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.

 

 

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.