When we were kids, despite there being 5.5 years between us, our parents used to sometimes dress my sister and me in matching outfits. Often they would be similar but not identical, so for example we’d both have little sailor dresses but mine would be white with navy trim and hers navy with white trim.
Occasionally though they’d be the same clothes just in a different size. In particular i remember a set we wore on a family holiday to Prestatyn, patterned cycling shorts and a cream sleeveless tank top with a zip. I remember one day we went to the beach wearing out matching ensembles and my sister dug herself a hold in the sand, climbed in and peed. Whether that was her way of expressing a dislike for wearing the same clothes as her big sister i don’t know, but if so it had the desired effect for that afternoon at least!
Other than that there wasn’t really much that was similar about us growing up, not only was it a big age gap, but more importantly our personalities were completely different. Like chalk and cheese you might say. We used to fight, physically and verbally, she was one for pulling the heads off my barbies and running away with them down the garden path, i was one for whining when she was pestering me to play, or for telling tales on her to our Mum and Dad.
Years, hell, even decades have passed and we’re still total opposites in so many ways but we do have quite a big thing in common these days- children. Weirdly, without either one of us knowing that the other was trying for a baby we both fell pregnant at the start of 2009- and we both miscarried our first pregnancies and then got pregnant again immediately afterwards. We would both go on to suffer further pregnancy losses at other points in time (i had a subsequent twin miscarriage in December 2010, she had three more including, spookily, a twin miscarriage also), all of which has brought us closer in some ways.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as you know we more than got our happy endings. Tobias made his entrance on the 6th November 2009 and my nephew Zachary Mark followed shortly after on the 5th December.
In the autumn of 2010, just after i came off the pill to start trying for a sibling for Toby, she announced she was expecting her second baby and Leo James was born the following June, by which point i was half way through my pregnancy with our second son and of course Rudyard came into the world in the October, shortly after which my sister fell pregnant with her third! And her baby girl Freyja Leigh Jade was born last month, 6 weeks early.
Starting our families at pretty much exactly the same time, and then adding to them again at similar times, being pregnant alongside each other and sharing the experience of giving birth within quite a short time frame of each other had it’s ups and downs. The comparisons were inevitable, and even if we managed to keep a lid on our natural sibling rivalry other people seemed to get competitive on our behalf! Who’s bump was bigger/smaller/neater/rounder/lower? Who would give birth first, and what would the babies weigh? The names discussion went round and round and round. Sophie was naturally open about her musings, Chris and i were very tight lipped. Would either of us get our planned and much wanted water births? (A resounding NO for both of us each and every time as it turned out!) Would either of us get our planned and much wanted home births (A yes for me second time thankfully, all Sophie’s babies have been born in hospital for various reasons) The once the babies arrived- so did more comparisons! Heights, weights, physical traits and developmental milestones!
What has been wonderful though, without any shadow of a doubt is the Instant Extended Family it’s provided our children with. I grew up with one little sister and seven cousins, all living fairly close by, and remember what a big part of my childhood that played, the games, the birthday parties, the sleepovers, the trips out. Not all sunshine and lollipops but an all round positive experience in a childhood that wasn’t always rosy.
I assumed, that because Chris and i have chosen to move away from our hometowns and start our families away from our own families, that any children we’d have would miss out on all that and it did make me feel a little sad. But so far it’s turned out not to be the case. True my sister, her husband and her little ones don’t exactly live just down the road, it’s about a 90 minute trip each way and one we always have to make as neither her or Jamie drive, but three hours of driving (providing Rudy sleeps!) is a small price to pay to give the boys that experience of having extended family, a bigger family experience, more people to love and be loved by.
Yesterday we went across the penines and i got to meet my niece Freyja for the first time. She is now 6 weeks old (Sophie’s due date was earlier this week!) and weighs 6lb 4oz, so almost what both my boys weighed at birth, and she looks like a teeny tiny dot. Rudy, normally the “baby” in any given situation/scenario, looked like a lumbering giant as he pulled himself up on things and cruised around the room whilst she slept through the chaos in her (Rudy’s old) moses basket.
It’s pretty much always chaos when we go over (we have four very small boys between us- how could it not be?!) and yesterday was no exception. I usually forget to take my camera, or if i do, in all the madness it never makes it out of my changing bag, but yesterday i made a point of getting a few snaps of them all. Leo doesn’t feature as much as i’d like as he went for a long nap so disappeared out of shot for a while but otherwise i’m happy with the memories we managed to capture. I was desperately hoping we’d be able to get them all sat down together (possibly with the aid of bribery in the form of flapjacks!) for a big group photo but sadly it wasn’t to be. Next time though- i’m determined!