We are in Santos, Brazil. I do day work in port. So I came down to the office to check on things at 0700 before I went for breakfast. I finished at 1800, after being around for the handover between the junior officers. Cargo in progress, 3 cranes, departure at 0630. Everything else complete.
I was about to get some kip at 2020hrs when my phone went. The third mate giving me the good news that our heeling pump is no longer working.
The heeling pump keeps the ship upright in port. We have a panel that has sensors to sense how much of a list the ship has, and then pumps water from one side to the other when that list exceeds the limit that I set.
When I joined I was told that this pump is leaking water into the oil reservoir of the pump. The engineers say they just change the oil when it stops working.
Oil is changed and they say everything is fine. I test it and it’s still not working. Yeah he engineers say it must be working. They have a new mechanical seal for it, but it’s an 8 hour job and they want to do it when it properly fails. Which annoys me as it will “properly fail” in port when it is needed.
After some back and forth the 4th Engineer goes back down to the heeling pump. Apparently it’s making an awful noise.
So now I am the heeling pump. Moving ballast from one side to the other using my ballast pumps.
I imagine I will finish tomorrow once the pilot is off, so that will be around 0830.
I would leave my duty officer to do it, but I need them on deck monitoring cargo and checking the cargo securing as we are going on a 24 day crossing to Singapore.
Sunday morning. I’m on the 4-8 watch. This is the morning watch.
My new role, Chief Officer, is a lot more stressful. I’m enjoying it. Or starting to.
Christmas on board was the standard affair, not much to write home about. New Years will bring more of the same.
As for 2020, it’s been a trying year. It’s tested my relationship with MrsN, it’s tested my patience, it brought untold happiness in the form of the twins, Seb has been his usual self (which is a good thing!). To end the year I got promoted to Chief Officer and I found out my father died on the same weekend. My father and I weren’t in contact for years.
Looking ahead to 2021, the twins will be growing and getting stronger. Madeleine still needs to see a cardiologist and Michael needs to see a surgery consultant.
I have some weight to lose (again).
It seems that COVID will still be an issue for crew changes, so making plans for the year ahead will be somewhat difficult.
Otherwise it’s going to be the same as every other year. Take it as it comes. MrsN likes to plan ahead. I like to deal with the near future.
I need to stop rambling and finish planning work for my crew for the day. I’ve got 4 able seamen, 2 ordinary seamen, and 2 Thai painters to plan work for everyday. I have to plan the maintenance of the accommodation and everything outside it on deck. The engineers just take care of the belly of the beast down there.
We have had a little project this crossing of doing maintenance to lashing bridges. They were pretty rusty, so needed chipping and painting. I’ve got ballast tanks to inspect before the end of the year, and have to prepare for our South America coastal run in that starts on 2nd January.
Between now and the coast I have to also monitor where the engineers are using their fuel oil from, and ensuring that the ship remains stable throughout the voyage. I’m having problems with torsion right now, which is a bit of a headache but I know these ships well, I know how to fix it.
Have a great day TWTD, I’ll try to look in on the 4-8 evening watch (the dog watch).
I was invited into a Facebook group of ex RAF, all of which had the nicest things to say about my father. It was like they knew a different man, a father that was there when I was very young. One that was replaced by something else.
I almost don’t recognise the man they are talking about.
I should sleep. I’ve not slept much the last few days due to work.
I can only hope that I learnt from his mistakes... and that my kids don’t have too many of my mistakes to learn from.
It’s time to remember the good times, however few and long ago they may have been.
At 0200 with Michael feeding, and Madeleine starting to stir, I kissed MrsN goodbye and left before she could see the tears on my face.
It’s going to be a long weekend. I’m travelling to Hong Kong. I have to get a COVID test in London, and then one on arrival in Honkers. I will be left to wait in a “holding pen” until my test result in Honkers comes back.
All going well I will board the ship Monday morning. It’s currently Friday morning.
I have been promoted to Chief Officer. The job I wanted. It’s a lot of responsibility.
I relish the opportunity. But leaving you all has never been harder than it was today.
It’s been a hard leave, full of hospital appointments and anxiety. I hope we are making progress.
When I get home you will all be bigger, stronger, and in more of a routine.
It’s a short one for now, I can’t put into words how much I miss you all. I hope that by doing what I do I can give you all the opportunities and happiness that I never had.
For me, ITFC and TWTD are so intertwined that I couldn’t have one without the other now.
I come to TWTD for all my ITFC news and updates.
TWTDers that I have met have become like family to me. Hell I only met Blubfish for a few minutes and he’s like that weird cousin that nobody talks to at family get togethers, but you would call him if you were stuck and he could help.
I have met Phil a handful of times. He’s every bit the Forum owning nerd that I hoped he would be. But he’s our forum owning nerd.
TWTD is more than a forum for some people. Some people come here for help with their mental health, some come to share their life stories. Others just come to talk football.
If the club read the forum, as many suggest they do, then they will do well to take note that ITFC in the community should also include the online community. We have Phil, the wielder of the banhammer to thank for what we have.
We have Gav to thank for all the wonderful tech updates too....
The twins reflux worsened to the point that they were in pain more often than not. Neither one was keeping their milk down very easily without prolonged periods of being held upright and winding.
A lack of sleep became the downfall of MrsN. At 0200 one morning she handed me a baby and said “I can’t do this any more I am going downstairs to the sofa to sleep”.
I got through that morning. We muddled through a couple more days. We happened upon Carobel, which is a thickener. It sort of stopped the reflux. We got a 2 hour unbroken sleep for the first time in over a week.
Something still wasn’t right.
A couple of nights ago MrsN sat there sobbing. She told me she was frightened. Frightened of doing this all alone whilst I was at sea. Frightened that she couldn’t do it. Frightened that she’s not a good mum.
Seb was sleeping in his bedroom. Then it hit me. A couple of weeks ago I saw white seeds in a nappy. I have no idea whose nappy. But I saw them. Seb had that when he was a couple of weeks old. He ended up being lactose intolerant.
It was 2200hrs, I got in the car and went to Asda. I got a tub of Lactose Free formula. This was the moment our exclusively breastfed babies would get the dreaded formula that the midwife MrsN never wanted them to have.
The difference was almost instantaneous. Subsequent feeds through the night produced the same results. Happy, pain free, content babies. Babies that slept.
The relief that MrsN felt was clear. After so many people telling us “that’s life with premature twins” “it will get better” “sleep when the babies sleep” etc. We found the answer. MrsN called the GP. Who then confirmed that yes, this can be hereditary, and with the similarities between Seb and Michael (singular palmar crease on the left hand) this is highly likely.
A prescription for formula was given. The formula covers lactose intolerance and cows milk protein allergy. There isn’t a test to find out which it is, so there is a formula that covers both.
Last night the twins were adjusting to the formula. When breastfeeding they had been taking an incredible amount of milk. Breast milk is easily digestible, with a fairly sweet taste in case you’re wondering. Formula is harder to digest.
Whilst it was a fairly sleepless night, there were no babies in pain writhing around all night and making all sorts of noise.
Now we need to learn the skill of feeding two babies at the same time. MrsN needs to be able to do it on her own for obvious reasons. Michael is just really really small. 2.05kgs at the weigh in yesterday. His neck muscles are still developing.
As ever, we will find a solution. We’ve found solutions for every issue so far.
Seb loves life with his brother and sister. He loves his new bedroom with a TV in it. He loves that I have arranged the furniture as if he were in a cabin on one of my ships. He’s been wonderful.
The twins are breastfed with bottle top ups of expressed bottle milk. This is an important detail in our life right now, and important detail for what’s to come.
We sort of found a routine, MrsN tries to do what she can by herself from around 2200-0100, feeds, nappy changes, winding, settling etc, then we do it as a team until 0500ish, whereupon I take the twins downstairs for some time with them and give them expressed breast milk by bottle.
Usually between 2200-0100 I will wake up at every feed and ask if help is needed, do some nappies, etc.
I’ve been redecorating two of the bedrooms this last week. When I have had time.
During the week MrsN had a bit of shock when she went to express and there was very little milk came out. This became an unhealthy focus.
What happened before this was that the twins went on a growth spurt and started marathon feeding. Long feeds. They also started cluster feeding. Where they started doing lots of little feeds over a short space of time.
This drained the breast milk.
Unfortunately, MrsN went from being able to express 130ml of milk to around 30ml of milk. She was then convinced that her supply had gone, and it was her fault due to the bottle supplementation when she was tired.
A few days of intermittent crying and angst ensued. I suggested a breastfeeding expert or lactation consultant. Luckily she got an appointment with one she knows at her hospital.
On the day of the appointment, she wanted to cancel. I wouldn’t allow it.
Breastfeeding has been an extremely frustrating experience for MrsN. She’s been using nipple shields because the twins are so small. The nursing team said the babies were too small to not use them. I suggested we work on getting away from the shields anyway. MrsN wasn’t in the right frame of mind so said no.
The twins would get frustrated due to the extra work required with the shields. They would knock the shields off. MrsN would get frustrated. This was a vicious circle. The babies picked up on MrsN’s frustration. It was horrible to watch.
The breastfeeding pillow was another frustration. She just couldn’t get the right position on the bed. Too high, wrong angle, wrong feeling. It’s a £90 twin breastfeeding pillow.
I ended up buying another, barely used, second hand. Pulled out the insides and butchered it. It was a win. It worked. We now have one for the bed and one for the sofa downstairs.
After the appointment, she got home and breastfed the twins without the shields. And has done so ever since. She’s happier during the breastfeeding. She talks to the twins with a different tone, instead of pleading with them, instead of being frustrated, she talks encouragingly.
She’s starting to enjoy it all. It’s been a hard week. I’m cooking, cleaning, redecorating and moving furniture. Doing Dad stuff like nappies and bottles. Having time with Seb.
I keep telling MrsN her job is to feed the babies and make the milk. Anything else is a bonus.
The twins suffer badly with reflux. Michael especially. Sometimes a feed will come right back up.
The hard work and the sleeplessness is all worth it for the moments I get holding them in my arms and they fall asleep whilst I hold them tight and tell them how much I love them.
The twins due date was Friday, they were born 14th September. That’s how early they were. Crazy early.
At the last weigh, Michael was 1.9kgs, Madeleine was 2.47kgs. Still tiny. Teamwork is getting us there, MrsN, Seb, the twins, and me, all working together as unit.
Seb has really taken to the twins. I’ve redecorated the small bedroom and moved him in there, putting a small TV at the end of his bed. He’s delighted. I want him to have his own space. As time goes on, that’s going to be important to him.
MrsN and the twins have been home since the afternoon of the 19th. 10 nights. We’ve had Seb for 3 of those too.
On the 19th I had a bit of a cough. By the Friday I was feeling really grotty. A negative COVID test put our minds at ease.
The twins due date was 6th November. We knew they would be early. But Mid-September was a surprise.
We ended up having to take Michael to the local hospital on Saturday morning for a GP appointment. Terrible reflux. We got some baby Gaviscon.
They’re feeding on demand at the moment. It’s anything from every hour to every few hours.
Sometimes they feed at the same time, sometimes at different times.
MrsN and I have sort of gotten into a routine, how sustainable it is I don’t know.
I’ve been taking the twins downstairs around 0600 every day so MrsN gets some proper undisturbed sleep, although she doesn’t get much as she has to wake up to express.
Today I went up to bed in the afternoon and had 4.5 hours straight sleep. Undisturbed. I felt dreadful after it. Almost hungover. I’m hoping it’s just this bug I’m getting over. My cough is now being a bit more productive.
Anyway. The twins are putting weight on. They get weighed weekly due to how premature they were. Whatever we are doing, we seem to be doing right.
The other morning the twins wouldn’t settle at all unless I was holding them. I ended up unable to move from the sofa, but sat there holding them. I was happy as a pig in sh!t. These two beautiful little people, with their most basic of needs.
The tiredness and the worry, it’s all worth it.
MrsN and I are lucky. We make a good team. When one is struggling, the other picks up any slack. We are getting through the days and nights. I’ve even managed to chuck stuff in the slower cooker every other day. So we can still have hot home cooked meals.
I can’t wait for it all to get a bit easier, but I am so glad to be able to wake up each day and hold them all.
Secondly, how cool! I read the other week about how we are still evolving, that we are now seeing humans born with an artery in their arm, which normally disappears in the womb, and that wisdom teeth are less commonly found.