Visit from Grannie Rosalie

Grannie Rosalie holding both twins, on the sofa with Gareth and Jane

On Thursday my Mum came up to Anstruther (kindly driven by my brother and family) for an overnight stay and to spend some time with her new grandsons.

It was really lovely to have Mum/Grannie Rosalie here over a couple of days. I found Mum’s support, advice and reassurance absolutely wonderful and exactly what I needed.

Twingles

I was having a tough day on Thursday. I’d overdone it; we’d had lots of visitors that day and that was the first day since being diagnosed with shingles that I hadn’t gone for a sleep during the day. I certainly learned my lesson by the time the evening had come around.

What’s more exhausting than having shingles? Having twingles! That’s having twins and shingles at the same time.

In the end Mum and Jane sent me to bed, but before then Mum encouraged and coached us through what was quite a tough evening.

Up until that point evenings and nights had been perfect: wake, change, feed, wind, settle, sleep, repeat.

Thursday evening was more like those six activities were printed on a couple of dice and shaken at random every few minutes!

Your trial period of perfect, sleeping babies has expired, please renew your subscription to continue.

Hey! Welcome to the real world of parenting!

Tuition from the world’s best midwife

It was reassuring to be reminded that we’d only been parents for ten days by that point, and that we were still getting to know Reuben and Joshua, and they are still getting to know and trust us.

And Mum was an absolute star, simply reassuring us that we were doing the right thing: are they hungry? windy? too hot? too cold? is their nappy dirty/wet? do they just need some reassurance and a wee cuddle?

Mum gave us some great tuition in how to tell if your baby is still windy after feeding (a blue-ish look around their mouth, and pulling their legs up to their chests) and techniques to help bring up the wind. It was just what we needed, and like all good tutors allowed us to try it out for ourselves rather than taking over. Of course, having twins we could both do it at the same time! Perfect.

“Always go with your gut instincts,” said Mum. “Nobody knows a baby better than their mummy and daddy. No health visitor or midwife.”

“Yeah, but that said in this case, a midwife-trained mother of three trumps me just now!” I joked.

Over the last couple of days I’ve found that invaluable advice. As well as the advice to go for a sleep during the day!

The first few days at home with Reuben and Joshua

Two babies lying on the sofa.
Spot the sleeping babies.

Well, as you may have gathered from the last 24 seconds post, we’ve been home since Sunday evening and the last few days have been all about getting into a new rhythm of life, with new responsibilities, new concerns and new cues. Four days later and we’re really beginning to get there.

Expectations

I don’t really know what I expected, if I’m truly honest, once we brought our babies home. All of our focus the last few years had just been getting to the point of the possibility of bringing home a baby: our journey towards and through the IVF treatment, then our journey through the pregnancy.

Of course, we had equipped the house, we had made space in our home and in our hearts, in expectation. But beyond that I had no real appreciation for what it would mean on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis to have two newborn babies in our home, in their new home.

The good news is that’s amazing; they are amazing!

Privilege

What a privilege to look after these two beautiful creatures, to be there to bathe, feed, dress and keep them warm and safe; their lives in our hands. What a tiny glimpse I’ve been given into the love that God has for us, whom He has made. It’s truly humbling.

Last night after feeding Joshua as I held him in my arms, his head over my shoulder, rubbing and patting his back, his tiny hands clutched the top of my t-shirt, grasping a few chest hairs with it — really holding onto me — and he held on and held on. Father and son. It was amazing, gazing into the dark eyes of this tiny, vulnerable child knowing that I would do anything to protect him; protect them both.

So many things about parenthood suddenly make sense now that they are born, the things that folks joke about: getting up in the middle of the night to feed them, the sleep deprivation, changing their nappies, having to wear three different t-shirts in a day because your other two have sick or wee on them. But none of that really matters because these things are down out of love.

How I used to struggle to get up at 05:45 because I wanted to work on a website before heading out to work. I can be out of bed in seconds at 03:00 to attend to Reuben or Joshua’s cries for food.

Each day with them is a blessing, an opportunity to learn more about them and more about myself. What an incredible gift.

New skills

And boy! have I learned some new skills in the last nine days.

I can change nappies now, feed and wind a baby. And I no longer look as though I’m awkwardly carrying the world’s most expensive jelly when I pick them up. Today I bathed Reuben for the first time and I’m even getting the hang of putting over-the-head, long-sleeved vests on them — wow! those are hard vestments for such an energetic, wriggling mass of baby!

Shhh!

One tip that we picked up from a Gina Ford book was that the first two weeks at home should be paradigms of peace, calm and quiet and that’s what we’ve tried to promote and it seems to have done wonders for our tiny bundles of joy.

The first night home from hospital was another matter all together, but let’s not go there. From the second day at home we got them into a pretty good routine, as much for us as them, and just kept everything calm and peaceful — even if inside we were somewhat nervous and uncertain.

We’ve had various visitors, mostly close family. Jane’s Mum was amazing the first few days — everyone needs a “Jane’s Mum” when they bring a baby home from hospital! Today my Mum came up from the Scottish Borders, which has been lovely, and my brother and his family visited too.

So … all is well, thanks be to God! Long may it continue.

If daddy can’t go to the babies…

Well, if daddy can’t go to the babies, then the babies will just have to come home to daddy!

Reuben

Meet twin #1: Reuben originally posted on 12seconds.tv, but uploaded to YouTube after 12seconds.tv was discontinued.

Joshua

Meet twin #2: Joshua originally posted on 12seconds.tv.

… of course, you’re going to have to trust me that there are two babies and that I’ve not just dressed the same one up in something different!

I’ve been banned from the maternity ward!

Joshua and Reuben asleep.

This afternoon I got banned from the maternity ward.

Let me explain.

Insect bites?

A couple of days ago I noticed what looked like a cluster of nasty-looking insect bites on my chest. They were red and swollen, and quite typical of my reaction to insect bites.

While many thousands of people have idyllic experiences of the isle of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland, my memories of it are distracted by the recollection of 350+ infected midge bites which made me feel like my arms, legs and torso had been repeatedly slashed with a scalpel. That’s the kind of typical experience I have with insect bites.

So, with that in mind, I didn’t think too much about them, assuming that it was perhaps some wee beastie that the cats had brought in, and gave the ‘bites’ a liberal application of Anthisan (an antihistamine cream) and went to bed.

That didn’t bring the relief that I’d hoped for, and by yesterday a few had developed into nasty looking (and feeling) blisters. Hmm … maybe it wasn’t an insect bite after all.

Allergy to antibiotics?

This morning I woke with the most incredible pain across my chest that started underneath my left breast and extended in a line beneath my left arm and onto my back, finishing beneath my left shoulder blade. It felt like someone had taken a jellyfish wrapped in nettles out of a bucket of acid and slapped me on the chest with it. It felt like a chemical burn (it still does!).

At this point I was suspecting an adverse reaction to the antibiotics that I’m currently on to treat a kidney-related infection that I developed nearly two months ago. The information leaflet that came with the Ciprofloxacin says about possible side-effects:

The most common side effects involve the gut and the nervous system …

  • Skin rash and itching can occur in less than one in ten but more than one in a hundred persons
  • Peeling, blistering or crusting of the skin

That sounds like what I’m experiencing. But the leaflet advised that I contact my GP immediately.

NHS 24

I telephoned NHS 24 (0845 4 24 24 24) and explained my symptoms. The NHS 24 nurse agreed that it sounded like a possible cause but said that she’d ask a doctor to telephone me. Within 10 minutes I had a call from a GP at the out-of-hours service in St Andrews.

Cobbles!

Nothing could have prepared me for what she was about to say. “It sounds like you’ve got Shingles, she said.”

Here’s what the mighty Wikipedia has to say:

Herpes zoster (or simply zoster), commonly known as shingles, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe.

The initial infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes the acute (short-lived) illness chickenpox, and generally occurs in children and young people. Once an episode of chickenpox has resolved, the virus is not eliminated from the body but can go on to cause shingles—an illness with very different symptoms—often many years after the initial infection…

Most people are infected with this virus as children, and suffer from an episode of chickenpox. The immune system eventually eliminates the virus from most locations, but it remains dormant…

… until this flippin’ week, of all weeks!

About two to three weeks ago I was in contact with a couple of children who had chickenpox. A couple of children who were, of all things, twins!

Banned from the ward

During the blistering phase (which is where I am currently) I am extremely contagious … but only if someone who hasn’t had chickenpox comes into direct contact with the rash, which is extremely unlikely given that it’s on my mid-torso.

But, still, as a precaution the hospital have had no alternative but to ban me from the maternity ward.

I cried when I realised that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see Jane and my beautiful children for the next few days.

In other news

Meanwhile in Dundee … Jane and the babies are doing fantastically well. I did manage to see them briefly this afternoon, as I broke the bad news.

Feeding has been going better overnight, as Jane and the midwives made an executive decision to supplement feeding with bottled formula. A tremendous decision which has really helped Jane.

For the few moments that I saw them they looked contended and beautiful. It’s going to be hard not to see them for the next few days, but it’s more important than ever that I get sleep and well rested before they come home early next week — still no definite date.

An emotional day two

Reuben and Joshua nose-to-nose
Jane spotted Reuben and Joshua lying nose-to-nose just before I left last night and captured this photo.

Looking back over my life I can see certain periods where I’ve just gone ahead and done what needed to be done first and dealt with the emotional consequences later, usually in private. The births of Reuben and Joshua have been just like that.

Yesterday was an emotional day. The reality of what’s happened hit me yesterday, like an emotional tsunami. I did a lot of crying yesterday: tears of joy, tears of relief. My poor human body just isn’t big enough to contain the love that I have for Jane, Reuben and Joshua and so it all came spilling out.

When I got back to the car I wept. I howled deep groans from my gut as it all came spilling out, eight years of wondering, eight years of supporting one another, and the yearning and hoping and praying that one day we would have children. And now we have two, in one go; I always did love efficiency.

As I drove home I remembered all those negative pregnancy tests during our time in Inverness and Edinburgh, and the wonder and delight of seeing a positive result earlier this year. My mind thought back to last year’s journey through IVF, and the long sleepless nights that Jane has endured this year (so far!). And I praised God.

This morning has been difficult. I’ve had various bits and pieces that Jane asked me to do, but all I’ve wanted to do is climb into the car and go and see my beautiful, amazing wife and our two babies.

Still, I’ve appreciated the space as I’ve changed bed clothes in preparation for any visitors who need to stay over, done some washing, and rang the Registry Office to arrange an appointment to register Reuben and Joshua’s births (I’m still waiting for the call back). A spot of lunch in a minute, and then I’ll head back to Dundee to see how Jane is.

Jane is doing amazingly well; she was up and about yesterday, which is remarkable not even a full day after major surgery. We’re not sure when she’s be discharged, so we’ll still take every day as it comes.

By the way, there are more photos on Flickr.