Two late to take it back: Breastfeeding

In this latest attempt to share wisdom of my personal experience with twins, I am going to tread lightly into the breastfeeding waters. Carefully. Because it’s sensitive to discuss this topic — at least how I view it now.

You see, I was going to be one of those mothers — the ones with a baby at their breast every second of the day. The one insisting on all the latest bonding and attachment parenting tips. I read all the books, of course, and even attended La Leche League meetings while pregnant. I knew it was what I wanted to do and NO ONE could stop me.

Except me. I stopped me.

The issue: Breastfeeding

What I did: I read and read and read everything related to having twins. I spent hours on Web sites. Even more hours in online forums, soaking up every single detail about breastfeeding twins, and breastfeeding in general. I could almost repeat what the books said verbatim by the time my girls were born healthy at 38.6 weeks.

What I did wrong: I actually did not do one thing wrong here. I did, however, get some inaccurate information along the way. One was that a breast reduction surgery that I had about seven years earlier would not interfere with breastfeeding and it did. It totally did. More than that, I read and heard a thousand times NOT to supplement with a bottle or formula and so while I waited and tried and waited for my milk to come in, which it never did, I refused to feed my children formula. Actually, just one. One had trouble latching so she automatically got formula. The other, however, latched fine but so little was coming out that I eventually — around 24 hours — relented. Oh, the guilt I carried for making those formula decisions. It was just dreadful.

My advice now: Try to breastfeed and if you feel like it comes naturally and easy for you, keep doing it as long as you see fit. But if it’s not working, when you know it’s not good for you or the baby because it hurts too much, or it is too stressful, give it up and know that you will both be happier for it. And, your baby will NOT be the loser on the playground, either. In fact, all the smart people I know were formula-fed as our generation of mothers didn’t breastfeed. However, for someone who is struggling, I say give a bottle and continue to try to breastfeed while pumping. You will know when the time is over. And you should feel good no matter how long you tried — whether it’s one hour, one day, one month or three.

Sometimes, we as mothers, just need to trust ourselves to know when something is or is not working. That’s the spark I hope to plant with this post. Trust yourself, your situation and know that no matter what you choose — it’s the right choice for you and your babies.

Two late to take it back: Birth Planning

In this latest Two late to take it back edition, I’m moving past the pregnancy woes and straight to the planning for birth phase. You’ve already washed and folded all the sweetest clothes possible. You have names ready. And you’ve read nearly everything ever printed about multiples.

Now what?

The wait, right? Whether it be on bedrest or working until that final hour, the wait is incredible.

The issue: How to plan for a multiples birth

What I thought: Follow the rules just like everyone else. Attend birthing classes. Learn to breathe. Learn to relax. Watch the birthing DVDs.

What really happened: I quit birthing classes because they were not relevant since one of my girls was breech and it was always certain I would need a C-section. I was totally unprepared for a C-section, though. I thought nurses would help more. I thought I would have less pain. Why else would they plop two floppy newborns on top of my stitched up stomach and expect me to mother just four hours after surgery? Mine didn’t spend even five minutes in NICU and so while in excruciating pain and the inability to really move without wanting to, you know, die, I was trying to be a mother for the first time — to two. It was insane. And overwhelming. And heartbreakinkingly hard.

My advice now: Read EVERYTHING you can about C-sections, even if you aren’t planning to have one. And, do what they say and take at least a day to recover. I know, I know the guilt THE GUILT the GUILT the GUILT. But, seriously, who can expect a woman who’s had a major surgery like that to within hours take care of multiple infants?? My hospital did. My family did. It was not easy. I wish I had let the nursery take them overnight the first two nights so that I could sleep and rest and recover. I know. The Guilt. But, I think I might have been a better mother out of the gate if I had done that.

Anyone else out there have babies born via C-section and spent no time in NICU. Share how you managed the pain and the guilt and the emotions of new motherhood?

Two late to take it back: Buying baby gear

There is this common perception that if you are expecting twins you need two of everything.

And then there is this common perception among twin mamas that you do not, indeed, need two of everything — just certain things.

I’m here to dispel both of those. Sort of.

The issue: Buying two of everything vs. registering for two of everything vs. finding things used.

What I thought: I couldn’t dare ask people to buy two of everything so I didn’t register for two of everything — just some of the essentials that some of the message boards advised.

What really happened: I listened to people too literally and didn’t assess my own personal situation, house and lifestyle. We had to go out to the store and buy stuff after the girls were born to get some things that weren’t recommended as essentials. Swings, especially, were something I wish I had not just purchased new and top of the line but also TWO of them. But, there were other things, too. I also spent a great deal of time worry about finding deals on used things and those things ended up breaking and not working as well.

My advice now: Do not fret about others. See my previous note and buy two very nice swings. Register for two of everything and if you don’t get it, oh well, you’ll just have to buy one or live without. But don’t worry about anyone else before you worry about your family. There are some things you can go used on and not feel it and there are others, like swings and mobiles, that need to be bought brand new to function properly.

And, since people have been so awesome with sharing their own stories with this series, please chime in on what you did and learned about registering and buying all that baby gear.

Oh, and one more thing: We still buy two of everything. EVERYTHING.

Two late to take it back

In my first post of this series, I talked about preparing for twins during pregnancy. I am going to continue that theme today.

 

The Issue: Family support

 

What I thought: When I was pregnant, I had so many people wishing me well and offering help. I honestly felt like I would have gobs of folks lined up and out the door when my twins were born. I never thought otherwise, in fact.

 

What really happened: No one showed up. We had help the first two weeks and barely anything after that. I was overwhelmed, depressed and exhausted.

 

My advice now: Even if you think the world will show up, plan for it not happening. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of my blogging days writing about this topic because of my experience. There are lots of ways to help mothers of multiples and for MOMs to help themselves, too. Check out these old HDYDI posts of mine here and here.

Twins: Two late to take it back

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First, a brief intro: I used to write here all the time before I started working full-time again. And then I was just overwhelmed. Ten months later I’m finally fitting it all in with some time to shower and sleep. I’m a mom of twin girls, now entering the wonderful, terrible, very dramatic but totally awesome 3.5. These posts will take a few steps back and share a little hard-earned wisdom to life with young twins. These are not meant to criticize anyone — let alone myself — but rather show that we don’t always get it right and that’s perfectly OK.

First up: Pregnancy.

The issue: Preparing for Twins

What I did: I read and read and read everything related to having twins. I spent hours on Web sites. Even more hours in online forums, soaking up every single detail about birthing twins, caring for twin infants, raising twins. I could almost repeat what the books said verbatim by the time my girls were born at 38.6 weeks. (They were NOT coming out by the way. They were born by scheduled C-section.)

What I did wrong: I did not read enough about caring for babies. Just babies. One baby.

My advice now: Focus on the baby care for the first half of your pregnancy. Once you have that down, focus on the multiples factor. Understand that even though you have twins, you really just have two babies who are very different, and very special on their own. They might come out in one (not-so-neat) package but that doesn’t mean you will need to care for them the exact same. In fact, you won’t (at least some of the time).

When Dad fills in for mom

I’m three days into my week with the girls. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

They are a little more overwhelmed by new environments than I might have thought. Liana’s clingyness is especially surprising: She is so independent and adventurous around the house. We went to gymnastics Monday, and they were both stuck to my legs. Same thing at our new pre-school. Now, in both places, they did warm up after a few minutes. But the world is still a big – and sometimes scary – place. It’s easy to forget that seeing them in their element at home.

Meals are the most stressful times of the day. They say they’re hungry and then don’t eat. They chew things up and then spit them out, and they don’t always have a clear reason. They love to bang silverware and make messes. Exhibit A: The Working Mom made a special effort to whip up some chicken salad for chicken salad sandwiches at lunch. They were hungry. I brought out the sandwiches. And Liana very patiently took off every last bit of chicken salad and ate only the bread. Question for my mom: Was I like this at 2? Oh, never mind. I know the answer.

All the energy it takes to keep up with them, all the stress – it’s worth it for the one or two moments each day:

Hearing them tell the story of their day to Mom when she comes home from work: “We saw cows. In the barn. Go milking. Cow peed. One cow pooped.”

Liana crying from a scraped knee on her way to the car. Jadyn, from her car seat, unprompted, reaching out to hold her sister’s hand while Liana got her knee cleaned and bandaged.

Seeing them with other kids and realizing they move pretty well on their own and make decisions on their own. In not quite three years, they have become little people. Not perfect by any stretch, but the most beautiful people I could ever imagine.

Any dads out there have a story to share about their first solo experience at home with their twins (or multiples)?

Playing the twin card

‘ll never forget her: A seasoned mom of six kids, the youngest two twins. She was at the same playground, looking just as frazzled as I. We chatted a bit. And then she said it — the words I live by often.

“I have six kids, I’ve been through it all and I can tell you that having twins is different; it’s hard,” she said.

As a new mother who doesn’t know any better, I needed to hear this last summer as my girls were just new to moving around and learning about their world. (I laugh now because I thought THAT was a hard age and all they ever did was stay by my side and stare at other kids.)

I try to only speak of the challenges I have about raising twins with other twin moms or from moms who genuinely seem interested in my well-being or in raising twins.

In other words, I try to use the twin card sparingly. All moms work hard — be it one baby or six. Babies are just a lot of work. Toddlers, too. I’ve been around moms who feel like their one is more challenging than my two. They may be right (on some level). I’ve been around moms who couldn’t care less about my difficulties because, frankly, they have their own. I also try to always counter my gripes with the positives, which these days is the fact that my daughters are now conversing with each other.

How about you? Do you use the twin card often? Or, do you tend to keep those little challenges or perks to yourself?

Coping with sick multiples

One of the more startling realities for me as a mother is the fact that colds can cause a baby or toddler to vomit. I never knew this, of course, and when my daughters were in day care from 4 months to 10 months, we had our share of colds, vomiting episodes and sleepless nights.

Ultimately, between that and the high cost of two infants in day care, I quit working.

But in less than two weeks, I will return to work, and my daughters, now 2.5, will return to day care.

This week, we are facing the music, again. One has a cold. She is the vomiter. She is the bad sleeper because a single drip of the nose means we have to wipe it for her — with a new tissue, not an old one.

I’ve come a very long way since those early months of two infants with colds. I know how to clean up vomit (quickly as possible, especially when it’s on carpet or else it will turn moldy) and how to effectively prevent as much night-time stuffiness as possible.

I can’t think of anything harder for parents of multiples than when their kids are sick either at the same time or consecutively.

Here’s how we cope but please offer your own ways in the comments:

THE COLD REMEDIES: Since kids this age can’t take any medications and studies are proving time and again that those medications do not work anyway, what’s a family who needs sleep do? Vicks Vapor bath, saline drops and dehumidifiers are the best solution. First, the bath in a nice warm, steamy room, if possible, then the drops. Let the drops sit back in the nose as long as possible while the baby is laying down. I know, harder than it sounds. Then, run the dehumidifier. We have found that chronic vomiting is only worsened by suctioning out the nose, but we do do that when their bellies are empty, like after a nap.

TAKE TURNS: I can’t imagine having a husband who feels that his out-of-the-house job is so hard that he can’t possibly miss an hour or two of sleep. In our house, since Day One, we’ve taken turns with night wake-ups realizing that both jobs’ are hard.

LET GO OF THE RULES: As the girls have gotten older, we’ve turned sick days into times to lay around, watch movies and play quietly together. Pillows, blankets and snuggling all day, in every room. As infants, we would just put them in the car for day trips to help them nap since crib sleeping was nearly impossible.

GO WITH THE FLOW: It’s not easy when one wants to nap and the other doesn’t. Those kinds of days call for easy-going parenting — the kind where you just bring a stack of magazines to the couch and plan for that being your day’s to-do list. Practice finding ways to get your toddler or two looking for fun, inspirational pictures in those magazines. Have them put stickers on your body as you lay down and rest your eyes. Find unconventional ways to pass the long hours of no breaks with easy, relaxing fun.

KNOW IT’S A PHASE: There is usually a lot of crying when multiples get sick. That’s when I have to remind myself that this is just temporary; it’s just a few days out of our life together. It won’t always be like this. Like most things, it’s just a phase. Relax. Breathe.

Oh, and go to bed early during this phase. How about you? Any sick days coping mechanisms to pass along?

Hacks for multiple, curious toddlers

I wrote this post long, long ago and have since found new ways to “round up” my twins. They had just started walking and were, what I thought, hard to manage. And, they were, but now poses much more dangerous and scary situations. Please post your own hacks for handling multiple toddlers in the comments. The more the merrier, please!

There are many challenges facing parents who are raising multiples, whether it be two or six. I must admit, many of those challenges have made me cry. But, now that we’re at a pretty fun, interesting age in our house, I look forward to finding new ways to step over and stomp on those challenges.

One of the biggest challenge we face right now is movement. Well, now that I think about it, movement has always been an obstacle. In the early days, I was too overwhelmed and too sleep deprived to be creative. The idea of lugging both infant carriers around was too much. Then they outgrew those and were still too limp to be carried at the same time, which is how we get places now. You should see my biceps.

My twins have been walking now for four months and are great walkers and are even running a bit now, too. Life is a breeze in comparison to the bottles and non-walking days.

But, this doesn’t mean we haven’t had our challenges. But, since they sleep through the night, and I’m pretty refreshed each morning, I have come up with some parent hacks to share with other POMs, should the need arise.

Hack No. 1

Climbing stairs with toddler multiples

This is not a simple feat. Spotting one child, alone, can be daunting. Spotting two who like to stop, turn around, try and grab wallpaper or the railing is enough to make the heart stop, twice. And, usually, in the middle of our Great Daily Climb, one or the other quits for whatever reason. So then I’m left carrying a baby, while spotting another. Save for a few slips, we haven’t encountered a baby avalanche, yet. That could be because early in the game, I discovered that if I threw something to the top of the stairs that they really wanted, they would climb steadfastly to get it. Of course, once at the top, grabbing said item can be tricky, and that’s when I toss it far away from the stairs so they have to get to safety without hesitation.

Hack No. 2

Getting to the car

I’m sure there are plenty of POMs who have garages attached to their home, which would make for a fairly easy trip to their family vehicle. This would not be us. We have a short walk through the yard and into our parking lot. Along the way is rose bushes, gardens filled with mulch, strands of grass, ants, and other great toddler distractions. Just when we think we are reaching the gate, both bolt in two different directions. At least they did, until I realized I had a little more power than I thought, even if they are only 17 months old. So, when we really need to get to the car, we hold hands and march. March, two, three, four. March, two, three, four. They love the motion of us all walking together and they have some control in being able to pick up their little meaty legs and pound them down on the walkway. In just seconds, they forget all about those pesky blades of grass they would have stopped to grab.

Hack No. 3

Getting in and out of vehicle in busy parking lots

This, I have to admit, is a new hack for me. Now that they are increasingly better walkers, they still aren’t old enough to understand to stay put. This is where our very cute teddy bear backpacks/leashes come in handy. While I remove one baby or return her to her car seat, I can keep my foot on the other’s leash. She could try to run away, but this method would stop her before she even takes a step. Granted, two or more babies in busy parking areas is not ideal in any situation, but sometimes putting both into the stroller is just not convenient, like for a quick doctor’s appointment. Besides, they have to learn to walk on their own eventually.

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IMG_2280, originally uploaded by sllydr.

Road trip secrets for multiple toddlers

With one-half of our vacation over, I’m certainly a lot wiser now than I was a week ago. My preparations were handy, but it was clear very early on that what was planned wasn’t all going to work out. 

First of all, leaving the first day was challenging. Even though we had packed mostly everything, we still had a lot of stuff to load into the car. Next time everything really needs to be in the car two days ahead of time so that the last-minute stuff is done the night before.

The tip of going to a place to wear them out first thing is very good and one that we will try and do next time. Timing for this trip is tough because of it being two long, long days and we really just wanted to get to our destination. Plus, they only sleep an hour in the car, tops.

We have to stop every two hours when sleep has not happened and can stretch it to three hours when a lucky hour-long nap has occured.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Rest stops are not for rest: No, you need to run them, jump them, spin them, toss them in the air, explore with them, and everything else you can think of before getting them back in that car. We ate lunch at our stops, too, in order to avoid big messes and more turning around in the car.

Bring sweets: I have been using lollipops as sanity-savers for awhile now, but this trip they have been worth their weight in gold. When it’s only been an hour and a half and they are starting to get restless, time for a lollipop. Other goodies include fruit roll-ups, or a box of raisins that, yes, will get dumped. But each sweet treat provided another few minutes of peace.

Toys are not toys in the car: The very things I thought would be magic in the car were not at all. Things that were a hit: Pom Poms. These were perhaps the best thing I brought. Also, those toy microphones that Target sells and that Gymboree uses in music classes. Also, wooden beads for banging together, musical instruments like maracas, and natural elements such as sticks, rocks and leaves. Things that didn’t work for this trip, for this age: most art supplies and drawing toys except one white board and dry erase marker. Perhaps on the ride home?

Not all kids are created equal: Like this needs to be said. But, as it turns out, one of my girls could ride all day and not play with anything. She turned her nose at just about everything except the pom poms and tossed EVERYTHING else to the floor within a second. The other one was happy to play with just about anything and kept it all in her lap, too.

Never underestimate organizational materials: We weren’t organized enough and that will be different going home. Toys easily got lost in the back, especially the smaller ones. By the end of the trip, it was pure chaos back there. Toy storage units that could fit on the floor would have been ideal. I never considered it because I thought a couple toys would entertain for at least a few minutes and then get returned to their little bag or box. Instead, those toys were quickly tossed to the side, the floor, or even in the back.

DVD player with two screens is nirvana: No joke; the creators of this should be proud of every cent they make because it means a half hour of quiet. I used these way more than I thought we would, especially on Day 2 when all bets were off, every snack had been used, and every toy presented and turned away.

All in all, the girls have traveled very well, but those 600 miles were very long miles. Some states seemed to drag on forever (Virginia) and others were a breeze.

Amazingly, though, the trip has been easier than I ever expected. I think we’re all just happy to be away and letting go of all rules.