Week 2: Emotional Shit Spectrum
By Tuesday of week 2 things were already travelling less successfully. I miscalculated in my role as the man which resulted in B becoming too tired to keep her emotions at bay. Hours at a time of breast-feeding and breast-pumping will do that to you. I had gotten it in my head that I needed to pull back a bit and let B come to terms with something less than my full and constant attention. Mental note: nine days after the birth of twins is too soon.
We had a couple of midwives from a clinical trial (that of the effect tuberculosis immunization vaccine has on childhood allergies) come to collect blood samples from the twins and little, purpose-built, twisty-top, scoop-lid vials for the shit I dug out of their nappies daily. The boys got jabbed with needles and manhandled. Neither cried, although it was still a bit horrific. This set them off routine and they were a nightmare to settle after a feed.
Burps. Hiccups. Wet nappies. Umbilical cord tags falling off. Babies pissing all over their own clothes and faces. The whole session lasted about 3–4 hours. I was on the frontline, just not on point (in my defense, the thought of returning to work sooner than either of us would like is beginning to give me nightmares).
It was an okay day. I suppose. But B had an emotional meltdown and I had to order her to bed. So it didn’t roll quite as smoothly as it could have. I blame myself for thinking I could change roles from player to coach so quickly. In reality, your role should be that of player/coach and she’s your fucking quarterback-with-a-million-dollar-arm (breasts). I remember making the same mistake with L as well, I get overconfident and stop looking out for B quite so much and everything goes to shit. Quickly. After some sleep, thankfully, things returned to a better rhythm.
Wednesday it was my turn to have a meltdown. Call it a touch of male postnatal depression (I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that that is a thing), call it sulking (more to the point). I had a little boy meltdown. Much less plainly than B with all her poorly held-back tears. I basically just crawled into a small black hole and refused to come out for the day. Which isn’t to stay I stopped helping with feeds, nappies, settling, life, etc, I just did it less cheerfully. Like I was suffering from post-traumatic stress or something (if true, I blame the placentas). I was helpful, but really just a shadow of a shadow of a man. My usual mantra for supporting your partner whilst breastfeeding is positivity and persistence (it can be fucking hard and fucking frustrating). Today, it was more like ambiguity and aloofness. With a splash of thinly veiled hatred. When I am feeling depressed my hatred is never directed intentionally at B, but it’s a pretty nonspecific life-hate that is probably a bit difficult to read when you’ve got two other screaming, tiny men eating you for breakfast. So that’s probably two out of three days I’d been a bit shit.
On Thursday, however, I was back to my best. There at every whim, making breakfast, settling babies, hanging out washing, baking lactation cookies (no fucking shit) and doing it all whilst maintaining a decidedly D-grade Dick Van Dyke disposition. Unfortunately, it was L’s day to turn in a bad one. He was very clingy when I went to drop him off at childcare. He didn’t want me to leave. Ninety per cent of the time he barely registers that you’ve walked out the door. This time he wrapped himself around my shoulders with the strength of a full grown baboon. Every time one of the carers tried to distract him with fun activities he just wept, dug his face into my neck and said “No, sank you… No, sank you” (we are working on his th sounds). Which was sad and nice all at once. After wiping globs of snot from my collar I had to wrench him from my neck, take a knee, look him in the eye and tell him I had to leave no matter what and he was just making it worse for himself. He offered up a defeated, trembling “Okay… ”, dropped to his knees with his back to me and started miserably playing with some blocks. A portrait of unforgettable heartbreak. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when B got a call around lunchtime telling her that L had been in a fight. It was nothing to worry about, he just had some scratches on his face. (In this day of never-ending assholes you need to be told about every possible possibility of any incident, which may or may not have occurred, that can potentially harm and/or mark your child. Which has included getting my permission to take L’s shoes off in the sandpit in case he gets bitten by a bug. My rather droll response was “I don’t care if he gets bitten by a bug”, but in a kind of modern-day role reversal, I’m pretty sure plenty of assholes care a little too much if their children are bitten by bugs.) It was one of those days you’re glad he’ll never remember.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are absolutely indistinguishable. As the time stretched into a kind of rolling maul of three hour shift-work: feeding, burping, changing, then sleeping. During the daylight hours one of us would break off to try and entertain L with made-up games or half-baked craftwork ideas. Mine seem to revolve around the construction (both real and imaginary) of monsters. B favors the Technicolor Dump art theory that she and L are very comfortable with, that my annoyingly fussy nature could never let me embrace.
I have, however, had to embrace the other kind of Technicolor dump parenthood brings with it. I’m happy to report, the twins are now in the yellowish-brown part of the stool spectrum. Which (there are wall charts dedicated to baby’s-first-bowel-movements) is normal. They are feeding well and continue to put on weight and the midwives were so impressed with our shit-collecting they awarded (unfortunately imaginary) “gold stars all-round”. I guess I shouldn’t complain. After all, I go back to work in seven days. Shit.