Twinfant Tuesday: Multiple Infants with Multiple Needs

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Getting ready for a day of appointments.

The topic of Twinfant Tuesday came up and I wondered to myself and to Sadia, did I have a good experience during the infancy stage and do I have something to contribute? At first thought, I had serious doubts. My memories recall close to four months in a NICU, living away from home, the discharge and then the madness of appointments that awaited us, all the while working hard to balance the needs of my older child. My husband was at work Monday to Friday, working very long days due to unfortunate timing and he and I together were trying to figure out how to navigate as parents of 3, two and under, with particularly special needs.

We made it to some special events.

During the infant stage I was busy running my twin boys to appointments in town and out of town, navigating the hospital parking lots, calculating the best and quickest routes to my destinations, and breastfeeding in empty seminar rooms and in the back row of my minivan. I did whatever it took to keep these little infants well. It felt exhausting and unrelenting. These memories are my initial thoughts when I think about their infancy.

But when I think about these things and the other things that are too many to mention which made up the early week s and months of my twins’ first year, I realize that we had somewhat of a unique experience. An amazing experience actually. The healthcare they required and the follow ups that came with it enabled me to get to know these babies cues, health needs and personalities in a way I can’t explain. It’s as though I developed a sixth sense of proactivity when it came to their unspoken needs. That’s what I’m going to call it. I learned that really and truly, I was their expert. They couldn’t articulate their needs, but I knew how to sense them and articulate for them. I knew them best. Doctors knew about healthcare and the typical needs of babies like them, but I came to realize I know them best and if I had a gut feeling about something it was going to be accurate. Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate every single thing our doctors and specialists have done for us along the way, but I recognize that we worked as a team and I really was my babies’ voice.

Putting some occupational therapy concepts to work.

So when I look back on my twins’ infant stage, I realize that it really was enjoyable. I did many things with them every day, maybe in atypical ways, but I breastfed them like I wanted to and made some fun and unique memories with them along the way. I look forward to sharing their stories with them one day.

On the road again.
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Twinfant Tuesday: Three Things That Helped in the First Year Blur

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first year blur

It’s the third week of our new HDYDI feature, Twinfant Tuesday, and I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what to write about. I’m supposed to give you some insight into how I made it through the first year with multiples…

The truth is, I don’t really know.

My two survivors are 19 1/2 months now (16 1/2 adjusted), and the first year was truly a blur. Between spending the first four months in the NICU and dealing with the loss of one of the triplets, I don’t think I really even recovered until after the first year was over. My first year didn’t even really begin when they were born, but rather, when they came home.

But there were some things that made a huge difference my first year.

Getting Organized

get organized

I’m not just talking color-coordinating things or having a system for washing bottles, I’m talking making sure you’re on top of all the to-do list items. That was one of the hardest things for my husband and me – making sure we didn’t miss any appointments, therapy sessions, follow-up visits, or other important events. We hung a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen and kept all of the appointments listed – in color code of course – to keep us and anyone looking after the babies in the loop. Yes, we also had important dates synced on our iPhone calendars, but this way, we could see it at a moment’s notice and everyone would know who was doing what.

We also set reminders and alarms on our phones for everything – when medicine was due, when it was time to get them up to feed (in case we fell asleep, which happened often), to remind us to change the laundry, etc. I even set an alarm to remind me to eat. It may seem insane, but these alarms helped keep me on track when I was sleep-deprived and still recovering from mommy-brain.

Finding Help

get help

I don’t think I ever would have made it through all the chaos without help. I was lucky enough to have family close by that pitched in when I needed them. My mom on the weekends, my mother-in-law several days a week, and the occasional babysitter just to help me deal with all the things I was overwhelmed with. It’s not a bad thing to need help. Whether you need someone to help with the babies, the house, or just to give you some much-needed time to yourself, getting a helping hand will make those first few months a little more bearable.

If you don’t have family nearby or can’t afford a sitter (we paid ours less than one we’d pay who would watch our babies if we were gone, because they were helping, not in charge), consider trading help with another mom friend. Giving each other a few hours off will at least provide you with a much needed break. And, if that’s not an option, at least set up a play date so you can have some adult conversation.

Having a Positive Attitude

surviving lockdown

Lockdown. The six month long side-effect of having preemies. From October 1 – March 31, we never left the house other than for our mandatory doctor’s appointments. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re forced to be hermits. We weren’t allowed to have visitors other than family (and they had to be up-to-date on their shots and free of illness), we couldn’t have kids over – so no play dates, and we had to make sure the house was sterile and that my husband changed clothes as soon as he came home. I think our hands got raw from all the washing. It also was a major downer that their first birthday fell during this time and we weren’t able to have the type of party we wanted to have.

Surviving it was a challenge, but there were things we were able to do to help. It was okay to go outside, we just couldn’t be around other people. So, I would often load them in their wagon and take a walk around the block. They loved it, I got exercise, and we all got fresh air. Another thing I did to keep sane was talking to at least one friend a day. Most of the time, it was someone who was going through the same thing as I was. If you’re in a situation like lockdown, know that there are a lot of moms out there who are in your shoes and understand. One of these moms in particular helped me understand that I shouldn’t think of it as the jail I saw it as. Instead, I should put a positive spin on it: I should appreciate the time I had to bond with the babies without the added outside distractions. Learn about them. Enjoy them. So that’s what I did, and it was an invaluable way to spend my first year as a mom.

What about you?

Have you tried these ways to get through? If so, did they help, or do you have another suggestion? Sometimes, it’s all about perspective…

AngelaAngela is a stay-at-home mom raising surviving triplets. She lost her first-born triplet, Carter, after 49 days, and her survivors, B & T, keep her pretty busy with their ongoing needs as a result of their prematurity. She manages to find time for her business and personal blog. Her goal in blogging is to share with others that it’s possible to survive after loss. She and her husband live in the Houston, TX suburb of Cypress. She also blogs at Thirty-One:10.

 

 

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I'm a Home Run Hitter

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I’m a homerun hitter in this game called Parenting. That’s right! Some days I practically “hit the ball out of the park” with my parenting skills…but (of course there’s a but) then there are other days…those bleak days…where it’s three strikes and I’m out and I haven’t even finished my morning cup of cold coffee yet.

Last week I took part in a workshop, put on by a local social service agency in partnership with the Parents of Multiples Births Association I am part of. The workshop was on Positive Parenting and Raising Responsible Children (us multiples moms and dads need all the advice we can get, right?!) The facilitator used a baseball analogy in her explanation of positive parenting, which I will explain shortly.

We all want to raise awesome children and give them all we can to achieve success…but we learned maybe that is not exactly the right approach. We need to let children make mistakes, as painful as it may be to watch happen. We need to let them learn from their experiences, not clear the path or fight their battles for them, while thinking we are doing them a favour. We talked about the importance of give and take when it comes to the parent and child relationship. We heard about the reasons why children may seem to be “misbehaving,” when perhaps in fact they are having a hard time verbalizing or expressing what it is that’s actually making them react in ways we consider “bad.” We also learned from other parents’ reactions we are not alone when we wonder where the heck The Parenting Manual is and why didn’t we get training before we had multiples running around the neighbourhood when the lights are out and all the other kids are home in their beds?? Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

The facilitator of this workshop discussed the importance of understanding the difference between praise and encouragement. Another key thought was to consider the difference between punishment and discipline.  At first glance I am sure many parents, including myself might think these words are one in the same, just a different way to state them…but with further explanation many of us had our “a-ha moments” going off one by one through the session.

For starters the facilitator explained a concept called STEP – Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. The main point that drove it home (like a homerun) for me was praise is used to reward only for well-done, completed tasks. From this the child begins to develop the ideal that “to be worthwhile I must meet your standards,” allowing the child to develop unrealistic standards and measure worth by how closely the child reaches the parents’ perceived level of perfection. From here children learn to dread failure. On the flip side, in comparison, encouragement is when a child is recognized for effort and improvement. The child internalizes the idea that he or she does not have to be perfect and that efforts and improvements are valued and important. Based on this type of repetitive experience the child learns to accept his/her and others’ efforts. It also enables a child to learn discipline and persistence to stay on task.

Bringing up the rear were the concepts of punishment versus discipline. I thought, Aren’t they the same?…one just seems to have a meaner tone? I looked it up, because that’s what I do, and yes, they do have similar meanings…but “discipline” is also defined as activities, exercises or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

During the workshop, “punishment” was outlined as our belief that we must teach a life lesson and that a punishment, such as taking something away will make the child think before acting next time or “suffer the consequences.” You may randomly take something away, that has nothing to do with the problem or situation and will make no sense to the upset child. That sounds scary and frustrating…Then on the other hand is the concept of discipline, which is to train the child by working with him/her to develop effective strategies for expressing their emotions and managing behaviour to avoid grocery store mid-aisle meltdowns for all to see (and judge.) To discipline, you have to work at achieving your own skill of understanding a child’s reasons for behaviour and misbehaviour, use firmness and kindness in your approach, look for solutions and alternatives and the ultimate goal is to teach the child self-discipline. In other words don’t start screaming and yelling, thinking you’re going to help the already frustrating situation. In this sense you’re really reverting to child-like mannerisms because you can’t get your point across. I get it…but it’s going to take a lot of practice to make it right…and ultimately this whole concept of parenting indicates we should not strive for “perfection,” but rather a balance of confidence in our abilities and a willingness to persevere and try again next time.

To close, the way the facilitator of the workshop summed up these ideas is that when you start to learn to play baseball, you don’t immediately know how to swing and hit a ball, or pitch and throw a strike. This was my a-ha moment, after playing many, many summer baseball seasons over the years, I knew what she meant. I realized this idea of baseball is similar to learning to parent; these are all things that take time, dedication and potentially many mistakes along the way to become as good a parent as you can be. Rarely does a pitcher ever throw a perfect game and so it’s reasonable to think parents will make mistakes, feel like they should be thrown out of the Parenting game and maybe even take themselves out of the game for a few minutes to collect themselves and then start again with a fresh approach.

Our friends at GoNannies.com asked us to share some of their similar thoughts shared on their recent blog post, How to Gain Your Child’s Cooperation Without Yelling, so please feel free to check them out for more advice on discipline and gaining your child’s cooperation.

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Multiples, Speech Delays and Mommy Guilt

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I’ve heard that multiples are more likely to have speech delays from various sources: books, web resources, paediatricians, and other parents of multiples. There doesn’t seem to be a definite explanation for these delays, but there seem to be two main theories: (1) multiples develop their own ways of communicating with each other so they don’t need to learn to talk, or (2) multiples don’t get as much one-on-one time with parents/caregivers. Here’s our real-life experience to add to what I’ve learned from others.

Our girls seem to have some speech delays. They were tested when they were 19 months old. S was measured at 14 months for expressive language and 16 months for receptive language. (R wouldn’t cooperate with the testing, but she’s probably pretty close to her sister). They are both usually able to make it clear to us what they want through sounds, pointing, and signs, but they use very few recognizable spoken words. The next step here is for the parent(s) to go to a workshop with a speech pathologist who shows us techniques to support our children’s speech development. Our babysitting plans didn’t work out, so I ended up going alone. There were about 15-20 parents at the workshop, and it sounded like their children had a variety of speech delays. I’m quite sure I was the only parent with twins at the meeting, and I didn’t have my husband along to provide an alternate perspective on the experience.

I responded to the workshop on two levels. From one perspective, it made sense to take this approach. Parents are (usually) the people who spend the most time with their children and they know them best. They are best suited to integrate activities to work on speech in to their family’s daily activities. And, it made sense to work with parents alone because it is much easier to share information and answer questions without toddlers. My rational mind was able to take in the information provided and consider how I could use it to help my daughters. I felt more confident that this would be a short-term concern and that there steps we could take to support them over the next few months.

However, from another perspective, the recurring message of the workshop seemed to be that parents need to spend time one-on-one with their children. As a result, I left the workshop feeling very guilty and discouraged. My mind quickly made the connection that if the solution to the problem is more individual attention than the cause must be lack of individual attention. I felt that I had let my children down by not focusing enough on each of them and not making time to talk with each of them to support their language development. I compounded my guilt by worrying that choosing a childcare provider who does not have English as a first language contributed to my daughters’ delays. Though I specifically asked about applying these techniques with multiples, the speech pathologist didn’t have any concrete suggestions. I was left trying to figure out how I could fit 15 to 30 minutes/child/day of more focused individual attention.

We’ve only had a few days to consider what to do next, but we are looking at changing our bedtime routine so we can each spend time with one daughter. We are also trying to include more one-on-one time on the weekends. I’m also implementing the techniques I learned with both girls when we play together. This is the best I can do during the day when I have two toddlers and their older brother to take care for. I remind myself that I provide them with a safe, stimulating and fun place to play and learn. They are clearly happy little girls, which helps to dissipate the mommy guilt.

I’m sure everyone has experience mommy guilt. How do you deal with it? (If you have advice on dealing with speech delays, I’d love to hear them too.)

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