A Birthday Gift

Today is my birthday. On the plus side I am not forty but I’ve never been that fussed about advances in age. It’s more an issue of specialness. I remember feeling particularly hard done by on my first birthday as a parent when Lucas was three months old. There was no longer the luxury of feeling special all day. We went away to Wales and he cried the hotel down all weekend. No one, including the people sleeping in rooms around us, got any sleep and at breakfast we had to duck the snipers’ sidelong comments as they whizzed past our ears and lodged in the bacon.

On this beautiful Sunday afternoon I couldn’t care less, for once, about being special. There are at least three people more special than me around and I’m very happy about it.

Lucas has been proving his two year old credentials and threw a bottle of pink milk at me as I went out the door having refused to sleep all afternoon. In the morning he was angelic singing happy birthday to me, oh no ‘you’, oh no ‘daddy’, and eventually to youuuu mummy’.

He and the husbandtook me for a surprise lunch to beautiful Petersham nurseries. I love it there and it always reawakens my aspirations to a) have a French farmhouse and b) turn our nursery (illegally) into a space quite as multifunctional and wonderful. I wonder how they get away with it. A former Michelin starred restaurant and tearooms cleverly disguised as a garden centre. As my father will be the first to point out, we couldn’t get away with it. Our land use is as a garden nursery, and has to predominantly grow stuff. Garden centres can sell endless sundries and have cafes attached etc etc. Petersham nursery’s grouchy neighbours have been battling the place’s loose interpretation of the planning permission there for years but never won their battle to rein them in and the square metres of plant related matter gets smaller each time I visit. It manages to be shabby and yet desperately chic. Always packed. Charming. Perhaps a touch colonial. Rural. In my mind always dappled in sunshine after rain. Lunch is hard to book but go for overpriced tea and cake if you’ve never been. It’s wonderful and you feel like you’ve had an afternoon in the countryside when you’ve only been to the fringes of Richmond. Anyway, the upshot is I had a nice birthday.

Lucas insisted on opening my beautiful Louis Vuitton birthday present from Gerard (a stunning silver and pearl bangle which my farmer’s man hands are sadly a little too broad to remove elegantly. I am one of the ugly sisters) and more personal training sessions to get rid of the baby weight (ok I get the hint). My ‘restaurant trained’ son then settled happily into a contented meal of putting posh bread into his cloudy apple juice (which got cloudier), pretending his radishes were airplanes and lobbing spaghetti at the floor. I enjoyed white pork belly, scallops with samphire and fennel and courgette and halloumi fritters. Pumped out my rose petal prosecco and came back to the hospital.

I rushed here for 5pm to try and get Beatrix on the breast when she was due a feed but she has shown no interest whatsoever and gone straight back to sleep. Still, it feels right being here to hold her. She is starting to fill out and seem more substantial like a normal baby. I reckon she will be out in three weeks. The nurses say she really just has to get big enough to establish feeding when she can suck from 34 weeks (they are 33 weeks in gestational age on Tuesday) and it totally depends on the baby but that could take no time at all or 2-3 weeks. They were all very sweet and wished me happy birthday.

Alexander is getting there slowly, climbing the steep hill back from his slide down the rocks. Still on his cpap tubes 9 hours out of 12 which I hate coz I can’t see his face. They will gradually wean him off again. No further signs of infection so he is stabilising. It sounds cruel but it is still so much easier to hold his sister as she is less encumbered by wires and tubes. But he needs our love just as much. As she starts to breastfeed over the next two weeks it will be even harder to give him his fair share of attention. I met some other parents of boy/girl twins on the way in to visit the boy and they said their girl got out weeks ago. The boy has been in nearly 8 weeks.

Tonight we will watch a movie and munch our way through the ready meals people have kindly been filling our fridge with. We are close to busting the doors now so better get eating!

Right. Alexander’s turn.



…and after I wrote that I got the best gift of all. Alexander, it turned out, had managed to stay off all his ventilation for 11 hours so I got a tube free cuddle. His jealous psychic sister was balling the nursery walls down next door so they brought her through and I got the first double cuddle in over a week. She was wide eyed and gazing at her brother. He sought out her hand and, probably for the first time this week, I had a great sense of peace.



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