I held my breath as the plane started down the runway; the small plane jostled and I was holding my five-week-old son, Lír, on my lap, while Adam, my husband, held his twin Roran in the seat behind us.
As the plane lifted into the air, I wordlessly willed Lir to refrain from letting out an ear-splitting howl.
The plane broke through the clouds, and I could hear the sounds of babies crying. But they weren’t my babies! My sons suckled on their dummies, silent and peaceful.
So far, so good.
This trip to the coast was the big test.
Adam and I are keen travellers and, while we knew the twins’ arrival would inevitably make it harder, we were determined that our new lifestyle shouldn’t change us.
The early weeks of parenthood are sleepless and scary, and so I chose the most relaxing place I could think of: the Kenyan coast.
Specifically, the sleepy town of Watamu, a couple of hours’ drive north of Mombasa. Adam and I had rented houses there many times in our years in
Kenya, though with decidedly different objectives. Our biggest challenge hitherto was rooting out tonic in local grocery stores to mix with the huge quantities of gin we had muled from Nairobi.
All the same, most of the elements of the trip would be familiar for me, and hopefully less of a challenge when mixed with the novelty of twin travel.
As we walked over the threshold of our coastal home for the week, I could feel the warm breeze melting away much of the anxiety I had been carrying around during those first early weeks as a new mother.
I had felt tied to the twins – and to the house – and barely able to distinguish night from day, always listening for the cries that meant I was needed again.
But everything in this Swahili coastal-style house was clean and white and tidy, and it felt like a fresh and sunny beginning.
We had only a few guiding principles: don’t let the boys get too much sun during 10am-4pm, and don’t let them be outside of a mosquito net after around 6:30 or 7pm.
The days flew by. We discovered an unexpected benefit to Swahili-style houses: the concrete walls do a remarkable job of containing the sounds of crying.
Excellent for the other housemates, but less than ideal for evenings when we could not count on audio cues during dinner. Yes, we’d forgotten the baby monitor.
Our routine wasn’t so different from Nairobi, but it felt decadent. The huge bed in our room could comfortably fit all four of us without fear of the twins getting too close to the edge or too close to smother zones, and our room had beautiful views looking out over the pool and the Indian Ocean.
After weeks with showers snatched here and there, jumping into the pool felt glorious, and I couldn’t wait to bring the boys into the pool, too.
But there my composure started to slip. I fretted about whether that refreshing breeze that cooled the house would freeze the babies after a dip in the pool.
After four in the afternoon, was it too cold to take them into the water? And wouldn’t they get bitten by mosquitoes? So many questions, so many fears.
In seven days, the twins went into the pool only twice. So, despite the relaxing setting, lots of the trepidations of new-motherhood had followed us.
Adam, excited by the prospect of air conditioning, a luxury we lack in Nairobi, would chill the room to the point where I feared the twins would die of cold.
And, despite nets on both our bed and the travel cot, I harboured an almost-constant fear that the boys would catch malaria, even though in four years of holidaying on Kenya’s coast, I had never had it.
Despite all that, there was something extraordinary in seeing the sunrise come up over the Indian Ocean, reflecting off the surface of the water. Even to eyes so deprived of sleep as mine, it was sparkling.
The week at an end, I baulked at the idea of returning to Nairobi, but I could appreciate how well the week had gone.
We had proved to ourselves that nomad life doesn’t end when parenthood begins, and we plan to take our twins around East Africa and beyond.
Our babies will not only learn about adventures, but we’ll learn, too, just how adventurous we can be (or not!) with twin babies.