Friday, 11 June 2010

1. Birthdays

The Tank and Magpie sucked their cards emblazoned with a sparkly ‘1’ and chewed Cadbury-coloured wrapping paper, but had no idea what the fuss was about. I don’t know our dogs’ birthdays, so they are not celebrated.  Klefti is about 8, Purdey is around 7 and Tatty, the only dog actually purchased, is about 14 (we’ve lost her papers).

Human birthdays of one’s own making are harder to forget. Just over a year ago, I looked like a slim-hipped woman from the back, but a juggernaut from the front. I had a fuller face and fat ankles for the final week, but not much ‘non-baby’ weight and no stretch marks (down to genes or a huge amount of Bio Oil, or both). I got off lightly, apparently. I use the word apparently as I am Somebody Who Knew Nothing; I didn’t follow the ups and downs of friends’ expanding waistlines or look at their 4D anomaly scans on Facebook; I thought there was no point in investing in other people’s fears and joys when they were unlikely to be my own.

The girls had the patience to wait until they were wrestled out of me by two men wearing gloves. Or perhaps it had nothing to do with patience. As I never experienced contractions, I presume they were quite happy lying in breech positions and didn’t want to be disturbed.

They certainly seem as keen on their kip post-birth as they did in utero. For that, I thank everybody. If I did an Oscar speech, it would be the longest, dullest, and most gushing one ever.

As we are a family of two adults, (both almost six feet) two babies (about 70cms) and three dogs (two large, one small), living in a two-bed basement flat, it is just as well. There are I believe, surroundings in which sanity should not be found.

In case you think I am truly mad, we do have a large garden, which isn’t bad considering we are half an hour’s drive from Piccadilly. We also have a summer house/office/library/guest bedroom/general dumping ground at the end of the garden which the dogs inhabit whenever they want. Which is often. So I forgot to add 'kennel' to the room's multifunction.

The first year of my life as a mother has been on fast forward. I guess I am the same as every other mother….of twins, that is. In the multiple birth trade, we refer to a one baby haul as a ‘singleton.’ Multiple mothers and their offspring are a lot less portable than the singleton equivalent, and this is contra-indicative to modern life, where everything is portable. There is no lightweight, pack up and carry option. (Baby Bjorns do not count beyond the early months).

Multiple mums are also crazier. It’s just mathematics. One mother with one pair of hands + two babies feeding at same time = hands full + inability to move = (at least I think) damaged brain cells. As for mums of triplets, quads and upwards, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

There is a degree of mental inefficiency which comes with extreme multi-tasking. 'Mumnesia Extra' I call it. I forget the simplest of things (like to look where I am going) or I repeat myself like an octogenarian. Having never crashed my car, I have pranged it twice in a year. ‘Did I tell you the girls have started nursery?’ I ask some happily childless friend, who responds ‘Yes, you did mention it, when you were in the park with the girls and had lost one of your dogs to a football match.’

As you can imagine, living in a multi-species household has made things worse. While at least the dogs are grown-up, the human critters Seek and Destroy, grabbing things like my iPhone or the TV remote while giggling, crawling off to climb into the dog bed, which is an ersatz Wendy House.

This is when they are not sleeping with dog hair-strewn dummies in their mouths. However much I wash the horrid things (which I was supposed to wean them off months ago), there is always a thin ring of black hair around the base of the teat. There are balls of dog hair sneakily stuck in corners, under chairs and tables, ready for babies to grab. It’s a one-woman fight against dog hair, and I’m losing.

Big Daddy doesn’t have much sympathy. And he’s the one who introduced me to pet ownership.

‘The girls are a year old now, aren’t they?’ He asks.

‘Yes, I reply.

‘Well, they’ve survived, haven’t they?’

‘Er, yes,’ I reply again.

He has a point.

'So relax,' he adds.

Relax? (yeah right, at midnight when I fall into a coma). Then I remember those Dark Ages before dogs and children when, although I had a habit of collecting old newspapers, I was definitely house-proud.