Author Cathy Kelly: 'I welcomed twins, lost my beloved dog and wrote a book all in one summer'
Writer Cathy Kelly moved to her new house, gave birth to twins, finished a novel, and lost a beloved pet all in one unforgettable summer, she tells our reporter
The summer of 2003 was hot, and about 10 degrees hotter than that when you're pregnant with twins. That summer, I was heavily pregnant, finishing a novel, my beloved 13-year-old dog was very ill, and my then partner, now my husband, and I were about to move into our new house. So, no pressure.
I have a habit of never doing just one thing when I could be doing two. "Move house in June when you're having twins in July? Are you nuts?" people kept saying. "It'll be fine," I said enthusiastically. I have an inbuilt enthusiasm thing that people often mistake for sheer stupidity. But you know, I like to be busy.
My darling babies were due to be born in July, but I can tell you that carrying twins when you're five foot tall is a bit like sticking a giant beachball filled with sand onto an 11-year-old, telling them to pack up all their clothes from the old house, and, oh yeah, they can't take painkillers when their backs hurt.
My lower back was in agony from nerve pain. I tried acupuncture, which I love, but no joy. I tried a TENS machine - hopeless. I tried and managed to finish writing the book, which was really very tricky when sitting down was hard.
By the start of May, I was beginning to see that the hideous shirt someone had lent me would soon be my new favourite outfit, on the grounds that it was the only thing that would fit. My darling sister had sent me a wonderful American pregnancy book about carrying twins, triplets or 'super twins' - quadruplets - and as it was written by a journalist and a female obstetrician who'd both had twins, I was following it to the letter.
If it said, 'Sit down and eat a muffin,' I sat down and ate a muffin. If the Muffin Man had passed by, that guy was in danger, I'm telling you. I was close to putting on three stone, which is ginormously big for a short person, but the book calmed me.
Twins were almost in the ha'penny place compared to the women having quadruplets who had to sit down every four minutes and eat ice cream.
The glorious house we were moving into had been ours for two years. We'd renovated it lovingly, and because of the renovations, we'd moved some of the unusual plants, like the blood red Japanese Maple, into a holding planted area that had to be watered every night. Soon, I could not care less about watering.
We had to sell our old house and my interest in making it look beautiful and uncluttered had waned. My wardrobe went into plastic bags, and honestly, it took two years before I found some things.
Tamsin, a Labrador who was my first baby, had initially loved the new big garden, but she was no longer interested in it. Then, in early June, she became so ill it was cruel to keep her alive. This had been coming. My heart broke. How could I live without her?
One of the kindest vets in the world, Michael from the Charlemont Veterinary Clinic, came to the old house, and I lay on the floor holding her as he gave my baby the injections that would save her from pain.
I believe in euthanasia for adults too, but at that moment, I would have done anything to keep Tamsin alive. She had nuzzled my belly, knew my babies were in there, and knew she could leave me. But the pain....
We wrapped her in her favourite blanket and buried her in a plot in our new garden. A dear healer friend always says he sees me with a small blonde dog beside me.
Days later, we moved house on the grounds that if we didn't move then, we would never move with two tiny babies.
As I am small, the obstetrician had recommended a Caesarean. Term for twins is 38 weeks. People kept looking at short but rotund me and saying, 'You must go early', but I am clearly built from strong peasant stock. Those babies refused to budge until it was time for the obstetrician to pull them out, an operation a friend described to me by saying, 'It's like having your handbag on your belly and someone is rooting around inside it'.
And there they were, two glorious boys screaming in outrage at being dragged into this cold world. They weighed exactly six pounds each, which was pretty good for a short mother.
When I think of those days in my little room in the Rotunda Hospital, it was like being wrapped in an incredible bubble where nothing existed except me and my sons. I slept like a baby - meaning I woke up every half an hour to feed/change/mind one or other of them.
And then John and I got to bring Dylan and Murray home to our new house, where Tamsin was in the garden watching over all of us.
I would like to say it was all calm, but with twins, trust me, it's not. On a really, really good day, it's organised chaos and a sense that you have somehow allowed yourself to start running a laundry.
Sometimes I could summon up the energy for us to all go outside and look at our beautiful garden, with the Japanese Maple in its correct place, and sleepers now settled around Tamsin's grave.
I love our home, which I feel is somehow magical and calm; being here with my husband, our sons and our three six-year-old Jack Russell terriers is total heaven. The summer of 2003 was glorious, life-changing and tough in many places, but it was part of the tapestry of my life - a rich tapestry I'm so grateful for.
'Between Sisters', by Cathy Kelly, is out now in paperback. Orion, €10.99