Meet a How Do You Do It? author

Jessica

Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples. There was no advice out there for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery. Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk. Today, she is the happiest she's ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day. Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life. She is the one people go to when they want the truth.

Twinfant Tuesday: Asleepyness

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I first wrote this post when my daughters were 9 months old.  Looking back on it today is a trip, especially because we just survived a 2 year sleep regression with Emma.  Jane has been a wonderful sleeper, but has dropped naps completely at day care!  Here’s where we stood 2 years ago.

How do you survive the first year of motherhood?

“Sleep when they sleep,” they said.

“Nap when they nap,”  they said.

But what do you do when they rarely sleep OR nap???

It feels like it’s been WEEKS since I last slept through the night.  Between the girls being sick and their 9 month sleep regression (yes, that’s a real thing!), I don’t remember the last time we got a good night of sleep.  Or a good day of sleep, come to think of it.

Needless to say, we are exhausted.  And running out of steam.  Quickly.

So I went on a search desperately seeking sleep advice.  I visited various websites, made about 473 phone calls to doctors and nurses and grandmas and friends.  I felt like I was on a quest for the Holy Grail.  And I may have found some solace.

I stumbled upon a sleep blog where the author’s words caught my eye and made me really think:

“Sleep deprivation… UGH. There’s a reason it’s commonly used as a form of torture!”

SHE’S SO RIGHT!!!  I’ve definitely been suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation.  I’m normally a pretty logical person.  I have a short fuse and sometimes I can be pretty ditzy, but I would say that I can make sense of things and think on my feet for the most part a majority of the time.

But lately, I’ve been feeling sluggish, extremely short-tempered, angry, and desperate.  I realized a couple of days ago that after 9 months of NO SLEEP, I am beginning to suffer from sleep deprivation.

Here’s what I found out.

1.  Everyone goes through this.

2.  It’s all my fault.

3.  It can be fixed.

Let me explain.

We (people) have sleep associations.  When we go to bed at night, we lay our head down on a pillow and pull the blankets up to our chins.  Throughout the night, we wake several times, even if we don’t remember it.  We readjust the blanket, fluff our pillow, and fall back into Sleepyville with little issue.

Now imagine you’re a baby.  To fall asleep, you need your wooby, a blankie, a pacifier or a bottle, and maybe even a session in a rocking chair.  All of these things are supplied by the adult in charge of you, and have been since you came home, since you can’t figure out how to get your little legs to rock the chair or how to make your hands bring your choopie to your mouth.  So your adult provides you with all of these things to help you get to sleep.  Thank you, adult!

In the middle of the night, you awaken, find that your choopie is gone, or that you can’t fall back asleep.  You look for a bottle, but it’s not there.  You try to find your choopie, but that’s missing, too.  And for the life of you, you cannot make your crib rock!  So you cry out, and hope and pray that your adult will bring you one of the things that you have come to depend upon to fall asleep.

I’m totally guilty of doing this to my poor littles.

Luckily, this is a habit that we can break!  It’s not too late!

After speaking with our pediatric sleep specialist, she confirmed all of the information that I had found on the internet.  It is time to readjust our bedtime routine, and take away those sleep props.

Last night, we ate dinner at 5:00, had some fruit at 5:30, and took a bottle at 6:00.  From 6:00-7:00, I changed the sheets on their beds, put them into their pjs and nighttime diapers, and then read them a bedtime story.  Finally, Hershey and I braced ourselves for a fight.  We knew that putting them down in their crib without that bottle that they fall asleep on every night was going to be a war.

We turned off the lights, kissed them goodnight, and placed them in their respective cribs.

They were both asleep before their little tiny heads hit the beds.

Now, we did NOT have a restful night of sleep.  They woke up several times throughout the night.  BUT the awakenings were over by around 2:30-3:00.  I woke up at 5:00 thinking, What did I miss?!

At 5:55, Jane and Emma woke up for the morning.  They seemed happy and refreshed.  Both went down for a nap at around 9:00.  Jane is sitting next to me right now, just finished her mid-morning bottle.  Emma is still sleeping.

I’ve also discovered a couple of other things.

One size does not fit all.  It seems like Emma sleeps longer in the morning, and needs less of a nap in the afternoon, while Jane needs a longer afternoon nap and sleeps for a shorter time in the morning.

Limiting toys with flashing lights and music before sleepy time really does help them to unwind.  Think about if you went on a rollercoaster and then tried to lay down to go to sleep.  Probably wouldn’t work out too well for you.

If they wake up after 20 minutes, play with them quietly for 10, and they will usually go back to sleep.

During this time, they are going through the biggest brain development phase of their lives.  They are busy in their cribs at night practicing new skills in their heads.  Provide lots of time during the day for them to practice their new skills, and once they master those skills, they will sleep better!

And finally, the piece of information that rocked my world the most — THERE IS NO SCIENCE BEHIND STUFFING THEM TO MAX CAPACITY BEFORE BED.  Just because you give them a bottle and put them to bed doesn’t mean that they will happily sleep through the night with a full belly.  In fact, the opposite may take effect (they may be sensitive to pee-pee diapers, in which case they will waken to a sopping wet diaper, begging to be changed).
I hope that you find this helpful, and that you (and I) find some peace soon!  Remember to be patient with them — I often find myself losing my temper because I, too, am exhausted, and I have to tell myself, “They are going through SO MANY changes in those little bodies, and every change is a change to their routine and need.  BREATHE!”

This, too, shall pass.

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Toddler Thursday: Two Year Check Up + Milestones

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Last week was our 2 year check up.  I am desperately awaiting the once a year days.  We went from every other day when we first brought Jane and Emma home from the hospital 2 years ago, to twice a week, to once a month, to every 3 months, to every 6 months, and here we stand.  Some of the things that we look forward to these days at each check up include:

Weigh-ins.  The girls went from not even being on the growth chart at under 5 lbs each when we brought them home, to quickly gaining weight and staying steady.  At this past visit they weighted in at around 25 lbs., which is in about the 40th percentile for their age.  Tell you what, I’m just happy that they are ON the chart!

girls

Height checks.  Let me start by saying that I am pretty short.  I am only 5’2″, and my 6’3″ husband picks on me constantly for not being able to reach things on the middle shelf.  I am prefacing my daughters’ current measurements this way because they are only in the 10th percentile for their age.  They are peanuts.

Different Developmental Checks.  I had to fill out a very involved developmental survey prior to going to our appointment.  They asked about walking, running, jumping, different reactions in situations, speech, etc.  Turns out that not only are Jane and Emma just fine, but a bit ahead for their age.  They are speaking in simple sentences and following directions (sometimes), and can even “dress” themselves (although the clothes are usually backwards by the time they are finished, IF they haven’t thrown a total s-fit in the process).

janey

Vaccines.  There.  I said it.  The word ‘vaccination’ seems to have become a dirty word in Mommyville, but having our children vaccinated was not even a discussion that Hershey and I had.  We just said “YES” when they asked us in the NICU.  And we’ve followed the recommended schedule closely ever since.  And although we didn’t actually get any vaccines DURING this visit, the girls are scheduled for their 2 year old vaccines next Tuesday and we have to schedule some blood labs for them in the coming summer months.  Never a fun time when Daddy has to hold the unsuspecting ladies down and Mama cries even more than the girls do, but such is life.  They forget about the shots before we walk out the door, and usually only run little TINY fevers a couple of days afterwards, along with the crankiness and weepiness that is typical.

I like to ask every question that I can think of during these visits, knowing that the doctors specifically put aside extra time for wellness check ups.  This time around, I asked about

  1. eating (toddlers are only expected to eat one GOOD meal a day, and if they throw the other 2 meals all over the floor, “it’s ok, and normal”);
  2. milk (switch to lowfat at this stage, as they no longer need the full fat for their brain development and the cholesterol is no good for them);
  3. pacifiers (try to get rid of them, as they are damaging their pallets);
  4. SLEEP (toddlers at this age are expected to get 12 hours of sleep a day, between nighttime sleep AND naps, and getting up at 6:00 every SINGLE morning is “normal” – ACK!!!)
  5. potty training (get a potty seat for the toilet and spend some naked time in the summer, but understand that in America the standard age for potty training is 3 years old, so not to push them or get discouraged if it doesn’t happen now because 2 is considered “early” in our culture); and
  6. dentist visits (yup, it’s time!).

I was happy to hear that Jane and Emma are in the normal range, even a bit ahead, considering they can sing their ABCs from start to finish, count to 14, and are even starting to be able to identify letters.  Another thing that they do now that I think is REALLY cool is that they sit and read by themselves, reciting the words on each page of their favorite books the way I did when I was itty-bitty.  I’m hoping that this means that I have trained little fellow readers, because I am DYING to have someone to talk about books with, as my students are all sick of hearing me talk about how much I love reading!

emma reading

I also had to ask about the CONSTANT fighting, as the girls seem to have some sort of the-first-rule-of-baby-fight-club-is-that-you-don’t-tell-mama-it’s-baby-fight-club-time pact going on.  We were also assured that this is “normal”.  Not so sure about my hair loss due to baby fight club, though.

crash

What are some milestones that your little ones have reached that you are super excited about?  Anything shock you?  Anything worrying you?  I’d love to hear from you!

We are almost done with the school year which means that it’s almost summertiiiiiime, when the living is easyyyyy….

Happy Thursday, friends!

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Postpartum Depression and PTSD: Here I Thought I Was Fine…

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This post has been a long time coming, but I have to admit — I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. I started writing this post one year ago and I find that this is still a difficult subject for me to wrap my head around.

Postpartum Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - one mother's story.
In college, I read a story called The Yellow Wallpaper  by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In the story, a woman is taken to a hideaway by her husband and imprisoned there after the birth of their child. During her stay, she slowly goes insane, hearing voices and seeing faces behind the yellow wallpaper. This story is about much more than a woman and a decorating decision gone awry. This is a story about postpartum depression and the fears and stigma surrounding it, much of which still exist today.

Going into my pregnancy, I feared PPD. I have a family history of mental illnesses, and I have some personal experiences to draw from, as well. I was monitored by the high-risk team that cared for me and Jane and Emma throughout my pregnancy, and they watched me like a hawk when I went into the hospital to deliver. I was given a checklist, visited by social workers, and deemed fit to leave with no threat of severe depression after 4 short days.

What they didn’t tell me then was that PPD can strike at any time in the first postpartum year, and, furthermore, that I was also at HIGH risk for post-traumatic stress disorder due to my premature twins’ six week stay in the NICU, something that I didn’t think about until a friend in a similar position posted about the condition on her Facebook page after we had taken our babes home from the hospital.

In my first year home with Jane and Emma, I felt the effects of these two afflictions full force. My husband brought my attention to some of my actions (my anger, specifically), and subsequently I’ve been forced to take a good hard look in the mirror, and to do some serious research. Here is what I have found and how I relate.

Emma

Postpartum Depression

Something that I didn’t think of was that there were multiple ways that PPD could manifest itself. Symptoms range from depression to anxiety and anger. I experienced mostly the anxiety and anger.

Our society definitely does NOT do enough PPD care before/after the babies are born. Even BabyCenter, a site that I’ve always frequented for all things baby-related, downplays postpartum depression. It seems to file it into this “postpartum care” category, and talks a lot about body image and how to balance your life and your sleep deprivation with caring for a new little one. Why the stigma? Why does postpartum care have only to do with “What workouts can I do now that the baby is here?” or “Feeling good about your postpartum body”?

The fact of the matter is, there is so much more to it. While all of that is good to consider, it’s just as important to look at and be very aware of the ugly side.

As a new mom, I never got to mourn my old life. Everything changed VERY suddenly, and, for me, as a mom of multiples, it changed 8 full weeks before it was SUPPOSED to. Attention switched from me to my babies (and rightfully so, but I wasn’t told that I would be a footnote to my children’s lives, and I was not prepared for that), and I (perhaps somewhat irrationally) felt like no one cared about ME or how I was doing.  There was also no longer a “me-and-Hershey”. We were both NEEDED by our babies, and our need for each other no longer mattered. Those early feelings of no longer mattering and the severe feeling of isolation were what most likely sent me into my initial depression.

I spent a lot of time feeling anxious about EVERYTHING. I broke out in hives from head to toe, and was having heart palpitations. I thought maybe I was just anxious about work (if you have been following this Chris Christie fiasco, and not that I’m a teacher in NJ, you understand), but I really couldn’t pinpoint the anxiety. I’ve always been a little bit high-strung, but never downright ANXIOUS.

On top of that, it seemed like every little thing set me off. If things didn’t go as I envisioned them, I would totally lose my marbles.

And I still, to this day, am always nervous about how people are caring for Jane and Emma. I selfishly feel as though no one will care for them as well or as fully as I do, and (while that may be true since I AM their Mama, after all) being with the girls 24/7 took a MAJOR toll on me that I was not prepared for.  I mean, how does one prepare for these things when they decide to start a family, especially when having multiples was never an idea in one’s mind!?!  I don’t know about you, but I was focused on the perfect bedding and the most beautiful and safest cribs, not how I would cope with my own feelings…

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is a term that many people relate with war veterans.  And while I would never trivialize the plight of our veterans, after having been through having two children stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital for 6 weeks, at the end I felt like I had been through a war.

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.”  Let me tell you something – experiencing having your children in the NICU, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, is both terrifying AND extremely traumatic.

Mayo further goes on to delineate possible symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and “uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”  Check.  Check. Check. Double check.

I remember after I went home from the hospital, without my children who I had carried around inside of my body and worried about for 32 weeks, I used to go into the girls’ nursery and just sit in my glider and cry. I would cry for the absence of my babies.  Cry for the fact that I was home and they were not.  Cry for the unknown.

jane and emma NICU

I would never know what I was walking into when we went to visit the girls.  Once Hershey went back to work, I was making 2-3 trips A DAY to the hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit, most of the time on my own. And you cannot be blind to the other babies and parents in the NICU. I hurt for the other parents who were going through the same thing. I ached for those who were going through worse. I cried for the babies whose parents could not spend as much time visiting them as I did visiting Jane and Emma due to extenuating circumstances. I got to know the other babies. I said hello to them when I got to the hospital if their parents weren’t there, so that they would know that they were not alone.

And the day that I brought Emma home, I bawled leaving the hospital. I was so happy to be bringing home my baby girl, but leaving Jane there for 2 days was excruciating. She was in good hands, and I was grateful to have a couple of days to get settled and get into a routine with ONE baby before having TWO brand new babies at home, but I would have done anything – ANYTHING – to be bringing them both home together.

Once we got the girls home, they were on apnea monitors for about 4 months.  I’ll never forget the terrifying moments when those monitors went off and we would have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to watch carefully to make sure that our babies would start breathing again.

tiny family pic

Imagine standing there, knowing that your child is not breathing or that her heart is not beating, just waiting for her to “self-correct” before having to try a revival technique.  If that’s not traumatic for a new parent, I don’t know what is.

And to this day, I still struggle with PTSD. Every night before I go to bed, I sneak into Jane and Emma’s rooms and wait to hear their little breaths. And if I don’t hear them, I shake them and make them move.  hat sounds ridiculous, but it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I spent so many months fretting over their survival. From the moment I went into labor, all I could think was They’re too little. They’re not ready.

And sometimes, I still feel that way. Every sniffle, every cough, every puke stain sends my mind into a downward spiral, and I am wondering when I will be able to look at the symptoms of their colds and be able to say, “Ok, we’ve seen this before, it’s no big deal.”

Three-fie

Wherever you are at in your postpartum life, you need to know that you are not alone. Those feelings that you are feeling are NORMAL, and we are all with you. And if you are like many MoMs, you may have given birth way before your babes were fully cooked, and you have faced the terrifying world of the NICU. And Those Feelings are also totally normal.  It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to be a little bit selfish once in a while.  What you are going through is a tremendous life-altering experience, but it’s worthwhile, and those babies of yours need you!  Acknowledge the feelings so that you can monitor them.  Be aware of the feelings so that you can put yourself in check when you need to.  Postpartum care is so much more than just being on a “roller coaster of hormones”.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore those feelings that you’re having because the sooner you accept them and address them, the sooner you can get back to being a ROCK STAR Mama.

And if you know someone who is about to have a child (or CHILDREN), or has recently had one, check in with them.  Remember to ask them how THEY are feeling, and if there is anything that you can get FOR THEM.  My husband’s aunt gave me a gift certificate to get my nails done for Christmas this year, and it was the best gift that I could have gotten, because it meant me, a book, and a quiet manicurist making me look beautiful after a year and a half of being puked on and not even being able to blow dry my hair in the morning…and that, to me, is PRICELESS.

How have you dealt with PPD?  PTSD? I would LOVE to hear from you!

This is my personal story and observation.  I am not saying that every person will experience the same aspects of each disorder (I hate calling them that!), but my hope is that this post will enlighten someone, or maybe help someone understand what they are going through.

Jessica is Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples. She didn’t come across any advice for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery.  Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk. Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day. Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life.  She is the one people go to when they want the truth. Jessica writes all about life with a husband and twins at Leading the Double Life.

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Since You Are Spending SO Much More Time at Home…

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…here’s something to do with your time (as if you have free time!).

READ.

Untitled design (1)

I’m biased because I am an avid reader, but I devoured all things baby-related while I was preggers. Here is a collection of my must-reads, from books, to websites, to blogs, to apps.

Jessica shares her favorite parenting books, apps and websitesJenny McCarthy. Period. Here are the books she wrote:

Belly Laughs. A practical guide to pregnancy told with a biting humor that you don’t want to miss.
Baby Laughs. Same as above, with a view on Mommyhood.
Life Laughs. All about Mommyhood and Marriage.

Baby Whisperer. This book is a lifesaver. From talking about breastfeeding to her E.A.S.Y. method, Tracy Hogg offers great insight into the first few weeks with baby. You just have to get past all of the “mum” talk!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I consider this book a STAPLE. Track your baby’s development throughout your pregnancy with this classic book all about your baby bump. Watch the movie, too, while you’re pregnant. It’s a little cutesy, but you’ll definitely find that you can relate!

When You’re Expecting Twins. I took this book out of the library hoping that it would be the twin version of What to Expect (see above). It was better! If you’re expecting multiples, GET THIS BOOK! It comes complete with a postpartum diet and exercise regimen to follow to help you shrink that giant baby bump that you proudly carried your little team of love around in for many months.

How to Rock Your Baby. This book offers a compilation of advice tidbits from experienced mommies, which is my favorite part. There are anecdotes and bullet points, and you will find advice that your mother would give on everything from what to pack in your hospital bag (I write about this here) to how to burp your baby.

Little Baby Garvin. This blog was not only my inspiration, but a lifeline for me while I was pregnant, and still is! Plus she has a great name (Jessica). She blogs about everything from recipes to adorable pictures of her daughter. A MUST READ!

The Bump. If you don’t know what this website is, then go back under your rock! The sister site to TheKnot.com, sign up for a free account and watch as your baby meets milestones, find checklists for everything from your baby registry to how to be nice to yourself during pregnancy, and tips on how to keep the romance in your marriage when all you talk about is baby. You can also create a baby website to share updates with loved ones (here’s ours). There’s also a free app!

Baby Center App (My Pregnancy Today). Use this free app to track your pregnancy day-by-day. I visited this app daily, and the message boards saved my life (and stole my sleep) many, many times!

What to Expect App. The companion app to the amazing book and movie, this app will help you to know what to expect, and to find foods that you can and cannot eat, and track the growth of your baby. Not as personalized as the Baby Center app, but still a good read.

What are some of YOUR favorite parenting/pregnancy books?  I’d love to hear all about them!

Hope this list helps to keep you busy for a while! See you again soon!

Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples.  There was no advice out there for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery.  Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk.  Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day.  Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life.  She is the one people go to when they want the truth.  You can find her at Leading the Double Life.

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