Check this out.

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 your name on it. So help me if you aren’t home by the time the street lights come on without a call…” Right? Unfortunately, our society today calls for much more caution than it used to.

Please tell me why after twenty years we now think it’s totally acceptable to have everything monogrammed? Why on earth are parents checking in to their children’s schools when they’re having lunch with them? Are you aware that even though your profile may very well be “private” that the school is a public place and someone can easily find the school’s Facebook page, see your check in, and then click on your profile picture and immediately see your child’s picture as your cover photo?

You guys, not only are we over-sharing, but we are literally inviting strangers to come and find our babies if they wanted to. It’s scary. Human/child/sex trafficking isn’t a thing to be loosey-goosey with.

I just ask that you re-think how much you share on the internet with your following, that’s all. I see so many missing-child flyers circulating around on the internet and no parent should ever have to go through that. ❤

 

Journey Onward, my Friends.

Almost one year ago I was really internally struggling with who I was. I had two babies and I hadn’t completed college, and to this day I still have absolutely zero desire to do so… I loved the idea of becoming an IBCLC because I am really passionate about breastfeeding, but I’ve had way too many friends and relatives admit to me that breastfeeding “was just too hard” and I don’t want to blatantly roll my eyes in a struggling mom’s face while thinking, “dude, this is a fucking commitment here. You’re either in or you’re out” because those emotions would definitely be plastered on my face and not everybody (especially a hormonal mama) can handle that bluntness. I started this blog in hopes of landing some kind of gig or writing career but shortly after I launched this site, I was introduced to the earth-shattering reality that we are poisoning ourselves, our loved ones, and our pets every single day when we use most of the affordable household products we have been using all of our lives- and most of the blogs I follow promote that shit for income. I get it, but that’s just not me. I don’t like the idea of promoting something just for a paycheck. I also felt like I had way more ideas than I’ve actually written out, and that’s because who the heck am I to give advice? We are all just mamas trying to make it out here, you feel me?

I went to my first book signing ever out in the River Oaks area last Tuesday. I was tagged in a post on Facebook where the Oola Guys had announced they were coming to Houston, and I was determined to go. I have been trying to get into oola, find my oola… and I know, you’re like, “Brittany, what the hell is oola?” And I am SO glad you asked, because until the book signing, I wasn’t really sure. I had no idea how to answer that question one week ago. I knew it involved being balanced, and that’s definitely something I lack, and I knew it involved setting goals and dreaming big, but I didn’t really understand what exactly “oola” meant, so I pre-ordered the Oola for Women book and it was delivered the day it released to the public and made sure I was at that book signing to hear about it first hand.

At Barnes & Noble, I not only met the Oola Guys, Dr. Troy Amdahl and Dr. Dave Braun, but I heard their stories and I learned exactly what their mission was: helping everybody find AND get to a state of bliss. Everything is going right for you, nothing is wrong in your world… and if you set small goals that equate to big dreams over time, you can easily get to your state of bliss and enjoy your life to the fullest capacity.

The other evening my cousin called me and she said to me, “I just wanted to call you and tell you that you’re beautiful. You’re so positive and uplifting and inspiring, and I just think you should know that,” all I could do was smile. I was successfully shaping into the person I am trying to become and that phone call proved it.

This journey I have been on this last year has really shown me who I truly am, and at this moment in my life I can fully embrace the fact that I think you’re dumb if you have the mentality, “why change it up now?” You know why? Because there’s always something better out there, and you’re totally capable of finding it, whether that be a job that fulfills your soul [holla!], a house that doesn’t require a HOA payment, or a circle of friends who inspire and uplift you rather than drag you down with their negativity and toxic bullshit. You’re totally in control of your exposure to life and the level of enjoyment you receive from it. Stop complaining and figure out what’s holding you back.

Click here to buy Oola for Women (not a sponsored link)
Click here to buy Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World (not a sponsored link)

 

Raising Warriors

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)

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The choice is YOURS

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.

 

 

 

Can Somebody Build me a Time Machine?

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.

cms_1012(photo credit: Courtney Contreras; outfit credit: Frayed Knot Lakeland, LLC)

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*

img_8266(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.

img_8625(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.

 

Finding your baby’s schedule vs. forcing it

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.

bathtime

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.

 

 

[NICU Awareness:] Our Birth Story pt. 2

I woke up sometime later in our room in labor & delivery to find Erik resting on the couch next to my bed.

eriksleeping

“How are the girls?” I asked him. He assured me everything was fine. “When can I see them?” I asked the nurse. She told me I couldn’t see Violet or Olivia until my magnesium drip had run out, so probably not for another day or so. When she told me that I got pretty down, but I knew that they were going to be hungry soon, so I turned my attention to pumping. I had read how important colostrum was for babies, especially premature babies, so I was determined to get what I could, if anything, out of my boobs and into their mouths. I asked the nurse for a pump, and shortly after, a lactation consultant named Karen, wheeled in a Medela Symphony pump with all of the bells and whistles. (Bells and whistles being the membranes, tubes, flanges, shields, etc.) I didn’t know if anything would come out because they were born so early, but our bodies are amazing, y’all. Within seconds, yellow liquid started squirting out, just like The Nursing Mother’s Companion, said it would. “Holy shit this is weird!” I told Erik in amazement. I only got about 20 mL out, but the lactation consultant assured me that was all they needed since their bellies were so small. She brought me some syringes to put the milk in since they were being fed through tubes at the moment, a few sheets of labels for the NICU nurses, and told me to keep trying. She told me I needed to pump frequently to meet their needs while they’re in the NICU, showed me how everything worked, and showed Erik how to properly wash the parts between pumping sessions. “Your milk will come in, trust me.” She said on her way out.

colostrum

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!

ourfirstlatch

(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.

 

 

[NICU awareness:] Our Birth Story pt. 1

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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!