It is difficult to believe that just a year ago, I was sitting in the surgical theater beside my wife (OK, beside her head) while three very calm and experienced OB/GYNs from Beijing United Family Hospital delivered our twin boys. Watching life being brought forth is a truly awe-inspiring experience; I was grateful to be present and to be able to photograph the experience of the boys being brought into this world. To this day, I cannot speak highly enough about Dr. Afnan and his team.
Unfortunately, the days of tiny babies are fleeting. Bryson and Ryder are already on their feet and taking their first steps. The changes in their growth have made every day a journey of wonder and excitement. Sure, some of those changes took place during the night when we wished they had remained sleeping. But we are nearing the stage when they will both sleep through the night and – God willing – we will finally be able to do the same.
One of the biggest challenges we faced as a family was what to do if one parent had to travel for work. The first time I was away shooting a documentary, one of our ayis stayed overnight to provide support. However, she ended up sleeping through most of the night-time feeding activities while my wife Savvy did all the work.
When Savvy could no longer avoid travel, I made the decision to go it alone at night with three children. Naturally, the ayis suspected disaster would ensue. When the morning ayi showed up early for her shift, she was both relieved and impressed that I had managed not to lose any of the kids. Over the three nights, neither baby woke up more than once and both even slept through the second night – a family first.
Meanwhile, at the hotel, Savvy kept waking up and feeling like she needed to be doing something. When I related this story to a friend, she said the boys must have realized how much help I needed and took it easy on me. That might be true, because all three of our children decided to wake up multiple times on the night of Savvy’s return in a bizarre welcome ritual that I hope will never have to be repeated.
When a photo shoot required me to travel to Shenzhen this summer, Savvy suggested taking Reina to show her the city she was born in. It was a chance for us to take our first father-daughter trip in over two years and – more importantly – an opportunity for seven blissful nights of sleep. How could I refuse?
In Shenzhen, one of Reina’s life-long wishes was granted when the bride of the wedding I was photographing decided to include her as one of the flower girls one hour before the ceremony. We also got to visit a beach outside Shenzhen and I experienced my little girl’s heartbreak when she saw how much trash the weekend beach-goers had strewn on the sand. We also toured a natural honeybee farm and dined at an Italian restaurant on the 99th floor of the St. Regis Hotel. As she looked out the window and took a bite of her cheese pizza, Reina observed, “Mmm, pizza just tastes better up in the sky.”
For me, the trip was a nice way to mark the end of both one of the shortest and longest years of my life. I won’t miss the sleepless nights, but I will always cherish the memories of my children’s growth –
tears and all.
illustration by Sun Zheng
This article originally appeared on p56 of the beijingkids October 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com