MoM Elevator Pitch

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Categories Ask the Readers, Pregnancy, PrematurityTags , , , , , 3 Comments

Today, I went into the local Army medical center in an attempt to untangle a sitcom-worthy set of mixups of appointments, referrals and prescriptions. While I was waiting, I got to talking to the visibly pregnant lady next to me. She was 25 weeks pregnant with twins, and wasn’t looking forward to her appointment. Since one of her babies was low on amniotic fluid, she was anticipating being checked into the hospital, something she really didn’t want to have to do quite yet. We happened to leave the clinic around the same time, and she gave me an update. Although she wasn’t being hospitalized, she was being put on bed rest. She lamented not being able to be more available to one of her soldiers whose wife is also expecting twins.

In the few minutes I had, I told her that I also had twins, and that I’d delivered them 7 weeks early. Although it was scary at the time, they spent less than 3 weeks in the NICU, and are now flourishing. If bed rest was what her babies needed, maybe holding on to the thought that she’s doing it for them would help the time pass faster. I told her that I’d be thinking of her, and that I hoped that her babies stayed healthy and in her womb as long as they could.

If you had just 2 or 3 minutes to comfort a scared mother-of-multiples-to-be, what would you say to her?

Sadia is an army wife and working mom of 5-year-old identical twin girls. She and her family live in El Paso, TX, where her husband is stationed at Ft Bliss.

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Medium and Happy

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Categories Celebrations, Development, Feeding, Overnight, Parenting Twins, Prematurity, SleepTags , , , , , , , 1 Comment

(Leila and Rahul are turning 2 in a few days. They are doing very well, happy and healthy, other than a cold they have been fighting for the last week.  I would like to share something I wrote when they turned one-and-a-half.)

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Rahul and Leila have come a long way since their birth at 31 weeks gestation. At 18 months they have caught up with other children their age physically, emotionally and developmentally.

Leila recently jumped from the 5th to the 10th percentile in weight, and Rahul is steady at the 10th.  In height they are both at the 50th percentile. All in all, according to the charts (which might be slightly different that the US standard ones?), they are light weight children of average height. Not that it means much anymore. Last month I met a five month old baby who weighed as much as Leila. At their NICU there was a baby born at 24 weeks, much tinier than them. Now however, when I see them play amongst toddlers their own age, they merge right in, size-wise as well as ability-wise.

Since they were born a couple of months early it was normal, even necessary to closely monitor their weight gain. Thankfully we have had no serious problems since they left the NICU. They are both running, playing, and talking a lot. They are full of energy.

It’s time for me to let go of the obsessive monitoring. They need a break from being scrutinized and compared. They inevitably get a lot of it just for being twins. They don’t need any more, and especially not from me. In the big picture a little delay here or there is not a big deal. I have noticed that they are eating a little more than before, sleeping a little bit better, and enjoying each other.

I have found that comparing healthy babies growth and development is useless, and even silly. We all do it though. It’s natural. Parents often compare how soon their babies sit up, crawl, start sprouting teeth, walk, and talk in relation to others. Discussing these things with other mums and dads is important, especially for first time parents. It is necessary to follow-up on certain milestone achievements. If a real problem is caught soon enough it could be addressed more effectively.

There is a wide range of normal. I can see that just by having two babies. Leila crawled by 7 months, Rahul started after 9. They both had issues with digestion in the NICU. They digest differently. R has a strong reflux, Leila a poor appetite. Now L eats all the time and R eats only when he can feed himself! They both got their first teeth around the same time. According to Dr. Sear’s “The Baby Book”, when teeth come out is a genetic trait. Speech seems to be a big “issue”, and especially when there is more than one language spoken. We have 3 languages around us, and so far they are both saying words in all.

My brother didn’t speak until he was 2. My grandmother forced my parents to see doctors about this. Neither did he eat. What a catastrophe. My parents were easy-going enough to let him be. When he was ready he spoke and when he was hungry he ate. Now he talks a lot, and eats a lot. He is a professional sportsman, and a big guy. My brother-in-law spoke “late”, but apparently when he did it was in full grammatically correct sentences!

When asked, I usually responded to questions about my children’s age, weight, birth order etc. And then I asked similar questions back. Sometimes I even initiated such dialogues. I knew it was silly, but I needed to hear that Leila and Rahul are smaller than others to validate their experience of early birth, as well as mine being their primary care-giver. It has not been easy with their tiny milk feeds. After birth they wouldn’t drink more than 1 to 3 ml of milk at a time. By 1 year R could take 120ml. But because of his reflux he had to stop and burp every 30 ml. Each feed was drink, burp, drink, burp…  Leila woke up every 2 to 3 hours to drink at night, and still does. Most babies around us sleep through the night and eat comfortably. I couldn’t help comparing.

I was listening to a studio talk by Richard Freeman, an inspiring senior Ashtanga teacher the other day. I am paraphrasing what I understood from it. He said as soon as we realise that our Asana posture is medium, that it could look better, and it could also look worse, there is a release. The pressure dissolves and the breathing starts. It is no longer about having the perfect posture. It is more intrinsic and personal. That’s when the suffering stops and the practice can deepen.

The same goes for size. As soon as we can acknowledge that we are medium, that we could be taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, there is a release. We can move on and think about other things. I once told a close friend that her son was tall. “No” she responded, “he is average height.” Her honesty struck me.

Rahul and Leila are changing all the time, as I am. When I am around them I want to be actually present. I want to encourage them to have fun, and to laugh. They have enough time to follow curriculae and perform in the future. We can all stack 4 blocks and order rings according to size. It makes no difference to me if they can do it now, or in a few months. They are full of love and energy and that is what really matters. I want them to be Medium and Happy.

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Natasha lives in Chengdu, China with her husband Maher. She is mum of  twins Leila and Rahul, and was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until her little yogis became the teachers. You can find more of her thoughts and stories at Our Little Yogis.

 

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Preemie Medical Issues: Lung Function, and also Bad Teeth

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Categories Identical, Infants, Medical, PrematurityTags , , , , , 5 Comments

Our daughters, J and M, were born prematurely at 33 weeks gestation. Preemies make up 54% of twin births, compared to 9.6% of singleton births, according to statistics gathered in the 1980s. In my experience, conversations with parents or grandparents of multiples eventually turn towards the issue of prematurity, either its reality and the shared bond of the NICU experience, or how lucky some families are to bypass that rite of passage.

Our family’s experience with prematurity was a lot less scary than it could have been, although it felt devastating at the time. Neither of our girls needed help breathing, but they weighed under 7lb (3.2 kg) put together. Their Apgar scores were excellent, but they didn’t have the body fat they needed to maintain their own body temperatures ex-utero. They were released from the hospital over a month before their due date.

Looking at our vibrant, sassy, smart and downright hilarious five-year-olds, no one who isn’t in the know about twin birth statistics would guess that their birth held any unusual struggle. They’re short for their age, but so am I. My 5 ft 0 in (1.5 m) genes appear to have beaten out those of the girls’ 6 ft 7 in (2.0 m) great uncle. M and J have had only two lasting effects from being born before they were quite ready: a susceptibility to lung infections, and teeth missing enamel.

The lung infection issue came as no surprise. Our pediatrician and the NICU staff had warned us that lung complications were common in babies who began to breath when their lungs were still forming. Our insurance covered Synagis, the vaccine against RSV, a virus that gives you and me the sniffles, but can be fatal to a premature infant. I made the monthly trek to the one local clinic that dispensed the vaccines for the entire seven months of our girls’ first cold season. Their second winter, our insurance company deemed them out of danger. Sure enough, first J and then M came down with RSV. It was another three years before we were able to celebrate the retirement of the nebulizer that J used to ease the laboured breathing that kicked up without warning year-round.

The tooth issue, on the other hand, came as a huge surprise.

I thought we were doing everything right in the dental care department. We started using infant finger toothbrushes to massage the babies’ gums well before they had teeth. We added toothpaste when their first teeth broke through, and brushed morning and night, without fail. We brushed their teeth for them until they turned five, and gave them toothbrushes that they could practice with. Before M and J turned two, we introduced flossing, the the form of one-time-use kids’ flossers. To this day they consider going to bed without flossing unthinkable. Our pediatrician praised the girls for their dental hygiene. Even though I knew full-well that dentists recommended a first visit be scheduled at the sight of the first tooth, I put it off until the girls were three.

At their first visit, the dentist discovered cavities in both girls’ mouths. It turned out that both J and M suffered from enamel hypoplasia, or a lack of enamel on a number of their teeth. As luck, or more likely genes, would have it, our monozygotic daughters had hypoplasia on the same teeth. Their cavities were were also coordinated. Identical twins, with identical tooth issues, I suppose.

We left the dentists’ office with fillings, prescription fluoride toothpaste, and another reminder that however far away their premature birth feels, it keeps popping back up. At our next visit to the pediatrician, I told him the sad tale of the girls’ teeth, and he promised to pass along to the next preemie parents he saw the recommendation to get to a dentist soon. And now, I pass that recommendation to you.

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