Baby brain gets blamed for a lot of things, usually by the mother, but I have found I am employing it as a viable excuse for anything and everything on a regular basis. It did rescue me from a potentially sticky situation while still in the hospital though. Mrs Aitchworld had warned me that “baby bumps” don’t just disappear – they take a bit of work following the birth to diminish and that it would be a sensitive issue to a woman. In the dayroom one night, in the wee small hours as I was filtering lumps of coffee out of the sugar bowl, I got chatting to a young lady attired in pyjamas and a dressing gown; quite clearly a patient of the ward. She was of slight build, so she was sporting what could, in any other situation, have been an early pregnancy baby bump. We weren’t in the early pregnancy area of the maternity unit though – we were on the post-birth ward, but without even thinking I said to her “Have you had your baby yet?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realised where I was and, more importantly, what I had done. As the tears welled in her eyes, I tried to recover the situation with a quick “Of course you have, you wouldn’t be on the ward otherwise. D’uh! Baby brain!” with a quick roll of the eyes, a shrug of the shoulders and a follow on distraction technique of, “We’re the ones with twins. Room 11, if you want come and see them. Here, I’ve cleaned up the sugar bowl for you”. Between sobs, she told me she was next door in Room 12, she didn’t take sugar and congratulated me on the birth of the twins. She never came to look at them though. That seems like a lifetime ago now.
Since coming home, things haven’t improved. Before having the babies, Mrs Aitchworld was terrified that the cats would feel left out, or even pushed aside. Don’t worry, I told her; I won’t let that happen. And sure enough, they are getting the fuss and attention I promised they would continue to receive, but on one day in the first week home I emptied and cleaned their water bowl, forgetting to re-fill it before putting it back on the floor for them. The very next day I put biscuits into each of their bowls, but left them on the side in the kitchen rather than putting them on the floor, wondering later why there were muddy paw-prints all over the work surfaces. Baby brain!
Just as I think I am getting used to being a Dad and have the handle on things, something new comes along and completely throws me, chief among which is the noises that the boys make. These sounds never fail to amuse me. There are often times at night when I am woken by the most bizarre noises. Sometimes they are movements by the boys as they wrestle with sleep and arms twitch and legs kick out as REM gives way to some sort of dream state. And sometimes they are noises that they make from… Well, I’m not quite sure where they emanate from. Last night Arthur started making clicking sounds a bit like Flipper. I have no idea whether it was from his mouth or elsewhere. I didn’t know whether to pick him up to comfort him or throw him a fish.
Henry has a series of noises that he makes when he is eating (or should that be drinking, seeing as he lives on milk?) that change depending on how far he is through his meal. It doesn’t matter whether he is on the breast or whether I am giving him a bottle, he starts off with a noise not dissimilar to an angry hamster, moves onto distressed guinea pig snorts that then develop into impressions of a nanny goat with its beard stuck on barbed wire before finally culminating in a crescendo of what can only be likened to a donkey reaching the vinegar strokes.
This journey really is one of constant change, not least in looks. In an earlier missive I mentioned that Henry looked like a cross between myself, Mrs Aitchworld and Nigel Farage. Since then I have seen him look like Warren Clarke, Timothy Spall, Rich Hall, Stephen from Gogglebox (or it might be Chris – like Ant and Dec, I never know which is which) and Moe from the Simpsons. Mrs Aitchworld’s mum sent a picture of him looking like Wolfy Smith, but on this occasion I think it was more to do with him appearing to hold a fist in the air than any facial features shared with Robert Lindsay.
Arthur on the other hand has looked like Paul (the alien from the 2011 film), a baby macaque, on occasion (especially when he draws his legs up into his baby-grow) E.T. and, worst of all, the absolute spitting image of me. And despite all of these derogatory references, they are still pretty damn handsome, even though I do say it myself. We even took them to the doctor the other day, not because they were ill, but merely to show them to the doctor for them to be admired for their cuteness. (To be fair, Mrs Aitchworld had an appointment for an unrelated medical condition, so we just took them with us – we aren’t completely wasteful of NHS resources!)
Some of the changes are heart-melting. We are convinced they recognise us, and even smile at us sometimes we say their names, although we are led to believe that at five weeks old, unless we have spawned a pair of MENSA candidates, this is highly unlikely and it is probably just wind. When we first got the cats home, we trained them to respond to their names by standing at one end a room with a pot of treats and calling the names we were giving them, issuing them with a tasty treat if they came over to us. After a while they got the hang of it and now they respond to their names, most of the time, especially if they think there is a treat in it for them. We tried this method with Henry and Arthur, but after a couple of hours we still had a full pot of treats each, so I hardly think they fall into the genius category just yet.
Those that aren’t seeing the twins every day comment, every time that they do see them, how they have changed; how they are growing, how well they are filling out. Of course being close to them, it is difficult for us to see the changes, as they are so subtle they are almost imperceptible. It’s only when you look back through the million photographs that now fill our ‘phones that you realise how far along the journey you have come in such a short space of time. It is difficult; a double edged sword if you will – on the one hand you want the next stage to come; you want the feeds to be spaced further apart so you can get some meaningful sleep in between them. But on the other hand, that means they are growing up and getting bigger, less cute by the day and, pretty soon, they will be leaving home and going to university or off to work. And that saddens us.
We nearly wept the other day at the simple realisation that Henry could no longer fit into Size 1 nappies after just five weeks. Then I noticed that when we put a new-born baby vest on him it stretched so far down his chest it made him look like Freddie Mercury (Mrs Aitchworld stopped me getting a Sharpie and drawing a moustache and some chest hair on him in a quest for a comedy photo opportunity. One day she will go out on her own and I will be left alone with the boys and a permanent marker…) and we had to start putting him in 0-3 month vests and baby-grows.
Arthur isn’t far behind – we can still get him into a size one nappy, but just like his brother even he is now in the larger vests and baby-grows. Arthur’s secret weapon is that he is like me – scrawny. His little sparrow-like legs were so thin that when we were in hospital his identity tags, affixed on their smallest setting, kept slipping over his feet and we kept finding them in the bottom of his baby-grow. He looks smaller because he is thin, but at full stretch his toes reach the far corners of his baby grow. It is only his slim waist that keeps him in the smaller nappy. Mind you, a strange phenomenon occurred in our house last year and trouser waistlines all started to shrink when tumble dried. It is only my trousers and only the waistband. And, like putting the boys in the next stage up clothing, all of a sudden I had to start buying the next size up in trousers. I’m putting the reason for this purely down to having a new tumble dryer. Naturally we don’t tumble dry nappies, but it is something that we will have to bear in mind for Arthur as he grows up.
The only saving grace for me is that because of baby brain I keep running upstairs, forgetting what I went for, remembering the instant I get back downstairs and having to run up again and get it. The fact that Aitchworld Towers is spread over four storeys means that sometimes I can be two flights of stairs from my original starting point with no clue why I am there. This new exercise regime is working quite well for me and although I never weigh myself, I am having to tighten my belt to keep my trousers aloft, so I must have lost some. Before I know it, I will have to start double tumble drying my new trousers to get them down to the correct size. Either that or I will have to send Arthur to do my errands for me as soon as he is able to move up and down stairs. And hope that he and Henry are geniuses after all, that they don’t have baby brain and when they get to the top of the stairs, they actually remember what it was I sent them up for in the first place.