Becoming a mum for the first time is an experience that totally engulfs you. You don't get much sleep and you spend the first few weeks utterly amazed that you've produced a tiny human (or in our case, two).
Since my babies were born I've turned into a 24/7 milking machine, a bilingual nursery-rhyme jukebox, a prolific laundress, a bum-wiping wizard, a baby juggler and two-armed synchronised cuddler.
You don't get many breaks with twins. Motherhood is full on like Donkey Kong and it's a wonderful, but physically and emotionally exhausting time.
Although their daddy is completely capable of looking after our two daughters by himself, for the first four or so months it never really crossed my mind to leave the house without my babies.
But at some point it's time to claw back a bit of your own (old) life. There's no doubt that our lives have changed forever, and as a parent you're never off duty, but it still shouldn't mean that there's no room to do some of the things you used to enjoy.
The first time I left my sleeping babies at home with their daddy, I just went down to our local supermarket. I was super excited to leave the house by myself.
I had about an hour to myself before my lovelies would wake up again, and I strolled slowly through the aisles. I felt like everybody around me knew that I'm a mum now and were wondering where my babies were. I also found myself gently rocking my half-full shopping trolley every time I stopped.
Last week I managed to have my first evening out on my own. I headed down to our regular pub quiz. The last time I went (almost 6 months ago) I received a call from my obstetrician on my way home, telling me that I had Hellp Syndrome and that I had to come to hospital immediately. Four days later I was induced and we welcomed our girls. It was finally time to return.
Going out after having a baby is a bit like having a few days out of prison on furlough. Like you're visiting your old life for a short amount of time but have to be back the next day. I know that being a housebound mum isn't actually like being in jail, but for the first months you're not part of the society you once belonged to.
The things I used to do - my work, the people I used to hang out with, the bars I used to go to... They all still exist, but I'm now living in a parallel universe where sleep is treasured like nothing else. Where instead of putting on makeup I try to find a t-shirt with the least amount of baby spew on it. And where I put on the only jeans that still fit but have dodgy brown spots on them. Mustard spots. Well I'm hoping it's mustard. I haven't been game enough to give things of uncertain origin the taste test. Yet.
So for my first evening outing, I put on clean(ish) clothes and even brushed my hair. I turned the car radio waaay up and drove away from the house, excited like a 14 year old going to her first party.
I parked in town and wandered a couple of blocks towards to the pub. The streets were busy with lots of young people going out or coming home from work, just like nothing had changed. In the park people were sitting on bean bags, drinking craft beer in the sun, just like me a year ago. The whole world was still exactly like I left it when I became pregnant and it all felt a bit surreal.
At the pub my quiz team welcomed me with a couple of questions about the kids and then we were right into the serious business of quizzing. Although playing with your phone during quiz night is a no-no, I secretly glanced at mine every couple of minutes to make sure there wasn't an emergency at home. (Of course there wasn't).
After almost two hours we emerged victorious and I quickly walked back to the car and drove home. I had a great time and it was lovely to feel like my old self again (I even had a small beer) it was also good to come home just in time for my girls' dream feed.
They stretched their short limbs and cuddled sleepily into my arms when I carried them into the lounge. They were oblivious that I'd been away. They are also oblivious that I had a vastly different life before they were born. For them I will always be Mama.
Over the next year or two I'll have to find a balance between the old me and being Mama. It's so easy to lose yourself completely in the first year when you're at your babies' beck and call 24/7. Right now I'm loving being Mama but I'll try to make sure I exist as Jule too.
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