Dear Daughters

Published July 9, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp

So I’ve a confession to make. I’ve been writing, and fairly regularly – just not for this blog.

You see, for my birthday from Mother-in-law Heather, I was given a hand-crafted blank book, bound with leather and with hand-made paper for the pages and stitched together in a very old fashioned way with a brass clasp. When confronted with a book of this kind, which was probably the result of hours and hours of painstaking labour from its creator, I wanted to think of an appropriate content that was equally old world.

This is the diary that my mother-in-law got me for my 41st birthday.

So I decided to rekindle the now quaint-seeming art of diary keeping with an old fashioned ink-based pen, but with a specific purpose.

I wanted to record in this old world pen and ink creation, who I was, for the audience of my children.

I am a pragmatist at heart. I know how the world works, I am aware of the risks people take every time they cross the road, or board a bus, or walk down a dark street. I am aware that life is fragile, and that health should not be taken for granted. I want to record who I am into that book, so that if something were to happen to me before my daughters reach their intellectual adulthood and maturity, that they would have this artefact to know me from.

Morbid? Absolutely.

Pragmatic? Also true.


So I’m writing a “Dear Daughters” diary.

I’m incredibly, brutally honest in it. When I write in it, I’m thinking aloud as if talking to them when they are in their 30’s or their 40’s. I assume they are adults and more than that, my equals, my peers in life-experience, wisdom and maturity. I write the way I write to no-one else in this world. It’s the literary equivalent of the dancing you do when no-one is watching.

So far I’ve told them about their creation, the motivations behind Matt and I pursuing the bumpy course of parenthood. I’ve told them about their namesakes, and explained all the thoughts and meanings that have gone into their chosen names, as well as the life stories of the people whose ancestor names they have. I’ve told them how Matt and I met, how I knew it was love. How he is different to every other man I’ve ever met, and why our relationship works. I’ve tried to decompose my feelings towards him onto the page, so that they see this snapshot of what their parent’s marriage was like.

I told them about the first time I was worried about them. Knowing it’ll be a first of many, this was fairly special to me. It brought with it an awareness that I was going to have to change. Being scared for them every time they took a flight of stairs, or skipped across the road, or coughed or sneezed wasn’t going to be very neurologically healthy for the next 20 years. I can’t imagine how parents go through decades of this, this deep-seated fear that something out of your control might happen to them. How do you people get any sleep at all?

I started to tell them about my childhood, about how I remember my childhood and what was good and bad about it. The stories that I want to hear from my parents, and so rarely get the chance to ask about. The stories I know I regret not asking for more of from my Grandparents. I want them to have this right there, at their fingertips when they need it for solace or they wonder what life was like “back then”. I barely got through the earliest memories before my hand was cramping, so I can tell that’s going to be a series of much longer entries over the years to come.

In my most recent entry to the “Dear Daughters diary”, I talk about my friends here in Zurich. Matt and I have so many friends, that there was no way to tell them about all of you in a single entry, so I decided to try to break it into digestible pieces by telling about particular friends by location, starting with where we live now, and moving backwards through France, Scotland, London, then finally Adelaide.

Talking about my friends to them feels trivial, but I think it’s important. The purpose of this diary is to give them something tangible that gives insight into my mind. A lot of the time, we see ourselves as we’re reflected in our friends eyes. So yeah – that’s you guys.

It’ll be a record of the first years of their life

In the next, change-laden year, I intend to use the Dear Daughter diary to tell them about their first year. To record at the end of each long and tiring day (or more likely, when I’m up at 4 am and writing by candlelight) what they have made me feel that day. What they did that was so special and how they melted the heart of this old cynic. Maybe it’ll be full of wisdom for them when they raise their own children, and maybe it’ll just be full of overwhelming gushiness. I don’t know yet, I’m not that person yet.

But I think it’s a task worth doing.

So, I apologise. I’ve been getting my creative outlet, and making this amazing artefact at the same time. A download of my brain, my thoughts and feelings, and it smells like leather and paper and ink and age. It’s a gift that will take 20 or 30 years to prepare and I don’t even know if I will ever give it, or I’ll just leave it amongst my things to be discovered when I shuffle the mortal coil.

I will try not to let it stop me writing this blog as well, as I know there are so many people we care about who live so far away from us and who want to keep up to date with what’s happening.


The last month

We’re currently at the 33rd week of the pregnancy, and poor Natasha is having to make more and more room for these growing little ones. Each scan has come back healthy, each check-up is full of good news. We’re optimistic that they will stay where they are until full-term (which should be around the 37 week mark). I spoke to the Doctor on the phone the other night, and he said that his role now is to watch and wait. Ensure that growth is steady and that the risk profile is managed carefully. Natasha is now visiting for quick check-ups more than twice a week, and that’ll continue until the full term is reached.

At home here in Zurich, the nursery is now basically prepared. We’re missing one or two pieces of furniture but other than that, we’re good to go. I had a delivery on the weekend of 4 crates of baby arse wipes. They were on special at 50% off, so I just ordered an entire couple of month supply at once. We have the storage, and I sense that baby arse wipes are something you can never really have too many of.

I keep remembering things we’ve forgotten, but I don’t think that’s going to change soon. Nothing of vital importance has been overlooked so far. Oh crap, except Nappies. But Matt said he’d sort out a bulk delivery. Oh, and linen for the cot. Oh, and singlet/vests. But we could arguably get on a plane tomorrow and it wouldn’t that problematic.

Which is a good thing, as these things rarely go according to plan!

The List, according to “What to Expect…”

Published March 23, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp

The Cutesie little Clothes

3-10 Under-shirts or Onesies* 
* open in front for newborns, until umbilical stump drops off. (FYI – that’s so gross). Then switch to ones that snap under the crotch for easy nappy changing

4-7 Stretchies with feet 
* make sure they have snaps or zippers at the crotch as we will be visiting the bottom area with alarming frequency

1-2 Two-piece outfits
* must snap together at the waist to stop them constantly exposing their girly midriffs and bringing all the boys to the yard.

3-6 Rompers
* these are one-piece, short-sleeved, snap at the crotch, feeted sacks.

3-6 Nightgowns
* must have elastic bottoms. Do not use drawstring nightgowns, and ensure they are made of flame-resistant materials. Um.

2-3 Blanket Sleepers
* Not even really sure what this is.

1-3 Hats
* one should have a brim. Should cover ears but not too tightly.

2-3 Pairs of Booties or Socks

1 Bunting or Snow-suit 
* look for a bunting that has a car-seat strap hole ? I don’t even know what this item of clothing is. I vaguely understand what a Snow-suit is, but why would a baby under 6 months need SKI GEAR, for crying out loud?

3 Bibs
* this seems like a hilariously small number.

3-4 Waterproof pants, diaper cover
* Only required if you plan to dress them in dresses that expose their undercarriage.

I’m a little confused now about the technical difference between one-sie, jumper, romper, stretchie and night-gown. I can see this is an area where my education has been lacking. I wonder if there is a “Dad’s Guide to the Confusing World of Baby Clothes Names” somewhere on the internet. I’d like to be good at this parenting thing, so I’m prepared to do my research.

The Linens

3-4 Fitted cot sheets per cot
* Can’t be too loose or too tight, must fit perfectly or baby may use it to tie into a rope and make a ladder to freedom, and subsequently escape captivity.

2-6 Waterproof pads

2 Quilted Mattress Pads
* not quite understanding the difference between these two items. Is this a mattress on a mattress?

2 Washable crib or bassinet blankets
* not actually allowed to use blankets or anything in a crib any more, but they’re for putting over a baby when they’re in the stroller or car seat, or otherwise being supervised.

1-2 Stroller blankets
* how, exactly, is a stroller blanket different from a bassinet blanket? Is one supposed to be outdoorsy in styling, while the other is themed to match the decor of the nursery?

2-3 Towels
2-3 Washcloths

12 Shoulder-protector wash-cloths
* preferably branded with your gym’s name and logo 

2-5 Receiving Blankets
* How can there really be so many different kinds of blankets. Is this the one we swaddle with?

2500 Nappies (per year, per baby)


Baby Soap, Bath Liquid or Foam

No Tears Baby Shampoo

Baby Oil
* Used to clean a sticky bottom and also recommended for ‘cradle cap’. I have absolutely no idea what cradle cap is. But I can see there’s a wikipedia article on it, so I’ll read that if ever one of them has something on their head I can’t identify.

Baby Powder
* Apparently talc is no longer used and we use cornstarch now. Um. Talc never seemed to do me any harm, but I guess that depends on how you define harm. I did have an unhealthy obsession with the really nice smell of talc for years.

Ointment for Nappy Rash
* Ask your Doctor. So, apparently I have to go to a Doctor before they’re born and ask him to recommend a type of cream for Nappy Rash for babies I don’t have yet. That’s going to be an interesting conversation.

Petroleum Jelly
* I imagine we have some lying around the house somewhere.

A billion Nappy Wipes
* Curiously, not to be used to wipe up nappies for the first few weeks apparently. We have to use cotton balls and cool water until they’re 4 weeks old it says here.

Sterile Cotton Balls
* For eyes and arse

Baby nail scissors
* Never use adults ones which are apparently too sharp. I’m not entirely sure how a baby nail scissor can do it’s job if it’s not sharp.

Baby Brush and Comb
* Only if it has hair, which, given genetics, may be unlikely.

Medicine Cabinet

Liquid Paracetamol

Antibiotic Cream

Hydrogen Peroxide
* Not sure why we’d need this unless we don’t approve of their birth hair colour, or we’re trying to disguise them to smuggle them across a border.

Calamine Lotion
* for mosquito bites apparently. Maybe this is normal for babies who are delivered via floating reed basket on the Nile, but I’m not sure we’ll need it for Mosquitos in Zürich.

Rehydration Fluid Packs


Rubbing Alcohol
* for swabbing that umbilical stump apparently. EW!

Calibrated spoon, dropper or oral syringe

Sterile Bandages or Gauze Pads in a variety of shapes and sizes

Adhesive tape
* I imagine gaffer tape will work just nicely.

Tweezers for pulling out splinters
* We’re not going to let them go near the firewood pile for about 10 years, not sure where they’d get splinters from, to be honest.

Nasal Aspirator

Ear Syringe 

Warm Mist Vaporiser
* Apparently a cold mist vaporiser encourages bacterial growth, and a hot mist vaporiser can lead to burns. So we have to get the goldilocks vaporizer that is “Juuuuuust right”.

A digital Thermometer
* They’ve recently decided that the digital ear thermometers are less reliable in infants, and so now recommend you have a temporal artery thermometer, which is placed against the forehead.

Small Penlight
* for checking pupils for dilation after head injuries. Is anyone else finding this list a little alarmist?

Tongue Depressors

Heating pad and/or hot water bottle

Feeding Supplies

4 bottles (120ml) with nipples and rings

10-12 bottles (240ml) with nipples and rings
* apparently nipples come in several shapes (I concur from my personal observations), and so do bottles. I need to get ones with angled necks and made from silicon. Bottles that is, not nipples. Or maybe both.

Bottle and Nipple Brushes

Large Measuring Jug

Measuring Cup

Can Opener

Long-handled sterilisable mixing spoon 

Dishwasher basket designed to hold bottles and Nipples

A Breast Pump
* okay, I think we can skip this one

A Dummy / Pacifier / Binky
* why does this have so many different names?

I have to stop here and comment. I notice that this book is a reasonably new edition, and so should be up to date with all the latest technology. But for some reason doesn’t list the Steriliser as a must-buy accessory. I guess they assume we’re all going to boil pans on the stove-top and sterilise. But with twins, we’re looking at 20 bottles a day on average for the first 3 months, so that’d actually cost me more in electricity than buying a steriliser would.

I also notice it says nothing about a machine to mix the formula and put it to the perfect temperature. A friend (Hi, Stella!) has an amazing machine by Tommy Tippee that reduces infant formula preparation to about as complicated as a Nespresso machine. Tell it the bottle size, pop water in one bit and pre-measured formula in another bit, and you press a button, wait for 3 minutes and your bottle is ready.


* Lead free, child-standard safety approved, convertible into a kiddy bed later. Slats must be no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart (seriously? I send it back if it’s 2.5 inches?). Minimum rail height of 26 inches, and at least 9 inches clearance when side is down. A secure locking mechanism, no peeling paint, no rough corners and a metal support so that when the girls become “Jumping Toddlers” they won’t go straight through the bottom of the crib.

Crib Mattress
* Springs with a high number of coils, apparently.
* Apparently you can buy a mattress with a built in fan. How is THAT not an electrical fire hazard? Seriously?

* Not really sure what this is, to be honest. Something to stop them flopping around?

Bassinet or Cradle
* Matt has vetoed the Moses Baskets thing apparently. So this is off the list.

Changing Table
* A stand-alone table must have protective guard rail, safety straps, washable padding, nappy storage (within our reach but out of grasping baby hands). I am a little bit amused at the idea of strapping a baby down while you change them. I don’t remember seeing anyone else doing that. This list also doesn’t mention changing table protectors or pads. I guess they must be implied.

Nappy Bucket
* Something that seals. Tight.

Baby Tub
* non-skid bottom kind that sits in a normal bath-tub. We could buy two. Or we could just sit them in the bottom of the bath and hose them down each day.

Bouncy Seat
* I loved this as a kid, but apparently they’ve gone high-tech these days and do everything including rocking themselves. I wonder if we can just find an “old school” one which is nothing more than a wire frame with a soft thing in it to bounce up and down in.

Rocking Chair or Glider
* Pretty sure we’ll be skipping this, even the book says “Having a Glider chair is optional”

Baby Monitor
* You just know we’re going to get the best in the range of this. It’s geeky! It’s technology! We want a baby monitor that does selfies and uploads to the internet for the old folks home residents.

Baby Swing
* Um. So this is something not the same as a bouncy seat, and people swear by it according to the book. This requires some googling. Oh, okay, one of these. Electric, swings itself. Interesting. Will we need two?

This is a Baby Swing

I can see why that might be amusing.

* dimmable, so you can keep the light levels low so as not to wake them up properly when doing middle of the night feeds.

Portable Crib
* We have one of these already, not entirely sure why.

Equipment for Outings

We’re not done yet, we still need stuff for leaving the house with, apparently.

Stroller / Pram
* Oh my god this is a minefield. We must choose between classic, carriage, convertible, standard, umbrella, travel system or jogger. And whatever we get it has to be fit for two. This is the subject of a whole post on it’s own, but since Matt wants to be able to jog with the twins, I think we’re going to end up with something from the “Jogger” end of the scale. I wonder if we can find something like we saw in Priscilla, or something like this:

Child Safety Seat
* Another minefield, but one we’re just going to probably buy our way out of by buying the most expensive one we can find with the highest safety ratings.

Backpack Carrier and/or Sling Carrier
* These appeal to me. Apparently babies being carried are less fretful, so studies say. I like the idea of being slightly less encumbered by things to push and carry, and just having the little mini-mes strapped to me.

Diaper Bag
* These have to be custom, waterproof, washable, and have multiple air-tight parts, so you can keep dirty nappies away from sterile bottles.

And so we get to the end of the list of things we’re supposed to have BEFORE the babies arrive.

Please keep in mind that this list was compiled for ONE baby. Most of the items on the list will just have to be doubled for twins.

I think there is one last thing we should add to the list, then.



Bigger House.