Hospital ship

It takes much more skill as  a husband/nurse than previously realised to look after a post-operative, post-natally-depressed mother of newborn twins. Poor Ursula has been struggling for the last few days, partly due to wildly fluctuating hormone levels, partly due to general exhaustion owing to the combination of getting over a major operation and dealing with two babies who require feeding every three hours, and partly due to the enormous shock of coming to terms with being the parents of four children. It turns out that the best treatment for her condition is sleep and lots of it, a treatment plan not entirely compatible with the aforementioned greedy little piggies otherwise known as Zach and Jonah. So it falls to the shared teamwork of saintly husband/nurse and saintly mother-in-law/nurse (that’s my m-i-l, Ursula’s mum) to take over night feed duties for the time being, allowing Ursula to get as many full nights’ sleep as possible and hopefully aiding in both the physical and emotional recovery process.

The night feeds are not too bad, provided you don’t care about not getting too much sleep. I’m trying to persuade the boys to be on a regular four-hourly feed schedule, which would make things relatively simple. And just as they make you think your masterplan is working, they mess up the whole thing by waking up two and a half hours after the last feed – and given that when you’re feeding them both, a feed takes roughly an hour, that leaves about an hour and a half between feeds to get some sleep.

To add insult to injury, the niggling sore throat I’d had for the last few days decided to turn into full-blown tonsilitis on Wednesday, which also happened to be the worst day so far in terms of Ursula’s emotional wellbeing. Thanks for that. I spent most of the day in denial, claiming that my throat was just hurting because of lack of sleep. But I’ve had tonsilitis a few times in the last few years and I know the warning signs only too well. It seems that flaring up throat so that it feels that I’ve swallowed a sharpened dagger is my body’s de facto response to high stress situations. Thanks for that, too. Ursula persuaded me to go to the local walk-in clinic in the late afternoon, at which I had to wait nearly two hours for someone to take only the briefest of glimpses down my throat before confirming my suspicions. So I commenced my night feed duty armed with a box of penicillin, another of nurofen, another of paracetamol, and another of codeine. I hope Ursula isn’t missing her post-op medication too much. I’m sure if you’d shaken me by the end of the night I’d have rattled more than one of the babies’ many new toys, but I got through it and thankfully Ursula felt a lot better the following morning. Sadly the same could not be said for me, and the tonsilitis took its usual course, which it to cause me to sleep for an entire day. Thank god the m-i-l was around to take over childcare/wifecare duties, or we may have had a bit of a disaster on our hands. 

Thanks, I believe, to Ursula’s foresight in sending me to get my antibiotics before the symptoms got really bad, my throat never got as painful as it usually does, and within 36 hours I was on the mend. I am still dosed up on painkillers tonight, and having rather a lot of difficult regulating my body temperature, but other than that I feel fine now. Or, you could say, foolishly complacent. It’s 1am. If things go to plan, the boys are due another feed at 3:30, and as you may have noticed by the fact that I’m sitting here typing this, I have yet to go to bed. I will surely regret this in the morning. But owing to another bit of grandparental wonder, we only have two small boys to deal with in the morning, since the two big boys are spending the night at my parents, and then going swimming with my dad in the morning. So once we have done the morning feed, we can, and indeed will, be going straight back to bed for a lie in, for as long as the babies will allow us.

As if two sick parents wasn’t enough, poor Zach, at just 11 days old, already has his first cold. The primary symptom is of course a terribly bunged up nose, something I wouldn’t imagine you’d have too much idea how to deal with if you’ve never suffered from it before. I’ll spare the details of all the other consequences of this condition, for anyone who’s reading this who isn’t yet a parent. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Suffice it to say that I was feeling a bit sorry for Jonah, tucked up in bed beside the copious body fluids of his brother. So I have put him to sleep in a separate bed for the first time. I hope they don’t miss each other too much.

I suppose I really ought to go and get some sleep, although knowing my luck, the second my head touches the pillow, I’ll hear the familiar wah wah wah through the baby monitor.


Lost for words

Dressed and ready to leave the hospital
Dressed and ready to leave the hospital
My four boys
My four boys
Feeding time at the zoo
Feeding time at the zoo
Jonah on the playmate
Jonah on the playmat
Zach on the playmat
Zach on the playmat

I’ve spent much of the last week deliberating over what to use as the title for my next blog post, and have had a great deal of difficulty coming up with anything suitable. As you may have noticed, I’ve had rather a lot of trouble coming up with any words at all in fact, although this has been primarily due to logistical reasons – i.e. I’ve spent virtually no time in front of the computer since the babies were born, thanks to the never-ending barrage of feeding, changing, bottle-washing, laundry, looking after a fragile wife, and trying to maintain some kind a relationship with the two older children. Oh my god, what a week!

The babies turned one week old just over an hour ago, and the last seven days have bizarrely been the longest seven days of my life, while also totally flying by. I can’t believe we’ve already had them for a week, but also so much has happened in that week that it feels like it’s been months. 

The first four days were the smoothest. Every pre-conception you might have about a private birth at the Portland is absolutely correct. We don’t have enough words to praise the entire experience. From the incredible doctors to amazingly attentive midwives, to great facilities to the unadulterated luxury of being able to send the babies to be looked after in the nursery at any time, the whole thing was just brilliant. The babies spent all night every night in the nursery, meaning that Ursula was able to get some proper rest, and the nursery staff were just amazing. I only stayed at the hospital the first night – I was confident enough that she was being so well looked after that I was able to come home and sleep in my own bed for the rest of the week. I was even able to get a couple of days’ work in while she was in the hospital.

We were delighted that Ursula and the babies got to come home on Friday, as, despite the hospital’s excellence, she was starting to get a bit stir crazy after the end of the week, and we really wanted to get back to our big boys. But coming home has been rather a mixed blessing. You get lulled into a false sense of security when you get to send the babies away at night. It’s only when you’re on your own at home with no staff that you remember the sheer hell that is night time feeds. Zach and Jonah have been doing the typical newborn thing of sleeping throughout the entire day, and even having to be woken up to eat during daylight hours. But once night falls, they become amazingly lively, rarely going more than two hours after the last feed before waking up and making their complaints felt. Neither Ursula nor I have ever been very good at coping with sleep deprivation, and Jacob and Max were both very good at getting into night time routines as babies, so to say that the whole thing has come as a bit of a shock to the system would be a serious understatement. Add to this the fact that she’s still very much incapacitated after the c-section, and I think it would be fair to say that we’ve been struggling.

Now this is not to give you the impression that we’re having a horrible time of it. The babies are absolutely gorgeous and we’ve loved every minute of their still rather brief lives. Even during the night feeds, they make it all seem worthwhile when we get to cuddle them. It’s just been a slog, that’s all. A lot of this would have been the same even if we’d only had one baby, but a lot is also down to the fact that there are two of them. It means two of us are required for night feeds – when there was only one, we could take turns and let the other one get some sleep. It means an inordinate amount of bottle-washing and laundry. And if ever I do take over and take care of them on my own so that Ursula can get some rest, everything takes so bloody long!

Jacob and Max have been both brilliant and frustrating. They are totally adorable with their new baby brothers – they’ve taken much more of an interest than we ever could have hoped. They love to help with feeds, and to cuddle them and play with them. But it’s also been very tough because they’re not getting the attention they deserve from their parents, and being just 5 and 3 years old, they’re not exactly prone to keeping their frustration to themselves. Not that they should, but it makes it tough trying to keep everybody happy. Suffice to say there have been plenty of tears shed in the Hirschkorn household over the last few days.

So the first week of being a father of four has been every bit as challenging as I imagined, but I always knew that I would never really know what it was going to be like until we were in the thick of things. But Jonah and Zach are simply gorgeous and are doing a fine job of fitting right into our family. We may have only known them for a week, but we already love them as if they’ve been here forever, and we can’t imagine life without out them.


This update coming to you direct from Starbucks on Great Portland St. I’ll keep it brief because I’m not very good at typing on my iPod and because I have to be back at the hospital in a few minutes.

But for anyone who hasn’t been updated by text or Facebook, the babies were born at about 4:50pm yesterday, Monday the 9th of February 2009. Jonah came out first and weighed in at 2.7kg (about 5lb15oz). Zach followed a minute later and weighed 2.9kg (6lb6oz). Both the boys and Ursula are doing brilliantly.

I’ll update with more details and pictures when I get home and have access to a proper computer.

A massive thank you to everyone who has sent their wishes. We’ve been really touched by all your kind words.

Top five

I was talking to Ursula over dinner tonight – we went out for dinner and a movie for what will surely be the last time for a very long time – and it occurred to me that tomorrow is one of the most important days of my life. It’s true, what they say about births, deaths and marriages. All of these have made those moments in my life where you just stop and think “wow, today is a day I will remember forever”.

I wouldn’t want to rank them in order, but the top five comprise (in chronological order): my wedding day, the birth of Jacob, the birth of Max, the death of my grandfather, and tomorrow. How bizarre that they should all have happened within the last six years. What was I doing for the first 27 years of my life?

Incidentally, the movie was Valkyrie, and I really enjoyed it.