How I Get My Me Time

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When I first thought about writing this post, I was steeped in that all too familiar Mama guilt. I know you know what I’m talking about. This particular day, the guilt caught me off guard as I noticed my son, nearly three years old, singing to himself.

“Let it go,” he sang.

My heart sank a little. I know I am not the only one on the planet who doesn’t love the movie Frozen. (Mayim Bialik has a good piece on her issues with it.) But I was genuinely surprised to hear him singing this, because I’ve never shown my twins the movie. I’ve never even seen it myself, but have had enough exposure to know that song when I hear it.

To be clear, my problem is not with the movie itself, or with any movie, really. It’s the fact that I am slowly losing “control” over my twins and their experience of the world. They are growing up, and I have started to reclaim the elusive ‘me time.’

To get this me time, I have had to make some compromises. I joined a gym with childcare. Most of the time, the TV is on (hence the Frozen homage). I wrestled with this–we are a very limited screen time family. But I knew this was the only way I would be able to do something for myself. Heck, I would even take grocery shopping by myself, but the gym has the childcare and so that’s how I take my me time.

Crying Yoga
Somehow, exercise at home is just not as fun…

I started off with kickboxing and Zumba. Over the summer, my husband was traveling in and out of state for work, I transitioned the twins from cribs to toddler beds, and they abruptly dropped nap time. Kickboxing was a blessing during this time!

Out of curiosity, I dropped in on a yoga class one day. I didn’t expect much from it–I’d tried yoga at other times in my life and had never really ‘gotten’ it. But this time was different. This time, yoga was for me. Little by little, I left the kickboxing and booty-shaking behind and started a daily yoga practice. I have seen so many positive changes in my body and in my outlook on life (although, this may be partly contributed to the fact that my kids have started napping again!)

I can’t imagine now what my life would be like without this little treat for myself. Looking back on it now, I can see how much the positives outweigh the negatives of leaving my children in the gym daycare for a mere hour a day. I feel restored and the ‘attitude of gratitude’ cultivated through regular yoga practice helps me be a better mom and person. I guess you could say I have taken a page from the book of my omnipresent animated friends; I “let it go.”

MJ Yoga Collage


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What Do You Prioritize During Infancy?

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I thought I could do it all.

Even though so many books, articles and blogs for new parents told me to prioritize, I really thought that didn’t apply to me. For one, I have never cared about having a spotless home—something that has been an issue for my husband! For me, “doing it all” didn’t mean having a clean home, clean laundry, and dinner ready for the husband, all on top of having healthy and happy kids. That’s not what I strived for.

In my mind, I was already prioritizing.

I wanted to breastfeed my twins, play with them, bond with them, tend to their elimination needs. Yes, we tried Elimination Communication for several months. Of course, I wanted to eat every now and then. Before having babies (and again now that they are toddlers), I enjoyed cooking, but gourmet meals were beyond my grasp for the first year. And certainly, I wanted to sleep. But attachment parenting—breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping—were higher on my priority list.

And I thought I could do it all. I even blogged about it for a while.

But now that my twins are nearly three, I realize how close I was to crashing and burning. In reality, it was more like I was flying a plane with a severe, smoking malfunction that led to an abrupt landing with screeching, slow-burning wheels.

My question to my new parent self is: What took me so long to see that?

Would it have been such a blow to my pride if I had hired a babysitter once a week while I took a nap or even just a shower?

Yes, we call the first couple of years with multiples “survival mode”. If you are in the thick of it right now, you know it is aptly named. But now when I think of surviving, I think of getting through some difficult challenges. I don’t think it means you get out of it barely alive.

If I could do it over again, I would ask for help. I would prioritize… by putting myself up a little higher on the list.

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Toddler Thursday: Crazy Little Thing Called Sleep

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Categories Parenting, Perspective, Sleep, Toddler Thursday4 Comments

You know that boozy college friend(s) that everyone has? The one that always starts their story with “We were so drunk…”?

I am that friend. But, since I’m a mom, my stories start like, “I was so tired…” and, since I’m a mom of twins, my stories actually go more like, “I hadn’t slept in thirteen days…”

It sounds like an exaggeration, but I can assure you it’s not. Exactly. I can joke about it, but I truly realized how much of my motherhood has been colored by sleep deprivation when my brother-in-law, who is expecting his first child, came to visit. Always the baby-crazy one, I was happy to share whatever memories he was interested in hearing, and I noticed that I prefaced each story with a disclaimer: “at that point, I was so sleep deprived…”

To give you some context: my twins did not sleep through the night until they were just over two years old. They are now two and a half, and I can hardly believe the sleep trials we went through. I first realized how bad it was when I read an article about REM sleep, and how you normally don’t start dreaming until you’ve been asleep for about 70-90 minutes. I’d had the most intense dreams during my naps of 20-30 minutes, because my body would just crash. (For more on the interesting link between sleep-deprivation and vivid dreams, read this article).

For those of you who are still fighting the good fight, know that you are not alone! (But don’t expect me to go back there just to keep you company, because that’s just not gonna happen.) I remember hearing people casually mention that their precious angels slept through the night at six weeks AS IF THAT WAS PERFECTLY NORMAL, and I remember feeling very strongly that we could not be friends.

I refused to believe that such a thing as “STTN” actually existed. I grew resentful because I felt like I had paid my dues–I breastfed on demand, I tried to honor each twin’s individual timing, and I didn’t have unreasonable expectations for sleep (as did the moms of obviously fictitious sleep-through-the-nighters).

But two years?!?

Finally, it happened. It wasn’t an overnight miracle, but a slow process–for the twins, it was sleeping, but for me, it was actually about awakening.

Now that I can reliably get 6 or more hours of sleep each night, I feel like I am actually living again. I feel like life now should have the hashtag #nofilter, as opposed to all those #nosleep memories during infancy. The best thing, for me, about toddlerhood is–unequivocally and necessarily–sleep.

Once I read another twin mom describe the first couple of years as being ‘underwater’ and I do like that metaphor. Not that having your head above water is easy! With two and a half year olds, it now feels like I am treading water. All day long. And I don’t know about you, but treading water makes me tired–very tired!

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Toddler Thursday: Breastfeeding with Teeth

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When I set out with the intention of breastfeeding my twins, I didn’t take their teeth into account. It didn’t even cross my mind, really, even though I knew that my own mother had given up breastfeeding my younger sister after several months of teething and biting.

I’d read Mayim Bialik’s Beyond the Sling, in which she describes exclusively breastfeeding her sons—as in, nothing but breastmilk for one year—and they’d already sprouted several teeth by the time they had their first ‘real food,’ bypassing purées entirely. And as a fledgling attachment parent, I learned that nursing itself was the panacea for any sort of discomfort, physical or otherwise.

What this didn’t address, however, was discomfort for the mother, specifically biting issues.

A friend of mine with a baby similar in age began to have biting issues related to teething when her daughter was only a few months old. She went ‘septic’ and was put on antibiotics. Scary, but amazingly, she went on to breastfeed for over a year.

I had my own share of breastfeeding difficulties, and in the early days, I used a nipple shield to alleviate some of the pain from constant nursing. But thankfully, teething itself was not really a problem for us. My twins didn’t get their first teeth until they were about a year old.

But after their first birthday, we experienced several other challenges. First, I got mastitis. Then, we went on a short vacation and I got food poisoning–not pleasant to be in a tiny hotel room with three other people, two of whom are literally wanting to suck the waning life force out of you. Lastly, my daughter did start biting me.

Mercedes, who successfully breastfed her twins to age 2, talks about how she addressed biting after her babies developed their teeth. Breastfeeding with teeth can work!

The good part about nursing toddlers with teeth who bite you is that I believe it is easier to remedy than just teething pain. There is usually an underlying reason for the bites. I had to cut nursing sessions shorter, and by this time I also reduced the number of feeds a day, which helped with biting out of boredom. Up to that point, I had used breastfeeding as the cure-all I’d come to know—now we were following more of a mother-led schedule. I also had to focus my attention more on my nursling to anticipate the bites.

I breastfed my twins until they were just over two years old, with plenty of teeth between them. I know everyone’s journey will be different but I’m glad ours turned out the way it did.

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Happiest Baby on the Block – A Book Review

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Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Parenting3 Comments

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The Happiest Baby on the Block was one of the first books I bought when I found out I was expecting, although at that time I hadn’t discovered I was carrying twins.

The main premise of the book that Dr. Karp really hammers home is that baby humans are not quite ready to be born yet, and that we must recreate a womb-like environment for them during “the fourth trimester,” or the first three months post=partum.

The Five S’s

How do we simulate a womb, you ask? Dr. Karp proposes the 5 S’s: Swaddling, Side or Stomach position, Shushing, Swinging and Sucking. These strategies can work alone or layered in various combinations to soothe your fussy baby, and he explains how to do so safely.

Great for First Time Parents

The book is a great tool for new parents, especially for those who have not been around babies. It is very simple information. He explains the basic needs of an infant, and the reasons that the very act of existing in the real world can be enough to make little one cry. He also addresses colic, and interestingly compares different cultures, their attitudes and behaviors towards newborns and their rates of having colicky, fussy babies.

Short on time? Watch the DVD

The only downside is that the book gets a little redundant towards the end. Since I am a book junkie, I enjoyed reading the book, but if you are short on time I would recommend watching the DVD. You’ll see Dr. Karp handle various babies, wrapped up like baguettes, all of whom stop crying as if he’d flipped a switch. The DVD doesn’t convey as much background information on the “why” of the techniques, but it is effective at showing them in action.

What Worked for Us

1) Infants have a strong need to suck, whether that is from the breast or a pacifier. I had been anti-pacifier until reading this, and even had my doubts after the twins were born because I didn’t want to foster any nipple confusion. I waited about a week before giving my exclusively breastfed babies a pacifier, it did help and I didn’t have to feel guilty about it.

2) White noise is a winner. During our oh so brief periods of sleep at night, we had a white noise machine. It had an automatic timer and the longest interval it had was 45 minutes. That didn’t work! Once we got a decent, loud, unlimited white noise machine, the sleeping periods were a little longer. That was great.

It’s important to remember to take it with a grain of salt, of course. My twins certainly didn’t have off switches, not matter how much I rocked them or breastfed them. But for minor offenses, it was good to have these tools handy. There is no magic, really! But it is important to be aware of things that can help you, even if it is just slightly lessening your load.

Mercedes is the still sleep-deprived mother of 16 month old boy/girl twins. She is the author of Twin Manibreasto and blogs at Project Procrastinot.

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Beyond the Sling – A Book Review (Attachment Parenting)

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I remember seeing Mayim Bialik a few years ago on What Not to Wear.

She had this bohemian-bag-lady look going on, and she reminded me of some of the women in my family: quirky and intelligent. I learned that she has a PhD in neuroscience. Then, several years later she showed up in the Big Bang Theory as Amy Farrah Fowler! She’s my favorite character.

(And, did you see the Valentine’s Day episode? Squee!)

Beyond the Sling So, I’m a big fan of hers.

I was in my first trimester of my twin pregnancy when her book, Beyond the Sling, came out. I mainly bought it out of curiosity.

I really liked her no-nonsense approach, and the way she rejects the gimmicks and consumerism of parenting (as our culture would have you believe).

Essentials

According to Mayim, these are the true baby essentials

  • a smooth birth (drug-free, vaginal when possible)
  • milk (breastfeeding is natural, bottle feeding should mimic breastfeeding as much as possible)
  • to be held (baby wearing is a biggie)
  • nighttime parenting (no “crying it out” or sleep-training;  co-sleeping or bed-sharing is appropriate)
  • potty (also known as Elimination Communication)

And here is what baby DOESN’T need

  • all that stuff (can I get an amen from MoMs everywhere?)
  • unnecessary medical intervention (holistic remedies)
  • pressure (“teaching” before baby is ready)
  • punishment (positive parenting vs. traditional discipline)

(There’s also a section on what mommy does need, but that part wasn’t as interesting.)

Attachment Parenting

If you couldn’t tell by her idea of what baby does and doesn’t need, Mayim is an advocate of attachment parenting. I really didn’t know much about it before reading the book, and I definitely think it’s a good “primer” in the logic of attachment parenting.

What I appreciated most about the book was the simplicity of her statements, backed up by science. But she writes in “plain English,” so it is easy to understand.

Diaper-Free Baby??

I particularly found the section on Elimination Communication intriguing, if not a little wacky. (At the time, I didn’t yet know I was carrying twins. I seriously contemplated EC, then discarded the idea at the thought of two diaperless newborns, then reconsidered and had an interesting couple of months!)

Positive doesn’t Equal Permissive

I also liked her section on punishment or rather, not punishing. She plainly explains why conventional discipline strategies like time-outs or threats are not effective, or why they work “for the wrong reasons.” She gives lots of examples of things to do instead and stories from her own children.

I enjoyed reading how the ideology played out for her family. There are many things that wouldn’t work for my own family, or that would be more challenging with multiples, but it was still neat to read about.

Give Yourself Some Credit

As with any book, this is not the answer to all your questions, nor is it a “quick fix,” and Mayim is the first person to tell you. I love that one of her first messages is that “you already know the majority of what you need to know to be an incredible parent.” What first-time mom doesn’t need to hear that? Now, as a parent of multiples, we generally need a little more logistical guidance, but when it comes to the meaty heart of parenting (or maybe its tofu heart, since Mayim is vegan), we should trust ourselves to make good decisions for our families.

For me, this book was an eye-opener and was kind of a “gateway book” into the world of attachment parenting. I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind who enjoys reading pieces that are straight-forward and scientifically backed.

Mercedes is a toddler-wearing, breastfeeding MoM to boy/girl twins living in Scotland. She is the author of an ebook, Twin Manibreasto, and blogs at Project Procrastinot

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Ask the Moms: How to Tandem Nurse

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 has written about how to successfully tandem nurse before, but it’s been a few years. In this post, we share the current HDYDI Moms’ experience with tandem breastfeeding. We hope that this can give you some ideas and insight if you are embarking on the adventure of breastfeeding twins!

Skip to: Tandem Nursing Experiences | Pumping and Nursing Experiences | What Helped | What Hindered | Equipment | Support Personnel | Positions | Tandem Nursing in Public | Prematurity | Twin Nursing Ebook

nurseCanva

What is your experience with tandem nursing? How long did you nurse, and why did you stop?

Janna: I successfully tandem nursed my twin boys starting at 3 weeks old. The lactation consultant told me that we were not ready for tandem nursing. Lucky for us, my mom was at the appointment with me and she thought the advice was crazy. My help was going home when the babies were four weeks old, so she defied the woman’s authority and suggested we just try tandem nursing as soon as I got home from that appointment. It was completely successful and with our set up, actually easier than nursing one at a time. From that point on, I nursed the boys at the same time every time.

RebeccaD: I tandem nursed in the hospital (healthy 38 weekers) but hit a glitch when I was re-hospitalized later in the week with a uterine lining infection. One baby stopped latching altogether. I spent a day in bed with him re-learning how to breastfeed. We were back to tandem feeding by about 10 days old. No lactation consultant was as valuable as my mom and mother-in-law constantly cheering me on, telling me I could do it, and supporting me as I figured out how. Their faith in me helped me trust my own instincts. I tandem-fed for most feedings until the boys were 9 months old; by then they were so efficient and so big and wiggly that back-to-back feedings were easier.

Mercedes: As a pregnant twin-mama-to-be, I envisioned myself breastfeeding with the support of a styrofoam-filled “Breast Friend” as I cradled the heads of my peaceful babes while they suckled and intermittently sought out each others hands. It didn’t work out that way. Uncomfortable and pretty much hating life, I soon decided that individually nursing my twins was much more reasonable, although it did take up all of my time. It was my number one (and two) priority, so I made it work. As the twins got older, tandem feeds actually became easier since they required less effort and orchestration on my part. Now that my nurslings are 15 months, it’s pretty much the only way we do it (unless it’s a nighttime feed), because the nursing jealousy is pretty rampant.

Sadia: I tried for 5 months, but was never able to use tandem feeding as my primary mode of breastfeeding. I really wanted to make it work, because I found myself breastfeeding 12+ hours a day while on maternity leave. I needed another adult (my husband) present to hold the first baby while I latched the second on and held her. With both my babies coming home at under 5 lbs and a month before their due date, they didn’t have the neck control to nurse without one adult hand supporting their body and another their head. No number of pillows seemed to raise them up high enough to not need manual support from a parent. When my husband deployed to Iraq, the babies were 5 months kid and there went my extra hands. Also, J went on nursing strike shortly after Daddy deployed, so I had to switch her to expressed breast milk (EBM) from a bottle. I didn’t even try tandem nursing for nighttime feeds; I didn’t trust myself not to doze off, especially since I was working full-time.

Dory: Whenever I have a second set of adult hands (my husband, my mom, or my mother-in-law), I like to tandem nurse. It is so much easier to get them both done at once (no leaking of the other breast or a crying, hungry, waiting baby) and faster (sometimes as quick as 30 minutes, as opposed to at least 1 hour if one-on-one feeding). Because my babies are 2 months old, I can’t speak to stopping tandem nursing, but I imagine that once they get really wiggly (and big), I won’t be able to keep it up anymore.

RachelG: I tandem-nursed until around 8 or 9 months, when my supply wasn’t really enough to satisfy either twin for long. I dealt with supply issues from the very beginning, despite help from lactation consultants, so we tandem-nursed, then supplemented with bottles of formula.

ldskatelyn: I tried tandem nursing in the beginning. I found it was a great thing to do during those nighttime feedings so that I could get back to sleep sooner (aka, get sleep), but I always needed help getting them set up to nurse, which meant waking up my husband. After realizing that my husband was a blessedly sound sleeper and didn’t handle lack of sleep as gracefully as I did (and who also had to work a full time job), I decided I would stick with feeding them one at a time so that I could do let at least one of us get sleep. I also came to love that one-on-one time with each of my girls, where I could just focus on one of them, even if it meant listening to the other cry for 10 minutes.

Tandem nursing dog pile.
Tandem nursing dog pile, featuring Mercedes and her duo.

What were your experiences with pumping and nursing?

Sadia: I tandem nursed one baby on one breast while pumping on the other pretty consistently. This worked great for me because tucking the flange into my bra left me two hands for the nursing baby and pumping gave me EBM for daycare feelings. I returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old (4 weeks adjusted) and my output fell precipitously. Once J went on nursing strike, “tandem” nursing with the pump and M was my primary means of getting J her breast milk. I could pump so much more with a baby plus the pump than with the pump alone. I tried many, many pumps, and the Medela Pump-in-Style (with extra-wide flanges) was the best fit for me, but babies just fit me better.

Janna: After our morning tandem feed, I would put the boys in bouncy chairs and tell them stories while I used the double breast pump for about ten minutes. I occasionally pumped again after another feeding session if the boys were otherwise occupied and we knew we needed milk for an outing coming up, but mostly I just fed them at the same time in the brown recliner chair every two hours when they were hungry.

RebeccaD: I pumped when I was in the hospital without my boys (when they were 5-8 days old), and when I felt overly full for about the first month. I demand-fed, so there was no predictable schedule, which made direct breastfeeding much easier. What if I had just pumped and then they wanted to eat? It made more sense for me to cut out the middle man. I worried constantly about not having a big freezer stash, and having to be the one to do every single feeding was very taxing. But ultimately, direct feeding worked best for me and my little ones.

Mercedes: I used the pump only very occasionally in the first several months. Sometimes what I would do is start with the pump on both breasts and then get the babies latched on.

Dory: When I was in the hospital with Audrey and David, I needed to get my milk flowing, so I would pump for 5 minutes before nursing. I would then nurse them until they were finished. Then I would try to pump some more and give it to them in a syringe. Once we got home (4 days old), I would continue this pattern, but I wouldn’t let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes. If they nursed any longer, they would use more energy than they would get in calories. I would then supplement afterwards with whatever I had pumped beforehand. Once they passed their birth weight (after their 2 week checkup), I stopped pumping and supplementing. Now, I simply pump whenever I feel like they haven’t emptied me out completely. I have to say that, at 2 months old, they do a pretty good job, and we have our nursing sessions down to 10 minutes latched on! I really only pump every other day in order to build up a supply for when I go away during feedings.

RachelG: I never pumped while nursing. Both babies always ate at the same time, and for much of my nursing life, my pump was set up in a different room from the one I usually nursed in.

ldskatelyn: I never even thought about pumping on one breast while nursing on the other, mostly because my children were always fed back to back. I usually only pumped at night, right before I went to bed, since they were sleeping through the night (12 hours) and I would be engorged and sore by the morning if I didn’t. It also gave me breast milk to supplement their feedings with if they needed it, or to mix with their baby cereal.

What helped the most with tandem success?

Sadia: My husband’s support was key. Knowing that other MoMs, including a triplet mom in the family and a twin mom from my MoM club had done it before me was very inspiring. My husband had observed his triplet cousins breastfeeding when he was a pre-teen and had a surprising amount of breastfeeding experience to offer. I’m so glad that I researched a ton about breastfeeding multiples before giving birth. I was shocked to discover how many people around me just assumed that it couldn’t be done, particularly since I had a career outside the home. Fortunately, my boss was also a breastfeeding mother; her support made it easy to adjust my work environment to allow for pumping time and space.

twnnurs4Janna: My recliner/boppy set up next to an end table made nursing both boys at the same time so easy. I would sit down in the recliner and position the boppy around my stomach with the ends of the boppy situated up on the recliner arms. Then I would lean down and pick up the babies off the floor and put them in the “football hold” laying on the boppy pillow. Once I got them latched, I was hands free and could pick up the food, water, book, remote control, etc… on the end table next to me. I also had my laptop set up on the other side of me, so I could read blogs and email while nursing. My boys ate every two hours for at least thirty minutes, so being hands free and having other things to do really made it easier for me.

RebeccaD: The biggest factors in my success was the support of experienced nursing women in my life — other MoMs, my mother, and mother-in-law — and my husband. The women helped me to develop my nursing relationship with each of my boys, as well as persevere in tandem feeding. My mom stayed with us for 2 weeks after the boys were born, and my mother-in-law for 5 weeks. They would get up at night to help me get everyone in place for feedings. Then they would tell me stories about nursing their babies. It was so lovely. I felt like I was being admitted into a special, ancient circle of wisdom. My MoMs group had several nursing women, and we shared many emails in the wee hours! My husband showed his support by making nursing a priority, by bringing me food and water, and by showing me so much love as I figured it all out.

Mercedes: Time and confidence. Tandem feeds were not for us in the beginning. Over time they just started happening naturally.

Tandem nursing older twins
Tandem nursing older twins.

Dory: For me, I couldn’t have done it without my husband, mom, and mother-in-law. They are my biggest supporters and helpers during nursing. While I get into position in my chair with my pillows and burp cloths, they get the babies ready (taking off sleep sacks or waking them up enough to latch on). Then, while one baby is finishing up, they take the first-to-finish baby off of me to change and re-dress him/her. In addition, I had a very emotional time during the first few weeks in regards to nursing. I wanted to give up every single time I sat in that chair, but they were my cheerleaders (my husband especially), encouraging me to work through it. I’m so glad I did, too! Now, I love my nursing time!

RachelG: I had a fantastic postpartum nurse in the hospital who helped me figure out how to tandem nurse. She showed me how to position the babies on pillows, support their heads properly, and help them relatch when they took a break. I don’t think I could have figured out how to do it on my own without her help early on.

What were the biggest obstacles to tandem nursing?

Sadia: We faced a lot of challenges. For starters, my 33-week preemies spent 16 and 21 days in the NICU. I wasn’t allowed to try to breastfeed J even once the whole time my girls were hospitalized, so I had no opportunity to try it out until after J was home. I had a full time job to which I returned at 11 weeks postpartum, so I couldn’t breastfeed during the day on weekdays. The exhaustion of single parenting twins with a full-time job took its toll on my supply too. I had a very poor supply with the pump, despite taking fenugreek, pumping on a schedule, and having been able to produce enough milk for exclusive breastfeeding during maternity leave. Add to that my husband’s deployment to Iraq and J’s nursing strike, tandem nursing just wasn’t in the cards for us. My huge nipples didn’t help at all. I used standard size pump flanges the first few weeks, and they ripped my breasts to shreds.

Janna: If I hadn’t tandem nursed, I wouldn’t have been able to continue nursing my boys after my help left at four weeks. The nurses and lactation consultant in the hospital and a different lactation consultant we saw at an appointment at three weeks old ALL told us that I couldn’t even attempt tandem nursing until the boys were older, had an expert latch and I was an expert at single nursing. I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to this advice. Everyone should try tandem nursing whenever they want. If it doesn’t work, fine, then go back to single nursing, but if it does work (like it did for me) you can start tandem nursing right away and not have to figure out what to do with that second baby while you’re nursing the first!

RebeccaD: My own physical health was a big obstacle to tandem nursing. The stress of a long (38 week) twin pregnancy, followed by an emergency c-section, subsequent uterine lining infection, and abscess on my tailbone, made it difficult for me to sit up, let alone try to support tiny heads, etc. I did nurse individually side-lying for a while, but I wasn’t able to sleep that way. Tandem nursing turned out to be the best way for me to get rest and feel connected to my babies. Another obstacle was nursing agitation – an intensely uncomfortable feeling that can happen during tandem nursing. I got through it, mainly by distracting myself, and it greatly diminished over time.

Carolyn: I did tandem for a little while once we were home from the NICU. It never felt comfortable, no matter how I set myself up. It was a “me thing” and not an issue with either baby, my nursing pillows, or where I did it. It just wasn’t for me. I had a very easy time nursing, which is maybe why I chose to breastfeed my boys individually, to get it done as fast as possible and move on to the next thing or get back to sleep. (We were feeding every three hours in the early days). I did sacrifice more sleep than I would have liked to, but I got the job done and nursed for about 9ish months. We had EPM bottled, supplemented with higher calorie formula and nursed for the first several weeks in NICU until the babies were stabilized. Tandem feeding was not a negative experience for me, just not my preference.

recliningMercedes: Setting up my “station” and getting into position on my own, at the beginning was very challenging. The only position I found comfortable was a sort of double cradle while reclining position, and this was not sustainable for very long since my hands were not free to do anything else (like scratch a nose, answer the phone, etc.) Now the challenge is that they are so big they can physically overwhelm me at times! The easiest thing to do is just to lie down and let them have at it.

Dory: Early on in nursing (Weeks 1-4 or 5) I really hated feeling “stuck” in that chair. Once I got in, I couldn’t get up without someone getting the babies off of me (especially when I was recovering from giving birth). I wanted to give up every single time I had to sit down to nurse. I didn’t like being a prisoner of the chair and pumping. I felt like I just wasn’t making enough milk (even though in reality I was making more than enough). I felt like I couldn’t do it (emotionally or physically). I was just in a funk. Then, magically around 6 weeks, when my babies were at their fussiest, it was like a light turned on. I was what they wanted and how they stopped crying. Me! Yes, I was feeding much more often than my normal because of their neediness, but I could soothe my babies, and I loved that feeling. No one else could help them like I could. Everyone else could change diapers, hold, and cuddle, but only I could feed them with the nourishment they needed. It took them being at their fussiest for me to love tandem feeding! Now that they are starting to eat fewer times a day, I really truly enjoy our nursing sessions.

RachelG: I found it hard to figure out how to get both babies onto and off of my lap without help. Once I sat down in my chair and got everyone positioned there, we were stuck for hours until I found a way to dis-entangle the babies and get up again.

What equipment was helpful?

Sadia: My breast pump was my saving grace, an alternative to tandem nursing that kept me from going completely insane. I loved my chair with arms. Since my babies were so tiny, a narrow chair actually worked very well for us. Pillows helped relieve the fatigue on my arms, breastfeeding each baby, as I did, for 45 minutes each every 3 hours. I loved my magazine subscriptions. I read those issues of Time, Newsweek and National Geographic from cover to cover.

Janna: A chair with arms and a boppy pillow to support the boys was absolutely helpful. I needed something to do while nursing, so I didn’t go crazy with boredom. A towel tacked over the high window in the living room to cover it so that the workmen fixing the wall outside couldn’t see me nursing.

RebeccaD: The nursing pillow. The Twin Brestfriend wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t have tandem nursed without it. If I had it to do over again, I would invest in a big recliner to nest in with the nursing pillow. As it was, I had a pretty good set up – armchair, then loveseat, and finally floor. The armchair + nursing pillow held the boys up high when they were really little. I had to have someone hand them to me once I got settled in. When I moved to the loveseat, I could place one baby in the Boppy, put the pillow on over my head, pick up one baby, sit down, then pick up the other baby and latch both on. Once they could crawl, I sat cross-legged on the floor with the nursing pillow, pulled them both on, and when they were done, they just rolled off and crawled away! I would have gone INSANE without distractions – books, iPad, phone. And I always had a little table with water and snacks nearby.

RachelG: I have a big armchair in my living room that I called, “The Chair of Doom,” while I was in the thick of nursing infants. I rarely left it. It was big enough and had enough support that I could juggle everything I needed to there. I had lots of pillows that I used  behind my back, under my nursing pillow, on the sides, etc., just to make everything the right height. I had a small tray table next to me with a bottle of water, remote controls, snacks, etc. Once I was home alone with my kids, I set up a changing table on one side. My changing table came from Ikea, and my mom cut the legs down a little so it was the same height as my chair. I could use it as a staging area for getting kids put onto or taken off of my lap for nursing.

Dory: There are a few pieces of equipment that I couldn’t live without. First, when I am on the couch, in bed, or in a low-armed chair, I have to use my Twin Z nursing pillow. I discussed it during my pregnancy, and it is just as wonderful as I expected. If you have a higher-armed chair, however, it may not work out well. For our armchair in the  nursery (which has very high arms), I use a My Brest Friend (for singletons- the twin version is too large for this chair) with a Boppy Cuddle pillow on top of it. I then place two burp cloths under the babies’ heads, and they latch on using the football hold.

What role did lactation consultants play? Your spouse? Other MoMs? Friends? Family?

Sadia: The NICU nurses were extremely supportive of my pumping and providing expressed milk to the babies, but were strongly against my trying to latch the babies on because of their prematurity. Lactation consultants were useless. Their attitude of amazement that I was even trying made me feel that they’d already decided that I was destined to fail (at breastfeeding, period, forget tandem nursing). The one exception was a consultant at a local breastfeeding supplies store who suggested a nipple shield to counter J’s strike. It didn’t help, but at least she tried to provide advice instead of telling me to give up. Other MoMs and my husband were far more helpful, although their support was more emotional than informational since their experience was with full-term babies. The only preemie mom I knew never had her milk come in, so I was alone in the preemie nursing boat.

Janna: I concur. Lactation consultants were useless. The ones I had just didn’t have any experience with moms successfully nursing twins. Instead it was my mother, mother-in-law and husband who were incredibly supportive, helpful and encouraging. Also, I had two close friends who were currently successfully nursing their singletons. While their advice and support weren’t necessarily specific to twins, they were invaluable with basic nursing questions. For example, NO ONE (not the pediatrician, lactation consultant, no one) had told me about growth spurts so I was almost ready to give up when my boys started crying and acting starving and demanding to eat extra at 6 weeks old. I assumed I wasn’t making enough milk. My friends emailed me back right away and told me it was the (normal, common) 6 week growth spurt and to just keep nursing them all the time & expect to be exhausted, sore and frustrated for a few days and it would all go back to normal… and it did.

RebeccaD: What I needed: confidence, reassurance that I had the basics, and a twin-specific logistical strategy. What I got: two different programs for each baby. Being a twin mom is all about creating a bridge between your babies’ individual needs and your ability, as one person, to meet those needs. Breastfeeding was a serious crash course in this for me. So, my first lactation consultant was basically awful because she treated my babies like two singletons and made me feel horrible for being unable to be two mothers. Luckily I had other support and figured it out. Six months of exclusive breastfeeding later, I started having supply problems, and a different lactation consultant was a wonderful help. I credit her with my ability to continue nursing to 13 months for one and 15 months (and counting!) for the other. But I came into that consultation with a lot more knowledge and confidence. I could tell her, “That won’t work with twins, what else ya got?”

Dory: Our first pre-baby class was a breastfeeding class for couples. It was amazing! I thought it would be silly to take such a class, as I figured I would get all I could at the hospital. I was wrong! There is so much to learn and think about, and it was helpful to have that base understanding. After giving birth, I can’t stress how important it is to talk to the lactation consultants at the hospital, before you come home. We made sure that we got extra time with them to make sure we were getting all of the hints we could. I asked questions over and over, and they were more than happy to help us. They were so sweet and treated us like superstars (get used to it when you are parents of twins!). The were incredible! We also were able to follow up in our pediatrician’s office during the 1 and 2 week appointments. The woman we saw was a lactation specialist. Score for the nursing moms! She was the one that told us not to let them nurse any longer than 20 minutes early on (any longer and they would burn too many calories).

RachelG: As I mentioned earlier, I had a fantastic postpartum nurse who helped me figure out latch, positions, etc. I worked with lactation consultants, but they focused mostly on helping me increase my supply and improving my son’s latch. They weren’t hugely helpful, in that my supply never increased substantially and my son figured out the latch thing on his own eventually, but at least I had the peace of mind that I had tried everything.

ldskatelyn: The hospital lactation specialist was very good about encouraging me to try tandem feedings, and taught me the different positions. My husband and mother-in-law (who was a nurse) were helpful once we got home.

What positions worked or didn’t work for your family?

Tandem nursing positionsSadia: The football hold worked best. My girls hated to be crossed and I felt like I could support them better football style. Our typical setup was as follows:

  1. My husband sat in the chair.
  2. I picked up both babies, one in each arm, cradle hold.
  3. I sat in my husband’s lap.
  4. He held one baby, cradle style across my lap, while I latched on the other in a football hold.
  5. He held the nursing baby while I latched on the second.

Janna:  I had to use a boppy, in a recliner with arms. I put the boppy around me, with the ends of it rested up on the recliner arms. Then I lay the boys down on the boppy in the “football hold” and both my boys were up at the right level, leaving my hands free (for eating, reading books, emailing, etc…). It was ideal at home. I never did try any other position because this one worked so well for us.

bftwins4Rachel: We used the football hold pretty exclusively while tandem nursing.

RebeccaD: Football all the way. They hated crossing, and would kick each other. When they got older, I sometimes pinned their arms under mine or separated their heads with a rolled up blanket so they wouldn’t bother each other.

Dana: I remember getting extremely creative with the positions of the babies in order to tandem nurse. It was something I was actually quite proud of. I didn’t use the boppy too often, but rather lots and lots of pillows.  I encourage any new mom of twins to get real comfortable with having tons of pillows stashed conveniently around the house. (And don’t forget lots of burp cloths stashed in the couch cushions!) Also, don’t be afraid to stack those kids on top of each other! Here is one position I used often:

468051998_e29e4bb03bJenW: I sat in the middle of the couch with the eZ-2-nurse twin pillow, after starting with a boppy but finding it wasn’t enough. I put a baby on each side of me in a boppy so they wouldn’t roll. I maneuvered them both to the pillow first then got them to latch. By about 6 months they were more efficient so it was faster to do one then the other occasionally. Plus, by then they weren’t as interested in staying on the pillow.

ldskatelyn: When I was seriously, regularly, doing tandem feedings, I generally did two football holds, as it gave me the most control over their bodies, keeping them from rolling, allowing me to position their heads correctly. However, kind of just for fun, when I was no longer tandem feeding, but because they were both starving, my husband and I would put our twins into all sorts of different, not-found-in-books, positions. One these was me lying on my side, and feeding them one on top of the other! Another was me lying on my back, and letting them both suckle against gravity.

Dory: When tandem feeding, I only use the football hold. At the hospital, we tried layering them during one feeding, and I was uncomfortable, they looked uncomfortable, and I was on edge the whole time. Once I switched back to the football hold, I felt like I was able to breathe again. One night I was really sick and couldn’t get out of bed. My husband brought me the babies one at a time and I had them against my body and nursing them while we were both on the bed. I haven’t tried that with two babies though.

Did you tandem nurse in public? How?

RebeccaD: Unfortunately… yes. In order of embarrassment: DayOne, a breast-feeding friendly store where my MoMs group had meetings, in the car (with my pillow), on a public park bench (supported by diaper bags and covered by a blanket), on the lawn of a museum with my top almost totally off (they were starving, I was alone, it was a bad day). I usually nursed one right after the other when we were out.

ldskatelyn: I remember feeding both of them at the same time once while staying at my brother’s house. They were both super hungry, so I put my cover on, and fed them that way. It was not the most comfortable (I don’t think I had my Boppy pillow with me) as I was sure I was going to flash his children. Although, it was super funny when one of my nephews commented that his mom only feeds one baby from both sides.

Sadia: Nope. I never figured it out. I easily nursed one — I loved empire opening nursing tops for cradle hold breastfeeding — while bottle feeding the other by about 2 months. If I was walking with our stroller, I’d just push it with my hip while cradling a baby in one arm and holding a bottle for the other baby with the other hand.

Janna: No. When we went out the boppy didn’t really work without my recliner. It wasn’t high up enough, unless I could find a recliner chair with the right size arms. I never did find a convenient way to tandem nurse outside of my home, so I would either stay close to home and only do short outings, or if we had to be out during a feeding, take bottles with expressed breast milk and feed the boys bottles (usually my husband or another family member or friend would help with the feeding) and then I would pump with a homemade, extra large hooter hider giving me privacy.

Mercedes: Nah. I am all for breastfeeding in public and have done it everywhere from cafes to castles to the stands of a Formula 1 race. But it’s always been one baby at a time. Just easier and less conspicuous that way.

Dory: I don’t tandem in public because I don’t have big enough pillows with us. It is easier to feed one at a time and just hold them or prop my arm on a chair. I don’t have the “mom arms” yet to hold both at once and nurse for an extended period of time.

RachelG: No – I really needed my full setup to be able to tandem nurse successfully. In public, I’d either nurse one at a time or feed them a bottle.

Did prematurity play a role in your attempts to tandem feed?

Sadia: Yes, yes, yes. First, there was the matter of the NICU. My babies were tubefed for their first days, so the pump and I got good and intimate. I was only allowed to try breastfeeding once (M only) during my daughters’ hospital stay, so I couldn’t even try tandem nursing until the babes were 3 weeks old. Their sucks were so weak and their muscles so underdeveloped, each nursling needed my full attention during our nursing sessions. Their tiny stomachs and weak sucks meant that they were each at the breast for 45 minutes at a time. I didn’t exactly have a whole lot of wiggle room to try out new positions because I was terrified that they’d drop back below 4 lbs in weight and have to be rehospitalized. Even during maternity leave, our pediatrician had me keep two meals of high-calorie formula enriched with Poly-Vi-Sol in our routine per day just because they had so much weight to gain. J was 3 lbs 6 oz at birth, M 3 lbs 9 oz. Neither baby had achieved 5 lbs when they were released from the NICU. I’d pump during their formula meals.

Janna: No, my boys were born full term, both weighing over 7 pounds. I do think that this is certainly one reason why nursing came so easy for the three of us.

RebeccaD: My boys were also full-term (5 lbs, 15 oz and 6 lbs, 5 oz), which really helped. Baby A was a champion nurser right from the jump. Baby B had a weak latch that never totally resolved, but my let-down was sensitive enough to make it work. I felt terrible when he had to start formula supplements at 6 months, but the lactation consultant pointed out that tandem nursing helped let-down so much that if he wasn’t a twin, he may not have breastfed as successfully as he did, or for as long. That is a tandem nursing success story!

Mercedes: No. My twins were early term, born at 37 weeks and 1 day, although they were small. My daughter, the bigger of the two, was actually the one with more latching difficulty, and the lactation consultant urged me to be patient as the baby learned. She said that 37 weeks is still early and some babies just need more time.

Dory: We were so fortunate that our twins were 36+5 with no NICU time, so we could nurse right away.

RachelG: Not really. My twins were early term (37 weeks), and while my son did struggle a bit with his latch, we never had serious problems nursing as a result of their delivery date.

ldskatelyn: No. My twins were born a day shy of 38 weeks. They weren’t premature. One of my daughters did need help opening up her mouth big enough, but with help of a lactation specialist at WIC, we were able to figure it out, and I was able to stop hurting.

Twin Breastfeeding Ebook

Manibreasto-Cover-3d-WebWould you like more inspiration, support and tools to make breastfeeding twins work? How Do You Do It? author Mercedes has written an ebook on the subject, Twin Manibreasto. She has a special offer for HDYDI readers! Use the code TWIN5 at checkout to pick up your own copy for $5 (code expires Feb. 10).

We hope that this has helped you get some perspectives on tandem breastfeeding. In addition, you can read about how Dory, who is currently breastfeeding, tandem feeds on her blog, Doyle Dispatch.  If you have any follow-up questions or stories of your own, we would love for you to share them in the comments!

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Twinfant Tuesday: The Other Side of “Survival Mode”

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Categories Twinfant TuesdayTags , 3 Comments

Parenting twins is hard.  The first three months are very hard.  You can call it what you like–“the fourth trimester,” “the trenches,” “survival mode”–any veteran mom of twins will tell you that this period is an uphill battle.

The bear climbed over the mountain,
the bear climbed over the mountain.
The bear climbed over the mountain
to see what he could see.

Photo Credit: dbarronoss via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: dbarronoss via Compfight cc

To be honest, I don’t remember much of that time, which I am heartbroken about.  It’s true what they say, that the time goes too fast.  It’s bittersweet in some ways.  You wish for it to get easier, and then when it does, you realize that you’ve wished away their tiny newborn-ness.  You don’t get to have easy and new twins.  Actually, as a twin-mom, I don’t think you get easy–ever!

The good news about survival mode is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it.  You can’t regret anything you did or didn’t do, because you are just doing whatever it takes to survive.  Maybe I’m being a little melodramatic, but knowing this has been a comfort to me when I start to second guess my new mom self.

The bad news about survival mode is…it doesn’t just go away.  It ebbs and flows.  There are easy times and harder times.

For me, the first three months were a blur.  Then it got better–we moved to Scotland and got settled in, my sister-in-law came to visit. We visited castles and tried new food.  My mom and sister came to visit.  More castles, more new things.  When my mom left, though, I felt like I couldn’t get back on track.  Maybe it was because it was summertime, and the days were literally longer?  The twins were 9 months old and not even crawling yet.  Surely things shouldn’t have been so difficult…right?

And all that he could see
And all that he could see
Was the other side of the mountain,
the other side of the mountain.
The other side of the mountain was all that he could see.

Looking back on it now it’s clear how much I was struggling.  At the time, though, I don’t think I fully realized it.  I knew things were difficult, but I think I just accepted that life was hard and didn’t have much hope that they’d get better.  (Did I mention that my 14 month olds still don’t sleep through the night?)

It’s not all bleak though.  In the past month or two, I really feel like my little family unit has turned a corner.  Naps and bedtime are more consistent, we have daily activities planned.  We went on a vacation, and that really helped recharge me.  Not just any vacation will do it, though–we stayed with my husband’s family and I didn’t cook or clean for two weeks.  And I can’t speak for the babies, but I certainly napped like a champ!

The best tip I might give another mama struggling through survival mode, whether it’s three months or six months or even a year old, is to prioritize.

Oh wait, you’ve heard that one before, have you?

I know it sounds easy–let your house be messy, forget about laundry–those are the easy ones.  What is harder is to make yourself a priority.  YOU need to get yours, mama bear.  Recharge.  Sleep.  Eat food food.  Sleep.

You might not see it now, but sooner or later you’ll be coming down the mountain and enjoying the view.  You’ll look back up at that mountain peak proudly. Now that you’re off that mountain, hell, you might even remember it fondly.

Mercedes and her twins
Mercedes and her twins

Mercedes is an American expat raising her toddling twins with her husband in Aberdeen, Scotland. You can read more about their adventures at her blog, Project Procrastinot.

 

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How Adam Sandler Predicted my Twin Pregnancy

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Categories Parenting, Pregnancy4 Comments

My twins turn one next week. it seems impossible that I just typed those words, but alas,they are true. So instead of waxing nostalgically as I normally would, I thought I’d share a fun story from my preggo days.

Once upon a time, way before I became pregnant and years before my husband and I were even married, I thought I might have twins. My husband has twins on his side of the family. I know, I know, twinning is inherited via the maternal line, well back then I didn’t know that. (That’s the kind of info you usually discover, ironically, once you are already pregnant with twins!)

Fast forward several years, a break up, a cinematic-level reunion complete with whirlwind wedding and an intercontinental move, and I’m a newlywed brainstorming names of hypothetical children. And yes, these lists included names for twins, with multiple options accounting for the different combinations of twins, and even alternate choices. ‘Cause, you know, doesn’t everyone do that?

Jack and Jill
image source: imdb.com

When I finally did become pregnant, we had just moved to Angola for my husband’s job. We were living out of our suitcases in a hotel, but we did have access to a car and driver, so on the weekends we drove out of town to the big (and only) shopping center/mall. One day on a whim we decided to see a movie, and the only movie playing at that time was the underrated gem Jack and Jill, starring Adam Sandler as Jack and as his twin sister, Jill. I haven’t really appreciated Adam Sandler since the Wedding Singer, but we had time to kill so we went in. My husband hated it. I loved it. But it was one of those kinds of loves that you don’t realize at first. When we left the theater, I was amused. But as I kept thinking about the movie, I would giggle to myself. It was pretty funny, I thought. Cue eye-rolls from the husband.

Right at the end of my first trimester I flew back to the States for my first doctor visit. For my first appointment I saw the physician’s assistant, who reviewed my patient history, gave me some sample prenatal vitamins, and checked for a heartbeat. It took her a while to find it, but she did. In my head there was a tiny voice, saying, “well, I guess it’s not twins, then.” They scheduled me an ultrasound appointment for later that week.

The next day I was getting my hair cut, and the topic turned to twins. My hairdresser’s brother and sister were twins, it turned out. I told her I’d always wanted twins, but can you imagine, I asked her, preparing for one baby and all of a sudden you find out you’re having two?

The day after my haircut I went back to the doctor for my ultrasound. I brought my mom with me, and my husband was still working in Angola. I tried to convince everyone at the practice to let us do the ultrasound during a FaceTime call, but wasn’t allowed that due to HIPAA. The technician started the ultrasound and almost immediately looked over at my mom, then back at me. “It’s good to have moral support,” she said. I felt reassured then quickly wondered why I might need moral support. Could she already tell something was wrong?

“So, how many babies were you expecting to see today?” she asked. Confused, my mom and I kind of chuckled. Ha, ha.

Obviously, there were two in there after all! I was crying and laughing and snorting, and my mom kept hysterically shrieking, “Jack and Jill! Jack and Jill!” (I had made her watch the movie with me…again!)

Project Procrastinot Twins

It’s funny, once I found out I was actually carrying twins, most of the name pairs I had come up with just didn’t sound right. It was real now, and the names I had chosen were for my fantasy children, I guess. Some of them were just too cutesy. In the end, we went with one name from the twin list (my boy–the only boy name my hubby and I agreed on!), and one name that I’d always loved for a girl.

So was it all just a coincidence, or was my inexplicable fondness for the movie trying to prepare me for something? Who’s to say…

Did you have any premonitions that you would have multiples?

Mercedes and her husband are raising their boy/girl twins to be world-wanderers.  They currently make their home in Aberdeen, Scotland.  Mercedes is a stay at home mom, proudly breastfeeds her twins, abandons household chores and eats too much shortbread.  (But they have Belgian chocolate chips!)  She also blogs at Project Procrastinot.

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