Ten years ago, when I wasn’t yet ready to have children, I couldn’t imagine how people reorganised their lives to include the challenges of parenthood.
Seven years ago, when we were halfway through the four years it took me to get pregnant, I didn’t believe that it would ever happen for me.
Five years and seven months ago, when I found out I was pregnant, I was utterly delighted.
Five years and six months ago, when I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t necessarily make it clear in the blog posts I wrote during my pregnancy, but I was a nervous wreck throughout the rest of 2012: both terrified of losing the babies, and terrified of coping with life with two babies. I was also deeply envious of people who only had one baby, because that looked manageable, and because they had so much opportunity to bond with their children. I couldn’t imagine how I would manage the logistics of two babies, and I couldn’t fathom how I would develop a relationship with two children at once.
Five years ago today, Hattie and Joe were born. My birth story isn’t too cheery, but I was so relieved that they were out, safe and sound. And they were perfect, and despite being absolutely petrified, I fell in love.
And then we had the rollercoaster of the first few weeks with two babies: feeding challenges, hardly any sleep, and constant stress as we tried to figure out how to look after them. For somebody like me, used to feeling vaguely competent, it was a hideously stressful time. It was a hundred times harder than I feared. You can’t adequately tell a woman who hasn’t yet had a baby how challenging it is to deal with a newborn, and when there are two newborns in the house it’s just crazy in the early days. I vividly remember crying in the hallway, telling Tristan how I really wasn’t cut out for life as a mother. I can barely read the blog posts I wrote during the first six months of 2013 – I feel a bit panicky when I read what life was like. It’s like they were written by a different person. The things that saved me were: good advice from my family and close friends; the new friends I made, both on- and off-line, who provided me with much-needed advice, support, good humour, and great company at a million coffee catch-ups and play dates; and the endless love and hands-on dedication of Tristan, Father of the Century. I already knew that he was a legend of a husband, but seeing him in action with our children reconfirmed it.
The challenges of children obviously don’t end after the first few months. We had our mad trip to France, and the realisation that a) we needed to invest in some sleep training, for the sake of my health and sanity, and b) I probably wasn’t going to spend the kids’ first few years as a stay-at-home mum. So I started my degree when they were fourteen months old, we expanded our family to include a succession of brilliantly kind and helpful au pairs, and we continued to navigate the peaks and troughs of life as parents – tantrums, eating challenges, birthday parties, another hellish journey to France, transitions to big kids’ beds, toilet training… Throughout it all I have been so thankful for the small and supportive community that I built through writing this blog. It’s also been lovely to know that some of the posts I’ve written about our experiences and choices have been helpful to other parents.
And now our darling Hattie and Joe are five! We celebrated today with a family morning tea at a local cupcake café, followed by lunch at home and a play date with some of our best twin friends (plus their lovely big sister). The five kids had a huge afternoon tea, played with every toy in the house, jumped like lunatics on the trampoline, and then finished up the afternoon with a dance party. Their mother and I drank wine and caught up. It was perfect. We’re looking forward to Hattie and Joe’s birthday party on Saturday afternoon, which will be a brilliant chance for me to see my mum friends and drink wine (hopefully in the sun) while the two of them go nuts with all of the kids that mean the most to them.
Hattie and Joe are funny, sweet, kind, determined, curious, fiercely individual, and the best of friends. I find it difficult to describe them because they’re so uniquely HATTIE and JOE: they’re mostly indescribable. I love that they think deeply about things, listen and pay attention to what we tell them, laugh a thousand times a day, embody the virtues and values that we believe are important, and both bravely paddle their own canoes, regardless of whether the things they choose to like or do fit the mould of what other kids their age choose to like or do. They are magnificent, and regardless of what else I achieve in life, I will be forever amazed that I have raised these two incredible little characters.
We are so proud of our beautiful children, and so thankful that we’ve managed to raise our game sufficiently to guide them through life thus far. Thank you so much to all of you for sticking with me for the past five and a half years as I’ve embarking on this parenting adventure! And hey – do you remember the monkey photos from the early days? Here are Hattie and Joe at one week old, and one year old – and today. Enjoy!
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