making time for mental health

Imagine yourself holding a camera in front of you with your arms extended fully out. If you look at the screen, you see whatever you’re taking a photo of, but if you look beyond the screen, you see the WHOLE scenario. Daily, we see pictures of people living what we think is a picture perfect life, but pictures are only a tiny glimpse into their lives. Hardly do we see what is going on behind the scenes.

Two weeks ago, I admitted to Erik that I thought I had postpartum depression one morning before he left for work. I said, “I don’t think it’s very serious, I think I am just really exhausted, but I think I might be wading in the baby pool of postpartum depression.” He could see it in my face that I was in deep thought about something when he came in the living room after getting ready to leave. I was over it. I was tired of getting up in the middle of the night to nurse Olivia. I was tired of rocking Violet and Olivia to sleep every night. I was over pumping. I didn’t want to do laundry. I didn’t want to cook. I didn’t even want to make a sandwich. I was 100% mentally clocked out, and every time either of the girls cried, I cried. I was so exhausted, and I felt like if it wasn’t the girls crying, it was Roman getting into it with our next door neighbor’s dog and me having to stop whatever I was doing to go outside and corral him back in, or Rose barking at the back door to come in two minutes after begging to go outside while jumping up and down like a kangaroo until I got up to let her in. Everything was annoying me. I felt like I was one of those sticky, stretchy toys you get out of the 25 cent machine that had been played with too much. I lost my stick and stretch.

When Erik got home from work later that day, I went in our room to try to take a nap. While I was ‘napping,’ I was weighing the idea of making a doctor’s appointment to talk about this against the fact that I knew in the back of my mind that the symptoms I was recognizing within myself were grounds to prescribe me some kind of medicine and I didn’t want to become dependent on a medication that would change the chemical composition of my brain. What could I change to avoid being given medication at all?

My milk levels had severely plummeted because I had gone three nights in a row without pumping before going to bed, and I read that your milk production improves when you are well rested, and I also know from talking with the IBCLC that we hired to come take a look at Violet that your milk levels increase when you drink a lot of water and eat a healthier diet. The more I thought about how little sleep I was getting, the more I realized how deprived I was of other important nutrients, like water, wholesome food, and even sunshine. I couldn’t tell you the last time I went outside. I couldn’t even remember the last time I drank the recommended 8 glasses of water because my water consumption had been replaced with coffee, and my meals had been replaced with ready-to-eat food straight from the boxes in the pantry. How could I properly take care of Violet and Olivia when I wasn’t properly taking care of my own self? I told Erik the epiphany I had when I woke up. He agreed with me, and said he had been feeling like he could’ve been taking better care of himself, too.

I’ll be the first to admit that with two mobile babies, it is very challenging to get meals prepped and cooked, and sometimes it is a really tough choice between starting another episode of Frasier or going to bed at 9:00 p.m., but you have to make it work. I spend time during morning naps prepping food, and if the nap doesn’t go as planned, I put them in the kitchen with me in their activity seats and prep the food anyway, and I usually cook dinner right after they go to bed. It has only been upwards of a couple of weeks, but with these slight changes, I definitely feel an improvement in my mood and overall attitude in general, and my milk has increased as well.

Mom to mom, if you are at the point where you just want a few hours (or a whole weekend) to yourself, don’t feel guilty because of that. It is so important to make time for yourself because if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we can’t properly care for others. There needs to be balance, and that’s something that has taken me way too long to comprehend. If you think you are dealing with PPD, or if you are experiencing any feelings that concern you, I suggest making an appointment to speak with your doctor. I personally did not feel like I was mentally at the point where I was ready to seek medical help, but if things change, I will absolutely speak with my OB.

 

 

 

Cloth Diapering 101 | On a budget

I’ve been interested in cloth diapering since my pregnancy. I spent what seemed to be hours on my phone, researching what materials I needed, how much, and how extensive the washing process was. Let me tell you this right now: I don’t have half the shit they say you need to be successful at it, and I am doing it with two babies. Here is how I made it work for our family on our service industry income.

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Excuse my poorly lit photo, but all I need is what you see on my paint-stained kitchen table. To wash, I use Tide original powder, wooden clothes pins to dry them, and a diaper-safe diaper rash balm. Coconut oil works just as well, which is why I included it in the photo. I used that before I got the diaper balm. Traditional zinc-based creams cause your diapers to lose absorbency by coating the natural fibers in the cotton. They essentially become water-repellent. I have a stack of 3 different types of diapers that I am going to go through in detail for you, and underneath the stack is a cotton prefold and Snappi. The rectangular things to the right are called inserts. They typically go inside pocket diapers, but can sit inside a cover. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the green diaper.

My FAVORITE Way to diaper: Prefolds + Covers

This is a cover with a snap closure.

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This is an unbleached organic cotton prefold. I have been using dandelion cotton brand since the girls were newborns. This is the second size I have purchased from them and I love how absorbent they are, and how affordable they are. The mint green rubber thing with teeth is called a Snappi, and that’s used to secure the diaper once you fold it to fit your baby. It’s much easier than pins.

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I’ll have a tutorial photo on how to fold this bad boy down at the bottom of the post, but this is how a prefold looks once folded and secured, just imagine a baby in it. It’s a literal cloth diaper.

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The cover goes on top of the prefold…

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And then you snap it to fit your baby. I really love this particular brand of covers because of the super adjustable waistline. Look on the left tab. The extra snaps make it easy to cloth diaper a newborn because it will fit their tiny body. This particular brand’s covers run about $10 on cloth diapering sites like kellyscloset.com and Nicki’s Diapers. I included the link to KC because I personally prefer to go through that website.

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Another feature I really like about this particular brand is the double gusseted legs. It’s like the wing of a pad. I have never had a blowout with a double gusseted cover.

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Close up of the brand name for you curious cats. img_6542

Another kind of cover is a Hook and Loop, or Aplix closure.

It’s a velcro closure at the waist, which in reality is a fool-proof fit, right? I didn’t mention this when I was talking about the chevron cover, but the hole-looking things on the botton of the diaper are called snap rises, and they adjust the size of your diaper rather than the waist. You can put this over a prefold just the same, or you can put an insert in the flaps at the top and bottom of the diaper like I did in the photo, and just put it on your baby like you would a disposable diaper. This way is definitely quicker than folding prefolds, but prefolds are cheaper. This is just another option for you. These run about $11 on KC. I forgot to take a picture of the logo. It’s the brand Wolbybug.

The last option is what seems to be everyone’s favorite way to diaper, but also the most expensive: Pocket Diapers + inserts.

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Imagine Baby diapers run about $13 a piece.

It snaps closed like the other diapers, but this diaper is lined with fleece and has an actual pocket to stick an insert in. I have an insert that came with the diaper sticking out so you can get an idea of how it goes in the diaper. It’s pretty self explanatory.

If you refer back to the first photo, there were 3 rectangular inserts. Let’s get a close up:

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The top insert is a microfiber insert. Any time you buy a pocket diaper, it’ll usually come with a microfiber insert to stuff it with. They’re the bulkiest out of the 3 and the least absorbent. In the middle is a bamboo/cotton blend insert. Slightly more absorbent, and at a decent price point. The least bulky of the 3. The bottom is my favorite: a hemp/cotton blend. Hemp inserts are the most absorbent and the most expensive. If you stick around to read the rest of this, I’ll tell you how I got the things in my stash for a discounted price. Never ever put a microfiber insert directly ON your baby’s skin. Stuff the pocket with it ONLY. Bamboo and hemp can touch your baby’s skin directly with no harm.

Washing:

This is how I wash my diapers. It took me about two weeks to get a solid washing routine down and working efficiently.

  1. Make sure all of your snaps are undone and all of your inserts are pulled out of the pockets so everything gets washed properly. Throw everything- inserts, covers, pockets, even the pail liner (I haven’t mentioned it yet, don’t worry. You haven’t missed anything.) in the wash. DO NOT ADD DETERGENT. Do a COOL rinse cycle.
  2. Once the rinse cycle is completed, add your detergent. Like I mentioned before, I use original Tide powder. It’s the leading preference of detergents by cloth diapering parents everywhere. Don’t try to get fancy and use DIY detergent because you don’t want all of the ‘harsh chemicals.’ Would you rather your diapers be clean, or would you rather them be free of harsh chemicals and full of germs and stink? Yeah, didn’t think so. Do a HOT heavy duty wash.
  3. Most people said to just do another cool rinse cycle and the diapers would be fine, but I found that wasn’t enough to get the detergent out of my prefolds because Violet kept getting rashes on her tush. I do a regular wash cycle with cool water. It works just fine for me.
  4. When your washing is done, take your pocket diapers and your covers out and set them aside. Do not dry them in the dryer. (You can, I did in the beginning, but keep in mind that with every dryer cycle, your elastics are losing their bounce and are wearing down faster than if you air-dried them.) That’s what the clothes pins are for. You need to have a place to hang your diapers to dry. I ran a piece of twine from one side of my laundry room to the other and dry them in there, but if you have a clothes line, that’s all you need. *if you have staining, you can hang them outside and let the sun bleach them out when you pull them out of the washing machine*
  5. Put your inserts and prefolds in the dryer. Don’t use the highest heat setting, use a medium heat setting. Sometimes for them to get completely dry, I have to run my dryer twice.

My girls are eating baby food now, so their poops have done a complete 180 and are smelly and disgusting. Tons of people say to invest in a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet. You know what I do? I spray mine with the water hose outside in my backyard. It works wonderfully and guess what? I didn’t spend $45 on the sprayer, so I can take that money and buy stuff to add to my diaper stash. 

Where do you put the diapers in between washes? Tons of people suggest a diaper pail specifically, but I personally keep a wicker hamper that closes lined with a planet wise pail liner and toss them in there. The smell is contained just fine. Just make sure you spray the poop out of the diapers before putting them in the pail or else it will literally smell like shit.

How many diapers do you need? That depends on what system you are going with. Are you doing prefolds and covers or pocket diapers? Covers can be worn over multiple prefolds in one day unless your baby gets poop on it, or you have a leak and it gets soaked. I can get away with using 4-6 diapers per cover. A good prefold to cover ratio is 2:1. Pocket diapers are essentially one time use diapers, so track how many times you change your baby’s diaper and add 3-4 more just in case. If you change your baby’s diaper 8 times a day and are washing every day, you can probably get away with 12 diapers. If you want to go two days without washing, you need about 20 diapers or so.

Don’t go more than 3 days without washing because by then your pee diapers start to smell like ammonia and it’s hard to get that smell out, and don’t wait until you’re on your last diaper to start washing them.

 

My Personal Stash:

*I got 20 inserts and 17 pockets from a lady on craigslist for $40. I soaked the diapers and inserts in a bleach + water mixture that I looked up online to disinfect them, washed them 3 times, dried the pockets in the sun to solar bleach them and remove further staining, then washed another 3 times until the bleach smell was gone. Don’t be a snooty Trudy and snub your nose at buying used diapers. If you don’t have money and want to get started, this is a good way to go. Think about it. What kind of people cloth diaper? Generally the ones that care about their babies and the environment and whether or not their kitchen and bathroom cleaner is all natural or not. You’re not going to get a disease from buying used diapers.

I linked KC earlier and I really suggest going through that site to buy your covers and diapers. If you buy 6 or more (I think it’s 6) diapers, you get them at a discounted price. You get reward dollars for shopping through them, and you get free gifts when you spend x amount of money. When I got my first order, they were advertising a free pocket diaper when you spent $119 which isn’t a lot at all considering a box of diapers ranges $25-$40 depending on where you go. Boxes of diapers lasted us about 5-6 days so you can only imagine the money we are saving.

Kelly’s closet sells inserts and prefolds as well, but I personally prefer going through amazon for that. The links I used are to the exact products I use for diapering and love them!

Absolutely none of this is sponsored, all of this is what I do and what works for me. Do your own research to make sure you’re comfortable with your choices, but hopefully this was enough to get your started.

BONUS: How to fold a prefold

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Have the top of the prefold lined up with your baby’s belly button. Fold each of the sides in toward the middle, then again once more. Bring it up between the legs, making sure that it’s snug around the inside of the thighs. Bring the left corner behind your baby over the middle, then do the same with the right like you would a disposable. Holding it in place and using a snappi, snag the teeth on the left tab to the prefold and then stretch it over and snag the teeth on the right tab, then bring the middle tab down and snag it. You can roll the cotton around the thighs inward to make it a little tighter if you need to. Adjust the rises on the cover to fit your baby’s height, then snap the tabs in the middle to fit snugly around the waist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s to you, ladies!

If being a mom has taught me anything, it’s that playing the mother role is hard work. Not physically hard, but mentally. You’re constantly on demand (especially if you’re breastfeeding), you’re constantly being watched, you’re constantly being asked to share your food, you can’t take a shit or shower in peace… do I need to continue? Because I can. 

I wanted to do something a little different on my blog for mother’s day because well, sometimes you just need to hear how amazing you are, and all of you definitely are amazing women and mothers. At least these people in your life seem to think so:

“We met when we were only children, and through all sorts of adversities, we now have a child of our own. While managing to keep our marriage strong, you have helped him blossom into a kind and wicked smart young man. I know there are days when your energy is low and Parker doesn’t want to listen, or I am acting selfish, you feel like you are’t as appreciated as you should be. Katie, you are the glue that holds our house together and keeps it running smoothly. You are amazing and I hope you always know how thankful we are to have you as our queen.” -James

“Sarah, I’ve never met a person whose heart is so open to a child that isn’t theirs. You’ve stayed awake long hours of the night with her while she was sick, you’ve taught her things that have blown her mind, and you’ve truly loved her no matter what. Bella is the luckiest child in the world to have a woman as amazing as you.” -Justin

“Lindsey is a great mother in a lot of ways. Not only is she hardworking and dependable, but she is a great teacher to our daughter. What I love most about her role as a mother is that I always know our daughter is taken care of when I’m not around. She always puts her first and has great motherly instincts. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother to our child.” -Notice

“As a mother, Terrin is someone who brings warmth and comfort to our family, she adds value to both our son, and to her significant other. She can be tending to our child, while cooking for the family. She has maternal intuition, and the knowledge of an encyclopedia. She has the endurance of a marathon runner. She has an unconditional love for our son. I am the luckiest guy in the world and it doesn’t take a psychic to know that she means the world to our son.” -Esteban

“Chelly has exceeded my expectations as a Mother to Zayden. Her love and patience for Zayden is beyond words. She not only has shown her growth and strength as a great mother by living every moment of her life for her precious son but her faith in God has given her so much perseverance to be the best Mother and person that she can be.” – Carolina

Being a mother to a toddler can be trying, filling in as a motherly figure is completely at your discretion, taking on so many responsibilities can be overwhelming, and being a new mom is like riding all of the rides at Six Flags at the same time.

I wasn’t able to get in contact with someone to write something for the women below, but I wanted to include them in this post for my own reasons because they are admirable, too.

Martina, I have told you time and time again, but Karsyn is so lucky to have such a strong woman as a mother. God could not have given her a better role model to look up to and aspire to be. You make it look so effortless because you never let your stress outshine your personality. I am so proud of you and so are all of your friends.

Heather, KUDOS for how well you’re doing with your breastfeeding. You told me that you hoped you were as successful as I was… Pssh! GIRL! You are kicking ass! I admire how dedicated you are to it. You seem to really enjoy being motherhood and it fits you quite well. Enjoy your first mother’s day, beautiful!

Amber, your instagram photos tell me a story of what it’s really like to be a parent. Your pictures of Norah in tears, you taking a selfie because your hair looked good for what seemed to be the first time in ages, and capturing the first date you got to go on this weekend after giving birth to her. As another breastfeeding mama, I applaud you for keeping your sanity because EBF babies are SO demanding and I know it. You’re doing a great job. (PS- if Wes ever finds the message I sent asking for him to write something about you, it was for this post.)

As a child, my mom was the most important part of me, and now twentysomething years later, I am a mother myself and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. From the scary first moments after the pregnancy test confirmed I was pregnant, to housing the girls in my uterus for 33 weeks, to finally bringing them home after two and a half weeks in the NICU and watching them thrive is beyond description. I could never express how special Violet and Olivia are to me. I hope each of you know how lucky your kids are to call you their mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, and for three of you, Happy FIRST Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Let Them Be Little

As I stand in the middle of your room swaying side to side while humming with my cheek against your head so the vibrations in my voice calm you down, I inhale the scent of your hair and thank God for allowing me to spend this much time with you. I kiss your cheek while tears gently flow out of my eyes because I know there are women out there who aren’t as fortunate to have made it this far whether losing their babies in utero, during, or after birth. While saying a prayer for little ones lost, remember that time isn’t guaranteed and hold your babies closely. Don’t get mad or discouraged when they won’t go to sleep, won’t eat their vegetables, or refuse to take a shower. Let them be little.

top fifteen kitchen must haves

Whether you just moved in to your first place, you need a practical gift idea for that person you just don’t know what to get, or you are looking to add to your personal kitchen stash, this is exactly what you should be reading right now. All of the items listed are things I own myself and use religiously.

Vehicles:

  1. Cast Iron Skillet – You can sear the hell out of a steak, bake a pie, or turn it upside down and crisp a day old pizza crust back to perfection. Hands down, the most used pan in my kitchen. (P.S. If this is your first place and you happen to live alone or do not own a weapon, this doubles as one, okay? Be safe.)
  2. Dutch Oven – These can be pricey, but HEB carries them for around $30 which is the cheapest I have seen them, and that’s where mine is from. It’s made out of enameled cast iron and it’s heavy as hell, but it is the best pot for stews, soups, chilis, and braising. If someone asked me if I would get this over a crock pot, I would say, “You bet your ass I would.” You can get a pork shoulder fork tender in around 1.5-3 hours depending on how big it is.
  3. Baking Dishes in various sizes for casseroles, cakes, brownies, cobblers, etc.
  4. Cookie Sheets for roasting vegetables, baking the obvious cookie, or crisping bacon the mess free way in the oven.
  5. Mixing Bowls – I have two sets: one glass and one set of Cali Bowls that Erik got me for Christmas. I LOVE them because the sides are spill-proof.
  6. Wire Rack – used for cooling baked goods so the hot sheet pan doesn’t continue to cook them from underneath, but can also be used to cook bacon evenly in the oven by allowing circulation and the drippings to fall into the sheet pan underneath so it’s not sitting in the grease. (BONUS: Store the bacon drippings in a small glass mason jar in the fridge to use for later cooking or discard in the trash. NEVER put it down the drain!)

Utensils:

  1. Tongs – I use them for everything. Ev-er-y-thang. Get some with a gripped handle because solid metal can get HOT.
  2. Wooden Spoon – Doesn’t get too hot to touch, used for scraping up browned bits from your pans when deglazing them or stirring rouxs and sauces.
  3. Metal Whisk – I personally prefer metal. If you have metal mixing bowls maybe get a silicone whisk to avoid scratching.
  4. Chef Knife – The end all be all of knives. Seriously, forget about the knife block. This can slice, dice, carve, mince, chop- whatever you need it to do. If you want to be fancy, get a decent set of steak knives if you eat a lot of meat. If cooked properly though, you don’t really need a steak knife to begin with. I am not including a link for this because you need to find one that fits your hand comfortably. Everybody has a different preference. I personally use a 6″ but I have really small hands and am not comfortable using an 8″ knife. However, a burly man might feel like a 6″ knife is a paring knife in his hand so no. Go to Bed Bath & Beyond or a Sur La Table and test out holding the knives they have there to get a feel for something you’ll like.
  5. Microplane – aka a ‘zester.’ This is used to grate anything from garlic to make a paste, chocolate shavings, citrus, fresh nutmeg, and my personal favorite, Parmesan cheese over a fresh pasta dish. YUM.
  6. Measuring Cups + spoons – I have this stacked set from Joseph Joseph that I absolutely love. They snap together so they don’t take up ANY space in my utensil drawer and for the price? Pssh, please.
  7. Cutting Board – a sturdy wooden one is what I use, but I also clean it after every. single. use. and sanitize with fresh lemons after using raw meat which is quite a hassel. Again, Joseph Joseph has saved the day by having THIS bad boy on the market. I have been wanting it for a couple of years now after seeing it in my local Steinmart but failed to take advantage of the $25 discount. I can’t spend that much on a cutting board. I just can’t. Maybe as a gift?
  8. Fish Spatula – Specially made to get under delicate fish without it falling apart on the flip, this comes in handy for many other things for me including flipping burgers, transferring cookies to a wire cooling rack, but most importantly, getting under a cracked egg and flipping it without the yolk breaking. Step your egg game up and invest in one of these.
  9. Silicone Spatula – I use this for a multitude of things, but it’s really helpful when you need to scrape the sides of a pan, or the remains out of a bowl or skillet, and icing cakes. I have this exact one that tells me measurment conversions which comes in handy ALL OF THE TIME, but before you get discouraged about the price, I actually found mine at TJ Maxx (along with a lot of other things on this list) for about $4!

 

 

 

nursing: more than food

It’s 2:00 p.m. on the dot, and right as Olivia was dozing off in her swing, I took her out and put her in her crib. Violet went to sleep about an hour ago, but she completely skipped out on her morning nap. I have been writing posts as I experience things and think, “this would make a good post,” and today is one of those days.

I always thought ‘nursing strikes’ were a bunch of bologna, but I really think that Violet has been having one for the last few months. What was she protesting? Her disdain for me following shitty advice on my local La Leche League Facebook page and ultimately altering [lowering] my supply? The fact that mother nature visited me for the first time in her life and my milk levels were even more out of whack? I’ll never know, and she won’t remember by the time she’s talking to me, so I just have to adapt to her needs as well as I can. It’s partially empowering because I feel like super woman when she latches on and calms at the breast after refusing to nurse for almost three months, but it’s also mentally draining trying to get back in the groove of nursing both her and Olivia constantly during the day, especially now that they become distracted with one another if I tandem nurse. Olivia gauges Violet’s eyes and Violet pulls her hair. At eight months, it’s a real shit show.

Yesterday, Erik got up with the girls so I could sleep a little longer, but they were really whiny so I got up anyway. In my eight months of being a mom, yesterday was the first time I negatively thought, “damn, I’m a mom.” Out of nowhere it hit me: there is no escaping their cries. As soon as they wake up my day starts, and there is no packing up my stuff at the end of the day and going home. I am here with them for the majority of my time, minus the two five hour shifts I work a week. Within five minutes, they were teetering on that nerve that can’t snap because once it does, I become an emotional wreck. Violet’s whines turned into hysterical cries. That nerve snapped. My eyes big, I picked her up and tried to burp her because her stomach felt hard, but she kept throwing herself backward so I just put her in her crib because I didn’t want to accidentally drop her.

Watching her lie there while arching her back and crying, tears started flowing out of my own eyes. “Why am I upset with you?” I thought as I picked her back up to try again. She didn’t do anything wrong. Erik met me at her doorway and took her from me to burp her. He is much better at getting her gas out than I am. I sat in the chair in the living room crying, mad at myself for getting upset with Violet. The more I thought about my emotions, the more I realized that I wasn’t even upset with her. I was letting a rough morning determine my attitude for the rest of the day, and I was taking my frustration and blaming it on Violet.

This morning and afternoon were fairly similar. Olivia went down for her morning nap easily, but Violet cried when I put her down. I let her cry for a couple of minutes but when it didn’t subside, instead of getting mad, I took our shirts off and did skin to skin. She alternated between resting her head on my chest and nursing, but eventually calmed down and closed her eyes. “She is obviously going through something and needs me.” I thought, and that’s what I meant in the beginning of this post by adapting to her needs: breastfeeding is so much more than feeding. It is their comfort and solitude, and they are in this relationship because I wanted them to be. They were in the NICU for 17 days with bottles and pacifiers. I could have easily avoided nursing them altogether and continued exclusively pumping and bottle feeding them, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to breastfeed and asked their nurses and doctors every day when I would be able to try to. Now, out of nowhere, Violet is nursing more than ever after me making peace with the fact that she might have to be strictly bottle fed. At almost nine months, neither one of them are showing signs of wanting to wean any time soon.

I will be the first to admit that yes, it is draining, and yes, sometimes I do get annoyed with the constant clinging to me and the fact that I have two babies depending on me. Once they latch on though, the tension in their hands release, their breathing slows and turns into content cooing, oxytocin surges through my body and I am calm, too.

*disclaimer: I didn’t finish this post until 5:42 p.m. THAT is what having twins is like. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when I get back into school.