Twin-Care: In Transition

Way back when–before September 5, 2001, to be exact–I was the she-half of a happily thriving D.I.N.K. union. My husband Scott and I had both been in the TV/video post-production business for upwards of a decade; and our salaries were comparable when we decided to throw caution—along with my Tri-Levlen—to the wind and try to have a baby*.  (*Note the singular. Who knew?)

 

Prior to that point, having been asked on more than one occasion by my grandchild-desiring mom, “Are you really happy being just a career girl?” (as if that was such a “bad” thing) beyond the reflexive daughter eye-roll response, I could answer with 100% sincerity, I was.

 

My career required extensive attention to detail, relentless follow-through, keen awareness of deadlines, prioritization skills, the ability to juggle numerous projects all in varying stages of completion with a smile, consistency and upbeat attitude, regardless of my clients’ often elevated stress levels and frequent whining. Sound familiar?  At the risk of immodesty, I was very, very good at my job…except for one glaring aspect: my utter (and occasionally, crippling) inability to delegate. Even though I worked with incredibly gifted people, I always found the “pass off” difficult. Can you see where this is going?

 

Before Scott and I married, we both agreed we wanted to have one parent stay home with our child(-ren) whenever we had them… before we even knew they’d arrive as a “them!” As such, we made all our financial decisions based on single-income feasibility. 

Once I became pregnant, despite my husband’s equal desire to be a stay-at-home/full-time parent (as was his boss’ husband, a triplet dad), the decision was made for me to make the career change to at-home, full-time caregiver…times two!


To bring this back to topic, with the exception of a week of grandparental assistance from each set of grandparents in those first five weeks, the occasional babysitter (I can actually count the times we’ve had a sitter on my kids fingers and toes), other than my incredibly gifted parenting partner/husband, when it comes to child-care for the first seven years of our twins’ lives, it’s been all mom, all the time. Not a martyr, more of a glutton…and a very poor delegater.

 

As the kids got older, I began taking on freelance gigs that could be accomplished at home…starting with some consulting work, then some accounting work, and eventually landing a significant, long-term job as a freelance writer/editor. Working from home can be accomplished without supplemental help, and is fiscally advantageous…but it may not be a viable scenario for everyone. Were it not for a laptop, our kids well-established (and enforced!) bed and waking times, and the understanding support of my husband who tolerated (and still does) extensive evening hours catching up on work uncompleted during daylight twin-focused times, working from home to the degree I did would have been impossible. Note the “did” in the last sentence…
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In December, my three+ years as a web copywriter and editor for The Parent Company family of sites sadly concluded with the company’s declaration of bankruptcy. In January, Circuit City, where my husband has worked nearly 15 years as a brand advertising manager, not only declared bankruptcy, but liquidated. No COBRA benefits offered. Immediately, we knew we both had to pursue all occupational options, and as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, in February, I was able to re-enter the arena of TV/video post-production in a part-time, freelance associate producer role. Fortunately, my new employer is a very family friendly environment, where I am working alongside a former co-worker, who’s job sharing as a new mother herself. During the school year, my hours allow me to drop the twins off in their respective first grade classrooms, and pick them up at the final bell. More good news, my husband has also found a long-term, full-time, freelance job. So when summer comes, we’ll be matriculating into day care for the very first time.

As an already admitted poor “sharer,” I’ll be honest; this is a challenging thing for me. As luck would have it, I’d already researched and interviewed area childcare providers extensively for an article written for our local parenting magazine. I know the caliber of the location we’ve selected, and have subsequently ‘auditioned’ during spring break. Still, it’s tough.

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Whether it’s because I’m rose-colored glasses nostalgic for the daily double stroller jaunts to the mall and various activities about town, because I’ll miss the flexibility to go in at a moment’s notice and be “guest reader” for one class or the other, or because I feel guilty—as if I am “passing off” my progeny, or guilty that I have to admit my days at work are actually rejuvenating, enjoyable—I don’t honestly know. What I do know now, or am on my way to knowing, is that all the roles: stay-at-home-mom, work-from-home-mom and working-out-of-home mom each have their unique benefits—and difficulties. Interestingly enough, at age seven, I feel convinced my twins would declare the same.

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The End of Entitlement: Our Twin Family Experience

Always tending toward lifechange x 2, my husband and I recently made an involuntary exodus from gainful employment to the land of lost jobs.

In truth, we feel highly optimistic about our prospects (“First one to get a job with benefits wins!”), and appreciate the fact we are being forced to actually walk our aspirational talk.

For years, Scott and I have bemoaned the societal trend of maximum expectation for minimum (if any) effort. [e.g. "I've got my degree, I should have a higher-paying gig." "I exercised for 10 minutes, why are my thighs still big?" "I was on the last place team, and look at my trophy!"]

With frugality now at the fore, I realize how some of my previous parenting practices unknowingly nurtured that instinct for immediate gratification with our twins.

After reading an iVillage piece by renowned parenting expert and educational psychologist Dr. Michele Borba, with tips on talking about the presently challenging economic times with children, here were my thoughts:

Our twins are seven; and while we certainly wish to retain their innocence as long as wisely feasible, we feel they — much like we — have much to learn about fiscal responsibility and the value of indulgences we’ve previously (and embarrassingly) taken for granted.

A three+ year freelance gig for me evaporated in December with the proliferation of corporate bankruptcies; and last Friday, my husband’s nearly 15 years of employment at Circuit City drew to a close.

Never for one minute did we contemplate “not telling” our children the truth.

We won’t be going out to eat so much. We won’t be buying books impromptu with every visit to Barnes & Noble. We will think twice about “unnecessary” expenditures — budget streamlining we could have – and probably should have – done before. As a result, we think we’ll be teaching our children the import of hard work, prioritization skills and the all-too-often overlooked”treat” aspect of so many purchases/outings previously perceived as the norm.

We are not fearful, and have voiced that truth frequently to our children. There ARE jobs to be had, and while they may not pay what we were accustomed to, they will help us make ends meet until the “right” gig(s) comes along.

Perhaps I sound in denial, or worse, delusional, but there are facets of our current situation for which I am extraordinarily grateful. Windows for re-defining entertainment and family time have availed themselves already, and I am confident we’ll have a clearer, healthier perspective for the temporary challenge.

Is your family confronting economic shift? Have tips, ideas or thoughts to share? Please leave a comment!
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cross-posted from our family blog, Twinfatuation

My First Time

I was 43. He was 7.

To paraphrase/elaborate upon St. Paul: When I was a child, I thought as a child. I spoke as a child. When I acted unacceptably, I was spanked as a child. To paraphrase every corporal punishment apologist, I turned out okay — psychologically undamaged from derriere-administered discipline.

Prior to parenthood, after discussion with my comparably corrected husband and pending parenting partner, we agreed. We’d likely employ the method as occasion(s) deemed fit.

However, following my son’s – and his twin sister’s – birth, the implementation of the swat/smack/spank simply felt wrong.

Perhaps pridefully, I became besotted with the efficacy of oral diatribes regarding behavioral expectations (frequently paired with the removal of privileges), and was repulsed by the prospect of engaging in the “do as I say and not as I do” inconsistency. Seven years and two months passed.

In the interest of word count, and a modicum of discretion for my son’s and my privacy, details of the catalyst infraction need not be revealed. Suffice it to say, on the day described, all other punitive means had been exhausted.

With a bare hand and a heavy heart, contact was made. Tears were shed. (I managed to hold off on mine until he had run up to his room.) The sister, well-aware of her brother’s lapse and the subsequent consequence, with respectful dignity uncharacteristic of one her age, went into the den.

So then what did I do? I called my mother – who with no subtlety in times past had implied my parenting arsenal was incomplete for the absence of the proverbial “rod.” Did I call to confess my matriculation into the Spanking Parents’ Society, or was I somehow unashamedly professing my actions — seeking parental validation and/or approval from my own mother?

As I write this now – outing myself as a deflowered spanker – am I seeking forgiveness or acceptance, understanding or empathy, from those with whom I am treading parenting’s path — or a virtual spanking via reprimanding comment?

My children, uterine co-habitants though they may have been, have already demonstrated they respond to varied modes of direction – and correction. Our daughter tends to seek our parental (and others’) approval more readily – sublimating her own child-like desires to meet that goal. Not so with our son.

So did the spanking work? As the Magic 8 Ball would say, “All signs point to ‘Yes’.” Am I still tormented by the incident? Affirmative. But what torments me more? The idea that I had to resort to something I initially did not want to do — perhaps admitting defeat — or the actual physicality/ perceived violence of a hit? Maybe a bit of both.

Humiliation (not unlike guilt or shame), in moderation, may be healthy. Pain (carefully administered), parceled in moderation, may be proactive.

Let me have it.
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c. 2008, Cheryl Lage
Cross-posted from our family blog, Twinfatuation

Two Babies. Two Towers.

It was a Tuesday. Our twins’ very first one.

That morning at home began much like the delirious days preceding it: a 7:30am awkward and anxious tandem nursing, followed by double baby burping and dual diapering. As a first-time mom, I was adrift in the new-parent paranoia and hyper analysis of every hiccup and twitch — and yet simultaneously entranced by each finger movement and chest-inflating breath, times two.


My treks up and down the stairs were strictly limited by doctor mandate to once or twice a day. After helping tend to the morning’s first baby maintenance session, my husband Scott was downstairs. In a tone I’d never heard him use before (and haven’t heard him use since), a blend of tender concern and clear urgency, he yelled, “Honey, are you watching the news?” I quickly (well, as quickly as one can when maneuvering  newborn twins with minimal body control) turned the television to the “Today” show. Shots of a blazing World Trade Center North Tower filled the screen.

In true Elizabeth Kubler-Rossian mode, my embarrassing, sleep-deprived first thought was that surely, the poor pilot must have been killed — entirely in denial that the hub of American business was undoubtedly populated with unsuspecting workers already seated at their desks for the morning. The commentators were reporting the damage was likely caused by a small plane…perhaps a privately owned Cessna. Never, never did I think for a solitary second the inferno we were all beholding was an intentional impact. An intentional impact. Before that day, unimaginable.

Minutes later, as we watched, the second plane, looking nothing like a Cessna, plowed headlong into the South Tower. From upstairs I screamed, “Honey! Someone needs to call the air traffic controllers in NYC! Somehow they’re misdirecting planes into the buildings…another one just hit! Another one just hit!”

Unaffected by the tag team of horror and twin-delivery intensified hormones, and nowhere near as naive as I, my husband knew to come upstairs and explain what was by then terrifyingly obvious to his — and most other Americans’  — eyes. An attack, here in America.

Chaos and conflicting stories prevailed that morning. Tales of  upwards of 50 planes unaccounted for and potentially in enemy hands. White powder delivered to government offices. Estimates of potentially 10,000 dead. Military planes being scrambled. The President was in Florida. The White House and Capitol were being evacuated. A third plane, and the Pentagon — less than 10 miles away from my childhood home — was in flames. The hijacked Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania…charred earth the only remnant.

Within hours, New Yorkers rapidly produced flyers with photos of smiling dads, moms, sons and daughters that were hung all over the city. They were held aloft for the television cameras so that someone, anyone, might recognize the person pictured and provide the reassuring news so prayerfully sought. News that with each passing minute was increasingly unlikely to be heard. Hope-fueled optimism reigned – and slowly, against its will, waned — in the first 24, and 48, then 72 hours. The round-the-clock rescue efforts yielding way too few — hardly any — occupants for the recovery areas staffed and waiting nearby.

Those heartbreaking visuals and so many others from those days are seared forever in our minds. The disturbingly twinkly confetti-like papers afloat around the plane-pierced structures. The police and fire department vehicles with their sirens blaring and their heroes aboard, racing full-speed toward an area that survival instincts would reflexively demand one avoid. Stunned people in business suits running out of buildings. Onlookers screaming, hiding their eyes, pointing, praying, crying. Victims waving — and then beyond comprehension, actually leaping — from the facades of the burning buildings. A personal video from the POV of being pulled into a coffee shop to escape the billowing cloud of collapse, with the audio of “thank you, thank you, thank you.” Al Qaeda training camp videos with hooded practitioners navigating overhead monkey bars. The iconic antenna atop WTC1 descending slowly into an expanding column of dust.

Then, new pictures. Emerging from the horrific aftermath, a surge of patriotism. On our near-daily drives to the pediatrician’s office for twin baby weight checks, ever increasing numbers of flags hung outside homes, offices, stores and from car antennae. Business marquees no longer touted “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Help Wanted;” but instead, proclaimed “We Love You, New York,” “We Will Never Forget,” and “God Bless America.”

The most rote of routines became less mundane. 3000+ families started September 11th as if it were any other day. Re-evaluation of even the most miniscule, theretofore taken for granted aspects of day to day life seemed in order. As I dried myself after a shower, newly acquainted with the word “Taliban,” I couldn’t help but imagine how grateful an Afghani woman might be for my warm, thick towel. Something that could be used for far more virtuous purpose than merely wicking away the moisture from a freshly-clean new mother. An Afghan mother might have nothing in which to swaddle her newborn baby. What if a woman in this horridly repressive culture had twins? How were those women there envisioning our lives? The concept of a burqua was (and is) unbelievably repugnant to me. In those first days with our new babies, unashamedly, I found myself not only immodestly “uncovered,” but frequently bare from the waist up. Did that mean that I, a new mother of beautiful, pure, innocent twins, would be viewed as immoral? Whorish? Incomprehensible beliefs so varied from our own…felt so very passionately, that dispassionately, murderous evil could be enacted under the misguided assignation of martyrdom.

Vividly, I remember my thankfulness, that amongst so many other blessings — in positioning the twins to nurse, they were facing me…and not the future-altering images that filled the TV screen. As an adult, as an American, as a mother, it was my obligation to face those images…and to mourn with those who were mourning.

Yet amidst the devastation, the molten towers’ girders seemed to find reincarnate solidity in heroes whose stories began to emerge — and continue to emerge today.

Forever linked to our family’s personal history, Scott and I pay rapt attention annually to the documentaries, the interviews, the tributes. Each September, our emotions careen from giddy celebration on the 5th, to grave solemnity on the 11th. Then, we move on. Always remembering. Forever united, a family…micro and macro.

Gratitude. Grief. Grace.

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cross-posted from Twinfatuation

Social Shorthand

They’ll speak their own language. They’ll feel each other’s pain. They’ll always have a special bond. They’ll always have a best friend.

Ask any twin parent, and they’ll testify; as soon as a multiples pregnancy is announced, those legendary lifelong predictions are made. The fascination with children that arrive in pairs is undeniable (seen any news on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt lately?); subsequently, as a byproduct of all the associated assignations, parents expect, and often, project.

Last week, we spent the afternoon at The Playroom, a destination requested close-to-daily by our duo (and one conceived of and owned by a fellow twin-blessed family). As I strategically sat on the perimeter of the play area, I could observe a la Jane Goodall how my little monkeys behave in the wild. When one falls off the bounce house platform, does the other wince in pain across the room? Do they gravitate to the same structures and sensations? Are they a mini-herd unto themselves? After close to two hours of scrutiny, here are the results of my research:

They will pursue their individual interests…

(If they don’t offer a “zookeeper” option on future career days, I’m unsure what Darren will do…)

(Surrounded by bouncy castles and playhouses, God love her, Sarah still gravitates to the art supplies.)

They will dip toes into the gen pop pool and explore different opportunities with other members of the group…


(Or in Sarah’s case, at least share the art supplies with others…)

They’ll re-venture out for some solo time…


But at the end of the day, their lack of twin-language and synchronously experienced pain aside, they do share a special bond. They are each other’s best friend.

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Cross-posted from Twinfatuation

Stood up. Brokenhearted. Again.

Forgiveness is typically my forte.

High-school boyfriends’ dalliances? Forgiven.
My beloved great-grandmother’s racism based in ignorance? Forgiven.
My father’s secret life? Forgiven.

But today…today’s transpiration is testing the depth of my ability to readily rationalize. Since I can’t speak it aloud (twin little pitchers have big ears), blog about it I shall.

On the next to the last day of school, Sarah and a classmate were to have a first-time playgroup. Perhaps it’s because she and her brother have had so few — much less individually — she talked about it all night the night before. She talked about it excitedly all morning over breakfast. Her brother and I planned our Mommy-Son activities for after school while Sarah and Boy X were to have their special time.

Well, as it turns out, the next to the last day of school included a year-end presentation program…with parents invited, for song, dance, poetry and general merriment. Upon the production’s conclusion, we looked everywhere for Boy X and/or his parent(s). No sign. We went home and left a message on Boy X’s family’s machine. Nothing. We waited and waited. Finally, our nuclear family went for a somewhat delayed after-program ice cream. The whole way there, while we were there, and the whole way back, Sarah (not unlike her mother’s M.O.) was creating rationalizing scenarios by which the lack of communication and the break-down of the plan could be excused.

On the last day of school, after we returned home, we got a phone call from Boy X. Luckily, Sarah answered and she lit up like a summer firefly with twice the bounce. The phones were passed to the moms, and Mrs. X explained the confusion (which surely I agreed with, with the chaos characterizing the last days of school), and we made a plan to have the kids reconvene today…as they were going to be out of town early this week.

Rerun the preceding week’s build-up and enthusiasm, this time regaling the whole family with her “dream” from the night before Playdate-Eve, wherein she and Boy X and his Mom X all played superheroes together. Re-don the beloved pink dress. Pinch on those new clip-on earrings (“They’re S’s, Mom! For Sarah!) from the Dollar Store. Make the early morning base touch at 9:15. Uh oh. The machine again. (Adult cynicism already had me concerned.) 11:00am: Sarah insists they may not have gotten the message, and wants to call again. With the warning not to leave a message if the recording comes on, I allow it. Again at 11:30. 12. 12:30. You get the pathetic and heartwrenching picture.

Finally, at 3:30, feeling almost sinful for keeping my children housebound and TV watching on a stunningly gorgeous day, I left a second, upbeat sounding message (oh I can be an actress when the occasion merits…) saying we were going to head to the park, but to please — please — leave us a message.

Thought Sarah would burst into tears when she saw the big flashing “0″ on our machine upon our return. Thought I might, too.

She and her brother plopped on the couches to watch “Shrek 3″ on-demand, and I just went went to put a Hershey’s kiss in her mouth. (Please don’t condemn me for doing the “chocolate makes it all better” attempt.) What did she do? She pointed to Darren for me to give him one, too. Amidst her day’s disappointment, at play, at the park’s nature center, all day long, her brother’s been by her side…intuitively “getting it.” Maybe there’s something to this twin telepathy thing after all….


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Cross-posted from Twinfatuation, June 18th

"Let's Bring Those Babies!"

Some of you may have already read our tale of meeting two babies. [It’s in our book Twinspiration, shameless plug, shameless plug!] For those that haven’t, or for those who simply can’t get enough of twin birth stories (I count myself amongst your numbers!), here’s the play-by-play, with an illustration or two…

Dateline: September 4th, 2001. At 36 weeks and 4 days, we were scheduled for our by then weekly check-in with my Ob/Gyn, Dr. Rinehardt, and an ultrasound with perinatologist (high-risk pregnancy specialist), Dr. Troyer.

Both babies (A & B) at this point had been head down for a couple of weeks. Ultrasound weight estimations betwixt the two had always been fairly close, within a few ounces…until that Tuesday. On this fateful day, all skilled surveyors of the images were guesstimating approximately a one-pound difference between Baby A/Boy Child & Baby B/Girl Child. Whereas I thought, “How sweet! He’s a bulky boy & she’s a delicate flower of a girl,” Dr. Rinehardt was less amused. Although not too serious, a broadening weight discrepancy between twins can indicate a beginning trend toward one twin siphoning off more nutrition than is their fair share. 40 weeks is considered full-term for a single birth, 37 weeks for twins. We were pretty dang close. As a matter of fact, we were told should labor begin on its own after 34 weeks, nothing would be done to stop or slow the process.

Dr. R. said, “It’s time for us to start thinking about inducing these babies soon,” and he left the examining room briefly for a tete-a-tete with Dr. Troyer. [added note: We'd NEVER discussed the possibility of an induction or c-section prior to this appointment.] My husband, Scott, and I, heady with the reality of pending births, were discussing which birth date sounded better, when Dr. Rinehardt returned. Apparently “soon” is a very subjective term; he came in and chirped, “I’m on duty tonight. Go on home, get your bag, and let’s bring those babies!” Holy smokes! We must have staggered out of the medical building and gotten to our car somehow, but I barely remember it. What I do remember vividly is getting home, the two of us grinning like idiots, and making key calls to a few family and friends. As we walked out of the house to head back to the hospital, it hit me. The next time we crossed that threshold; we’d be a family of four.
What an indescribable feeling.

We got to the hospital front desk, carrying all our insurance verifications. Sure I looked ready to pop, but I was smiling. (Note: I wasn’t in labor yet!)

Now we loved our hospital, but our one negative experience came as a result of inefficiency (or lack of caring) by the individual who took our insurance information. My husband was suspicious right off the bat about how accurately our details were input into the hospital’s computer system. His suspicions were justified. Believe me, the last thing you want mid-labor is for your hubby to have to leave your side to “clarify” admittance details. In a nutshell, take every card, letter, verification, you have received from your insurance company to the hospital with you. We did, and we needed to show them repeatedly. Keep them in your “packed bag”, or the glove compartment of the car you plan to take to the hospital. Better yet, make copies and keep a set in both locations. Bad enough if your man has to leave the room when you are in labor, Heaven forbid he need to leave the building!

Back to our story: 10pm. I was naturally 2cm dilated, and almost fully effaced. (Side note: words like “dilated” & “effaced” become so frequently used during your pregnancy that you’ll forget your non-pregnant friends and family may have no idea what they mean. Both refer to the status of your cervix, the membrane holding the babies in. Dilated is how “open” the membrane is; effaced is how “thinned” the membrane has become. For the metrically challenged, a cm is about the width of your fingertip.) Dr. Rinehardt was predicting we’d have our A & B before noon the next day. We were put into a Labor & Delivery Room, where monitors/sensor pads were belly-mounted to track Baby A, Baby B & Mommy– keeping an eye on everyone’s blood pressure & stress levels. An IV shunt was attached to the back of my hand to be ready for any/all drugs to be administered. Except for the epidural (the anesthesia shot that desensitizes abdomen, pelvis and gal parts), that one goes in your lower back, and much later in the game. After a short while, you feel like an octopus. Tubes seem to be coming out of you everywhere. A sensor was even attached through my vagina to the top of Baby A’s head. There is a great pulse point atop babies’ noggins. Even after your babies are born, you can often see their heartbeats through the top of their heads. The grandiose idea of having a “moving labor”, where you can walk around and maybe even shower for comfort seemed pretty darned impossible. Shoot, even shifting slightly in the bed could be cause for readjustments of sensor pads in all their various and sundry locations around my body. The best part? The nurses didn’t mind at all. Shift as you need to. You will want to do anything you can to alleviate discomfort, and if rolling to your side helps, do it.

After all our monitors and machines were attached, Baby A’s water sac was broken, labor-inducing drug, Pitocin, was administered through the shunt, and the contractions began. Pitocin is not a “slow build” kind of drug. The contractions begin rapidly, and magnify in strength quickly. As a first-time woman in labor, the big surprise for me was that my contractions felt like intense menstrual cramps. Of course at that point, it became obvious that I had been experiencing some mild contractions off and on the whole preceding weekend. The searing, knife-cut pains I had imagined, and that I had seen portrayed so vigorously on TV, didn’t exist. However, they do intensify…and come more frequently. After all our Prepared Childbirth classes, I knew it wasn’t advisable to get an epidural prior to a 4cm or so dilation. So I started riding it out.

Keep in mind, with a twin pregnancy, almost every Ob/Gyn will heartily encourage you to have an epidural. Even if both babies are head down when labor begins, after the first baby is born, the second, who all the sudden has some room, can go breech or transverse (side to side). Baby B can also go into distress for whatever reason, and an immediate C-Section may be necessary. My opinion (and it’s only that, an opinion)? For your health, your comfort, and for the safety of the babies, don’t be a hero. Get the epidural. As Vicki Iovine wisely illuminates in The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, no one is there to give out awards when the birthing process is done. You may as well be as comfortable as possible….and she is talking about single births.

Midnight. So there I was, at long last, laboring away, watching the intensity of each contraction form its individual bell curve on the bedside ticker-tape printout. Feeling pretty uncomfortable to put it mildly. I had to stay on one side or the other throughout the bulk of my labor. As we discovered when I nearly passed out in our Non-Stress Test, the weight of the babies and uterus contents was substantial enough to cut off my circulation if I laid on my back. So on my side it was. The only real relief I could experience was my husband pushing his fist with all his force into the small of my back during contractions Bless him, he tried to remember the exact placement between contractions, but the relief spot would move. One of my clearest labor memories is of me grabbing his fist and shifting it, perhaps a wee bit violently, to coincide with the pressure point. The romantic hand massages and eye-to-eye gazes I had imagined seemed ludicrous mid-labor.

1 am or so. Feeling pretty rough. The nurse offers me Stadol. She assures me it is a totally safe drug that will “take the edge off, and feel like I have had a couple of cocktails”. I’m game, and into the hand IV shunt it goes. A couple of cocktails? For me, it was like a bad keg party. Literally, I had bed spins. The edge of labor was off temporarily, but I was miserable. (Don’t use my experience with Stadol as your sole perspective. Most women I know were thrilled with the relief it provided…it just wasn’t good for me.)

1:30 am. The bell curves on the printout kept getting higher and higher, and coming more and more often. Determined not to be a wimpy “Give-Me-The-Drugs-Prior-to-4 cm-Mommy”, I looked at the clock, and was determined to hold off on being measured again until 3:00am. Looking at the clock became fixation on the clock. The “focal point” framed photo of Scott and me in Vegas never made its way out of our bag. The clock had my total attention. Our nurse had departed our room for a delivery in progress, and had other nurses checking in on me. No doubt you have heard it already, but labor and delivery room nurses are amazing, amazing women (and men). One of my “check in nurses” arrived to find me weeping slightly around 2:30 or so. Plus, I was experiencing uncontrollable shivers, the teeth chattering kind…but I wasn’t the least bit cold. (Unbeknownst to me pre-labor, nerves, adrenaline, drastic hormonal fluctuations, all can cause pronounced shivering/chattering. Don’t be alarmed if you vibrate mid-labor like I did. You’re normal.) She went back and told our designated nurse, who had at this point wrapped the delivery she was assisting, and was cleaning up. At 3am, they measured me, and I was 10 cm, ready to deliver! Dr. Rinehardt, rather than whisking us off to the emergency room as we had been told was protocol with twins, said, “We’re going to do this here!” Bless him. In came the double fleets of NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) personnel, isolettes (incubators/baby warming boxes), and delivery paraphernalia. We pushed a few times so I could feel the muscle groups required to do the job. The anesthesiologist was roused from his slumber at no doubt the most dreaded hour of the night to perform the epidural, which he did bleary-eyed, but marvelously. Yes, the needle is daunting. Yes, you have to be immobile, often during a contraction, to receive it. With the pain you will likely be in at the time the epidural is administered, the needle will look like nothing. Plus, you know it holds relief.

Between pushes, I had to roll on my side to ease my aforementioned circulation challenges. So I would push, on my back, to a slow count of 10, and roll over onto my side until the next contraction began. Be forewarned. When you push down in your nether-regions, all the muscle groups down there are next-door neighbors. With my first push, I wee-weed a parabolic stream that my husband still giggles about. Many, if not most, women poo on the table as well. Now is not the time for modesty. Believe me, your doctor and delivery staff have probably seen far worse than you are capable of, so don’t let that worry you.

Scott and I were starting to get a little giddy with excitement, thinking the 8 am status calls we had promised friends and family might actually become birth announcements. No such luck. After a few rounds of pushing, Dr. Rinehardt came back in. [Note: The doctor doesn’t spend all the pushing time with you. He/She will check in during the pushing, and will be there for the entry into the world of your twosome.] Looking at my cervix, he said it seemed to be closing slightly, and there was no reason to make Baby A push through quite yet. Out go the fleets of NICU folk. Into the shunt goes some more Pitocin. Epidural kicked up a notch, and encouragement followed from all to “try and nap”. We rested a bit; Scott claims he actually slept some. I enjoyed watching the contraction bell curves ascend to heretofore unseen heights almost pain free.

Around 9:30am, started getting a bit uncomfortable again. New nurse Ginny on duty measures & checks and we are ready to push again. Dr. Rinehardt agrees.

By 10:00am, we were pushing. And pushing and pushing. My right leg seemed to have collected more than its share of the epidural juice, and was so numb it had to be lifted into the stirrup each pushing session after I rolled onto my back. I was a comical sight.

After many of the pushes, I was offered oxygen. I think it helped. Even if it didn’t help physically, psychologically, the regularity of the roll to back, take deep breath, push to 10-count, exhale deep breath, roll to side, suck on oxygen seemed like a nice rhythm. The rhythm would have to do, since my idea of burning a vanilla scented candle was out of the question with oxygen tanks in the room. Who knew? Thankfully, my husband brought some of our favorite music to play.

By 11:00am, I was back to fixating on that clock. Surely by 11:30am, our boy would be here. Surely by 11:45. Surely by 12:00 noon. Hadn’t Dr. Rinehardt said noon? My stamina was diminishing. Instead of pushing to 10-counts, we began pushing in 2 sets of 8-counts each contraction. Surely by 12:15. I was getting pretty tuckered. All the nurses and Dr. Rinehardt kept bolstering me up with how great each push session was. If so, why wasn’t he here yet? I leaned to Scott, and sought a second opinion. Was our boy’s head even visible? He assured me it definitely was. He saw hair, and it wasn’t mine. Dr. Rinehardt said our boy was wedged in there pretty good, and if all that pushing wasn’t getting him through, he needed to “guide” him out with forceps. No, it wasn’t scary. At this point, he needed to greet the world. Out come these much larger than imagined, but beautifully designed Williams-Sonoma-esque tongs. In our Prepared Childbirth class, we were told that a mirror is positioned to allow the mother a visual of the birth. In multiple births, not necessarily so. At no point were we offered a mirror to watch the births, and I am confident that was a good thing in our case. I do have a hyper-vivid memory of a reflection in the wall-mounted TV screen when the forceps were placed in the birth canal. Scott was a trooper. Hopping between views of the birth and reassurances to me. Pretty quickly it became obvious why the tongs are called “force-ps”, not “guide-rs”. Dr. Rinehardt used Herculean strength, and at 12:34pm, our son was born. Our boy was placed on my chest briefly, Scott cut the cord (which he said felt like celery), and our A-Child was whisked away to be cleaned up & Apgar* tested. (*a test administered to babies at both one minute and five minutes after their birth. The test gauges the baby’s color, respiration, heart rate, muscle tone & reflexes. The one-minute test assesses how the baby fared during the birthing process; the five-minute test determines how the baby is coping with the outside world.) We started to push for our daughter, also known as B-Child. My cervix began to start closing again! Then it happened. I began dry heaving. (You don’t eat or drink anything during labor but ice chips) Dr. Rinehardt said, “Go with that!” Apparently, my push muscles had given out. The miracle of creation provided a secondary set of muscles to get our girl. Dry heaving continued, and by 12:41pm, our daughter was born. Both babies were out, but we still had placentas and all sorts of uterine goo to extract from my gal parts. And of course, my ever-modest cervix really started to close when the babes were both out. My hubby, who wasn’t squeamish at all through the process, looked to see Dr. R almost up to his elbow extracting remnants of the birthing process. That got to him a bit. Another reason I heartily endorse that epidural. After mommy’s uterine cavity was cleared, the babies weighed and Apgar tested, Daddy and I finally had a misty moment. Realizing the magnitude and miracle of the birthing process is overwhelming. You always hear of “death-bed” conversions of faith. You can’t tell me that a “birth-bed” doesn’t inspire you to an even greater degree.

[*Yes, that's my knee...my legs are still in the stirrups!]
[Yes, that's my knee...my legs were still in the stirrups!]

Shortly, the two sweet, clean, swaddled, greasy-eyed babies were brought to us. Absolutely precious. Have your camera ready.

The night after our twins were born, a dear friend of ours took my husband out for a celebratory meal, and to get the real skinny on the birthing experience. His advice to her, “Stop watching ‘A Baby Story’! It’s more like an outtake from ‘Gladiator’.” Whereas I think his assessment was a little gorier than reality, by no means is the experience as pristine & clean as TV mini-documentaries would have you believe. (Writer’s Note: Let me say right now, I enjoy “A Baby Story”. However, don’t think for a second that you will be done and home with your babies in 30 minutes.)

Every labor story is different, single or multiple births. Aspects of my labor experience were picture-perfect. Others, obviously, not so much. Your story will have the same balance of pros and cons. Your labor story will be yours and yours alone. Share it with those who need to hear the positives. Share it with others so they’ll see you made it through the negatives. The end result (and in your case, results) makes it all worthwhile. You will never in your life be more convinced of, and feel an active part in, the miraculous cycle of life.

So you’ve read the unabridged version of a twin labor/delivery and want your partner to have some preparatory insight, but doubt he’ll plow through that lengthy description?

Here’s the condensed, “Breeder’s Digest” version:
We began with an unexpected induction, followed by the tossing away of predicted circumstances and environment, a surprising revelation of what contractions actually felt like, a determined not-to-be wimpy lady in labor, tears, bad drugs, good drugs, an ever-supportive husband, false alarm pushing, cervix closing, fourteen hours of labor (two ardently pushing), clock staring, a numb leg, laughter, oxygen, forceps, a son born, brief meeting, more pushing, dry heaving, a daughter born, brief meeting, cervix determined to close, hard-fought afterbirth retrieval, gynecological embroidery, cleaned/Apgar tested/greasy-eyed babies returned, full family hug and photo, and at last, more tears. Daddy passes two suggested names on a piece of paper to Mommy. Perfect. More laughter. Lives changed forever…in fourteen short hours.

Gastronomy 2.0 : Eating with Twins on the Grow

For that first few weeks — even months — with newborn twins, it felt as though we were forever going to the pediatrician’s office for near-daily weight checks. My second guessing and self-flagellation about my children’s intake began on Day One. Literally, Day One. Check-in nurses would ask, “How much do they take at each feeding?” I had no idea. My breasts might have had a stretchmark or two, but calibrations, they didn’t. Both babies still had their shar-pei unfilled-with-baby-fat loose skin; was I making a bad decision by attempting to breastfeed? What about those recommended first week formula supplements? Were they inferior somehow? The first time I drank juice post-partum, following that nursing both babes screamed for an hour. On more than one occasion I was convinced that my daughter spit up not only her whole “meal,” but the one preceding it as well. In retrospect, all that coupled consumption-focused chaos did serve a purpose. Even with how little I knew and how ill-equipped I felt, my babies survived…and so did I. Word of “learned the hard way” wisdom: If your pediatrician is not alarmed about your twosome’s positions on the infamous percentile “curves,” you should not be either. Now kindergarteners, our he-child is in the 97% for height. Our she-child? Well, at her 6 year appointment she at long last departed the 3% weight curve.

Suppose our experience illustrates pretty effectively, that despite their dual arrival, twins are different children. Identical or fraternal, they’ll grow differently, they’ll eat differently…and trust me, if you don’t mind your P’s and Q’s, you’ll find yourself feeding them differently….or different meals at the very least. As the kids grow, and can — and will — voice their pleasure or lack thereof with a meal presented, try to keep your food-related parental frustration in check. Right along with how and when they sleep, how and when they “output,” what they actually eat is largely in your twins’ control. The good news is, what you offer them, or don’t, is in yours.

Here are some meal-based mantras and mama of multiples discoveries that have made eating with our growing sweeties more palatable:
 

If it ain’t broke…
An affection for a wide variety of vittles is an adult phenomena. Don’t project what you perceive is a menu “rut” onto your twins. If your dual diners are satisfied with a predictable plate that seems to never change — but is fairly balanced nutritionally — learn to love it, not lament it. It will pass.

Make Appetizing via Accessorizing

Oyster forks. Frilly toothpicks. ZooPals plastic flatware. Hinged kiddie chopsticks, or more fun yet, paper-sleeved real ones from a restaurant. If you are apprehensive about introducing a new food item, or if you are seeking to invigorate dining enthusiasm, a little bit of playtime with the process can be very effective. Nurture their nature to your mutual benefit. Serving mini-portions of berries, raisins, nuts, edamame in a variety of Ikea egg cups has worked wonders in our house. Think outside the divided melamine plate; have fun on the high chair trays.

 

  

Pressure Cooker
Admittedly, last Christmas morning, when I opened the present tagged “To: The Family/From: Daddy” and discovered a pressure cooker – a pressure cooker – I was a bit baffled. It’s big. It’s heavy. It doesn’t look like you can wash the lid in the dishwasher (and you can’t). My unspoken question: I know you love us, and try to make things easy for us, but why a pressure cooker? Oh, the wisdom that is twin-daddy. Pasta. Piles and piles of pasta. Cooked expeditiously with a softly moist “whistle” when done. No watching the clock. No setting the oven timer (which happens to be the same timer I use for time-outs, so another surprising added plus). Rotini, spaghetti, macaroni…no matter the shape, no matter the density, perfectly done, everytime. Apparently, you can do veggies in it as well with equally satisfying “non-mush” results. Embarrassingly, I’ve yet to try that yet…the triumph of consistently al dente noodles has yet to lose its novelty.

Parental Example
True Mommy Confessions: this is where I tend to fall short. Yes, I’ve eaten pre-fab frosting from the container and swilled sugar-free RedBull clandestinely in the kitchen while extolling my twins to eat their carrots and bananas. But that said, do make a point to sit down with them not only at mealtimes but at snacks as well, and role-model healthy intake and the manners you’d like them to mimic. Napkins in lap, case in point. Do it with a flourish, and they might just do the same. Don’t bemoan a food item before they’ve even tried it – or even worse, don’t “not offer” a food because you don’t care for it. [Asparagus never passed my lips until I was in college for that very reason. However, I dare not cast too many aspersions; my kids have had a generous portion of some highly unhealthy items that I am overly fond of…it works both ways!]

Ease Access to the Desired Diet
Cookie Monster sings so eloquently (with a musically appropriate undercurrent of the blues), “A cookie is a sometime food.” So conversely, fruits and veggies are for the most part “anytime foods.” By that, for those “I’m hungry” declarations between sanctioned meals and designated snack times, Ho-Ho’s and Twinkies aren’t an option. If they’re genuinely hungry, they will eat the offered options.

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
Meals in monochrome. Faces constructed from foodstuffs. Structures from saltines (for the rotovirus recuperating). You needn’t make every meal a masterpiece, but occasionally, delight your diners with a little bit of creativity. (It’s fun for you, too!)

 

 

  

 

Suffice it to say, this all looks impressive looking at it written…but let me assure you, our “real-life” implementation occasionally – even often — strays from the ideal. And now, at long last, I think I’m okay with that. As my pediatrician (also a twin mama) has reassured me for nearly seven years now, they will not starve. No they won’t.

At a recent church chili and wings cook-off, our twosome demonstrated how when offered the same assortment of foods, they’ll each invariably eat according to their own developing tastes. Darren had two enormous bowls of chili (of different types) and four wings (each from a different “contestant”). Sarah wanted no chili. She did eat two wings (both the same kind, the only kind available that had breading) and five – count ‘em, five — stalks of celery.

Gotta run…off to pack two lunchboxes (with differing items) and get breakfast for two (same meal, but admittedly, some sugared cereal will be involved) on the table for our twins.

Wishing you all a sweet smorgasbord of dining fun with your twins!
  

Product Reviews: TwinSpin-Tunes for Twins [CD]

Expecting twin parents often ask what are the “gotta-gets” for a family with two on the way. Sure, there are the obvious: two car seats, inordinate quantities of diapers, two high chairs, a double stroller, and lots of hands ready to help.

One item that may not be so immediately evident, but one that I recommend heartily—with in-house, experience-earned enthusiasm—is TwinSpin: Tunes for Twins, the CD composed especially with twin-listeners in mind. Produced — and many songs sung — by twin mom Judy Faulkner Krause, the CD comes from a lilting voice of multiple mama perspective.

The TwinSpin tunes are hip, happy, and highly movement-motivating— totally devoid of the grating, sing-songy undercurrents so pervasive in the bulk of kids’ music. Spanning a variety of musical styles and incorporating a broad spectrum of instrumentation, this is a CD my twosome requests repeatedly—and with my blessing. As a matter of fact, I dare any plural parent not to get up and “Double Double Fun Fun” dance with their duo! Equally challenging is trying to hold back a maternal tear or two listening to the only twin-centric lullaby I’ve ever heard, “Sleep Softly”.

Every twin-blessed family should have a copy of TwinSpin: Tunes for Twins
smarter yet, have TWO!

ENJOY!

Potty Pride Before a Fall…

The early days with my twins admittedly are somewhat blurry, but the days of plural potty training? Not as hazy as I might like! Sometime ago, I composed a diatribe (more of a catharsis really!) on our experience training our twins…the upshot of which, in trying to focus on the upbeat, I declared something along the lines of “our twosome have yet to have an out-of-house accident.” Shortly thereafter, I’d need to retract those words. But as it is with all things twin parenting, keeping your humor makes even the “less pleasant” experiences with twins doubly amusing. Here’s the confessional tale — in the interest of integrity, the epilogue to the Lage family potty training story:As we sat savoring our Chic-Fil-A nuggets in the Food Court, a somewhat harried young mom approached us, “Is your daughter still in diapers?”Judging from her thinly-veiled expresssion of panic, I could tell this wasn’t just a curious inquiry from a mother wondering when to start potty-training her child. A quick glance to her stroller-bound daughter revealed the gleeful countenance of a girl who in all likelihood was joyfully, but precariously. wearing no undergarments.

With sincere regret, but not very subtly-tinged pride I responded, “Oh, I am so sorry! They are both potty-trained.” In efforts to offer the limited assistance I could, considering my twins’ joint triumph over diaper-manufacturing magnates, I directed her to the in-mall, soft playground; where surely, a mother of a similarly-sized child could provide the necessary nappy.

I then returned my attentions to my twosome, “Didn’t that make you feel good to know you don’t need diapers anymore?”

“Yes, Mommy, “ chirped my son, providing the the answer he clearly knew was expected.

The waffle fries had my daughter’s total attention. She emitted a half-hearted, “Mmm-hmm.”

That night, as we tucked everyone in and said our prayers, we (mostly me) voiced our thankfulness for all we’ve learned (namely, how to use the potty) and the example we can set for other kids preparing to tread the same path.

3:00am.
“M-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-y!”

Upon entering the lava-lamp lit nursery, I could see Sarah standing in the very corner of her tented crib. Training panties, Tinkerbell nightgown, sheet and fleecy blanket all drenched in a daughter-described (and dramatically minimized), “Little accident.”

Knowing she is the latter stages of the potty-training process, these late-night, deep-sleep accidents are not totally unexpected, or overly corrected.

As I groggily stripped the bed and restocked it with sleep-inducing supplies, I made a mental note to purchase a new vinyl protective cover the next day, as hers had a mattress jeopardizing rip.

Babies-R-Us (the only location in town that stocks vinyl crib mattress covers) continues to be an entertaining destination, despite the fact our twosome can hardly be considered “babies” anymore. Of course the 50-cent Big Bird jet plane ride at the store’s entrance serves as a great motivator for appropriate in-store behavior.

We hadn’t been shopping ten minutes when Darren erupted with an urgent, “POTTY, MOMMY!!!”

Pushing the in-line double stroller pottyward, with the adrenaline-charged speed of an Olympian luge-launcher, I raced
against the biology of boy parts.

I lost.

Stroller seat? Saturated.

Pants? Puddled.

Mom’s patience? Over-taxed.

Wedging the stroller so that it kept the stall door ajar, allowing me arms-length access and sightline to the strapped-in and highly-amused Sarah, off came Darren’s shoes, socks, pants and wringable Thomas the Tank Engine undies.

Wisely, I continue to carry dry clothes for instances such as these.

Woefully, I neglected to pack a plastic bag in which to place any urine-dripping duds.

Into our thermal waterproof lunchbag they went. Delicious.

Twenty-four hours had yet to elapse since my pride-inflated declaration of the diaper’s demise in our twin-blessed household.

Alas, our journey to plural potty prowess continues….

Suppose the moral of this story is, if you see the three of us out
eating Food Court cuisine, please…no personal questions. Just ask
us how to get to the mall playground.

[Here's hoping my now-kindergarteners' pals don't use Google yet...]