Can I address something very near and dear to my heart? Do you remember back in the nineties the advice we used to receive from our parents? “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t wear clothing with… More
A lot of things have been heavy on my heart lately, but something that presses firmer than anything else is the fact that Violet and Olivia have to grow up in this shit storm society we have created for ourselves. It’s an era of technological tyranny, social injustice, and downright stupidity. Why is the word “selfie” in the dictionary? What the fuck does fleek even mean?
I gag at the thought of them going to public school and learning common core math because that shit doesn’t make sense to me at all. America is already the only country to use the customary measuring system, which really baffles me because the metric system goes by tens, why are we turning math into a different language for our children? Math should be the same in every country! Better yet, why are students attending public schools only taught what they’re tested on? There are three learning styles and every kid learns differently. What do these tests prove?
We are living in a time where rights are literally being taken away from people. People can’t afford healthcare and they’re being fined for that, and prescriptions are unattainable for a lot of people dependent on them due to their inflation in price. The government literally wants to control everything, including but not limited to genetically modified foods and what women do with their bodies, yet we still aren’t being paid the same for working the same position as our male counterparts, and we have women claiming antifeminism with pride. Have you read the history behind women being granted the right to vote? Get it together, ladies!
Right now in 2017, rape is really something that is questioned by what somebody wears or by how much they drink. Rather than teaching our children that no means no, or that there is a such thing as respect for someone’s body when they can and cannot speak for themselves, we have judges throwing rich white boys in jail for three months and letting them sit their time out in solitary confinement so nobody can hurt them. At the same time, in a lower income neighborhood, we have black men being pulled over on their ways home getting shot and killed because “they fit the description” of a suspect wanted in a previous crime, or they end up jailed for the rest of their lives for possessing two joints. You know what happens nine times out of ten to those responsible? Absolutely nothing.
How do I redirect my girls’ attention away from all of this bullshit as they grow up? It’s frustrating yet sad at the same time because sometimes I feel like I won’t be able to. It’s everywhere. This state of being and negativity has saturated our population. It’s even within my family and friends, and all I think when they talk is, “oh, the ignorance.” I try so hard to be a person of inspiration and I try so hard to be the shining light that people need, but I wish others tried harder, too. It would make things so much easier.
As their mother, I will teach my girls to love and respect themselves, and I will empower them and equip them with the resources to properly care for themselves. I will teach them to love and respect others, and I will teach them to stand up for those who are too afraid to speak out on their own. I will also teach them to stay quiet when it’s necessary, because not all of our thoughts should be shared, especially the hateful ones. Narcissism is an unattractive trait, and God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I will teach them compassion, I will show them the power of prayer, and I will most of all raise them to be proud of where they came from- a long line of warriors.
(pictured: Violet and Olivia rolling Thieves and Peace and Calming oils on their feet before bed to promote healthy immune systems and restful sleep. I love empowering them from early on to take care of their bodies)
If I asked you what “personal autonomy” was, would you know? If you don’t know what it means, look it up. Because that’s what this post is about: doing your own research so you can make informed decisions for yourself, your family, and your overall health and wellness, despite what moral or society tells you. When I say research, I do not mean using solely the internet. I mean picking up books, reading biographies, journals, recorded scientific data, court documents, etc., and using those resources to guide you to the choice that best suits your needs, no matter the circumstance.
For those of you who don’t know, Violet and Olivia were born six weeks early. I went to the hospital because I had some blood loss and ended up finding out that I was already 4cm dilated and my blood pressure was through the fucking roof. So high, the nurses were shocked that I hadn’t had a seizure yet, which scared me because I didn’t know that was a thing. When my doctor asked me if I wanted to attempt to have them vaginally, I said no, because 1. I didn’t want to raise my blood pressure MORE due to the stress of the whole entire situation and end up having a cesarean delivery anyway, and 2. I didn’t want to be induced. I have never been a fan of inductions. I think they are very unnecessary because women have been giving birth since the beginning of time, and all pregnancies, whether animal, mammal, insect, fish, or any LIVING THING, have a biologically set timer. The Pitocin that is administered during these inductions mimics oxytocin, which is the hormone released during birth and also during breastfeeding, which promotes feelings of happiness and serenity, and if you have a synthetic compound in your body mimicking that, the natural process is hindered. Did you know that you are more likely to develop post partum depression if you had an induced labor? It’s true.
Same with birth control. I have a LOT of people ask me if I’m on birth control, and when I tell them no, they always seem shocked. What is so shocking? Because I have twins? What are the reasons you take it? I’ve been told many of these reasons from various friends:
- acne management
- hormone balance
- loose/gain weight
- avoid pregnancy (the most obvious)
I got the Depo shot my senior year of high school. You know what happened? I went from a size 4 to 00. I had no appetite. I looked sick and unhealthy. I also didn’t get a period for five consecutive months. The worst part? It was an injection that I had to wait for my body to completely rid of. It took MONTHS for my body to get back to normal. When I had the girls, I thought, “there is no way in HELL I’m having another set of twins,” so I got on the mini pill at my 2 week postpartum check up. Immediately I could tell that my hormones were disarray. If I can feel that, literally, can you imagine what it’s actually doing to our brains and bodies? I stopped taking it, because I am uncomfortable with the idea of pumping my body with synthetic hormones that are known to cause various types of cancer in women like breast, cervical, and ovarian, especially if they’re not even 100% effective. Guess what? Trojan Bareskin condoms are solid. Go get you some.
When the girls were born, I was so adamant about breastfeeding because of the information I had gathered from two different books, “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” by Kathleen Huggins and “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by La Leche League, so I was pumping around the clock while they were in the NICU. Breastmilk was like superfood for them. The colostrum coats their digestive tract which gives their immune system an insane boost from the get go, and the chemical composition of breastmilk changes based on your baby’s saliva to suit their needs. Your baby’s saliva literally tells your boobs whether they need more fat, more protein, more water, etc., if they’re healthy, if they’re sick… It’s incredible. I finally got to hold the girls a couple of days after I had them, and they both immediately started rooting. The nurses saw that, and told me not to let them latch. I thought, “this feels very unnatural.” You know why? Because it was.
At their two month check up with their first pediatrician, she told me that they were both underweight and that I needed to stop and unlatch after fifteen minutes and supplement with formula. She told me breastmilk only had 20 calories and formula had 22, so ideally formula was the better choice. She also said that they were burning calories while nursing. That went against everything I had come to understand. From my knowledge, breastmilk had the same caloric value and like I previously mentioned, milk changes to suit baby’s needs. Also, to establish good milk supply, you nurse as long and as often as baby wants. That’s THE most effective way to sustain a healthy milk supply- all the supplements and cookies in the world won’t help if you aren’t bonding physically with baby. It’s a biological process.
At their four month check up, she said the same thing. The girls were underweight, not on the growth charts, which by the way are AVERAGE GUIDELINES, and this time she threw in, “you’re going to give them brain failure if they don’t get their weight up.” Do you know what THAT tactic is called? Fear mongering. I left the office with Erik and as soon as we got in the car, I lost it. I felt like I was failing my babies, even though subconsciously I knew I wasn’t. We saw her one more time for their sixth month appointment, and when she told me to start them on solids, even though they were six weeks premature which equated to only being 4.5 months old, I was done. This lady was so misinformed it wasn’t funny, and my babies were NOT going to be a product of her lack of knowledge. I sent her an email suggesting she read those two books and do some more research, because moms younger than me or women simply uninformed would absolutely take her advice, which was incorrect.
I started looking around for a new pediatrician for the girls to see for their nine month check up, and used words like “breastfeeding friendly” in my searches. I spoke to a few nurses at various clinics before I came across a doctor who not only was educated on breastfeeding and premature babies, but understanding of the entire situation. The visit with her went really well, but she noted that Violet’s hemoglobin levels were 10.8 and they needed to be 11.0 to be considered not anemic. She wrote a prescription for Polyvisol to help raise her iron levels. When we left I told Erik, “we are not giving her that supplement. We can up her iron intake naturally by giving her more chicken and veggies.” Guess whose iron levels were in the normal range at her one year check up? Mhm.
I know that our bodies are designed to naturally ward off infections and viral illnesses we contract, and I know that real food is real medicine. If you take something every single time you get sick, you don’t allow yourself to heal properly, and you also put yourself at risk to develop resistances to the meds, which can be troublesome later resulting in needing higher doses or stronger meds. If the girls are teething, I don’t administer Tylenol. I’ve also gotten flack for that, but it is what it is. I have never freaked out over a fever and rushed them to the doctor, I watch it and I monitor them, I change clothes accordingly. I nurse them. I’ve done tepid baths, and I also feed them real food. If you’re constantly eating fast food or ready-make meals full of preservatives and processed shit, you can bet your bottom dollar your family is going to fall below that wellness line because that stuff does absolutely no good for you.
And while we are talking about food, because this also correlates to this post, guess what? I was on the phone with a very good friend of mine a few days ago, and I was telling her how I felt like shit any time I ate bread or had dairy and her literal response was, “Brittany, you aren’t lactose intolerant and you don’t have celiac disease.” She laughed as I sat there staring at my computer with a page about The Complete Master Cleanse I had pulled up, stunned. I started to tell her that I had effectively eliminated dairy from my diet for a week and immediately noticed a difference in how I felt overall, but I stopped because I realized it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to remind her we are literally the only species that drinks ANOTHER specie’s milk past infancy. Unless she had heard it straight from the doctor’s mouth, what I said was untrue. This rule seems to apply in other aspects of her life because a lot of our conversations result in me suggesting a more natural approach to something and she retorts with, “Well my (insert specialist here) said this.” Hmm… that’s fine, but I would be shopping around for a second and third opinion.
I’m not sharing these thoughts with you to show you how anti western medicine I am, because I am not, but I do know that doctors follow a protocol that typically results in a written prescription, which only alleviates a symptom rather than fixing the root cause. A lot of the chemicals in those prescriptions have adverse side effects, and food is something we need to live. Why not give your body nutrients it needs to heal itself rather than doing it the modernized way?
Do you know how much shit I’ve gotten for cloth diapering because IT IS SO HARD? Their words, not mine. I don’t find it all that hard, just establishing a good wash routine. Why do y’all care how I diaper my children?! Guess what? Diapers take hundreds of years to decompose, and they just SIT in landfills. The material inside of diapers to soak up the moisture and keep it away from the skin is the SAME SHIT used to clean up oil spills in oceans. Oh, the worst part? THEY’RE EXPENSIVE AS ALL GET OUT and if you have two babies in DIFFERENT sizes, you have to double the expense because you can’t stuff them in the same size. So unless you’re buying the diapers, take a seat, and watch me as I plop toddler turds into the toilet just like adults do before I wash them.
Personal autonomy to me means making decisions for YOUR family like breastfeeding or not, eating organic or not, cloth diapering or not, baby wearing or not, homeschooling or not (I’m considering it, guys… what is this common core math bullshit?!), vaccinating or not, home water birth or not, etc., that best suit the needs of your loved ones, regardless what we believe the “norm” is.
I’m done, y’all. Educate yourselves. THAT is always an option.
I have been absent from my blog because I have been lacking motivation to write. I am working on a big project for this blog but day-to-day posts have become harder to muster up.
However, something that I haven’t been lacking in is doing research on how essential oils can be used in my home because we spent the money on them, so of course I’m going to use them!
My latest creation: DIY disinfectant wipes!
My family would go through Clorox wipes like nobody’s business. I cleaned my counters with them, my stove, the trays on Violet’s and Olivia’s high chairs, and the list goes on. We would buy them in the largest pack the store we were shopping in offered, and over time that can really add up. These wipes are so cost effective and can be used for a very long time if you are careful not to cross-contaminate the liquid in the canister.
Large canister, preferably glass
Package of flats for cloth diapering or another kind of cotton towel
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
5 drops lemon EO
5 drops thieves EO
Top with water but don’t fill to top- let the towels absorb the water little by little until you can ring liquid out.
When ready to use:
Ring out the excess liquid over your canister to save it.
Wipe counters and other kitchen/bathroom surfaces and reuse until too dirty to use again.
Toss into wash, and when dry, add the towels back to the container!
*turn canister over occasionally to redistribute liquid to towels on the top of the stack
*wet with faucet water anytime it dries out
When I look at Violet and Olivia, I no longer see babies. I see two dramatic girls standing up on their own, fighting over who stands in front at the baby gate blocking them from the hallway while they wait for their bath water to fill up, and signing “more” when they want more of whatever they’re being fed, or “milk” when they want to nurse. Olivia knows where her belly button is and Violet points to the bananas hanging in the kitchen when I ask if she wants more banana. Where has the time gone? They’re turning into toddlers.
It’s hard to believe they were premature. I considered doing a post on how prematurity has affected my parenting, but aside from holding off on giving them baby food until eight months, I don’t feel like their prematurity has affected them, therefore it cannot affect me. I have had tons of people tell me, “they’re so tiny,” but I don’t dwell on their stature because I am petite, and their pediatrician is totally okay with their measurements because they have always followed a growth curve. Their teeth took a little while to come in, but once the first tooth broke through their gums, they’ve steadily been coming. Violet army crawled up until a year, but she was pulling to stand by ten months and has been shimmying down the couches, tables, and walking with her push toys everywhere since then, too. Olivia has always been slightly ahead, but never so far ahead that we were concerned with Violet’s development.
Here we are at fourteen months and they’re standing on their own, eating tons of “table food,” drinking apple juice (and whole milk… yuck!) out of straw sippy cups, and babbling away in their own language. They both put remotes up to their ears like they’re talking on the phone, and sometimes they’ll nod their head up and down like they’re saying “uh huh” to somebody or they’ll shake their head side to side in pretend disagreement with the person on the other line. Violet has three teeth with one cutting the gum now. Olivia has one prominent tooth and three cutting her gums. Their hair seems to grow much like Harry Potter’s, and they get a kick of out shaking their head “no” before doing something they aren’t supposed to. Violet loves to share, it doesn’t matter what it is, she’ll offer it to you. Oh, and Olivia can throw one hell of a tantrum. She cries and somehow manages to roll her tongue while doing it. The noise is like nails on a chalkboard for Erik. I don’t like it either, but I really dislike when they throw themselves backward. Olivia doesn’t care if she’s on a hard floor or not, she will throw herself back so fast… and Violet does it when I pick her up in mid-air. Talk about an adrenaline rush. *insert eye roll*
(Thank God I had the Tula on!)
We are still breastfeeding with no signs of stopping. Violet has been nursing more frequently than in the previous months, and I think it has something to do with her teeth coming in. Their separation anxiety is out of this world, and it is becoming more evident when they need to sleep. They get CRAAANKY. They love playing with (and fighting over) toys, especially ones that light up and play music. THEY LOVE MUSIC. I wish you could see them dance to Beyoncé’s Formation. It’s seriously their favorite song. They also love 60s music and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
(gorgeous weather calls for enjoyment!)
(in the toy box their Papaw Roger built for them; Erik providing entertainment)
At times it is definitely challenging, and on certain days it’s a lot harder to keep our cool than others, but we are so blessed to be their parents and we are so happy God chose us to raise these angels. They are daring, they are emotional, but most importantly, they are thriving.
I recently ordered the Gentle Baby essential oil blend after reading about it in my EO pocket reference. Olivia had a pretty gnarly drool rash on her chin the day it arrived in the mail. I applied 1 drop mixed with 1 drop of coconut oil to the area before I put her down for bed because the pocket reference said that it was good to use on rashes, and I swear to you, the next morning her rash was completely gone.
After witnessing her rash get better literally overnight, I decided to put it in a rollerball so I could just swipe it wherever I needed it instead of worrying about diluting it every time I wanted to use it.
You Will Need:
- 10 mL glass rollerball, preferably dark glass to preserve oil potency
- YL Gentle Baby essential oil blend
- YL Lavender essential oil (optional since lavender is in GB)
- cold pressed, organic coconut oil
Before I tell you how I concocted this magic diaper potion that can be used on so more than just baby bums, I want to introduce you to the oils you’ll be working with.
Lavender – antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, relaxing. (can go on skin alone)
Gentle Baby – a blend of coriander, lavender, lemon, and a handful of flowers like jasmine, rose, and geranium. (needs to be diluted 50/50 with a carrier oil) Good for relaxing pregnant mamas, improving stretch marks, chapped skin, and cranky babies.
- Pull the roller ball off of the top of the vial
- Add 20 drops Gentle Baby + 10 drops lavender
- Top off with coconut oil
- Pop roller ball back on the top of the vial
- Apply to chapped skin anywhere on the body (or on the back of neck/bottoms of feet before bed) and enjoy the soothing properties of the oils along with the glorious scent.
If I was a part of the crew who helped build my house back in 1982, I would have suggested putting hardwood floors throughout. Carpet is such a hassle to keep clean, especially if you have dogs… or kids. We have one room with carpet in our house. Unfortunately, that one room with carpet is the living room, our busiest room with the most foot traffic.
Erik and I are loyal carpet powder users. It just adds an extra something. They smell great and they are a fantastic way to make sure you’re really vacuuming the entire space because you can see where you’ve missed. Did you know, though, that extra something is actually a TON of toxic chemicals being sprinkled into your carpet? Can you imagine your children crawling around after you’ve vacuumed with those commercial powders? Residue getting on their hands, their hands going in their mouths and eyes… I’ll stop there and let you visualize what I just described.
With only a few ingredients, you can make your own all natural carpet freshening powder that cleans better than the ones at the stores.
- Baking soda
- Young Living Thieves essential oil blend (smells like fall and is a great multipurpose oil used for cleaning and naturally killing germs), Lemon essential oil (also smells great and used as a disinfectant), and Tea Tree essential oil (used to penetrate any microscopic creepy crawlies our dogs may bring in in their fur)
- Mason jar with sprinkle top lid, or an old glass jar with holes poked in the lid.(I used an old jelly jar and a nail and hammer to make my holes)
- pour baking soda into bowl – I use about 2 cups at a time
- 10 drops each oil into baking soda
- using a fork, combine the oil into the baking soda by mashing the powder like you would mash potatoes. You’ll notice the consistency of the baking soda changes and becomes more flour-like
- pour into glass jar and enjoy at your leisure
This stuff is not only extremely easy to make, it’s also really affordable! The baking soda was $2.13 after tax and Thieves + Lemon essential oils come in the premium starter kit. If you don’t have tea tree, peppermint is a great alternative, as is lavender, and both of those come in the starter kit as well.
If you have these ingredients on hand, I highly recommend you making this for your household. It smells great and puts my mind at ease knowing that there are ZERO CHEMICALS in my carpet powder.
I mentioned in a previous post that pregnancy and Pinterest go hand-in-hand, and for good reason. You’re pregnant, you’re tired, if you’re not doing something you’re obligated to do, you’re probably laid up somewhere, eating something, surfing the web on your phone or tablet. Did I hit the nail on the head?
I was constantly searching ideas for twins; how to successfully breastfeed two babies, how to decorate their nursery, what baby gear was necessary, what stroller + car seat system was best; that was honestly something that gave me anxiety. Some real life thoughts I had during this search include: “How do car seats connect to the stroller? Oh my God you have to buy attachment bars to secure the seats to the stroller?! Are the car seats I want even compatible for this stroller? Why is it SO MUCH?! Those wheels aren’t even good for jogging, and I like to run. Holy shit, do we need TWO stollers?” Answer: yes, unless you want to shell out somewhere between $600+ for a system that grows with your kids, which is something we just couldn’t swing.
I came across this post about registry ideas, and was immediately drawn to the infant car seats in the photo. The author described them as “lightweight,” which was something I was interested in. (click photo for link)
I read about Maxi Cosi seats many times on the Multiples & Twins forum on the What to Expect app I mentioned in my last post, and when I researched the brand for myself, I found a lot of great reasons to consider spending the extra money:
- lightest car seat on the market (only 8 lb. most infant seats are between 10-12 lb.) which is great if you go places alone!
- safely fits babies as small as 4 lb. (most seats only hold babies 6 lb.+)
- anti-rebound bar for safer rides, and have air protect
- LATCH equipped bases for easy ins-and-outs of the car
- self-wicking fabric, and easy to remove and wash if needed
My mother and Granny were kind enough to gift us the purple seats before the baby shower, and we were so appreciative of that when the girls were discharged from the NICU. They were ready to come home at 5 lb., and if we had gotten other seats, we would have had to buy something to either add to the seats to make them safe enough for the girls to ride in them, or we would’ve had to exchange them for something else before bringing them home. Thankfully, we had proper equipment, and the nurses even commented on how safe they looked when we took them to the hospital so they could do their car seat tests.
Violet and Olivia are at that age where they’re really curious and don’t like being restrained in their seats if we are in public, so we went ahead and upgraded to convertible car seats around ten months even though they can still fit comfortably in their infant seats now at thirteen months. We traded out our Snap & Go double frame stroller for our Baby Trend jogger stroller, and if we aren’t somewhere stroller compatible, like the grocery store, I wear one of them in the Tula and put the other in the front of the cart. (Can someone PLEASE tell Target to make carts with TWO seats? Kroger? Where you at? You, too! HEB, Sams, and Costco are the only places so far to do that. GET WITH IT!)
I already knew I wanted Maxi Cosi seats the second time around, and since we didn’t purchase the infant seats, I thought it would be a justified purchase. Erik asked me if we could at least go to Target to look at the seats they had in-store, so I humored him and did so. He wasn’t impressed. “These look so uncomfortable compared to the other seats.” He told me as we walked down the aisle. I had shown him the Pria 70 model I wanted to upgrade to last time we were in Babies R Us. “I know, and they’re about the same price.” I answered. We went home and ordered them.
Not only is it a gorgeous seat, but it is super comfortable compared to the infant seats, and extremely safe. I also like how it tilts back when it’s rear-facing. In the infant seats, if the girls fell asleep, their heads would drop and make me nervous that they were blocking their wind pipes. When they fall asleep in these, they just turn their head to either side because they’re reclined. It’s also really easy to install into our cars, which are both mid-size sedans. I drive a Mercury Milan and Erik drives a Toyota Corolla. We have zero issues fitting in either car with these seats.
- rear facing up to 40 lb
- forward facing up to 70 lb. or 52 in. tall
- Flex-tech multidirectional crash energy management
- Air Protect for advanced side impact protection
- Easy to clean
Read full specs here.
Just for safety purposes, I have included a link that shows how to properly install a car seat, because statistics show that 3/4 seats are improperly installed. I also suggest taking an infant CPR class like Erik and I did, because they spent a good portion of the class demonstrating how to install a seat and how to properly restrain your baby. The two things that resonated with me were only being able to stick 1 finger under the shoulder strap, and making sure the chest clip was at ARMPIT level on your baby.
During my pregnancy, I was heavily involved on the Multiples & Twins board on the What to Expect app. I read damn near every thread and comment, sometimes chiming in on some of the subjects myself. It was a great outlet because I didn’t know anybody who shared my experience that I felt comfortable talking to. I could bitch all day about how nauseous I was to a friend or family member who had already been pregnant, but unless you have had hyperemesis gravidarum, you have absolutely no clue what I felt like. There were ladies on the board due around the same time as me, some pregnant with triplets, a couple of women pregnant with quadruplets, but mostly twin moms, and I seemed to fall right in the middle of everyone’s due dates based on what I had been reading. One thing I saw regularly, was women who had already had their babies mentioning this “Moms on Call” system. They swore by it.
I shelled out the $16 for the ibook and app combination for my phone and started reading into it on my own. Basically, Moms on Call is a schedule you follow that gets your babies in a set routine, changing every couple of months to adapt to the developmental leaps they are bound to experience. The ultimate “goal” with this system is getting your babies to sleep through the night by around the three-month mark. It’s co-written by two pediatric nurses, so you would think that everything in there is advice you should listen to, right? If you’re going to exclusively pump and you know your supply can withstand the ever-increasing demand of your babies, or if you know out the gate you’re formula feeding, maybe. You could definitely benefit from it. However, if you are determined to be successful with breastfeeding, I will confidently advise you to steer clear of the entire thing, because this is rigorously structured, and breastfeeding is not.
(I included the photos for reference)
The only reason I say to steer clear is because your baby might want to nurse longer than 30 minutes, especially if they’re going through a growth spurt, and if you’re strictly breastfeeding, this could affect your supply in the long run. Boobs are completely supply and demand. If you’re cutting your baby off before they’re done nursing, you’re telling your body, “I don’t need anymore milk at this time.” They’ll adjust to the schedule, but not your baby’s needs, which are continuously changing. Shortly after you’re finished feeding, which in the book they’re pretty adamant about, you either lie your baby down for a nap or play with them. They follow certain ferberizing techniques which isn’t where my biggest problem was with this system, because I genuinely do think they helped the girls become good sleepers, but more so how they urged you to stop feeding and then do rounds of CIO (cry it out) to get your baby to sleep.
Erik and I followed the Moms on Call system until sometime in late October. I was in a Moms on Call group on facebook that was formed by a couple of the moms in the Multiples & Twins board on the What to Expect app. There was a new mom following the schedule I posted above, so her baby was somewhere between a month and two months old. She had said that the night before, her baby had woken up crying and she couldn’t console him. It was before 2:00 a.m., so she did the rounds of CIO, but it only got worse. She didn’t consider feeding him because she was so focused on what the schedule was telling her. She said she gave her baby a bottle around 4:00 a.m. after a few moms said that her baby had obviously been hungry. All I pictured was a helpless little baby crying because he was hungry, and a mother so hypnotized by this system that she forgot that babies are vulnurable beings, completely dependent on us to meet their needs and aren’t meant to follow stict schedules at such a young age. I immediately unfollowed the facebook group, stopped focusing on the system, and started following Violet’s and Olivia’s cues. They have them, trust me. You just have to pay attention.
There were a few things I took with me from the system, though, and implemented into our more organic routine. I truly do think these have helped the girls get into their own schedule, because they certainly have one:
- sound machine (every time they go to sleep)
- swaddles (every time they go to sleep, until they’re breaking out of them regularly)
- cribs (every time they go to sleep)
- bedtime routine consisting of baths, bottles, bed, in that order around the same time every night
The Moms on Call book suggested a white noise machine, but I use this little $25 MyBaby sound machine by Homedics on the “ocean” setting because white noise gives me the creeps. We turn it on no matter if the girls are going down for a nap or for the night. It’s loud enough to block out noises in their room, but not so loud that we can’t hear them if they wake up. It’s also about $15 less expensive.
Swaddles are important because your new baby will have a startle reflex that they can’t control until they get more control over their muscles. If the girls were not swaddled, they would wake up every time their little bodies jerked in their sleep. I love the SwaddleMe brand from Target because they’re inexpensive compared to their competition, and super stretchy. The tighter the swaddle, the better.
CRIBS! CRIBS! CRIBS! Not pack and plays, not rock and plays, CRIBS. I’ll admit, when we first brought them home, they slept in the double bassinet on top of their playpen for the first few weeks. Olivia’s monitor in the NICU said “apnea” too many times for my liking during her stay there and I wanted her to be close to me in case something happened. Once they started rolling around in them though, we went straight to their cribs. We dealt with reflux and we dealt with gas. I only mention that because I think a lot of people use rock and plays to help with reflux. You know what though? You’re going to have a hard time transitioning your baby into their crib if they get used to sleeping elevated like that. (They can also get plagiocephaly, but babies can get that from favoring one side of their head over the other even if they are in cribs. Violet and Olivia both favored their right side. We had physical therapists come do an at-home evaluation on them to determine if they needed helmets per their pediatrician’s request.) We put a pack (not a box) of diapers under one side of their mattress and put them on their backs during that stage. It worked. All I have ever had in their cribs is a fitted sheet and their little giraffe nightlight stuffed animals my friend, Ashley, bought them. I don’t use bumpers, pillows, blankets, or anything like that because the AAP advises against those things, and I wanted to take any measures I could to prevent SIDS, especially since they were premature.
Bedtime Routine: Every night between 7:00-8:00 p.m. depending on their nap schedule that day and their level of fussiness, I start their bath. They know as soon as the water turns on, it’s time to get in there. They stop whatever they’re doing and crawl right to the tub. They LOVE it. I wash them every other night, but on the nights I don’t wash them, we do a bubble bath. They have some toys in there, so I let them play for about ten minutes, and then I get them out. I diaper them, get them dressed, and make their bottles, which have two to three ounces more than their daytime bottles do. (We are down to 3 bottles a day with lots of snacking on baby food, yogurt, beans, cut up fruits + veggies) While they’re drinking their bottles, I turn off the light in the living room (where they eat), make sure the light in their room is off, and turn the sound machine on so the mood is set when I go to put them down. Usually, they go right down with minimal fussing.
With everything being said, Olivia didn’t start sleeping through the night until sometime in her eleventh month. Every. single. night. she would wake up sometime between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. to nurse, and we have had plenty of days that started at 5:00 a.m. because there was no way she was going back down without putting up a fight, and that would wake Violet up because they share a room. (never have they shared a crib) Just about a month ago, Olivia was waking up between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. and staying up until damn near 3:00 a.m. every time she did. You just have to roll with it, because babies go through countless growth spurts and developmental leaps during their first year of life, and our job as parents is to adhere to their needs to the best of our abilities.
I’m not trying to knock the Moms on Call system at all, but I do think that in a sense, it’s pretty selfish to expect a baby to sleep through the night at such a young age. We are lucky that Violet has been doing so for as long as she has, but like I said, Olivia had plans of her own the entire year. If you’re low on sleep, I do suggest implementing the same steps at nap time and bedtime so it signals to your baby, “ok, it’s time to try to sleep.” I think that whole aspect of the system is psychological, and it seemed to work. If your baby has days and nights confused, or has a hard time going to sleep for the night, try throwing in a warm bath and dimming the lights and ‘setting the mood’ for a good night’s rest, and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, don’t get frustrated, just listen to your baby.
Luckily, the hospital the girls were born at is only about ten minutes from our house, so Erik was able to leave and let the dogs out, shower, etc. there. While he was gone, I pumped again and asked the nurse if she would take the colostrum to the NICU for me since I was still unable to get up and walk around. She did, and when she came back, she showed me seperate photos of Violet and Olivia that she had taken so I could see them. They were so beautiful. “I can’t believe we made them.” I thought to myself as I started to cry. The next twelve hours were spent waking up to either talk to the one of thirty people that would filter in and out of the room, or to pump. Fortunately, by about 1:00 p.m. Friday, my milk had fully come in. I was nervous about that whole process because 1. the girls were six weeks early, and 2. I had gotten a c-section. I said it once and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing. I was pumping out a solid two ounces each time I pumped by Friday evening. Every meal the girls had so far had been breastmilk, and that was so empowering.
(pictures from nurse’s phone)
Friday evening, my magnesium drip ran out. The nurse in my room asked me to stand, made me take a few steps, and then asked me to sit back down. “Are you dizzy at all?” She asked. I said no, so she wheeled me down to the NICU while Erik went to let the dogs out so I could finally see the girls for the first time. I couldn’t hold them until I wasn’t considered a “fall risk” anymore (my spinal block wore off only a few hours before), so I just stared at them in their incubators. My babies were even more beautiful in person. They were so small, and they looked so soft. I couldn’t wait until I was able to hold them. Shortly after we made it back to the room, I was transferred from labor and delivery to the postpartum ward. Erik got back to the hospital a little after that, and I asked him to take me back to the NICU so we could see them together. We hadn’t gotten that opportunity quite yet.
(photo credit: Erik)
Saturday, I held them for the first time: (and my epidural ran out…)
… and Sunday was spent “resting” with frequent walks to the NICU every 3 hours to feed the girls. Monday was our day to go home. Although we were more than eager to leave the hospital, Violet and Olivia wouldn’t be coming with us. Deep down I had known that all along, but a microscopic part of me had hoped they would beat the odds and come home with us, anyway. We packed up all of our stuff and headed to the car. Halfway down the hallway, I doubled over and started crying. I tried to be strong because like I said, I knew they were going to be in the NICU, (and have you ever cried after having your guts sliced open? Sneezed? Coughed? It all hurts. LAUGHING hurts.) but the reality of them staying in the hospital while Erik and I got discharged to go home broke my heart. I didn’t want to leave them there.
Erik had proposed the idea of us staying at his parents’ house for about a week so I could recover from the surgery without the dogs jumping on me and bothering me/my incision. I agreed, but after a few days, I had had enough. I needed to be at my house. Not having my kids come home with me was one thing, but me not being in the comfort of my own home without my kids was a completely different story. I begged Erik to take me home. I didn’t care if Roman’s eighty-eight pound ass took me out, that was a risk I was willing to take. After some good convincing, Erik drove us to the house. We spent about a week cleaning the house, washing the clothes we got from the babyshower, and putting our finishing touches on the nursery, including assembling the chair and a half that was delivered on the same day as the girls. We had daily visits to the NICU to see Violet and Olivia, and I always took pumped milk to feed them. We changed them, took their temperatures, talked to the nurses and doctors about their progress. We dealt with a bout of jaundice during the first week…
…and leaving them every day was the hardest thing to do, but knowing they were receiving treatment and care we couldn’t provide was what kept us going.
Every day I asked when I could attempt to latch them on to the breast, and on their fourteenth day, I finally got the permission to do so. The same lactation consultant who had brought me the pump was the one who helped us during our first (and successful) nursing session. On the fifteenth day, they were out of incubators and in open cradles, and we were told to bring their carseats the next time we came to the hospital so they could do their carseat tests. That meant they were getting discharged soon!
(our first latch, photo credit: Erik)
August 30, 2015, only seventeen days after giving birth, the nurse working the morning shift told us that Violet and Olivia would be discharged that afternoon. “They passed their hearing tests, so go enjoy your last afternoon alone. We will call you when their papers are ready to go.” We did just that. We had lunch at a little bistro we frequented during the pregnancy before going to walmart and getting preemie diapers. While we were in the checkout line, the hospital called us and told us the girls were ready to come home.
Upon our arrival, the nurses gave us a folder for each of the girls with all of their information in there. They both weighed about 5 lb a piece after losing a pound each after birth. They gave us eight packs of preemie diapers, thermometers, blankets, hats, and all of the preemie onesies I had taken up there over the course of their stay. Walking out of the hospital was quite a show- we even had a random lady follow us out to our car and watch us strap them in because she was so fascinated with the concept of someone having two babies at the same time. I was so ecstatic that our babies were finally coming home, I didn’t even get annoyed that her head was practically in our car while Erik and I each strapped in a child. We clicked their infant seats into the bases and let the nurses check the carseats to make sure they were good to go. “Everything looks good,” they said to us. “This is it.” I thought as we pulled out of the parking lot.
In honor of September being Neonatal Intensive Care awareness month, I thought it would be fun to sit down and record the things we encountered before and after giving birth to the girls. We (luckily) had a comparatively short NICU stay to most, but those seventeen days were the longest days of our lives.
Thursday, August 13, 2015, roughly around noon.
I woke up and stared at the ceiling in my new room. We had only been living in our house for a few weeks, but it felt right. I loved everything about it. All we were missing was the chair and a half for the nursery. It was scheduled for delivery that afternoon. As I continued staring at the ceiling fan, I thought about how uncomfortable everything had gotten because my belly was so big. There was so much weight pressing on my cervix, that it was a challenge to have sex, and with a big mountain on your body, it’s pretty fucking hard to find a comfortable sleeping position. I thought about how soon, sex would be impossible either from me getting even bigger, or from going in to labor, so I asked Erik if he wanted to join me in some morning festivities before I got up to make breakfast.
Once we were done, I got up and made pancakes. I only used eggs, bananas, and protein powder because I was trying to fatten the girls up; the week prior I had an anatomy scan and the girls were weighing in at a predicted 4 lb. 11 oz. and 4 lb. 9 oz. I was a day away from being 34 weeks and I was positive I could get them to a solid 6 pounds a piece by their due date, September 25, or at least a little bigger if I didn’t make it that long. (Secretly, I had been praying they came early on their own- I was so over being pregnant.) I got up to go to the restroom, but when I wiped, there was a big, bloody blob on the sheet of toilet paper. I got a knot in my stomach and called my OB’s office. “Doctor Maximos said you need to go to the hospital and get checked out by labor and delivery.” The nurse said over the phone. I had a gut feeling once I went to the hospital I wasn’t going to come home for a few days, so I got in the shower, shaved my legs, and put on some sweat pants before going back out to break the news to Erik.
I walked out in the living room to find him pulling the pieces of the chair and a half out of the box it had been delivered in. “We need to go to the hospital.” I told Erik. He turned around and looked at me, but before he could say anything I blurted out, “I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I lost my mucus plug, so the doctor said I need to go to labor and delivery to get checked out.”
2:30 something p.m.
We arrived at the hospital and found our way to the labor and delivery triage on the second floor. We had to come here at around 26 weeks because I felt very “off” and nauseous for a few days, so it wasn’t as hard to find this time around. I was assigned a “room” behind a curtain and got undressed. Once they had the stress monitors around my belly, the nurse took my blood pressure asked me how the results were during my last cervical check. “Doctor Maximos said he was going to start doing them weekly at 34 weeks, so this upcoming Tuesday was supposed to be my first one,” I said. She had my lie down, and she performed a cervical check. “You’re about 4 cm dilated, your blood pressure is very high… and your legs look really swollen. I’m going to talk to your doctor and see what he wants to do, because you definitely are experiencing preeclampsia.” I knew it… I FUCKING KNEW IT! That’s all I could say. Over the last two months my swelling had gotten out of control in my opinion. I couldn’t wear any of my shoes other than my house shoes, my swelling was pitting, and it took a lot longer for things to “go down” even though my new normal was about three times plumper than I normally was. Every doctor’s appointment, though, there was never protein in my urine so they never considered preeclampsia. If they did, they did a really good job of not alarming me, because I always asked about it.
About twenty minutes later, Doctor Maximos came through the double doors to the triage. “You ready to have those babies today?” He asked with a smile. (You remember how I told you I had been secretly praying they would come early? I instantly regretted those prayers. I wasn’t ready. I wanted them to wait in utero until at least 36 weeks.) “Do we have a choice?” I asked, jokingly. I looked at Erik and started crying. I wasn’t ready. “Do you want to go ahead and get the C-section or do you want to try to push? I think you can do it. I really do.” He assured me. As bad as I wanted to, my blood pressure was too high for me to risk it. I’m glad he was optimistic, but I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I wanted the girls to be as safe as possible, and selfishly, I didn’t want to recover from two births. I knew there was a possibility baby A would come out and then baby B would need to be extracted, so I just said, “No, I’m going to do the C-section.” The nurse walked with Erik and me to labor and delivery on the third floor and told the nurses at the counter to admit me.
Erik and I talked about how scared we were while the nurse in our room entered my chart into the computer. He kept telling me it would be okay. I was going through a cycle of emotions: fear, anxiety, happiness, sadness. Finally a nurse came in and hooked me up to an IV. “We are going to give you a magnesium drip to stabilize the girls’ lungs since your blood pressure is so high. You might feel like you’re going through hot flashes, but that’s normal.” I was brought two stacks of paperwork to fill out soon after. Halfway through the first stack, I started getting dizzy and my skin started burning. “Is this a hot flash?” I thought. I didn’t feel the “flash” but more like a constant state of “hot.” I felt like I was on fire and got really nauseous. I had a nurse talking to me about only God knows what- I couldn’t focus on her. All I could focus on was how hard it was to hold my pen upright. “Get through this, Brittany.” I thought. I started scribbling through the rest of the paperwork. Whose genius idea was it to give me all this fucking paperwork after the magnesium drip?! The nurse was still talking and I still have no idea what she said. I “met with” the anesthesiologist and his partner in my room prior to going to the OR, both of whom I barely remember talking with. Erik changed in to his scrubs, and the nurse that was in my room when I arrived wheeled a chair in for me. “Are you ready?” She asked with a smile. I said, “No, not really,” but wobbled down off my bed into the chair.
Sometime around 5:50 p.m.
We walked down a couple of hallways and arrived at a set of double doors that opened up into the operating room. The doors had a dry erase board that read, “Maximos Twins” with a heart drawn right by it hanging on a hook. Erik was taken to a room down the hallway and I was wheeled in. The nurse helped me on to the table and the anesthesiologist that had been in my room before came up and shook my hand. He told me exactly what he was going to do, and as he performed the epidural and spinal block, he told me exactly how I was going to feel. The nurse had me put my hands on her shoulders and look down at the floor. I tried so hard not to cry because I didn’t want the numbing process to be interrupted, but I couldn’t help it. The nurse started whispering that I would be okay, and she helped me lie down on the table when he was done. Erik came in the room and sat by my head. A curtain was put up and Dr. Maximos started talking to me. I got extremely nauseous and had a hard time saying anything, but I was able to sputter it out, so they had a Zofran drip put into my IV.
I don’t remember where, but somewhere I read that there is a moment of calm before the surgery, so I tried to recognize that moment and started praying, “Dear Lord, please let these girls be alive and healthy, please let them survive this moment, please let me hear their cries-” “You’re going to feel some pressure…” “-wait a minute, am I already being cut open?!” I thought to myself. “Baby girl A: 6:19 p.m.” Dr. Maximos said as he held Violet up over the curtain. She was crying. He passed her to a nurse and pulled Olivia out. “Baby girl B: 6:20 p.m.” He held her up so I could see. She was crying, too. He passed Olivia to another nurse and both of the girls were weighed and prepped to go to the NICU. (I was never given the chance to hold them, and I don’t really know why. I can only assume it’s because of the circumstances of their prematurity, but that is something that bothers me even to this day.)
Their incubators were wheeled next to my head so I could look at them before they were taken to the NICU. I couldn’t focus on either of them, though, because I had started heaving like I was going to throw up. The girls were taken out of the room, and Erik followed behind while I was stitched up. I was instructed to fold my arms across my chest like I was preparing to go down a water slide, and the nurses rolled me onto a new hospital bed. “Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to hear their cries,” I thought as I was wheeled back to my room in labor and delivery.