I am the mother of twins. It still surprises me to think that. Sometimes I wonder what I did, in this life or past ones, to be given this incredible, exhausting, bewildering, wonderful job. I was gonna say 'burden' then. And perhaps I should have said 'gift', because that's what we're supposed to feel enduringly and every day, isn't it? That our children are a precious gift. For me, it's a conundrum, and nearly two years into the gig, it continues to be. Because I love these two sweet girls with all I have and more. I love them individually, each in different ways and for different reasons. When one is in my arms, I inhale the scent of her head and know she is entirely mine and I'll never love another creature as much.
Except I do, because there are two.
And yet still I wish it were different.
Pregnant with the pair, I felt certain that I, of all people, could handle it. I was up for the challenge. I had a new friend who was treading the road just ahead of me. She had a toddler and six-month-old twins when I excitedly announced my news. She seemed to cloud over a little as she struggled to congratulate me. I thought, "It won't be like that for me." But now I get it. I get that, for all the love, you still wish it were different.
I gave myself a little talking to the other day, realising that the voice in my head, the one that kept wishing it were different, was sounding like a bit of a spoilt brat. Because really, apart from the bloody hard work, there's not much else that's wrong. It's just that it's not how I planned. Big whoop! Lots of people don't get what they planned. They get boys instead of girls, or vice versa. They get triplets or quadruplets, or octuplets.
They have premature babies who struggle to thrive. They have babies who face a lifetime of disability or special care. They lose babies. They are unable to get pregnant in the first place.
What's my deal in the face of all that? I have two healthy, bright, thriving little girls who I carried to term and delivered with enough drama for a good story but not much more. They sleep well (now), they eat well, they speak and, bless their cotton socks, they sing. They're not very good at sharing, but what toddler is? They occasionally scratch and pinch and hit each other. They pull each other's hair, often.
There's twice as many bottoms to wipe, twice as many clothes to wash, a seemingly endless amount of little limbs to be pushed into sleeves and through car seat straps. Mess at mealtimes is ridiculous. Logistics are a nightmare. Packing for an overnight trip is beyond ludicrous. I haven't 'nipped' anywhere for two years - you know, nipping into the shop for milk. When I sit down, my lap is sacred land being fought over by warring factions.
But that's probably the worst of it.
I remember back when they were a couple of days old, in the hospital. I was at that mushy stage when the hormones are soaring and everything in the world is beautiful. I gazed from one to the other and back again, and wondered, genuinely, how anyone ever coped with just one baby. It was like the greatest love on earth doubled and doubled again.
Then reality reared up and slapped me down. I floundered. There was a bit of "poor me" with a side serving of "why, oh, why?" And some days, there still is.
Other days, however, there's one pair of little legs wrapped around my hips, and another's sticky hand in mine. Squishy wet lips kissing my face. 'Pinkle, Pinkle, Little Star' at full volume. Endless books shoved forward with the demand, "Weed, Mum, weed!" There are leaves and flowers delivered with a proud, "There ya go, Mama." And, when it's really good, there's a tiny "I lub ooh", or two, at the end of the day.
Is it possible to wish it were different and want nothing but this, all at the same time?