Wednesday, 24 February 2010

I am no longer the person I used to be ...

I have taken to using nonsensical words and phrases such as "bumbum" and "napnap" and everything I smell is tinged with a hint of powdered milk.. I am now officially ParentGuy(tm)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Three weeks old today!!

Huzzah! My little angels are three weeks old today - so, how do you reckon it's been going?

Well, we're finally managing to get some form of schedule going, Faith feeds every three hours whereas Emily feeds when it suits here. Also, Emily will sleep up to six hours during the night which makes it easier to deal with Faith who doesn't... is that a schedule, or just a random collection of events which in our sleep-derived minds constitutes a schedule?

Actually, it's not as bad as it sounds and I guess it could have been far, far worse if we'd had genuinely screamy children who turned the volume up to 11 all day every day.

On the subject of the volume at 11, I have discovered the girls are heavy metal fans. During a trip to the doctor's the other day I had to sit in the car with two mildly grizzling two week olds while Elly went for a nurses appointment. In an effort to stave off excessive screaming I turned on the car's CD player which, cunningly, contained an MP3 compilation disc. A couple of minutes of experimentation revealed that Airbourne and ACDC were incredibly well received with an audience participation level of "no crying" whilst Brittney Spears evoked audience complaint levels of "Well above irritating". I am so proud ....

Major criticism this week is reserved for people with no kids who park in the Parent and Child bays in car parks. OK, there's no law about parking there when you don't have kids but come on.. Have you any idea how tricky it is to get two kids + car seats + pram out of the car when the neighboring vehicles are inches away from your doors? It's impractical and sometimes impossible to get out of the car safely. Even before we had the children I never knowingly parked in Parent and Child spots as a courtesy to those with kids and if I don't see some of that courtesy returned pretty soon I'll be taking matters into my own hands...

I've found time to post to my blog. How did I manage that, you ask? Simple! We're having a "test week" where Ell runs around after the kids all day and I sit in the office working. It sounds like a bit of a skive, but, there is a practical application. Doing this allows us to see how Ell's going to cope on her own from next week when I'll be back in London. Currently, if a big issue arises - like a major nappy Code Black - I can help out where needed. Hopefully it'll let us see where we need to get extra help/assistance or just change the way we do things - whatever happens, I have no desire to go back to work and would be quite happy to spend all day, every day at home with my family.

Finally this week, we're having a bit of a do on Sunday. For the first time since we attended ante-natal classes, all eight couples plus twins plus other kids are popping down to the pub for lunch on Sunday. That's 16 adults, 16 children and six others. If I were you, I'd avoid the De Havilland from midday on the 28th...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Week Two update

Where the hell did the last seven days go???

Week two has been a fairly constant round of nappy changes, feeds and brief outbreaks of sleep and feeding (for us), the kids have the luxury of extended snoozes and all the milk they can suck down.

All-in-all I get the feeling we've been quite lucky, both girls are extremely placid and there's little in the way of complaints unless we miss a feeding time by 0.0000001 of a second. The act of feeding has been a game of two halves - Faith feeds beautifully, taking her time over her bottle and making cute, companionable noises all the while. Emily, on the other hand, gobbles down whatever you give, spreading the milk equally between her mouth and her chin/clothes/attending parent. A consequence is that poor Em has a whiter beard then I do, the only difference is hers flakes off from time to time..

Feeding for parents has become a complex issue due to the fact there's very little time to do it. In the five years we've lived in the current house we've always eaten meals at the table. These days we eat meals with our fingers, hunched over the sofa and in approximately five seconds and sometimes it's still hot!!!

Sleep has also been an issue with the girls taking turns to keep us awake until 4am some mornings, which, if I'm being honest, is even less fun then it sounds. Still, the last couple of nights we've managed to start a mini-routine which gets them and us to bed early and has resulted in a couple of really good nights - fingers crossed that it may continue.

Finally, the biggest obstacle to time and parenting is other people. We've been into town with the girls a couple of times in the last week and the process is slowed dramatically by people who are fascinated by the concept of twins. We don't mind really, it's lovely to show them off, but the questions are always the same and always in the same order. In an effort to save time I'm having some cards printed which bear the following text:

Dear interested person:
  • Two weeks old
  • No, not identical
  • Faith and Emily
  • Oh yes *laugh* they keep us up for hours
  • Yes, we are lucky
  • Bye!
I think that should cover all the bases and reduce the time it takes to stare mindlessly at things we don't want in shops we can no longer afford. Isn't it fabulous? :)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Week One in review

Hard to believe it's already been a week since the kids were born, there are times when it feels like five minutes ago and others when it feels like forever...

Anyways, here's a quick roundup of progress so far:

Birth Day - Tuesday Feb 2, 2010
We arrived at Frimley Park at about 6.30am expecting to be kept waiting for hours as always seems to happen with hospitals. However, we'd scarcely had time to complain about the quality of the food when we were called to the operating theatre so, with Elly clad in two of those buttock exposing theatre gowns and me decked out in blue operating scrubs we toddled off for the big event.

First stop was the anesthetist who gave Elly a spinal, which is similar to an epidural but more appropriate to caesarian sections. To be honest, I don't see what all the fuss was about as I didn't feel a thing but "apparently" Elly had needles pushed into her back to deaden her lower half. It was the first time I ever been (conscious) in an OR so it was quite interesting, there were many machines that go 'ping', a couple of machines that go 'whhhrrrrrrrr' and one that didn't seem to do much at all but just the presence of it lent a certain air of formality to the proceedings.

We'd been told the OR would be busy, as it was a twin birth we'd have two teams on hand to deal with the babies and a surgical team to deliver them. What we weren't told was that there were also students in. observing proceedings so by my best count there are about 25 people plus us in attendance which gave the appearance of a waiting room full of masked people - think Eyes Wide Shut without the dinner suits... or Tom Cruise... and with more... medical stuff...

The delivery seemed fairly smooth, I wasn't allowed to cut the cords as Ell's nethers were a sterile area but the surgical shield was lowered when first Emily, then Faith were delivered. It was a very surreal moment. After so long, and so much anticipation it felt a little detached, but I put down to the fact that were almost entirely detached from the delivery itself. The feeling soon went and within a couple of minutes I had two very healthy, very hairy little people in my arms. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry so did both and actually still do both every time we get five minutes of calm and I look into the eyes of my gorgeous daughters.

A quick look at the pictures shows the difference between the two of them, but in the chaos of the first couple of hours it was very difficult to tell them apart. Looking back a couple of days after the big event, it all seems a bit of a blur. At 8.59am on Feb 2, 2010 I was just another bloke in the crowd. A minute later I was Dad, bank manager, Guru, Oracle and future embarrassment and potential life wrecker to two very small, very beautiful little girls. I defy anyone with a heart not to shed a tear the moment their child is born. It's like gathering everything good that's ever happened to you up, compressing into a pint of emotion then swallowing it and getting drunk as a result - it's a moment I'll never forget.

Since then there have been several moments I will easily forget, due in no small part to Faith's desire to be bright and lively been 10pm and 4am. One tip to prospective parents; when the time comes to take first shift on baby monitoring (bedtime till midway through the night) or second shift (midway through the night to 7am) always go for the latter option as, by then, your gorgeous little bungle of life will have cried/pooed/peed/protested herself into oblivion. Whoever opted for the first shift will be begging for release by shift end and dehydrated from the tears of frustration, the second shifter can administer a quick feed then pop the little one down and watch him/her drift off to sleep in seconds - winner!!

Nappies have been an interesting experience. It turns out Merconium is not on the periodic table, looks like crude oil and is, in short, quite terrifyingly sticky - under no circumstances should it be interfered with as it could, quite possibly, be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Be sure to approach it with caution, however, and all should be well.

Nappy changing is an art form. It's staggering just how wriggly small people can be, especially when it's the first time you've seen a Pampers and you're struggling with the "stick tab A to pad B" type instructions. As long as you get the right end of the child to apply said device to, all should eventually be well although improper deployment of the nappy device can result in a damp child should excess urination occur.

Our pram is an absolute Godsend. A marvel of precision engineering, the Leebruss Zoom is a six feet long tandem pram which allows us to have both kids facing us. It's jet black and really swish, so much so I call it the Death Star - it puts fear into passers-by and attracts more attention than a yeti on a unicycle - in short, it rocks! Pushing it rounds shops generates masses of attention and it folds down so flat it's unbelievable.

So with prams, poo, birth and more covered, I now have to nip off and feed the kids. I'll try and post more soon...

Oooh, what lovely names...

Now that the girls have been been born we can finally broach the subject of names. During pregnancy we had several suitable options in mind but due to a variety of disapproving looks and "helpful" suggestions we decided we'd keep Emily and Faith to ourselves until it was too late for anyone to comment (there's a hair salon in Fleet that will NEVER get another penny from me as a result of the staff's helpful suggestions - "You should call it Belle, that's my name", yea, thanks for that, is your surname End by any chance?)

So, anyways, Faith and Emily. Faith always struck us as being a strong name and yet quintessentially English at the same time. It also summed up the attitude we took to the whole IVF process, whatever happened, however bleak things looked, we always, always had faith that one day it work. Ok, so it might seem the teensiest bit corny to some but every time I look into the patient blue eyes of my daughter I'll know what it means to me and to us as a family. We may not have faith in the traditional, religious sense of the word, but in all other ways we have it by the bucket load.

Emily's name is rooted more in the here-and-now. Several years ago now we had the privilege to meet one of the most wonderful and warm human beings. Her name was Emily Potter, she was five years old and she was severely handicapped. Em had a condition called i-Cell, a terrible illness which affects growth amongst other things. It's very rare and there's no cure and most sufferers pass away within the first couple of years of life. Thanks to the devotion, courage and sheer bloody-mindedness of her parents Patrick and Mary, Em managed to make it to the age of six.

I got to spend an afternoon with her during a holiday to the US one year and it was in the space of those few hours that I think I finally realised I wanted to be a parent. I can't really explain what happened, it was just one of those moments in life when a switch flicks on, when something is changed forever and you don't realise it until it's happened. She was such a beautiful little girl, utterly charming and, despite her difficulties and lack of communication skills she wound me so tightly around her little fingers that even now it puts a smile on my face.

And that's one of the driving forces behind our decision to name one of our daughters Emily. To me it signifies triumph against adversity, the will to try and to accept and to adapt to that which we cannot change and I for one will be so proud to tell my Emily where her name comes from when she's old enough to understand.

So there you go, Faith and Emily Russell. I'm trying hard at the moment to find time to document the first week and a bit of life as a new dad but there's barely a moment to spare. Over the next few days I'll try to throw a few missives together on sleep deprivation, sterilising bottles, pram building and the consistency of the very delightful meconium, but right now I need to run as we've just fed and changed both kids and need to get out of the house before there's a tiny trouser explosion...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Thank you...

We made it. At 9am on Tuesday February 2nd 2010 my beautiful daughters Emily Rose Anita Russell and Faith Samantha Elaine Russell were born. After eight years, nine rounds of IVF in two countries, over forty thousand pounds, multiple doctors and multiple medical emergencies we finally made it.

And it's incredible. Sleep is a distant memory, we barely have time to eat and I've been peed on, pooed over and vomited across - life doesn't get any better than this.

As I'm writing I've got full, sleepy little girls snorking next to me and little time so..

Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who supported us financially and emotionally, who looked out for us, cared for us and treated us. There are so many people I couldn't possibly name them all here but you know who you are and you know what you mean to us. In the last eight years we've made friends across the globe as a result of what we've been through - it's been overwhelming. So to each and every one of you - we did it, and I'm totally blown away.

There is one person who I have to say a very special thank you to, however, and that's my amazing wife Elly.

Honey, no matter how dark things got, how awful times were and how hopeless everything looked, you never gave up. We got to where we are today as a result of your grit, determination and bloody-mindedness. Your faith in our ability to be parents is so far beyond "the extra mile" it astounds me. Thank you for giving me two utterly beautiful daughters and for giving me the chance to be a dad - something I never thought I'd get the chance to do.

You are truly and without exception, the most wonderful person I have ever known - thank you darling.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Almost there

In about 12 hours I'll be a dad.

I've been repeating this, like some kind of religious mantra, for the last week (obviously with a realistic time estimate in place 12 hours) and it never gets old.

Our story has been told often enough (if you're a bit rusty read Elly's blog here) but finally, finally, we're nearly there.

At the moment I'm flicking between states of total excitement and the strangest feeling of "ohmigod whatthefuckhavewedone!!!????" so it's an odd place to be, but generally it's one of the happiest places I think I've ever been.

What are the kids going to look like? Are they REALLY both girls? Will one be outgoing and the other quiet? Will I have to live my entire life in the merciless videogame withering grip of Pippa Funnell?????

In 12 hours we'll know and it's going to be the longest 12 hours in history...