“Legitimately” Infertile?

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Categories Guilt, Infertility, Infertility Theme Week, Loneliness, Parenting, Perspective1 Comment

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

Starting in about July 2012, I started to get the bitter feeling about not being pregnant. I was upset for days when I would start my period, knowing that another month was wasted and a failure.

In September, I started feeling upset towards friends and others that were pregnant because I wasn’t.

In December, I officially associated myself with the infertility community after we saw the results from our testing. But I had a problem: in the IF world, you are usually considered infertile after 12 months with no success. By the time I got pregnant with my twins in March/April, we had only been “trying” for 10 months.

How much pain and waiting before a couple can really consider themselves infertile?

So, where did we fit in? Were we infertiles? Could we call ourselves that? After all, I DID get pregnant through IUI. Or, did we just speed up the process, and would we have been able to get pregnant on our own, just after some more time? Was my self-made IF label a hoax? Was I just trying to belong to that community, or was I really in it?

What do you think? Is there a bright line dividing the infertile from everyone else? Who is legitimately infertile?


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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The Roller Coaster of Emotions: The Things that Hurt When You’re Infertile

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Categories Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Infertility, Infertility Theme Week, Loss2 Comments

(This post was submitted anonymously.)

Infertility Roller CoasterLet me tell you about the emotions that come with everyday interactions with the outside world when you are trying to get pregnant.

It is really difficult when you are going through infertility, not just because of the desire to be pregnant and the loss when you find out you aren’t, but also for the day-to-day life and troubles that causes.

First, you have to deal with people talking to you about having kids:

  • Oh, you’ll understand when you have kids of your own” used to be a phrase of which I would roll my eyes and say okay. Now, that phrase makes me tear up and want to scream, “I WANT TO HAVE KIDS OF MY OWN! I CAN’T HAVE KIDS OF MY OWN AND IT’S KILLING ME!
  • When do you plan on having little ones?” was once an innocent, curious question. Months ago, people would get the response, “We’re trying,” and they would be so excited for us. Now, they still get the affirmative “Hopefully soon,” but it is with a sad, despondent look in our eyes.
  • I bet your mom is really anxious to have a grandbaby!” Yes, as we are excited to have one of our own. So is our doctor, who would really like to be able to tell us some good news for once. So are our friends who have been walking on eggshells for months around us. So are our siblings. So are our extended family. So are the strangers who get dirty looks when I am in one of my moods. Everyone wants us to have a baby, but us most of all.
  • Oh don’t worry, don’t stress. You just need to relax and it will happen to you.” Oh really? Relaxing is going to get me pregnant? I wish you had told me that months ago. Oh, and can you tell my doctor that this is the real reason why I’m not pregnant, because I haven’t been relaxing? I’m sure he just didn’t realize it. Oh that’s right, because RELAXING WILL NOT GET YOU PREGNANT! Well, for some it may, but we unfortunately cannot just wave a relaxation wand and POOF I’m pregnant. I wish it were that easy. I could have saved a fortune.
  • Do you have something to tell us?” People don’t actually ask that, but they do have this excited, questioning look on their face whenever you sit down to talk to them. It’s like they are excitedly waiting for you to announce your pregnancy, only to have to start every conversation with “I’m not pregnant.” Do you know how difficult that is to say out loud, when it is what you want more than anything?

Then, you also have to deal with the outside world.

  • Babies are all around us. Snookie is pregnant. Princess Kate is pregnant. Stupid Kim Kardashian is pregnant. So are all of my friends. Yes, all. Every single day, someone else is popping up on my Facebook newsfeed announcing their pregnancy. Woo. Good for you. This is actually really difficult, because I truly love my friends. I wish them the best, and I am truly happy for them. And then the wave of bitterness, anger, and upset washes over me, and I want to shut myself off from the world.
  • It’s amazing how often you see mention of babies. See pictures of (or real life) babies. See pregnant women. Hear about pregnant women. You don’t realize it until you are trying and failing. It becomes physically painful over time. I can attest that I actually have been in pain because of this. At a health insurance informational meeting, for example, I was in one of my especially sour anti-baby moods. I actually did a tally chart to see how many time babies were mentioned in the 1.5 hour meeting. The total: 7. Seven times, there was the mention of babies, having babies, getting pregnant, healthy childhood, etc. The hardest part of these baby mentions are that each time, I want to scream out “Stop talking about that!” or I just want to burst into tears. I’ve gotten really good at keeping my tears in check, quiet, and contained. I usually let it out once I get home. Again, poor hubby has to deal with this. He is a saint, especially because he is going through all of these emotions right along with me.

What are other things that hurt when you’re infertile?


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Loving My Babies Differently

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Categories Guilt, Love, Parenting Twins, Twinfant Tuesday5 Comments
Quality time with my son.
Quality time with my son.

Before I had kids, it was hard for me to understand how or why parents would play favorites with their kids. My relationship with my future hypothetical kids was going to be one of mutual respect and lots of unconditional love. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that my future hypothetical kids were good-natured, agreeable, and their thought processes aligned with mine remarkably well.

When my actual babies were born, I was dismayed to find out that they weren’t altogether agreeable, and that, especially with two babies, bonding wasn’t an immediate, natural thing.

This is part of twin parenting that I don’t see mentioned often; I don’t think it’s unique to my experience. Parents of one baby have time to really get to know that baby, feel comfortable to varying extents with spending time alone with that baby, and are, I think, able to bond more quickly with that single baby thanks to that individual focus. With twins, I found myself constantly having to give each baby just enough so that I could meet the needs of both. It was harder for us to spend the quality time it took get to know one another and build our relationships with one another.

Early on, I felt a very strong bond with my daughter, spunky and independent and favoring her mama in the looks department, but I had to work on my bond with my son. I had always envisioned having a daughter someday, and I felt like I knew what to do with girls. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with a boy. My son was needier in the early days; he really wanted to spend all his time with me, snuggled up to me or nursing, while my daughter was willing to be held and fed by someone else, and to an extent, I resented the time that I couldn’t spend with my smiling, inquisitive daughter while I soothed my fussy, needy son.

I worried a lot that my daughter would feel less loved or wouldn’t bond as well with me because I spent more time with her brother. Likewise, I worried that my son wouldn’t socialize as well because he was bonding only to his mama. I worried for his relationship with his father, that they’d never really become attached, that the way we were dividing most baby duties, assigning one parent to one baby, wasn’t normal. Obviously, I’m a worrier – and post-partum hormones certainly accentuated that trait.

Over time, I reconciled myself to the idea that the time I was spending with my son was time that he really needed, and that the idea of “equal time” was something that would have to work itself out in the long run. And all that time spent one-on-one with my son really did help me to bond with him over the first few months. My needy newborn son turned into a generally laid-back, chill little guy who loves his mama fiercely, and I feel a lot more secure in my role as his parent as we navigate the waters of toddlerhood.

My daughter wound up being the baby who struggled more when they started daycare. I was surprised by that at the time; she was so much more social in home settings. But ultimately, she’s an intense little thing who requires more time to adapt to new situations than my breezy little boy does. She builds stronger relationships with people, but it takes her longer to do it. And thanks to several mama-centric phases in her later infancy and toddlerhood, I’m fairly sure that the “time spent” scale is much more balanced between the two these days.

Over time, I’ve come to find that bonding with my babies is a lot like falling in love. It doesn’t always happen at first sight – though it can happen that way. Sometimes chemistry kicks in quickly, but sometimes, love starts with a friendship and blooms over time. I’m still surprised every day at how different our relationships are, and at how they change constantly.

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Stuck to Mommy

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Categories Guilt, Medical, Older Children, Relationships, Single ParentingTags , , , 1 Comment

My daughters returned home to me in Texas on Friday after a glorious 3 weeks enjoying the holidays with extended family in Washington and Oregon. Poor M caught the virus her father and grandmother suffered before her and came home with a fever. Things were looking a little worrying for twin sister J, but she’s managed to avoid the coughing, runny nose, fever and exhaustion.

Both girls insisted that they absolutely had to have Mommy snuggles all night Friday. Mommy could not sleep in her own bed. With M still feverish, I didn’t protest and took advantage of the opportunity to monitor her throughout the night. I just need to give up on keeping the girls in their room. If I’m giving in on their request that I sleep with them, I might as well do it a non-lofted bigger-than-twin bed. We are getting seriously squished as these girls of mine grow!

Saturday came and went, all the while M refusing to leave my side. If I sat, she sat next to me, thigh to thigh, arm to ribs, head to breast. If I stood, she hooked her hand in my pants waist and came with me. J wanted to be in the same room as me but she, usually the snugglier of my pair, wanted a typical amount of physical contact: the occasional hug, the odd moment tracing the lines on my palms, asking me to brush her hair a couple of times.

I thought that M might be needy because she didn’t feel well, or just because she’d missed me. After she let me release her for the period of her bath time, it occurred to me that at 7, she might know why she was so acting so needy.

“What’s up, M? Why such a snuggle bug?”
“I didn’t get enough snuggles while I was gone.”
“Oh? You know, you can always ask for snuggles. Grammy and Grampy and Daddy and Auntie love you as much as I do.”
“I know. I had four grownups for snuggles, but I snuggle you every day and them, it was more like every other day. And then I got sick and didn’t want to share my germs.”

I imagined my 7-year-old trying to emulate her grandmother and father in self-imposed isolation, protecting those around her from her germs, sacrificing the comfort of hugs to behave like a grownup. I was proud of her and yet it made it that much harder to know that my little girl had been sick without me there to care for her. A sick little girl needs her Mommy or at the very least her custodial parent. However you categorize it, M needed me.

As she fell asleep that Saturday night, one arm under me and one arm over me, breathing in my face and occasionally coughing, I was glad to know that my mature little girl thought me immune to her germs, able to give her all those missing snuggles while she still felt poorly. Usually, she gives a sleepytime squeeze before seeking personal space.

Sunday, and Monday too, she remained glued to me. By Monday, she allowed her sister in my lap, but only as long as I kept a hand on her head and a leg where she could rest hers. I had made a halfhearted effort to find childcare for the day, since school wouldn’t open until Tuesday, but the YMCA has been inconsistent in their full day care, M begged to stay home, and I wasn’t convinced J wasn’t still incubating the virus. I elected to work from home. Thank goodness that I have that option!
Snuggle bunnies from hdydi.com
This photo was taken with my iPad resting on my stomach. M is the farther child, but her legs are hooked over mine. She insisted that I type one-handed, allowing her sister next to me only as long as I kept a hand on her head.
How do your children seek comfort when they don’t feel well? Do they seek out one parent over the other?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.
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When the Kids Are Away, Mom Will… Think?

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Categories Divorce, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Time ManagementTags 2 Comments

My daughters spent Christmas with their father and his extended family in Washington and Oregon. All told, they were away for 21 days. They’ve spent time with their Dad since he and I split up, even overnight, but never anything so long as this, and never far enough away that he couldn’t bring them home early, which he frequently did.

This was the first time in four years–the very first time since I’ve officially been a single mother–that I wasn’t on call. It just so happened that this time coincided with my annual vacation, when the university at which I work was closed. For all but two of the days that my daughters were away, I was off work, my time to be spent as I wished.

As you might imagine, I had grand plans for my 19 days home alone. I would finally unpack the last of the boxes from my move nearly a year and a half ago. Maybe I would even find my swimsuit! I would replace some of the plumbing in my bathroom and wash all the carpet in my home. I would get caught up on laundry and bake in preparation for our annual cookie decorating party and Girl Scout troop gingerbread house event. I would get a massage and reorganize my kitchen. I would clean the children’s room from top to bottom and restore our spare room to a guest room from the little boy room it would no longer be, my attempt to adopt having failed earlier in the year.

I sat down to write out a schedule for my vacation and began to feel stress creeping into my shoulder muscles. Vacation, a staycation especially, should feel stress-free, right? I put away my notebook and decided to wing it. The only things on my schedule would be physical therapy, the daily phone call to the girls, a visit with extended family who would be in town, and returning to work and picking up the kids. (And I managed to miss going back to work. I completely missed my first day back, instead sleeping in and washing my carpets. Big oops!)

I spent the first two days cleaning like a crazy person. My living room became a pleasure to be in rather than a reminder that I was behind on laundry. My kitchen counters returned to a functional state. I baked for fun, rather than under the gun. I sat by the fireplace and read by firelight with a cat in my lap.

Gingerbread houses under construction at hdydi.com

After the first frenzy of cleaning, I found myself doing a lot of reading and writing on parenting and other matters, processing getting dumped (in March 2012) and my ex-husband’s rapid remarriage, the end of my army wife career, and the genuine preference I have for romance-free life. It was therapeutic, thinking, without my daughters’ everyday physical and emotional needs front and centre.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel plenty guilty for all that I failed to accomplish during my 19 days of liberty/missing my kids. I feel guilty despite knowing that I needed the time to grieve the demise of my mother-father-and-two-kids family, grieve the loss of my relationship with my former in-laws, and accept the knowledge that I have only myself to rely on.

After the highly scheduled life of a single working mother of schoolchildren, it was foreign, but necessary, to ignore the clock and calendar and just be. I think I have more of a sense of self now than I’ve had in years. I think I’ll be a better mother for taking this time to just be.

When was the last time you took a moment for yourself, to just be?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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The Search for a New Pediatrician

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Categories Anger, Different Gender, Fraternal, Frustration, Guilt, Medical, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Parenting Twins5 Comments

A few weeks ago, I went through a semi-traumatic experience at my pediatrician’s office, one that prompted me to start searching for a new pediatrician. (Please read this letter first to get the full back story.)

I was actually very torn whether to even bring it up with the doctor, much less take the drastic step of actually switching to a different one. I don’t know why exactly, because I’m usually a very proactive and assertive person, especially when it comes to anything dealing with my kids.

I may have felt some guilt for having put my daughter in that situation in the first place. What if I had stayed with her the entire time instead of going back out to the lobby to check on my son? What if I had my husband meet me at the doctor’s earlier so he was there for the temp/weight checks? These thoughts went back and forth in my head, resulting in me sort of blaming myself for letting it happen. Yet, I couldn’t shake the upset feeling, and therefore I wrote the letter.

It was a source of anxiety for many weeks. Some fear of confrontation perhaps, or maybe just a fear of the unknown. What if I did switch doctors and it wasn’t any better at the new place, or even, it was worse?!? This is where HYDYI helped me. From the comments I got on my post, I garnered enough moral support to feel justified in what I was thinking. (Thank you!)

I rewrote the end of the letter, to strongly emphasize that I feel the conduct of his staff has become unacceptable. I demanded that I would be willing to work only with the single competent nurse/medical assistant on future visits. Then I mailed it and waited in anticipation of what would happen next.

Well, a few days later my doctor called and left me a voicemail. In it he thanked me for writing the letter and bringing the issues to his attention. He wanted to call and speak with me the next day. I was trepidatious because though the reply was prompt and the message was polite and sincere, there was no apology in his voicemail. I just had a bad feeling that a conversation with him would not turn out well.

It did not turn out well, indeed. He called at lunchtime the next day, and the conversation began nicely… but I was getting the vibe that he didn’t even have a clue who I was until almost the end of the conversation when he remembered that I was the parent with the side by side double stroller that didn’t fit in his exam room doors. He explained that his twin patients usually ride in tandem strollers, and they’re accompanied by many relatives, which I felt was his way of faulting me for the horrible visit that I had. I was getting more and more upset as the conversation continued, and he was having some trouble keeping his cool as well it seemed.

But the last straw was when he absolutely refused to ever see my twins in a joint appointment. For the first time I’ve ever heard this in the almost-year of my twins’ lives, he explained that his policy is that separate patients have separate appointments. He will not see them back to back, nor can shots be given to one after the other. Appointments are made together, but in actuality, they’re not at the same time. His rationale is that he never wants to make a mistake with a twin and give the wrong vaccinations, so wants to take his time as well as give his staff time to make sure no mistakes take place.

I could kind of understand if the patients were identical and very difficult to tell apart, but my twins are not, and his policy really applies to all sibling appointments, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Plus, really, what parent would let one child get a double dose of vaccines while the other got none? And couldn’t you easily tell which baby got shots by which one is crying hysterically and has little band-aids on the legs already anyway?

So that was it. His insinuation that I should bring a cadre of people to my kids’ appointments to help out, and that I need to buy a new stroller to accommodate his facilities, brought me to the conclusion that I never want to see him or his staff again.

On Veterans’ Day when my preschooler and I had the day off, I made an appointment with a new pediatricians’ office to meet their patient liaison. I knew the second I walked into the office that the vibe was different there. We liked it so much that I changed them to my provider that very same day. Fingers crossed that our first actual doctor’s visit will be everything I’m expecting it to be.

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Foodie Friday: Suck-Swallow-Breathe

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Categories Breastfeeding, Fear, Feeding, Foodie Fridays, Guilt, Medical, NICU, Parenting, Special Needs, Theme WeekTags , , , , , Leave a comment

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.


Almost all preemies have difficulty with feeding, and my boys were certainly no exception. In order to eat, a baby has to be able to suck (at the breast or bottle), swallow, and breathe. But not at the same time, of course, and trying to coordinate that is very difficult.

Mr. D was born with the ability to do all three. He never required oxygen support, could generally swallow what was in his mouth (although he did need “reminding” from time to time), and could hold onto a pacifier, bottle, or my nipple like a pro. What he couldn’t do was figure out how to do all three in such a manner to ingest enough milk to live…especially when he’d rather be sleeping.

D’s challenges were fairly typical for preemies. Eating is hard work. So hard, in fact, that a twenty-minute rule is placed on both breast- and bottle-feeding in most (all?) NICUs: the baby gets 20 minutes to eat all he can, and then is weighed (if breastfeeding) or the amount remaining in the bottle is examined, and the rest of the required meal is poured down the feeding tube. I wanted to breastfeed, but was told we could only attempt it twice a day, as it’s even more work to extract milk from a breast than it is from a bottle.

The first time I breastfed Mr. D, he took me by surprise. He did really great! The lactation consultant warned me that many babies take one or two good feeds from the breast, and then begin to struggle. That was the case for him: he could extract a few drops of colostrum, especially when I pretty much hand-expressed it into his mouth, but once my milk came in, it was beyond him. He would latch on, and then fall asleep.

Suck-swallow-breatheHe didn’t fare much better with the bottle. I was taught how to hold him, how to stroke his cheek or under his chin to “remind” him to swallow, how to burp him, how to tickle his feet when he was nodding off…and he would still only swallow a few milliliters. He would sometimes become fearful of the liquid in his mouth, and hold his breath until I sat him up and helped him to dribble it all out. But mainly he would just look up at me, with an expression of what felt like disdain on his face, and then close his eyes. He held onto the nipple (mine or the bottle’s), but that was it. That was all he wanted to do.

The nurses told me it often happens like a switch—nothing, nothing, nothing, BOOM: eating! That wasn’t the case for Mr. D. Instead, he’d take a few more milliliters each day, most days. What was exceedingly frustrating to me was that, as his weight (from his oral plus tube-feedings) increased and his IV-nutrition was tapered off (to end abruptly when he yanked out his second scalp IV and they couldn’t find better access), his required intake went up, too. He was supposed to eat 23 mls, and would manage 19, and I’d go home to pump in triumph, only to return to discover they’d raised his goal to 26.

But he did improve. He kept getting so close. I felt like we were nearly there. Feeding was the only thing keeping him in the NICU, and I wanted him home.

He developed reflux. My pediatrician tells me “100% of babies have reflux”, and I don’t doubt her. Mr. D’s was worse than some, which again is common with preemies. That muscle at the top of their stomach (cardiac or esophageal sphincter) is as weak as their other muscles, and is forced into doing its job way too soon. One of his day nurses asked me if there was a history of milk intolerance in my family. Yes, there is: I was allergic to milk protein for my first few years of life. She suggested eliminating dairy from my diet, in case Mr. D had the same problem. I did. We also began fortifying his breast milk with soy formula rather than the special preemie formula. (Breast milk has about 20 calories, and it is very common to add formula to it to boost that to 22, 24, or even 27 calories for premature babies, as their tiny stomachs can’t hold enough volume to give them their necessary caloric intake.) I don’t know that it made much difference, but I was willing to try anything.

On his tenth day of life, he pulled out his NG-tube for his tenth (estimated) and final time. He wasn’t meeting his goals, but they decided not to replace it. He did well, getting closer and closer. On his thirteenth day, we were told we could take him home the following day: Valentine’s Day.

At 6 am on V-Day, I got a call from the neonatologist. She was just coming on shift having been gone a few days, and she didn’t think we should take Mr. D home. “He simply won’t grow on this,” she said, referring to his intake and reflux. I asked her if she was planning on re-inserting his feeding tube. No, she was not. Then why? What could they do for him that we couldn’t do at home? “He simply won’t grow,” she insisted. We reached an agreement: if Mr. D could eat all 55mls of each of his day feedings that day, and I agreed to take him to his pediatrician in two days instead of three, I could take him home. She strongly implied that she disagreed with this, but not enough to rule it out.

Challenge accepted, I thought. For each meal, I stripped an irate baby down to just his diaper. There was no way I was letting him get warm and comfy. I did not alert the nurses to his small spit-ups during burping. I twice emptied the remaining 2-3 mls of milk into the burp cloth at the end of his 20 minutes. And he got to come home with us that evening.


Mr. A could neither suck nor swallow nor breathe at the start. He did take early breaths on his own, but with much effort. The NICU staff quickly determined that he could not maintain his breathing, and gave him surfactant and intubated him. Once extubated, no one was surprised that he could not suck. He actually had the reflex, and would happily gnaw on a Soothie if it was held in his mouth. His cleft soft palate, however, left him with the inability to form negative pressure in his mouth. As such, he could not draw liquid from a nipple, nor could he hold his own pacifier in his mouth by sucking merrily to sleep. In order to assess his ability to swallow, the neonatologists had the nurses perform what I have since learned is a very outdated “test”—they poured sterile water into his mouth. They assured me that, if inhaled, it would not cause any problems, as it was sterile and a very small amount. The first time they “tested” him, the liquid slowly dribbled out of his mouth. He could not swallow. They repeated the “test” two days later, and he “passed”—the water went down somewhere, and they assumed it went down his esophagus. He was cleared to begin oral feeds.

I was introduced to a variety of bottles and nipples, all specially designed for babies with clefts. I was a bit dismayed to realize most of the nurses had no more familiarity with these “feeding systems” than I did. Essentially, they all worked the same way: a nipple was placed into A’s mouth and he chewed on it and the nipple released milk due to compression. Some of the bottles were squeeze bottles, so that I could force extra fluid into his mouth.

It was a disaster. I was too naïve to realize how large of a disaster it truly was. Only once did Mr. A take in over 10 mls (two teaspoons). Feeding him generally went like this: hold him in a specific way (hands angling his jaw upwards, entire body elevated to at least 45 degrees, while trying to support his head and body but not of course cradled in my arms), introduce nipple, watch him struggle, watch him desaturate (often followed by heart rate decelerations), fearfully yank the nipple out of his grey-blue lips, let him recover, repeat. At the end, measure remaining milk and discover only a handful of milliliters to be missing, and then pour the remainder down his feeding tube while snuggling him to sleep.

After a few days, I told the nurses I no longer wished to feed him by mouth. I was terrified. I could feel, somehow, that his desaturation and bradycardia events were different than Mr. D’s episodes of breath-holding. I hated feeding him, he hated eating, I feared I would kill him. The nurses told me I didn’t have to do anything I wasn’t comfortable doing, meaning they would continue to do his feedings for me. That wasn’t entirely what I meant, but I was too insecure to argue. And so he struggled along for a few more days, with me or my husband holding him while the nurses fed him. I came to accept his “behavior”—after all, he was gaining weight and showed no ill signs. So I resumed the feedings.

When he was transferred to the children’s hospital, he was evaluated by their feeding and development expert. I wasn’t there (we were not forewarned of it, or I would have been!), and came to his crib an hour later to be informed by the nurse that he was no longer to eat by mouth. Ever. He would need a surgically placed tube going directly into his stomach. I was irate. He had been, I thought, showing signs of improvement. And here some lady looked at him once, did not even give him a chance to truly try, and ruled out eating for the rest of his life? I made the staff aware of my displeasure, and they promised me she would speak to me. She didn’t, not for some time.

Mr. A was eventually given a swallow study: he sat in a car-seat-like chair, being fed radioactive barium mixed with breast milk to various consistencies: pudding, nectar, thin. X-ray-like machines videotaped the entire event. And there it was in black and white: Atticus was drowning. The milk went up his cleft palate and into his nasal cavity, and from there it entered his trachea and lungs. What remained into his mouth also largely ended up in his lungs. He was unable to cough to protect himself. My baby boy had silent aspiration.

I felt awful. Guilty, guilty, guilty. If I’d held my ground at the first hospital, if I’d truly listened to my instincts, we would have stopped feeding him by mouth weeks ago. He must hate me. He must fear me. My job was to keep him safe, and here I was, endangering him every three hours on the dot. And my pride, my pride at what I thought was improvement and my wrath at the feeding therapist, who had told me what I had been unable to believe, as if my wishing could make those drops of milk enter his stomach safely. “He was took 13 ccs!!” I had argued, over and over, his record amount so strong in my memory. Almost half an ounce, I was forced to admit, almost half an ounce of my milk flooding into his lungs.

It did not occur to me until almost a year later that who I should have been mad at, instead of myself, were the doctors and nurses at his birth hospital. I was in over my head, but so ignorant I had no idea. They should have known. They should have recognized what I felt in my heart and what led me to ask to stop: this was not normal preemie behavior. None of this was typical. And they didn’t. True, the most challenging preemies are probably passed off to the children’s hospital sooner than my Mr. A was, but watching for signs of aspiration is not a difficult art, and it’s one that should be taught to and remembered by everyone working with sick babies.

Mr. A got his G-tube placed when he was negative-one-week, adjusted. His feeding plan was changed to reflect that, while he was not to eat by mouth, certain exercises could be done to help stimulate his oral-motor skills. Feeding has continued to be one of his biggest challenges, but I am happy to end this by saying that we are now very close to replacing one of his 5 daily tube-feedings with an entire meal eaten by mouth. And as for Mr. D, he is an avid eater, and above the 90th percentile in both height and weight. The suck-swallow-breathe struggles are behind us all.

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Multiple Feelings When Your Multiples Are in the NICU

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Categories Birth Stories, Emotion, Grief, Guilt, NICU, Parenting, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags 4 Comments

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.


The first day I was a mother, I believed that I had already failed in the role.

Unable to get pregnant without the intervention of science, and unable to give birth without the doctors cutting me open and extracting the babies, my one job as an expectant mother had been to keep my twins nestled firmly and warmly in my womb.

At 33 weeks, I began preterm labor due to preeclampsia. When the decision was made to have an emergency c-section, I burst out sobbing. I had always been healthy; never had any hospitalizations; and, I really believed that the issues facing my pregnancy were ones that happened to other people, not to me.

In my mind, I had somehow failed my one, and most important, job.

After being bundled tightly in their blankets and posing for a quick picture in front of my head, Marc (4.5 pounds) and Maddie (3.4 pounds) were rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Marc in the NICU

Under the ominous, and yet miraculous for women with preeclampsia, drug, magnesium, I was unable to get out of my bed or even see my babies for over 24 hours. I remember waking up the next morning in a horrible magnesium fog and not remembering what we had named our daughter. When one of the neonatologists came into to my recovery room to report that Marc’s lung had collapsed and he needed to be intubated, I couldn’t process what she was saying and I couldn’t remember my husband’s cell phone number to tell him to come to the hospital. The failures seemed to continue to pile up.

Meeting my babies for the first timeEven when I was able to see the babies, I felt so disconnected from them. I wasn’t able to hold them—or do anything for them. I felt like an outsider—like it didn’t really matter if I was their mother or not. I remember telling Scott that the babies were more his than mine. He had spent more time with them; he had already developed a rapport with the nurses; he seemed to know what was going on.

Endless Wires

Those first horrible days were nothing like what I had imagined their birth would be like. Without family around or a mothers-of-multiples support group, no one was able to help me navigate through those feelings of overwhelming guilt, helplessness, and disconnect that accompanied those days.

DSC01748And, while the emotional rawness of that time has been smoothed away, the trauma of those first few days still resonates with me. When I asked moms in my San Antonio Mothers of Multiples group what their feelings were when their babies where in the NICU, I was surprised at the emotion that erupted, even from mothers whose children were now in their teens.

  1. Out of control or helpless: Christina, mother to b/g twins described feeling out of control, “…like I was a nuisance for wanting to come and nurse him and hold him.” The mother often feels like she takes back seat to caring for her babies.
  2. Mourning the loss of the imagined delivery: We all imagine how the birth of our children will occur. When it doesn’t go like that, there is an incredible sense of loss or disillusionment. In some way we feel we were cheated out of a genuine experience. One mother, whose twins were born at 27 weeks, 5 days wrote, “I don’t know why I assumed that I would have the birth I wanted—naturally at 38 weeks and they would be fine and healthy and go right home with me.” She writes that even a year later, “I still feel cheated from the whole new mom experience—I didn’t get to hold any of my babies after they were born; I didn’t see them until hours later; a nurse gave them their first bath; their first bottle.”
  3. Shock: “It was only on delivery day that anyone even started talking to me about the NICU and that they would have to go there…the first time I went in there was a few hours after delivery. It was just bizarre. All those teeny tiny robo-babies hooked up to various machines and wires.”
  4. Relief: A couple of moms wrote that they were relieved that their babies were in the NICU. “I was in no condition to take care of my babies,” wrote one mother of twins. “I needed to heal myself, and I knew they were in good hands.”
  5. Guilt: Almost all of the mothers expressed feelings of guilt, constantly reexamining what they might have done to have caused premature births or birth defects. Sara, a mother of b/g twins whose daughter was born with her esophagus from her throat growing nowhere and her esophagus from her stomach growing into her trachea, wrote,“Some days I could emotionally handle seeing her attached to what seemed like a bazillion tubes and listen to the breathing stridor; some days not. Once I came out of the morphine/Vicodin induced haze [from her C-section], I started wondering what I did wrong, reading medical journals about when that particular defect manifests itself. Then, I started wondering if it was because, before I knew I was pregnant, I had a margarita in an airport around 11 am and had a daiquiri that night around 8 pm… On an intellectual level, I knew it was not my fault.”
  6. Powerless:  A couple of mothers talked about how difficult it was to get their babies out of the NICU. One mother wrote how, “you can’t be blind to the reality that all pregnancies and births have risk and sometimes babies that seem to be perfectly normal may need some extra help from the NICU.” She goes on to write how important it is to have “… an advocate, whether that is a doctor, family member or friend who will help you fight for what you believe to be right.”

Did you have these feelings when your multiples were in the NICU? Other feelings?

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NICU Names: Guilt, Anger, Sorrow

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Categories Anger, Emotion, Fear, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Mommy Issues, NICU, Parenting, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags , , , , 4 Comments

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.


Aside from the times I truly feared for the health, happiness, and life of my babies, one particular thing stand out when I think back on how very emotional the NICU can be: my children’s names.

My husband and I had given so much thought to their names. We’d discovered they were both boys when I was 18 weeks along, and had full names picked out for them by before I was 20 weeks. We always referred to them by name from then on, never as Baby A or Baby B. We chose names that were very different but harmonized well. It was important for us that their names not reflect their status as twins: we very much wanted them to feel like they had individual worth from before they were born. (This is a personal thing, I know, and I am not disparaging how others name their multiples; I am simply stating how things were for us.) Even before they were born, we felt that they (particularly our Mr. A) fit perfectly with their names.

One other thing of note: I kept my maiden name. We discussed what to do with the boys’ surname—mine, his, hyphenate, combine, make up an entirely new one—and eventually decided to give them my husband’s last name. We both like the name, and as my husband is both adopted and an only son, we thought it might matter to their paternal grandparents.

When they were born, the boys were on record as MyLastName,MyFirstNameBBA (for Baby Boy A) and MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBB. And they kept those names. And kept and kept and kept those names. The nurses made nametags with their given names and placed them on their warmers, but everything else was MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA/B.

namesThe names on their ankle bands. The names on my wrist bands. The names we had to give when calling to ask for updates. The names we had to state at the intercom to be admitted to the NICU. The names we had to sign in under to visit them. The names on the whiteboard. The names on the labels I stuck to each bottle of expressed breast milk. The names on the records—with a huge red NAME ALERT marked, to remind doctors and nurses that there was another patient with an extremely similar name, and so meds and procedures must be very carefully checked to ensure that they had the correct patient. The names printed out on the instructions and med dosages for Code Blues taped on their warmers. The names the doctors used at rounds.

I hated it. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings of anger, sorrow, and helplessness I felt about their NICU names. Not a single part of those names were actually my sons’ names. At heart, I felt like I was not their mother; that they had been stolen from me and renamed what the hospital thought was best. I knew my boys needed to be in the NICU, and I accepted that. But it was hard, so very hard, to not feel like their mommy. I didn’t change their first diapers or put on their first outfits (which came later). I wasn’t the one who decided what and when and how much to feed them. I couldn’t even hold them without permission (although that quickly ceased to be the case with Mr. D). And they didn’t get their real names, their true names, the names we had loved and loved them with, until they came home. Even when Mr. A was transferred from his birth hospital to the children’s hospital, he was admitted as MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA. I raged and pleaded, but “nothing could be done”. A simple matter of hospital protocol meant that my sons had been robbed of their identity.

I realize this is not rational. I even realized it at the time, despite being overwhelmed with postpartum hormone shifts and scary diagnoses and not being able to watch my sons breathe as I fell asleep. I think I channeled most of my grief at the whole situation onto the issue of their names. But recognizing this intellectually is not at all the same as feeling it emotionally. And emotionally, I felt like their names had been stolen from me, along with all those precious newborn moments I missed, shared with strangers, or experienced in a setting that made the whole thing feel incongruous. My babies were simply not my own: they were shared with a very large staff of doctors, techs, and nurses (some of whom I never met or only briefly met) and all the love in the world could not change that. And their names reflected that. It hurt, and even now, a year and a half later, I am not “over” it. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t see how one ever could be.

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Secondary Guilt

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Categories Balance, Guilt, Perspective, Twinfant Tuesday, Working5 Comments

This is my fourth week back at work since the birth of our twins 13 weeks ago.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I had many people offer support (sharing their stories of tearful returns to the workplace) and some asking if I was really going to go back.  For much of my maternity leave, I felt this looming deadline.  I wondered how I would feel once back at work.  I’ve nearly always had two jobs since I was 19 years old, and for just as long, have known that I would return to work once I had kids.  But, I also knew everything could possibly change once I met their little faces.

Four weeks ago now the deadline was in front of me.  I re-entered the office that I left prematurely in June for a month of bed rest.  I chuckled a little at the decaf keurig coffee pods in my desk drawer, and my eggless Caesar dressing in the fridge, along with other things I couldn’t ingest while pregnant.  I noticed outdated paperwork and a card from my co-workers meant to be handed over in a shower that I missed due to sudden bed rest.  But, ultimately, I was shocked by how easily I fell back into the flow of working.  Granted, we did have our nanny start a week early, so that I could get to know her a bit.  That definitely helped to ease back into the work force.

I always thought that I would feel guilt about returning to work.  Instead, I felt guilt about how not guilty I felt.  I mentioned this to a close friend, an attorney who is pregnant with her third baby and a working mom.  She said, “Katie.  I work so that I can afford a cleaning crew and a nanny.”  My mom remarked, “Yes, we do need to work to afford these things.”  My friend clarified: “No, I mean, I work so that I can justify getting help with my kids and cleaning and don’t have to do it all myself 24/7.”  I applaud her honesty.  It gave me permission to be more honest about my feelings on this subject.

Let me be clear.  I am a feminist who is absolutely in awe and support of ANY moms, whether you are a SAHM, work multiple jobs, or have tons of help while you lie in bed and eat bon bons.  I am not here to judge, and believe we need to create a society that celebrates all choices that moms make.  I also recognize that I’m blessed that this is a “choice” for me, and that it’s not for many women.  Not to mention, I’m aware that working a mile from home, with pretty sane hours make all this far easier of a decision.  That said, with all the recent talk about “Leaning In,” and the like, this is one perspective.  I already feel like a better mother when I am able to nurture other parts of my identity, in addition to the newest part called “mom.”  I’m so grateful to have a job where I can go use the skills I learned in graduate school and in my work experience, and then go home and completely shift gears for the rest of the night.  I look more forward to the nights and weekends when I can spend a few hours just staring at our daughter’s face light up or listening to my son coo.   I get more excited to meet the needs of our little ones when (as Sadia brilliantly put it in a previous post about working) I’ve already met some of my own needs and am not looking to my babies to meet my needs.  The whole oxygen mask on an airplane metaphor, you know.

I wonder if it’s reasonable to hope that someday our society will make space for women to say they want to be a working mom.  Period.  Without any qualifiers.  Because, while I can write this somewhat anonymously for a blog, why is it that I’d still feel guilty sharing this around certain audiences?

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