Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ready or not?

I’m back! Finally. It’s been a busy week and a half, so it’s taken longer than expected to sit down and write this. I actually started putting this together a couple of nights ago, only for my efforts to be interrupted by a bout of vomiting each from Oscar and Isabel. Thankfully they seem OK now (touch wood) but the washing machine may never recover from a tough 24 hours.

I wanted to start with a quick word of thanks to everyone who has been in touch either in person or online with reaction to the first article – I’m really chuffed that so many of you have actually taken time to have a read and I genuinely appreciate it. Even the typo-spotting.

Of course, the fact it was so well-received has led to calls of ‘when are you doing the next one?’. As a friend pointed out the other day, it took about nine months to sort the first so I guess I’m working fairly flexibly when it comes to timescales.

As promised, this post is about the start of this journey into twindom and the only place to really begin is when Ana and I were first considering the notion of having children.

I don’t think it would come as much surprise to say that babies were on Ana’s mind before mine, although she didn’t ever put any pressure on me (she asked me to add this, she edits these with an iron fist). We’d always known that we would want them someday, but serious thought on the issue only really kicked in after we got married in April 2012.

Looking back, the one particular conversation which sticks out was during a holiday in Rome a year after the wedding and if I remember rightly it may have actually been on the day we visited the Coliseum with the mother of all hangovers. It was one of those rather serious discussions I tend to avoid at all costs – primarily because I struggle to take anything seriously – but the general gist was whether I felt ready to start making babies.

Now, I’ve always found this a strange issue and have had discussions with friends on this idea of being ready. After thinking about it far too much, I suppose that even with as much preparation as possible you can never truly be ready for the shift that occurs in your life when you first bring children into the world. It’s amazing, but in those first weeks and months it hits you like an enormous, insane whirlwind.

The conclusion in Rome though was that I was reaching some stage of readiness. To try and explain, I’d been very fortunate through university and across my 20s to enjoy lots of nights out with friends from far and wide, plenty of devastating hangovers, brilliant gigs, enough FIFA to make your eyes bleed, so much film and TV…the freedom to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.

However, with 30 on the horizon I felt comfortable that it was the right time to move on, think about the future and, ultimately, grow up. I was ready to accept the challenge of having children and also the inevitable compromises which would come with it – particularly that the opportunities to enjoy all of the aforementioned things I love would become less and less.

So, in Rome it was decided that we would spend the rest of the year indulging in all of the things we loved and aim to start trying for a baby in 2014. By May that year we found out that Ana was pregnant. To be more precise we found out on Ana’s 30th birthday in a hotel in Manchester.

We’d been out for a meal and drinks the night before, so I woke up on her actual birthday a little woozy and stumbled off to the bathroom. What I didn’t expect to see was a Boots carrier bag and a couple of pregnancy test boxes on the floor. Rather than excite me, it actually got me a little worried – I didn’t want her to be disappointed if things didn’t go as hoped and for it to ultimately impact on the rest of her birthday.

So, I went back into the room and raised the unavoidable question about the tests – she’d already done them and passed them to me. The results were more than conclusive, but rather than jump for joy I slid straight into cautious mode…and demanded to see the instructions leaflet to double check it was right. Not my finest moment, it’s fair to say.

In my defence, it was incredibly early days as far as we could tell so I was erring on the side of keeping calm. After all, I thought, anything could happen in those incredibly important first few weeks so it was best just to get through those first. Nevertheless, it was exciting but I do remember the rest of that day feeling so surreal – in rainy Manchester (of course) having afternoon tea in the Hilton, trying to comprehend what we’d just discovered.

A few weeks down the line, we were walking around a retail park and Ana mentioned feeling a little bloated. I flippantly responded: “Well you never know, it could be twins!” We both laughed, thought nothing more of it and got on with our day.

Despite it being called a 12-week scan, the NHS decided to book Ana’s scan on what we understood to be Week 13. As a result, and with the sheer anticipation becoming unbearable, we agreed that having a private scan on Week 12 was a good idea.

I can’t think of any other day in our relationship when I’ve seen Ana so nervous – the scan was on an evening and she could barely eat with worry about whether everything was going to be OK. Being a supportive husband, I told her to buck her ideas up and stop whinging (I’M KIDDING).

The scan room in the private clinic was brilliant – only slightly lit, with a wall-mounted flatscreen TV displaying the ultrasound and facing a long, comfy sofa (for those who like to turn their private moments into a spectator sport).

At this point, the nerves were at peak levels but off we went. Only moments into the scan we realised in unison that there wasn’t just one in there and in a second the operator paused and exclaimed: “There’s two!” The laughing from a few weeks ago returned. And then it turned to disbelief. Bloody hell. There’s two.

We didn’t know what to do with ourselves afterwards, out of sheer shock. Ana was keen to go to Mothercare to mark the occasion by buying something for the twins, a move I probably would have rejected if I’d known how much of my life would be spent in there in the coming months. However, I went along with it and we bought two pairs of booties. Two pairs. Jesus. 

That was the point when I started to choke up, and with Ana already in tears I had my first experience of the hormones of a pregnant woman. Ready or not, bigger changes than we ever imagined were on the way.

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