We used to go to Brighton all of the time when I was small. My grandparents were fearless; they would take my sister and I anywhere, in the car or on a plane, for days or weeks at a time. And it just so happened that they lived an hour or so from Brighton, and so we came to know it well. When I think of days out with my grandparents, I think of pink sunglasses taking up half of our faces, pebbled beaches, and that tiny caterpillar ride that went through the apple, that my grandparents placated us was a roller coaster. It’s bittersweet. My grandmother died when I was twenty-two or so; after all of the effort she put in to raising me, she never got to see me as a mother. And my grandfather is so proud of us, and so enchanted by his great-grandchildren, but he lives too far away for day trips now. And I miss them.

About a month or so ago, in a fit of naive optimism during a train ticket sale, I decided that it was high time that my toddlers became acquainted with the seaside. And it seemed perfectly sensible, at that time, to travel there by train. And back. In a day. Without the pram.  What can I say – after five days in the office, I start to think of toddlers as miniature versions of my colleagues.  There are differences, certainly – my colleagues do not follow me to the toilet, for example, arguing over whose turn it is to flush – but the similarities are striking enough, upon occasion, to lull me into a false sense of security that my little ones will behave in the same mostly-predictable ways.

So I bought tickets. They were cheap enough, I rationalised, that should we need to discard our trip at short notice, I wouldn’t mind.

Except then I got attached to the idea and thus, it became A Plan.

Kirsty, love her, has had half of her adolescence and the entirety of her adult life to adapt to me and my wild ideas. She doesn’t try to insert rationality into The Plans any more; she merely makes sure that everybody is wearing sun cream and packs about twice as much food as we will actually need to eat, thus ensuring that if anyone opens their mouth to tantrum, we can cut it short swiftly by stuffing a vegetarian sausage roll in their mouth. And what can I say – it works! Even on me. Especially on me.

So off we went! Two mummies, four babies and a dog, off to Brighton.

Over the course of the day, we took three buses and five trains. And we walked so much that I’m surprised my toddlers’ small legs didn’t wear down to stubs.

Have you ever noticed how much better ice cream tastes by the seaside? I have been trying to figure out why, and I think that it might be the salt in the air. Or perhaps it is just the whole sensory experience that makes it so special: the cacophony of seagulls over the tinkle of fairground music, the sun on your closed eyelids and the crash and collapse of the waves over your feet. Whatever it is, ice cream by the seaside tastes like no other and my sons fell face-first into their cones. Naturally, at least one of them was bound to hit the ground and in this case it was Lysander’s, but a quick switcheroo – mine to him, his scooped from the floor and fed to the dog – soon halted his tears.

We made a little video of our day.  Do give it a watch, and we’d love you to subscribe for more Wilde family films.

 

 

 

Falling in love with my best friend – my female best friend – rocked my adolescent world. I think it might also have saved my life, because I was such an unhappy child before that time, but it set me on a path that I had never anticipated and would never have chosen for myself. It set me apart from the friends I had at the time, friends who already viewed me as a bit of a wild card, whom my teachers had warned against me lest I damage their own reputations. It made me different – more different, I should say. Them, with their happy innocence and celebrity crushes on Robbie Williams and Eminem. Me, barely present at the best of times, suddenly giddily head-over-heels with a girl they didn’t know, didn’t want to know, and with even less of a reason to go to school.

Being different from my school friends frightened me. I could already see our worlds diverging down two different paths; they were shiny-eyed and skipping through the forest and I had thrown myself face-first into the thorn bushes and was sort of writhing there, not so damaged as to kill myself off entirely but pretty scratched up. Finding myself in love with another woman was a difficult icing on top of the cake of already being a little – how do I put this – already being a little fucked up.

And yet she made me so happy. Every time I looked at her or heard her voice or saw her terribly gothic red-on-black text pop up on AOL instant messanger, my heart went a little funny. She made me smile, she made me feel young and giddy in a way that I hadn’t before and that was so much fun. We did silly teenage things: we studied on a picnic blanket in the park, shopped for and shared a bag of pick ‘n’ mix, chattered and laughed on our house phones until way into the night, ending each call after fifty-five minutes and ringing back because our parents’ phone contracts only charged for calls longer than an hour. I didn’t go to school often, but sometimes her grandparents would take me with them to collect her, and I would laugh at her in her uniform. She looked so sweet. As adults we have a tendency to dismiss young love, to laugh at it, and yet I can say quite honestly that at fifteen I loved her as deeply and ridiculously as I do today.

I would never have admitted to any of that. The best thing in my life was quite secret and truth be told, I half-hoped that I would grow out of her.

‘Lesbian’ was a word that my father shouted out of the car window at schoolgirls wearing rucksacks. It was something ugly, abnormal and wrong. The media seemed to suggest that they sported cropped hair and wore dungarees (WAY before it was trendy), that they hated men and took up too much space in a room. That wasn’t me. I didn’t want it to be me, as desperate as I was to keep this joyous thing in my world.

So I just didn’t talk about it. Not to anyone really. I was in my twenties before my mother found out, and I ‘came out’ to my grandmother by way of my mother tentatively informing her that Amber was pregnant and Kirsty would also be mum. My previous place of work had no idea. Nor Kirsty’s. And some of our real-life friends, our not-on-the-internet friends, were clueless. It’s not that I thought that they would write me off if they knew; it’s just that it felt like such a big thing to announce. After spending the majority of my adolescence as Amber The Problem, I relished those years as a boringly normal human being.

For some reason, I thought that sharing the best thing in my life would change that. I thought that people would judge me negatively. In my head it seemed like such a big deal.

But actually?

I won’t say that it hasn’t changed a thing, because it has. People recognise us as a couple now, and I can talk lightly and easily (and endlessly) about the fun we have at weekends, about the woman in my life who kisses my babies goodnight every night and is teaching them kindness and craft. My family love her as family now, and they still love me too. A few years ago, my mother told me that my relationship made her sad, that it wasn’t what she wanted for me; that she wanted a man to look after me. These days, she tells me that she is happy because I am happy, that she recognises what a strong unit we make and that we are raising our babies well. It has taken some people some time to adjust but that came from a place of love and we have worked through it together, as best we know how.

These days, I can have twenty ‘coming out’ moments in a day, as my children talk about ‘THIS mummy and THIS mummy’, about Mummy Work and Mummy Stay Home, as the taxi driver asks why I’m working so late and who is looking after my children, as a stranger sees a photo on the internet, as I mention, casually, in Lola’s that the white chocolate cupcake is my partner’s favourite and she’ll kill me if she ever finds out that I’ve bought myself a cupcake and haven’t bought her one too.  I went to an old school reunion and educated my former RE teacher on the logistics of buying donor sperm on the internet; a gaggle of teachers listened, riveted, as I shared the story of my family and how they were made.  But really, they mostly cared whether I still liked to write and whether I really got up and went into work every single day.  I think that was the part of my story that astonished them the most.

And I don’t think that anybody sees me any differently. I wear another label, yes, but it’s no bigger than any of the others and nobody really gives it a second thought. Or if they do, I can’t tell. And there is so much kindness and positivity in my life that these days, when an unwitting stranger does say something negative, I have the confidence to answer back.  I like to think that I educate them, that they will think twice before speaking thoughtlessly in the future, but mostly, I hope that meeting me changes their perception, that the joy on my face and love in my voice makes something that was ugly to them seem beautiful.

I own my life and it is beautiful.

A few days ago, I filmed a little vlog for Channel Mum’s YANA campaign. I wanted other young people not to be afraid, to simply be who they are. The first step is the hardest and it feels like leaping off of a cliff… but that terrifying step is so worthwhile.

I wasted years on fear and denial.  And now I am not even sure why.  The best thing in my life was my biggest secret, and being able to share that?  It is liberating.

If you are reading this and you are afraid, you are hiding yourself too, please let me hold your hand.  And let’s do it together.  There is so much that is wonderful and just around your corner.

Forty weeks pregnant. I am the moon. The strangers beneath my skin thrash and shift like kittens wrapped in clingfilm and strangers stare at me in horror during my daily commute. My desk in the office, prepared for a handover that should have taken place weeks ago, has reverted to its usual state of chaos and my google search history is full of worry: ‘Twins overdue, experiences.’ ‘Do all women go into labour’? A consultant has a rummage for my cervix and eventually finds it, a recalcitrant apple high and hard. Her face is pursed with worry. I spend whole evenings in the bath, the dinner plate on my belly threatening to capsize with the force of the babies’ kicks. I am the moon. I am tearful, exhausted, euphoric, serene. The world has receeded. Ten days pass, and my waters begin to seep. They are coming.

They are here. They are astonishing. They are Embla and Olympia, 5lbs 10oz and 7lbs 8oz of human, twenty fingers and twenty toes and two hearts beating like birds in a net beneath our palms. I stand in my living room on legs that are still shaking and breathe them in, these small faces, these strangers who grew beneath my skin. And I? My body is inside-out, transformed. They are the moon. I am the tide.

They grow. They are our Very Hungry Caterpillars; they are ferocious in their needs, relentless, piercing our dreams with their high-pitched demands. I curl myself around them; comforted at my breast, they nurse to sleep. I rest my face in their baby hair, tucked neatly beneath my chin.

We are one. They are separate. They are the moon. I am the tide.

They grow.

I? I don’t shrink.

There are changes. My stretchmarks fade quickly from livid pink clawmarks to silvery things, like fish that ripple across my skin. My muscles tighten. Deep within, my uterus, forcefully contracted with syntoconol, continues its efforts, burrowing down into my pelvic cavity. The bleeding stops after three weeks. My breasts are like bags of rocks; they turn to liquid when brushed, when anybody is kind or when my babies cry. They gush according to my babies’ routines; as I rush to attach my breastpump in the office I know that on the other side of London, my partner is feeding my babies my milk. Back against the door in the office bathroom, the rhythmic purr of the electric breastpump almost lulls me to sleep until a knock on the door jolts me back to reality.

I am not myself.

I am the tide.

The reflection in the mirror is a distorted version of me. My finger traces the glass. This is the body that grew two sets of twins in the space of two years. Forty fingers, forty toes, four hearts and four brains. That carried four humans to term, nursed them as well as it was able.

The internet offers me slimming wraps and waist trainers, meal replacement shakes, fad diets and Weight Watchers. Groups on the internet tell me to make time for myself, to follow my babies’ cues, to establish a routine. They tell me not to be selfish, to breastfeed, to allow my partner to give my babies a bottle. They tell me that my babies need the warmth of my skin and my smell to feed safe, they tell me that if my babies sleep in my bed they will surely suffocate, they tell me that if they sleep in their own room nobody will notice as they stop breathing. The media tells me to be yummy. Nothing, nothing, teaches me how to deal with the unrelenting waves of exhaustion, with the coping strategy of pushing my whole sense of self to the back of my mind.

A friend tells me that I do not look as though I have recently given birth. “Thank you,” the words fall from my lips before my exhaustion-addled brain has caught up, before I have had a chance to wonder why ‘you don’t look as though you have recently given birth’ is considered a compliment. My friend is trying to be kind, but her words are untrue. Pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, these have been the most psychologically transformative experiences of my adult life. My body reflects that transformation. And is that so wrong..? Back in the mirror, my babies wind their fingers through my hair, they burrow against my skin as though we are one again. The tide, the moon. I am not the shape that I was before they happened to me. I am changed.

Two sets of twins in two years. Forty fingers, forty toes, four hearts, four brains, all of those cells, those follicles, the humans that grew from the blastocysts that the scientists created using my eggs and a stranger’s sperm. Sons. Daughters.  Humans.

I grew those. These people. And my heart, my life – these things are forever transformed. So as for my body?

A vow to myself: I will not pressure myself to be greater than myself. I will not idealise other women and use them as an opportunity to eviscerate myself. I will look in the mirror with fresh eyes.

Trace the stretchmarks again, the crinkled skin. Six months is an awfully short time, and the body remembers, hungers, for the days when it was the moon.  The smile on my face masks the shadows beneath my eyes and when I let myself forgive myself, the joy is overwhelming.  And so is the peace.

Size twelve jeans.  Thighs perfect for chasing toddlers about the garden, a body that housed full-term twins twice. breasts that nourished them, sometimes, and sometimes they did not.

Me.  I am the moon, I am the tide, I am their mother.  And this IS my perfect body.

It made these children of mine.

You were the first. You looked like a plucked parrot when you entered the world, jaundiced and shriveled and with a fuzz of dark hair that stood straight upright unless we smoothed it down. Compared to your brother, a whole pound plumper and robust, you seemed impossibly, shockingly small. Still, you were wondrous to me. So I held you in the crook of just one arm and honestly felt sorry for the mothers with only beautiful babies because you, my little gremlin, you had character.

You grew. You learnt to laugh as we played peekaboo with you, popping out from behind muslin cloths. Your teeth came in slowly, and then crawling became a whole new source of hilarity as you threw yourself about the floor, biting at my feet. Even when you were very small, you preferred to be upside-down, a grin like a half-moon on your face as you dangled from our arms or from the sling. Once, I realised that you had been strangely quiet for all of ten minutes and, much to my horror, realised that you had climbed the ladder and were in the loft. You were not yet one year old. Kirsty stopped letting me watch you whilst working, after that.

You grew some more. More hair, more teeth, you became steady on your feet and liked to walk, to run. You love to dawdle, five metres behind the rest of us because you cannot bear not to stop and look at the cracks in the pavement, the flowers, the way that the light glints off of a window, as your brother resolutely plods on ahead. I call you Dolly, short for Dolly Daydream, because it is virtually impossible to keep your mind on where we are going.

You are just so. damn. proud. of me every time I manage to have a wee on the toilet, but heaven forbid that I should want a turn flushing for myself. Or that I press the ‘stop’ button on a bus, or the button requesting that the cars stop for a green man crossing. You are religious about the sanctity of ‘turns’, but only you and Sasha get to have them. Full stop. And yet you are so polite. I think that you finish every request with ‘please, Mummy’ because you know that it undoes me every time, because you know that I can refuse you nothing when you ask me in that tone of voice as your round owl eyes gaze so imploringly. Yes, child, I will crawl on my hands and knees around this public space so that you may ride on my back. Yes, little boy, if it makes you happy then you shall have it.

All the same, I was not particularly impressed by your whining to ‘Go home PLEASE, Mummy’ all of the way through your first cinema experience. You LOVE that certain pig, and tickets are expensive, you know. But you are a little boy who knows his own mind and all was forgiven when you curled yourself up on my lap like a little cat and I realised that you were unwell.

Oh, Zoo, I love that about you. I spent most of my childhood trying to pretend that I wasn’t trapped in a body and then there is you, so physical, so eager for cuddles and kisses and tickle-fights and to sit on a mama’s back and ride about the garden. You demand to hold your brother’s hand often. You annoy him to the point of tears sometimes with your spontaneous python hugs, the way that you wrap your arms around him and constrict and just don’t. let. go. And the number of times you’ve sent your sisters flying..! And then launched yourself at them, straddling them and squashing them, to kiss their baby heads.

I see that you are on the cusp of big-boyhood now, that at 2.5 years old you’re not a baby any more – you’re not even a toddler, really! And oh, it is so exciting. There is a certain sense of freedom in you and your brother giving up naps, barely needing a pram, listening and understanding and complying so well these days that it’s not scary to take you out alone any more, that we can just get up and go, as far as we would like, on the bus to feed the ducks, on the train to London. We’re not fazed by any of it any more, are we, Zoo? And my heart leaps and swells every time you master a new concept, every time your understanding of the world deepens and grows.

But I wish that I could keep you right here at 2.5 a little longer, because this age is magnificent. I want to savour you right here, right now, ten steps behind me on the path and muttering to yourself, throwing away other people’s litter, protesting fiercely at the threat that I might rain down that pink blossom upon you for a photo. And when you stop dead and demand to be carried, because your little legs just can’t quite manage that final five minutes home, I hope that I will treat you gently rather than scold you, that I will remember that before long you will be three years old, you will be five, you will no longer sit so snugly against my hip, fit so neatly into my arms. Because some afternoons, the scent of your small head and the feeling of your sticky mouth against my cheek is everything.

Firstborn. My Balthazar, my Zaza, my Zoo.

In these images, Zoo is wearing the Muddy Puddles Pac-a-Mac, which is part of their new collaboration with The Bright Company. It is incredibly lightweight – definitely not for use as a replacement for a coat, but perfect for those late Spring days where rain is almost inevitable if you forget your umbrella, in which case it would be dead handy to have one of these stuffed in your handbag. Much to my consternation, I’m finding that Zoo and Sasha are suddenly outgrowing many of the brands and prints that I loved so much on them a year ago, so the sort of style favoured by The Bright Company in particular really appeals to me – it’s colourful enough to be lively without seeming babyish, the patterns are interesting, he’s not infantilised by a jacket like this one but nor has it aged him… he’s still just a little boy out in a raincoat, making the most of the sun on his face and the extended afternoons of play.

I have a WHOLE new post to write about coming to terms with updating the boys’ wardrobe.  Brace yourselves!

How are you dressing your two-year-olds?  I’d love to know what brands you favour.

Many thanks to Muddy Puddles for the jacket, which was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

If you have followed my blog – or indeed my instagram – for a while you may have noticed that the wardrobe belonging to my children is vastly superior in both quality and quantity to that of their mamas. This is motivated in part by a genuine love of children’s clothing – it is so tiny and so sweet! – and in part by a fervent believe that children, even the most darling of children (and mine are), are approximately 20% more loveable when dressed in a pleasing fashion. Ergo, dressing them well is as much for their benefit as mine. Not only that, but as there are four of them and two of us and they all benefit from their communal wardrobe (the small twins will inherit from the bigger twins, after all) investing in toddler clothing is actually super value for money.

That is what I keep telling Kirsty, anyway.

It can be hard to find a balance between what my heart thinks it ‘needs’ and our family finances can take, especially with more than the average number of children and only one of us working. Here are a few things that I’ve been doing recently to enhance my wee ones’ wardrobe without straining the credit card:

Finding people on Instagram whose style I love, and then buying their outgrown clothes. Bear with me, because I know that this sounds a little odd and it does feel super awkward at first. But let’s face it, children grow so quickly that they barely wear their outfits anyway and most parents will bite your hand off to be able to sell their little one’s outgrown wardrobe in bulk without worrying about advertising on facebook groups etc (though I do buy from those too). I’m very lucky that Wishes and Wellies and Tigerlilly Quinn both have a boy who is a little older than my boys, a girl who is a little older than my girls, and are generous enough to sell me their sprogs’ outgrown stuff at a fraction of what it would cost to buy it new.

If you’re too shy to approach people directly, try facebook groups for your secondhand baby clothes. There is a group for every style. I am a huge fan of the Love for the Scandi and Love for the Non-Scandi groups, as well as this one for Mini Rodini and its ilk.

You can wait for the sales and buy ahead, although I wouldn’t recommend doing this on a credit card – the interest rates mean that by the time you roll around to the season in which your offspring will be wearing the thing, you may as well have paid full-price. Otherwise, this is a great way to get a stylish wardrobe for half the price.

If you buy gender-neutral, you can pass down outgrown clothes from your older to younger regardless of their sexes. We do a lot of this, and I’m super excited for the girls to wear much of the boys’ bright, fun wardrobe.

We very rarely pay full-price for clothes… we simply cannot afford to. Mostly these days we shop the sales, use codes, convince our friends to sell to us and sometimes, when I am very lucky, Kirsty will make something beautiful for them to wear. My absolute favourite outfits to put them in are those lovingly knitted or crocheted by their mama (although I mustn’t lie, the Mini Rodini or Frugi comes pretty close as well!).

That said, when we do pay full price for clothes we try to invest that money into purchasing from brands or people from whom that purchase might make a real, tangible difference. Lamb and Bear is one of my favourite brands, with leggings and dribble bibs designed by a real mum like me, my friend Alex, and they are available to purchase via her own shop or through my other friend Hannah’s new online store, Apples and Pips. Hannah also sells The Bunting Tree t-shirts, which I keep meaning to buy and haven’t yet got round to doing! Or I tend to hit up my friend Jenny from KyNa Boutique for my Maxomorra or Mini Rodini, because I know how much love goes into that little online store of hers and she gets me my orders super quick. Alternatively, my accounts assistant at work, Ieasha, sells adorable hairbows and flower crowns in her instagram store, Pixieboo London. The girls are FINALLY growing enough hair to jam a bow or two in it and I am determined to do so, gender-neutrality be damned (to be fair, I’d probably put my boys in them too!).

So that is how we save money when developing our wee ones’ wardrobe, and how we splurge when the occasion calls for it as well!  It’s good to find a balance.   I’d love to know your top tips for expanding a small-human wardrobe and if you’re a clothing brand, feel free to link up in the comments.