Premature in Hong Kong: My Twins Born at 31 Weeks

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.

Foodie Friday: Pizza for Toddlers, Made by Toddlers

My plan was to do a pictorial story of when Little Mister and Little Missy made their own pizzas for dinner one evening after daycare. Unfortunately, my portable hard drive (aka photo treasure chest) is corrupt and I have so far been unable to salvage photos and videos taken of our twins from the last two years! Our toddler pizza experience was one of the collections which is unsalvagable so far.

So I will be up to you, the reader, to… PICTURE THIS…

It’s the night before TGIF and I am inspired to do something different for dinner to take us into the weekend. After looking at what ingredients (aka leftovers) we have available: a packet of Indian naan, can of tomato paste, green peppers, ground beef and chicken. I settled on making “plate-sized” pizzas. And hmmm why not take it one step further and let our 2 1/2 year olds design-their-own?

After doing a quick google search for pizza sauce, I came across this super easy recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-pizza-sauce-iii/ Why not make homemade pizza sauce so you at least know what goes into it?

My goal was to get all the ingredients ready beforehand, and like craft time, get the kids to “assemble” it. The pizza sauce needs to be chilled so it’s the perfect thing to do the night before. The ground beef was already cooked with spices, and we had some leftover cubes of cooked chicken ready to use as another topping. Half a block of cheese was grated the night before also. After work the next day, and before going to pick them up from daycare, I quickly sliced up the mushrooms, tomato and green pepper.

When the kids came home from daycare they donned their aprons and got to work preparing their masterpieces. Each got a small round baking pan (used by Mr. Mama for making nachos) to hold their naan (flatbread). Each got a small stainless steel bowl with spoon to hold their pizza sauce. I showed them how to spread the pizza sauce over the naan and they got really into it! Luckily it didn’t get onto their clothes.

Next up we had several toppings. It was neat to see what types of flavours they were choosing. The sliced apples they were munching on while they worked went on there…. sliced mushrooms, and very few green peppers and tomato slices (not their favourites). The meat toppings of ground beef and cubed chicken were carefully arranged as if part of a puzzle. Finally the grated cheese… oh the cheese.. In two containers of course, one for each! A chunk of it was eaten, the rest was fought over. But finally it perservered and the pizzas were complete!

Here’s where I wish there was a photo to show you what their finished products looked like. Picture a tandoori naan pizza shaped like, well, India (coincidence? hmm). With apples as a base layer, some random vegetables and meat, and topped with lots of cheese. It looked like a cheese mountain. Then in the oven it went. Luckily, it didn’t take long as all it needed was to be toasted until the cheese melted (since all the beef and chicken were pre-cooked).

As I wasn’t sure whether Mister and Missy would be able to wait for the pizza to be ready, I gave them another meal while we waited. But when those pizzas came out of the oven, they wanted “Mow !” (more)

Would we do it again? For sure! At first Mr. Mama wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of an apple pizza but I gotta say, the sweetness of the apples gave it a nice flavour.

Sometimes we don’t give toddlers enough credit. Future chefs, perhaps?

Ambereen is mom to almost 3 year old B/G twins and is always looking for ways to let them help in the kitchen. Aside from fulltime work and planning meals for the week, she maintains her blog 2Cute – Adventures in Twin Parenting

Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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We all hear it. We all know it. “Breast is best.” Being able to breastfeed babies is something to strive for and many new mothers are bound and determined to be successful breastfeeding mommies. But it’s not always that easy.

What happens when you have more than one baby at a time, each demanding to be fed as newborn babies do? How do you balance the needs of twins, ensuring they are being well-nourished? How do you handle your own needs as a mom, such as getting enough sleep, managing your own diet when you are trying to balance the needs of multiple babies? How do you learn to nurse your babies if they are born premature and are living in a NICU? Each situation is challenging, but each of these needs can be achieved. I am telling you, because I have done it for three premature babies, including twins while in a NICU. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. You might shed a few tears. You might want to give up. People might try to talk you out of it. But I’m telling you now, it can be done!

While in the NICU for over three months with twins, I learned to nurse each of my babies when they were ready. Unfortunately we found ourselves in contact isolation for about 9 weeks of this time, all the while trying to learn to breastfeed and nourish my babies enough to be able to go home when they were ready and continue on with breastfeeding for as long as possible. Wearing gloves and gown while in isolation, I learned to work through the awkwardness of breastfeeding while in my isolation “get-up,” along with dealing with numerous wires and sticky things about my babies’ bodies. It truly was awkward, yet I wasn’t going to give up because of a rash of a bit of bad luck. The one thing that was natural and I could do for my babies, I was going to do.

Here are my 5 tips for you to try with the hopes that you will be successful while breastfeeding in a NICU and beyond.

Why Do You Want to Breastfeed?

First things first, ask yourself why you want to breastfeed. Is it for your own personal satisfaction and goal of providing for your children? Is it because you feel it is best for your children? Or is it because someone else told you that you should? If it is because you either want to gain something out of it such as the feeling of satisfaction of knowing you are providing nourishment for your babies or because you feel in your heart it is what needs to be done and you’re going to do it, then you’re on the right track. To be successful at breastfeeding babies, who are living in a NICU, when you are already under an enormous amount of strain and potential mental, physical and emotional stress, you have to be sure breastfeeding is important to you and you’re not doing it because someone else said so. If you are not mentally prepared to breastfeed, you’re headed for a rocky road.

Communicate Your Breastfeeding Goals to Others

Make sure you tell your babies’ NICU nurses, lactation consultant, and medical team your goal to breastfeed your babies when they are ready. Remember, because your babies have arrived early, they may not be able to start nursing immediately due to their size or health situation. Give it time and be patient. Begin using a breast pump as soon as possible and on a regular schedule, which you will expect to follow when the babies are ready to begin breastfeeding. Most hospitals will have you begin to get accustomed to an every three hour pumping and eventually breastfeeding schedule. Now is a great time to allow your body to what it was designed to do, which is produce milk for your newborn babies. If you find you are experiencing challenges with producing, consider being in a NICU a blessing in disguise. If you are struggling in the early days, you will have a bit of time to investigate and figure out how to have your milk come in. By being in the NICU you have access to the nursing team, as well as lactation consultants, which you wouldn’t have if you went directly home after the birth of your babies.

Use the NICU Resources

No one wants to be in the NICU. I know that. The way I looked at it though, is that it was a chance situation that put me in the NICU, surrounded by medical experts and a team of lactation consultants, occupational therapists and dieticians, so I was going to make full use of the medical team there to support me and my babies. Each of these experts has a different way of looking at the breastfeeding process. Your lactation consultant can discuss tips and tricks for positioning yourself and your babies for optimal comfort and breastfeeding success. An occupational therapist can also be brought into the picture to assess how babies are handling the “suck, swallow, breathe” process and make any necessary adjustments needed for your breastfeeding technique. The dietician may discuss your dietary needs, what’s best to eat while breastfeeding, as well as possibly discuss your infants’ dietary needs and possibility of higher caloric intake, which may depend on weight and rate of growth. These people are a quick phone call away and they will come to help you when you ask. Where else can you get a team of experts like this practically at your fingertips?

Find Your Comfort Zone

Each mother is different and thankfully there are different ways to breastfeed your babies. Figure out what works best for you by trying things out. Once again, since you are in the NICU, now is the best time to hammer out the best approach for feeding your babies. Having premature babies often means they are very small in size. It can be very uncomfortable in the early days when it comes to figuring out how to handle their little bodies and having the confidence that you are not actually hurting them as you move them around getting settled to breastfeed. It will take some time to get comfortable with these things. Ask the lactation consultant if they have a variety of nursing pillows for you to try. One mom of multiples might swear by nursing pillows made specifically for twins, while another mother might prefer a different style which fits her small premature babies on it. Some moms are quite content layering a few pillows across their lap and adjusting based on the babies’ needs for positioning. You may find your babies also have a preference for a certain breastfeeding hold over another. Once again, your time in the NICU allows you the unique opportunity for “practice,” as well as bedside coaching from the nurses and other staff involved in your babies’ care.

Before Discharge from NICU

The day you get to take your babies home will eventually arrive. Make sure you plan how you will transition yourselves from the NICU with constant access to experts to your own household, which will not have a 24 hour staff on call. How will you and your partner handle your breastfeeding schedule once you have brought your babies home? Will your partner be able to support your goal of breastfeeding by helping you keep on top of your feeding schedule and by helping you get up in the wee hours of the night to feed them? These are all important points to consider and prepare for before being discharged from the hospital. To help make a smooth transition from NICU to home, consider contacting your local multiples organization to see if they have a breastfeeding support person, or your local public health office and even your children’s pediatrician’s office. All of these organizations will know how to put you in touch with a lactation consultant or formal breastfeeding supports. Knowing that you can build your own “team” outside the hospital will hopefully help you keep on track with breastfeeding your babies until you are ready to wean them, whenever that day may be.

Landing in a NICU with your premature babies is not ideal, but take it is a chance to accept help you would not have received otherwise. Consider this your opportunity to get breastfeeding right. You are in a place with some amazing experts that you never would have had access to if you’d had your babies and went directly home. The NICU is likely a whole new world to you, so take the time to explore it and the unexpected opportunities it has available to you. I am confident I was able to successfully breastfeed my three children for 13 months and 9 months based on the fact I had supportive experts rooting for me and showing me the way from day one.

Carolyn (Twintrospectives) writes for How Do You Do It? and has three boys born premature, including fraternal twins. She is the proud mom of NICU Grads 2008 and 2010! Carolyn and her family live in Canada.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)

  • Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to’s to handling the social stigma.
  • Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
  • In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
  • Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
  • Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
  • Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
  • Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
  • Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
  • Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
  • Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
  • Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
  • Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old’s case of pink eye.
  • Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
  • My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
  • My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think “A-B-C-D-E”Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby’s arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as “A-B-C-D-E”: Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
  • Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
  • Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
  • A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding – the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
  • From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding – what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
  • Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
  • How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.

Twin Advantage – Playmates and Best Friends

I’m sure we’ve all heard it before.  We’ve heard it in those comments from strangers who said that they always wished they had a twin.  We’ve heard it from other parents of multiples.  We’ve heard it from multiples and twins themselves: there’s something very, very special about being a twin.

It’s often this twin connection, this twin bond, that strangers like to inquire about – Do they have their own twin-speak?  Is one more dominant?  Do they like to hold hands or snuggle together?  Do they get along?  Do they always want to be together?

A twin has a built-in playmate and, hopefully, a built-in best friend, too.  I mean, twins can’t have a sibling any closer in age!  And I know that I loved having siblings close in age to me (my sister is 16 months older than me, and my brother is 15 months older than her) as I spent so much time with them and they became my best friends.

And I have to say this ultra special sibling connection is one of the greatest blessings and advantages about having twins.  While twins are especially demanding in the first year or two of life, part of the reason I think they get easier with the passing days and months and years is that they have each other.  As a parent, I don’t have to entertain them myself all day long.  I don’t have to come up with things to do for them.  They can play with each other.  They can talk to each other.  They are siblings, playmates, and best friends, as well as being twins.E13My twin daughters may not be identical, but they still have this great bond.  Now, at the age of three years, I love hearing them play together, hearing them giggle, watching them smile, holding hands and hugging of their own fruition, apologizing, kissing boo-boos, and pretending.  I love how they encourage each other (though sometimes it may mean double trouble for mom and dad!), share, care, and love each other.

My daughters will always have each other to share their lives with, step by step.  It’s so unique!  And I know it must be that bond, that connection, that people are often jealous of!  They want their children or themselves to have a best friend for life.  They want to have someone who has always been right there with them through all of their lives, through the good, the bad, and the wonderful.

While I know that some twins don’t stay best friends forever (sad!), and often end up going their separate ways, I hope that I can continue to foster their love and affection towards each other, so that when they are grown and have their own lives and families, they will still have each other, though maybe not in a physical way.

Twins are a blessing indeed, aren’t they?  Even if some days that blessing only seems to be for their benefit and not ours.

Are your twins best friends? Do they share a special bond?  What have you done to foster it through the passing years?

ldskatelyn is the proud mama of twin daughters and a four-month old bouncing baby boy.  She counts her multiple blessings everyday and love that her kids have each other, as she loved having all of her own eight siblings growing up!  Find out more about her and her family at What’s up Fagans?

Twinfant Tuesday: Three Things That Helped in the First Year Blur

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.

 

 

In the MOMs Club – Just Barely

In the MOMs Club - Just Barely

Not to bring anyone down, especially since this is my first post for HDYDI, but I’m barely part of this club. You know, the Moms of Multiples club.

You see, I have triplets. But I don’t. I have twins. But I don’t. I’m neither here nor there. And it’s hard.

Bickford Babies

I have what are called ‘surviving’ or ‘incomplete’ triplets. I carried three babies, and I birthed three babies, but only two of them survived. Today, Braden and Tenley are doing well at 19 months old (16 adjusted), even though they were born at only 27 1/2 weeks old.

You can read more about how we lost baby A, Carter, by going to his special website we created to help raise funds for organizations that work to help parents who have experienced the NICU or loss.

Celebrate Carter Logo

It’s a tough spot to be in. I’m now part of a new club – the club no one wants to be a part of – the loss mom club. But you know what? I’m okay with it. I’m okay with it because it means I get to write and share my story. I get to talk about Carter all the time. He gets to make a difference. I’m okay with it because I’m writing several books to help others relate to loss moms, deal with bed rest, or get through a tragedy like the loss of a child. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m raising funds through Carter’s fundraiser each year. I’m choosing to see the good in the midst of the bad.

So, when you read posts by me, know that there will be times when I’m a triplet mom, times when I’m a twin mom. And times when I don’t know what kind of mom I am.

Braden & Tenley

And that’s okay.

And it’s also okay for you to be uncomfortable. Or to relate. Or to empathize. It’s okay for you to ask questions. Or seek out support.

I look forward to representing the unique position that some moms of multiples find themselves in – celebrating and grieving at the same time.

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you, and your story will heal someone else. ~Iyanla Vanzant

I hope you’ll join me as I share my take on things – and be sure to let me know in the comments below if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover!

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.

Twinfant Tuesday: How I’m Rocking Year One (so far!)

I was having a completely awful day a few months ago. After I put Jack and Mara down for their nap, I grabbed my computer and googled “when do twins get easier” and “first year help with twins” and “getting through year one with twins.” Through that search, I found this website, and for the next hour I absorbed article after article, tip after tip. I felt as if I had found a whole new and amazing twin group of moms to talk to and get reassurance that yes, things will ultimately be okay. Because during the first year, that is so important to hear.

That being said –  ten (!) months in, I am so close to that amazing milestone – my twins will soon be turning one. Granted, I realize I titled this post “rocking”, and there have been many, many days early on (and many times even now!) when I was definitely not “rocking” anything and am really just surviving day-to-day, but overall, I think I got this whole twin thing down for now. At least at this age!

Here are some things, looking back, that have truly helped me so far this first year.

Remaining positive about having twins

I am sometimes taken aback about how negative some parents of twins can be about having twins. I have heard parents say they cant help to think what if their situation was different, or wishing out loud that had both children but at different times.  In a recent article I read on raising twins, a mother commented that she wished she only implanted one embryo, not two. How sad!

Trust me – I do understand that twins can be incredibly challenging, but not once have I ever let myself go down that line of destructive thinking. If I let myself worry about whether the grass would have been greener with a singleton, I would miss out on what I have. My babies are blessings and I truly believe twins (and multiples!) in general are incredible blessings. I think my positive attitude has had a lot to do with how well my first year is going.

Getting help in the beginning

A fellow twin friend told me that one of her friends (also a mother of twins twins) had cashed out her 401k to get round the clock help during the first few months. While that initially sounded like an extreme situation, I can relate to the importance – and almost the sheer desperation – of getting help.

I am fortunate that both of my parents are retired, and that my husbands entire family lives within ten minutes of us. I could not have gotten through the first three months without help from our families. My mother lived with us for the first three months, for four days out of the week. She cooked us delicious meals each day, did our food shopping and most importantly, helped take care of the twins. I could not have done it without her. My mother in law would stay with us the remaining three days those first three months. She was also a saint. My husband’s father and step mother have been truly amazing as well.  And now, almost a year later, they continue to be an incredible support for my husband and I.

I understand I was fortunate to have so much (free) help from family members. My advice for others expecting twins would be to enlist the help of friends, family, baby-sitters, neighbors, mother’s helpers – anyone willing to help. Take anything you can get! And don’t be shy about asking for what you need, whether it’s an hour alone to run errands, or someone to grab groceries for you, or even let you have a few hours of sleep. I remember my sister-in-law and her husband watched the twins for me for two hours when they were about two weeks old so I could get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Dry shampoo

Yes, I know this is silly but trust me, its been a huge help for me, especially this year. Using dry shampoo, I am able to extend my hair washing to three days. When you don’t have a ton of time to wash and style your hair, this comes in handy. I was able to catch up on more sleep, get my house in order, gleefully waste a few precious moments trolling for celebrity gossip on the internet, cleaning bottles - anything instead of washing my hair. Gross? Perhaps, yes. But sooo useful.

Being able to carry two babies at once

My husband recently watched Jack and Mara for an afternoon while I ran some errands. When I returned, I asked him what the hardest part was – feeding, changing, nap time. He replied, “carrying them up the stairs at the same time.”

Really? I guess by now its second nature to me. I scoop up each baby and cradle them under my arms, almost in the nursing “football position” but back up and stomach down. I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with the dual-carry which has saved me from transporting two babies upstairs at different times. I am sure they will soon be too big to do this, but it has really helped me this first year.

The schedule

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Pam Kocke, author of Pyjammy’s Triplets wrote one of the my favorite blog posts ever on raising multiples, delightfully entitled “Are three kids easier than one?” (Check it out here.)

In explaining why sometimes having multiples is easier than a singleton, Pam describes why having a strict schedule has enabled her to get all three of her boys on track. She also shares that her boys sleep better than a lot of singletons she knows.

Jack and Mara have slept through the night since month four or five, and continue to take two consistent naps a day. I take pride in this, and almost feel like it was a reversal of fate after a really super hard beginning four months. Jack and Mara sleep better than any of the singleton babies I know around the same age. Why? We have been adamant about keeping them on a schedule. I NEED that hour or two during the day to myself. Its my sanity. The babies now know when its nap time and bed time. I don’t have another one of me to rock two babies to sleep, or coddle them into snoozing. By putting them down awake (my only choice!), they have successfully learned to self soothe.

My jogging stroller

I was one of those twin moms who gained a TON of weight – probably close to 75 lbs. While the first 65 came off pretty easily, the last ten were very stubborn. Trying to fit in trips to the gym and working out at home was pretty much impossible. When the twins napped, all I wanted to go was nap. So this left me with little free time to exercise.

I purchased a jogging stroller in January, when the twins were four months old. As the weather got nicer, I began to take them out once a day. I am the first to admit I am not a runner by any means. However, I began to really enjoy jogging with Jack and Mara. It was a way for me to get some exercise, it allowed the babies to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, and it gave us another “activity” to do during the day. A few of my friends purchased the highly coveted double BOB strollers, but I opted for the Schwinn Jogger, which was about half the price and still continues to do the job just fine.

Lowering my expectations about what I can handle …

When Jack and Mara were born, I left my job in corporate communications to be a stay-at-home mom. I was recently offered a pretty great consulting gig – one that I could do from home. While I initially accepted it, I had to turn it down. Why? I just can’t juggle it now. If I tried to take on something that time-consuming, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my new, main job – raising the twins. It would stress me out and put me over the edge. So, I said no. It was a difficult decision but in the long run, I know my sanity is most important. I can’t do everything right now, and I’m okay with that.

… and lowering my expectations about nursing

I went into my pregnancy gung-ho about breast-feeding. I would tandem nurse both babies each day exclusively. I hired a lactation consultant to help me in the beginning and put me on the right path. I rented a hospital grade pump to help with my milk production. I bought every book written that included sections on nursing multiples. Yadda yadda yadda. I WOULD DO IT and I WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.

To make a long story short, I was able to nurse and pump for about three and a half months before I gave up. It was a difficult decision to throw in the towel, but in the end, it was the right decision for myself and my family. I tried not to be disappointed in myself for only lasting three and a half months. Instead, I was proud that I was able to last that long. I did my best, and that’s all I could do.

My nap nanny

Oh, nap nanny – why did you get recalled?!!?? A fellow twin friend introduced me to these amazing devices when my babies were just a few weeks old. This slanted foam seat was my savior the first eight months. In the beginning, my twins napped, relaxed and even slept in them (on the floor, buckled)  as they dealt with some pretty typical baby reflux issues. I would use them for dual bottle feeding, to anchor one baby while I bathed the other. I took them to other people’s homes as a place for the baby to sit while I tended to the other. Although they got recalled in December, around the time my twins turned three months, I happily continued to use them (with no issues!). At ten months, Jack and Mara wont sit in them for more than a minute or two, but man, they really were a lifesaver to me during this first year.

What has helped you parenting multiples during year one?

One Negative Twin Comment Too Many

My very first negative twin comment experience happened when I was pregnant, gleefully scanning an early ultrasound photo in the office copy room. One of my coworkers walked in as I was walking out, ultrasound picture in hand.

“What’s that?” He asked me, eyeing the photo.

“Uh … nothing …” I wasn’t quite three months along, and not ready to share this news with my coworkers.

“Ah – it looks like an ultrasound pic. Congrats. When are you due?”

“October!” I said, in a rush of excitement. “But I am actually having twins … so they will probably come earlier than that. The latest will probably be toward the end of September …”

He looked at me with such utter shock that my heart stopped. “Twins?!!! Are they natural? Oh boy. I feel sorry for you. That’s going to be awful. How will you guys afford it? Two babies?! You don’t even know what one newborn is like. Is Steven okay with this? Is he upset?” (Yes, this is the actual conversation. I kid you not.)

Granted, he had a young child who still hadn’t started sleeping through the night and a marriage that was on the rocks … maybe twins was overwhelming to him … but still. I walked back to my office with a heavy heart. It was almost as if he had shattered something beautiful and innocent that I had held dear in those first few weeks. We hadn’t experienced any negativity in the least  from family or friends, and my husband was over the moon. My coworker’s comment, I would soon find out, would be the first of many not-so-nice comments about twins.

I am always stopped short in my tracks when a stranger or acquaintance says something rude to me about twins. I don’t react right away. I don’t know how to react. I usually keep moving, and the whole time regret not saying something rude back. Regret not standing up for myself and my children.

In the beginning, it would shake me to the core. I would cry to my husband when I was home later, feeling sad and awful that people could be so insensitive, especially when talking about my children, who were completely innocent of the fact they were twins and sometimes perceived to the outside world as a burden. In the months after their birth, I quickly grew a thick skin, and the comments started to roll off of me. Instead of tearing me down, I let the rudeness slide right off of me, and I would keep on walking.

Perhaps you could say I recently reached a third stage of enlightenment: talking back.

It was during a weekly CVS trip. The woman at the counter that day was one who always waited on me. While she doted on Jack and Mara, she always had something a little rude to say about them. Today was no different.

“Ah! They are getting so big!” She says, peering into my stroller.

“I know … they are nine months old already. Its starting to fly by!”

“I hope to have a baby with my boyfriend … I guess you could say I’m a late bloomer … I’m 36 and I think my time might be up,” she says.

“No! A lot of women have babies a little later. My sister-in-law is almost 37 and has a baby. My boss started having kids when she was 40! It will all work out,” I tell her.

She leans in, as if sharing a secret with me. “Well, there are twins on my side of the family, and my boyfriend’s side … Oh My God! I can’t imagine!” She wrinkles her nose as if smelling something awful. “I would die! I’m sorry, but I think it would be awful.”

I say nothing and pay, walk my babies out of the store, and head for the car.

By the time I get to the car, I am fuming.

By the time I unload Jack and Mara, I am ready to go back in and say something to her.

I march back into the store, and go back to the pharmacy counter. She spots me, and walks over. “Hi – did you forget something?” She asks.

“Well, I just wanted to let you know … your comment was rude. When you are talking about twins to a mother of twins, you shouldn’t say they’re awful.” I pull my sunglasses off. “Its fine if you think that way, but it was really rude for you to say that to me.” I’m shaking.

The woman looks genuinely taken aback. “No! I didn’t mean it like that. I think if my boyfriend and I had twins it would be such a blessing …”

“No, you don’t,” I say, and walk out. Other customers had heard our exchange, and so had her coworker. I wonder what she is thinking.

My husband thinks I overreacted, and perhaps I did. Perhaps it was unfortunate that it was this comment (surely not the most horrible I have ever heard) that somehow moved me enough to speak up. Back to the event in the work copy room – I had muttered a few words back which to this day I can’t remember, and walked away, feeling embarrassed. It was this exchange, in the CVS, where I finally had enough.

I do think there is a larger issue at hand – people, when speaking this way about twins, don’t realize they are being rude. The woman in CVS had not tried to intentionally hurt my feelings; I know that. To her, the idea of twins is truly horrifying. And that’s fine. But, she didn’t – and others don’t – stop and think about how their comments come across. They sting.

While I am still trying to find my best approach to hurtful comments, I would love to know how others react. Should I just have walked away? Or did I do the right thing?

They’re Still Twins

During pregnancy, my husband and I had many conversations about all the things we would do for our twins to let them know they were loved and valued as separate individuals, not just half of a set. That they cohabited in utero was only a very small part of who they would become, and we wanted them to always know that.

I dealt with all the comments during pregnancy—the “better you than me”, the “double trouble”, the “my cousin’s neighbor has twins”, the “I always wanted twins” (or, bizarrely to me once: “I almost had twins”…a story which did not result in the loss of a twin, but rather a woman who, prior to ultrasound technology, knew all along she was having twins, but never heard two distinct heartbeats and only delivered one baby). I joined twin groups, mentally prepared myself for the barrage of twin-comments we’d receive everywhere we went.

I never imagined how much it would sting to lose that.

I am luckier than many in the twin world: both my twins are alive and thriving.

But.

They do not reach developmental milestones within days of each other. Not even within months. They do not wear the same size of clothing, and haven’t since D outgrew the preemie size (while A was still a 3-pounder, outfits hanging on him like Doby’s pillowcase). They will probably not be in the same class at school (except perhaps preschool). Strangers do not ask me if they’re identical or fraternal, or even “Are they twins?” They ask me, “How far apart are they?”

The first time I got that question, the boys were 9 months. Now, D quickly outgrew the “adjusted” charts and was over 50% in height quite early, and has been slower but always on-the-charts in weight. Even so, he looked at most 11 months old. With A, who yes, (yes, believe it or not, I know), is small. But at 9 months, he looked perhaps 4 months, but probably closer to 5. Just what gestational length did these questioners have in mind, anyway??

But now, at 16 months, D could easily pass for 2. And A could be a tall-but-skinny (95th and below-zero) 9-month-old. Which is probably about where he is developmentally as well. The question is no longer absurd.

And it hurts. Selfishly, it hurts, as it is not what I imagined. It is not what “twins” entails in popular culture, mythology, anyone’s mind. But it also hurts for them. They are and always will be brothers, but I feel like they each are missing that twin-thing: the sharing of clothes, sharing of friends, sharing school books, mastering new skills together.

I rarely comment in my twin group. I feel like so much of it just does not apply.

A lot of it does, though. A lot of it applies, and then some. Feeding twins is so hard! Feeding twins when one of them has a feeding tube? Even harder. Getting any sleep with twins is hard! Getting any sleep with twins when one of them has several alarms hooked up to him, which give both real and (thankfully) not-real alerts? Harder. Dealing with extended family who plays favorites? Whoooo, boy, let me tell you. Finding time to {x}? You get the picture.

A and D will never know a different life. As brilliant as they are, I highly doubt either of them pondered the concepts of twinhood while womb-mates, probably not even recognizing that other kicky-squirmy creature with a heartbeat from my own intestines. They are twins, and this is what twinhood will mean to them, even when they understand that it may not hold true for the greater world. In some ways, they are wiser than I am.

Parenting a Baby after Twins

My husband and I had twins first.  And while we have generally thought of the many benefits of having twins first, there are definitely some disadvantages.  And those disadvantages are ever more clear as we have welcomed a new, singleton, baby into our home.

This past weekend, I ran (okay, jogged) a 5k race, my very first race.  And it was at two months postpartum.  I looked at an old blog post I had written when my twin daughters were two months old, and there is no way I was going to be running for over three miles at that point in my new motherhood career.  And reading that post made me realize just how different my postpartum experiences have been.

With the girls, I was recovering from major surgery for six + weeks.  I was also thrown into motherhood head-first.  I didn’t know how to breastfeed.  I didn’t know how to change diapers well, or how to properly treat stains, or what things you really needed, and a host of other tricks of the “trade” that you learn as you mother for a while.

But, the big difference, is that with the girls, for the first several weeks, I didn’t enjoy motherhood.  I loved my girls, but I didn’t necessarily always feel it, not when I felt more like a milk cow than a mother, not when I was so dog tired, not when my kids didn’t smile or laugh yet.  It was a big adjustment to say the least.

On top of all the new motherhood things I had to learn and doubly, I was also going through other big transitions, like going from a full-time student, literally the day before giving birth, to being a stay-at-home mom.  And then moving across the country, from Utah to Indiana, when my twins were only six weeks old.  And then not knowing anyone other my in-laws who we were living with there.  It was a crazy time.  The first year with twins is a general blur when I try to look back at that time.  I really was in survival mode.

So, now that I have a newborn singleton, and am no longer a first-time mother, things are much different at two months out.  First, I didn’t have a repeat C-section and I felt better physically so much faster after giving birth.  And I loved being a mother immediately to my son.  He’s just as cute and precious as my girls were, but I think having just one baby to give my undivided attention to has made my love more ready to feel and give.  He has made me extremely happy already!

And having him has made me feel so extremely blessed for the family I have.   I appreciate and love my twins and my husband more.  I am a lucky woman!

Shortly after I had my twins, my sister-in-law who also has a set of twins, told me that she hoped that someday I would be able to have a single child because it’s so nice to just dote on one child.

And I’m glad that I have. Twins are a unique blessing and I absolutely love having them, but a single baby after twins has been a special treat for so many other reasons.

If you had twins first, did you enjoy having a single baby afterwards?  And if you had twins after single babies, was it much harder than the single ones?

ldskatelyn is a loving wife and mother.  She has fraternal twin girl three-year olds, and a two-month-old baby boy.  She is glad she and her husband made the decision to add the newest addition, as she enjoys the new dynamic in her home.  Follow her at her blog – What’s up Fagans?