Sunday, 29 April 2012

An admission of guilt

G & T - 29 months   M - 6-and-a-half months

Most days, I just can't believe my luck. Three beautiful, bright, funny little girls. I wouldn't change a thing in my life because it's all brought me to them. But I am struggling with something. Birth guilt. Ever since M was born, I've felt like a bit of a failure. Like I cheated. When I was expecting the twins, I made plans for as natural a birth as possible. No more than gas and air, lots of moving around and absolutely no epidural. I hated the idea of being out of control far more than the idea of the pain. Then a scan at 32 weeks showed my girls were breech, and with two in there, there was nothing I could do to turn them around. I was gutted to be told I'd need a C-section. In the end, I went into labour five days before the scheduled op, so we did the whole waters breaking in the night, husband finding a cab at 3am while I tried to get dressed through the contractions thing. In the taxi, the pains came with barely time to catch my breath between them. When I was examined at hospital, less than two hours from the first contraction, I was 6cm, G's bottom was starting to come out, and suddenly, the room went from calm to medical emergency as I was rushed into theatre. Until the spinal block went in, I hadn't had a drop of pain relief. Don't get me wrong, those contractions were mind-blowingly painful, but I could handle them, and by 5am, I'd met my girls. Expecting M gave me a second chance at a natural birth. She gave me a scare by turning breech briefly during the third trimester, but dutifully flipped round again, so we were all set. Then I started to get the false labours. With G and T, I'd had hundreds of Braxton Hicks, but they were intermittent, short-lasting, and I never mistook them for the real thing. This time, almost every night in the week leading up to my due date, the pains came, gradually getting closer together until I felt I had to write down the timings, just in case, only for them to tail off again. Teamed with watching two toddlers all day, I was exhausted. Finally, at 40 weeks and two days, I woke up at 3am with contractions coming every five minutes and getting worse. We headed to the hospital and, sure enough, in the cab, they got closer and closer. But the time we got there, they were two minutes apart and pretty intense. I was examined at 7am, fully expecting to be pushing my little girl out in time for breakfast. I was 2cm. Just 2cm. I was stunned. Just how long could this go on? The pain was already crippling, as though someone was trying to rip my insides out every couple of minutes. But worse was the fact that there was no respite. I'd hardly have time to muster a sob before the next wave of pain hit. At 11am, I was examined again. Please, 7cm at least... No, just 5. Oh God, I can't do this. They broke my waters to try to move things along. As they went and another contraction hit, I screamed like a woman possessed. The pain was indescribable. And I knew. I just couldn't do it any more. 'I need a break, chicken. I need a break,' I sobbed to my husband, over and over. He got the message. 'Are you sure?' he asked, looking into my wild, teary eyes. When I nodded, he took charge and, after a couple of missed attempts with the needle, the epidural went in, and the pain vanished. The rest of my labour was a positively lovely experience, chatting with three great midwives, periodically topping up the epidural... Until it came time to push. I just couldn't feel anything. The drugs hadn't had time to wear off. For an hour, we waited to see if M would move closer on her own, I threw up violently, then for another hour, I tried to push, with the midwife guiding me. But I couldn't feel a thing. In the end, a doctor was called in as M's heartrate was erratic, and a ventouse finally helped her out. She was placed on my chest, but before I had time to breathe, she was whisked away. Without a sound. I can barely even type the memory of seeing a little mask being put on her face. The midwife was fabulous, calmly telling me she was fine. But they're probably trained to say that. My husband was the real hero. As I sobbed hysterically, begging to have her back, he stood between us, reassuring me, saying he could see her move. In fact, he admitted later, he was terrified. She was totally still, and those two minutes were the longest in his life. Then the most wonderful relief as she let rip a wail, and was finally handed back to me. Just a little shocked by her sudden birth after so long stuck, she was fine. She is totally fine. Reaching every milestone, a happy, funny, loveable little angel. But I can't kick the guilt. I let her down. I couldn't push her out. I put her in danger. Turns out, I was topping up the epidural too much, thinking it was preventative, rather than responding to the pain. Having shunned the very idea of having one, I hadn't bothered to find out anything about them. And frankly, when it was going in, the surgeon could have been telling me I was signing my soul over the the devil and I wouldn't have cared. I guess when I was having the twins, the pain was easier to handle as I knew an end was in sight. I just wasn't prepared for the intensity of the agony second time round. I thought that either my labour would be as fast as with the twins, or it would be more like the textbooks. Ten minutes between contractions, then nine, then eight... Not seven hours of constant pain. So, I feel like I failed. Most of the time, I don't care. M is my little angel. It doesn't matter how she got here, she's here, and she's wonderful. It's more important that I raise her well, and each time she lets rip with a cheeky wee laugh, I know that I'm doing OK. It's just hard to let go of the memory of that tiny little mask. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of Daddy's book. I brought up the subject of M's birth one day, worried he'd nod and say: 'Yes, I was disappointed in you.' So, did he have any regrets? 'Yeah,' he said. 'You kept calling me chicken. It was so embarrassing...'

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dreaming of dreaming

G&T - 28-and-a-half months  M - six-and-a-half months

I love sleep. Love it. It is truly one of the greatest things a human gets to experience. Lying there, warm and snug, with a fluffy soft duvet, on a firm, comfortable mattress. I used to love getting into bed early, just so I could enjoy the luxuriant daze of slowly losing consciousness. Bliss... The last time I got a really good night's sleep was three years ago. Just when the twins started regularly sleeping through, I fell pregnant and it was back to the night-time toilet trips and bulky bump discomfort. All the more reason to get little M sleep-trained early. The twins were about one before we attempted anything other than rocking them to sleep in our arms. With two of them, you always worry they'll unsettle each other. In the end though, G decided it was time for a change. She began refusing to sleep on us, instead preferring to nod off in her cot. T was more of a problem. In the end, I spent a few agonising nights sitting by her bed at God knows o'clock, repeatedly lying her down until she got the message that I wasn't picking her up, followed by a few agonising nights sitting in the room at bedtime, waiting a seemingly interminable time until she went to sleep on her own. I gradually moved further from her until I didn't have to be in the room at all. I want to try the 'gradual withdrawal' method for M too, but my problem is again, T. The smallest thing has been known to throw her sleep off track, and force me back to training. If I sit in with M at bedtime, will T get too used to my presence? Besides, the twins are just too raucous at bedtime. They're in their cots by about 7.45, but can always be heard over the monitor singing, laughing or throwing their teddies at each other before silence reigns. Not exactly an atmosphere conducive to baby sleep. Especially when M adores them so much. She'll only want to join in, then where will I be?! So I tried the middle-of-the-night refusal to pick her up. But after two hours by the cot, she failed to see the fun any more, and screamed until I had to feed her just to stop her causing a riot. So I'm stuck in limbo, in an exhausted world, where my dreaming is largely limited to the daytime variety, as I imagine eight hours of uninterrupted peace. I do remember reaching a zombie phase when the twins were babies, but I'm feeling it so much more this time. When they were tots, I could at least collapse straight into bed when I'd finally got them down. These days, I have a day's worth of toddler chaos to rein in before I can stumble towards my mattress and grab what ever blackness I can. I'm so shattered I put T to bed the other night with no nappy on. And she's not potty-trained. I simply didn't notice I hadn't put one on. Thankfully, she stayed dry all night, and we only realised there was a problem when she informed her daddy in the morning that she was peeing on her trousers. Still have no idea how I did it. But I'm not really surprised. I'm living in a bizarre shadow world, where basic functions are all my brain can handle. Please, if anyone out there has any tips, help me... I want some sleep!!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Cold comfort

G&T - 28-and-a-half months M - 6 months

Well, one week down, and I'm just about surviving life without my constant companion. M is all moved in to the twins' room, and our bedroom has been reclaimed as an adult-only oasis. Well, OK, so there is a little toy seepage. All right, toy flood from the girls' room, but we're getting there. Not that the first week of Mission Sleep Train has been entirely successful. I thought I'd be braver this time, you know, less squeamish about leaving my little one to cry. Having been through it all before, I realise a little crying never hurt anyone, and not rushing for every squeak is actually what's required for M to get a decent night's sleep. But I'd forgotten about the monitor anxiety. We were still using a baby monitor to hear the twins, but it pretty much got switched on at bedtime and ignored until our 7am wake up call. The first night I put M in there, I turned on the monitor, brought it downstairs... and my ears ached as I strained to hear every snuffle and snort, poised to leap up and run to her. I told myself it was because I didn't want her waking G and T, but if I'm honest, it's just that I couldn't bear the thought of her missing me. Of her waking up and being scared. Even typing that word - 'scared' - makes me well up, my protective mother instinct twitching, having to contain myself from rushing to her side. If a twin cries, their dad and I sigh and look at each other, willing the sound to go away and, if that fails, willing the other one to drag themselves up to attend. I love them just as fiercely as their baby sister, but they are fully formed little ladies, as a day of being ordered about, laughed at and wrapped round two chubby little fingers proves. If they really need me, they'll let me know. M doesn't have that ability yet, and I just want to wrap her in my arms and never let go. But, of course, I have to, and by day three I was beginning to relax, letting the snuffles go, and trying my best to limit our night-time interactions to only the most basic patting and shooshing. Then we got the visit every parent of toddlers dreads. The snot fairy. Suddenly, no one was sleeping. Our nights were filled with coughs, sneezes and mucous-filled distress from every corner of the room. At one point, I woke up cradling M in my arms in the feeding chair, having been left no option but to pick her up, to find Daddy sleeping between the cots with T snuggled next to him on the floor. Sleep training went out the window as we all just attempted to survive the days and nights in a sleep-deprived, snot-filled haze. But it seems everyone is finally breathing easier again, so now Mission Strong Mummy must begin in earnest. I will resist the urge to run at every sound, and keep night-time snuggling to an absolute minimum. Unless it's with Daddy of course. Though hopefully not on the floor...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Home sweet home

G&T - 28 months  M - 6 months

Well, that's it. My baby has moved out. Little M's cot has been decamped to her sisters' room, and the Moses basket in the living room has been packed away. From now on, she'll go to bed with her big sisters, while I stay downstairs and miss her. Until it's time for me to go to bed, then I'll go up into my own bed and miss her there instead. It's brought back so many memories of the day the twins first moved into their nursery. Their move was perhaps even more stressful, as it not only meant being separated from Mummy and Daddy, but also from each other. Although they were still to share a room, they were moving into their own cots, having shared one since birth. Their dad and I worried for weeks about how they'd take to it, and in fact instigated an elaborate plan to ease the change. We kept one cot in our room, but built one in the nursery and, over the course of a week before the move, the girls alternated between rooms, with one parent and one child in each room. Then came the big day. Both cots were put in the nursery, the girls were put into bed and... a totally uneventful night. They were utterly unperturbed by any of it. Turns out we, or more probably I, was being a drama queen. And I know M will be OK too. In fact, separating from her should be easier. Until just after she was born, we lived in London, hundreds of miles away from most of my family in Scotland or my husband's clan in Yorkshire. It meant there were no ready babysitters and there was always a little adjustment period while they clung to me until they remembered who visitors were. It made expecting M a difficult time, first worrying she'd arrive before my mum came to stay on my due date then, even when Granny appeared, worrying that the twins would be stressed about Mummy and Daddy vanishing. Of course, when I did go into labour in the middle of the night, the girls were simply delighted when they had a whole day of playing with Granny and Aunty R, while I cared about nothing but getting that baby the hell out of me! But I'm glad that now, should I go into labour in the wee small hours (admittedly unlikely) none of us would bat an eyelid. My mum lives literally five minutes away and all three girls love being left with her or Grandad or Aunty S. They're always having far too much fun to notice their parents abandoning them. M has been looked after by Granny far more times in her six months than her sisters did in their first two years. Not only does that give Daddy and me more freedom to spend time with the twins, or even, amazingly, each other, but it's pretty good for Granny too. If I ever see anyone prouder than my mum when she strolls along pushing her little lookalike grand-daughter in her buggy, I'd be surprised. After raising the twins so far from home and coping with them alone and pregnant while Daddy was at work, my life now has transformed. And so has theirs. If I could give you one piece of advice, it'd be move back home. Nothing in the world is better than grandparents!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bye bye baby

G&T - 28 months    M - 6 months

A poop in a potty! A poop in a potty! I swore when such a thing occurred, I would resist the urge to turn into a cliched shrieking mum, but I couldn't help it. As G leapt up and she and T stared at the neat little package in wonder, I was overcome with pride and delight. My clever little girl! G herself was more shocked than anything else. Whether it was the surprise of seeing this strange thing emerge from her, or my alarming exultation, I don't know, but she burst into tears. A lot of praise and cuddles helped her calm down, but a funny thing happened. That evening, as I delightedly relayed every detail to her daddy, I found myself welling up too. With pride yes, but also a little sadness. My baby is growing up. And she isn't the only one. I've just started little M on solids, and boy does she love them. Baby rice smeared everywhere, happily sucking on peppers and rice cakes, she loves being in her high chair, one of the girls with her sisters. She's also just managed to sit up all on her own, and I welled again as I watched her wobbly attempts to join in her sisters' game. I'm now deciding when to wean her off breastfeeding on to bottles, perhaps soon after her imminent move into her sisters' room. It's all changing. She's my baby, the last I'll ever have. I love her sleeping in her cot next to me, being able to just glance across and see her peaceful little face. When I hold her, I love the way she snuggles into me, favouring my cuddles above all others. But truth be told, I've already been relegated to third place in her estimation, behind her ever-entertaining sisters. And it's only a matter of time before I drop down to fourth, when she starts to appreciate, like her sisters before her, the fun-filled, treat-wielding wonder that is Daddy. But I guess that's a full-time mum's lot. Ever-present so a little less sparkly. Always being distracted from games by boring things like cooking or cleaning. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to become one of those women who just keep having children so they always have a baby to cling to them. I'm done. But saying that with such finality does make me a little wistful. I spent a lot of my life imagining having a baby, but I guess now my babies are growing up, I have to as well. I've got a different life to look forward to. The first days at school, losing those first teeth, the first bike, the first boyfriend, the first broken heart (though those last two will only happen when the girls are 40 if Daddy has his way...). A world of firsts just waiting round the corner, and I can't wait. Well, actually, I can wait, just for a while. I'll be a mum of babies for a little longer yet, and I'll love every nappy-filled second.