Sixteen years ago this week, I was in the Special Care Baby Unit at Leeds General Infirmary. Two babies, colour-coded by their blankets, were in cots next to my bed. One, the blue one, was the biggest baby on the ward by some margin whilst his sister, wearing an enormous hat to stop heat escaping from her very tiny head and with a tube up her nose to feed her, weighed only just over half what her brother weighed - a couple of bags of sugar, no more. They were our miracles.
Scroll on a few days and we arrived back at the little house on the prairie which had, for their arrival, been turned upside down - literally. Their first nursery was the dining room (now our sitting room) as we had been advised that there would be significantly less running up and down stairs if their world was contained on the ground floor. Two of everything babywise takes up a lot of space!
We were joined for the first few weeks by a maternity nurse, Sister R, who had once been the supremo of Harrogate's only maternity hospital and where number 1 child and I had spent a few formative days - formative for her, reformative for me whilst I started to shrink back to the old me. Anyway Sister R had a lovely, old-fashioned approach to babies and routine and she quickly licked us into shape. She used to stay for three or four nights a week giving us desperate parents a few much-needed nights off to recover - and yes, I know we were very lucky to have her. Once in residence, she would spend the evening in front of the television with us with the remote control gripped vice-like in her hand, insisting (as if we had the energy to argue) that we watch medical programmes (yes, me the most squeamish person in the world and these were 'the bloodier - the better' variety), nature programmes (nature programmes with blood even better) and football - the only sport we never watch in this house. Anyway aside from the television, she got bottle production on a mass scale organised and dealt with 3 and 4 in the middle of the night whilst my beloved and I slept on.
When she left, we were ready for her to go and for us to face up to the task ahead. This involved my beloved staying up till late to do the last feed at any sort of sociable hour, then me getting up in the wee small hours to feed the one that woke up first, then waking up the second one (whether he or she wanted to be woken or not) for their feed. Sometimes, in tiredness and confusion, I wasn't sure whether I had fed one or both or perhaps three of them but we and they survived. I watched, in chunks in no particular order, The Commitments and, towards the end, the Olympics in Atlanta, which featured all those sports which only true aficionados, people who work night shifts (me) and insomniacs watch - women's weightlifting and synchronised swimming to name but two. Incidentally, anyone who thinks synchronised swimming and synchronised diving are in the same skill-category are way off beam. Synchronised diving is brilliant, brave and exciting and the stuff in the pool with the make-up and weird nose things is not, in my view, any more a sport than dominoes!
What was most wonderful was how the older two fell immediately in love with the twins. They helped brilliantly, changed nappies enthusiastically and were generally the proudest parents - apart from their own! And that relationship is still magic today and when they are all at home together - the messiest, loudest and happiest times happen. When war breaks out in this house, as it sometimes does, we need to remember how we are all lights in each other's lives.
When the twins were born in the early and very antisocial hours on May 3rd 1996, the song on the radio in the delivery suite was played by the Eagles. One of These Nights might have been appropriate and Take It Easy would have been nice and I can't, sixteen years on, remember what it was but this one is my favourite so here's the link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaO-kgG7eCQ