Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Roller Coaster Effect

Like everything else in life parenting twins is filled with ups and downs. Sometimes many in one day and other times you get a stretch of up and a stretch of down... I like to call this the roller coaster effect. One of the most exciting and also the most challenging things about having twins is not being able to predict how things will go. I have tried since the day they were born to predict who will do what first, who will like what, who will not like what, how they will react to certain situations. Oh, and if you think you have figured them out rest assured, they will change roles and you will be struggling to predict once again!

I am sure that many parents of children who are not twins will say, yeah, it's the same for us too. My response, absolutely! I remember with our older child thinking I knew what she would do in a situation an having her do the exact opposite. It's part of parenting. The difference with twins is that they are exactly (within a few minutes) the same age. They go through every developmental milestone together. The power struggles that a parent of multiple children (not twins) might have with sharing or social situations with young children are twice as challenging because while they are able to reason with the older child and then deal with the struggle of the toddler, you have no one to reason with... You cannot enlist your older twin to help you with the younger twin because well... they are the same age!!

The important thing to remember in while in the midst of twin rearing is that it is a special and unique experience for you as the parent. I find that often times when we are barely keeping our heads above water it is hard to notice the little things. The chattering they do together before they can really talk, the sucking each others thumbs as infants, the snuggling together while sleeping, the playing together before kids really play together... these things are so easily missed when we are so focused on making it to the finish line.

I guess the important thing to remember is that we parents of twins are given the simple task of juggling while riding the roller coater and taking snapshots of the truly awesomeness of the twin experience along the way!

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Survival Mode"

I am sure that many people who will read this are parents, and as a parent you can certainly look back to the first month of your child's life and think about the sleeplessness and wondering if you would ever sleep again. The constant diaper changes that made you think "where does it all come from" and then you realized it was the constant feedings. When you have one baby at a time you do go into survival mode for about 2-6 weeks. It is normal, you are functioning somehow with no sleep after birthing this amazing new person and you do not want to screw it up! Well, with twins survival mode lasts, well, forever as far as I can tell.

Actually, I think it can end, but they key is that when people tell you that it is all about survival the first year, it is, but you have to do more than just survive. There has to be some sort of balance and we did not master this balance. As a result, we are still working it out three years later. When the babies are little it seems like there is a lot of help. For us, my parents practically lived at our house for the first two months and then my mother-in-law would take Isabelle a few days a week so that we could figure things out with just the babies. What I have started to wonder is if all of this early survival really was more like panic mode and now we are working on getting things back down to survival mode, and eventually back into "normal".

When the boys were tiny, life was hard. It was hard for everyone, the babies, Isabelle, Jason & I were functioning, but I have no idea how. Having two new baby brothers all of a sudden is something for which no parent can prepare their child. It is also something you can never prepare for as an adult. Interestingly enough with the rate of twins and higher order multiples on the rise there are very few books for children (actually I did not find any) to help them get ready to be a big brother or sister to twins... It really is different than being a big sister to one baby at a time.

Life is still a struggle for us daily. Not always a bad struggle, but a struggle. It is a constant balancing act for which I am always feeling poised ready to fall. The hard part for us now is that when you go from panic mode to survival mode your energy stores are pretty low. I feel that so much of me and who I was before the boys is gone. Unfortunately, many of the things I have lost are things that I really felt good about in myself... like endless amounts of patience, being calm under stress, being positive. I think when you are tired and weary and notice that these traits are missing the more that you try getting them back the more unattainable they become... so the road to normal seems like it is going to be a long one... hoping I make it with happy and healthy children who have not been too much worse for wear.

It's like living on an Island

Sometimes, actually most times, having twins is like living on an island. Not like Fiji or Hawaii or some exotic or heavily populated island, but like one of those islands on a lake... You know, people visit now & then, there is no power, but there are all sorts of cozy cottages around the lake with their glimmering lights and music playing... Meanwhile, the people on the island are rubbing stones together trying to cook a meal from whatever they may have harvested or caught. This is it in a nutshell.

Twins are like a side show at the fair. You want to look, but you don't want to stare directly at them. People, no matter how well meaning, just do not get that when you are out with two babies it is not for fun. I remember going out for fun, just to get out of the house, when Isabelle was a baby. When you go out with two babies and a preschooler in tow it is out of necessity. There is nothing fun about getting three kids into car seats, packing a suitcase sized diaper bag and a giant stroller in your car. Only to have to unload it all at your destination to have people stop in the middle of store aisles and stare. Literally, stare. Often these gawkers had nothing to say and when they did it was not helpful. I mean, when you see someone pushing a huge stroller with two infants and a third small child should you not at least hold the door?

However, the isolation does not stop there, particularly when you have tiny babies in the winter. I mean going out means exposure to the cold and to germs that are likely to be fewer if you simply stay home. Then there is the part where when the boys were first born we did not have a car big enough for all three kids and us to fit into at the same time... Which meant either taking two cars or people coming to us. Unfortunately, people coming to us was a concept lost on many. Everyone wants you to visit them in their space for some reason, and it continues through toddler hood, where visiting in their space can actually be dangerous since it is not child proof most likely.

Then there are the empty promises of help. The please let me know if you need anything comments that when you do actually need something is met with some lame excuse. I will say that the reality of having twins has definitely caused me to refine my thinking those who are there for me and whom can be counted on when needed. This is not to say that I expect anyone to help, but it is sure nice when someone offers to come for a couple of hours so that you can get out of the house and go to the doctor or to the store without the sideshow. It has also made me aware of my own promises to help. Rest assured, if I offer you help, I mean it! When I say please let me know what I can do to help feel free to say you know things have been crazy and I have not had a chance to clean my bathroom, would you mind? Nope, not in the least!

On a brighter note, help comes from the most unexpected sources. Just when you think that you are going to starve on that island some stranger or family member that you never see stops in and lifts a little piece of your burden. It is those little lifts that keep you moving forward and able to function even if it is simply in body!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Those twin books...

I, like many twin moms, have read tons of books about raising twins. Most of them, believe it or not, were read after the boys arrived. Prior to their birth I had read lots as well, but mostly pertaining to the pregnancy and first few months. Once my parents had finally left (about 2 months after the boys arrived) and Jason was back to work I felt that I needed some words of wisdom from other twin mothers who had been there and who might actually have something to say that made sense to those of us living "it" for the first time. Well, I was wrong.

I did buy one book brand new, which was a huge thing since we could barely afford food; however, this book came highly recommended. I was at a loss for how to make anything work with two infants and a 3 year old, and had heard that this book had a "realistic" view of twins since it was written by a twin mother. So, I read the entire book cover to cover within 2 days. The only thing I felt was anger that I had spent 12.00 on a book filled with trash that really could only serve to alarm a new mother of twins! The one thing that stuck in my head was that you should NEVER pick up both babies at the same time, because it just was not safe! I mean SERIOUSLY! If you are a mother of newborn twins and another child and you are barely keeping yourself together after your family leaves and your husband returns to work who the **** is going to pick up the other one and hand him to you after you have gotten the first????

I guess this brings me back to my first day alone with all three children. My parents had stayed in Maine for 2 months extra to help out with the boys and Jason had taken time off from work, but only a few days after the boys were born and then went back for a shortened week for a couple of months. So, when my parents had left I had mixed feelings. I mean having your parents practically living with you in your house that is too small for the people who normally inhabit it can be a little, hmmm, challenging at times? Although, we, were grateful to have them there helping out because we were feeling like zombies and completely overwhelmed it was a bit of a relief in a way for them to go to Florida for the winter. We would finally, be able to figure out a "routine" that worked for all of us and now that the boys were two months old they did not seem as scary.

 I was a nursing mom and although the first 3 weeks were hell by the time they were 2 months old we were doing great! With nursing that is... I will say that the whole idea of juggling both boys to nurse was a bit intimidating. I mean not the nursing two part but the actual picking up two at a time and getting to where I was going and then getting up again to put them down was, well, not easy. There was a period of time I can remember sitting in my recliner, Jason not home, my parents gone back to Florida and Isabelle bouncing from the walls where I distinctly remember saying to myself, "how am I ever going to get out of this chair." I mean I was here for the whole day with all of the kids, I was bound to have to change a diaper, make a meal and maybe even use the bathroom! I was going to have to be able to get up!!! So, thankfully, I had been using the Double Blessings EZ-2-Nurse Twins Breastfeeding Pillow Mocha Brown Minky Dot . I had already been using the built in belt to hold it in place and I now realized that this pillow had another use... I could actually use this pillow as a little table to balance the boys with me holding them in a football hold to get out of my chair! Ok, so maybe it seems a little odd and likely not recommended, but it did give a little extra support to them while I got up and carried them to their swings! I will say that had the pillow fallen off of my waist I did have them gripped tightly and they would not have fallen, but still that is how I gained the confidence to get out of that chair while holding both boys that first day!

As time went on I realized carrying them both together was a necessity since of course when you have two infants they want to be held just as much as if you had one infant! Not to mention the fact that I was going to need to play with my older child now and then and being able to carry them hands-free was going to be necessary. I used a Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Solid Baby Carrier, Chocolate to carry both when they were tiny and then the moby on the front and an Ergo Baby Carrier Black with Camel Lining on the back once they got bigger and actually still use the ergo (they are 3 now) when they are having a rough time and want to be held. carrying and being able to pick up two infants is a difficult challenge, but it is certainly not dangerous as suggested by the writer claiming to give "Real-life advice from pregnancy through the first year".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

If you don't think you can make it to Portland try stopping in Brunswick!

Early on in the pregnancy we had decided that although we live about 15 minutes from the local hospital we were not going to go there to deliver. We had images of the hospital there from our childhoods that were just not positive and although unfair to assume 20 years later things would be the same we could not get past that image. So, ultimately we decided that we would travel to Portland, Me. to deliver even though they were an hour from our house. I knew from experience that the first sign of labor did not mean there was a rush to get to the hospital so I was confident we would be fine.... until.... my water broke as my husband and daughter were at the end of the driveway getting ready to go to Memere's!

So, my water broke and I though maybe we did not have time for him to go to drop Isabelle off and then come get me so we piled into the car. I of course was making my best effort to be happy and positive about the whole labor and baby thing... trying not to panic since Jason had done enough of that for both of us! Meanwhile, Jason had called the doctor again to say that my water had broken and should we just go to the hospital in town. She said, "Well, just head this way and if it seems like you can't make it stop in Brunswick." that was about the halfway point. Like i mentioned in a previous post, my husband is the cool and calm one under pressure. One of the kids falls and gets hurt, he's your man, but the prospect of delivering a highway baby or two was not exactly calming for him. We got to the Brunswick exit and Jason was like, "think we should stop?" and I was thinking, cool, we don't even know where this hospital is so I might as well just have them in the car! However, what I said was,"Nope, we are fine let's keep going!"

We arrived in Portland and I felt relieved... until, we took the wrong turn on the way to the hospital and ended up having to go through town... But we made it, and they were waiting for us which was cool! Actually, my parents, who live about 40 minutes further away from us made it there before we did, but we got there and that is what counts! When we saw my high school doctor, I again had a tough time getting past things, but I did and she was great! Super professional and very calming. I was not really happy about the prospect of doing a c-section and she did say that we could try it without, but I said, "no, this is the plan and we are sticking to the plan, but I do not want to... I just have to get that out there." So we proceeded with the plan which in the end was good because during labor Baby B, aka Ian, had flipped into the breach position and I likely would have ended up having to recover from both types of deliveries. That was my nightmare!

Anyway, so the boys arrived, happy and healthy. thanks to a massive team of doctors. It is funny, because more people than I can count have commented, "Oh, two for the price of 1!" to which I reply, "Nope it is really two for the cost of two, and actually more like 2.5!". When twins or higher order multiples are delivered there are LOTS of doctors & nurses around, and of course in a teaching hospital there are interns! Typically each baby has a team of doctors and nurses including NICU doctors in the event there is a problem. Plus, there is a team for the mom too. FYI those NICU people are super expensive! BUT completely worth it, especially if there is a problem which is not uncommon with multiple births.

Now, the real fun starts... Life with twins! Like I said in my very first post, I love all three of my kids and would not change a thing, but it is not easy... and sometimes I wish it were!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

But we have 2 more days!

While pregnant with our first baby, Isabelle, I had LOTS of ideas about how things should and would go during labor and delivery. At the time we were living in Rhode Island and although we were not the "home birth" type we were very into having a completely natural birth within a birth center. In our case, the birth center was like a 1 bedroom house on the first floor of the hospital. I guess that is good because that eliminated the need for transport in the event things did not go as planned. Which of course they did not. Actually, they could not have gone very much less as planned and still have a healthy, happy baby and mommy. We did start there of course, but after many hours we were sent up to labor & delivery in the hospital where I then got the epidural, and pitocin and all the garbage I had been very much against. Then 30, yes 30, hours after labor began Isabelle was born via c-section once it was determined that neither she nor I were in good enough shape to take the risk in continuing to labor.

Having had a previous c-section I was strongly encouraged to have another this time around. Actually, I did express a strong desire not to go that route, but after hearing the reasons and risks I finally decided that this was our best option. This was something that I had a very difficult time with. It literally took years before I was OK with the trauma of Isabelle's birth and here I was planning to go through this voluntarily this time around. It really was not until I had to make this choice that I realized it was fine that Isabelle was a c-section baby because she was perfect and healthy and I got to enjoy her.  Then,  I realized that regardless of how the boys arrived the only thing that really mattered was that they arrived safely and that we all were healthy in the end. Since this was the case once we were into the third trimester a date was set for the c-section... this part was a little odd to me. I did not like the idea of showing up at the hospital and saying OK here we are, so, I prayed that they would decide to come before this date. Not super early, but like a week or a few days before this would have been perfect!

As we inched closer to the arrival date I packed for myself, Isabelle & the boys. Jason, well, I figured as a big boy he could pack his own stuff. So, he in his Jason style, waited. I mean, he had time Isabelle was 5 days over due, and I had really shown very few signs that labor was approaching. So, what's the hurry?

One would think that once you have experienced labor you would know if you were experiencing it again. Well, that, is where you would be wrong. Two days before we were set to arrive in the hospital for the boys delivery I showered (thank God), bathed Isabelle, read books & stories and had a "normal" day at home while Jason went to work. He got home in time to make us dinner, and asked as he did every day, "are we going to have babies today?" I said, "Well, maybe" this made him wonder since I had said the same the night I went into labor with Isabelle. Although, not enough so that he did not finish making dinner and we still ate together. I told him that I had been feeling a lot of pressure, but not really contractions. The pressure was more in the area of where my pelvic bones had split and separated (this happened in week 16). At some point I told him to call the doctor because I was feeling a lot of pressure and my pelvic bones were really hurting. He dialed and I talked, Of course, my doctor was not the doctor on call. It was a doctor that was new to the practice, and an old high school friend. She did really well with the fact that she knew me, but it took me a little longer... The idea of the doctor delivering having been a high school classmate was hard to wrap my head around. Finally, she asked me questions about my pain/pressure. I answered and then she asked if it seemed to come & go. I thought about it and it actually had, but I refused to admit it at that point. She said, "well, keep an eye on it and if it seems to come & go call back." So, we did, and I started deliberately noticing a pattern.

One thing that I have not mentioned is that my husband is a pro under pressure. I mean he is not the least bit stressed out, he does not panic easily, and he is able to stay calm and focused. EXCEPT when I was in labor. For some reason if one of the kids, he or I get hurt or sick, he's the calm, cool & collected guy, but labor causes a panic that is indescribable. When he realized this was, in fact, "it", he started running around the house throwing stuff into bags muttering "But we have TWO MORE DAYS!" I am not sure what the "stuff" was, but he was frantically packing! It sort of reminded me of those contests where you could go into a store and grab as much stuff of the shelves as possible in 5 minutes. This of course created a feeling of, hmmm, excitement mixed with panic in our then three and a half year old daughter. She then found a paper bag and started throwing random things into it to take to Meme's . By this time I had tried halting the operation because I had already packed a treat bag and a clothes bag for her and did not want an overwhelming amount of "stuff" packed for her. I convinced them both that daddy only needed a change of clothes and his phone. I had packed the rest already and Jason could come back for anything he wanted later.

He then was to take Isabelle to his mother's while I got myself together in time for him to pick me up and go to the hospital. As I said before, birth does not always go as planned... What really happened was, Jason and Isabelle got loaded into the car drove down the driveway and I decided to get ready... When My water broke!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So what is a twin pregnancy really like?

Well, if you are pregnant with twins there are some essentials that every expectant twin mommy must have, a good doctor and lots of protien. A good doctor is not one that graduates from the best medical school with honors, although that is a bonus, but one who listens to you and knows that there is in fact a difference between having twins and having a singleton.

When we first found out that there were two in there we were 12 weeks along. Not an unusual time, but we were shocked by the news. I was obviously dazed and unable to think of any intelligent questions while looking at them on the screen for the first time. I think this was bliss for them. The fact that I asked nothing. The fact that as I scheduled my appointment I was barely coherent. They offered NOTHING. No flyers, no recommendations for books... nothing. They did tell me that since the ultrasound was done as a quickie in the office I would have to go back in TWO weeks for a confirmation that there were in fact two with the big machine and a trained ultrasound tech. So, with 2 whole weeks before getting to make sure there really were two and time to think about the idea what do you suppose one does? Well, of course they go right to the internet and find the most valid and helpful information possible!

So, while I was searching the internet for answers to my twenty million questions I actually felt even more concerned about the whole thing. Shocking, I know! I mean most people look to the internet for sound medical advice and really calm their nerves. Right? Anyway, so I came accross information about vanishing twin syndrome, the fact that you never are really "out of the woods" with a twin pregnancy and the possibility of miscarriage, about 100 terrifying birth horror stories, lots of stuff about bedrest and so much more! This information I found of course within a day of finding out we had twins on board... for the moment at least. So, as you can imagine this did nothing to help only caused panic and then anger that my doctor had given me NOTHING to help answer my questions. I mean sure I didn't ask any, but what person does not have questions after finding out they are having twins!?

It turns out that most of what I read on the internet was in fact true. There is a syndrome called Vanishing Twin. It actually is not where one twin eats the other, but simply that one twin is weaker and is somehow absorbed into the other or placenta or something. It is scary to think about and read about alone on your computer as you are expecting twins. What would have been helpful would be a handout or booklet or a few book names about twin pregnancy. Then I could have read about Vanishing Twin and seen that this is something that often happens before a woman even goes into the doctor and can even happen before knowing she was pregnant or having twins! Apparently, most cases of vanishing Twin occur before week 10. Being at week 12 it would have been nice to know that one of my kids was not going to "eat" the other!

The other big scary thing that would have been nice if my doctor had mentioned in the office was that whole miscarriage thing. Yes, in fact twins are considered a high risk pregnancy. The fact that it is high risk can mean many things. Although miscarriage or preterm labor are real concerns for women expecting twins or more than one baby it would be nice if a doctor explained the symptoms, what to look for and why you are or are not at risk for this based on these factors. Of course things happen to ANYONE for any reason and reasons that are unexplainable, But hearing that you are considered in the high risk pregnancy group is not something one should read online. It is something that should be discussed immediately upon knowing this information.

The other things I read, although disconcerting, were minor in comparisson. However, I really knew I was with the wrong doctor when I asked at that next appointment if they could talk to me about the differences between a twin pregnancy and a singleton pregnancy. The response, "Aww, there really is not much difference". Really? Huh, cause I certainly did FEEL different!

The other thing I mentioned that every woman expecting twins MUST have is lots of protein. Portien is what makes babies grow. Most twins are born early, and some are born so early that it is scary. Protien and lots of it, gives them a kickstart in utero. One really great way to do this is with protien powder. BUT be careful some protien powders are filled with chemicals that you really don't want to expose your baby to, which is why we went with Whole Foods Market 365 Whey Protein Powder. This is of course because my husband is the food police and in charge of making sure we all eat as well as financially possible. It tasted pretty good, I got the chocolate and it does not have tons of additives. It seemed to pay off too, my boys were born at 37 weeks 5 days weighing in at 6 lbs 13 ozs and 7 lbs 10ozs...

Other things you might need while pregnant with twins:
A warning sign: Woman Pregnant with Twins: Likely to be bitchy & sarcastic... keep your distance!
A great prenatal vitamin: Prenatal Just Once-Rainbow Light Prenatal Multi-Vitamin, 150ct this is what I took, and it worked well for me.
A belly/ pelvic support: Prenatal Cradle Adjustable Prenatal Cradle I know, it looks insane, but it allowed me to walk past my 28th week... Not sure that would have been possible otherwise.
A good recliner that lays flat for when you are too big and too uncomfortable to lay in a bed.
Some kind of pregnancy support pillow: Leachco Snoogle Total Body Pillow this one worked well for me until I was too big to be comfortable in bed.
A great twin support group: I used daily during pregnancy and through the first few months of their lives... it was a great source of support! I still check back now & then but rarely make the time with two 3 year olds and a 6 year old!

Even with all that "stuff" a twin pregnancy is a lot. I found myself cycling through a range of emotions several times daily. Most of the time it was an inability to be rational due to a fear that something could go wrong. I finally did change doctor's, but waited until 29 weeks... it was like night & day, and I regretted not changing earlier. Looking back I think had I started out with the Dr. I ended with I would have been a lot less scared... at least about the pregancy & delivery... the arrival is a story for a different time, or post.