Twinfant Tuesday: Infants are Easier

My twins are so solidly in their toddlerhood now that it’s hard to remember when they were infants. Perhaps it’s better to make a list of all the things that were easier to do when they were younger.

Holding them  Boy, I wish for the days when each baby weighed 10 pounds and could easily be held at the same time. They didn’t wiggle around, or twist their bodies, or arch their backs, or slide down your sides, or lean their entire weight away from you. These days my kids definitely make their intentions known. Babies blissfully don’t have intentions.

Feeding  Babies are relatively clean. There might be a spit-up or two, and burping them could be a little tedious, but these are things you expect and can anticipate. As toddlers, when they decide that the food they loved yesterday is what they are throwing at you today, you will be wishing for those burp cloths back. My kids are good eaters, and they still make a big mess. At this point they can also say that they’re hungry. Loudly and repeatedly until they get fed what they want.

On the move  Heavy and cumbersome as they are, infant car seats and the strollers they attach to are really as safe and easy as it gets. Venture into the land of shoe wearing (and the eating/ taking off of them), handholding (or wrenching their hands out of yours while walking through a parking lot), and trying to keep toddlers in strollers (or just trying to put them in while they’re arching their backs and screaming), and let’s just say you will start to regret complaining about the infant car seats. Don’t get me started on what to do when they go off in opposite directions.

Playing  Once upon a time a simple squeaky toy or blanket was all that was necessary to amuse a baby. In fact, nothing was needed at all as long as baby had something to look at, like Mommy’s face. Now? Toddlers have the attention span of a few minutes, at most. Mine are not interested in television yet (except to press its buttons and climb it), and their entire playroom full of toys is old news. I cannot keep them in one place past a couple of hours before they’re fighting and biting each other out of boredom, including our own house.

Sleeping  Infants sleep a lot. Toddlers don’t sleep as much. Enough said. These days trying to figure out when nap time will be is sometimes a guessing game. When they don’t sleep (for whatever unknown reason), cranky toddlers will eventually get on your last nerve.

…Maybe I just miss my little babies. Sniff.

lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. Though the days are tough around here, she feels lucky to be able to spend her summer vacation with them.

Affording Cloth Diapers for Twins

The Rebecca Foundation helps low-income families get started with cloth diapering, eliminating the expense of the initial investment.

I found out at about 6 weeks that my unexpected pregnancy was growing our family by two instead of one. The radiologist said she wanted to show me something and turned the screen so I could see. Two separate sacs, two little beating hearts.

The first thought I had after “Oh My God” was “How are we going to afford them?”. We were already struggling to make ends meet, and the overwhelming thought of “two of everything” kept me up at night.

We already cloth diapered our next youngest, so it was a natural to cloth diaper the twins as well. I already knew how, and it was already a part of our routine. We chose cloth to save money, but that first time around, we had the money to buy a small stash before our youngest was born. We weren’t so lucky this time, and that small stash was not going to be enough.

Cloth was a great option for us. We had a good washing machine and we already knew I’d be home with the kids, so there would be no daycare rules to fight.

I’ll admit the first day I looked into cloth diapering, I wasn’t sure. The information overload, some of it contradictory, was a little much. I found a forum and started asking questions. Getting direct answers instead of a generic information sheet really helped and soon I was convincing my husband. I touted the cost savings, as little as $300 for a lifetime of cloth – though I did spend twice that on our son. I bought a few prefolds and a cover and showed my husband how simple it was. I promised to take on the washing.

With the news of the twins, one of my husband’s first reactions was “we will need more diapers,” and he was right. I had only bought a handful of infant sized diapers, and our son was (and is) still very much using his all-in-one size. The twins would be small, so I knew infant sizes were going to be required. But we didn’t have it in the budget. We didn’t have the budget for anything. I knew our family would come through for cribs, bottles, and clothes, but no one supported the cloth diapering.

Then a family friend sent me a link on Facebook: The Rebecca Foundation Cloth Diaper Closet.  This non-profit provides loaner diapers to lower income families, helping them spread out the cost of buying. They eliminate the need to buy two stashes by taking care of that infant stage, and they are a great support for those families just starting in cloth.

We were on WIC, the US government program that assists with food costs for low-income women and children. I thought we might qualify for the Rebecca Foundation’s offerings. I learned that WIC did, in fact, qualify us, as did being an enlisted military family. The outpouring of caring from the lady on the other end of the phone helped my fears. We were getting help. We could figure this out. We could afford the twins. I bawled on the phone with her, I was so relieved.

For us, cloth diapers and The Rebecca Foundation were a life-saver. Even without family support, cloth works for us. It saves us money, there is no running out at 2 am because I suddenly realize we’re out of diapers. I don’t deal with diaper rash constantly. Using cloth, like any aspect of parenting, is a personal decision, but with charities like The Rebecca Foundation, the cost of the initial investment doesn’t have get in the way of cloth diapering.

Jennifer is a stay at home mom of three singletons, with her first set of twins due in September. She is the proud wife of an Army soldier, homeschools her 4 year old, and loves to read, write, and play video games in her down time.

An Exersaucer Just for Twins? Yes, Please!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably walked through the baby section of the store or seen a handy baby gadget at a friend’s house, and thought, “I wish they made that for multiples. It would just need a [insert brilliant recommendation here].”

And if you’re anything like me, you probably moved right on with your day.

Allow me to introduce you to Karan. She had an idea for a twin improvement, and has actually done something about it!

Meet Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.

Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.

Karan’s a MoM, just like us. Her mono/mono identical boys, Nolan and Gabriel, turned a year old in May. Karan saw how much her little guys enjoyed their one exersaucer and bought a second one, but wished she could have just one that they could share and interact in.

Identical twin brothers.Karan drew up an idea for a two-baby interactive exersaucer. A Twin Funsaucer, if you will. There’s a spot for one baby in the center, and the other baby has a spot around the outside of the exersaucer, like a snuggly wriggly solar system of joy. You can see a diagram at Quirky, where inventors can submit their ideas, and the best ideas can get turned into reality.

If you want to help get the Twin Funsaucer to market, or just help another MoM out, please visit Karan’s invention on Quirky and give it a nice big thumbs up. You do need to register to vote, but you can connect your Facebook account or create a Quirky-only account with your email address. I did the latter, and it took less than a minute to sign up and vote. I imagine that Facebook is even faster.

I asked Karan how inspiration struck, and here’s what she had to say:

The inspiration for my idea was essentially that our boys always want to play with the same toy at the same time, but with exersaucers and jumperoos, it wasn’t possible.

karan water

[Gabriel and Nolan] like interacting, but there also needed to be enough space between them that they couldn’t grab or hit one another. We have exersaucers, and this other Bright Starts toy that has an activity table with a seat attached that allows freedom of movement around the table – like a walker.

I thought, if you could combine those things, then two children could play at once. Then I thought, why couldn’t you sell an another seat for triplets? And for that matter, possibly even create a way to turn the seats into walkers when they are not attached?

I am an ideas person, but I never had something I felt so filled a niche. My mother-in-law helped me come up with a couple of possible design concepts and that was that!

More About Karan

karan umbilical knotAbout her sons, Karan says, “They are so smart and funny. We feel incredibly blessed that they have done so well – especially when their umbilical cords were so knotted.” Karan had to return to work only a week after the boys came home from the NICU. Her husband had been laid off from his bank manager job and stayed with them for nearly 8 months. Now that he’s back at work, they consider themselves very lucky to have found a daycare they trust with their sweet boys.

Karan and her husband met later in life. His 11-year-old daughter lives with them during the school year. You can see what a great big sister she is, and how she is adored in the photo below!

Big sister with twin brothers!Karan started trying to conceive at age 38 and lost a pregnancy. She and her husband tried again a few months later and Gabriel and Nolan joined the family. Karan is a sonographer by day, so she discovered that she was expecting monoamniotic twins on her own! She went into inpatient care at 24 weeks at the University of CT Health Center and delivered via scheduled C-section at 32 weeks. The boys were 4 lbs 1 oz each and spent 40 and 42 days in the NICU/step down unit respectively.

Karan, expecting twin boys!Karan loves everything about motherhood much more than she thought she would. The biggest challenge she faces being a twin mom is not being able to help them both at the same time. The boys are still too little to understand that she only has two arms and doesn’t have the power to make all their hurts go away.

Look at that proud Daddy!

Karan confesses that having twinfants is also stressful on a couple. She calls her husband a patient, forgiving person, admitting that she can be hotheaded. I think a lot of us can relate to that!

You can reach Karen by email… and don’t forget to give her Twin Funsaucer your vote of confidence!

What’s your brilliant idea, just waiting to be produced?

Twinfant Tuesday: A year in photos (minus the photos)

Next week, my little monkeys will be ONE!  That one saying is so true.  What is it again?  The days go slowly, but the weeks and months fly by, or something like that?  The other night my husband and I were watching photos float by on a slideshow from the past year.  While it’s impossible to adequately describe the first year with twins, a few of these moments help summarize the roller coaster.

Exhaustion

Photo: both 8-week-old babies are in just a diaper, passed out on my husband, who is also asleep.  My son’s arm is draped over the face of my daughter, whose mouth is wide open.  Everyone looks exhausted.  I recall this night in particular, because it was taken at the end of the first night we decided to “try” one of us going out for a few hours during the “witching hour.”  This witching hour was so very real in our house between about 5 weeks-13 weeks or so.  This particular night they started crying about 10 minutes after my husband left the house (of course), and they seemed to ratchet each other higher and higher on the scale of hysteria for the next 45 minutes until I called him, beckoning him home.  I still have no idea what got them so upset, but it was one of those nights where I needed to put them each in their crib and walk away for a good 3-5 minutes because I truly did not know how to calm them.  Eventually they stop crying for just as mysterious of reasons as why they started.  I still feel shell shocked by those first few months with two infants.  I can almost still feel the anxiety, counting the time until I’d need to go pump or breastfeed two babies again, or feel the burn in my sleep-deprived eyes.

Joy

Photo: taken after a bath, and the babies were laying side by side, and my son reached out and was touching my daughter on the arm.  She smiled back at him.  They were about 5 months old and it was taken on our first trip (see also: only) with the kids.  (We really took on the challenge of a first vacation with infant twins: Cold weather.  Over Christmas.  Staying at high altitude.  Attempting to take turns to go skiing.)  It wasn’t likely the first time they connected like that, but I do think it was the first one we caught on camera.  It captures the hope that I have for a close relationship between them and the warmth I feel in my heart when I see the connection between them.

Fear

My heart aches and is filled with gratitude simultaneously when I see the photo of my son smiling, holding a small box of cheerios in a hospital gown, the morning after our first night (and, hopefully, only for a very long time) in the hospital a few weeks ago after he took a bad fall and sustained a head injury.  We spent the night saying prayers that all would be okay, while we realized the vicarious pain one can feel for their child, as a parent.  Seeing this photo, even just a few weeks after, makes me so grateful that he is okay.  I’m almost equally as fearful of other accidents and illnesses that no doubt lie down the road for us as a family.  I was warned about how you experience pain when your children hurt, but it is truly something you cannot understand until going through it.

Fascination

Photo: my daughter standing, holding onto the collar of our 8-year-old pitbull-boxer mix makes me giggle.  I remember coming around the corner and catching her standing there with our dog, who patiently sat and let our daughter examine her “necklace.”  Mind you, she cannot walk yet, so this means she crawled over and pulled herself up on our dog’s collar.  Her fascination with jewelry has begun early, as has her love of feeding this doggy all her vegetables.  This photo captures the delight and fascination I feel as I watch these kids discover their world and learn new skills every day.  It’s incredible to watch them stand for the first time, or make a new sound and see their faces light up with pride.

And, that has been the emotional cycle of the past 12 months: Exhaustion, Joy, Fear, Fascination, or some derivative of these feelings.  I truly wish I could stop time for a day or at least an hour to really reflect on the ways life has changed and motherhood has changed me in the last year.  But, for now, a post like this will have to do.

Katie has b/g twins that will be one next week.  She lives in Chicago and balances full-time work, being a mom and training for a sprint triathlon for which she regrets signing up.

Twinfant Tuesday: Being a Twin Ambassador

Let’s face it: we mothers of multiples are celebrities. We get bombarded just about every place we go with stares, questions, comments, and picture-taking. We weren’t asking for this stardom, but we got it, just by being the SuperMOMs that we are!

Some days, I just stay in my house, not wanting to deal with the outside world. We may go on a walk around our neighborhood, where thankfully everyone knows us and we have stopped getting… well… stopped every few steps. I may even run out while my husband or one of the grandmothers watches the babies. I can freely run about like I did pre-pregnancy: dashing into stores, parking in the skinny parking spots (no need to worry about squeezing the car seats out), and having some moments of freedom. Of course, those are the times that I miss my twin mom badge of honor. I’m a hypocrite. I know.

A thoughtful way of looking at the positive (and negative!) side of people's fascination with twins.

Other days, we venture into the world. We get the stares, questions, comments, and (yes) picture-taking. I have to hear the same phrases over and over (“Woah, twins!” “Are they twins?” “Look at that stroller!”). If I’m in a good mood and the babies are in a good mood, I will be a good Twin Ambassador, answering questions, talking about their sleep schedules, eating schedules, and personalities. I try to be helpful and informative, kind and patient. I try to be a teacher: guiding these strangers gently into understanding the world of multiples (and even nicely correcting them when they make a rude comment: “No, my hands aren’t full. My heart is full! I am so lucky.”)

Being a celebrity isn’t always wonderful, though. Sometimes I truly hate being a Twin Ambassador (yes, even though “hate” is a strong word). I long for the tiny strollers for singletons that easily fit through the doors. I wish that we wouldn’t get stared at or approached at every stop. I just wish that people wouldn’t be so forward with their stares and questions and comments. I just get tired of it. During those cases, I just quickly change the subject or leave the situation, usually without my smile that is typically shining on my face when I talk about my babies.

I crave normalcy.

We know that multiples are on the rise. So why are people constantly shocked to see them? Why do they think that they can ask “Are they natural?” or “Can I take a picture?” or even “Are they twins?”

In the 5 years I taught, I had at least one twin in my class each year. Twins are the new normal, people!

Yet we still put on our Twin Ambassador emblem with pride. We love our babies more than we ever thought possible. We are just given more of an opportunity to talk about them than if we had just one baby at a time. I guess that is a singleton mother’s dream, right?

Twinfant Tuesday: Ways to carry two babies when strollers are not allowed

It was long after my twins were born, 8 months to be exact, that I felt comfortable leaving the house and going to social events by myself.  Story hours and play dates were new to my agenda and although these  events were crucial in helping me feel less isolated and introducing me to friends in my new town, they also brought with them many new challenges.  For example, after feeling so proud of myself for making it out of the house and being on time for my first ever story hour, my spirits were quickly squashed when I discovered that the staff did not allow mothers to bring strollers into the performance room.  I was shocked and almost felt like crying when the kind librarian informed me that I has to transport my kids inside without the help of my trusty stroller.  I felt awkward as I carried my car seats into the performance room.  I felt clumsy as I placed them on the floor, sat in front of them, unbuckled them and then left the car seats near me- taking up valuable space, but feeling unable to move them because I did not want to leave my children unattained.  I also felt silly as I  packed my boys up to leave and I know I bumped into several people with my wide load.

I encountered similar difficulties when attending play group meetings at new friends’ houses.  Some walkways made wheeling a stroller up to the front door impossible.  Others had long sets of stairs leading to the front door creating a whole new obstacle.  These new situations taught me the best and easiest ways to carry my guys around when strollers were not permitted or usable.  Here are some suggestions in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

1.  Place one baby in a carrier and hold the other on your hip.  I used this method most often when I was faced with a difficult transportation scenario.  I was able to support my (somewhat lighter) son on my hip and use the carrier to support the weight of my other boy.  I felt like I still had one hand free for opening doors, digging keys out of pockets and placing the baby back in the car seat.  This was my favorite way to roll.
2.  Carry the babies in their infant car seats. I used the method if I had to, but by 8 months, my boys were heavy!  Also, when carrying kids this way, you do not have any free hands to open doors (especially your own car doors).  This method is less than ideal for some situations.
3.  Use a twin carrier or two carriers (one on the front and one of the back): There are some twin specific carriers that allow you to carry two babies relatively hands free.  Be mindful of the weight limitations of these carriers; however, as they are really meant to be used when your babies are small.  Alternatively, some choose to wear one baby in a single carrier on the front and one in a single carrier on the back.  This can work nicely for situations where you have a long walk or when you may have to stand for a long period of time.
4.  Carry one baby on each hip: As twin moms we are really good at carrying both of our children around the house at the same time but sometimes getting both babies into your arms is a challenge.  I have always had good luck picking up two babies from their beds but have found that it is tough to grab two from their car seats or from the ground.  Keep this in mind if you do not have anyone to help hand you the second child.

I am sure there are many other ways people have engineered a solution to this unique problem.  Please let us know how you transport your kids when strollers are not allowed or ideal.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part IV)

8 tips for making the return to work successful, from an IT professional and mother of twins.

Tips for Making a Return to Work Easier

Here are a few things that I think kept me from throwing up my hands and quitting my job in the first week back.

  1. A supportive co-parent. I trusted my husband completely with the babies. He had been present for them in their NICU-bound first days in ways I couldn’t after a C-section. Although he didn’t see the need for it, he agreed to stay home from work my first two days back, just in case the babies refused to feed from a bottle or I just couldn’t make the breast pump work for me.
  2. Research. I read up on the psychology of children raised by working mothers. I can’t find the articles I read back in 2006 now, but the ones that gave me the most comfort fell into two categories. There were the findings that showed that children of working mothers got just as much quality time from them as from stay-at-home moms, which countered my concerns that my children would be or feel neglected. There were also articles that argued that working moms were generally happier than stay-at-home moms. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression myself and having been raised by a mother with untreated mental illness, I knew how important it was to take care of myself so that I could be the best mother possible.
  3. A job I love. There would have been no point in returning to work if I didn’t enjoy what I did. I loved (and still love) the challenges, the pace, and above all my wonderfully smart, funny, supportive co-workers (including RachelG). I enjoyed my job so much that I went back to it even though my take home pay after daycare costs was about $100/month. Fortunately, I was awarded a promotion not long afterward, but I enjoyed work enough that it wasn’t about the money. If I were just working to make ends meet, I can imagine being deeply unhappy.
  4. A great boss. My team lead, Gordana, was breastfeeding her own infant when I came back to work. She was both a professional and a mothering mentor. She made sure that I had a place to pump and made me feel at ease making my breastfeeding needs known and respected. When J went on nursing strike, it was Gordana who recommended that I take some time off work to spend full days skin-to-skin with J to coax her back to the breast.
  5. Trusted caregivers. My daughters’ infant teacher, Suzanne, has become family. From the moment she met them, she loved my daughters as her own. She always told me what was going on with them, worked as a partner to address her concerns and mine, and gave insightful recommendations from her experience with infants. Every day, I was given a sheet of paper for each child documenting every meal, nap, diaper, activity, and event of the day. I trusted her, and still trust her, completely. She was actually the one who recommended the elementary school my daughters now attend, from which her own daughter is about to move onto middle school. When my girls (along with their friend Shaw) graduated from pre-K at their daycare centre, Suzanne cried as hard as I did.
  6. Established breastfeeding. The 8 weeks my girls and I had together 24/7 showed me that we could make breastfeeding work. I didn’t mind supplementing their diets with formula, but I was committed to getting them as many of the benefits of breastmilk as possible. Had we not been going strong with breastfeeding already, I’m not sure I could have made it through each workday without my babies at my side.
  7. Confidence. I had to be certain that I was doing the right thing. There were going to be naysayers feeding into my own doubts. I told myself that my working was the right choice for my family, and no one else could possibly decide for us how our family should be structured. I’ve never been one to follow the expected path, so that part came easily.
  8. Lowered standards. The fact is that an adult who spends 12 hours in their home can get less done with regards to housekeeping and cooking than one who is home 22-24 hours a day. Laundry didn’t get folded. It just didn’t. I used cleaning robots (Roomba and Scooba) to clean my floors because I couldn’t do it. We hired a lawn maintenance company because even if I were home during daylight hours, there was no way I was doing yard work. And I didn’t sit. I was in constant motion that first year. The first time I sat down outside of work and breastfeeding was when the babies were 6 months old and we went to Washington and were surrounded by doting grandparents, great grandmothers and great uncles and great aunts. I sat down and had a glass of wine with my mother-in-law while Grampy fed the babies. It was amazing.

Proud Grandpa displaying his grandtwins at the fire station

What are/were your concerns about returning to work?

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part III)

Why Returning to Work After Maternity Leave is Hard

I don’t want to give you the impression that returning to work was easy for me. Despite all the positives, it was hard. I was consumed by guilt. I kept wishing that my career-building years weren’t my reproductive years. Every time I found myself enjoying work, I wondered if it made me a bad mother, if my pleasure at being away from them would somehow ruin their lives forever.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

I missed the babies viscerally. My full, sore breasts were a constant reminder that my girls were 15 miles away, being cared for by people who were then strangers, although they’re now more family than my “real” family. My arms ached to hold J and M. I missed their smell. I worried that we would no longer be bonded and that our relationship would become as non-existent as my relationships with my own parents.

The breast pump and I didn’t respond well to each other. My milk production plummeted. I was only pumping twice a day during the 10+ hours I was away from my babies, 15 minutes at a time, down from 90 minutes of nursing every 3 hours. No amount of fenugreek could make up the difference in time or the way that my babies’ mouths triggered letdown. After the trauma of the girls’ premature birth by C-section, breastfeeding felt like a way I could make up to them the weeks in my womb my body had denied them, and now I was failing them again as their mother.

It didn’t help that no one other than my boss, my husband and my in-laws believed that I could balance it all. I know that everything who said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” meant it as a compliment, but I couldn’t help hearing an undertone of “You’ll never be able to do it.” And then there were the other army wives (other than Sara), who actually came out and told me that I was a bad mother and shameful army wife for wanting a career. “A real army wife,” one sneered at me, “stays home and takes care of her soldier and children.”

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)

Why 11 Weeks Was Enough

For our family, 11 weeks post-partum for a return to my job worked out rather well. Please don’t take this to mean that I support the US’s shamefully short maternity leave policies. I simply mean that for us, 11 weeks was okay. I think every mother needs to decide for herself and her baby what the right amount of time together is before returning to work.

My daughters took to the breast amazingly easily after their NICU days of gavage- and bottle-feeding. We made the switch right away, no transition plan needed. Since M was home nearly a week before J, I was able to establish a breastfeeding and pumping routine with her. She fed for 45 minutes every 3 hours, and I pumped for 20 minutes after each breastfeeding session. (I didn’t figure out the magic of pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other until later in our breastfeeding journey.) Twice a day, M got high-calorie formula fortified with Poly-Vi-Sol while I pumped. The pumped milk was delivered to the NICU once a day, my wonderful father-in-law driving me and M to the hospital and waiting with the baby in the car as I limped in to briefly hold J. My husband had been shipped off to California by the army when the girls were 10 days old.

When J came home, she fit right into M and my feeding routine. I never could get simultaneous feeding figured out, so the babies would each feed for 45 minutes every 3 hours.

That’s right. During the 8 weeks of maternity leave between the babies leaving the hospital and my return to my job, I spent 12 hours every day breastfeeding.

This is what breastfeeding 12 hours a day looks like.

Much as I wanted to make breastfeeding work, returning to work gave me back my sense of self. I felt valued for more than just my milk-production ability. Had I not had my work successes and co-workers to validate me, I don’t know that I could have survived J’s nursing strike, her complete refusal to breastfeed at age 5 months.

It felt so good to be back at work. A multi-year project completed days after I came back to work, and while all my friends were burned out and exhausted, I was chipper and exhausted, ready to get back to something I knew I was good at. It wasn’t that I was at bad at mothering newborns−I’m 100% baby person−but I really enjoyed the concrete validation that I was doing things right. That validation doesn’t come until years down the road for parents, if ever.

Then there was lunch. Every day at work gave me an entire hour during which nothing was expected of me. I could eat. I could nap. I could take a walk, or wash my face or brush my teeth without guilt. I could give friends my undivided attention. Lunch was a glorious extraordinary gift that I had taken for granted for years.

Maternity leave was a very lonely time for me. My husband was away for army training much of the time and my in-laws could only take a few weeks off work to travel from Washington State to Texas. My friend Sara and I spent as much time together with our 3 newborns as we could, since her husband was away with mine, but we lived 40 miles apart, so daily hanging out wasn’t reasonable. I hadn’t yet made other mommy friends. People did come to visit, but I lived 30 miles from work and the majority of my friends just couldn’t make the trek. I am an intense extrovert. I talked to the babies all day long, but they weren’t the most insightful of conversational partners.

Since my daughters have been in daycare since they were so young, they’ve never known anything else. Yes, we had a bout of separation anxiety when they were 17 months old, but I’ve never dealt with the sort of trauma at being separated from my girls that I’ve seen with other parents. Returning to work as early as I did taught me to trust others to care for my children

It also helped foster a more egalitarian separation of duties with my husband than we might have had otherwise. We shared the responsibilities of diapering and bathing our babies. During the 3 months Daddy was home in the girls’ first year, between California training and Iraq deployment, my then-husband took on all housework and cooking so that I could focus on breastfeeding. He even took half the nighttime feedings, since we both had jobs to get to in the morning. He mastered latching the babies onto my breast without waking me and quickly figured out how to determine when each baby had emptied one breast and was ready for the second. Within the first week after I returned to work, I was able to sleep through my husband’s rolling me over to switch breasts, and I got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time for the first time since M came from the hospital.

SadiawithBabes

Did you look forward to returning to work? Did you feel guilty?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part I)

I returned to work when my babies were 11 weeks old. Going back to work after maternity leave was incredibly hard, physically and emotionally, but I don’t regret doing it. In the long term, my daughters and I are better off for my having maintained my career through motherhood.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

The photo above was the last one I took before returning to work. The babies were so little… only 4 weeks past their due date and still the size of newborns (around 7 lbs). I had to restrain myself from picking J up and holding her in an attempt to get enough baby snuggles to get through the day without crying. I didn’t quite make it through that first workday without a few tears, especially while I was pumping.

Why 11 Weeks Old?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many US employees 12 weeks off work for the birth of a child. This time is unpaid, but our employers have to hold our jobs for us and can’t give away our positions. To mothers in other countries, unpaid maternity leave is unthinkable, 12 weeks impossibly short, and the need to share this 12 week leave between both parents (if they work for the same employer) an abomination. Still, the law is what it is, for now at least, and I’m grateful that my employer is large enough to be required to honour it.

Many American mothers, too, see 12 weeks as an impossibly short period of time to spend with their newborns and therefore choose to leave their careers for a longer period of time. Some employers will agree to hold a new mother’s job longer than the minimum 12 weeks required by law. Others will expect a new mother to hand in her resignation if she intends to stay home longer than that.

One complication I didn’t anticipate was that bed rest-related absence from work also counted into the 12 weeks I was allowed off associated with the pregnancy. Fortunately, I work at a job to which I can telecommute and my boss was herself a mother whose second son was 4 months older than my girls. She was very understanding and did all she could to help me have the healthiest pregnancy possible. When my obstetrician told me 31 weeks into my pregnancy that I needed to stop working the following week, I went into a panicked tailspin. My boss was the one to suggest that I consider working half time from the couch, to keep myself busy and my income flowing even while I tried to reduce my symptoms of pre-term labour.

My half time work schedule only lasted 2 weeks before my babies made their dramatic arrival at 33 weeks. Over those 2 weeks, I’d used up 1 of the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA.

In the first hours after my babies were born, we were told to expect them home no sooner than their due date, still 7 weeks away. The idea of taking 7 weeks off work while the babies were in hospital, only to have 4 weeks left to bond with them at home, made me sick to my stomach. I started playing with calendars, trying to figure out whether I could return to work as soon as I was enough recovered from my C-section to do so, just to maximize my time home with M and J.

A kind nurse, Michelle, took me aside when they were a couple of weeks old and advised that I not take the route of bopping in and out of FMLA leave. All indications were that both girls would be released home well before their due date, likely right around the time I would be healed enough from the C-section to go back to work. As it turns out, the girls came home at 16 and 22 days old, before I was cleared by my doctor to drive. How working mothers with longer NICU stays manage it all, I really don’t know. I did notice that many of the other NICU babies who’d been in the hospital for several months no longer got daily visits from their parents, thanks to the demands of work. My heart breaks for these families.

During maternity leave.

This is one of a handful of photos of me during maternity leave.

I had actually hoped to return to work part-time at first, when the girls were 9 weeks old, spreading out my FLMA leave and giving myself a more gradual switch from primarily breastfeeding to primarily pumping. However, my mother decided to visit just about the time I planned to go back to the office, and she required me to serve as a full-time chauffeur. We had initially hoped that she’d be able to watch the babies, but she was overwhelmed by the idea of juggling both of them. After all, it had been 26 years since she’d had to care for an infant by herself; with my baby sister, we’d had servants to do the heavy lifting.

So, 11 weeks of maternity leave it was, and I returned to a full day. My babies were at daycare from 6:30 am until nearly 6:00 pm, thanks to my lengthy commute.

How long did you/do you plan on taking maternity leave?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.