to hold, beautifully swaddled in white towels, eyes closed like puppies. Puppies that looked a bit like me. And that’s when it hit me in the gut that this was one of those moments in life that will never leave me, like my wedding day or that time they opened a new till at Aldi and I managed to scoop all my shopping up in one hand and dive to the front. Magic.

They were so still and peaceful, their only movement being their teeny, tiny nostrils flaring ever so slightly to take in their first few breaths. The midwife left the room to give me a moment with them and as my eyes filled up with a joy that I haven’t felt anything close to I noticed that the blanket on one had moved slightly over his mouth. Parental programming 2.0 kicked in and thinking ‘I’d better just move that away a bit’ I realized that I didn’t have a free hand to do so. Can I put one down? No, crap, can’t do that either. Oh shit, one’s started wriggling…MIDWIFE! GET BACK IN HERE!

Emotionally, this was going to be the most amazing journey of our lives.

Logistically, this was going to be tricky. 

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day Minus 1 - The Night Before Birth

My wife is pregnant with identical twin boys. We go to get induced tomorrow.

I thought I’d write about our experiences with all that free time I’m sure to have in between nappies and panic attacks. 

So here goes - I’m shitting it.

Not about becoming a dad – I’m 36 and this is exactly what we want – it’s the birth and the aftermath that is suddenly freaking me out. We found out at 20 weeks that one of our boys needs an operation the day after he’s born. It’s not an emergency, just ‘a bit of plumbing’ we’ve been told as without it he won’t be able to feed himself. We’ve met the surgeons and the pediatrician and they’ve all put our minds at rest, but now it’s so close it’s evolved from a concept into something very real.

We've also faced the repeated question that parents of multiple births constantly get from complete strangers:

"Was it spontaneous?"

Firstly, that's none of their business and secondly, how do you answer that question to a random person in the street?

"Spontaneous? I'll be honest madam, it took a good bottle and a half of cheap wine on an empty stomach just to get her upstairs and even then some mightily convincing bullshit on my part that the Sky+ box had broke just to turn the telly off. After some drunken (her) and bad breath (me) old skool snogging she finally muttered those 3 magic words. Go on then..."

We’ve had a scan every fortnight because they’re twins sharing a placenta. We’ve bought 2 cots, 2 Moses baskets, 2 car seats, enough nappies to open our own outlet village and a pram that is bigger than most cars. We’ve got the nursery ready, had the old bathroom ripped out and a new one fitted, and we’ve bought all the cute little clothes, including some ace Converse-style booties that I would definitely wear if they came in my size.

Technically, we’re ready.

But neither of us can sleep and conversation is difficult. I get nervous enough when guests are coming to stay for the weekend, and they don’t tend to stay for 18 years. They also don't tend to arrive via my wife's vagina.

Here goes nothing.

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