Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

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This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old
L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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SMSs From the NICU

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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.


Our twins Rahul and Leila were born at 31 weeks gestation, in Hong Kong, where I temporarily moved from Chengdu for their birth and initial care. Only my husband Maher, and I were allowed to visit the babies in the NICU.

2 weeks after they were born Maher returned to work in Chengdu. He would fly into HK every Friday evening though, for the weekend.

These are some of the messages I sent to him, Houda (my mother-in-law), and my parents from the hospital over the next month. I was only allowed to send messages from outside the NICU unit. Some days I couldn’t get myself to go out and leave the babies alone any longer than I already did, so I’d sneak into one of the breastfeeding cubicles that were set apart from the rooms where the babies were, and I’d secretly turn on my phone for a couple of minutes, scramble to send a quick update to Maher in Chengdu, and to the grandparents who were at the apartment with me in HK.

They were recovered from Houda’s phone well after we had returned to Chengdu. Unfortunately, the dates were not saved.

Rahul came home after 3 weeks in the NICU, Leila after 6.


Leila is better. They will start feeding her again soon. She weighs 1480 (kg). Not aspirating undigested milk anymore. No stool yet though. Rahul is fine. Quite sleepy this morning.

They started feeding Leila again at 10 am. [There was a fear that Leila had caught a dangerous infection in her gut so they briefly stopped feeding her.]

Rahul is 1910 (kg) now, and he is difficult with me on the breast! Doesn’t eat and then when he does it takes ages to burp him:) Leila is tolerating the milk rather well. She ate from the bottle again very well. Still no stool though. 36 hours now. Can you see if you can buy baby monitors to keep near the baby with a system so I can hear them in my room if they cry. [Rahul was going home soon.]

Leila is doing good. Big bowel opening this morning Eating 13-14ml now.

Leila is good. Eating 16-18ml. She had medium size stool last night at 3 am. She seems calm. Belly slightly distended but soft so it is ok. They are aspirating some undigested milk as usual. How is Rahul? [He went home already and was taken care of by his grandmothers teta Houda and nani Varsha.]

Leila is eating 20ml. Digesting well. She is calm right now. Sleeping.

Did Rahul eat and shit? What consistency? [He was at home.]

Leila is ok. Still eating upto 20. I haven’t had the chance to get more info. Rahul had a bath. He was very calm. He weighs 2010. [He went back to the hospital for an ROP Retinopathy of Prematurity test.]

Leila is eating 20 ml every 2 hours like before. She looks bigger. They will weigh her tomorrow. Will ask again if I can hold her. Nothing else.

Maher prefers cousa (zucchini) to chicken. But he likes basela (peas). [Houda trying to decide what to cook one Friday for Maher when he came to HK.]

Leila is good:) Did Rahul eat? Is he calm?

Maher said feed him (Rahul) if he is hungry. Maher has all night to feed him. [A Friday afternoon. Maher came to the hospital to see Leila and would later go home to see Rahul.]

Is he eating now?!

She is good. Eating 20ml. Still a little distended. Weighs 1645.

Leila is much better. Eating 23 ml. After a glycerine tube insert she shat many times in the last day.

She weighs 1665 and is eating 26. Looks good.

She is good. Eating 28 and they want to give her the bottle [as opposed to the feeding tube] a little more often.

Everything is good. He weighs 2705 and should eat between 90 and 120.

She is very good. No tube in her mouth. Everything else same.

She is good. Eating 30 to 35.

Is he eating now? The next time he gets hungry give him some formula pls. Thanks. [I was still at the hospital so couldn’t get him breastmilk in time.]

She is in a crib with no wires. She weighs 1855 and she breast fed really well. She didn’t swallow a lot but sucked well. Prepare a crib for her at home soon

She is good. Same same.

She is ok. Eating 45! Weighing 1935. Temperature is still a little low. [She was in a crib now and had to regulate her own body temperature.]

Rahul and I, day 4 or 5 in the NICU
With Rahul, day 4 or 5 in the NICU
Leila in the NICU, 2 weeks old
Leila in the NICU, 2 weeks old

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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Premature in Hong Kong: My Twins Born at 31 Weeks

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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.


Leila and Rahul were born 2 months early, at 31 weeks in Hong Kong, where I temporarily moved a month before the birth, to access better NICU facilities.

At 29 weeks my contractions became more frequent, every 5 minutes. I was immediately hospitalized, for the 4th time during the pregnancy, given another round of steroid shots to speed up the babies lung development and put on a magnesium drip. The contractions were controlled at this fancy private hospital that didn’t have an NICU. So at 8am on Sunday morning, exactly 31 weeks gestation the doctor announced that I was in labour and had to be taken to the Queen Mary, a public hospital with an excellent NICU facility.

Rahul was low in the womb so a Cesarean section was risky. Leila was under my rib- cage and in a transverse position. A natural vaginal birth carried the risk that she might not turn head-down and an emergency C-section would then be needed.

Until then, my doctors had all been men who said I would need a C-section. That morning though, my husband Maher and I had to decide what to do on the spur of the moment, while I was contracting and in an emergency delivery setting.

The doctor on call was refreshingly a young woman who was insinuating that I opt for the natural birth. We didn’t have my blood-type on paper, so they couldn’t operate until they got the results. They drew blood soon after I arrived, late morning. They could not administer an epidural for the same reason. I secretly wanted to give birth naturally, and for the first time in the entire pregnancy I realized that it was possible, with risk of course, but we were accustomed to that by then. I felt I was in good hands. The efficient and natural way in which my case was being handled made me realise they did this often.

A sweet nurse called Angel held my hand through many of the growing contractions and Maher was by my side. I breathed in a gas mask, which would ease pain from the contractions. I remember frantically asking for Maher as I was being transferred from the ambulance stretcher that brought me in from the ambulance. I was wheeled through blue hallways, metallic elevators and ended up in the little delivery room. He wasn’t with me and I had no idea if he’d found his way.

He doesn’t speak a word of Mandarin, forget about Cantonese. The contractions were getting stronger, and longer and I didn’t realise that it wouldn’t be until 5pm that the babies would arrive. He made it. I relaxed a bit when as I saw him.

It was lunch time. The nurses insisted that he grab something to eat. There would be a wait before the delivery. My parents were waiting outside by then too. He took them down to the Starbucks that I would get to know very well over the next 6 weeks.

Between contractions Maher drew my attention to the view from a window next to my bed. It was beautiful. The afternoon sun was shining, the blue sea was glistening, and there was an island. The gas relieved some pain, but as the contractions became stronger I started to do bhramari (humming bee sound), and sheetali (sucking air in through a rolled tongue) breath work. It all came back to yoga, during the pregnancy and now. It was spontaneous. It kept me calm, grounded, and connected to a familiar practice. I used ujjayi breath all the time, contractions or not.

Just before 5 pm, I had fully dilated. The room suddenly filled up with nurses, doctors and two teams of paediatric specialists, one for each baby. Maher caught a glance of Rahul when he came out, right before he was rushed to the NICU. In the meantime a doctor was pushing on my belly to help baby 2 turn around. Another doctor had already given me an episiotomy and was ready to enter and manually turn Leila if needed. She turned on her own and was born 7 minutes after Rahul. She didn’t cry. There was some quick movement and maneuvering around her incubator for a few moments. They resuscitated and rushed her to the NICU.

A few minutes after all the delivery procedures ended Maher went up to the NICU to see our babies and to get some information about them. Only parents were allowed in during the visiting hours, 9am to 8pm. In the span of a few minutes, the room I was in went from being full of shouting nurses and doctors, to empty. I found myself alone, eating a bowl of rice and Cantonese beef or pork. I don’t remember which. There were two attendants who came in to ask which I didn’t eat – beef or pork. To them my brown skin automatically meant that I was either Hindu or Muslim. I asked for chicken.

The women then wheeled me to a room with thirty little cubicles separated by green plastic curtains. Each space fit a single, tiny bed and a little cupboard. I was to spend the next 3 days and nights there.

It was almost 8- o’clock, the end of visiting hours. My parents and brother-in-law who had just flown from Chengdu, made it in for a few minutes. They put my clothes, mobile phone, and whatever food they had on them in my little cupboard. I could reach for it from my bed. Maher came by for a minute with no news of L and R yet. The doctors were still preparing and assessing them and he hadn’t been allowed in. He rushed back to catch the 8pm deadline.

The attendant on duty who was changing sheets, cleaning the cubicles, handing over babies to their mums for feeds, and bed pans to others was not in a good mood, obviously bored and exhausted from her day in and out of dealing with new mums and their crying babies, and especially lacking patience for one who doesn’t speak Cantonese. I was exhausted but the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. My husband had seen the babies and sent me photos by SMS but they didn’t open on my phone. I spoke to family and friends. They were all upbeat and congratulating me. Maher was worried and I was reassuring him.

The room I was in was always awake, day and night, with the 30 mums trying to feed their babies, sleep, use the toilets and showers, and contain their excitement and pain.

A nurse came by to check my blood pressure. It was high as it had been for the last few weeks. I was not to leave the bed until early the next day. She also handed me a syringe and showed me how to express milk by massaging down on my breast, and then pushing in and down, but not squeezing. I slept for a few hours before I had to pump again, and then again. In the future I was to wash my hands thoroughly before expressing, clean the nipple and make sure the syringe was always in its wrapper. This I did every 3 hours that night, and for many months after. The nurse was surprised by how much colostrum I managed to express. Each syringe had to be labeled clearly and precisely with the date, time, and babies names, and then kept frozen until I could take them to the NICU in the morning.

The NICU story is a post on its own. After the stressful entrance into the world L and R are now healthy 4-year-olds. For almost a year now we’ve been living on Koh Samui, a magical island in Thailand. Living a dream.

photo(2)Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a 3 year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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