It has amazed me the amount of products we have needed in order to set up home for the arrival of babies. I had no idea it was all so very complicated. Mrs Aitchworld was a bit smarter in this respect and was incredibly organised right from the off. Local Facebook selling pages and twins groups were joined and scoured at regular intervals. Freecycle and Freegle were also put to some use, but although we had some great successes with both of these a few years ago and got some great furniture, even a couple of flat screen TVs, when we were setting up home, it would seem that nowadays most people giving things away on them are just using the collector as a conduit for getting things to the municipal dump, because that is all that most of the items are fit for. Once you are there, stood in front of the person giving something away, and in some cases genuinely thinking they are giving you something incredibly special, like gold, frankincense or myrrh, it is hard to walk away without taking the item. On more than one occasion though, the items were collected and just taken directly to the tip. (We were given a couple of car seats, but only upon picking them up was it discovered that these were for children of 18 months plus and front facing, so we put them away to use at a later date. And then we found out the other day that the law is about to change and very soon seats for this age group will have to be rear facing, so that’s another tip run I’m going to have to organise).
We started accumulating paraphernalia at a very early stage of pregnancy and at an alarming rate, snapping up bargains left right and centre. Given that our house is usually like a show home, in that everything has to have a purpose and therefore a rightful place, I did at one point in a fit of pique ask why Mrs Aitchworld was filling our house with so much shit that we didn’t need for several months. She explained that as a PA, she liked to be organised and that I would thank her for it in due course – she was preparing for things early on so that she could relax and enjoy the later stages of pregnancy. Eventually, even I got swept up in all of the bargain hunting and I joined in, holding each item in the same esteem as I would a prize I had won for taking fatherhood so seriously.
As well as the classifieds, lots of friends gave us stuff. Now I’d have thought that parents of relatively young children, with the experience fresh in mind would be giving us items that we needed for when the children came home from hospital but even I knew some of the things were neither use nor ornament for a new-born. We seemed to have a range of stuff given to us that some of which could potentially last until the twins reached adulthood. Certainly some of the clothes they were given I was eyeing up because I could have probably got into them! I think they were just glad to have the stuff out of their house and get some space back! Having seen how our house has ended up, I don’t altogether blame them, and I’m certainly not complaining about free stuff that I don’t have to take directly to the tip.
By the middle of the second trimester we had two high chairs, two stair gates, three cots (four if you include the one I had to take to the tip, five if you include a travel cot) and mattresses, a baby walker, a baby swing (musical, naturally), three bouncers, one rocking recliner, four car seats (two destined for the dump) a nappy disposal system, a nursing chair (or a chair, as anyone would recognise it ordinarily, but if you put nursing in the title the shop can triple the price), three boxes of toys suitable for a toddler, one baby bath, two baby bath rests, a top & tail bowl, three baby activity centres (which the cats adore playing with), a changing table, a nursing chest of drawers (see nursing chair for financial details), a portable (within the house but not beyond) changing mat, two changing bags, two double pushchairs, two single pushchairs, three sterilising systems (one mains powered), a steamer (not suitable for stripping wallpaper) a bottle warmer, two thermal bottle carriers, a few hundred feeding bottles, more books than the local library and several million packets of baby wipes (just because Aldi had a special on!). It was reported in a recent news article that there are tonnes upon tonnes of wet wipes washing up on neighbouring shores after being flushed down our toilets and subsequently out to sea. As I fully intend to dispose of ours responsibly, that is at least a tonne of baby wipes that are in our nursery that will never even see the mouth of a toilet! France, you can thank me with free holidays on the Dordogne when the time comes.
The truth is, neither of us have a clue what we did or didn’t need. A theme that has run through the entire pregnancy and beyond is conflicting advice. And this exercise was no different. And of course, being a man, I was the more conflicted of the two of us. As a result of my genetic discrepancy whenever I was looking at things unsupervised, I often ended up buying things entirely inappropriate for a new born baby. I drew the line at bikes and electric pedal cars, things that were obviously of no use to anything younger than a child that could walk and talk, of a fashion, but I got exceedingly confused by other things. For example, I had no idea that a door bouncer could not be used from birth. I nearly bought a trailer for towing children behind my bike, but I was reliably informed that these shouldn’t be used before the children are of toddling age, whatever that is. I was pleased as punch with the two carrying harnesses I bought; those things that are like a rucksack but with holes in for babies limbs to stick out of. I even checked this time that they could be used from birth, and lo they could, but on closer inspection of the manual, which I am surprised I read if I’m honest, the child going into them has to be a certain size and weight and new-born twins are nearly always significantly below this weight (and naturally ours were). We have since bought something that was described as a sling for carrying new borns in a similar fashion, but in reality it is a giant triangular bandage that you have to fashion into a harness yourself by employing every knot and lashing in the entirety of the Scouting and St John’s Ambulance handbooks combined. And even then you will still drop the baby out of it anyway.
Another thing I didn’t know is that a baby bouncer chair was different to a rocking recliner chair, or that we needed both, but for different stages of childhood. (I remember when my sister arrived home for the first time and she was placed in a baby bouncer – I don’t think they had rocking recliners back in 1974. I recall standing behind it, pulling the whole thing as far back as I could and then letting go. I am amazed my sister never got whiplash. I got away with it several times too, before my dad caught me. I still remember that bollocking even now. Different times).
And you’d think a nappy disposal system would seem like a great thing to have, and for months it has had pride of place in the nursery. Of course I naturally assumed it would just take some sort of standard bin liner, but it was only upon trying to buy some that we discovered that the special cassette system that it used (and the whole cassette system has to be replaced every time it was empty) cost more than the actual bin itself. In the end we bought a swing bin for less than a fiver from a local bargain shop and use a combination of nappy sacks and bin liners from Aldi. The disposal system still sits proudly in the corner of the nursery but it will remain forever unused other than as a pedestal to place things on.
It is amazing that we have managed to fit all of this baby equipment into to the house, especially the stuff that is without function until a few months a little later down the line. There are two areas of the house where Mrs Aitchworld rarely ventures. The first is the bathroom in the cellar of the house. This is my throne room, where I get most of my reading done. There is a large Jacuzzi bath and a separate shower. Well there was, but both are now full of baby furniture that won’t be used for a while. A narrow pathway exists from the stairs and allows access to the sink and toilet and nothing else. There is something disconcerting sitting there reading your favourite book surrounded by baby equipment.
The other area is the converted loft where all of my unused musical instruments gather dust. My CDs, LPS, music system and a surround sound DVD theatre system also occupy this space, but I can’t use these any more. This was filled indirectly – originally we had earmarked the box-room as a nursery but this was quickly deemed too small, so we decided to lose our double guest room and use that instead, turning the box room into an office and dressing room. Losing the double room wasn’t a hardship – we rarely have people to stay anyway, and who is going to want to stay with us if we have bawling twins crying throughout the night? The trouble was, all the clothes that we haven’t ever thrown away that we possibly should have, resided under the double bed in large plastic crates. These are far too large for storing under cots, so they have ended up filling my music room. We could take the clothes to Clothes4Cash to earn 50p for the boys college fund, but we would still have the empty plastic boxes to store somewhere.
In the latter stages of pregnancy, once all the furniture was sorted out and rooms designated, furniture placed, placed again and then rearranged once more for good measure, various lists were made of the small stuff we would need; things to fill changing bags and hospital bags, when they were packed. I was despatched to buy a list of things of a more personal nature. The list included paper pants, absorbent pads, for down below, breast pads for up top, thrush cream (for nappy rash, apparently) and, finally, nipple cream. This is needed to relieve the pain caused by aggressive breast feeding. I’m not sure who the aggressor is in this situation, mother or child, and I’m not sure I want to know either. Obviously with twins on the way, a lot of breast-feeding was expected, so in good Scouting fashion, we prepared ourselves. It was only when I eventually found the product, nestled away and hidden on the shelves of a local pharmacy, that I discovered it was hellishly expensive. Imagine how eye-watering painful breast feeding can be, and then magnify it by about a million, and you get some sort of idea of how hurtful it is to the wallet. Considering that the primary ingredient in this unguent is Lanolin, which is essentially just fat extracted from sheeps wool, it would have been cheaper just to buy and raise a couple of sheeps in the garden and have Mrs Aitchworld go out and rub her nipples into them every so often, when the symptoms became too much to bear. I am led to believe the RSPCA take a dim view on this sort of behaviour though.