Early One Morning. Two Months Early, In Fact.
28th August 2019. We went for our 32 week scan with that air of experience that twin parents often have by that point - we'd had a lot of scans. The second scan was fun because I'd read somewhere that sometimes - maybe it was this time! - the first scan can wrongly identify twins. I clung onto that possibility right up to the moment they showed the clear-even-to-an-idiot image of two heads. It really was happening.
The 32 week scan was purely a formality. We already knew both babies were breach, so straight after the scan the maternity admin booked us in for a caesarian in 6 weeks time. On our way to the office, we passed by the birthing rooms and even had a little look in. This is where we would be spending time in 6 weeks, getting ready for theatre.
With our minds prepped and the comforting knowledge of knowing exactly when the babies would be born (October 3rd), we had some lunch, OH went back to work - she wasn't on maternity leave yet - and I went to a Speed Awareness Course (yes, yes, I know). At the Speed Awareness Course, we were told to switched off our mobile phones completely. Quite right too. But I joked to the others on my table that it would be TYPICAL if the first time I switched off my phone coincided with my OH going into labour hahahaha. I didn't actually switch it off, for that reason. Sorry officer.
With that done, I headed home (within the speed limit - unlike a dear friend of mine, a very well known film and TV composer, who, some years ago, got caught speeding on his way home from a Speed Awareness Course ). As usual, thanks to the long summer evenings, I went out on my bike and OH went to Aquarobics at our David Lloyd. Before we left, though, she had been to the loo an unusual number of times. I didn't say anything apart from "Are you OK" and she said fine so off we went; her in car, me on bike. We met at the club later for some dinner then drove home, bike on the roof. Everything normal. All fine and dandy. Just before bedtime, OH started complaining about feeling a bit under the weather with some pains in her stomach. We were so inexperienced (read: stupid) we couldn't work out what it could be, a woman, 32 weeks pregnant, with pains at regular intervals. We had the caesarean booked in 6 weeks time, so it couldn't be the labour. Maybe it was something she ate? Or had she overdone it at aquarobics? WHAT COULD IT BE?!! They always tell you to go to hospital whatever the problem, big or small. We'd been a couple of times already - once, when OH hadn't felt them move for a few days and was worried. Turned out they were just being lazy in there. Proud.
So we phoned the maternity unit, describing the symptoms, and it must have taken great discipline for them not to scream down the phone "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK IT IS YOU IDIOTS?". Instead we got "Why don't you come in, get checked out?" so we did.
They checked her out. The babies were coming.
OH's waters had evidently broken before she went to aquarobics (thankfully not during, that would have been interesting) and she'd carried on regardless, which is very much in character. Now, we were sitting there in the hospital maternity unit, preparing ourselves for something we were completely unprepared for while, down the corridor, a team of doctors, anaesthetists, nurses, surgeons and midwives were scrubbing up. BLOODY HELL.
And then off she went, wheeled into the distance on a trolley. I was taken elsewhere, guided into a cloakroom and told to put on those blue overalls they wear for operations. And a hat.
The trousers kept falling down. I mentioned this to a passing nurse who noticed I'd put them on back to front and inside out. That'll be it then. Re-trousered, I sat in the corridor outside the operating theatre and waited. And waited. By this point it was 3am and all I wanted to do was phone everybody but couldn't since they'd be, not unreasonably, asleep. We would be doing all this alone and no-one would know it was happening.
"Righto, you can go in now." I pushed open those double doors you see in TV medical dramas and there was OH, drugged up and ready to go. There was a curtain across her chest to stop us from seeing anything, THANK CHRIST, and my job was now to keep telling OH that she should relax and everything would be OK, despite having no evidence to support this.
Now up to this point, OH had not complained about anything. No moans, groans or much evidence of pain at all (although she clearly was in a great deal of it). For weeks, on our regular visits to the maternity unit, we had seen and heard woman screaming, groaning, wailing; every few metres there'd be a woman the size of a house leaning against the wall oo-ing and ahh-ing as if she was going to give birth right there. But OH did none of that. She'd not even had any of the classic pregnancy stuff like morning sickness ,weird dietary demands or reflux. The ONLY thing she ever complained about was swollen ankles, but that was mostly due to a very hot summer. At the hospital, she acted throughout as if she simply had a mild stomach ache after eating a dodgy prawn. Including during the birth itself. We'd been told that the sensation of caesarean under anaesthetic is a little like someone doing the washing up in your stomach. I now reliably informed that this is true. There were a couple of grit-the-teeth moments but that was it. It was an incredible performance.
And then, suddenly, there were The Lads. Tiny, bruised and slightly put out by the whole experience. And who could blame them? What a palaver. Each twin had his own team of experts that fussed around them in a huddle so I couldn't see anything. Neither of us had any interest in seeing them actually come out - too disgusting for words - but now they were out in the open we wanted to know they were OK.
They were OK.
But at 32 weeks, they needed attention and they went off to ICU as standard, passing us as they went. I took some photos for their future weddings. Mum could see their little legs in the air - just - as they were wheeled past. And that was it. Another hour of stitching up and it was off to a ward, gasping. I'd love to tell you that it was an extraordinary, intense, emotional, spiritual experience of true transcendence where we bonded with our babies forming an alliance of love that will last a lifetime blah blah blah. But actually, it was just extremely functional and lets-get-this-done. We hadn't asked for whale song or music or candles or any of that bollocks. We'd continually been told to remember that this was OUR birth and the hospital must always respect our wishes. But our wish had always been for them to do their job and make sure the babies were healthy. That's it. They like that. What they don't like is being asked to turn the Chris de Burgh record up a bit, or light a couple more incense sticks. Maybe we had showed our age.
5am and I still couldn't call anyone. That was a strange feeling. This momentous, thrilling event, which had all gone well - and it was still too early to shout about it. I went for a walk round the block to get my head around what had happened, while OH slept. I think I was still in shock since it had been so unexpected. And then all sorts of things starting leaping into my brain: it's August 29th, what a terrible day for a birthday when you're at school; I haven't painted the nursery yet or got the garden office installed. I hadn't even got around to putting together a hospital bag and the only thing I'd brought with me to the hospital - hate me if you like - was a phone charger because well you know how long things can take in hospitals. So I would need to go home and get clothes, toothbrush for the OH. But hang on a minute: I'VE GOT TWO SONS!!!! HOLY FUCK!! I'm starving.
Finally, at 7am, I felt it was probably OK to phone my parents. I texted first, asking if they were awake. "Only just, why?" "Can I call?" "OK hang on".
Then onto the mother-in-law. She's always awake by 7. No answer. I tried again. Nothing. Oh god, she's fallen down the stairs. I kept trying for an hour, always ringing out. Today. TODAY was the day she wasn't going to answer her sodding phone. It turned out she was swimming and had left it switched on in the changing room locker.
With new grandparents left stunned and in need of a drink, I headed to ICU for another look at The Lads before fetching mummy to do the same. There they were, barely visible under cloths and nappies inside their own incubators, asleep. They'd be in hospital for a month, probably, but we weren't to worry. Healthy, tiny (3lbs), oddly-red little boys who were blissfully unaware that their parents had absolutely no idea what to do next.
It was going to get busy. We took a deep breath.