Formerly - A look at the ups and downs of life with a double pushchair!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Flying easyjet as a family of 6!

Summer was approaching and we were all looking forward to our month long trip to Israel to visit my sister and her family and staying with my parents. Flying is always going to be a great joy with kids so I had blocked out the thought of the journey until a few days before hand.  Having twins meant that I couldn't fly on my own as 1 adult is needed per baby. In the past I have flown out before dear husband and then he has joined us midway through our holiday. This time however, dear husband flew out with us for the weekend and then came home for 10 days and then returned for a 2 week holiday and then we would fly back together. Sounded simple!

I wouldn't say looking back any particular part of the journey was awful. Dear husband dropped me and the babies off at the terminal and then went to park the car and bring the luggage to the terminal. As we could no longer fit 6 of us and 3 suitcases in our car, eldest daughter and boy in the middle came with Grandma N. They didn't arrive at the airport for ages. Although we know she doesn't like to use the motorway to get to Luton we wondered how it could possibly be taking so long. When they did finally arrive boy in the middle was draped in her cardigan and his pants as he had been car sick on the way! We unpacked some shorts for him to wear from the suitcase and would have to try and buy him a sweater in the airport - first crisis averted.

We went to check in. Having refused to pay for speedy boarding but having checked in online we still had to wait to drop off our luggage. Holding one crying baby and boy in the middle who was looking a little pale we asked one of the staff if he could help and I think to get us out of the way he happily ushered us to the front of the queue - second hurdle achieved!

Upstairs in the departure hall I fed two babies, changed two babies, bought boy in the middle a rather expensive sweater from Monsoon, bought some water and then we headed off for the departure gate. On arriving at the alloted gate we were greeted by a flight of steps to go down and no lift. With the large amount of travel bags and carrier bags we had accumulated dear husband found a member of Easyjet to assist us in getting the babies (1 of whom was asleep) down the steps.  3rd challenge achieved.

At this point eldest daughter needed the toilet so I ran with her back up the stairs half way around the airport to the toilets and back again.  We were then all checked through and filtered into the queue for those travelling with children. Challenge 4 - done!

The way Easyjet works is that there are no tickets so first come first served. On the day we travelled in early August it happened to be torrential rain. Once the plane was ready all those who had paid for speedy boarding went on first and made a dash to the plane in the rain. Then it was our turn. Now the only logical way really was for dear husband and I to each hold a baby, collapse the stroller, pick up all the bags including pulling boy in the middle on his trunki and head to the plane. However, due to the rain we decided against this.  We decided that dear husband would take the older two onto the plane, get some seats and come back for me. We checked this with Easyjet groundcrew who agreed this would make sense. Little did they know that the staff on the plane wouldn't let dear husband off once they had checked him in.

I waited in the gate hoping the rain would stop as I had to leave the stroller under the plane and also so that the girls wouldn't get soaked getting to the plane. Gradually the passengers boarded the plane but there was no sign of dear husband returning. Finally I noticed a lady sitting reading her book in the hall. Sensibly knowing she would get a seat she had decided to board last as didn't want to rush. She took great pity on me and offered to help. So I put a coat on each girl, took all the bags off the back of the stroller, took the girls out of the stroller, collapsed it and loaded the bags on my back. I then left the stroller with the Easyjet crew and made him promise he would take it to the plane for me. Finally this kind lady ran with one of the girls and I followed. We made a dash up the stairs and onto the front of the plane. 5th major hurdle overcome!

Thanking this lady profusely she passed the baby over to one of the crew so she could find a seat. I spotted dear husband at the far end of the plane and then I stood with my head hanging out of the door waiting to check the stroller made it to the plane. The two guys sitting on the front row of the plane smiled up and me and said "We're twins - it's lots of fun". By this point I just wanted to sit down, dry off and reach our destination.

With the stroller added to the pile under the plane I headed down towards dear husband with the stewardess. Then it happened - the one thing I hadn't considered at all. Once dear husband was holding a baby and I was holding a baby we became completely and utterly helpless. Not realising how reliant I had become on my stroller it was a fun 5 hours. Every time we needed something from the overhead locker it entailed me holding both babies and dear husband getting stuff down, or dear husband passing one baby to the kind lady behind. When one of the other children needed to go to the toilet a baby had to go with or again be held by the lady behind.

Between the 6 of us we managed to cover the plane in fruit puree, drop crisps all over the floor, colour on the flip down table, crawl down the central aisle at a great speed and generally keep everyone else sitting near us wide awake.

The plane was on time and we were so relieved to land and reclaim our damp stroller as soon as we got off the plane. It was a long time to be away from the stroller but we had made it!

Our return flight was rather similar to our outbound flight but we were now wiser and packed our travel bag lighter. Why I had ever decided to put my own book in our rucksack on the outward flight was just wishful thinking on my part. Flying home at night meant that once both babies had been fed they actually each slept on us for most of the flight. Little did we know that the biggest struggle was yet to come.

We landed and waited until everyone else was off the plane as the babies were asleep. We both struggled to put a sling on to carry the babies in. We had one traditional sling which dear husband successfully wore and carried a baby in. I had the other type of sling which is a giant piece of stretchy material which you tie around your body and then pop the baby in. I wore this daily when boy in the middle was a baby and was rather proud of my ability with this. In order to put the sling on though you need rather a lot of room around you, not the few inches available on an Easyjet plane. I gave up and carried the baby with me thinking it was a short walk through to passport control.  We had landed at 11pm in early September, and clearly another 10 planes had also landed. We stood in the queue to get through passport control for 1 hour! With no staff around to take pity on us we just had to stay in the queue and put up with it. Boy in the middle was pulled along on his trunki, and the rest of us were grumpy and complained. Finally when we were nearly at the front of the queue a member of staff saw us, and told us that we should have just come to the front with so many children!!

We handed over our passports, rushed through to claim our luggage and were relieved to finally be reunited with our unbroken still in one piece double stroller!

When we travel Easyjet again in December we will be so much wiser!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Snow, swaddling and sleeping!

With our two new girls at home everyone had to re-adjust in the family. Not only was there a stream of grandparents and visitors but we also had a nanny every morning and after school to look after the babies so that I could play and give attention to eldest daughter and boy in the middle.

Thick snow meant school was closed for a few days so whilst the babies slept silently swaddled together in their moses basket we all drank hot chocolate, played board games and built snowmen in the garden. Eldest daughter and boy in the middle were extremely proud of their two new sisters and the game began to guess which baby was which.

Baby A was always dressed in pink and baby E wore white babygrows.We became quite conditioned to seeing one pink girl with pink sheets and blankets and one white girl in white sheets and blankets. Both girls after the first few days developed similar patterns and were fed at the same time whilst lying on a giant v-shaped pillow so I could double breastfeed. They were pretty good girls at nightime, waking to be fed together and going back to sleep.

Looking back I can recall only 2 or 3 nights when I was downstairs pacing the living room floor with both girls and watching the rather dull tv that is on in the middle of the night.  It was on one of those occasions where I was so exhausted that I realised in an hour they would need to be fed again. There was no chance I would have enough milk, so I finally took out the carton of ready made Aptamil taunting me from the cupboard and gave them both a bottle! Once my guilt subsided we then introduced one bottle of formula a day at a time when dear husband was home so we could both feed one of the girls. Now at 10 months they still get breastfed in the morning and at night but also really enjoy their bottle of formula mid afternoon.

In those early weeks we didn't venture out of the house too far. It was bitterly cold and snowy and so there was little chance of taking them out in the pram. Dear husband did the school run every morning and each afternoon the grandparents shared the responsibility of collecting them.

Once we were able to go out I loved taking them for walks in the big single pram with them wrapped up next to each other. When people glanced into the pram expecting to see one baby the look of surprise on their faces was priceless. I soon took on the role of "proud mummy of twins" when out with them. Navigating through shops was easy with a single pram so I really enjoyed this time as I knew that it wouldn't be too long before the world would have to get used to me and my double stroller.

I recall my first trip to school to collect eldest daughter and boy in the middle. It was quite an excursion. Firstly getting two babies wrapped up in snowsuits and into their car seats. As new born babies don't move or roll it was easy to leave one lying on the sofa whilst putting the other in the car and then returning to get the next baby. Once I had driven to school the pram had to be assembled onto the wheels, the babies each removed from their car seats, laid into the pram , pram cover on and there we were ready. Simple.

Of course eldest daughter and boy in the middle were so excited to see their sisters in school that they had to bring all their teachers out to show off the babies. In the playground I became "proud mother of 4!"

Fortunately the girls were small and we managed a good couple of months before we had to finally put the pram up in the loft. Friends of ours had leant us a great double stroller which folded up to be very compact and fitted into the boot of our 7 seater car. In fact we took the stroller with us before we bought the car to check it would fit in.

As much as I loved the pram and the moses basket I realised that the girls were growing and so at about 3 months old we moved the girls into their own bedroom to share 1 cot and from now on they would each have their own seat in the stroller.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Welcome to the World Baby Girls

There are two daunting prospects of a twin pregnancy. Firstly will both babies develop normally and will they both make it safely into the the world? Searching the internet whilst pregnant for advice also brought up hundreds of horror stories of TTTS and only the first twin being born healthily and the second being starved of oxygen. After the first initial months of trying to read everything out there on twin pregnancies and birth, a friend lent me a natal hypnotherapy CD to listen to and I stopped looking stuff up. This was a much calmer approach to the pregnancy, birth and beyond.

We made in to Watford hospital in the early hours of the morning and I was indeed in labour. Once the shifts changed at 8am I met a lovely mid-wife who read all of my notes and understood that I was planning on a natural delivery. I did however have to have an epidural in case of emergency later on but that was amazing - no pain! The consultant and registrar on duty both became a bit twitchy as they both wanted to do a cesaerean and get the girls out but I fought my corner and my husband fought my corner and with the mid-wife onside I was allowed to deliver the babies. It may not have been in the serene waterpool but they were delivered in an operating theatre. Baby A was born at 12.30pm and baby E followed at 12.46pm. It was quite a remarkable moment and perhaps only then did it really sink in that we had two babies. Would life ever be the same again?

After all the scare stories both girls came out fine. E took a minute to breathe and had to be assisted slightly as she had gone through more contractions but they both passed their Apgar scores with full marks after 5 minutes and we were all taken back to our room.

Looking back nearly a year on is amazing. Baby A weighed 5lb4oz and baby E was slightly larger at 5lb7oz. No wonder I had been enourmous! Dear husband and I spent the rest of the day looking in complete wonder at these two tiny tots swaddled together in a hospital crib. As I didn't leave the labour ward until about 11pm that night as they were sorting out a room for me we had no visitors that day.

The snow had stopped but it was still very cold but the ward was lovely and warm. However because the babies were very small and slightly early as they were born at 36.5 weeks they were put into a heated water crib next to my bed. It was very snug and cosy indeed.

After several months of not being able to sleep I remember craving some sleep but the midwives kept me up most of the night feeding the girls as they kept on checking their blood sugar levels which kept dropping. Having breastfed my other two children for a year and never having given formula I was intent on doing the same this time round although my sensible head said that perhaps they would have to have both. My hormonal  head just having given birth said no no no to the midwives and staff who desperately wanted to get some formula into the girls as they claimed I wouldn't be able to sustain them until my milk came in.

I carried on breastfeeding but by the Sunday evening with sheer exhaustion I conceeded and gave them some Aptamil in a bottle. This did the trick as their blood sugar level was maintained and we were discharged from hospital on the Monday.

Whilst still in hospital their big brother (he seemed really big suddenly) who now became the boy in the middle and older sister came to visit as well as all 4 grandparents and their Aunty and Uncle. Everyone was completely mesmerised by these little miracles - gifts from God we call them!

On a final note surrounding the birth we cancelled our appointment for 7th January with Marcelina Coker! We asked to see her and she came in to see us on the Monday before we went home. She was delighted that our birth had gone according to plan. We mentioned that we had considered phoning her to come in and deliver the girls but she said she had been away that weekend so we wouldn't have had her anyway. As it happened everything turned out well.

At 6pm on Monday 4th January we welcomed Baby A and E to their new home in Borehamwood. Now the fun starts.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Happy New Year 2010

We went along to our appointment a couple of days before New Years Eve. We met the consultant Marcelina Coker and we had a great appointment with her.  She understood where I was coming from with wanting to deliver the babies naturally and she was fully supportive of my decision.  Twin one was still head down and twin two who had been somersaulting throughout the pregnancy was breech at this scan however she said that babies can still turn or could be turned once the first one is born.

Marcelina wanted to deliver them herself so decided I should come in to be induced on 14th January. I sat in the consulting room and close to tears explained that our older daughter would be 7 on the 15th January and I didn't want to be in hospital on her birthday. My other main concern was that my pregnancy would continue for two more weeks! As her main day on the delivery ward is a Thursday she agreed for us to come in on 7th January to be induced early enough so she would still be on shift to deliver the girls.  We were with Marcelina for an hour in total. We came out feeling very excited although it felt a little strange to decide on their birthday. We went out for lunch and devised a plan of action for the due date. We updated the four grandparents and made arrangements for who would look after our oldest daughter and son. 

Not wanting to share the arrival date with friends we told everyone that we were to go another two weeks until I was 38 weeks pregnant. 

New Years Eve came and we spent the evening with our closest friends at our neighbours house. We were all supposed to have been holidaying in a cottage in Wales but with the news of my double pregnancy this had been cancelled in September. Instead we had take away and watched BBC1 at midnight. I say "we" had take-away, but by this stage in my preganancy I was unable to eat any more. I sat rather uncomfortably for as long as I could at the dining room table and then sloped off to relax on the sofa and eat some chocolate. I did make it past midnight but by 1am was home and fast asleep looking forward to a last weekend as a family of four.

New Years Day was cold and snowy and I spent the whole day in my pyjamas just preparing food for Shabbat.  I had heard that there is a Jewish custom to knead bread and make the tradional Shabbat Challah to ensure a smooth labour so I kneaded and baked some beautiful bread that day.

4am Saturday 2nd January
I woke up and wondered if the pains I felt could be labour. It's amazing how easily one forgets. I couldn't remember if it felt like labour or if I just had some more backache. Perhaps I had leant badly kneading all that bread. At 4.30am I woke dear husband up to find out his opinion. He said that he was going back to sleep for an hour and then to let him know how I was getting on. Well he never made it back to sleep as I kept pacing the bedroom. Finally at 5.30am I called the hospital to speak to a midwife. On hearing that I may be in labour and that I was pregnant with twins she told me to arrange my childcare and come to the hospital.

I called my parents. My Mum answered. "This is the phonecall you've been waiting for" I told her. My Mum and Dad came round and by that stage I wasn't sure if I was in labour but we thought it best to go before the other two children woke up. Flurries of snow were falling as we got in the car to drive up to Watford. My Mum's parting words were "If you want to get  Marcelina Coker to come and deliver them, it may be worth calling her and paying privately".


Once the tears had stopped I stared in disbelief at the screen and sure enough there were two little blobs that definately looked like two babies. I don't really remember the rest of that appointment except that I kept saying "I love both of them and are they both ok?".  My husbands main question was "Are you sure there are just two?".

There were just the two but our Sonographer couldn't quite tell if they were non identical with a placenta each or if they shared one so we had to go back two days later to meet Professor Nicolaides himself so he could double check.

We left the clinic in a daze and handed over our credit card. Luckily they didn't charge double just an extra £50. This was the start of the increased expense of having twins! We somehow got through the longest 48 hours of our lives and went back to our appointment to meet the Professor. Knowing that he gets accused of playing God we were pleased to be seeing the top doctor but a little nervous. The appointment was 4 hours later than scheduled but great to be able to see the two images again on the screen. He confirmed they were girls and they did share a placenta. He then told us in no uncertain terms that this was a very risky preganancy. The chances of them developing TTTS (Twin to twin transfusion syndrome) were quite high where one baby takes all the nutrients from the other and they will both die.  The only real good news that came from that second scan was that they didn't have downs syndrome.

We kept the news of our pregnancy very quiet and only told a few close friends at this stage. We were under the care of Watford hospital but they referred us to the specialist unit at Queen Charlottes until after 20 weeks when the care would return to Watford.  We somehow managed to get to our 16 week scan and all was progressing fine. At 18 weeks on holiday we told our other two children the news that they were going to get twin sisters. They were both very excited although our son R decided that they would be boys.  At 20 weeks we had a very detailed scan at Queen Charlottes hospital where the babies were monitored including their hearts and lungs and all the measurements were taken. With no sign of TTTS and both growing as they should our care returned to Watford and we went public with the news of our third pregnancy.

The babies were scanned every two weeks throughout the pregnancy.  This was a great deal of comfort as I spent the week following each scan knowing that everything was fine and then only a week to wait until I could see them on the screen again.  The Consultant we were under explained that it was likely I would have a casaerean at 36 weeks, only I explained that I had total fear of a casaerean and I had given birth twice naturally and thankyou for his input but these two would be born naturally as well.  Not wishing to upset a hormonal doubly pregnant woman he went along with me and agreed that he would refer me on to another consultant if both babies were lying in the correct positions closer to my due date.

I was due at the end of January. By early December I felt enourmous. My first daughter was 6lb1oz when she was born at full term and I had a very small bump. My son slightly larger at 6lb11oz, born in the water pool, meant my bump was slightly bigger. This time round I looked and felt enourmous.  I dragged myself through those last few weeks of school runs, making supper for everyone and crashing out in bed most nights by about 9pm.

I bought pink blankets and sheets and we got the single pram down from the loft - well they would be small enough to fit in it together at the beginning. Although we knew that the longer the babies remained inside me the more developed and fitter for life they would be but the constant heartburn and backache made me really want to give birth and meet the girls.

At my appointment in mid December our consultant finally agreed that as twin one had been lying in the correct position head down for a number of weeks now, we could meet his colleague Marcelina Coker who advocates natural delivery for twins and our appointment was set just before New Years Eve.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

It's only taken 18 months

I have wanted to sit down and get this blog going since July 2009. On Monday 13th July I went on the train to the Foetal Medicine Centre in Harley Street looking forward to my twelve week scan of our third baby. I had seen the midwife the week earlier and had heard a heartbeat so I was looking forward to seeing the newest addition to our family on the screen and then going out for lunch. 
Having had two healthy pregnancies, this time round the sickness was the same, I was a little fatter and perhaps a tad more tired but this was all put down to the fact that it was a third pregnancy.
There is nothing quite like the calmness of this private clinic with lots of couples sitting quietly and nervously on the comfy sofas around the waiting room. We were ushered into our scan by a very friendly Sonogropher and got ourselves comfy and he started the ultrasound. After an initial glance at the screen, the Sonogropher in his German accent asked "How much pregnant are you?" to which I replied, "twelve weeks". Then he repeated himself, "No but how much pregnant are you?". "Twelve weeks" (getting slightly crosser now that he doesn't understand me). "No, I mean how many babies do you have in there?" "Well obviously just the one" I reply. "No you are wrong, there are two".

And that is when I should have started my blog when my world turned upside down - in a good way, but I have been rather busy since then.