Mommy Judgment and Me Time

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Categories Diversity, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Multiple Solutions, Other people, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.

“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.

Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.

SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.

Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told  she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.

Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.

As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.

MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”.  The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children.  She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.

Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!

Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.

People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!

During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them. 

Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.

We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.


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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Getting YOU Fed After You’ve had the Babies

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Categories Feeding, Infants, Making Time for Me, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

A mother expecting twins recently asked on the San Antonio Mother’s of Multiples FB page how the adults fed themselves after the babies were born. What a great question because we are often, before the babies arrive, more concerned with how they will be fed and we forget that we need to eat, too.

When my first set of twins, Marc and Maddie, were born, we were living far away from our families and we didn’t know our neighbors every well. I think we had two meals brought over by acquaintances from our church. My babies were preemies and because of their small size and the need to work on putting weight on them, I was feeding them (and pumping) every two hours. Put on top of that a recovery from a C-section, and I remember being tired, cranky and hungry.

But, leave it to the mothers of multiples to have some ideas to help new moms and moms-to-be feed themselves AND their families.

Here are five thoughts on getting YOU fed after you’ve had the babies:

  1. If you are nursing and/or pumping you’ll be HUNGRY. I remember making myself a fried egg almost every night sometime after the midnight feed. You’re burning an extra 600 calories (which is great for losing the baby weight) but you’ll get HUNGRY. Don’t try to diet during this time to get into those pre-pregnancy jeans. EAT MAMA EAT. But, eat the right things: lots of protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies.
  2. Make freezer meals. Better yet, when someone wants to give you a shower, suggest a freezer meal shower. When someome asks what they can do to help you, tell them you’d love a couple of freezer meals. Babies don’t need as much stuff as stores want you to think they need but YOU NEED TO EAT! Finding a container of frozen soup or casserole in your freezer after being up all night with babies is often like finding the proverbial gold at the end of a rainbow.
  3. Buy fruit and veggies trays. These have the fruits and veggies already cut up—saving you precious time—and you can munch on them throughout the day/week. Having these items easily accessible means you won’t be as easily tempted to go for the unhealthy items beckoning from the pantry.
  4. When you can find time to cook, make double batches of everything and freeze the extra servings. If you are making spaghetti sauce, stew, soup. . .make double the amount. My advice is to forget painting the babies’ room and start cooking meals to freeze while you are pregnant.
  5. Buy an electric pressure cooker. Meals can go from frozen to DONE in about 30 minutes. Soups take about 15 minutes. Really this is my go-to appliance when I need dinner on the table FAST. (And you can make extras and freeze another meal for later on.) Here’s a recipe for Beef Green Chili Stew that literally went from freezer to table in 12 minutes.

A mom who honors and takes cares of her needs, even to a minimal amount during those first few months, will be a better mom. And, take a lesson from your babies, one of the most important needs (besides sleep) is feeding your body. Like your newborns, you’ll be much happier with a fully tummy!


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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Getting Children to Eat

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Categories Feeding, Foodie Fridays, Solid Foods, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers42 Comments

I’m a huge advocate for dinner. I cook it almost every night and there is really no predicting what it might be.

When my husband and I were first married cooking dinner was actually a sour point of our nascent marriage. Scott had been a bachelor for 11 years and for 11 years he had pretty much decided what he’d eat for dinner. Usually it was a salad. . .or some take out. This arrangement worked well for him until the new wife decided that she, armed with the wedding gift, Marc Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, was going to do just that. . .cook everything.

She thought it was an act of love. . .he felt it resembled gastronomical homicide–and it seemed a little threatening to his bachelor ways. It wasn’t that she was a bad cook. . .it just was that he wasn’t used to the cooking. . .and then the inevitable clean-up. Life was so much easier with a salad or ordering take-out.

It probably took us a good part of our first couple of years for Scott to realize that cooking was my way of showing love (oh, he could have thought of a better way. . .). And, even when kids arrived on the scene, cooking was still my norm because. . .well, have you ever taken two newborns and two toddlers out to eat. Don’t. Ever.

I remember Scott coming home from work one day and saying that one of his colleagues couldn’t believe that I cooked dinner every day. I looked at him quizzically and asked, “Well, what would we eat if I didn’t cook dinner?” And, honestly dinner time is the WORST time in a mom’s life. The kids are hungry and needy and cranky and many a dinner was cooked with literally one hand as I was holding someone in one arm while the other child tried to scale up my leg. I’d then put one child down and pick up the other and continue cooking. Rinse. Repeat.

But, on the flip side, and if you are one of those mothers or fathers who try your hardest to get a meal on the table, there is a flip side, my kids are pretty much good eaters. And, they will eat almost everything. . .well, except for Will who has a thing about tomatoes. . .and sautéed fresh spinach. . .and if truth-be-told  would have Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast EVERY DAY if it was available.

SONY DSC
Dylan Eating Cantaloupe

So, when I read Mark Bittman’s article from the NY Times, Getting Your Kids to Eat (or at Least Try) Everything, I felt somewhat vindicated that for the past 14 years I’ve been cooking my family meals.  (Bittman’s actually been all over the media these days promoting his new book, How to Cook Everything Fast.) He is also an advocate for home cooked meals and his newest book is about how easy it is to get something on the table for you and your family.

So, how do you get your children to try or eat just about everything?

  • Cook real food. Yes they’ll eat heated chicken nuggets until you think they’ll start to cluck. . .but you replace that with a roasted chicken (it is SO EASY) or Korean Beef –another super easy recipe.
  • Offer a broad variety of food and let them decide what they like or don’t like.
  • Serve at least one healthy thing you know they’ll like but if they refuse to eat what you’ve prepared, let older kids make themselves a sandwich. Never make food a power struggle.
  • LIMIT SNACKING and GET RID OF JUNK FOOD. This is a hard one. . .but let me tell you that kids are  finickier when they are only somewhat hungry because they’ve been snacking. Food looks good to someone with an appetite and kids are more prone to try something if they are hungry.
  • Engage children and your partner in the food prep. Teach them how to do things. TALK OUT LOUD about what you are doing and why as you are cooking. Even after you set the meal on the table tell them HOW you made one of the items.
  • When the kids are older than 3: Always honor the meal AND the cook. . .have someone set the table with real placemats, forks and plates. Heck, get some of that china out and set the table with that! Light some candles!
  • Even if children didn’t like something the first time. . .serve it again and maybe again. Babies sometimes take 15 times of trying a new food before they’ll eat it. Their palates are just developing. Countless times I’ve served something that flopped only to serve it again to RAVE reviews.
  • BE UNAPOLOGETIC about cooking for your family. Never say something like, “Oh, because I’m a stay at home parent I have time. . .” or “Well, this part time job allows me to get home. . .” I’ve qualified my meal prep with these words. But the truth is that I’ve made some of these decisions in order to feed my family and I shouldn’t have to feel that my choices were somehow less than someone who chooses to work a 60 hour week. But in the long run. . .oh heck, even in the short run. . .everyone in your family will be better for that meal that you made.

Last, but not least, there is nothing in this world better than when your child walks into the house and says, “Mmmm, what smells so good, Mom!”

(A huge shout out to my mom, Judy, who had a good meal on the table almost every night and who raised a daughter and four boys who are damn good cooks! Thanks mom!)

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When that Second Set Arrives: How Hard Can It Be?

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Categories Multiple multiples, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Perspective12 Comments

Hi. I’m Michelle and I have two sets of twins. Nineteen months apart.

Here is a quick visual of what that looked like:

Twins times two. Tips from a mom who has survived the first years and flourished!

And I think this picture was taken by my parents as they were getting ready to fly home after helping me for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure… but I think I’m crying in this picture.

And, even though my memory is really really sketchy about this time and the two years that followed, I think I can muster up some advice for those moms who are expecting their second set of twins.

Get Help. No, not like help in the head although there are going to be times that you feel like you need it. Hire as much help as you can afford for as many days a week you can afford. Hire babysitting help. Hire someone to clean your house. Find that 6th grader who loves babies who would be willing to hold/feed/play with any of your children. Piece together what you can. And, don’t be afraid of letting the person go who isn’t helping. You need another you! Find that person.

Twins times two. Advice from a mom who has been there!

Get Out. No, not like run away and never come back. More like, get out of the house without babies at least one day a week… you need a break. It is not a sign of weakness or that you don’t love your kids. But you first need to love on yourself a little bit. You are a better mother if you can walk away from being a mother… even if it is for a little while. Listen to yourself and what you need and put those needs first.

Twins time two. Michelle now has flourishing preteens and tells us how she did it!

Photograph the heck out of all of it. First, because you won’t remember any of it. Second, because having two sets of toddlers won’t last even though you feel like this is the worst hell imaginable (e.g.. every outing where one of them said, “I have to poop!” and EVERYONE had to go into the bathroom together). Make sure you get as many “ugly” photos as you do with everyone matching and smiling. Actually, get mostly ugly photos and videos of tantrums and messy house and potty training and the food everywhere and the two or more crying at the same time. You will look back… believe me you will… and want to go back again to hug and love on those babies and to help out that poor mama who is doing the best she can and still feeling like it isn’t even 1% enough.Twins times two. Thoughts from a mom who's been there.

On your best days you will be doing a good job if you are only meeting basic needs: food, changing, loving, and maybe reading a story or two. Forget the glitter painting and stamping and crafty crap that you always imagined you’d do with your kids. DON’T look at Pinterest and see what you could be doing… yeah, if you had one child. Your child is not missing out and glitter is so everywhere.

Make friends with other Mothers-of-Multiples. These will be your sisters-in-arms. You will need them like you need a nightly glass of wine. They are the ones who during an outing won’t bat an eye when YOU have to go to the bathroom and you ask one of them to keep an eye on your kids. They will empathize, sympathize and encourage you… and agree that no one understands.

Twins times two. You can do this.

Find a good parenting class. Mostly you’ll learn that you are doing it right… and you’ll learn not to worry about the small stuff. You’ll learn to let your child fall and not rush over. You’ll learn that listening is the best communication tool that you’ll ever cultivate. You’ll learn that other parents are going through EXACTLY THE SAME STUFF at the SAME TIME. This is called child development. Make friends with the stages… they are necessary for healthy growth. And, sometimes these classes also have FREE CHILDCARE!

Say this Mantra: THIS WON’T LAST. THIS WON’T LAST. Because it won’t and you don’t get a do-over. The potty training, the tantrums, the middle of the night wake-ups. These all go away… as do your babies.  So let toys be everywhere and in every room. Let them ride mini big wheels in the house on a rainy day (heck, on a sunny day so you can get dinner made!). You will remember these crazy times as being your favorite times. You are striving for happy… and peaceful… and loved. Mostly loved.

I remember an older mother of four teens saying that she’d go back to the infant and toddler time in a heartbeat. At the time I thought, I will NEVER wish for that! And, you know what, I’d go back in a nanosecond. You will too. Just wait. You’ll want to go back in time and tell that mama that she is doing a GREAT job… and you might even stay to do a load of laundry… or six.

twins times two and one more. Michelle has managed, and so will you.

Finally, as my husband reads this over my shoulder, he says longingly, “It goes by so fast!” It won’t seem like it at the time, but it does. Do whatever you can to enjoy the time. Find help, get out, take lots of photos, have a mantra that helps you stay sane, learn about child development so you know why some of the most difficult states (in stereo with twins) are the most necessary!

Michelle blogs at www.twinstimestwo.com where she tries to piece together those lost early memories from mothering two sets of twins and where she tries to record the daily joy and chaos of being a mother of multiples.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Moms Need Food, too!

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Categories Household and Family Management, Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayTags 1 Comment

 

A mother expecting twins recently asked on the San Antonio Mother’s of Multiples FB page how the moms fed themselves after the babies were born. What a great question because we are often more concerned with how they will be fed and we forget that we need to eat, too. But, a mom (and dad) can get very run-down if he or she is not sleeping AND not eating well. Sure, we can make do for a while, but being the best parent you can be (even in those crazy first weeks and months) means taking care of your needs, too

Feeding the MomWhen my twins Marc and Maddie were born, we were living far away from our families and we didn’t know our neighbors every well. I think we had two meals brought over by acquaintances from our church. I remember being hungry, tired and cranky a lot of the time. I was trying to lose the baby weight, but I would go for what was quick and available rather than what was the best choice nutritiously.

We were blessed that my mom and my mother-in-law stayed four weeks each, but honestly, I don’t remember them cooking too much because we were all consumed with our premie babies ( I was pumping and everyone else was taking turns feeding them). I do remember that mom made me some excellent salmon patties and individually froze them so that I could take one out of the freezer for lunch after she left. I also remember my 12 year old “mothers helper” learning how to put together lasagna while I shouted out instructions while walking a cranky baby. (Don’t ask me why I decided that I would make lasagna with newborn twins!)

But, leave it to the mother’s of multiples to have some ideas to help new moms and moms-to-be feed themselves AND their families, especially during those weeks (months!) of sleep deprivation and crazy schedules.

Here are five ideas to get YOU fed after you’ve had the babies:

  1. If you are nursing and/or pumping you’ll be HUNGRY. I remember making myself a fried egg almost every night sometime after the midnight feed. You’re burning an extra 600 calories (which is great for losing the baby weight) but you’ll get HUNGRY. Don’t try to diet during this time to get into those pre-pregnancy jeans. EAT MAMA EAT. But, eat the right things: lots of protein, fruits and veggies.
  2. Make freezer meals or better yet, when someone wants to give you a shower suggest a freezer meal shower. Babies don’t need as much stuff as advertisers want you to think they need. BUT you need to EAT! When someone wants to know what you need, don’t be embarrassed to say, FOOD!
  3. Buy fruit and veggies trays. These are already cut up—saving you precious time—and you can munch on them throughout the day/week. This way you aren’t tempted to go for the unhealthy items beckoning from the pantry–especially when you are hungry but you are trying to soothe two (or more) upset babies.
  4. Make double batches of everything and freeze the extra servings. If you are making spaghetti sauce, stew, soup. . .whatever, make double the amount. Start doing this now while you are pregnant.
  5. Buy an electric pressure cooker. Meals can go from frozen to DONE in about 30 minutes. Soups take about 15 minutes. Really this is my go-to appliance when I need dinner on the table FAST. (And you can make extras and freeze another meal for later on.) Here’s a recipe for Beef Green Chili Stew that literally went from freezer to table in 12 minutes.

 

 

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What were YOU THINKING? New Parenting with your Partner

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Categories Balance, Co-parenting, Infants, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships4 Comments

parenting with your partner

Your Partner Isn’t Against You. When you have newborn multiples it may feel otherwise, especially in the first few weeks or months of sleep deprivation.

One of the major differences between having a singleton and multiples is the amount of chaos. You are feeding and changing and nurturing these babies simultaneously. If you have premies those demands can seem even greater.

The best scenario would be to have a partner who is in the game with you.

Since my husband and I had decided that I would stay-at-home with our children, I was the main care-giver. But, I was lucky that he never claimed that he couldn’t get up for night feedings because he had to work the next morning. We both agreed that BOTH of us were working the next morning. . .we just had different jobs and different offices.

Having twins meant that as the primary care giver couldn’t do everything on my own (I bow down to single moms or military wives!) and  it was in the best interest of our new family if Scott and I parented as a team.

But, I also had to come to (the slower and sometimes painful) realization that we parented differently. Ok, to be honest, this realization doesn’t come as a lightening bolt—although that would have been helpful—but maybe if someone had given me this one piece of advice when the babies were young I would have

Agree from the beginning that each of you is doing the best that you can in the best interest of the children.

Ignore the fact that he dressed the babies in plaids and polka dots for church. . .that he is embarking on a walk with the babies when they’ll need to be fed in ½ hour and will be screaming banchees. . .that he is literally gagging when changing a poopy diaper. . .that he is trying to watch the Master’s Golf tournament and isn’t catch watching the crawlers make their way to the dog’s bowl for a quick snack.

BE QUIET, Mama.

This works in the reverse as your partner returns home and babies are screaming, you haven’t showered and dishes are still out from breakfast.

No “I told you so’s.” No accusations of “Why didn’t you?” or “What were you thinking?” Or, my personal favorite, “Were you thinking?”

Second most important piece of advice: Leave your partner alone with the babies.

 This was hard for me and I still remember the first time I did it when the babies were a couple months old—actually one month old adjusted. My next door neighbor, Sarah, came over one evening after Scott had come home from work and said, “You’re going to Target with me.” I stared at her in disbelief. No, I thought, I couldn’t leave these babies with Scott–ALONE.

I needed to be able to leave. . .and Scott needed to experience juggling the babies and a feeding and changing session on his own. How else was he going to get good at this if he never did it. Everyone lived.

Date nights may or may not happen; tempers will be short as you are both exhausted; hygiene might not be up to par; the house will probably look like a thift store sale. . .but believing (and living) the piece of advice that both of you are doing the best that you can will help your relationship transition through this very challenging time.

 

 

 

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Saving Lives by Walking Away from Your Babies

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Categories Twinfant Tuesday11 Comments

Twins Playing

My husband, Scott, came home from work and found me on the couch staring out the window and our four month old twins on a blanket on the floor of another room screaming.

“Michelle, the babies are crying!”

“I know,” I started to cry, “I just couldn’t take it any longer trying to soothe two of them at once so I had to leave them and walk away.”

Sleep deprived. Overwhelmed. Hungry. At my limit. Alone. Inadequate. Unshowered. I was feeling all of those things in the 5 minutes or so before I had left the babies in the room.

“They won’t die from crying.”

I just remember hearing that advice somewhere from the pre-pregnancy days when you take all advice with a grain of salt and the attitude of, “Well, that won’t happen to me!” But it does happen, especially if you are alone all day caring for two or more infants and your husband or partner is working long hours.

And, this wouldn’t be the last time I would do something to keep my babies safe while I gained some emotional and physical separation. While I reached a point where I could be the nurturing mom, I needed to step away… breathe… take a break.

One time, and I truly can’t believe I did this (but my husband was working crazy hours at corporate headquarters and we had no family within a 1500 mile radius), I took one of the babies to our next door neighbor and handed the little guy to him. The story gets better. The neighbor, a young father of twins himself, was studying for the bar exam.

At this point I had had the second set of twins so I had two newborns and two under two and while I had help during the day, the witching hour between when the nanny left and when Scott came home was long and tortuous. Everyone was hungry or collicky and there was just no physical way I could do it—but I did. This particular evening, though, must have been doubly worse.

I knocked on Rueben’s door holding one of the newborns. “Here. I need you to take this baby until Scott comes home.” And, amazingly he scooped the baby from me and went inside his house. No questions. No admonitions.

I won’t say that Rueben saved that baby’s life. But, I will say that I am still grateful that he opened the door, saw desperation and reached out—with both hands.

I’ve also handed one or both newborns over the chain linked fence that separated me from our neighbors behind our house. “Please, can you just feed them their bottles while I feed the other two and get them ready for bed?” These dear neighbors would feed them and rock them on the back porch swing and I was able to feel human again.

No matter how good of a mother you are and how much you love your babies, there is a point where all of us reach a tipping point. When you are at yours, walk away. Or take them to a neighbor. Even though you think you look like the weakest person they’ve ever seen… you are actually at your strongest and most protective.

It's okay to ask for help. Parents have limits too.

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Multiple Feelings When Your Multiples Are in the NICU

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Categories Birth Stories, Emotion, Grief, Guilt, NICU, Parenting, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags 4 Comments

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


The first day I was a mother, I believed that I had already failed in the role.

Unable to get pregnant without the intervention of science, and unable to give birth without the doctors cutting me open and extracting the babies, my one job as an expectant mother had been to keep my twins nestled firmly and warmly in my womb.

At 33 weeks, I began preterm labor due to preeclampsia. When the decision was made to have an emergency c-section, I burst out sobbing. I had always been healthy; never had any hospitalizations; and, I really believed that the issues facing my pregnancy were ones that happened to other people, not to me.

In my mind, I had somehow failed my one, and most important, job.

After being bundled tightly in their blankets and posing for a quick picture in front of my head, Marc (4.5 pounds) and Maddie (3.4 pounds) were rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Marc in the NICU

Under the ominous, and yet miraculous for women with preeclampsia, drug, magnesium, I was unable to get out of my bed or even see my babies for over 24 hours. I remember waking up the next morning in a horrible magnesium fog and not remembering what we had named our daughter. When one of the neonatologists came into to my recovery room to report that Marc’s lung had collapsed and he needed to be intubated, I couldn’t process what she was saying and I couldn’t remember my husband’s cell phone number to tell him to come to the hospital. The failures seemed to continue to pile up.

Meeting my babies for the first timeEven when I was able to see the babies, I felt so disconnected from them. I wasn’t able to hold them—or do anything for them. I felt like an outsider—like it didn’t really matter if I was their mother or not. I remember telling Scott that the babies were more his than mine. He had spent more time with them; he had already developed a rapport with the nurses; he seemed to know what was going on.

Endless Wires

Those first horrible days were nothing like what I had imagined their birth would be like. Without family around or a mothers-of-multiples support group, no one was able to help me navigate through those feelings of overwhelming guilt, helplessness, and disconnect that accompanied those days.

DSC01748And, while the emotional rawness of that time has been smoothed away, the trauma of those first few days still resonates with me. When I asked moms in my San Antonio Mothers of Multiples group what their feelings were when their babies where in the NICU, I was surprised at the emotion that erupted, even from mothers whose children were now in their teens.

  1. Out of control or helpless: Christina, mother to b/g twins described feeling out of control, “…like I was a nuisance for wanting to come and nurse him and hold him.” The mother often feels like she takes back seat to caring for her babies.
  2. Mourning the loss of the imagined delivery: We all imagine how the birth of our children will occur. When it doesn’t go like that, there is an incredible sense of loss or disillusionment. In some way we feel we were cheated out of a genuine experience. One mother, whose twins were born at 27 weeks, 5 days wrote, “I don’t know why I assumed that I would have the birth I wanted—naturally at 38 weeks and they would be fine and healthy and go right home with me.” She writes that even a year later, “I still feel cheated from the whole new mom experience—I didn’t get to hold any of my babies after they were born; I didn’t see them until hours later; a nurse gave them their first bath; their first bottle.”
  3. Shock: “It was only on delivery day that anyone even started talking to me about the NICU and that they would have to go there…the first time I went in there was a few hours after delivery. It was just bizarre. All those teeny tiny robo-babies hooked up to various machines and wires.”
  4. Relief: A couple of moms wrote that they were relieved that their babies were in the NICU. “I was in no condition to take care of my babies,” wrote one mother of twins. “I needed to heal myself, and I knew they were in good hands.”
  5. Guilt: Almost all of the mothers expressed feelings of guilt, constantly reexamining what they might have done to have caused premature births or birth defects. Sara, a mother of b/g twins whose daughter was born with her esophagus from her throat growing nowhere and her esophagus from her stomach growing into her trachea, wrote,“Some days I could emotionally handle seeing her attached to what seemed like a bazillion tubes and listen to the breathing stridor; some days not. Once I came out of the morphine/Vicodin induced haze [from her C-section], I started wondering what I did wrong, reading medical journals about when that particular defect manifests itself. Then, I started wondering if it was because, before I knew I was pregnant, I had a margarita in an airport around 11 am and had a daiquiri that night around 8 pm… On an intellectual level, I knew it was not my fault.”
  6. Powerless:  A couple of mothers talked about how difficult it was to get their babies out of the NICU. One mother wrote how, “you can’t be blind to the reality that all pregnancies and births have risk and sometimes babies that seem to be perfectly normal may need some extra help from the NICU.” She goes on to write how important it is to have “… an advocate, whether that is a doctor, family member or friend who will help you fight for what you believe to be right.”

Did you have these feelings when your multiples were in the NICU? Other feelings?

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Kangaroo Care: Ask For It

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Categories NICU, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags 4 Comments

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Michelle-1

After my first set of twins were born at 33 weeks and I was in the throes of a magnesium drip as well as recovering from a c-section, I had to wait 24 hours before I could see my babies.

Scott had snapped a quick picture of the nurses holding the babies next to my head immediately after their birth. Later, as I was in the recovery room, he snuck video of the babies in the NICU. Marc’s plaintive cry sounded like a wounded animal.

The morning after their birth, still not having seen them, and feeling so disoriented, I couldn’t even remember what we named our daughter. When the neonatologist came into my room to tell me that Marc’s lung had collapsed and he had to be intubated, I couldn’t process what she was saying… and I couldn’t remember my husband’s cell phone number to call him and tell him that our son was in trouble.

When I was finally able to see my babies, I remember feeling so disconnected as I walked into the NICU. Scott seemed to have bonded with them and had established a rapport with the nurses. I felt out of place, in shock and lost.

In my anger and frustration and confusion, I remember lashing out at Scott, “They are more your babies than they are mine!” In fact, these babies seemed like everyone else’s–my husband’s and the nurses who were caring for them–rather than my own. I felt like I had no role in their care. I wasn’t allowed to hold them… and I definitely wasn’t allowed to attempt to nurse them when even their sucking reflex was not developed.

In looking back, I now wonder if the doctors and nurse had immediately encouraged kangaroo care, the placing of a naked baby on to the mother’s bare chest for skin-to-skin contact, if I would have felt differently. Would I have bonded quicker with my babies? Would my son, Marc, felt comforted and secure? Would I have seen that my place in that NICU was just as important for those babies’ health as the doctors’ and nurses’ roles? Would I have felt less guilty about not carrying the babies to term?

I read this article recently about how a premature infant, thought to be dead, was placed naked on his mother’s naked chest. The baby revived and survived and thrived. While kangaroo care cannot resurrect the dead, its benefits for both baby and mother are shown in various studies and anecdotal stories.

Michelle-2

What I didn’t know until I read this article was that babies who are placed in kangaroo care before a procedure, even if it is a heel stick, are calmer and feel less pain. And, the mother also benefits. She shares an intimacy with her baby, feels more confident about caring for the baby, and becomes an integral part of the NICU team.

kangaroo

I think of my last baby, Dylan, who had two spinal taps because of an unknown infection. I was nowhere near him to comfort him before or after the procedures with skin-to-skin touch. How much better it would have been for both of us had we had that time before and after the procedure.

How much I wish I could go back to those times and insist on kangaroo care–and insist that before any procedures I would be allowed to hold my babies skin-to-skin.

Did you provide kangaroo care to your newborns?

Michelle is the mom of five sweet kiddos — two sets of twins, born at 33 weeks and 36 weeks, and a singleton, also born at 36 weeks — all proud NICU graduates.  She blogs about her family’s adventures and her journey through motherhood at Twins Times Two.

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NICU Terminology

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Categories NICU, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags , Leave a comment

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


One truly overwhelming aspect of having a child or children in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) care is the quantity of new terminology thrown around by the medical staff. The Moms put our heads together and came up with a list of NICU terms that many of us had to learn.

Adjusted age: The age that your premature child would have been if he were born full-term. You and your doctor may choose to schedule your preemie‘s vaccinations based on her adjusted age rather than her birth age. It’s often easier to answer strangers’ questions about how old your babies are with their adjusted age rather than going into the details about why they are so small for their birth age. Many preemie parents abandon the adjusted age around age 2, but it depends on how early their children were born and the extent of any delays or disabilities.

Apgar score: A number between 0 to 10 that describes the condition of a newborn (full-term or premature) immediately after birth. The Apgar test is usually given twice, 1 and 5 minutes after birth. Medical professionals score each of 5 criteria from 0 to 2:

  1. breathing
  2. heart rate
  3. skin appearance/color
  4. reflexes
  5. muscle tone

Apnea: Breathing stoppage. Apnea of prematurity is not uncommon, and usually involves a baby not breathing for 15-20 seconds. A gentle touch, often a massaging of the chest, is usually enough to end an apneic episode. Since full-term infants the same gestational age as a preemie don’t need to breathe in utero, premature infants can sometimes “forget” to breathe. It’s scary, but not unusual. The vast majority of preemies outgrow apnea of prematurity by their due date.

NICU terminology from hdydi.com

Aspiration: Sucking of fluid or solids into air passages.

Bililight: Fluorescent light used in phototherapy to treat jaundice.

Brady/bradycardia: Pathologically slow heart rate.

Cares: The three-hourly basic routine of feeding, diaper change, temperature measurement, weighing, and blood sugar analysis. Many NICUs will allow parents to perform all aspects of their babies’ cares once they are stable.

Car seat test: Monitoring your baby’s vital signs for a 60 to 120 minute period in the car seat in hospital to confirm that he or she can manage the drive home.

Catheter: Tube used to deliver medications or fluids or to drain bodily fluids.

Co-bedding: Placing multiples together in a bed, crib, isolette or open warmer.

Corrected age: See “adjusted age.”

Desat/desaturation: Decrease in the oxygen saturation level of the blood, specifically hemoglobin.

Developmental delay: Ongoing delays in reaching milestones.

ECG/EKG/electrocardiogram: Test that checks for problems with the electrical activity in the heart.

Extubate: Removing a breathing tube from the airway.

Failure to thrive/FTT: Inadequate weight gain and physical growth in children. Being small for his/her age does not equate to failure to thrive as long as a child is growing. If a child’s growth follows the growth chart (e.g. stays at 2nd percentile over time), being underweight does not equate to FTT.

Feeder-grower: A baby that is only in the NICU to learn to feed and get her weight up and has no other medical concerns.

Fontanel: One of six soft spots at the juncture of an infant’s skull bones. The skull does not fuse into a single bone until a baby is around age 2.

Gavage: Feeding directly into the stomach by tube.

Gestational age: The age of a baby calculated from a woman’s last normal menstrual period. For full-term infants, gestational age is usually used to describe age in the womb. For preemies, we often use gestational age as a measurement of how close they are to being developmentally equivalent to a 40-week full-term neonate.

Growth chart: Graph that illustrates the distribution of weight and height/length by age in a population of children. The distribution is usually described in terms of percentiles.

Heart murmur: Unusual sound heard during a heartbeat. Many heart murmurs are completely innocent.

Heelstick: Pricking an infant’s heel to retrieve a blood sample for blood sugar monitoring or other diagnostic procedures.

High-calorie formula: Infant nutrition with concentrated caloric content, intended for infants who need to consume extra calories or smaller volumes than other infants.

Hospice care: Palliative care provided when death is imminent.

Incubator: Closed crib that provides a controlled environment (temperature, oxygen and/or light) for infant care and observation.

Intubate: Insert a tube into the (windpipe) to maintain an open airway to enable breathing.

Isolette: An incubator brand, often used to mean generic incubator.

IUGR/intrauterine growth retardation: Poor or slow growth of a baby in his/her mother’s womb during pregnancy.

Jaundice: Yellow skin and eyes caused by extra bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a blood component left after normal breakdown of red blood cells, which are constantly replaced. Common in newborns.

Kangaroo care: Holding an infant skin-to-skin against an adult. The parent or medical provider’s body heat helps regulate the infant’s body temperature, needed since many preemies have inadequate body fat to regulate their own temperature.

Meconium: The product of a neonate‘s first bowel movements, a tarry green substance made up of things the infant has ingested inside the mother’s womb.

Micropreemie: A baby delivered especially early. NICU staff usually reserve the term for babies who weigh less that 1.75 lbs and birth or is born before 26 weeks gestation (14 weeks premature). Colloquially, people use the term to describe babies born at less than 3 lbs or before 29 weeks gestation.

Milestone: Set of functional skills or tasks, including language, cognitive, and motor skills/tasks that most children can do at a certain age.

MRI/magnetic resonance imaging: Procedure to create pictures of organs and structures inside the body.

Nasal cannula: Tube used to deliver oxygen through the nostrils.

Necrotizing enterocolitis/NEC: Infection that destroys all or part of the bowel. It affects 10% of neonates weighing less than 3.3 lbs within the first two weeks after birth.

Neonate: An infant within the first month after birth.

Neonatologist: Pediatrician specializing in treating newborns, especially following complex or high-risk births or early medical challenges.

Newborn: See neonate.

NG/nasogastric tube: Tube that carries food and medicine to the stomach through the nose as in gavage feeding.

NICU/neonatal intensive care unit: Hospital wing containing special equipment and staffed with medical experts to provide care for premature or seriously ill neonates.

Open warmer: An open crib with an overhead heater that adjusts automatically to maintain an infant’s body temperature.

Oscillating vent: A ventilator specifically designed for delicate preemie lungs to minimize  damage by keeping the lungs somewhat inflated.

Palliative care: Medical care focused on relieving of the pain and stress of the symptoms of serious illness rather than just the source of the illness.

PDA/patent ductus arterioles: Abnormal blood flow after birth between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. This blood flow is normal and necessary in utero, but usually stops shortly after birth.

Percentile: The percent of a population that an individual equals or exceeds. A child in the 50th percentile for weight is weighs as much or more than 50% of children the same age.

Phototherapy: Controlled exposure to fluorescent light absorbed by a baby’s skin to break down bilirubin and treat jaundice.

PICU/pediatric intensive care unit: Hospital wing containing special equipment and staffed with medical experts to provide care for children who are hospitalized a significant time after birth.

Preemie: A child born prematurely.

Prematurity: A child born before 37 weeks gestation.

Primary nurse: The nurse responsible for providing continuity in the care of a patient. The NICU parent’s best friend.

Prognosis: Expectations for the future.

Pulse ox/pulse oximeter/oximeter: Machine that measures the oxygen saturation of a person’s blood without requiring a blood sample.

Radiant warmer: See open warmer.

Reflux/Gastroesophageal Reflux/GER: A condition in which stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus. The liquid spit up is mostly made of saliva and stomach acids. Reflux is not uncommon in kids under 2 years old.

Respirator: Non-medical term for ventilator.

Respiratory therapist/RT: Medical professional who help patients who have trouble breathing.

Retinopathy of prematurity/ROP: Eye disease common to NICU babies, especially those who require extra oxygen, in which the blood vessels of the eye grow in a disorganized way. Mild cases usually resolve themselves, but severe cases can result in permanent blindness.

RSV/Respiratory syncytial virus: Highly contagious virus that causes cold-like symptoms in adults but can be extremely serious, even lethal, in premature and other lung-compromised young children.

Seizure: A change in the electrical activity in the brain. Symptoms can be severe or nonexistent.

Sats/oxygen saturation/SpO2: The percentage of potential oxygen-carrying molecules (hemoglobin) in the blood that are carrying oxygen. Normal saturation is 95-100%. This is a good measure of whether an infant is getting enough oxygen.

Suck swallow breathe: Coordination of actions required for a neonate to take nourishment from the breast or bottle. This reflex usually kicks in by 36 weeks gestational age.

Swaddle: Wrapping a baby tightly to give him the comforting feeling of being in the womb.

TTTS/TTS/twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome: A condition that occurs only in (some) identical multiples in the womb who share a placenta. An uneven distribution of blood vessels in the placenta can, in extreme cases, result in IUGR of one twin.

Ventilator: Machine that moves air in and out of the lungs to help infants who are having trouble breathing.

Vitals/vital signs: Measurements that indicate physical/medical wellbeing. These can include temperature, pulse, blood pressure, pulse ox, and breathing rate.

We hope that you never have to encounter NICU terminology and can be content with “swaddle,” “fontanel” and “milestone,” but if you do, please come by to tell us your story or seek our support. We’ve been there. Our littles ones are now doing well. You are not alone.

NICU terms from hdydi.comWhat other terms have you encountered?

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