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!

Top 10 benefits of Having Twins

Before I was blessed with my twin girls I was a pretty accomplished mom of singletons. My first three sons are very naturally spaced about three years apart, and son three and four are 23 months apart (which I used to think felt like twins). We then took a long break from childbearing and were gifted with twin girls just about a year ago.

At almost 21 weeks pregnant when I went in for my routine ultrasound, I was shocked to see two little hearts beating! That is when my life changed. That was the day I truly became a mother of twins!

At first, it was hard to see past the negatives of having twins. My pregnancy was higher risk. My delivery was a three ring circus. My babies were over a pound lighter each than my singletons were at birth. Breastfeeding was harder to establish in the early days. I’m only just starting to get regular sleep at night. My laundry is never caught up. Our whole family cannot fit into one vehicle. I’ve flaked on more than one big event for my bigger kids. We ate way too much fast food for a while.

And now, when I look at my one-year-olds and see the joy in their eyes, all I see is the good, the benefits of having twins!

So, here you go, my Top Ten Reasons Twins are Great!

  1. One pregnancy, two kids.

    Sure, I got as big as a tank. Sure the reflux just about killed me. Sure, my gallbladder threatened to quit. Sure, I got really, really cranky. However, I came out of it with two gorgeous little babies in just 38 weeks instead of 82 weeks. That, my friends, is a bargain!

  2. A Sense of Efficiency.

    In my younger days, I loved the book Cheaper by the Dozen. Not the movie with Steve Martin, though that is funny too! In the book, the father and mother are efficiency experts, and they use the children (all 12 of them) as experiments. Now, I’ve not experimented (much) with my kids, but I do know that the day I discovered how to actually tandem nurse the girls was the same day I felt like superwoman! Once I had both girls at home, my life fell into a pattern: feed one, then the other, change one, then the other, bathe one and then the other. I began to respond to the random stranger that commented that I “had my hands full”, that “really, it is easier than just one kid”. If nothing else, it shut them up!

  3. Always a full wash load of diapers.

    This probably belongs under the efficiency item but it works on its own as well. I cloth diaper the babies. I cloth diapered most of the other kids as well but I was always plagued by the fact that I either washed very small loads of diapers (which never seemed efficient), or I went too long between diaper loads (eeew factor). Well, let me tell you, cloth diapering twins is not only very efficient, it is affordable and no harder than using disposables. I daresay it is easier, as I never run out! It takes me just a little over a day to get a full diaper pail full of cloth diapers ready to run through the laundry. And when I change the girls I never have a dollar sign running over her head. And that is good, we have six kids, we have plenty of other places to spend that diaper money!

  4. Two babies entertain each other.

    When I had my sons one at a time, I always had to spend a lot of time building endless block towers or doing the stoop-backed walk around in circles. With twins, I make some towers and have done some walking practice, but mostly, these two just want to hang out with each other. Separate them and they will call across the room to each other. They are true besties!

  5. Two babies don’t always take up twice the space.

    Our girls still co-bed in the same crib. At around six months they went through a patch where I thought we would have to separate them as they began waking each other, and then we went on vacation and they shared a pack n play. By the time we came back from our trip we knew that there was no way we could separate this crew! I think when they outgrow the crib we’ll just move them to a full-size bed. We also only had one swing, and one of many of the baby toys. We do have two car seats, a few double strollers, and we HAD to have two bouncy seats.

  6. Twins take the attention off of you!

    Yes, twins cause a lot of attention when you are out in public. In the early days, it is wise to budget at least an extra half hour to all of your outings, as two babies in one grocery cart can cause quite a stir. The good news though, is that no one is looking at YOU! All those crazy gawkers see are two sweet little munchkins and they will be busy making smoochy faces at them and telling you how busy you must be…or that they wish they were you…or that their second uncle was a left-handed twin. It is no matter that you have oatmeal in your hair and yesterday’s makeup, and bleach stained yoga pants and the slippers that you accidentally left the house in. All the people see is TWO BABIES AT ONE TIME!

  7. Front of line privileges at the grocery store.

    Let them both cry, you will be out of there in no time.

  8. The best nighttime snuggles ever.

    Until you have had two babies who share a birthday snuggle on your lap after a bath, you have not really lived. Trust me.

  9. More laughter than you can handle! 

    Not a day goes by when my sweet baby twin girls don’t give me something to laugh at!

  10. Two times the kisses!

    Need I say more?

Chime in! Do you have twins (or more) in your life? What have been the hidden benefits? You know I’d love to hear from you!

 

My Life With Twins: Meal Planning for Your Growing Family

Families raising twins or more  are, by definition, feeding a larger than average family.

babies eating
Mealtime is aways an adventure!

Because of their larger size, and the added expenses to manage larger family dynamics, meal planning is crucial for MoMs (Mothers of Multiples).

I am a habitual meal planner. Meal planning stems from my love of reading cookbooks, food blogs, and magazines, scouring them for new things to feed my family.

However, I am not a consistent meal planner. Some weeks I plan my menus down to dessert and snacks, some weeks I plan a rough outline of five or six dinners to make for the week, and some weeks I depend on some”old standby” meals to fill out my meal plans.

There are so many resources available to help you plan your meals, that I thought I would compile them here for your reference.

  • My dear friend Essie hosts a weekly Menu Plan Monday, complete with recipes and a link up every Monday.
  • The Meal Makeover Moms recorded a great podcast on meal planning. Their weekly podcasts are a must listen and a huge resource for feeding your family.
  • Michelle at Make 5 Dinners in ONE Hour has a great blog and subscription meal planning service that features healthful, varied, kid friendly meals that can be made ahead in just one hour a week! I’ve followed several of her meal plans and several of her recipes have become new family favorites. Her blog is also FULL of great recipes and time and money saving food tips!
  • My friend Megan plans her meals out a month at a time. She even plans for some yummy breakfasts and great snacks and desserts! She is a great cook (and mom), he meal planning inspires me!
  • Do you want a cookbook that will lay out an entire year of seasonal menu plans for you? And gives you a shopping list? And includes a dessert every.single.day? Then A Dinner a Day: Complete Meals in Minutes for Every Weeknight of the Year is for you! I bought this cookbook back in 1999, and I cooked from it for 52 weeks! We ate such a varied and interesting diet! It is now out in Kindle edition as well, and I am tempted to download it to my iPad, it really is good enough to own twice!
  • Do you want to do the menu planning all on your own? Here is a great first step, and a great way to facilitate dinnertime conversation: ask everyone to list their top ten dinners, as well as their bottoms ten. Use this as a springboard for family dinner ideas. For example, Megan always has either tacos or pizza for Friday night dinner. My family loves chili and spaghetti, so we have one or the other every week. Once you know what your family loves, it is easy to line up a week’s worth of family fare!

Chime in! Do you plan your meals weekly, monthly, or right before it is time to make dinner? Do you have to make allowances for your “multiple blessings?” I’d love to hear from you!

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!


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!

Life is Funny

I remember, when we were first married (fifteen years ago, next month!), and then found out shortly afterwards that we were pregnant. Everything seemed overwhelming. I was so excited to become a mother, but so afraid to make mistakes.

I’m a realist. I knew that I was going to mess up, I was just praying that my goof ups would be minor.
I brought Andrew home from the hospital (looking over my shoulder, sure that a nurse would “reclaim” him), and sat down in my rocking chair, and nursed him for the first time in our little apartment, and a wave of dread washed over me. I realized that I was going to have to nurse this stranger 8-12 times a day for much of the not so distant future. Little did I know that nursing would be the easy part. Later would come the tough choices, whether to immunize, and what against. How to educate him. What sport if any to encourage. Sunblock or hat.
Every day I came across decisions I never thought I would have to make, and hardly felt adult enough to make. My mom was there for a week. I was thankful for the help. In some ways though, our relationship complicated things. She wanted what was best for me and her first grand baby, but she was not the mom. I wanted what was best, but did not always know what the best was. Sometimes our theories on parenting meshed, other times they clashed.
That first child, my now teenage son (who is fabulous), was a grand experiment. Some things I never did repeat. I took the advice to let him cry it out in his crib. It was torture for me, and him, and none of us slept. I ditched that advice. I’m sure it does work for some, but they either have larger houses than me, or a stronger will. Some things I carried through with all six of the kids. All of my children have been breastfed. Most of them have worn cloth diapers at least part time. I have spent hour upon hour reading and singing to all of my children.
Some things get easier. Once some of the big decisions are made for a first child, you hardly think them over again. Breastfeeding to me is second nature, and I can’t imagine a different feeding route for my children. Rocking my children to sleep is more of a privilege and less of a chore. After several children, I have learned that ALL kids eventually learn to fall asleep. Some take longer than others, and some like to sleep in odd places, but all of them eventually sleep.
Fifteen years ago, I THOUGHT that I wanted six children. Then I had one child, and I realized motherhood was tough. I was not sure how many children God would bless us with, but some days it felt like one was enough. It was hard to pay bills, I was not sleeping, and I worried about my sweet little boy. Through the years, our family grew, and grew, and grew. We even thought that we had grown as much as we would.
And then God decided to challenge me. He figured that I had learned all about boys. He also figured that one baby girl would not give me the full experience. So he gave me two! And now this self professed “boy mom”, this pants wearing, ribbon and bow avoiding, tights fearing woman has a room bursting with pink and ribbons and frills and tights. And you know what?
God is good. All the time.
He is good when I am blessed with one son. He is good when he blesses me with four sons. He is even good when he blesses me with two daughters at once.
A friend today was telling me about a t-shirt that said “singletons are for wimps”. I had a chuckle at that. It is true. God knew EXACTLY when I could handle the joy of mothering a set of multiples. It was not 15 years ago, or even five years ago. He knew that I was ready before I even knew.
I think I’m doing OK. I’ve had to rewrite my own parenting manual. I still won’t let my kids cry in the crib. This gets me a bit less sleep than others, but I’m still sleeping more than when I was pregnant! I’m figuring out how to give each girl what she needs, when she needs it, and to still have time to love on and guide our sons.
God did not want me to think that I knew it all. He likes to give me challenges.
I bet he does the same for you as well. Has God been stretching you lately? Has He been asking you to step outside of your preconceived notions about something? Has He managed to change your mind?
I’d love to hear about it.