I had twin sons, Sebi and Alex (January 1986), then eight years later, along came a daughter, Julia (August 1994). Anyone with kids knows that kids are half goodness and light and half demons from darkness. Mine were no different. What made my relationship with them slightly different was that the twins were “extreme preemies”, born at only 6 months and very fragile, and the fact that my husband played polo, and so we travelled all over the world, never staying more than a month or two in the same place, going from guestroom to hotel – sometimes staying in rented houses or apartments. We travelled alone or with the polo team. Sometimes there were forty horses, eight grooms, four players and their wives and children along with us – sometimes it was just us, going from tournament to tournament.
Arriving at the airport, we had our suitcases, golf clubs, polo sticks, the “polo bag” with my husbands gear in it, the stroller, the carry-on bags full of food and bottles for the twins and their stuffed animals. Our car looked like a gypsy caravan, especially the time we spent a month in Deauville, and we had the dog and a hamster cage in the car as well. (Of course we couldn’t leave the hamster behind!) Just to say that the twins were with me all day, every day, and they were used to a certain type of organization in life that bordered on complete mayhem.
It was impossible to keep any kind of schedule when you cross six or seven timelines every month, where you go from the tropics to an English springtime complete with snow and freezing rain then back again. We stayed in such a wide variety of housing that the twins were constantly adapting to different beds, sometimes no beds, sometimes fold-out cots, matresses on floors, canopy beds, double beds, beds in front of fireplaces in houses with no electricity…And they were troopers.
Their first trip was made from West Palm Beach, where they were born, to England. They had just spent two months in the NICU, they weighed four pounds each, and they shared the same baby cot in the plane they were so tiny. With our reguar luggage were their heart monitors that the hospital had lent us – we had to send the back when a doctor in England would give permission, and until then, they slept with little webbed bands around their tiny chests which held (more or less in place) the electrodes that measured their heartbeats and breathing. When those little electrodes slipped and the alarms went off, (usually in the midle of the night) Stef and I would peel ourselves off the ceiling and rush to the boys’ room – thank goodness it was never anything other than a false alarm. We didn’t get much sleep those first months.
That summer, we spent April to August in England, then we went to France (Paris, Deauville, & Bordeaux) and stayed until November, with just a short jaunt to the south of France. After we went to Argentina, where we stayed until December, and then we got in a plane and flew to New York for the Christmas holidays. Then it was down to Palm Beach for the winter season. So by the time the twins were a year old, they’d already been across the globe, had changed stollers twice. (The first one got broken when it traveled with the horses, so I bought a new one in France, but somehow the second one got left behind in the airport and so I got stroller number three in New York.)
For their first birthday, we were back in Palm Beach. Their heart moniters were back in the hospital where they belonged. The twins had graduated from eight bottles a day to a more manageable five and were now crawling around and getting into everything. Alex was just about ready to walk, Sebi, who had been very ill just as we arrived (January 1987) in Florida, was still sickly and cranky. Stef and I spent a week in Jamaica playing polo – the twins stayed in Florida with friends and family – the polo community is a very tight-knit one when it comes to family and children (they will cut your throat for a job though), and so, after a year of being with the twins constantly, Stef and I actually had six, full nights of uninterrupted sleep. Thank you, Sophie, Jean & Lou, Angelica, Theresa, and everyone else who chipped in to babysit the twins.
When we got back, I organized a big birthday party for the twins. I invited everyone, I ordered a huge cake, and we went to the park on the corner of the street. Of course, a cold front had moved in and as soon as we got to the park it poured. There was a mad rush back to the apartment, carrying the cake, the candy, the kids, and the drinks. Inside the small apartment there were now ten toddlers, twelve children under twelve, fifteen mothers, nannies, neighbors, dogs (Someone brought their three dogs plus my sister-in-law’s dachshund), all crammed in the house for the twins’ birthday party. Now, the doctors will tell you, with premature babies you must avoid over-stimulation. The advice we got, when the twins were in the hospital, was to keep them warm, fed, and in a very calm environment. That never really happened, but Sebi always was hypersensitive, so he wailed and sobbed all through the party, with the result being that as soon as the cake was cut and devoured, everyone grabbed their kids, dogs, coats, and umbrellas and fled. The silence was deafening. Sebi stopped screaming. Alex (who could sleep through anything), woke up and started to howl for his lunch/tea/dinner/anything he could eat). A dog crawled out from under the couch and begain to howl as well. Someone knocked at the door. “Sorry, forgot my dog,” said the neighbor.