I woke up this morning with babies in my face, as I always do – shaking my plait, grinning and shouting in my face, smothering me with vaguely unpleasant ‘kisses’. I snuggled them this morning and I felt sad. These days it is starkly clear to me: this is the autumn of their babyhood.
Gone are the 6lb newborns, those fleeting first smiles, the wobbly barely-independent heads. It seems like a lifetime ago that they were so desperate to crawl and yet really it was only May. They have shiny white teeth (they’re jolly sharp too) and mops of hair and they like to practice their walking holding on to our hands. If we let them go they steady themselves… and stand there, swaying and laughing like they’ve been drinking. They eat food, proper food, and not only do they have opinions but they’re happy to share them. They’re not really babies any more. It’s almost over.
I’m grateful, blindingly grateful, that my babies have reached almost the end of their babyhoods without harm. I know of mothers who would give anything for this.
And yet it’s bittersweet. My babies’ babyhood.
There is so much that I want to remember. And so much of it muddles into the mess that I try to forget.
Next time I will do things differently; I will be less of a tiger and more of a mule. Next time there will be less chaos and horror to muddy those first few weeks. But for now…
I want to remember that first night: Kirsty dozing in a chair, exhausted, the twins fretting and crying in their plastic cot until I pulled them into bed with me and spent the whole night feeding them. How the world doesn’t fade when you’re that tired but becomes more vivid, colours swimming and blurring. I want to remember Kirsty wearing them home from the hospital in her wrap, the start of a beautiful babywearing relationship.
That on the second day after my caesarean, everybody slowed down to allow me to keep up on our dog walk. My eye bags were almost as big as the twins’ but I was out of the house, and smiling in spite of everything. And they were tiny armfuls of person in Kirsty’s knitwear.
I want to remember the evolution of their cries, how Kirsty could tell them apart from the first day but it took me weeks before I realised that Lysander’s was the perfect baby cry and Balthazar’s that croaking ‘Inggg, NENG!’ that sounded more like an influenza-riddled Siamese cat than a baby in distress. How we used to put them down for ‘tummy time’ and Lysander would vent his outrage but Balthazar look at us in disgust and promptly go to sleep.
Lysander, a quintessentially beautiful newborn. Balthazar, bug-eyed and fragile, a tiny gremlin… and us, so enamoured with him that we felt sorry for mothers with unremarkably normal babies. How we could rock them to sleep one in each arm. How the ending tune of Grey’s Anatomy would wake them. How Balthazar liked to be kissed to sleep but Lysander found it irritating.
Lysander cooing and babbling to attract the attention of strangers, and Balthazar howling like a banshee until they went away.
How they made my partner a mother, the best mother. I want to remember the way that she blossomed, as though she had been waiting all her life for a pair of tiny tyrants to rob her of her sleep.
Christmas. Our first Christmas as mothers. Santa hats in the supermarket and finding a decorated tree in the woods, perfect for familt pictures on Christmas Day. Eating Yorkshire Puddings in bed with babies asleep on our chests, and yet more Grey’s Anatomy.
The games. I must never forget the games. Throwing and catching, giving and snatching, high-fives and waving, pat-pat-patting and clap-clap-clapping and Balthazar’s hysterical laughter when we tickle him and the looks of delighted anticipation when they realise that we are about to play. The first time that Lysander offered Josephine-dog her toy mouse and she took it, and just for a moment they were able to connect. How the babies play together, peek-a-boo behind the hanging coats and waving spoons and sometimes, when they go quiet, we find them systematically pulling wet wipes out of the packet as though they are doing us a great favour. How everything makes them laugh.
Eating sand on the beach, leaves at the park. I want to remember how, if Josephine would only let them, they would spend all day shaking her tail.
Balthazar’s open-mouthed kisses, sharp with tooth. How he says ‘Ah!’ as he comes at you, as in ‘Ah, isn’t this lovely!’ but the intonation is all wrong, so really he’s just a wild-eyed, toothsome baby coming at you, roaring. How he does this as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, the flash of delight on his face as he sees that you are awake. That they both lean in for cuddles now. How they climb your legs, hanging off of your dressing gown so that if you forget and take a step in the wrong direction they topple over and cry.
That Lysander has always ‘answered back’. That he holds whole conversations in baby babble, especially when he is offended. How if we put the television on when they are awake, they talk to it.
How they are obsessed with the laptop. How I can be answering my emails and then two little hands will appear atop of the screen, and then the whole screen is yanked back to reveal a grinning face. That they love to bash it, will climb the sofa to get to it. How we joke about them updating their Babybook, their Babble, gurgling for information.
Last week, when Lysander wore shoes for the first time and kept showing his feet to everybody he passed.
How they chase after my mother’s cats. How we felt the first time we realised that standing up, they’re now taller than Josephine. I want to remember the sound of their laughter, how Balthazar’s sounds like he’s on the verge of tears and Lysander has a typical baby giggle.
Bath times. Splash-splash-splashing in the water. How I can be cooking something intricate and realise at a crucial point that every last kitchen implement has been filched for their water play and left in the tub. Surprising them by getting in. How small they still seem, naked and slippery.
How, when Kirsty goes to the bathroom, they crawl after her and hammer on the door until she emerges. They know who their mama is.
They know who they like and who they do not. What they like and what they do not. I want to remember how Lysander shakes his head when he has tired of eating, how Balthazar purses his lips with disapproval when given something that he deems unpleasant. That they refuse to eat off of forks.
That Lysander has baby curls, and Balthazar’s hair sometimes stands right up on end. How Lysander scrunches himself up when he’s happy, all slits for eyes and a crinkley, wrinkled nose and Balthazar does the opposite, with eyes like saucers and a mouth like a ‘D’ at a 90-degree angle. That they have never been the same, or even similar. That we have never loved them the same, but always equally. I want to remember that one is always my favourite, but that the favouritism evens out between them across the week.
I want to remember how loved they are. How happy we have been. I want to remember my babies in my arms, in Kirsty’s arms, laughing and reaching up to touch our faces. That we held them every day. That they fit into our lives as easily as if a twin-sized hole had been carved there at the beginning of our love and was waiting for them.
I want to hold on to these memories of their first year so that time can never erode them, so that they will be my babies for always.