An Unlikely Pair: Living with Functional Multiples (And, Hi, Nice to Meet You!)

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Categories Addiction, Adoption, Attitude, Different Gender, Diversity, Family, Functional Multiples, Parenting, Perspective, SAHM, Special NeedsTags , , , , 8 Comments

Summer 2013 -8423We are blazing a trail here, my hubby and I! Our family does not really fit into any established category.

Yes, I am most definitely the mother of multiples. But, am I the mother of twins? Mmmmm… No, not really.

The days look really similar to life with twins, but they are not. My children are not twins in the traditional (or even biological) sense. They did not share my womb. They were not born on the same day, although I have heard of the Irish mom who gave birth to twins, her first daughter at 23 weeks and the second daughter eighty-seven days later! So, maybe what day they were born isn’t as much of an issue here. Of course, the fact that they are not even biologically related is the real kicker!

We know they are not twins, yet we are parents of multiples, just the same. Our situation, although not unique, sits in a different category altogether. There are those that would argue that we don’t even belong here on a blog about multiples. I don’t suppose it really matters in the end. I can tell you it was tough! I see my life in many of your stories.

A bit of our story

We have six older kids, and when we realized they were all flying the coop at once, we decided we needed some new life in the home. We looked into foster care.

At the same time, I was studying to become a Chemical Dependency Professional, and the plight of drug-exposed newborns was near and dear to my heart. I studied the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain in adults. Let me tell you, watching an infant struggle with the pain and misery is a whole other ball game!

We sought training via an intensive care nursery in our state that specializes in caring for and teaching others about the effective handling of drug exposed and drug addicted newborns. In June of 2011, we got word we were fully licensed and ready to go!

Isaiah

On July 11, 2011, our son (then foster son) came home at 24 hours old. It was appalling to realize that the nurses at our local hospital had zero experience or understanding of how to care for drug exposed newborns. They told us that he was having issues with feeding, but they weren’t quite sure what to do to help him. They had a “good luck with that!” attitude. Thank goodness we had been trained!

Our journey had begun.

For the first four months, Isaiah was the only little one in our home. I spent the first two of those months helping him gain weight in spite of the drugs passing out of his system. I had to help him cope with the sensory overload that was his constant state. The tremors were incessant. He often whimpered as if he were in pain.

I cared for him in our basement bedroom, with the lights low and a soft sound machine for background noise. I needed to wake him to eat every one and a half to two hours for the first two months of his life. That sounds easy enough, but part of his response to sensory overload was to shut down and sleep. He slept eight straight hours after his first supervised visit with his first mom. He was only 3 days old and already struggling with failure to thrive. We simply could not wake him! Still, we tried, every hour until we succeeded in getting him to eat.

In spite of that regimen, Isaiah lost over a pound in his first week home, and only gained slowly and painfully for the first two months. If they had not placed him on the higher calorie formula intended for premature infants, I am sure that it would have been even longer.

Infants who are meth exposed are notoriously plagued with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and often have, shall we say “explosive,” diapers. They also commonly have trouble coordinating the muscles in their mouth to suckle and swallow effectively. So he lost far more than we could get into him at first. Such is the life of many foster moms!

And then things got really interesting!

When four months had passed, Isaiah had recovered from the withdrawal phase.  Life was settling into something that looked a lot like “normal”.

What do you know? The phone rang! Enter Zoe.

Zoe was also drug exposed, although primarily to an intense nicotine addiction. There was secondary exposure to methamphetamine. She screamed twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. The first three months of her life were a constant struggle to keep her calm and comfortable.

At the same time, we had our Isaiah evaluated by the local Birth to Three program and began his Occupational Therapy for dyspraxia.

Zoe was three months old before we had made a discovery that resolved many of her early issues. The introduction of a probiotic to her diet stopped the screaming like flipping a switch.

New normal

We settled into the therapy and care routines that carried us through many months. Today our lives look a lot like the typical life of parents with two-year old twin toddlers.

Functionally speaking, Isaiah and Zoe behave much like twins. They are very close. They have started to build their own language and pretty much drive each other nuts 24/7!

Occasionally they have other issues tied to their sensory integration difficulties. Zoe struggles with “gravitational insecurity” and Isaiah has multiple sensory issues including feeding/textures, certain sounds, strong smells. We are preparing to go through an 8 week-long session of the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol in hopes that we will help his nervous system to develop the capacity to filter some of these things out. Therapy keeps us busy.

In the midst of all of that we have the joy of watching these two phenomenal little people grow and develop into who they were meant to be, just like any other parents of multiples. While the kids don’t share that biological connection, in all things functional, I am most definitely living the very busy life of a mom of multiples! I have the same joy. The same intensity. A different perspective.

I’m looking forward to connecting with other mamas out there who are in the same boat!

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They’re So Different!

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Categories Difference, Different Gender, Fraternal4 Comments

I hear this from almost everyone who meets our twins. I guess when anyone thinks “twins”, the image that comes to mind is that of identical twins. Or at least same-sex fraternal twins who look very similar. My twins looked similar for about 36 hrs, when they were just born… but all babies probably look similar when they’re just born.

When finding out we were having twins, I actually did hope for a b/g set. I was (am?) afraid of raising raucous boys, so I didn’t want two of them at the same time, and since we already have a girl, I also preferred not to have two more (well actually I was ok with that, but Husband was deathly afraid), that left b/g twins. Furthermore, I think it’s much easier not to be compared to your twin when you are of a different gender, and I wanted that individuality for my twins. So I got what I wanted, and then some. They share the same birthday and the same parents, but in almost every other way, they are so so different.

Weight

When you look at them, the first thing you would notice is that the boy is much bigger than the girl. In fact, almost 2.5 lbs bigger. I’m not going to lie, at first they did look the same. At 6 lbs 5 oz and 6 lbs 10 oz, there was not a great size difference at birth. In my post-c-section drugged up state, I did mistake them a time or two. Especially in their individual newborn photos where I didn’t have the other one to compare. But very, very quickly, that changed. Within one week, Baby Boy already broke 7 lbs, whereas Baby Girl was still working on recovering back to birth weight. At one month, baby girl finally made it to the 20th percentile at 8 lbs 3 oz. He has once been at the 83rd percentile. Today, she is 14 lbs 12 oz (49th), and he is 17 lbs (66th). Baby Girl has a petite frame, and while she is by no means skinny, she is mostly muscle. Everything about her is small: her nose, her mouth, her hands and her feet. She has an athletic build. Baby Boy has a large head, big belly, thick thighs, rolls on his arms, chunky fingers and toes. He has a lounge-around build. Holding the two of them are completely different experiences.

Eating

Obviously, Baby Boy is a great eater. He was the one who latched correctly and was content to nurse, for the few minutes that we did it. If I had chosen to continue, I’m sure he would have been the one to get it. He almost never rejects a feed, even when it isn’t time. He eats a lot, and he eats it fast. Baby Girl, on the other hand, is more of a recreational eater. She will sip a little here and there, not taking on a full feed until she is almost famished and then finally pound a bunch. I’ve had to train her out of that, so she’s much better now.

Recently I’ve started them on rice cereal. Neither has really taken to it yet, and both will get impatient for their bottles and cry, but I am certain that Baby Boy will take to this first as well. He already runs the cereal around in his mouth to taste it. Baby Girl? Pushes it out with her tongue (which, incidentally, is why she never latched).

Sleeping

As a newborn, Baby Girl would scream when she was tired (or actually overtired), so we gave her a pacifier. That kind of masked her sleep issues until I took it away (successfully after a week or so of agony). Baby Boy didn’t need to be sleep trained. He was capable of sleeping through the night way before I actually let him do it. He’s pretty much set his schedule exactly how I wanted him to, so I’ve just let him be. His naps are usually at predictable times and durations, and not much can wake him before he’s ready.

The sleep training was for Baby Girl. For the longest time she was doing a 4am feeding after sleeping around 11pm, which was the schedule that I put her on when she was an infant to match my own habits. And she was getting to the point where she couldn’t get herself to sleep without her paci, which meant I had to put it back in her mouth all night long. Her naps were all over the place, every little sound bothered her, and she just didn’t sleep as soundly.

With our newly imposed schedule, she has improved. But it’s not perfect. Her naps are usually still shorter than his, and she is still more easily awakened. It takes her longer to settle down for sleep. She also becomes overtired much more easily. Or should I say, it’s a thin line between tired and overtired for her.

Temperament

All of the above actually boils down to this: They have two very different temperaments.

Baby Girl loves excitement and fun. She is our active child, rolling over before 3 months and putting weight on her legs whenever she gets us to hold her up. From the hospital Husband nicknamed her “Crazy Girl”. Her cries were immediate and piercing from day one. But her smiles and subsequent cackles light up her whole face and the entire room. When happy, she kicks her legs with the force of all of her little body. When unhappy, the tears stream down her face while she finds never-ending energy reserves to scream until she’s hoarse. The highest highs and lowest lows.

Having fun comes before eating or sleeping. (As I’m writing this, I’m watching her kick and laugh to herself on the baby monitor. She’s spent half an hour rolling over and helicoptering around her co-sleeper.) She loves going on outings. The louder the better. She actually eats and sleeps better on days when we go out. Strangers? Not a problem. Love, love, love.

Baby Boy is completely the opposite. He is a very easy-going baby, as long as he is in a relaxed, calm, and familiar environment. He does not have a ready laugh as his sister does, in fact he is often downright suspicious of new things and people. But he does have a very dorky trusting gummy smile reserved for his Mama, which melts my heart in a way the girls’ can’t beat. He’s perfectly happy just to hang out– he likes being held while we’re watching TV, or lying around watching his older sister dance around the living room– and doesn’t squirm like Baby Girl would.

His feeds and sleep are self-regulating at home, but take him out of his rhythm and he could be “off” for days. Outings are particularly difficult, as he doesn’t do well with loud noises or unfamiliar environments.

Our Jumping Bean and Sweet Lug. What a pair!

lunchldyd is mom to a 3yo daughter and 5mo b/g twins. She marvels on a daily basis at how different her twins are and looks forward to seeing these kiddos grow up.

 

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