Plenty of people told Sandy how lucky she was to be having twins, she’d get her family in one go with only having to be pregnant once. She thought that too, at first, until she outgrew all her clothes by 12 weeks, looked 9 months pregnant half way through and developed stretch marks almost an inch wide. If only she’d have realized at the time that those things were the upside to having twins. And true, she did only have to be pregnant once, although there were still two births to get through. But then she swore she’d never have another child, sending her husband for a vasectomy just a few months after the boys were born.
Richard was older by eight minutes and Robert was taller by 0.5 cm, but otherwise there were as identical pair of twins as you would find anywhere. Sandy dressed them alike at first but soon the novelty wore off and she grabbed whatever shirt or babygro was closest. Her husband David liked the boys to wear the same outfits when his mother visited because she liked that, but Sandy realized that plain colour t-shirts and jeans equalled dressed the same. Her mother-in-law was non-plussed, hoping for matching sailor boys or Lord Fauntleroys and Sandy didn’t much care.
In her darker moments she nicknamed the boys Ronnie and Reggie. Two babies weren’t twice the work, they were the work squared. Sandy seemed to be feeding or changing or washing or burping or feeding or winding or bathing or comforting or dressing or feeding in every waking minute. And almost all of the minutes in every 24 hours seemed fair game for waking minutes. David was working so she took night duties as well as day. Often she slept no more than a couple of hours in a whole day and week after week of such sleep deprivation plus working so hard whilst she was awake, Sandy felt like a zombie horde had hollowed out her brain and her soul.
The first year passed in a blur of milestones and firsts, most of which may have been Richard’s or may have been Robert’s. Sandy resorted to dressing Richard mostly in blue and Robert mostly in red, and then she thought of them as boxers and remembered which corner won each round. The red corner was winning by six knockouts and a submission.
The boys were now close to their third birthday which meant hours of weekly free nursery provision for them both and which Sandy was holding in her mind as a beacon of hope for a partial return to normal life. Until then, shopping trips to SupaValu included two small boys whose favourite word was ‘no’ and who seized anything shiny or colourful within reach of their grubby fingers. Sandy would plonk them both into a double-seated shopping trolley and try to steer it down the middle of every aisle to minimize what they could grab for and therefore what she had to retrieve, argue about and re-shelve.
Today’s shopping trip had included “Can we have ice cream?” and “Can we have cake?” and “Can we have pizza?” then “You don’t like pizza.” then “I do. Robert doesn’t like it.” then “I do, just not the last one you got.” Sandy loaded her trolley with milk, bread, cereal and other staples, ignoring shouts of “But Mum…” and little out-stretched hands, and headed for the checkout. There weren’t too many people queuing but there were fewer tills open so they still had a bit of a wait. Then she packed away the shopping in bags as the boys tried to rifle through them and see what she had bought.
Exhausted by even that short a trip, Sandy pushed her trolley out of the store and towards the car, thanking whatever deity thought up parent and child parking slots near the front of stores. The boys continued to raid the shopping and tried to open a packet of biscuits they found. Just outside the main doors a red car was speeding across the car park and careered into a blue car reversing from a parking space. The idiot driver jumped from the car and looked like he was off to give the other driver a hard time. Sandy already sided with blue under-dog as red came out stronger yet again.
“OK boys,” said Sandy as she tugged on car-seat straps, “time to calm down or I’ll knock your heads together just like those two cars over there.”