Health visitors

Pre-birth, post-birth and checks.

I have always feared health visitors ever since my mum told me she saw hers out the door after she compared me to her dogs. (Apparently they had been up all night too.)

My interaction couldn’t be further from that. I have had an all round great experience with my health visitor.

My first visit was when I was around 30 weeks pregnant. She came round to introduce herself and to let me know things that I may easily forget after giving birth. I thought this was incredibly patronising but now after having my twins, I am very grateful for it. She told me all sorts about what to do at the hospital and after to get the girls registered as proper humans.

The next visit was around day 12 (I think) after I was discharged by the midwives. I wasn’t quite with it during that visit, but she checked the girls, weighed them, measured their heads, checked their height and a few other bits. It was nice to get reassurance that we were doing a reasonable job at keeping our kids alive.

Then our most recent visit was at six weeks. Again it was getting the girls weighed, heights measured and all round check they are ok.

All round, I would say there isn’t actually anything to fear. They aren’t out to get you, as so many people would have you believe. I think my health visitor is a former nurse so she does actually know what she’s talking about.

The only major thing I would say is that there is zero involvement from six weeks until nine months. Zero. I don’t have to go to clinics if I don’t feel I have to get my girls weighed, I don’t have to check in with anyone for them to double check they’re still alive. And this, I believe, is where too many children slip through the net and where you hear stories about neglect or worse. The fact there is no involvement from anyone and that you don’t even have nurse check ups from 16 weeks after their immunisations to me is irresponsible. I don’t really know who is responsible for it. The council, the NHS, the government ultimately. We need to do more to protect children.

You will never drink hot coffee again

Things you didn’t know you needed. 

Here are a few things I have found useful in our first few months of being twin parents.

Endless supply of nappies

A month before the babies were born, my husband went out for a final hurrah with a load of his male friends and they all had to bring us a pack of nappies. What a life saver. They lasted us ten weeks with some left over. We didn’t need to buy any nappies (except a few packs of Micros, see below) for the first 10 weeks which was brilliant and saved us some money. If anyone wanted to buy anything for us, I asked for nappies.

Micro size nappies

Our girls were both under 6lbs and size 1 nappies were so big they were up to their armpits. Pampers were the only brand we found to have smaller sizes, but this will be incredibly useful to have if you are expecting twins or a small baby.

Heated airer

We don’t have a tumble dryer (much to my dismay) and the amount of washing we do now is ridiculous. I feel like I spend my life washing towels, muslins and vests. So many vests.

Thermos

If you like your coffee piping hot, say goodbye to it unless you have a thermos or a mug that retains heat. Some days I will find a mug of coffee that I made two hours earlier. Luckily I don’t mind it room temperature and have learn how to neck it while I can.

Snot sucker

It is as revolting as it sounds. And I think the technical term is “nasal aspirator” which is ever so slightly nicer. Our girls both caught colds at nine weeks old and sounded like two snorting pigs. A family member told us about this where you literally suck the snot out of the babies’ noses (it has a filter but it is still gross) to clear their noses. Disgusting, but a life saver. That and saline drops to loosen it all up.

Water Wipes

I don’t use Johnson’s products on my girls (far too many chemicals) and have been strictly using Water Wipes and thus far we have had no problems with any rashes or uncomfortable bottoms.

Oil

This will really help with any dry skin. I’ve been complimented by a few people about how the girls aren’t crusty. I literally oil them. I use Kiehl’s Nuturing Oil for Mom & Baby or standard coconut oil. The girls love a head rub and they don’t have any unsightly bits of skin. Again, I don’t use Johnson’s Baby crude Oil.

I should be on Pointless

I’m starting to embrace daytime television.

When I was pregnant, everyone was telling me how I’d be able to catch up on loads of TV shows. I wish I could remember who told me because I’d like to go back to them and ask them when exactly I could do that.

Now the girls are a full 10 weeks old, they are much more active in the day so all I ever have on the TV is Modern Family, This Morning or Pointless. I cannot figure out when people catch up on TV. Night feeds (starting to become a rarity already) are only about half an hour from picking them up to putting them down, so it’s not as if I’m awake for hours in the night when I could sit and watch anything. And I feel massively guilty having the television on while the girls are awake. I should be paying them my full attention.

The benefit of embracing daytime television and watching Pointless shows me that my mind isn’t completely broken and I can actually remember some stuff. I really should apply to be on it, I know so many useless things.

I think being able to watch TV must be something people with just one baby are able to do.

What to expect: midwife visits

You will be visited the day after returning home, day five and day 10.

Midwives are a godsend, quite frankly. In the hospital there were one or two who were my guardian angels (one I didn’t like so much but I won’t name and shame) and the ones who came to my house after having my twins were lovely too.

Word of warning, if you have a caesarean, your day five will be the day you get your dressing off. It will hurt. There’s no denying it. Make sure you take some painkillers before she arrives and also ask if you can take the dressing off yourself. My midwife was great, she held my skin taut while directing me how to pull it off. This allowed me to pause when I needed it and to take it at my own speed. Once it was off she then proceeded to shout for my husband to take a photo of it so I could see if properly. I wish I never saw that. I am very lucky my scar is a neat line (women surgeons!) but still bloody and not exactly pleasing on the eye so soon after surgery.

The midwife will also weigh your baby to check they haven’t dropped too much weight and will check you are recovering as well as you can.

I believe it was also day five where we had the babies’ heel spot tests. Our girls were ok with them (Twin 1 had to have glucose testing every three hours in hospital so was already used to it), but I have heard some babies scream so they can do it while you are feeding them. It is over very quickly and well worth the checks.

The first visit from the midwife, I felt she was a bit judgy but really she wasn’t. I think it was my hormones and I was instantly very protective of how I look after my children. They are there to help you for up to 28 days after the birth of the baby (it is then past on to your GP) so use the help if you need it. Just don’t mention if you have a Perfect Prep machine to save the lectures.

All round, midwife visits for us were all very reassuring. There’s something quite nice to hear “you’re doing a good job and you have very healthy babies” from a professional.

Things I wish I said

Walking with a twin pram opens you up to a barrage of idiotic questions.

One day someone is going to catch me when I’ve had little-to-no sleep and feeling back to my normal rude sarcastic self.

Are they twins? No, they’re three years apart but one stopped growing.

Were they planned? Do you really want to know?

Did you plan for twins? How can you plan for twins?

Were they IVF? Why should that even matter to you, Ms Waitrose Cashier? (Note: I have nothing against people who use IVF, it’s just a deeply personal question)

Are they both boys? No, girls can have blue blankets too. You’d think the pink snowsuits would give it away.

Are you breastfeeding? Why should that even be a question?

Are they identical? For this one, I just answer yes because it’s easier than explaining to a stranger that we don’t actually know. (There is a one in three possibility they are, but even though they may look different, it doesn’t mean they are fraternal.)

How do you tell them apart? I am their mother, of course I can tell them apart. Also, they look different.

Is it really hard? No, it’s an absolute breeze.

Useful gift ideas for new parents

Some useful ideas for presents.

Nappies

This will be one of the most appreciated gifts you can buy someone. Especially if said person is having multiples. We have found Aldi nappies really do live up to the hype and they are super cheap too. Newborn size 1 are currently £1.15 in shops.

Wipes

Similar to nappies, these will come in so useful and will help in the first few weeks if they run out and don’t have time to run to the shop. We use Water Wipes (I’m anti-Johnsons baby wipes) and have had no issues thus far. I have also tried the Aldi Mamia sensitive wipes (in the pale green packet) and they are brilliant. Not as wet, but sometimes can be easier than the super wet wipes. 

Muslins

Similar to the above, you can never have too many muslins. John Lewis sell decent ones in bundle packs. We like the ones from Ikea and Sainsburys. Alternatively (if you have lots of cash to splash), Aden and Anais do beautiful swaddle muslins which double up as both swaddles and enormous muslins for clearing up milk spills and sick. These are much cheaper in the US and Canada than here. I found some in HomeSense that were half the price you normally pay here.

Ready meals

Something I never asked people for but wish I had in the first few weeks. Ready meals are so cheap but so handy to have in the freezer to quickly microwave once babies are sleeping.

Bodysuits

The amount of short sleeved bodysuits/vests we are going through by the day is ridiculous. A pack of these will go a long way either in newborn or 0-3 months size would be most useful to start with.

Clothes in bigger sizes

While the tiny clothes are very cute, it is useful to buy clothes for when the babies grow out of them. There’s no point in buying sweet dresses in newborn size because babies live in sleepsuits. Or the dresses only last two hours before being sicked on. Or worse.

Vouchers

If you don’t know what to buy, don’t buy anything and get vouchers instead. Then the new parents can use them in the following year as and when things crop up.

Presence

Even if it is just to cuddle the baby while the new dad sleeps for 20 minutes or new mum gets to wash her hair for the first time in five days, your presence will be appreciated. When you visit new parents, if they offer you a drink, say you will make it. Take round biscuits or cake and ask if they need milk before visiting in the first few weeks. If you visit after the dad has gone back to work after his paternity leave, take the mum a sandwich and a packet of crisps. She will have more than likely not eaten all day. I speak from experience. Alternatively, if you’re feeling generous and have a tumble dryer, take away their washing and bring it back clean.

Will I ever read a book without pictures again?

Intellectual stimulation is hard to come by when you have a newborn.

This is the main reason I started writing these blog posts. I feel guilty doing anything for myself while the girls are awake, but newborn babies don’t really do much. When they were under three weeks old, they didn’t do anything except sleep and eat. But while they slept, I had no energy to do anything because I was still recovering from surgery. Now, they are awake most of the day but are only really starting to interact with me.

The girls have yet to respond well to my discussions with them on various NPR shows I listen to throughout the week (BBC Radio 4 sends me to sleep so I listen to Nashville Public Radio through TuneIn). Hopefully that will change at some point.

I also never wanted to be one of those people who have the television on all day. But it turns out the girls like the bright lights and flashing of it and get really happy during certain theme songs. Modern Family is a favourite at the moment when I’m feeding them. Twin 2 is a fan of the flashing opening credits and kicks her legs and gets excited. It’s quite useful when I’m feeding Twin 1 and have to plonk her into her bouncer.

I could think of worse things to introduce them to than Modern Family.

It is important for dads to have alone time with babies, particularly if they only had two weeks paternity leave. So we are trying something new when we are home for the weekend. I will take myself off for a few hours to have some alone time for myself (equally important) while the girls get one-to-one (two-to-one?) time with their dad.

Ideally this will mean I will start to feel like a grown up again and don’t have to talk about Mr Dinosaur and Mr Giraffe (I clearly have a great imagination for toy names) for hours on end. Maybe one day I’ll manage to concentrate on reading a book sans pictures.

I don’t know how she does it 

Spoiler alert: she doesn’t either. 

There are so many days where I literally have no idea how I managed to survive it. Some days, I haven’t had breakfast until 3pm.

Plenty of people said to me that they don’t know how I manage it with twins. My answer tends to be the same for everyone: I don’t know any different. I believe this is the beauty of having a set of twins as my first (and last) children. I do not know what it is like to have one child, so I have absolutely nothing to compare it with. It was the same with my pregnancy. People asked me all the time if it was really bad. It was, but I don’t know if it is for carrying one child. (As a quick side note, I really think someone should hire me to go around schools and tell kids the truth about what being pregnant is like. I’m convinced I could lower the teen pregnancy rate.)

My girls are more or less on the same pattern and sleep at the same time — although this means they want feeding at the same time — and they settle each other. We have had them in the same cot from day one (they have been used to each other for nearly nine months) which I think has massively helped. They keep each other warm at night and they settle each other — sometimes by punching — if the other one stirs.

In some respect, I think I have it quite easy — I don’t know how people cope with a demanding toddler and a newborn. But the truth is, I really don’t know how I manage it either. Some days, I just want to sit in the bathroom away from them and cry for 10 minutes, but then I have to go back to the annoying heartbreaking noise of them both crying too.

There is the occasional day that goes by easily, where the girls take it in turns to be fed and have a fuss over. But more often than not, they want their milk at the same time and that time is RIGHT NOW.

Babies have no patience, it appears. They don’t understand “Can you wait five minutes while I sort out your sister, please?” just yet. I have said it before that I do not want to wish my girls’ lives away, but I cannot wait for the days where they can hold their own bottles.

What to expect: Elective caesarean

Don’t fear a caesarean. And definitely do not listen to other people’s horror stories.

The minute I found out I would definitely have a caesarean, people crept out the woodwork to tell me how horrific it was, how long it took them to recover and even how they thought they were going to die. Great!

I had an elective caesarean because both babies were breech. And I had an absolutely amazing experience.

I was kept in the night before my caesarean was booked because I had protein in my urine and high blood pressure (I maintain my blood pressure was so high because they would let me go home). It turns out my girls were going to come that day regardless of surgery. My waters broke at 1:30am — so pleased I saved my mattress at home from that revolting mess — and was put straight to the top of the list for surgeries that day. Thank god, I wasn’t going to spend all day not being able to eat.

The surgery was very straight forward and I had no idea they had actually begun until one minute before Twin 1 was born. One minute later, they pulled Twin 2 out!

The most painful part of the surgery for me was putting the cannula in my wrist. Not even the spinal injection hurt which was what I was dreading the most. TMI, but even taking the catheter out (you’re numb when it goes in, don’t worry) wasn’t as painful as I thought — I think the anaesthetic was still slightly active.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone having a caesarean would be to listen to the professional advice and ignore everyone else. The whole “listen to your body” thing sounds hippy but it is true. I only took painkillers for four days afterwards. I missed a dose but then realised I wasn’t in any pain so didn’t actually need them (until my milk came through, that is). But, everyone is different so make sure you have enough paracetamol and ibuprofen to see you through the first week. You will also need to be able to sit up in bed easily. Something that may sound really easy to do until you have your stomach muscles cut through and essentially lose all ability to move.

The best thing I did while recovering was to decide to stay in hospital for an extra night, even though we were all able to be discharged. I was lucky enough to blag a private room (apparently you are meant to pay for them but I was never sent a bill) so I think that helped because I didn’t have the noises of other annoying people and their crying babies.

Chaos: is this what my life has become?

My dad always told me that I would get kidney failure if I didn’t go to the toilet regularly.

There are some days I have absolutely no idea how I will get to take two minutes and go for a wee. When I settle one baby down, the other one starts. I know I should let them just cry but that would mean she wakes her sister. Plus the cries are heartbreaking (I say “heartbreaking” because I think that is what I am meant to feel but really it is just annoying).

I crave having a routine again. The only glimpse of a routine I have right now is to know roughly when the girls are going to wake in the morning based on when they were put to bed after their night feed. I know I need to lay out two nappies, wipes, two vests, two babygrows/outfits, I need to make myself a coffee (which will be cold by the time I finally sit down with one baby) and ideally get something to eat (this sometimes doesn’t happen until 3pm).

I am the sort of person who needs to be organised and in a routine. So the fact my home is utter chaos with blankets, books, toys and parts of the pram scattered all over my living room is not ideal.

Will I ever get a routine again? I really hope so. In the mean time, I’m going to try and tiptoe to the bathroom before one of the babies wakes the other.

Feeling like a whale

There is no avoiding it. A multiple pregnancy will make you feel enormous.

No matter how much Bio Oil and creams you use, you will get stretch marks.

It does not shrink overnight either. People will tell you that you look great. You will not believe them. You will still feel like crap no matter how many people say “You don’t look like you’ve just had twins.”

I need to keep reminding myself that I have just birthed two humans who were healthy enough weights to go home within 24 hours (we didn’t, but that is another story).

One day I won’t be reaching for my maternity jeans in the morning. Although they are bloody comfortable.

Missing grown up talk

Baby talk is banned in my house. 

Even if I wanted to coo-coo and ga-ga over my girls, I physically can not bring myself do it. Mostly for the fear of being on a hidden camera show (Beadle’s About has ruined me for life) and someone is actually watching me do it, but also for the fact that it is ridiculous.

I have a few pet peeves in life. Ok, that’s a total lie, I have hundreds. But one thing that drives me mad is hearing people talking to their children like they are stupid. I like to think that even though my babies do not have be ability to talk back to me, they understand my constant babble and that they are taking everything in.

Something I plan to do is continue to talk to my girls like I talk to my peers. They will learn proper grammar, sentence structure and words. And I will categorically refuse to allow my children to say “Ta”. Even if it takes them years to grasp, they will be saying “Thank you” instead.

While I do not miss being in an office environment, I definitely miss conversation. I probably drive my husband insane when he gets home from work by talking at him. Even when he’s at work, I bombard him with WhatsApp messages about banal things like the fact I have just putting the washing on or the amount the babies have pooed that day. Riveting stuff.

I definitely do not want to wish my girls’ lives away. But at the same time, I am looking forward to being able to have a proper chat with them.

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