Exhausted

It’s 7:30pm and I am totally shattered. Ursula is too – in fact I suspect if I went back inside on what is the first decent summer’s evening we’ve had, well, pretty much all summer, I’d find her fast asleep on the bed. And the scary thing is it really hasn’t been a particularly tiring day – just a typical family weekend day. A bit of pottering about in the garden this morning, dropped the kids off at my parents for a play at lunchtime while we went to do some shopping, then took them to a birthday party of one of Jacob’s friends this afternoon. What on earth is it going to be like when there are four of them? There will probably be at least one birthday party every weekend (if not more), four bikes to get out of the shed, and four people to push on the swings…(note to self – how do you get four children on a swing set that’s only big enough for two? Hmmm…tricky…)

Anyway, thoroughly enjoying this bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and the fact that Ursula can’t drink at the moment probably means I’ll end up drinking the whole bottle. Again. And feeling rubbish in the morning. Oh the trials of being married to a pregnant bird.

Oh – a robin red breast has just landed on the trampoline. Cute…

Power Rangers

It must be a feeling shared by most modern parents of small boys. “Power Rangers – why? how? Huh?”

I’m sorry, Jacob and Max and all your fellow Power Rangers fans, but how can you enjoy this programme. It’s such utter rubbish. I understand that kids can’t tell the difference between an actor and some amateur who can barely read the words on the script, and are as convinced by a couple of old cut-up cornflakes boxes stuck to a toilet roll with sellotape as the latest state-of-the-art CGI when it comes to special effects, and Power Rangers is very much guilty in both these areas, but this doesn’t explain the appeal. It’s not funny, it’s not clever, the stories are stupid, and every episode looks exactly the same, whether it was made 15 years ago, or from the latest series, which I wish I didn’t know is called Jungle Fury.

But the kids love it, to the extent that every time we go near a toy shop, they automatically rush to the Power Rangers section. They know all the characters’ names, and every time they play, they fight over which one gets to be the Red Ranger. And horror of horrors, they’ve demanded a Power Rangers birthday party this year. (Their birthdays are just over two weeks apart, and now with the knowledge that we’re going to have to celebrate 4 birthdays every year, the boys will just have to accept the fact that they’re never going to have separate parties until they’re old enough to organise them themselves.)

Which brings me on to the main point of this post, which is the gender of children. We’re obviously very curious about the gender of the twins, and we have mixed feelings about all the possible alternatives. The last 7 Hirschkorns to be born – from my dad in 1949 to my nephew Louis in 2007 – have all been male. So it would be natural to assume that the twins are both boys. If they are, it would probably be the easiest as we know how to handle boys and they’d slot right in. But Ursula’s always wanted a daughter so in a way it would be a shame.

However if either one or both of them are girls, we’ll have to rewrite the whole script. I wouldn’t even know where to start with a daughter, and I think Ursula’s so used to having sons now that she would feel much the same. If it’s a boy and girl, will the girl feel totally left out in such a male dominated family? Or will she be so spoiled and fussed over for being the only girl that her twin brother will feel neglected? If it’s two girls, I guess it would balance out the family, but the concept of twin girls scares me the most.

I can’t imagine that girls will have any interest in Power Rangers, thank God, but on the other hand, what do girls like? Fifi and the Flowertots? Bratz? My Little Pony? Is it incredibly stereotypical of me to assume that girls would like “girly” things? And would I really be any happier if they did? The most experience I have of girly toys is of playing with my cousins’ dolls 25 years ago. How does a man go toy-shopping for a little girl? 

At least the boys are easy to buy presents for. Maybe the Power Rangers aren’t so bad after all.

Talk about direct marketing

I received a comment on this blog the other day, regarding the post about Ursula’s morning sickness. Somebody was recommending some kind of supplement to treat morning sickness, made by some company in Canada. I don’t know this person, so I can only assume they work for said Canadian organisation and are trying to push their product. Well top marks for effort I suppose, but was it really worth it, given that this blog has so far only been read by about 20 people. And another point – how did you find it, given that the only people who know about this site are my Facebook friends?

If I’ve jumped to the wrong conclusion, I apologise. Do please let me know who you are and how you found me.

By the way, I’m pleased to report that Ursula’s day of horrible illness last week seemed to be some kind of turning point. The sickness has all but gone now, and she’s feeling a million times more lively and capable of getting on with life. Proper second trimester stuff. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know exactly what caused it, but thank goodness, it has now passed.

Sickness

Sickness has been one of the defining features of this pregnancy so far. Not that there’s anything particularly twin-focused or relevant to the whole having four children thing about morning sickness. It’s just that it’s been quite so all encompassing this time round.

Ursula suffered pretty mild morning sickness in both her previous pregnancies. She’d get bouts of nausea during the first trimester, the symptoms of which were usually dealt with by eating something, but I don’t think she ever actually threw up (with one exception, of which more later).

But this time round, the feelings of sickness, and also fatigue, have been much more pronounced from quite an early stage. On numerous occasions in the weeks leading up to us finding out about the twins, she commented about how she didn’t remember it being this bad last time. I guess we should have spotted the signs, because apparently it’s quite common for both sickness and tiredness to be much more pronounced when you’re pregnant with twins. And if she’s sick and tired now, just wait until the babies are keeping us up all night.

The symptoms started getting much worse in the days after the scan. Cynics among you might suggest this was psychosomatic, but I think it’s actually just a matter of timing – had we not had the scan last week, we would have started getting very suspicious about what was going on during the course of this week. I’ll spare you the details, but Ursula’s been pretty ill, to the point where I’ve pretty much had to manage without her in dressing and breakfasting the kids this week.

Things reached a head on Friday, when she couldn’t even keep down a glass of water. There was no grandparental help available, and the poor thing was totally incapable of standing upright, let alone looking after two small children for a day, so I was left with no choice but to take them to work with me. What fun! They were actually relatively well behaved – watching DVDs and playing computer games – and it gave me an excuse to go to McDonald’s for lunch.

Poor Ursula was feeling so ill that she started thinking it must be some sort of bug or food poisoning or something, because it carried on pretty much all day. But then she remembered a bizarre parallel to a very similar incident at almost exactly the same stage of her pregnancy with Max. At the time we put it down to a slightly beyond its sell-by date Waitrose ready meal, and Ursula’s never entirely trusted microwave curries since. But this was too similar to be purely coincidental, and sure enough, after 24 hours she was feeling much better. If there are any doctors reading this who can explain how such a thing could happen at around 12 and a half weeks pregnant, your comments would be welcome.

Most importantly, she’s been feeling a lot less sick since yesterday morning, and fingers crossed she’s past the worst of it and can start actually benefitting from the standard second trimester condition of (albeit briefly) feeling vaguely human again. It would be nice if she would feel better, and not only because I’m useless at picking out clothes for the boys and it would be nice if someone else could do their breakfast while I empty the dishwasher.

Speaking of dishwashers, the damn thing packed up the other day. I went to switch it on just before going up to bed, as I do every night, and nothing happened. If finding out that you’re soon to be the father of four children is scary, the concept of having to do all the washing up by hand was flat-out terrifying, especially with Ursula out of commission on the helping out in the kitchen front. So there I was on my hands and knees crawling around under the kitchen cupboards at shortly after midnight, but it was too dark and I was too tired to figure out what was going on. As soon as I awoke the following morning the feeling of dread once again coursed through my veins. It was like a horror movie. So once again I started crawling around trying to figure out the cause of the problem. It was then that I made a reassuring yet totally idiotic discovery. The dishwasher wasn’t working because the plug had worked itself loose from the power socket. But the morons who built the kitchen in this house had positioned the plug behind the cupboard under the sink, with absolutely no means of accessing it. We had to get our friendly Polish builder round – my tool cupboard is a little sparse when it comes to things with which to saw holes in the back of a cupboard while avoiding the electric wires just behind it – just to push the plug back into the socket. 

So with all kitchen appliances functioning, and wife functioning better than she was, it’s been a weekend of relative calm. My sister-in-law called from Russia this afternoon, where she’s been visiting family since before we found out about the twins, so it was the first time I’ve spoken to her PB (post bombshell). She asked if I’d come to terms with it yet. I’ve been asked that question a lot in the last week and a half, and for the first time today, I actually said “I think so.”

The beginning

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.

Introduction

fore•bod•ing |fôrˈbōdi NG| |fɔrˈboʊdɪŋ| |fɔːˈbəʊdɪŋ|
noun
apprehension, anxiety, trepidation, disquiet, unease, uneasiness, misgiving, suspicion, worry, fear, fearfulness, dread, alarm. 

four |fôr|
cardinal number
equivalent to the product of two and two

Ever since I first created a blog a couple of years ago, I’ve been trying to think of something worth writing about that would be of interest to anyone other than (or possibly even including) myself.

Last Thursday, 14 August 2008, I received perhaps the most shocking news of my life: my wife is pregnant with twins. Nothing especially out of the ordinary there, I grant you. But the trouble is, we already have two wonderful sons, and we were just starting to get our lives back after almost five years of bringing up babies. The fact that in five or six months time, we will be the parents of four children under the age of six fills me with dread, trepidation, panic, and perhaps just a small tinge of excitement.

The past week has been a blur of emotion. It’s now day six and I’ve just started to regain the ability to gather my thoughts in a semi-rational manner. There I was earlier this evening, sitting in a traffic jam on the North Circular, pondering on loft conversions, MPVs and double buggies, and then it dawned on me. At last, I have something worth blogging about.

So welcome to Fourboding, a blog about what it’s like for somebody who never in his life imagined he would have more than two children, to suddenly find out he’s about to be the father of four.

Over the coming months I hope to document the emotional rollercoaster of a twin pregnancy from a husband’s perspective, and keep a record of the myriad challenges we face in trying to prepare for the arrival of two new members of our family. If all goes well and I’m still alive, I also hope this blog will follow the first few weeks, months or even years of their lives, as we learn how to cope with our panoply of children, and they with us.

 

The twins at 12 weeks
The twins at 12 weeks