Monday, 25 July 2016

Twin pregnancy: Five things I learnt as a twin dad-to-be

After some more fantastic feedback for blog no. 2 – “insightful”, “brilliant”, “I only got halfway through” – it was inevitable that I would be back again.

I can already see the pattern forming, as once again this post has been a little delayed from another hectic couple of weeks. This might change though as, being a teacher, Ana is now off for SIX WEEKS!

One of the most common responses I received when I first mentioned the plan of becoming a stay-at-home dad to people was, “Oh, think of all of that holiday”. So in many ways, I guess this time together as a foursome is essentially what we’ve been working towards.

Hopefully it will all work out a lot better than previous half-terms and end-of-terms as they’ve mainly been disrupted by – yes, here comes that word again – illness. We can only assume it is something which comes from our lives being non-stop and, as we live away from family, fending for ourselves a lot.

Ultimately, I think we just get worn out, so fingers crossed we don’t face any/much of that in the coming weeks. Although with Ana being off work last week with sickness, we might have at least got some of it out of the way early.

Getting to this point does feel a little like the end of a chapter to a certain extent, with it of course meaning I’m no longer going to be on my own with Oscar and Isabel during the week. The past eight months or so have honestly flown by and as I’ve said before I have loved it. I suppose I can also say now that I (and they) survived it too, which is an achievement in itself.

I might have learnt a few things on the way, so hopefully a few bits of that wisdom might accidentally fall into a post one of these days.

Another milestone which is definitely worth a mention is that the twins are now 18 months old. And it’s mental because they’re little people – toddling around, having a chatter, telling you when they want food, pointing to where the food is in the changing bag, screaming when they don’t get food out of the changing bag. And much much more.

It’s crazy and it seems a long time since the nine months of Ana’s pregnancy (seamless link here), which is of course where we left our story in the last post.

Trying to keep concise, I thought I’d try to boil down my experience of Ana’s pregnancy into some easily digestible morsels. Please note the reference to my experience, as of course I can’t speak for my other half in any of this and can only talk about my views on it.

So, looking back, these are the few key issues which have stuck in my head from when Ana was growing our babies. Well, apart from the twins first kicking during the Robot of Sherwood episode of Doctor Who and taking them to listen to Jack White at the First Direct Arena with about two months to go.

Oscar and Isabel enjoying Jack White at the First Direct Arena in November 2014.

1.       Breakfast in bed

For many, breakfast in bed is considered a romantic luxury. What could be better than having a loved one bring food to your boudoir on a sunny morning, throwing caution to the wind and not giving a damn about where those toast crumbs might end up? Well, pregnancy put a new twist on this old favourite.

In the early months, Ana woke up looking pale and feeling queasy, although I don’t believe she was ever actually sick. As a result, she required some assistance in partaking the first meal of the day and one of my first jobs was to get her a glass of water and some ginger biscuits to settle the stomach. Delicious.

Only after consuming these slowly, and having a word with herself, would she then emerge from the sheets bleary-eyed, delicate and not in any way ready to face the day.

While I can’t remember exactly, I’m sure I would have offered support through all of this – probably downstairs munching some Coco Pops with a coffee and BBC Breakfast on, awaiting any further instructions or requests from upstairs.

2.       Regular scans

This one, for me, was definitely one of the perks of having twins. Due to the greater risks involved in getting two for the price of one, mums expecting multiples get more regular scans than in a single pregnancy.

So, we had the joy of seeing our babies every month, which meant we were able to closely follow their development but also get important reassurance that all was well. We also now have a little photo album which charts all of this too.

I felt very lucky to be able to jump out of work to head to all of the scans (thanks Mark, if you’re reading this - although the time was made up of course!) and did benefit from the Leeds General Infirmary being ten minutes from the office.

3.       Dad-ucation

While Ana being pregnant was such an exciting time, it did raise many questions. What support should I offer during the birth? Will there be Wi-Fi in the hospital? Do I truly know what I’m letting myself in for?

The only option to tackle these concerns was of course to get educated on pregnancy, birth and beyond.

To kick this off, we went to a Parentcraft session held at Leeds General Infirmary on an evening after work. If I’m being brutally honest, it was a little arduous being talked at for a couple of hours (they may have changed since our time of course!). However, it was full of important nuggets and did get the ball rolling on us talking as a couple about how Ana would like to approach the big day of giving birth.

Following that, we went to a session held by TAMBA – the Twins & Multiple Births Association – to talk more about similar issues. It was essentially an antenatal class, but more aimed at providing guidance to parents expecting twins or more. Again, this really did help in terms of us thinking about birth plans and preparing for life with children. There’s no preparation like changing a nappy smeared with mustard.

So yeah, these helped to get us in the zone, although I never did find out about the Wi-Fi.

4.       Mummy-To-Be Prep

While this is of course about my experience, it is worth remembering Ana still had an important part to play in this whole thing. As such, there were a couple of ways she looked to prepare herself for the birth.

She found reflexology with our friend Rebecca Hill to be quite the treat and an opportunity for relaxation during the pregnancy, and through that she was then pointed in the direction of The Calm Birth School and their focus on hypnobirthing.

Now, I’ll stress at this point that I was purely in supportive husband mode and just simply happy to go along with however Ana wished to approach her pregnancy. After all, she was the one doing the heavy lifting. As such, I can’t and wouldn’t claim to be an expert in any of this stuff and I would recommend speaking to Ana (she likes to talk) or seeking more information elsewhere if this is of any interest.

What I do know though is that Ana found The Calm Birth School’s course to be very useful in terms of her preparation for the birth and her perspective on what she was about to go through. In particular, it helped her to develop a more positive mindset about the births and how her body was designed to do the job at hand.

Different approaches work for different people and I know she took a lot from these.

5.       Pillows

It began with one pillow, then another, then another, then another….until I could scarcely believe that we’d always had so many pillows in the house. Where did they come from?

A fundamental part of my pregnancy experience was kissing my wife goodnight before she laid down and allowed herself to be absorbed into the pillow fortress she constructed on our bed – all in the name of keeping her and the bump comfy during sleepy time. I didn’t see her for hours at a time.

There were pillows to support her bump, her back, her legs, everything. Pillow, pillow and pillow.

And just when you thought everything had settled, she’d decide she needed to turn over or go to the loo. While she admittedly had the legs and arms sticking in her ribs, I often had to bear witness to her efforts to manoeuvre.

Believe me, the sleepless nights started well before the babies.

So that’s what I would say sums up my pregnancy experience in five points. Just to give quick mention – if you’re still with me and haven’t nodded off – I am now part of the world of Instagram. Please seek me out via the link on the sidebar or search for @twindaddixon to get my latest top quality images. 

Highlights so far include a tower made of wooden bricks, some wildflowers and a cup of coffee. Arty.

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