First Things First

Over the past few months there has been a lot of chatter about Amy Chua’s parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve seen Ms. Chua’s interviews from several sources and read enough reviews to know that her parenting styles and mine are dramatically different from each other.

For starters, I have about four too many children to be an effective Tiger Mother.

Then, I read this article by Deaconess Pamela Nielsen, and I am finally comforted by the fact that God does not expect me to be a Tiger Mother.

While good grades and success seem admirable, and are helpful in our society, we need to be careful about making academic success an idol.

Deaconess Nielsen points out what should be our “first things”, according to God’s word:

If you are a parent, your children are your vocation and your most important calling. God sets the standard for you: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). To raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to raise children with God’s Word, in His Church, where His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are given to all who believe. These are the “first things” for Christian moms, dads and children.

That is a HUGE responsibility. It almost makes homework checking and instrument practice supervising and sports shuttling and private tutoring seem EASY!

In our family it is a given that the children attend worship and Sunday School every week. They even begrudgingly participate in the various choirs. The boys have been active (or at least underfoot) during the renovation project. BUT, do they understand that these are FIRST things?

As in “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)?

Do they really know, or grasp that what goes on at church on Sunday Morning, and Wednesday night Bible Study, and during time spent memorizing scripture for religion class, and time spent in Sunday School, and Confirmation class, and helping our neighbors in God’s name, ALL of these things are more important than Algebra? Or Boy Scouts? Or even sitting still in class?

And if they don’t know (and I suspect that mine don’t); whose fault is it?

Mine.

While I can claim to not be a “Tiger Mother”, I still secretly hope for all As on report cards more than I expect happy service at church. I praise athletic devotion more than daily devotions. I’m even (especially) guilty of making Sunday morning preparation time less than pleasant for my offspring.

And so, I repent.

I’ve been given an awesome and very important vocation in motherhood, and I pray that I do not fail my children.

Chime in! What has been your focus, your “first thing” in parenting? Do you think that you should, or should have changed course? You know I’d love to hear from you!

My Life With Twins: When Twins Come Early

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of my favorite fellow twin mamas! My friend Kristin agreed to guest post today to share her experience with preemie twins, what led to their premature birth, and how the March of Dimes has helped her family! You can read more from Kristin here and here

 

Kristin with the twins
There is always a special feeling when you hold both babies at the same time!

I have always supported the March of Dimes and the amazing work that they do.  They have helped to fund the research of amazing medical advances such as the polio vaccine, perfect amniocentesis, and helped to educate women of child bearing age about the importance of taking enough folic acid to prevent neural tube defects.

I supported the March of Dimes and their mission to help moms achieve full term pregnancies and researching the problems that threaten health of babies long before I ever fully understood just what the March of Dimes does.Then in December 2005 I saw firsthand the amazing things that the March of Dimes has accomplished with funds raised…because I became a Preemie Mommy.

In May 2005 my husband and I learned that we were pregnant. We were over the moon, as we had been trying for over 18 months to get pregnant after the birth of our first daughter, Delainey in 2003. In June we learned we were expecting twins…. It was amazing and we couldn’t have been happier.  Our pregnancy went extremely well. We did have a few pre-term labor scares and a few bouts with modified bedrest but once we made it to 33 weeks in mid December both my doctors and I sighed a huge sigh of relief because we knew that our girls were going to be ok.

The Thursday before Christmas I began to get ill. I started feeling dizzy, flushed, and swelling a lot. I went to the clinic and was told to go home and try and relax over the holiday. During the Christmas holiday my symptoms got worse. In addition to being dizzy, swollen and being flushed I began to have horrible headaches. I went to the hospital to get checked on Christmas Day and was again sent home and told to relax. My husband and I finally went into the hospital on Dec 26th, the Monday after Christmas, as I had begun to have contractions and we were only 34 weeks pregnant.  When we got to the hospital they attempted to stop the contractions but also began to explore my symptoms further as I had begun having severe abdominal pain in addition to previous symptoms.

I was eventually diagnosed with HELLP syndrome Class 1 (the most severe). I had all the signs of HELLP and they were ignored both by the clinician I saw on the Thursday before the holiday as well as the doctor who saw me on Christmas Day.  Both my husband and I were very scared when we learned that our twins were going to be joining us in a matter of minutes. I was quickly rushed to the operating room where I was placed under general anesthesia (because of my illness I could not be awake during the operation because of risks to me).

NICU baby Our girls were born at 11:44 and 11:46am on Monday, December 26th, 2005… and they were both quickly rushed into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) because of respitory distress. They were both placed on breathing machines and given IVs.

I was unable to see my daughters until 7pm on December 27th due to the severity of my own medical condition but when I was finally taken to see them it was just amazing. At the moment you don’t think of all the wires, lines, machines and people… you only think about your baby… or in our cases babies. NICU baby

Life in the NICU is different that is for certain. Having had a NICU free preterm birth with our first daughter, this was all new to us. There was no seeing your baby when you wanted to, there was no cuddling with them in your own bed, there was no holding them when you wanted, or even showing them off to family. They were kept in small incubators and behind walls, doors and glass. It required 2 full minutes of washing up before you could even enter into the NICU to see them.

Our daughters were placed on “grow/feed” status which really truly meant they were just there to learn to eat and breathe at the same time, regulate their body temperatures and put on just a little bit of weight before they were able to come home.

We had a rough 11 days of trying to coordinate schedules of “NICU time” and making sure that we spent enough time with our older daughter who was only 2 years old at the time. I wanted to be at the NICU as much as possible so that I could establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship with my girls… I wanted to be their mom and not just a bystander.

Our NICU staff was amazing! The nurses were by far angels on earth. They would comfort me when I couldn’t get Shelby to nurse and they celebrated with us when Avery actually ate her whole feeding with neither of us wearing it. We all celebrated together as the girls moved from their incubators to isolettes (open air glass cribs).

Honestly, our girls had a relatively uneventful NICU stay (praise God), and we were only in the NICU for 11 days.  On January 6th, 2006 at 11 days old, both of us girls were able to come home. Both my husband and I sighed a huge sigh of relief to have our family at home and complete. And it has been wonderful ever since.

Grown twins
Avery and Shelby, all grown up!

As a NICU graduate Mommy, I have just a few ‘survival’ tips to share with you:

  • Trust your medical staff. They are there to support you and to care for your child(ren). They do know their jobs, and they are good at them.
  • There is no ‘planning’ in the NICU. You will not find out that you are going home until probably the day of… you may get to know the day before. It helps no one to get disappointed if you are given a date and then something happen that can change that.
  • You can still breastfeed your preemie, and you can breastfeed your preemie multiples. It will be difficult, but it can be done. I took the ‘stance’ of whatever gets them home, so my girls were allowed to have bottles of expressed breast milk while in NICU (bottle feeding is easier). It wasn’t until we got home the breastfeeding got fully established.
  • When someone asks to help… LET THEM. We know we are all super mom, but even super mom deserves a break.
  • Remember to sleep. Because trust me, once your preemie gets home you aren’t going to get any.

It is because of the wonderful help that our family received from the March of Dimes and their amazing research that we like to give back.

The March for Babies, is the biggest annual fundraiser for the March of Dimes. Walks are scheduled all over the country beginning in May and going through June. Our family has been active walkers in the March for Babies since 2006 and we are doing it again this year.  Please join us in fighting for the   babies…because babies shouldn’t have to fight.

 

2010 March For babies team
Our 2010 March for Babies team.

Thanks Kristin, for sharing your experience. My Emily was cared for in the very same NICU as Shelby and Avery, and the care she received was indeed wonderful. Though Emily was not pre-term, we shared similar experiences and Kristin was a great support for me while Emily was in the hospital.

Do you have twins, are expecting twins or know someone who is? Make sure you click on over to my “Got Twins?” page and learn more about the wonders of twindom! Lots of advice and experience from pregnancy, breast feeding and beyond!

This is the Stuff

Last night I was flipping through radio stations on the way home from a work night at church with two crying babies in the back of the van. The lyrics of this song resonated with me. Yes, I lose my keys, and even worse, I lose my temper, but in the midst of all of this, God uses me.

God has the amazing power to work seemingly bad situations into good. If you have read much here the past year and a half, you have certainly seen the roller coasters that our family and our church family have been on. To say things have been rocky is too much of an understatement.

I have to admit I have spent far too much time in the past few years saying “why me?” “why us?” and even just a plaintive, “Why, God?”

And yet I’m reminded, every day, when I look into the eyes of my children that God’s plans are ALWAYS better than my plans!

I’ve had a lot of great plans in my life, and very few of them have come to fruition. I could look at that as a downfall, or I can look at my “failures” as blessings that God has granted me. He gave me the chance to let go of my own plans and let his plans blossom and grow.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose.

And yes, that verse alone is great news. However, if we look at the verses that surround it, it becomes even better news for us!

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because  the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,  for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:26-30

How true it is that we don’t know what to pray for. In some ways we are no better than our children who follow us around the grocery store asking for Fruit Loops and gummy worms and “blue juice”. We ask got for riches and fame and an end to all struggle, when what we really need is patience, faith, and a quiet spirit.

So, chime in! Has something been driving you crazy? Can you see God’s work in your life, even if it is always through the rear view mirror? I’d love to hear from you!

This post is part of the Blogelina Blogging Buddy Bloghop!

My Cherished Readers:

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

Last week I asked you to chime in on your thoughts on holidays and dates and family time. Chime in you did.

I am humbled. You all gave me so much to think about! I’m going to really cherish my time having all of my kids under one roof for the holidays and learn to be really flexible in the future.

While, ideally, the Rev. and I would go TO the grandchildrens’ homes for Christmas, The Rev.’s vocation just may impede this, unless they live close to us (we’ve not set a great example int his regard.) I have, however, come to learn that it is very difficult on young families to pack up and visit far flung relatives, especially when children are very young and used to certain routine and space. Money is also an issue as even driving vacations can be cost prohibitive. So, as grandparents, I hope we can do most of the traveling.

I  know that with two small babies in the house it seems silly to be planning to be a grandmother. However, our oldest is 14. We were blessed with him at age 24. 10 years is not that far away!

I also know that having the girls later in our parenting career will complicate things. Will they be forced to spend a few Christmases away from their home? Perhaps. I do know that they will spend more holidays without their siblings than their brothers will.

So, thank you for your frankness, your willingness to put it all out there, for joining in the conversation! It has been an eye opening conversation to say the least, and I appreciate learning from all of you!

And now, another chance to chime in! As you look back at 2010, what is the most eye opening experience you had? Let me know!

My Life With Twins: Advice to New Mothers of Multiples

Yesterday the twins turned 10 months old. They sleep mostly through the night, they finally nap at the same time, they eat more solids and depend less on breastfeeding to meet all of their needs. In other words, they are getting to be a lot easier. I’m going to be a lot busier soon, as both girls appear to be on the verge of walking, but at the same time, I’m pretty used to keeping mobile babies entertained. This isn’t my first rodeo, you know!

A friend gave birth to her set of beautiful twin girls last Tuesday. When I went to visit her at the hospital and I saw those two tiny perfect little peanuts I gasped. They were both 6 pounds 5 ounces, a bit smaller than my Ellie was, and a bit larger than my Emmy. And yet. . . I could hardly remember my girls being quite so tiny, and quite so helpless.

So this post goes out to my friend, as she navigates these first tenuous weeks of adjusting to not one baby, but two!

  • Be gentle on yourself. A multiple pregnancy takes a lot out of you as a mom, especially near the end. Multiple deliveries are no picnic either, whether you deliver naturally, via c-section, or a combination of the two. It is likely that you lost a lot of blood, are anemic, and also very, very tired. So rest as much as you can, accept help when offered, and take things slowly.
  • Remember that babies are more important than schedules. As much as you really want to get those babies into a routine, part of that routine has to come from the babies as well. Spend the first few weeks paying attention to their hunger cues and establishing a healthy nursing relationship. It may be harder to breastfeed two, but it is not impossible, and it very well be your most time saving decision in the long run (even though it does NOT seem like it now!)
  • In these first few weeks, don’t try to keep the babies on the same schedule. If they fall into it naturally, fine (many MZ twins will naturally keep very similar schedules, DZ twins probably will not). However stressing about keeping two individuals on the same routine may end up being more work for mom in these early weeks. Personally, I relished time alone with each of the girls. I also think that they appreciate some one on one time with mom.
  • Get to know the signs of postpartum depression. Tell your family members about the signs. Tell them to tell you if you are exhibiting them. Seek help if you need it! The hormone shift after a multiple birth is extreme to say the least. Find a way to relax, be alone, and hash out your feelings. Blogging in my early days really helped. I know people thought I was crazy for writing instead of napping in those first months, but for me the writing was even more therapeutic than sleep!
  • Drink a ton of water. You need it. Your babies need it.
  • Take a bajillion photos. Write everything down. You THINK you will remember all of these crazy days. Trust me. You won’t. (oh and in those pictures, keep the babies in the same order all of the time! I still mostly have Ellie on the left and Emmy on the right!)
  • Chocolate.

So, it is time for you to chime in! What is your best piece of advice for a brand new mother of multiples? (MoM). Are you expecting twins, or more? Do you want more of my tips, or experiences? Ask away! I love to hear from you all!