Its been awfully long since the last entry but I assure you, dear reader, I have been busy. Helluva.
This post has been written in bits over several months, and I have been dying to share the latest news. I have recapped a little to start with, since I frankly hardly remember what was happening last time I checked in.
So finally, voilà:
In mid-September last year (when the girls were effectively 1 month old) Chris went back to work and I was left alone with the girls. All. day. long. Its harder than it sounds, believe me. I thought I was hardcore and that I can do anything I put my mind to. But damn. As much as I love the little monkeys, weeks on end of caring for them is absolutely exhausting and draining. Many a day they refused to nap and I would end up with them in tears and me holding them just to get them to catch a few zzzs. By mid-October I was officially strung out and well on my way to crazy town. Some days I woke up feeling anxious knowing I was faced with the day of caring for them on my own, and that I would inevitably feel overwhelmed and unsure of myself. A few days I cried before Chris went to work and a few times he stayed home to help. On other occasions I called him & asked him to come and help because I felt I couldn’t cope and I was afraid. Sound like postpartum depression? Yup I reckon so. I decided that an emergency trip home to South Africa was immediately necessary. The kind folks at the SA embassy in Copenhagen issued emergency passports for the girls and we booked the tickets. I gritted my teeth and looked forward to easier times. I was so tired of being cooped up inside, the wind blowing, drizzle in the air and the days getting colder….I was tired of carrying them up & down the damn stairs if I mustered the energy to take them out walking. They would often wake mid-walk, not impressed, and I’d end up with 2 screaming babies & rushing home anyway. Depressing days for sure. Chris and I were semi-malnourished due to lack of time for cooking. I forgot to mention the girls had this annoying habit of screaming for 3 hours every night before finally feeding and falling asleep. We read all the books, all the forums etc on this type of behavior but nothing really helped. So in the evenings we would each hold a baby and basically comfort them until the scream o’clock came to an end. Then I’d tandem feed them until they were asleep and then I would collapse for the night myself. Often without dinner, I’d just pass out lying in bed feeling as if I was vibrating, all my cells buzzing from tiredness, and often not sure I was still holding a baby or if I was alone in bed. Only to wake whenever they next were thirsty….
Lindy, an old friend of mine from uni to whom I’d been whining on a daily basis, took pity on me and offered to take me in for a few months in SA so that I could get some support with the girls. We flew to SA in mid-November (the flight was intense and long but actually not as terrible as you might imagine, airport scream o’clock notwithstanding) and moved in with Lindy, her husband and their 2.5 year old son. Chris left back to Copenhagen a week later (he had to work). Lindy was there for me every day helping me with the girls and constantly trying to decode their confusing signals and ease them into a more happy, routine lifestyle. Bath times were especially noisy, the girls would inevitably be overtired in the evening and although they loved the bath, they hated getting out of it, especially having their PJs put on (FYI, it’s months later & I still struggle to get them into jim jams). Then they would be super tired and annoyed, and I would irritate them further by trying to feed them before bed, which resulted in lots of screaming. Their newly found ability to notice eachother also caused one to start crying just because her sister was upset. We all sodliered on and things settled down a bit, but as with babies, the only thing you can be sure of is that they will always be changing, so you are always adjusting & learning too.
I was deeply depressed and really felt alone without Chris, but we texted & spoke often. Some advice to new moms out there: if you have a partner, there is no replacement for that person. He is an essential part of the deal and I felt robbed being there alone. Ok I wasn’t alone but no one could give me all the hands-on help I needed. It’s a lot to ask or expect. My brother was working full time, my mother-in-law came as often as she could but was working too & the lovely friend I was staying with had her own kid to take care of, house to manage & a job on top. I would find myself alone with the babies from 5.30 or 6 am onwards, and sometimes I was just sad. Partly hormonal sure, but also knowing my husband was missing out on seeing their daily changes and I still felt clueless and trapped. I missed our little family unit and I was all alone, at least in my head.
So I hired an experienced nanny to help me out. Rahab was amazing. Totally unflappable, she gave me confidence and taught me how to get the girls into a semi-routine, and also how to stay calm. Plus she would keep an eye on them while they napped so I could actually get out of the house on my own for a while.
Once I bought the newspaper and a latté and just read a few pages while sipping my coffee. Bliss.
The girls were growing & changing every day. They started rolling over and making lots of funny noises. They were curious but still a little scared of new things. I tried to swim with them but the water was too cold and much screaming ensued.
I moved in to my brother’s cottage after Christmas and he made it a little mommy den of comfort for me. He was still super busy, but I had the sun, a pool and a nice neighborhood so I could drown my sorrows in cafe latte (decaf, naturally). Some dear friends & family came over to visit and cuddle babies, and I started to heal. Ah the magic of sunshine.
A few more weeks went by and finally Chris came to SA and I felt like a huge weight was lifted. Finally I could share the responsibility with someone as invested as me. When a baby cried in the night I could actually roll over, nudge him & say ‘Your turn, champ!’. It was awesome (It’s still his turn).
So we actually were super happy and chilled for the remainder of our time in SA. The babies had gotten more used to being in a carseat so when we took them somewhere there was less of the screaming (theirs) and gnashing of teeth (mine). They started eating a great variety of solids, so I made them loads of puree (butternut; courgette; sweet potato; even some chicken&tomato). It was so fun as they started exploring the world of food. One gem: they enjoyed sucking on a slice of lemon, but made such funny faces when they realized it was sour! ha, silly babies 😉 They would breastfeed less often so I felt a little less like a tethered boob (sorry but it’s true). It was a whole new world. We lived it up, eating countless avocados, knocking back frappucinos and getting some sun. I relaxed and even threw them a naming day party, which was a chance to celebrate their birth which we didn’t have time to do in June.
Finally February ended and we reluctantly came back to Copenhagen. Bags were jam-packed with all the baby clothes (I ♥ Cotton on) & paraphernalia you can imagine, jars of puree & nappies galore for the flight. It was hairy in the airport with all the luggage and carrying the babes (hot tip: NO you cannot gate check your enormous double stroller so you have to carry your baby! enjoy).
Getting to CPH was a real shock to my now sun-softened brain. It was sleeting when we arrived, with a nice bracing wind, clouds and no sun. geez. I had convinced myself that Spring would be in full swing. Ha!
Nope, it was freezing. It kinda still is….
Anyhow, after a week of hell as the babies adjusted to their new environment by refusing to sleep unless being held by a parent (yup) we all settled into our new nest. Chris had moved us into a ground floor apartment in Frederiksberg while I was in SA so it was all new to me too. It’s small but there is a patch of grass outside and it’s in a quiet area, so basically it’s perfect.We got into a nice little routine of playing with babies, walking Copenhagen to death so they could sleep their naps in the stroller, drinking lattés and generally living in a little baby/parent bubble. Olivia & Sophia were now rolling over both ways, started sitting up on their own briefly and were babbling all day, super cutely.
It all started feeling kind of do-able. In mid-April they started going to daycare for a few hours a day to get used to it in preparation for my return to the lab at the end of the month. It was a strange process, made worse by our ignorance of how daycare (vuggestue) works in Denmark. But after 2 days of spending a few hours in daycare Sophia woke up vomiting. Then she had diarrhea. Then Olivia started vomiting. Then the diarrhea. Then Chris. Then Sophia again. Then on what was supposed to be my first day back at work, it was my turn. I spent the morning violently vomiting & decided to stay home. Then Sophia started again…..We were officially in hell. I was drowning in a pit of nauseated despair (flashes back to the epic nausea of my pregnancy) and a pile of laundry was taking over the tiny flat. The babies were miserable, feeling sick and whining to prove it. Chris was pale and thin (again). I felt like packing up and running South immediately. But I didn’t have the energy so instead I had a nap while Chris looked after the girls and after 4 days I felt somewhat less vile. The doc diagnosed rotavirus and said to keep an eye on signs for dehydration but there was nothing else she could do. She also said they wouldn’t get this virus again this year (woo hoo!) but there is another one they could get called norovirus (boo!).
After almost 3 weeks of puke, poo and general ickiness the girls went back to vuggestue, and I was back at work. It’s been weird giving up the time with them, but also good to dust off my old science brain cells and think coherent thoughts. Or at least try to. They seem to enjoy watching the bigger kids at vuggestue running around and playing with different toys, and the pedagog assures me they eat and sleep well enough, so I am trying not to worry. I have enjoyed the luxury of quietly thinking about what experiments to do and making plans, sowing seeds and getting my hands dirty with soil again. I am enjoying the scheduling and imagining what results will come next, but I also feel like I am working in a different way. I can’t just think, ‘oh well I’ll come & do that on Saturday’ so I am quite strict when I do my planning about what I can realistically achieve in a day or in a week. I don’t just set up hasty experiments without first thinking how long it will take & what I will get out of it. I know I should have always done that, but sometimes I would just be curious and do something for the hell of it…I also appreciate the time with the girls more, and it has been awesome as they are becoming more and more like real little people! That sounds weird but you know what I mean. They also sleep ALL NIGHT most of the time, so I feel more human myself*. They sit in their high chairs (Danish design of course;) eat food, try to dish up with their little baby spoons & sometimes even get food in their mouths. Sometimes they just flick the food off the spoon and I am filled with dread as I feverishly calculate the trajectory of said food (sometimes it ends up in my hair, or theirs). They spread it on the table, wipe it on their highchairs, drop it on the floor. It is mayhem. But what joy! And they are mad for summer strawberries. They get excited and kick their legs when they see the box in the kitchen. They have eaten loads of stuff (bread, yoghurt, oats, tomatoes, cream cheese, mozzarella, pasta, eggs, chicken, salmon, cous cous, rice, apples, pears, nectarines, grapes, bananas, kiwi, blueberries, rice cakes, pancakes). So far they don’t like meat much and they love fruit. Most of their food ends up on their clothes/hands/the floor, but they are exploring with vigor, as you would expect from my progeny. They are crawling and starting to stand and pull up. This is a new scary phase, when combined with their continued tendency to put everything they find in their mouths…but I laugh every day. This morning Sophia followed me to my bedroom when I went to get dressed. She peeked at me from around the corner and squealed with delight when she found me. Then she accelerated towards me laughing and smiling, and I must say it made my day.
*For anyone who follows this blog and has an interest, you may recall I have always been obsessed with 1. reading books and googling baby stuff, 2. baby sleep. In the last months I realized that googling just makes me nervous, most of the time, so I’m trying not to over-research; 2. my babies were waking up a lot, and I thought they needed my help to replace thier pacifiers. Turns out they could replace it themselves, and they finally slept through the night when I left them to cry for a while (checking in every 10 mins). It was my husband’s idea to see if they could sleep without our constant help & it has been a lifesaver
Then & now:
- 4 naps a day
- waking 2-4 times a night
- breastfeeding every 2.5 hours
- being cute
- swatting a toy
- crying in chorus
- 2 naps a day
- sleep at night
- breastfeed once a day, bottles 3 times (hold their own bottles)
- eat loads of stuff
- learning to feed themselves
- starting to pull up and stand
- grabbing things with their fingers (pincer grip)
- saying many sounds (bababa, dadada, mamama, dedede etc)
- blowing bubbles in water
So to all my fellow twin moms out there, take heart, it really does get better 🙂
♥ All my love & thanks to Lindy for saving my life many times over in the last year ♥