Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life in Melbourne

Well I guess that you can guess by my lack of recent posts that we have really gotten into our new life here in Melbourne, Australia.  We have a wonderful home base, a schedule that we swear by, friends and family galore, excellent drinking water, a mini-van, full time twins and TV!!

We are two weeks in with two to go and I am already starting to stress about the plane ride home to New York, what life will be like with the twins once we get back and how we will cope on our own and in considerably less space.  All good things to worry about but really nothing to be done from here - so I will try to let it go and just continue to enjoy our Melbourne days!

Below are some highlights of our Melbourne fun so far.

The Melbourne Aquarium - 

The Wild Animal was not at all phased by sharks.

The twins really enjoyed (ie slept through) the aquarium.

They have tons of super large sting rays!

Me and the Wild Animal in the largest shark ever's mouth!

The Melbourne Zoo -

Feeding time at the orangutang exhibit.

Neve looking at apes.

More twin feeding.

Neve actually preferred the wooden orangutang carvings over the real thing. 
For a Wild Animal, she has surprisingly little interest in her own kind.

One of our at home events with the family -

Cousins Cameron and Ronan.

Cousin Matthew showing Neve how to read.

Aunt Di and Ronan.

Day trip to Myrniong -

Brother James, cousin Lachie and cousin Eloise at the farm.

Neve was thrilled to wear her first real Australian hat!

She was thrilled to meet her first pony.

And she was thrilled to pull the hair of a cat named Mouse.

The James Berry family with Neve and twins on the side.

Gemma enjoying (ie sleeping during) the day trip.

The Melbourne Botanical Gardens -

Jessica taking a break in Neve's stroller.

The twins enjoying (ie sleeping in) the fresh air.

Neve getting showered with leaves.

Neve and da da playing in the gardens.

Gemma snuggling up and enjoying (ie sleeping in) the gardens.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy One Month Birthday Gemma & Ronan !!!

The twins are now officially one month old in all time zones they have or will inhabit!  It feels like they have been in our lives far more than a mere 30 days while at the same time it feels like a whole month could not have already passed.  Time is a funny thing - running differently depending on what you are experiencing.

We are adoring the twins and their turtle ways.  I like to say that Neve is the hare - always on the move, always into something, charming, gregarious and confident.  The twins are slow and deliberate, personalities still mostly under wraps, but they are relentless and never ever stop.  It always surprises me that these mostly sleepy little things could be so exhausting but as we all know, little turtles can cover some serious ground and they do!  The twins are a 24 hour operation running at a deliberate pace and Neve is a 12 hour operation running on overdrive.

At any rate, a photo update below dedicated to the big one month birthday of our little turtle twins!

Happy one month birthday baby loves!!!

Ronan has crazy neck power for his age.  
Can totally lift that big head in tummy time already!

It is all SO exhausting!

"I just had a thought - let's play!"

Gemma - playing with her hands and having a hard time 
lifting her head which I think must be due to the poundage stored in those cheeks!

So pretty!!

So sleepy! 
BTW - this is exactly how Neve used to sleep!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

It Really Does Take a Village 

Please do not interpret my silence over the last couple days as our having fallen into a twin zombi coma.  We have actually been doing pretty darn well if I do say so myself (but only with the help of friends and family and anyone else who happens to get within range  - so watch out cause we are totally shameless!).  The twins are back on the 3+ hour feeding schedule and we have instituted a mandatory simultaneous feeding system to ensure that no one gets out of synch ever, ever again.  It's a little less lovey dovey bonding moments and a little more octopus arm training but the system is keeping us sane and well, right now that's the key to the survival of the Berry/Sharp household.

We even scooped up the whole brood and went to a party hosted Charles and Di (Hamish's brother and sister in law) for Granny Sue's birthday over the weekend.  I fretted over the planning of how to get out of the house, but the deployment went pretty smoothly and it has given me the courage to go forth more with the entire brigade.  I've just got to find a way to pack the diaper bag (which is really a gigantic canvas bag that you can shove endless amounts of crap into) in a way that you can actually find what you are looking for.  Whatever it is that you seek, it is always on the bottom or hiding from you and you have to empty the entire thing out on the floor - usually while babies are crying and Hamish is looking at you skeptically and passing judgment on your packing skills.  Not fun!

The party, on the other hand, was very fun and Neve, Gemma and Ronan all had a great time and laughed like little children all the way home they were so giddy.  Neve got to explore yet another new home, she was allowed to pull pots and pans out of the kitchen cabinets, had a bit of a jump on the trampoline, ate cookies, played with her cousins and Aunt and Uncle (and TONS of toys) and was in a total state of ecstasy.  Neve seems a bit tamer in Australia, the country of her citizenship.  Perhaps all we needed to do was to bring her to her homeland for a mental holiday!  She's eating, sleeping, pooping (we need to diaper train SOON) and seems really genuinely joyous here.  It's wonderful and let's say that so Neve's mood goes, goes the rest of the family!  Hooray!!

Gemma and Ronan on the other hand were held by Grandparents, Great Aunts and Uncles, Aunts and Uncles and dear friends for the entire party and they were VERY pleased by this.  So pleased in fact that Gemma decided that we should keep up the trend that night which I did until a real battle of the wills occurred.  I'm not sure if someone actually won or we just agreed to an unspoken truce for the sake of the family, but we called it off around 4am and went back to our respective corners.  Ronan decided to stay out of it which shows good judgment on his party - not good to side against your twin sister or your mother against the other!

The house continues to be a great source of comfort for us here.  No real reason to ever leave and a great spot for people to drop in on us. There has been an inordinate amount of tea consumed in the kitchen and Sue keeps bringing over baked goods so we are all constantly caffeinated and sugared up to the max.  It rained today and we did some serious in home rain watching sessions while also catching up on parts of the Queen's Jubilee celebration.  Not sure how much the US is watching the celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 60th year on the throne, but here in Australia, it is a MAJOR thing (and goes nicely with tea and baked goods!).  The daily events are shown live on TV at night and then they do recap shows during the day, followed by smaller recaps of the recaps in the evening.  

So far they have had a big floating parade down the Thames.  The Queen and Prince Charles were on one boat, other royals (Kate Middleton or whatever she goes by now) on a barge and then like 1000 other boats trailing behind and on the side.  It looks pretty cool when shown from a sky cam view, but other than that once you've seen 5 minutes, it's pretty much the same thing - boats floating for hours down a river and the Queen smiling and doing the Queen wave. Sometimes the boats go under a bridge, as they do, and old steam trains roll by at the same time or they go by an art's complex and a little show is done - but that's really about it as far as I can tell.  But if you're not watching closely and just sort of listening to it in the background (like if say you are tandem feeding twins and trying to keep Neve from grabbing up all the "ba ba's") you would think from the commentary that this was one of the most exciting live events ever shown on Earth.  In fact one commentator said last night and I quote "in 150 years, people will still be talking about this historic event".   That made me burst out laughing and accidentally pull the bottle right out of Ronan's mouth (and he did NOT think it was funny at all and let me know).

Anyway, one other funny cultural aside.  There is a very nice grocery store very close to us and I have been doing daily visits (cause we always seem to need something).  Anyway, on day one I was looking at the meat section and there were steaks and legs of lamb and these lamb and rice meatballs that looked pretty good and were well priced.  I thought about getting the meatballs but already had too much to carry and left them.  So, next day I went back to the store again and again found myself in the meat section and again saw those lamb meatballs and actually picked them up to go in the cart but this time I noticed that there's a picture of a dog on the front and I think to myself, "that's kind of bad advertising cause it makes it seem like these are dog food or something which is crazy cause dog food is NOT in the meat section of the supermarket."  Then I started looking at the rest of the things at this particular end of the meat section and they all had either a cat or a dog on them and one read "only for feline consumption".  So my fellow Americans, be forewarned, just cause it's right next to the steaks and there is no sign or distinguishable barrier, make sure you fully read the label before thinking you are getting a yummy meat bargain in Australia, cause you might just be picking up DOG FOOD!

On that note, take care!


G H & N R G

Granny Sue and Gemma at the party.

Ronan and Pete.

Neve loving the trampoline.

Neve restoring nutrients with her Uncle Charlie after the trampoline.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


The Tale of the Twin Night Terrors

The good news is that we are not in jail for tossing the twins out the window on our first full night in Melbourne!  A 24 hour trip from Delhi, little to no sleep, nausea (which we thought was from exhaustion and coffee but was something more), out of sorts Wild Animal, equally out of sorts twins, equipment spread over 9 suitcases and 5 rooms, chilly temperatures - let's just say that the deck was stacked against us on our first full night in Melbourne.

Yes, it was pretty obvious on an intellectual level that this was going to be difficult and painful and that adjustments would have to be made and routines would have to be set, but man, it's almost impossible to plan for the tricks your mind will play on you when you're heading into 48 hours of no good sleep, feeling sick and trying to comfort irrational nocturnal tiny babies!  I hate to say it but I have new found sympathies for woman who drown their children (not really, but, last night, I could see off in the horizon a desperate dizzy world where that might seem like a solution).  Now don't take me too seriously and start calling child services, this is a blog after all - but man that first night was bad and perspective is not something that seems to accompany sleep deprivation.

Our first mistake was putting the twins in our room.  I was to be in charge of the twins, Jessica was on Neve watch and Hamish was to rest up so that he could jump back into work (but with the twins only a few feet away, Hamish paid the price as well).  At 10pm, I fed the twins in tandem and put them down and thought, ok, not so bad, I can get two hours of sleep every three hours and after four rotations of this we will be well through the night and I should be feeling much better.  This twin thing is a snap!  SILLY SILLY MOMMY!!

As soon as the lights were out, the twins started grunting and moaning like a gaggle of piglets attacking a pile of slop.  Shortly thereafter Gemma started crying bloody murder in her high pitched cat howl voice.  By the light of the blackberry I tried to comfort them both, feed them more, feeling sure that this restless wakefulness was all due to lack of full tummies, burp them, change them, and finally I just began to beg them to GO THE F!@*# TO SLEEP!  Then Hamish began to beg them to TO GO THE F*!?# TO SLEEP! We seriously considered using the cry it out method on 3 week old babies!  By 8am, I turned to Hamish, who had now come down with whatever flu/nausea I had the day before and said, "Call your parents right now and get them over here, we need REINFORCEMENTS PRONTO!!!".

Mick and Sue gamely answered the call and arrived to a house of overwrought adults and exhausted babies, carrying a bag full of medicines to sooth our heads and tummies.  They took charge of the twins and I fell back into bed until almost 2pm - heaven!  I woke up in a panic and listened for crying, but all was peaceful!  Sue was feeding twins, Mick was burping and diaper changing, Jessica was busily cleaning bottles and dishes and Neve, bless her heart, was working on sleeping up a storm (to make up from screaming the entire way from Singapore to Melbourne).  In the meantime, Hamish   had gone to work fixing some of the things we knew had gone wrong on that first night.  He located a super pac n play from good friends in Melbourne so that the twins could be back together  (they were in separate travel cots that first night) and provide each other some comfort and he bought a monitor so that the twins could live happily in the cozy living room far, far away from sleeping adults in beds (in hopes that those adults could, well, do some actual sleeping in those beds!).

The rest of the day was still more defense than offense but we managed to get everyone a bath with fresh water, meals were prepared and taken and all the children were all still alive, so I felt a tiny, tiny bit triumphant.  We made a plan to spread the pain of twin night terrors between the 5 of us (me, Hamish, Jessica, Mick & Sue) and I was to take the midnight to 6am slot on night two.  I went in more prepared but it was still VERY HARD!  Even after my morning nap, I was feeling a little shaken.  The twins had gotten completely out of synch on the second night which violates one of the cardinal rules of twin raising - always feed them at the same time or else suffer the consequences (which are spending all 24 hours of the day just feeding babies).  They did much better but I nearly threw Hamish out of bed at 6am to take over!

It was a beautiful day today, our second day in Melbourne and it was hard to feel too down about things.  We all took a walk to the park, the twins in their very fancy Mountain Buggy double stroller on loan to us and Neve in her lovely pink butterfly stroller, also on loan.  Neve played like a mad person - this being the first time in a month that she was really permitted to run around outside.  The weather was cool and refreshing and the sky was a perfect blue (something you never see in Delhi due to the pollution).  Neve spent a good amount of time at the park chasing a magpie bird who seemed a little lame but kept safely out of her reach but not far enough to deter her from continuing the chase.  The twins soaked in the fresh air and slept all cozy in the pram.  When it was time to leave, Neve went into convulsions and refused to be strapped into her stroller - SHE WAS NOT LEAVING THAT PARK!  We pried her away and I promised she could come back every day - even twice a day and she ok but please carry me, so I did.

Coming out of the fog of new jet lag, twin adjustments and illness, I finally looked around with fresh eyes and could not believe our good fortune.  We are staying at the house of a very good friend of Mick & Sue's whow is currently visiting her son and his family in New York - it's a bit of a house swap which really made this part of the trip possible for us.  Not only was is it a very generous and overly hospitable act of kindness to lend this crazy clan a house for a month - the house is absolutely wonderful.  It's on a beautiful quiet street in a very nice part of Melbourne, we are a short walk to a nice grocery store (good for those of us challenged by driving on the wrong side of the road!), there are parks and running paths galore outside our door, the house itself is a lovely Edwardian style home full of beautiful antiques with more rooms that we can use and there is a wonderful garden/yard with flowering plants and trees and a vegetable garden.  In short, we are going to be very happy in this lovely home for the next month and will cherish our time here.

Well, the sun is rising following our third night in Melbourne and I better sign off and crawl back into bed.  Night number 3 was a great success if we are measuring (which I am).  Twins are tandem feeding and making it 3+ hours between feeds, everyone is pitching in and we are starting to work like a well oiled machine.  On top of being on top of Neve, Jessica is a baby whisperer and is wonderful with Gemma and Ronan and Mick and Sue have just arrived to take the 7am shift.  They are providing wonderful support on every level and we could not do this without them - that's for sure.  I slept almost 6 hours straight last night and I feel good, maybe even great!!

Take care and lots of love,

G H & N R G

Neve chasing the magpie.

Daddy and Grandpa Mick with Ronan.

Peaceful family at the park!

Grandpa Mick and the Wild Animal - her hair is growing in curls that go straight up!

Can you believe how green and beautiful this place is!

Granny Sue and Aunt Marga

It's tough being a twin.  You have to learn to feed yourself!

Hamish in his new grand office.  Finally the beautiful desk he deserves!

Lovel kitchen where we spend most of our time.

View from the kitchen back to the yard with flowering plants everywhere!

This one reminds me of mountain laurel - my favorite flower! 

View from the new baby suite.

Front of the house - beautiful right?!

Ronan and Gemma back together.  
"Where have you been?  I am so mad that I am not even going to 
look at you until you apologize for leaving me alone."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Departing Purgatory

We are finally on the plane leaving Delhi - two babies asleep, one Wild Animal watching a movie - a rare moment of peace and quiet!  The airport check in was pretty hideous and I caught a glimpse of what it's going to be like to deal with three melting down children while you are trying to do something else (ie checking in 9 huge bags, lugging another 9 carry on bags, discussing passport and bassinet issues with non-helpful check in ladies, tipping porters, filling out departure forms, etc.).  We were able to get one bassinet and, with some finagling by the pushy mama (me!), we were able to get the rest of our group all in a row of four just behind the bassinet seat.  So master Ronan (as he is known in India) is snuggled up in the bassinet and little Gemma is wrapped up tight in her own seat between Jessica and Neve (the plane is freezing - probably 30 degrees colder than these babies have ever experienced and they currently look less like babies and more like piles of blankets).  This moment is not likely to last, so I must blog swiftly from here on out!

Over the past few days we have been trying to make the most of our final time in Delhi.  Less mall, more other stuff.  The highlight was an amazing rickshaw tour through Chandni Chowhk - the very, very busy open markets of Old Delhi.  There are miles and miles and rows and rows of store fronts and hundreds of thousands of people buying, selling, hauling, motoring and hanging out.  First a mile of colorful wedding saris, then a mile of spices piled high in barrels (that you can smell coming), all around people selling all sorts of food from carts that they have pulled in there by hand and weird home made street kitchens (showcasing that the New York "street food scene" has gotten way to cleaned up to really be considered from the street), row after row of jewelry, stationary, beading, fabrics and lots of other things I've forgotten or did not get to see.  The area (at least as far as I can tell without a map) is encircled by a large road, and the center is made up of smaller roads and then smaller paths and then tiny alley ways (think the aorta, to arteries to capillaries, to whatever is smaller) pulsing around in a bustling, confusing maze of utter and complete commerce. 

Our driver got us as close to the nucleus as he could and then negotiated with a rickshaw driver to take us the rest of the way in.  We were nervous but we did as we were told and hopped aboard and off we went.  I have to admit that at points I was thinking that our kidneys were at risk, but our strong, rugged and weathered little rickshaw driver peddled us all over that huge market, through bumper to bumper traffic and down alleys only just wide enough for us to pass - all quite adeptly and quite safely and without any mandatory organ donations.  Most of the time you could reach out and touch the vehicle or the 10 +  persons in the vehicle next to you.  Decked out in cameras and well, being white in all respects, we were a spectacle in our very uncrowded rickshaw and we thought the whole thing was quite a spectacle!  

It was evening but still close to 100 degrees and dusty with a side of pollution that burned our eyes by the end.  And yes, I would say that this was one of the best tourist things I have EVER done!  Hanging off the back of that rickshaw watching the mopeds and buses speed by on either side, close enough to smell the men pushing wooden wagons piled high with packages,  admiring the beautiful sari dressed women waiting in line to get into the temples as the sounds of the call to prayer blared above the constant honking, giving a sly unbelieving smile to the macho men on mopeds who would zoom up behind us honking as if we could go faster and making them actually laugh at the absurdity - we soaked in the energy that is Delhi and were giddy from it.  It was scary and intimidating and seemingly unruly but with many rules, just rules that we did not understand, and it was exhilarating and fun and made me like Delhi again!

After having spent almost 9 weeks total in Delhi over the past couple years, we are still very far from understanding the rules and probably always will be.  In a city of over 19 million people and little to no governmental/police controls (lots of corruption but little law and order), society has had to make up its own rules and they are hard to decipher as a foreigner.  I think this is probably one of the most difficult parts of negotiating India.

As we leave and Ronan lays sleeping so close to me, I sit here trying to muster up some emotional closure for the end of this chapter of our journey.  Came back to Delhi, witnessed the birth of beautiful twins, spent a month and -- blah.  Nothing is coming up easily.  There were more hard times this go around, more whisperings that caused us concern, less quiet baby time than we wanted and needed.   I think I need time to digest this trip before I can really write its ending.

We met many surrogacy parents this go around.  The blog world seems to have gotten bigger and the communication between parents greater and we stepped out from behind the screens to meet each other for lunches and dinners.   We all share this crazy experience - we come from different places and different backgrounds but we all wanted families badly enough to knowingly give ourselves to a doctor in far off India to make that family a reality.  Many have regrets and misgivings but not about their babies.  There is a lot of new parent anxiety and New Delhi anxiety in this purgatory of sorts - babies in hotel rooms, Indian night nurses with different ways of doing things, a hot tough city, various beaucratic mazes to be sorted through (it takes two months to get the citizenship and passports in countries like England and Norway - and we thought we had it bad!) and there are health issues that can keep your babies in foreign hospitals and leave you feeling helpless.  Everyone is thrilled and everyone has a story and a background and pain to share, both current and past.  As we are airborne, headed for decent drinking water and all things familiar, I think of my new friends in purgatory and wish them quick departures and long wonderful lives on the other side with their Delhi babies.

Ok, funny aside.  I am just back after a 5 hour hiatus!  We are now on the way to Melbourne from Singapore and we got the double bassinet in front, the menu for dinner looks awesome (beef and wine!) - all great, but we have been playing an endless game of whack a mole with the babies and Neve.  Each time we think we have those silly moles licked, one of them pops back up with more demands - bottles, diapers, more blankets, etc.  Such is the rest of our lives!!

It is time to get some sleep before our 5am arrival in Melbourne where we will introduce Ronan and Gemma to their Australian grandparents.  It is Grandma Sue's birthday today and I have a feeling that we will be bringing the best presents to the party this year!!

Love to all and farewell India -

G H & N R G

Some pictures of Old Delhi below -

On the day we left, everyone who works at our apartment complex (cleaners, cook, security guards, managers) all stopped in to say goodbye to Neve.  I have a full roll of film on just this topic!

Below with the cleaners.

Hamish and the security guard recreating their morning runs.

Taking Neve on a Tuk Tuk tour - she was not impressed.