Friday, 6 August 2010

5. Twins and the Art of being an Older Mum

I regularly take the girls to a playgroup in a church hall run by the South West London Twin Club.

It's tremendous fun with the mothers I know well, but tedious with newcomers who are either shy, reticent or plain stand-offish. Of course, the fact that I go into conversation like a dog at a butcher's shop doesn't help. Teachers at school told me to 'think before I speak' but will I ever learn?  Let me give you an example.

I might ask a new attendee if she has help with her little duo, and when she slaps me down with yes, three nannies, two chefs, a housekeeper, a gardener and a full-time masseuse now **** off I really should do just that. 

Just sharing the unique challenge and joy of being a twin mum isn’t enough for a life-long friendship if your economic position isn’t in some way comparable. Sad, but true. Of course this is very different if you meet on a desert island with other fish to fry (literally). But not in the smart suburbs of South West London where I grew up and where it definitely doesn’t sound cool to live in a two-bed basement flat with one man, two babies and three dogs (ok and a big garden).  But still, it sounds like penury. Or madness. Or both.

At a recent gathering I (nearly) embarrassed myself beyond redemption. I ambled over to Play Mat Corner where a New Mum was sitting with her prostrate baby boy/girl twins. Next to her was an older woman whom I presumed was her mother.

This is how it went:

ME: Hi, congratulations! I haven’t seen you here before.

NEW MUM: No, (smiling warmly), we haven’t made it here until now.

ME: (Like an old pro) Oh, it does get so much easier, blah, blah, blah.

NEW MUM: We also have a 22 month year old at home.

ME: (Feeling rather less of a pro). Wow! You got back in the saddle quickly!

Now I look more closely at the rather lined, late forty or fiftysomething American sitting next to her.

ME: And you must be...the Mum (of the New Mum).

AMERICAN: Yes, I’m the Mum.

ME: (To myself) She's the Mum!!!  Oh God oh God oh God, thank God.  The waspish woman I just mistook for Grandma is, I realise with the intelligence of an amoeba, the Real Mum. 

I glance over at the young woman who is obviously the nanny.  She is about 25 and needs IVF like George Clooney needs to pay for sex.

The Real Mum must have been rather streamlined with her IVF treatment.  Even my simple brain can work out that she has produced three or more viable embryos, had one implanted the first time (the 22 month year old), and two the second time (ergo this pair of twins).

Could I be more of an idiot? No.

Not knowing when to back off,  I ask the Real Mum if she had a maternity nurse and yes she did, for four months (that works out at about £16k) and has a second nanny who is with the toddler at home.  The tone of her voice suggests that talking to me is...not very interesting.

This woman is the pro.  She has the cool calm of an alpha mum (barrister? trader? biochemist?) who may not control the lines on her face, but she stage manages everything else to perfection, with her surplus frozen embryos, a house full of staff and three children under the age of two.   Good work, woman.

Many twin mums seem to be wealthier than the average London mums.  This is my theory:

Women undergo IVF and often have two embryos implanted – two for the price of one, and all that (a modern consumer obsession). But if you don’t fit the criteria for your healthcare trust, and get lucky courtesy of the NHS (as I did) you may pay for two, three or four rounds of fertility treatment. And if you spend £20k or so, the chances are you can afford to.

Also, chances are that you may be an older mum, for one of three reasons.

1. As so often expressed by the level-headed Daily Mail, you are a Career Woman who, tut-tut, put Work before Love.

2. You didn’t find The One before you were 35 (or, more commonly, The One that Will Do).

3. Childlessness may have plagued you due to the lack of hospitality offered by your womb. An embryo needs a hospitable environment in which to grow.  It does not mean that champagne and strawberries, as provided in a posh tent at Wimbledon, will help (although the fizz may put you in the mood for a shag, which may get you pregnant).  What it does mean is that holistic treatments such as accupuncture and reflexology could help your womb become more receptive to sperm arriving and pitching its manly tent.

In case you were wondering, my problem was a bit of no.2: Big Daddy was fine with the commitment of dog ownership, but less sure about child creation (until his sperm was tested and it came top in class), and a bit of no.3:  have endometriosis which blocks up one’s fallopian tubes, thereby messing up the Sperm Delivery System).

Whatever the reason for a woman seeking medical help, parts of South West London appear to have as many twin buggies as million pound houses. And it’s no coincidence.


  1. At least you make it to your twins group which in itself is a major achievement. I've been a member of our local group for over a year but have yet to co-ordinate the three of us to actually turn up to a gathering... I live in hope that one day we'll make it.
    Loving the blog!

  2. The twins group has been a lifeline for sharing the madness - perhap your life is in fact more thrilling! Anyway chuffed that you are enjoying the blog - like an online dater who has'winked' at someone, I was waiting for your no response means (continuing the analogy) that you don't like my profile pic. Virginal blogging nurtures neediness. Getting readers/friends or whatever we call each other in the scary new Blogosphere is like first day at school :-)

  3. Am a bit ashamed now to come out as a former member of SWLTC...!

    And totally gutted that either I saw you and never spoke, or we were never in the same place at the same time, or we did and actually we haven't worked out who each other is, hiding behind our blogs!.... bet we have millions of the lovely people (and aren't they mostly all lovely?!)in common though - and oh, don't I know what some of the others can be like: "well, why don't you just get a nanny?" said in tones of disbelief when I said I didn't have any help with my three was one that reduced me to tears of rage at a particularly low point...