Toddler Thursday: Preparing at home for the NICU stay

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Categories Childcare, Family, Household and Family Management, NICU, Organization, Singletons, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers1 Comment

prepareAfter finding out I was expecting twins my brain started spinning. How would we fit in our current car? What about bedrooms? How would my 38 year old body handle this pregnancy? After I adjusted to the idea many of my initial worries disappeared, but one didn’t. How would our barely two year old Oliver handle things if our babies had a lengthy NICU stay? I had a history of preterm labor and had had all three of my boys at around 37 weeks.  That’s not very early, but I was worried that my body would kick into labor even earlier while carrying two babies. Sure enough right around 28 weeks I started having contractions and my Dr. put me on Procardia. I quickly realized I would need to prepare Oliver for not only the babies, but also for the time that I’d inevitably end up away from him. To complicate things my mother (who is our primary source of childcare) has a chronic illness that makes it difficult to predict how much help she will be able to provide.  In the event that she became ill at the same time the babies were still in the hospital I’d need to have things ready for someone else (who may not be familiar with our routines) to step in.  Eeeeeeek! No pressure, right?

Since Oliver isn’t in school or mother’s day out he spends the majority of his time at home. I knew that I needed to focus most of my energy on creating an environment that would keep him busy and allow him to be as independent as possible. I also wanted to simplify things so that whoever was caring for the boys wouldn’t have as much to clean and keep up with. The first thing I did was purge the playroom and kids’ rooms of any toys they hadn’t played with in awhile, were broken, or sets that were incomplete. I was brutal and got rid of almost half our toys. I was surprised that the kids never mentioned things were missing. After the clean out I sorted the remaining toys and put half away in a closet so they could be switched out periodically. This served three purposes. It made it easier for the big kids to keep things put away, it kept Oliver interested in his toys, and it kept him from being overwhelmed. By limiting his choices he actually started playing with his toys instead of doing what I call the dump and run (where toddlers pour all the toys onto the floor only to walk away without playing) After our playroom was organized I started on our back yard. Once again I got rid of any toy that was broken or in bad shape. I added new sand and toys to our sand box and made sure we had plenty of bubbles and sidewalk chalk. One addition that worked surprisingly well was a plastic easel. We kept it on the patio and would put paper and paints on it as needed. Oliver enjoyed being able to paint whenever he wanted and my mom loved that clean up was so easy. My husband did a safety check and made sure our fence was secure and the play scape didn’t have any loose nails or splinters. My goal was to make our backyard another place where Oliver could play independently and be safe.

I knew having a schedule would make it easier for Oliver during our NICU stay. Thankfully we had already established a routine and flow to our day (It kept my type A personality happy). As we got closer to the babies coming I typed and printed our routine and added it to our household binder (more on the binder later). The further I got in my pregnancy the more tempting it was to let our schedule slide. I was so tired and achy that I reeeeeaaalllly wanted to throw it out and let Oliver sleep late in the mornings and fall asleep wherever he happened to collapse at night. For the most part I tried really hard to stick to our routine knowing that it would make things better for everyone later.  We started practicing what Oliver should do after we ate (put his plate and cup in the sink), where he should put his dirty clothes, where his shoes were kept (the basket by the door), and how to get to the “approved for Oliver” snacks in the pantry. While helping him learn how to be more independent certainly made things easier for whoever was caring for him I was also hoping it would increase his confidence. Going from being the baby of the family to the middle child of five kids was going to be hard. I hoped knowing what to expect and how things worked in our home would help Oliver find his new place.

Knowing I’d be hard to reach in the hospital I decided to make a reference book for our family. I was worried that there would be a question and nobody would be able to get ahold of me. After looking at several examples on pinterest I decided the household binder was the format I liked best.  Our binder is organized by the topics: schedule, food, school, miscellanious phone numbers, and in case of emergency. The schedule area holds our daily schedule and all our routines are written out. This served almost as a script for our day. For example if my dad wasn’t sure what bedtime or bath time looked like for Oliver he could read about them before hand. The food area holds ideas for breakfasts and lunches, take out numbers, and a grocery list for items we typically need every week. The school tab is full of the bigger boys’ school information (schedule, phone numbers, lunch menu, and teachers contact information). Miscellanious phone numbers included the numbers to our plumber, air conditioner repair company, our pediatrician, and various friends who know the kids and could help if needed. I really thought I was going overboard adding this tab, but it turns out my parents needed it! While the babies were in the NICU our air conditioner went out. August in Texas is brutal and thankfully my parents were able to get it fixed quickly. The emergency tab holds copies of our health insurance card and a generic letter giving my paremts permission to seek medical care for the kids. I also included directions to our pediatrician and the closest hospital. While my parents knew most of the information included in the binder I wasn’t sure who else would be caring for Oliver and the bigger boys. Now that we are home and settled the binder serves as a great resource for our baby sitter.

Rhodes and Laurel were born at 34 weeks and spent two and a half weeks in the NICU. Thankfully Oliver and the bigger boys did beautifully while we were gone. My mom did become ill in the middle of our stay but continued to help out as much as she could.

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Toddler Thursday: Who Are You?

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Categories Parenting1 Comment

Who are you??!?

Where did you come from??!?

Any plans to return there and bring back my sweet O?

I kept asking myself these questions while looking at the screaming, crying, hitting, spitting mess on the floor.  The mess that was formerly known as Oliver is now secretly called The Jackal by my husband and I.  He is two and has had a very rough adjustment to our new twins.

Oliver has always been my easiest child.  He has been flexible and sweet from day one.  As a baby he was quick to smile and laugh and one of his first words was hugs.  I can vividly remember him having to take “smile breaks” while nursing.  Because of his easy nature I was really surprised when he fell apart. Once the babies were home he stopped taking naps, wearing underwear, and doing what was asked of him.  He started hitting and biting.  A lot. His sweet singing was replaced by angry screaming and words like “NO”, “STOP”, and “MINE”.

When I really stop to think about this time two emotions stand out: anger and guilt.  Oliver and I danced between them as we learned how to adjust to our new roles.  He felt betrayed by me for bringing these two babies home and he was angry at me for telling him to wait, not jump on me, and stop talking so loudly. His anger drove him to color on the walls, refuse to eat, or (my favorite) take off his poopy diaper at nap time. Then it was my turn to be angry and I reacted by yelling, sighing, and once bursting into tears (after the poop/nap incident). After the anger faded guilt set in. Oliver got very weepy and clingy and my anxiety would ramp up.  It’s a cycle that I could see clearly but didn’t know how to break.

I tried all sorts of things in an effort to ease this adjustment.  I made a special bag of treats that we shared when the babies slept. I set up easy art projects he could do at the coffee table while I nursed.  I also tried to validate his feelings by naming them.  For example If he was having a tantrum I’d say “Wow! You are really, really mad that I wont give you that cookie!” Sometimes it would help diffuse things and sometimes not. It was a frustrating and exhausting experience. I have to say that even when my efforts didn’t “fix” things it did make me feel better to try.

What has helped the most is time.  Time for me to heal from the birth and NICU experience and to get used to being a mother of five (!). Oliver needed to get used to sharing me with two more siblings and to grow up a little bit. The twins are now 12 weeks old and my sweet Oliver is back.  He’s finally sleeping at night and napping again.  I’ve seen him rub the babies heads when they nurse and had him come to get me when they start to cry. I’m thankful that the ease and peace we had with one another has returned.

I wish I had better advice for toddler moms bringing home multiples. I never did find the perfect way to keep Oliver from feeling displaced.  The only things I can tell you to do is breathe, laugh, and wait. Keep breathing when you want to scream and cry. Find the humor in the crazy and keep moving while the days pass.  I promise that your home will find it’s balance again and your little person will return to you.

Did anyone else’s toddler have a rough adjustment? What strategies did you use to make this time easier for everyone?



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Weighty Matters

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Categories Attitude, Emotion, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Pregnancy6 Comments

I’ve struggled with body image since I was a teen. I remember spending lots of time comparing myself to my peers and usually deciding that my face was ok, but my thighs were not. I thought about everything I ate and everything my friends ate. I was constantly negotiating “If I eat this cupcake then I won’t dinner eat later”, “If I eat these fries I’ll walk for an hour after work”. My attitude didn’t stop me from indulging in Cinnabon at the mall, but it did lead to intense feelings of guilt. Food still results in guilt today.

As I got older I learned how to dress for my pear shaped figure and learned what exercises would help my trouble spots, but my attitude about food and my body never changed. My miscarriages only added to my messed up attitude. Not only could my body not morph into the waif dancers frame I desired but it couldn’t grow a baby either. What good was it anyway?

I finally got pregnant and had a son. Then two more. Every time I got pregnant I’d promise myself I was going to walk everyday and only eat healthy foods. I was finally going to hear “You’re all belly” or “From behind you don’t even look pregnant”. Then morning sickness would hit and my Dr would encourage me to eat what ever I could keep down. Usually this was Yohoo and Cheetos. This approach would be fine if it stopped after the first trimester, but it never did. I just kept eating whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. I gained over 60 pounds with all three of my boys. I lost it after W just because I was younger and active. I lost it after G because I had a raging case of PPD and couldn’t eat. I didn’t lose it after O (even after weight watchers) and I started this pregnancy 20 pounds heavier.

Now I’m 20 weeks pregnant with twins and last time I weighed I tipped the scale at over 200 pounds. I’ve read Dr. Luke’s book and I KNOW I’m supposed to be gaining large amounts of weight, but seeing that number freaked me the F*&^ out. I’m seriously losing it, friends. It probably doesn’t help that most times when I see people I know I get raised eyebrows and the “you’re getting so big” or “Wow, I can’t imagine what you’ll look like at the end”. Thanks people. Now excuse me as I drown myself in this milkshake. That said, I also have amazing friends who say things like “The bigger the belly the bigger the babies” or “You don’t look that much bigger than last week” or my favorite “You are always gorgeous pregnant”. The sad thing is I don’t really hear these compliments. They don’t circle around me as I’m frantically trying to find something to wear. They don’t ring through my head as I’m trying to figure out if I should untag a very unflattering picture of myself on Facebook. I’m trying to shake off this body/weight funk but It’s hard.

I have 2 sweet babies that are depending on me to EAT, but the bigger I get the bigger my food guilt grows. I’m back to judging everything I put in my mouth and am usually beating myself up about it at the end of the day. I’m still getting the number of calories I need and the babies are still measuring about a week ahead. Both of those are good things and in my heart I know I’ll make it thru this pregnancy and gain the appropriate amount of weight. I’ll most likely struggle the entire time, but I won’t deprive my babies. What I’m worried about is after they get here. I don’t want my early days with the twins to be overshadowed by constant self judging. I don’t want to hear the self hate that usually comes with the flabby post baby belly. I don’t want to over think everything I eat and waste time reading about stomach binders and how much a tummy tuck costs.

What I do want is to take pride in the babies I grew. I want to spend time gazing at my newest loves and not the scale. I want to say and believe that the baby weight doesn’t matter. I want to take tons of pictures of myself with all my kids and not delete them after I see them. I want to be able to dress in front of my husband and not feel embarrassed. Sigh…

Other than therapy, how do I get there? What’s your body image like post children? Did anyone else have food issues during their pregnancy?

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Am I Being Responsible?

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Categories Ask the Readers, Birth Stories, Medical, Pregnancy25 Comments

I keep assuming that my experiences this pregnancy will be similar to the ones I had in my singleton pregnancies. I have been wrong over and over again. My first Ob appointment was no exception… totally different.

My Dr. started my first visit by saying ” I know since you’ve done this three times you feel like you’re an expert, but you’ve never been pregnant with twins”. He then went through a whole list of ways this pregnancy would be different: 2 gestational diabetes tests, more weight gain, more caloric demands, no more running, more appointments, more ultrasounds. None of those phased me. Then he hit me with “Now you know you’ll have to labor and deliver in the OR and you’ll have to have an epidural.”


He then went on to explain that he understood how I felt about having natural births, but I needed to get comfortable with a very different experience “For the safety of the babies”. When I asked if I could try laboring without an epidural he said that it was my choice but “he’d just put me under when it was time for my C-section”

I literally didn’t know how to respond. So I didn’t.

With each of my births I have used less and less intervention. W’s  had the works: pitocin, epidural, the Dr. broke my water, and constant monitoring. G’s had a little less. O’s was intervention free: My water broke at home, no pain meds, no IV, and intermittent monitoring. I am proud of and happy with all of my births. They each resulted in a healthy baby. One of my friends asked me recently why I prefer natural birth. I explained to her that she competed in triathlons and I had babies. I love the challenge of getting through the pain and watching what my body can do. I am seriously weird in that I look forward to labor.

When I found out I was pregnant this time my husband and I decided that we’d like to use a midwife and deliver at a free standing birth center. He’s an ob/gyn so this decision didn’t come easily for us. We talked and talked and read and read. We felt confident in our decision. Then we found out it was twins and our plans changed.  We agreed that we both felt safer having the babies at a hospital. We felt better knowing that if something did happen we’d have experts on hand to help and  we wouldn’t have to waste time getting to a hospital.

So here’s my dilemma: How much intervention is needed in order to be responsible?  I had already happily come to terms with delivering in a hospital.  I’d also decided that I could deal with having  to labor and deliver in the O.R., but is having an epidural really necessary? Also, why is my Dr assuming I’ll have to have a C section?  And telling me he’ll “just put me under”? is he being flippant?

All I want is the CHANCE to have these babies vaginally without an epidural.  Is that being irresponsible?

I’ve had one more visit with Dr. Doom (my new name for him) since the awful first one.  I didn’t have the nerve to bring up our discussion.  I didn’t ask any questions and realized I was smiling and shaking my head a lot.  If you asked him I’m sure he’d say the visit went fine.  I left the appointment feeling like I either need to find a new Dr. or  have a very open conversation with him. Neither of those options sound particularly fun.

Per my usual I have launched into research mode. I’ve questioned other twin moms about their experiences, I’ve read all I can find on birthing multiples, and I have talked with my husband and a midwife friend about their approaches to delivering twins.  I’ve learned a lot and in the end I think I’ve realized that I still need to know more. So much of this decision to birth vaginally or by C section and with what interventions is dependent on my babies.

Right now my plan is to become comfortable with not knowing how I will give birth to these babies. This is very hard for my type A uber organized self.  I still want the chance to deliver naturally, but I won’t dig my heels in and refuse other options. I think being open is the only responsible choice.

Talk to me about your birth experiences. Anyone deliver their babies naturally? How much intervention did you find was truly necessary? Would you change anything about your birth?


Elizabeth lives in Central Texas with her husband and 3 sons.  She is 13 weeks pregnant with twins. 


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The Top 10 Worst Reactions To My “It’s Twins” Announcement

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Categories Lists, Other people, PregnancyTags , , , , , , 12 Comments

I am 11 weeks pregnant with twins. This isn’t my first pregnancy. In fact, these will be my fourth and fifth babies. Since I’d announced three other pregnancies I foolishly thought this time wouldn’t be any different.

I had no idea that upon hearing “It’s twins” any filter or manners a person may have immediately go out the window. Here are the 10 worst reactions I’ve experienced:

  1. “Better you than me.”

    Why? Do you know something I don’t know?

  2. “I’m sure you’re stoked but I’d die!”

    This was said to me by a nurse practitioner at my pediatrician’s office. Shouldn’t she be easing my nerves? Shouldn’t she have wonderful advice and maybe other twins moms I could talk to? Shouldn’t she stop using the word stoked?

  3. “You’re going to need a new house”

    “You’re going to need a new car”

    Thank you for your concern but do you think that you’re sharing new information? I can assure you that the financial needs of 5 kids were some of my very first thoughts and fears.

  4. “Was this planned?”

    ummmmm… yes? I have always been an overachiever.

  5. “You’re going to HAVE to pump… give formula… get them on the same schedule… hire help.”

    I assume you’re basing this on your vast experience with twins.

  6. “My friend was pregnant with twins but she lost one at ___ weeks”

    Thanks. Like I wasn’t already worried about miscarriage or vanishing twin syndrome.

  7. “Welp, guess we won’t be seeing you next year!”

    Said a teacher at my son’s school. As she’s perusing the buffet I organized for a Valentines treat. No soup for you!

  8. “Maybe NOW you’ll get your girl”

    Because my 3 boys are so terrible?

  9. “Oh! Your poor poor boys”

    Siblings suck. So do big families. WTH?

  10. “You’re going to be HUGE!!!!”

    I know this is true, but I really don’t want to hear about it. Especially from someone wearing a size 0.

Not everyone’s reactions were awful. There are many sweet ones that stay with me when I’m feeling nervous about having 2 babies. The next time someone tells you they are expecting multiples please hug them, tell them they are the perfect mom for their babies, and remind them you’ll be there the whole time.

Elizabeth is expecting twins and is the mom to three amazing boys. She lives in central Texas.

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