So where do I start? How about with a little background.
If anyone is reading this who doesn’t know me, I’m Mike, a 32-year-old director of a fashion distribution company. My wife Ursula, 36, is a journalist. We have two amazing little boys – Jacob is 4 and Max is 2. Apart from the fact that I might have felt I was a bit young when Ursula got pregnant with Jacob – I was 27 at the time – it’s fair to say my life has gone pretty much exactly to plan as far as families are concerned.
I grew up with one older brother, so being in a family with two boys always felt completely natural to me. I had always imagined I would have two children, and when Max was born, it felt to me that our family was complete. But I knew that Ursula always wanted three, so I had spent the past three years trying to get my head round the concept of having another baby.
As a result, when we found out about six weeks ago that she was pregnant, I was actually quite excited. Nothing would have to change too much – it would be nice to have a baby around again, a new friend for Jacob and Max, we’d maybe get a bigger car and a bunk bed for the boys, and life would go on.
We found out about the pregnancy during the last few days of our holiday in Florida in late June. Little did we know it would probably be our last long-haul trip for many years – does Virgin Atlantic do group discounts? We weren’t sure whether to tell our families straight away, but the decision was made for us by a certain eager little four-year-old, whose first words to his grandparents upon getting off the plane were “mummy’s got a new baby in her tummy.”
Still, we decided against announcing the news to anyone other than immediately family until after we’d had the 12-week scan to check that the baby was OK and everything was going smoothly. So last Thursday Ursula and I went to the Fetal (isn’t that the American spelling?) Medicine Centre on Harley Street. As anyone who’s ever been to a Harley Street clinic will know, they make the whole medical thing seem incredibly civilised. It’s a pretty stark contrast to the grim NHS hospital where the babies will eventually be born – comfy sofas, freshly brewed coffee, marble-tiled loos, the works.
Ursula had been suffering much worse than in both previous pregnancies with morning sickness and fatigue, and I had joked (or so I thought) a number of times in the days leading up to the scan about how it was probably because she was having twins. The moment the scanner touched her stomach and the image popped up on the screen, I instantly knew what I was seeing. There were two babies in there.
My immediate thought was “See, told you so.” But in the few seconds it took my brain to catch up with what was going on, all feelings of smugness rapidly disintegrated, to be replaced with total bewilderment. There were two babies in there.
The lady doing the scan (I don’t know what to call her. Was she a doctor? A technician? A prophet of doom? Incidentally I still haven’t figured out where her accent was from, but I had more important things on my mind at the time than to ask her) said “Is this your first scan?” “Yes.” “You know there are two babies in there?”
It was real. My eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. The thoroughly modern, state-of-the-art scanning equipment at this top Harley Street maternity clinic was not faulty. There were two babies in there.
Ursula and I looked at each other in total shock and panic. I’ll have to check with Norris McWhirter, but I think we set a new world record for the most times the words “Oh my God” have been repeated during a medical procedure.
Not surprisingly for children of ours, the babies wouldn’t do as they were told – in this instance they refused to get into appropriate positions for all the necessary measurements and readings to be taken successfully. So we were sent off to go for a walk to try and jog them into position. I can’t recall the exact conversation we had as we walked around and around the clinic, but I’m fairly sure it included the words “Oh my God” quite a few more times, along with numerous other words not suitable for a family blog such as this. It wasn’t long before we started taking on the roles that will surely define our forthcoming multiple parenthood. As Ursula’s head started to swell with thoughts of how she could possibly cope being the mother of four children – how would she have enough time for them all, how could she love another two people as much as she loved Jacob and Max – I started worrying about gadgets. We’d need a bigger car. We’d need a double buggy. We’d need an extra high chair. And, oh bollocks, we’d need a bigger house.
We eventually got called back into the scanning room, only to find the babies were still being just as difficult as we expect them to continue being for at least the next 18 years. After much jiggling and jumping and poking, during which time the words “Oh my God” were heard one or two times, we finally got all the readings we needed. Poor Ursula’s stomach was battered and bruised, but I’m pleased to report that all was well with the little ones.
So off we were sent, out into the world, to digest this monumental news we’d just been given. I’ve been thinking, and I really can’t think of another time in my life when I’ve been more totally shocked and flabbergasted. Finding out Ursula was pregnant with Jacob had been pretty shocking, I’ll admit, but I always knew it would happen one day, so it was nothing compared to this. I was pretty shocked when I found a copy of Penthouse in my brother’s wardrobe when I was about 9, but on a shock scale of 1 to 10, that got about a 5. Finding out you’re going to be the father of four children gets about a 200.
The hardest part was that I had to go to work in the afternoon, so we had to absorb this information by ourselves, without each other for moral support. I suppose if we had spent the afternoon together, we probably would have spent most of it saying “Oh my God” a lot.