Thursday, July 31, 2014

I really do mean it, I wouldn't change a thing

Met a friend at the park yesterday. She had her adorable 3 month old son with her. We got to talking and she asked something about how I made the decision to go DE.

I was honest - you've heard it before: how I wanted the shot at experiencing pregnancy and that was more important to me than silly DNA.

I got home from our playdate. With my girls. My daughters. The lights of my life. And I hugged them and smelled them and felt their silky soft cheek skin against mine while they snuggled (before squirming and wriggling). They nursed, as they always do before their nap time, and I stroked their heads. I watched as their long eyelashed lids became heavy and they started to doze off. I tickled them to keep them awake. I took them into their room and put them down for their much-deserved nap. I watched them on the monitor while they giggled and cooed and rolled around and fell asleep.

And then I sat down.

And I focused on how full my heart felt and how wide my smile was.

I told my friend yesterday that I wouldn't change a thing - even their DNA - if I could. And that is true. I told her that I am not hoping for a spontaneous pregnancy (with my own DNA). And that is true. (truth be told I am terrified of a spontaneous pregnancy for a shit ton of reasons, not all physical) I told her that I think of our two frozen embryos as "my kids" and "my kids' siblings." And that is true.

I would not change a thing. Not a damn thing. Even if I was given the option of two perfect, loving, cute, sweet ID twin girls who happen to share my DNA. Nope. Not even then.

My heart, my family, my life is full. Overflowing, in fact.

The end.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adjusting for prematurity

When my babies were born at 35&4, I had heard the term "adjusting for prematurity" a lot. My attitude towards it: "awww hell no!" especially when my girls came out screaming and pink and healthy and needed no NICU time.

This attitude continued for a while. At our 3 month check up, they were 5% weight ... unless we adjusted, in which case they were 85% weight. But I did not want to adjust. So I went home with babies on the 5th percentile line.

When both of my daughters rolled over at exactly the 4 month mark, I sent an email with the video I captured saying "don't you label me a preemie!" (our pediatrician had told me at the 3 month check up that most babies roll at or by 4 months but she didn't expect ours to because they were a month early).

But then I started paying attention to two friends who had more-than-full-term babies. One was born at 41 weeks and the other at 42 weeks.

Those babies had FIVE and SIX extra weeks of womb time than my girls. And you know what, they are more advanced than my girls. Not my adjusted girls. But my born-at-35&4 girls.

When I was in hospital waiting to deliver, everyone kept saying (even my OB) "every extra day in the womb means you skip 2 NICU days." Why? Well, babies belong in the womb until at least 40 weeks and they develop faster in their natural habitat. So if they come early - even 4 weeks early and pink and screaming and healthy - they have still missed out on some key womb time.

It's why my babies had trouble nursing - they had not learned the important suck-swallow-breathe mechanism that comes ... wait for it ... in the last month of gestation.

It's why my babies came out with a layer of thick dark hair all over them. That stuff sheds off ... wait for it ... in the last month-plus of gestation.

I have come to think about it this way: if I was told I had a biology course from September to May and that I would have a final exam on all material covered in those months, but then I was out sick the whole month of May, well, I would not have as much information or knowledge as someone who was in school the month of May. I'm not dumber. I just missed some key learning time. And, likely, it would take me more time to try to learn the stuff on my own than by being taught it in a classroom of peers. The metaphor kind of falls apart at the "of peers" statement except that I did carry twins. Ha!

Anyway, I am now totally ok with adjusting. My girls are still hitting most milestones right when a full term baby hits them, but I don't expect them to, and I certainly do not expect them to be where my friends' 41 and 42 week babies are (one is standing on her own at 11 months and about to walk).

That's all!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Added a "Twins (or more) blogs!" list

Being a twin mom (or a mom to more than twins!) can be very isolating. And I suspect it is very different from being a mom to a singleton (at least that is what I have noticed). Having two babies often means being less willing / able / brave to go places. Breastfeeding two babies means never (at least I never do it!) breastfeeding in public because I always tandem breastfeed. So while I get out of the house each and every day, I take walking trips and schedule the trips between meals. We go tons of places because we live very urban, but we are always home for the next meal. It will be that way until I am done breastfeeding.

As such, I don't go to restaurants and to the mall or for a walk along the riverfront with friends who have one baby.

So it can be isolating.

And having twins *usually* means they came a bit (if not a lot) early so it's hard to stop comparing their developmental milestones with those of a singleton who was full term or even a week or two late (it makes a different, I have noticed, and plan on blogging about that later).

Anyway, I started a blog list of blogs written by moms (or dads!) of multiples. I've added a bunch but if you follow my blog and don't see yours there, please stick it in the comment section so I can add it.

I am very very very outspoken amongst moms of multiples I know here that we need each other because of how damn crazy it is to have more than one baby. I think it would be great to have an online list of other twin moms, even if it's just to check in online and read a blog of someone else doing what you're doing!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Breastfeeding. Is. HARD!

We took so many classes preparing for these babies. We took infant CPR. We took a 4-night class on childbirth that talked about breastfeeding. We took a twins-specific class that talked about breastfeeding twins / multiples.

At none of these classes - and both the childbirth class and the twins class were taught by lactation consultants - and NONE of these classes did anyone ever mention how. damn. HARD. breastfeeding is.

Sure, at one of the childbirth classes a woman asked about having an alcoholic drink while breastfeeding. She mentioned "should I pump and dump" as part of her question.

The response: No, as long as you don't feel tipsy, you're fine to breastfeed.

Do you want to know what the response *should* have been??

First of all, fireworks and party streamers should have shot out of the lactation consultant's ass.

Then, from atop her speaking pedestal, she should have said:


This response should have been followed by:

BREASTFEEDING IS HARD. Really REALLY REALLY hard. You know those movies you see where beautiful women have their beautiful babies brought to them for a quick and easy latch and a full meal immediately? Well, that probably won't happen.

Instead, you'll have one or more of the following happen. Not necessarily all at once, and not necessarily at the beginning. But you probably will deal with one or more of the following:

--- raw, sore nipples
--- bleeding nipples
--- thrush (on your nipples and / or in baby's mouth)
--- tongue tie / lip tie (baby's condition, easily fixable but often overlooked)
--- low supply / no supply
--- preemie who is too sleepy to latch and / or suck hard
--- preemie who hasn't learned how to suck / swallow / breathe yet
--- a fussy baby who can't deal with either (1) your low supply or (2) your fast flow so s/he chokes
--- food allergies with your baby so s/he is literally allergic to your breast milk (and you will have to cut out almost everything in your diet to slowly add it back in to hopefully see what the problem is)

If you have low supply and you want to build it up, you'll have to do something like this (if you're hard core about it, which I was):

Step 1: nurse baby
Step 2: supplement baby (with bottle of formula or previously-pumped liquid gold)
Step 3: pass baby off to someone or leave baby sleeping while you furiously pump after every. fucking. nursing session.
Step 4: repeat. repeat. repeat.

You get it.

If you're lucky, which I was, your body will respond to the message you're desperately trying to send and you will start to produce more. But it doesn't happen overnight. I was pumping 8-10 times a day since day 1 and it wasn't until week 6 or 7 that I was producing enough breast milk to feed both babies.

Many women, however, are not so lucky. They sweat and cry and perhaps bleed trying to get more milk but it never happens.

And nobody mentioned this to me: as a final punch to the gut on its way out of dodge, infertility can cause problems with breastfeeding and supply. Mother f'er!

This question was asked at most classes: "Who plans on breastfeeding?" Most, if not all (this is Portland, Oregon after all!), women raised their hands. You know what should have come next?

Same fireworks and streamers, same pedestal. Then: WELL YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO.

Or you might get so upset and stressed that you quit after a short period of time.

And even if you are so diligent about breastfeeding and pumping, you might STILL have to become best friends with Gerber or Similac or some other formula company because you will need it.

I have mentioned it here before. I threatened to quit breastfeeding no less than 6 times a day, probably more, the first few weeks. The monotony of it. The regularity of it. The stress of it. The only reason I am still - at almost 8 months post partum - breastfeeding is that my darling husband helped me / urged me / pushed me to continue. He had a right to express what he wanted for his babies, and it was that they get breast milk.

I am glad I continued.

Even still, though, some days I cannot wait to quit and think I'll quit tomorrow / next week / next month / when I go back to work on September 2. Other days, I think "oh, I can totally do this until they're 2 years old."

People. Breastfeeding is a total mindfuck and chances are your insurance company will NOT cover an in-home lactation consultant's support.

That said, if you have the funds (or if you don't, ask for it at your showers / from your family), get an in-home lactation consultant to come in.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Travling with infants - in bullet form

Started this MONTHS ago. Don't want to bother finishing it now so am publishing it.

Here are some thoughts about traveling with infants. We took our 6 week 1 day old infants from Portland to Australia and back again. Total, they each took 10 flights, the longest which was 12 1/2 hours, the shortest was 1 hour.

  • pack as LIGHTLY as you can for the airplane - seriously, you do not want to have to deal with more than you need. Check as much, even if it costs you extra.
  • planning on pumping on the flight? Get a window seat if you can so you get extra privacy. Wear a cardigan or button down shirt that you can use as a shield and put on backwards over your pump equipment once you're set up. And put your pump bag on the tray table for extra privacy.
  • bring a SMALL cooler bag and ask the flight attendants for ice.
  • stay hydrated. Drink way more than you need. Tell the flight attendants that you're nursing and will be bothering them for water constantly, could they please just give you a bottle. I was given so many bottles of water (and I still got horribly dehydrated - which made my milk supply take a hit).
  • bring packages of electrolytes to add to your water - will help with hydration.
  • using a wrap to carry your baby? Reconsider the Moby. It's awesome, but it takes so much space and time to put on properly. Most airlines will make you take baby out of the Moby and into a baby seatbelt. And international airports won't let you walk through security with baby in a wrap (the US airports DO allow you to go through with baby in a wrap that has no metal on it). The Ergo works as does the BabyHawk MeiTai. 
  • consider offering to buy your seatmate a drink. The person will probably decline, but good will is offered and the person will be nice to you.
  • remember that most everyone on the plane is a stranger you'll never see again so if your baby is crying or fussy, who the F cares! Worry about calming your baby and ignore any bad looks you get. If someone says something stupid to you like "can't you stop your baby from crying?" respond with "don't you think I would if I could?" Fortunately, we didn't have to deal with this at all because our babies did not cry even once, but I was fully prepared to go mama bear on any dumb ass.
  • stupid US airlines don't allow families to board early. So consider paying extra to get priority boarding and extra leg room. It'll be worth it!
  • Going through customs somewhere? Both when we entered Australia and re-entered the US, we found someone with authority and said "we have ___ week old twins. We'd rather them not be exposed to all these germs and this long wait. Can you please help us get to the front of the line?" Both times, we were escorted to the VERY front of the looooong line and got through immigration in about 10 minutes total. Again, go mama / papa bear.
  • Are you nursing? If you are, or even if you aren't / don't want to in public, bring a pacifier to help baby on the ascent and descent.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The first few weeks

This is rather late, given that our babies are 7 1/2 months old, but I wanted to write about the first few weeks of being home with newborn twins. It. Was. CRAZY. Seriously. Neither hubby nor I really remember those first few weeks. We've talked about "what was it like?" or "were we really awake that much?" and we settle on "I don't remember, but it was nuts."

Our girls were 4 weeks early and even though we were blessed with big babies (5 pounds 9 ounces for baby A and 6 pounds 4 ounces or baby B) and NO nicu time needed, they were still preemie babies. Our lactation consultant had us on a grueling schedule: feed them every 2 1/2 hours. And she had them on a very limited amount because babies that tiny don't need tons of food. Each feed took us over an hour (I nursed for about 20 minutes, with or without the SNS, and then we did bottles. I would then pump for 15 or so minutes, sometimes longer, to "send a message to my body that more milk was needed." At first, I would get 15 ccs. Over time, I had enough that my babies were entirely breast milk fed, and by about 8 weeks, I had some leftover at the end of the day that stayed in the fridge. I never ever got to freezing my own milk, but I was proud to have entirely breast milk fed twins.

So, back to the schedule. Most times, because they were preemie, we'd wake them up for a feed. And have to keep them awake for a feed (tickle them, blow on them, strip them of clothes so they weren't too warm). We had live-in help for the first 8 weeks in the form of grandparents.

I rented a scale so I knew how much the babies were transferring and I'd know how much to supplement them by way of a bottle (of formula at the beginning or breast milk over time). Each baby would get weighed, then a grandparent would  pass me one baby, then another. Using the nipple shields, I'd get them both latched. They'd nurse for as long as we'd let them, but only efficiently for the first 10 minutes we learned (the scale told us a lot of things). Then a grandparent and my hubby would take a baby and I'd get a few minutes off. Then I'd start the pumping process. And this is where amnesia set in. I don't remember what else happened. I don't remember when I napped or when I showered or when I ate. The same applies for every adult in the house: when did we do these self-care things?

The nights were tough. The babies were still eating ever 2 1/2 to 3 hours hours. From day 1, they slept in their nursery, in one co-sleeper. They were swaddled and tucked up next to each other. We were too nervous leaving them in there alone, so one adult slept in there with them at all times. We took shifts. My hubby usually took the shift from 9pm to about 1am. My mum would help him with the feed just before she went to bed, that would end around 10pm. Then hubby would sleep in there with them on camping pads on the floor. He'd wake me up for their feed that happened around 1am. We'd feed them together (I'd nurse then we'd bottle together) and then he would shuffle off to bed. He'd sleep through until about 8am. I would take the shift from 2am to about 5am, at which point, my mother would wake up. She'd help with that feed and then I would shuffle off to bed to sleep until about 8am or so. She'd sit up with the babies (it was her time to sit with them either in their co-sleeper or on her lap and she'd watch tv on her iPad). Then the day would start over again. It. Was. Nuts.

We had a meal train for the first 6 weeks (until we left for Australia) and there were days when (1) we'd get to dinner time and panic because we didn't know what to make, forgetting entirely that we had meal train. We were just that tired that we didn't remember meal train. Or, (2) someone would show up with a meal and we would not expect them because we had no idea that it was dinner time. The days just slipped away, blending into each other. They were each a patchwork of individual minutes somehow loosely sewed together to appear to be a day.

I cried so much those first few weeks. And I threatened to quit breastfeeding so so so much (another post on breastfeeding coming your way). The hormones from giving birth was raging and the sleep deprivation (the same thing that causes people to admit to heinous crimes they never committed and the same tactic used against prisoners of war) was overwhelming. And then there was the feeling of gratitude of being a new mom along with the feeling of sadness to my friends still in the infertility trenches. Slowly, my hormones got under control and I stopped threatening to quit breastfeeding. The ONLY reason I continued breastfeeding (and still AM breastfeeding) is my husband. He urged me to continue, one meal at a time. I did. It was hard. We fought. I pushed him for making me feel pushed. But in the long run, I am glad I continued. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but for us, it is good.

The first few weeks home, my hubby was paranoid of all things dirt / dust. We live with two cats and a dog, so pet hair is inevitable. He had my mother (because she had free hands more than the two of us) on a rather grueling cleaning schedule. She did love it, but it was overwhelming to me so eventually, I put a stop to it. She vacuumed probably twice a day and mopped the floors every day. We were doing baby laundry twice a day (now I do it every couple of days and we use a lot more items so twice daily was too much - but we didn't know it at the time). There was a list of daily chores that needed to be done, including feeding / watering the chickens, walking the dog, feeding the  cats / the dog, changing the cat litter. Rarely did we get to the store for more than a few items and we relied on the generosity of friends and loved ones to bring us dinner - so we got at least one decent meal a day.

Then there were the bottles, nipple shields, SNS tubes and the pump parts. A never-ending mound of plastic and silicone that grew in the kitchen until someone brave tackled it. The pump parts got changed every few hours / pumps. The nipple shields got washed after every use, as did the bottles.

My mother was a true blessing. Whenever I turned around, before I knew I needed it, she had a snack (almonds, apple slices with peanut butter, cheese and crackers) waiting for me as well as a GIANT bottle of ice water. I certainly was well proteined and well hydrated!

There were a few changing of the guards - my mother was with us from their birth on November 18 through Thanksgiving, at which point my hubby's dad and step-mom arrived for 5 days. Then my mother came back through December 26. My hubby's mom and step-dad arrived on Christmas day and stayed through New Years. We then left for Australia, where my dad and step-mum picked up the responsibilities. We got home at the end of January and for the first time in almost 10 weeks, were home alone with the babies.

We never ever ever could have gotten through those first 10 weeks without live-in help. To anyone reading this who is expecting multiples, consider having live-in help. The more-than-one-baby thing is just NUTS at first.

By the time 10 weeks rolled around, we were grateful for the time to ourselves.

And then we missed the help and thankfully, grandparents and uncles / aunts made long weekend trips to visit. For the most part, that meant good breaks for us. Someone else held babies while we (mainly me) had time without being touched. Time to shower a long showed without the door open to hear babies. Time to walk the dog without worrying about being gone too long.

People have often said - and I say to my friend with triplets - "I don't know how you do it." But for us, it was all we knew. These are our first babies, so we have never done the new parent thing with one baby. We have nothing to compare it to, so we just did what we had to do. And I suspect that is what parents of triplets / quads or parents with toddlers and then twins do - just do what they have to do. We had no choice but to get through each and every day. Each and every hour. Each and every feed. Each and every minute. And get through it we did.

At almost 8 months postpartum, we have beautiful, healthy, thriving babies. They are hitting milestones and growing and changing on a daily basis. Whenever we see our pediatrician, she remarks "they are just perfect." We certainly think so.

Life is much calmer now. For the most part, we have a schedule. It's still a rigorous one that involves multiple feeds a day, naps, bedtime, bathing two babies, playtime, starting solids But it works and it's our life and we love it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm baaaack!

Sometime in February, I think it was, I spilled water on the keyboard of our 2007 Mac laptop. It sizzled and hissed and I knew it was over. Our faithful computer was dead. I maaaay have been holding a baby at the time and I maaaay have been distracted. Oops! Well, this 4th of July weekend we finally replaced our laptop. We have iPhones and iPads at home so we weren't really in the dark ages this long, but I certainly did miss a real keyboard. Typing a blog entry on an iPad or iphone - especially with newborn twins - was just NOT going to work for me. So here I am, poised to get back into blogging. I'm not sure where to start, but I know I will get started somewhere, and I'll get started soon.

Thanks for your patience!