Bossy Okayest Baby Gear Advice, By Request

People keep asking me for baby gear advice. Not sure why… maybe my okayest attitude helps people know I would help them sort through the muck. Here’s what I have been telling those moms-to-be who have asked for my bossy opinions:

Everyone tells you how fast they grow, but it’s really hard to believe how true that is until you watch it happen. There is so much that you won’t need. For six months, he’s just a backpack. And then, he will be crawling away from you! With that said, modern life/ modern inventions do indeed make mothering much easier. This is a list of my favorite things and my super-opinionated opinions.

Please know that my first son came to us in a hurry, as we adopted him after only three days’ notice. One cool thing about that was that we were spared a lot of unncessary product comparisons and reading baby gear reviews ad nauseum. I just asked my favorite momma (my cousin’s wife) for a quick list and she didn’t waste any time. She just said which brand of bottles and which brand of this and that, and I loved it. When my twins came along, I had more time to prepare, of course, but I had no time for frivolous baby stuff. We had one mode, and it was survival mode!

My point is that you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, because they are just that: opinions based on my experiences. And my experiences haven’t been normal, because I have never had a normal one-pregnancy-equals-one-baby situation. I’ve had one pregnancy for three babies from two different moms.

Anyway, here’s my bossy advice, in no particular order:  

Feeding pillow: Must have a Boppy! It’s good for arm support for nursing and bottle feeding (or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME if you have twins). I had four when I had the twins (two on each level of the house), but you won’t need that many! I have noticed that my short friends and my extremely bosomy friends don’t need the Boppy as desperately as my tall friends and/or my petite-breasted friends. We just have a lot more area to cover between our laps and our boobs, okay?

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Carriers: I love the Moby Wrap when they are infants (although I made my own from 18 feet of t-shirt fabric); I love the Ergo when they can hold their heads up. Both carriers saved my back more than that stupid Baby Bjorn. Wear the baby in one of those for all your chores, and you will get exercise and baby will be happy. If you decide you like the Moby, practice tying it often before the baby arrives. I usually wore it all day, often without a shirt, and took the baby in and out throughout the day. (I hear there are all sorts of amazing new hybrid carriers out there now, which kind of combine Moby with Ergo… You’re on your own, because my knowledge is already outdated!)

Swing: Must have. Get one that swings side to side AND back and forth. Babies with reflux can’t go back and forth, and you won’t know if your baby is fussy/refluxy until after you buy the swing! Also look for one that plugs in. DO NOT try to save space and get a “travel size” one or folding one or anything- they only swing one direction and none of my kids liked them anyway. I seriously think having a full sized swing (or two for my twins) was what kept me out of the mental hospital. My favorite was the Ingenuity brand, but it ran on hundreds of Costco batteries. My kids all slept in swings until they were 4 months or more. No guilt. No shame!

diapers in bulk

One month’s worth.

Diapers: Whatever brand is cheapest that won’t get poop on your clothes is what you want! I have decided that people have different diaper opinions that are based on their child’s butt shape. And they don’t even seem to know that. But some kids have tall butts, wide butts, whatever. We are generic Target diapers and generic Costco wipes people. Love generic! (However, when they were newborns, we gratefully used anything and everything because people gifted us so many different brands of diapers.) (Also, I will splurge on name-brand for night diapers.) If you compare prices as strictly as I do, be sure to do it PER DIAPER and not per pack. Unit prices, people! We have the Target Red Card, for 5% off, and then I wait for the sale where they offer their bulk packs of diapers at a discount and with a refund gift card. PS, You will know they have outgrown their diaper size when you get peed on.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

Car seats: I got the cheapest and lightest. Not picky in that department! I liked the cheapest version of the Graco brand because they were light and basic. DO NOT get “convertible car seats” unless you have a giant van. I have heard that convertible car seats in the rear-facing position usually will not fit in regular cars. So buy a regular rear-facing seat, and later buy a forward-facing seat, and it will cost the same or less than a convertible seat anyway. (We seriously just have the $25 cheapos for forward-facing too.)

Our first walk

Our first walk

Stroller: I am a big fan of the cheapest and lightest strollers, called umbrella strollers. They are less than $20. However, baby can’t sit in them until he can hold his head up… So that’s where baby-wearing comes in handy. Usually, the more expensive a stroller is, the heavier it will be. I take a double or triple stroller in and out of my van everyday, so trust me when I say weight is a big deal!

Most worth-it splurge: That “Jumperoo” thing is a great splurge even though they only use it for a couple months. Totally not necessary, but I promise you will be able to make dinner if you have that thing.

Seats: My first kid sat in the “Bumbo” for months. I thought it was the greatest invention ever made. My second kid was too fat to fit in it, and my third kid was too wild to sit in it. He was flipping it over. So, if someone gives it to you, great, but save your money in case your kid is a bolt of lightening or super fat. (Again, a whole new generation of seat thingies has been born in the two years since I used baby gear, so I’m outdated already.)

First Aid Must-Haves:
1) forehead thermometer – You can even swipe it on their head while they sleep.
2) Infant Tylenol (generic is always fine) – you will use this A LOT.
3) Children’s Benadryl – Benadryl says it’s for ages six and up, but if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, the doc will tell you the infant dose. We have had to do that. No house should be without emergency Benadryl!
4) anti-gas medicine (simethicone) for infants

High Chair/ Booster Seat: Your kid won’t need a high chair until he can sit up. If you are feeding him baby food in a reclining seat, he is too young to be eating. Therefore, avoid fancy high chairs. My best tip is to avoid any padding or cushion on a high chair. Totally unnecessary, and you will be washing it every single day. Ridiculous. I have been through about three high chairs with padding, so trust me! When I switched to the $20 Ikea cheapo one, I was so.very.happy. You will want something that you can hose off outside if necessary. (Seriously, I have actually done that.) When the twins got older, we switched to the Ikea “Junior Chair”, which is simply a regular chair with taller legs. At $40, it costs the same as some booster seats, but there are no crevices to clean!

Clothing: People will give you all sorts of adorable things, and you will be grateful for every single thing, but take a tip from a twin mom: you will want as many jammies that ZIP as possible! For newborns, those sack nightgowns are great too. You will be so deliriously tired that you will not be able to maneuver snaps and buttons in the middle of the night. You really won’t. Unless your kid is some sort of freak who sleeps six hours a night from birth and you’re super well-rested. Anyway, zippered one-piece footed jammies, and elastic-bottomed nightgowns were my best friends. (Twin moms who are trying to nurse two babies sometimes have to lift/heave a newborn one-handed, and then all the snaps pop open. Zippers, people! Zippers!)

Swaddlers: I am a biiiiig fan of swaddling. All three of my kids were swaddled for every nap and every nighttime for at least a couple of months. One of mine wanted to be swaddled until he was six months old (but I had to leave his legs out when he was bigger so as not to injure his growing body!). Another of mine didn’t need as much swaddling because he was so relaxed already. Their personalities determined how long they needed it! They sleep longer and feel so secure. In the old days, when babies slept on their tummies, they didn’t need swaddling. Now that babies sleep on their backs, their arms flail and wake them up. Swaddle them tightly and they will feel like they are in the womb. Great for reflux too. My favorite was the Halo SleepSack, which is a cotton or fleece swaddler with Velcro. The Miracle Blanket was also pretty amazing.

Reclining Chair: Make sure you have a chair in your house that you can sleep in. Seriously. For my first child, I picked out a cute glider rocking chair situation. It didn’t recline. Guess what? He was super sickly and never slept – and had to sleep upright because of severe reflux. That meant that *I* slept upright in that dang glider for a few months. In retrospect, I now know I should have just begged/borrowed/stealed to get myself a dang recliner. I was too sleep-deprived to know what to do. When I was pregnant with my twins, I found two cheap recliners and made sure I could sleep in them. It turns out, *I* was the one with the reflux and had to sleep upright in those chairs during my twin pregnancy… and my twins turned out to be good sleepers who were satisfied with the swings and cribs and bassinets and whatnot. Oh, irony.

Diaper Bag: NO. Just no. If you have a baby on your hip, why do you want a big bumpy diaper bag bouncing around on your hip too? Most of them are even heavy when they’re empty. It’s ridiculous. I went through about 14 diaper bags, much to the dismay of my husband every time he opens the guest room closet and they all fall out. Trust me: just get a big backpack. Then you have free arms and nothing on your hip except your baby. And if you have twins, you don’t have a choice. Two babies on two hips means a backpack is a must. Plus, once they are a bit bigger, you’re just going to keep all your supplies in your car anyway.

I hope that helps.

***

I have received no compensation for any of these recommendations (although that would have been kinda great). These items were really what I use for my own kids. This is not “a crummy commercial”!

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110 Decibel Lullabies: Memories of a Loud Childhood

My dad and my baby brother, circa 1989, with Jimi between them.

My dad and my baby brother, circa 1989, with Jimi between them.

This cartoon was taped into my baby book in 1979.

My mom taped this cartoon into my baby book in 1979.

My lullabies were 110 decibel Led Zeppelin songs. My dad didn’t turn it down for bedtime. I sang along to lyrics that were naughtier than I knew. (But I also changed the lyrics to fit my childhood brain.) I heard my name in “Good Times Bad Times”. I swear, from a very young age, I heard my mom and/or Robert Plant screaming my name in that one. By the age of seven or eight, I knew the difference between 1970s Rolling Stones and 1980s Rolling Stones. I could tell the difference between the Beatles and George Harrison’s solo work. I had seen Roy Orbison perform.  I knew what a Marshall half-stack was. I could tell the difference between a Les Paul and a Strat.  I inherited none of my parents’ musical talents, but I certainly have a brain full of classics and warm/odd memories.

Everyone has memories attached to music and songs. But nobody, of course, has memories like mine. Hearing “Harvest Moon” makes me feel like it’s really late and I am lying in bed and my dad has put the guitar away for the night. He’s just sitting on the couch with my mom while the vinyl spins. Hearing “Cinnamon Girl” makes me feel like it’s a Saturday afternoon band practice and I am watching the band from our basement steps. The music is so loud that my heart is vibrating, just like at a concert. Sometimes the toaster vibrated across the kitchen counter, and one time it walked right off the counter.

Sometimes band practice spilled over into Sunday morning, and my mom and I may have stepped over a sleeping band member a time or two on our way to church. (Interesting tidbit: my mom played the piano at church. Life was a beautiful dichotomy.)

music lover baby

Okayest Mom, circa 1980, loving record albums already…

My childhood was so loud. My mom and I couldn’t answer the kitchen phone, because we couldn’t hear a thing anyone said anyway. We watched a lot of TV shows on mute, because there was no point in having sound. Each TV show had a classic rock soundtrack. We didn’t mind at all – it was just the way it was. When we gave up answering the phone or watching muted TV, we would just sit in the music room and watch my dad practice. My mom and I snuggled on a chair together while he played. I remember sucking my thumb (which I stopped doing on my fourth birthday) while cuddling my mom before bed. My dad was playing guitar and the enormous sound was everywhere, in my whole body. That was relaxing to me. That was how I got sleepy for bed.

My parents never treated music as “background” to anything. Music was something that was enjoyed first-person in our house. It deserved to be the focus of our attention. It deserved to be loud. It deserved to be the featured guest. Besides, playing it quietly makes you miss some of the good stuff. Have you ever heard the beginning of “Time” by Pink Floyd really really loudly? Well, I have. Whenever my dad tested his speaker systems, he put that clock-ticking intro on to calibrate something, I think. The booming bass would shake my little skinny kid body, and I loved it.

My handmade sound system and small record collection, protected from my “quadruplets”.

My dad built speaker systems from scratch. He was a carpenter by trade, and carried his skills over into his love for music. He never had any musical training, as far as I know, but he has audiophile ears and a craftsman’s hands that can build speaker systems to blow-dry your hair – and still make you hear ticking clocks like never before. He designed his music room to have optimal acoustics, and then built it. As an adult in my own home, I have custom-built speakers and a subwoofer, built as presents by my own dad. They are definitely gated off from my “quadruplets”.

The sound system shows off my vinyl record collection quite nicely, but it also shows off my iPod quite nicely. I don’t think my dad approves of me sending compressed digital files through his babies. Sorry, Dad. My dad has a record collection that gives new meaning to the word “collection.” He likes to say that his house couldn’t burn down – it could only melt down. He also told me he pities me when he dies and I inherit thousands of pounds of vinyl. Record albums are precious to audiophiles because they each sound different, depending on the weight and pressing and other things that my kid brain can’t remember. A person like my dad is going to need seven different pressings of “Sticky Fingers” because each pressing will sound unique. Much of that richness and variation is lost in our digital age. (By the way, Neil Young has been trying to solve this problem for years. He has been developing a superior digital music format to replace what we currently use.)

My husband loves my record collection and our homemade sound system. Of course, my record collection is itty-bitty, compared to my father’s. It’s just a sampling, really. I gathered it over many flea-market and thrift-store scavenges with my dad, when I was in high school in the 90s. I take great pride in my little collection. I have one problem: I don’t play it. My husband realized early on in our marriage that I had this strange habit of waiting for him to select the music. It’s a very odd habit that I seemed to have formed from being the offspring of a musician. Apparently, I wait for a man to DJ my life. Not proud of that, but, there it is.

I love vinyl. I’m no musician, but I can hear at least some of the sound quality, and I love it. However, I have no idea how to make music be the featured guest in my house of four children, ages four and under. They are always the featured guests. There is no sitting still to listen to the subtleties of music, and I miss that. However, we do have “dance party” several times a week, where we blast some compressed digital files through the homemade subwoofer (again, my apologies to Dad and Neil Young), and the kids dance with me until we fall down. They especially seem to like Black Keys and Black Sabbath right now.

My kids may not have as many musical memories as I do. They may not know the difference between a Les Paul and a Strat. They may not have 110 decibel Zeppelin lullabies. But, they do know how to headbang as soon as they can stand. They do know how to treat a guitar with respect as soon as they can walk. They do stop whatever they are doing when their father breaks out the acoustic. They probably won’t know what a CD is, but they already know what a vinyl records does. Let’s just hope they can hear the difference!

***

(Just for the “record”, all memories have been filtered through my kid brain and I am solely responsible for my errors. I am not a musician, and I’m sure my dad will have to correct me on a few things.)

Googly-Eyed

In church today, I was sitting behind my friend Jill as she held her newborn. I noticed all the women in front of her, beside her, behind her, and across the aisle from her staring at her baby with googly eyes. They were women from all seasons of life. Every one of them looked like someone had shot her with a oxycodone dart. They each had the same gooey-eyed expression and small satisfied smile on their faces. They each seemed to be silently sighing instead of listening to the lesson.

I admit: I was one of them.

Whaaaaat? I have four toddlers living in my house right now (adoption + IVF twins + my niece). I change 8+ poopy diapers per day. And, yet, I was one of the googly-eyed women.

Some of the women have grown children. They still stared. Some of the women have small children (ahem, me). They still stared. One of them women has NINE children. She still stared. Actually, she stared the most of all.

IMG_4174I can’t remember my babies being that small. I see the pictures, and it was only a year ago, but my body seems to have no memory of what it felt like to hold an eight-pound baby close. And I certainly don’t remember holding twin eight-pound babies close. Did it really happen? Was it all a dream? I try to hold Jill’s baby and my skinny arms and bony chest have no idea how to comfort him. I have rocked mine and held them and nursed (some of) them and cradled them, but I have no muscle memory of it.

It was the hardest time of my life. I slept 1-2 hours per night until I cracked. I experienced fear and isolation and despair and …. All I can remember is smelling their heads. Inhaling them.

Helping with HouseworkWhat I know now is chubby toddler arms around my neck. Mashed avocado between chubby fingers every night. Sharp teeth biting into my collarbone. The floor under three highchairs that needs mopping three times a day. Anticipation at opening the twins’ door every morning to twins jumping in identical cribs with identical grins on their (not identical) fat faces. Toddle-running so fast that their cheeks wobble. Watching one twin be so overcome with love for a brother at mealtime that he has to stop eating just to rub his head on his brother’s head and say, “awwww”. The pep talk I give myself when I have to go get them up from naps (“You got this! You can do one more round!” and making a sound like a football player ending a huddle). Vacuuming while all four follow behind me, stepping on the cord,  and imitating me (if, by “imitating me”, I mean: pretend-vacuuming with a duck while naked).

I am overwhelmed with hard work, love, exhaustion, and the terrifying passage of time. I am like every other mother in the world.

I am destined to be the googly-eyed lady for the rest of my life.

Surviving the NICU: Life as a Preemie Mommy

Preemie Motherhood - 2

This article is the first in a series of guest posts. I have invited a few select friends and family members to contribute to my blog. I have chosen them based on two things: 1) I personally go to them for help; and 2) I am fascinated by their unique parenting challenges, because I want to hear how they make “okayest” work for them.

Allow me to introduce you to my sister-in-law, “Dee”, who, along with her 2-year-old daughter, Em, is currently living with us. Em, my niece, was born 3 1/2 months early and survived. Em, a former micropreemie, now weighs 27 pounds and can hold her own against her three cousins (who have managed to outweigh her). We have four children under the age of four living in this house. The chaos, mess, noise, and diapers are out of control, but every time I see Em giggle, hug a cousin, or say “oops” with a lisp, my heart soars. She is the Girl Who Lived. Here is a little window into the world of preemie motherhood.

When Melissa asked me to be a guest writer for her blog, I thought about what “okayest” moments I’ve had parenting my daughter, Em. I could go on for days about different situations we’ve had, but being a mom of a 1.5 lb baby tops all of my other mommy moments. Parenting in a NICU is incredibly difficult, especially when you never saw it coming. There are no perfect moments. There are no lovely, glowing pictures of you snuggling your newborn. It is chaotic, heartbreaking, and eye-opening to watch your tiny baby struggle to live, while you struggle to keep your sanity. Each and every day is about surviving and being okay.

Em’s (glossed over) Birth Story:

At 25-weeks gestation, I noticed a small amount of spotting. I’ve heard it’s not terribly uncommon, but I had my husband take me to the hospital just to make sure. As my doctor was checking me, his expression turned from unconcerned to uncomfortable. He told me that I was 2 cm dilated, and needed to be rushed to a hospital with a level three NICU, so that they could put a stitch in my cervix.

While in the ambulance, I asked the EMT how many premature babies he had delivered. He responded with: “Two. But neither made it, since we aren’t equipped to keep smaller babies alive.” I was stunned and furious. Who says that to a patient that is 25-weeks pregnant and on a two hour trek to the hospital?!

By the time we arrived, I was 4 cm and having contractions. They were able to give me medication to keep Em in the womb for another week, which saved her nearly a month in the NICU.

On the seventh day, I woke up bleeding and contracting, and spent the next five hours begging my nurse to get my doctor to help me. She would come in every half an hour or so to tell me that I was fine, and that I was not in labor. I cried. I pleaded. It took my mother and husband yelling at nurses down the hallways to get someone to come in. By the time my doctor showed up, my daughter was having her legs crushed in the birth canal. I was told I needed a stat c-section. Then an ultrasound showed that there was no time, and she needed to be born breech, immediately. My tiny little baby was born with bruised, black legs, because of my nurse’s negligence. Had she been head first, my time as a mom would have ended that morning.

This is the day Em was born, at 26 weeks gestation, when her eyes were still fused shut like a kitten's.

This is the day Em was born, at 26 weeks gestation, when her eyes were still fused shut like a kitten’s.

Em went through nine weeks of crazy ups and downs. We went through more than I can even write, but here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Being a preemie mommy means:

-…you were (more than likely) unaware that your little one was going to come into this world so soon, and are BEYOND unprepared. And it’s okay that you are! You will learn by watching your baby change each hour of each day (and from the occasional google search that turns out to be helpful, and then is just down-right terrifying).

-…mourning a pregnancy that ended too soon. You will feel gypped. You may have to go to your baby shower while your baby is in the NICU. You don’t get to look super pregnant and take fun maternity pictures. If you’re like me and waited until the second trimester to tell anyone, you’re going to feel like you’ve been pregnant for five minutes.

-…not getting to touch or hold your own baby for days or even weeks.

This is the first time Dee was able to hold her own baby. She had to wait two agonizing weeks for this touch.

This is the first time Dee was able to hold her own baby. She had to wait two agonizing weeks for this touch.

-…being discharged and having to go home without your baby. This was one of the worst nights of my life. The guilt, the pain, the uncontrollable need to just be with your baby…. As hard as the first night is, it gets less painful as visits become routine. Eventually, you will be able to walk out of the hospital with your sweet little preemie and it’ll be a day you’ll never forget.

-…having to decide different courses of action, whether they are invasive, risky, or down right experimental. Em was part of the NEWNO study, which is a double-blind study to test whether or not giving a particular gas to preemies helps them breathe on their own faster. It was a scary decision to make, but to us, everything that was being done to save Em was first tested on preemies that were part of studies like this one. She can know that she made a difference to future preemies.

-…realizing that you and your child are capable of more strength, endurance, and hope than you can imagine. It may not seem like it, now, but trust me. You will see.

The Unique Positives:

-You will get to know your baby sooner than most parents do. You will see their personality shine through from day one, and (let’s be honest) it is interesting to watch a baby develop before your very eyes. When Em was born, her eyes were still fused shut, like a kitten. When she was about two weeks old, we walked up to her incubator to find these odd paper sunglasses on her, and her nurse told us that early in the morning, her eyes opened. I wish we could have seen it, but we put pictures of us in her incubator, so at least she still saw us.

-You will see that your preemie is a warrior. They will go through things that adults can’t handle, and their strength will amaze you. One of Em’s scariest NICU experiences was when a PICC line (an intravenous catheter that is threaded from the arm/leg/head to the heart for prolonged medication) site became infected. For several days I watched the slightly concerning bump on her foot turn into a black, marble-sized wound, that the nurses just would not take seriously. It wasn’t until she started running a fever of 103 degrees with her heart rate at 220 bpm, that they took action. They took off my 2.5 lb infants clothes and made her stay in an open bassinet for hours just to bring her temperature down. Once her fever was under control (days later), they told us that they needed to do a spinal tap to check for a deeper infection. After they performed it (and we cried harder than she did), we went home, for the night. At 3 am, I received a call from the doctor that they didn’t get enough fluid to test, and that she needed consent right now to perform a SECOND spinal tap, while she was all alone. As you can imagine, spinal taps are PAINFUL, and she was only given a small amount of Tylenol to ease the pain. These tests bring grown men to their knees, and yet these preemies often go through some of the scariest things alone. By the time we got there, she was bundled back up and sleeping soundly. It was if she hadn’t just had two giant needles jabbed into her frail back, just hours earlier. I don’t think I would have been in her position.

-You have more milestones to celebrate! Daily weight-checks to see if they’ve gained a few grams, being able to finally put some cute little clothes on your tiny baby, graduating to an open bassinet, and for some preemies, getting to take an ambulance ride to go from a level three NICU to a hospital with a level two!

Life at Home:

Here is the joyful day of Em's homecoming, after almost 3 months in the NICU.

Here is the joyful but intimidating day of Em’s homecoming, after almost 3 months in the NICU.

-The first night at home, you will be thinking: “WAIT. No monitors?! How will I know what her sats are? What if she has bradies (bradycardic episodes)?! How will I know?!?!” The idea of going from medical care 24/7 to being totally on your own is terrifying. Chances are, there will be a lot of unnecessary phone calls to the NICU because you think something is wrong, but DO NOT stop calling just because you think you’re being overly concerned. Had we given in to the many doctors that told us we were just young parents, and were still having some PTSD from Em’s prematurity, she would have never been diagnosed with epilepsy when she was, and she very well may not be here today, had we not followed our parental instincts.

-As time goes on, you start seeing your baby as a normal, healthy baby. No wires, no needles, no bandages, just your wonderful munchkin. Other people, however, don’t always know how to treat you and your preemie, now that you’re home. Which brings me to my next thought.

What NOT to Say to a Preemie Mommy:

1. “At least you’re not 40 weeks! Being this pregnant sucks!”

Say this to a preemie mommy, and she’ll want to punch you in the left ovary. We would give ANYTHING just to have been pregnant long enough to deliver a healthy baby. Bite your tongue!

2. “I wish I didn’t have to breastfeed!” or “You DON’T breastfeed?”

Preemie mommies can’t always lactate, which makes us feel inadequate and guilty for robbing our sickly babies of something that is so good for them. Even if you don’t want to breastfeed, it stinks not to have a choice.

3. “How is your baby having a GOOD day?! It’s so sick!”

Preemies can have good days. Even if it’s just gaining ten grams or coming down on their oxygen levels, it’s progress and that leads to hope. If you aren’t going to be positive/sympathetic, don’t say anything! We could use someone to just listen to us.

4. “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.”

Yeah? Where did you get your doctorate of neonatology? Not only is this infuriating because no one knows if your baby will be fine or not, but it makes you sound passive about a very upsetting situation.

5. “Yeah, my kid was in the hospital with the flu for a few days. It’s tough!”

There are many parents out there that have had kids in the hospital, and many for reasons far worse than prematurity. But if your kid is in the hospital for poison ivy, don’t compare.

6. “At least you didn’t have to deliver a big baby!”

(Insert the hundreds of “at least you”’s that preemie parents can throw back at you.)

7. “She looks awful!”

She may not look well, because she is small and sick, but come on, now.

8. “She’s a preemie and you took her outside in this weather?!”

I’ve got more doctors numbers in my phone than I have friends/family. If I need medical advice on my kid, I won’t be asking you.

9. When your GYN nurse asks (without looking at your chart) “Did you feel the baby move, today?”

And cue sobbing. Running into people that don’t know you delivered early is tough. I have no advice for this one. It’s just awkward and sad.

10. “I’ve heard that the odds of a preemie doing ____ are ____%”

I’ve heard that the odds of being killed from falling out of bed are 1 in 2 million, so I’d start sleeping on the floor, if I was you. I hear statistics from every doctor and nurse that crosses my path. Don’t be negative, or try to be “realistic” about it. Just be supportive.

A Few Things to Remember:

-It’s okay to have fun outside of the NICU. I’ve had my share of guilt about going grocery shopping, seeing a movie, or just getting some dang sleep, but it’s necessary! You really do have to take care of yourself! Your baby has plenty of people taking care of him/her, so get take a little time each day to do something for you, even if it’s only for five minutes.

-Don’t take people’s crap in the NICU! I had a good share of family members that needed to just get the boot, either from being upsetting or negative. Your baby wants a happy mommy, and he/she won’t get that if mom is stressed out by a visitor that isn’t being supportive. Don’t be afraid to ask them to give you some space!

-The NICU stay will end eventually. It will seem like you will never escape the monitors, doctors and the sickening smell of Purell, but in a few weeks/months, you will hopefully be home with your little one.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but it seems like an even more unattainable status when you’re the mommy of a preemie. You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to pretend like you didn’t just cry in Target because a woman was pushing around her newborn, and you can’t even find a preemie shirt that will fit your baby (which, by the way, you’ll want ones with snaps that go down the front!). If you follow your instincts, get some sleep every once in a while, and just do your best, you will be okay.

Here is Em on her second birthday. Look how strong and big she is! Photo courtesy Mr. Okayest (Em's uncle)

Here is Em on her second birthday. Look how strong and big she is! Photo courtesy Mr. Okayest (Em’s uncle)

Run-On Sentence Life

I'm not *busy*. I'm just crazy.

I’m not *busy*. I’m just crazy.

My sister-in-law asked how I was doing, and this run-on sentence disaster is what came out:

“We’re doing great, other than I feel like a crazy woman with the babies going so fast in opposite directions. They are like puppies. And potty training at the same time? Insane! I put R on the potty, and then I have to herd Baby A out of the bathroom, and by that time, Baby B is in the bathroom, and by then R is kicking that one in the face (idly) while he tries to go potty, and by then the Baby A has climbed up on the fireplace hearth and is falling off, and then I have to leave R on the potty, but then he cries because he is “wone-wee” in there and can’t go if he’s “wone-wee” and by then, Baby B has climbed on top of some sort of wheeled toy and is actually being pushed by Baby A across the living room.”

Run-on sentence much? My whole life is a run-on sentence!

My days are crazy. People say, “Wow, you are so busy,” but it’s not about being busy. I have plenty of down time where I am just lying on the floor as happy babies stick their fingers in my nose and knee me in the c-section scar. It’s more about me always spinning in circles- sometimes literally. By the time I remove Baby A from crawling toward the dog, Baby B has crawled toward the dog. I spin in circles.

My whole day is fight-or-flight. My husband says this means I am just reacting to things. I think this means that I am just really sweaty all day long.

I taught Kindergarten for five years before this motherhood thing. I can easily wrangle 25 five-year-olds into coats in 1 minute flat, but I can’t dress my own three children in under twenty minutes. I can easily usher 25 five-year-olds out the door during a fire drill in mere seconds, but I can’t get to my own kid who is falling down the stairs before dropping another kid. I can easily keep 25-five-year-olds happily engaged at a lovely decibel level, but my own three children make my ears bleed.

I miss a few things from the old days, when my 25 kids got on the bus and went home at the end of the day. Now I have three children for 24 hours a day, and there are some things that I feel like I will never get back. That’s okay. I swear I’m not complaining. But, whew, I wish God could give me one of those days back right now, just for a little vacation.

My husband and I were introverts. We had a quiet life, but maybe that was the problem! Our life is so loud and wild now, even if it’s not overtly busy. If only we had been big partiers before children (ha!), then maybe this would be easier now. I think wild party animals and social butterflies get all the After-Baby-Attention because their busy social calendar screeches to a halt, but I’m here to say that maybe we should consider the poor introverts. How do we fare in all this commotion?

I wish I was that mom who gets all gushy about the noise and chaos bringing joy to her heart, but, as you know, I am not shy about saying that bedtime is my favorite part of the day. I love my kids, and I love their bedtime just as much. I long to get my house back for those lovely two hours before I go to bed. But shouldn’t I be celebrating this “joyful noise”?

Mr. Okayest says that we’ll get there. The kids are just too little to go upstairs together and make blanket forts and have raucous laughter echoing down the stairs while I make dinner in peace. They still require constant 100% physical effort from me.

I miss Sunday naps after church, making dinner in silence, and eating dinner without food on the floor. I miss reading the Sunday Washington Post, going to the movies on Friday night, and going out to eat once a week. I miss driving the car in undistracted (i.e., safe) silence. I miss not lugging a 30 pound diaper backpack everywhere I go (and not packing a 30 pound diaper backpack before going anywhere!). I miss a back and a neck that don’t hurt constantly. I swear I’m not complaining. After all, I did let the doctor implant two eggs in there.

I’m a crazy woman with a run-on sentence life. I promise you that I used to be smart, and creative. I promise you that my vocabulary used to be twice as large as it is now. I promise you that I never wrote any run-on sentences. I also promise you that I never said this sentence ever at all before yesterday: “We don’t put turtles in our brother’s bottom”.

I also promise you that I wouldn’t change it or trade it. To cope, I may cry, or watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, or shamefully snap at my husband, or drink too many Diet Cokes, or whine… but I promise I wouldn’t change it. I kiss their fat cheeks, I squeeze their cellulite, I inhale their baby head scent before it’s too late. I see  three shades of skin, three colors of eyes looking at me, and my heart melts sometimes. I am thankful. Truly. But I wouldn’t mind just that one pre-kid vacation day….

One Year Later: In Photos

The Early Days

The Early Days were a blur of sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, pain, painkillers, and a revolving door of grandmas, aunts, and cousins helping for days and nights on end. My husband was perfectly capable of taking care of a newborn or two OR taking care of me – but not both.  Early Days were dark. They were a little sad, a little happy, and very overwhelming. Early Days lasted for the first month.

twins_1st_drtwins holding hands brothers early days all of usearly days with daddy twins cuddling first walk

Survival Mode

After the early days came Survival Mode. Survival Mode came after I was healed. It was after the overnight help went back to their own families, and my husband went back to work. These were the first days that I started to take care of the three children on my own. I was shaky and scared. I cried a lot during Survival Mode Days. Neighbors and friends dropped by often to help me for a couple hours each day to rescue me. The babies were still demanding newborns. I was delirious from lack of sleep. I often only got one or two hours per night and I felt wildly not normal. Survival Mode lasted for perhaps the next three months, until the twins were more like babies and less like newborns. I can honestly say that this period in my life was the most challenging. (It ranks up there with my week in the hospital and my first year of teaching!)

moby wrap first smiler holds twins sitting around the tree snowsuitsfeeding 1

Real Life

After Survival Mode came Real Life. Real Life started after I gained my strength and my confidence. Real Life came after the daytime help sent me on my way. Real Life came after I was sleeping a little bit more. Real Life came after the twins were on a schedule – and could sleep, smile, play, and enjoy life. In Real Life, I started to feel proud of what I was doing and how I was doing it. In Real Life, I had a little bit of time to think. I felt like me again, except that I had three small children tagging along. Dare I say that we even have fun once in a while?

6 months shoot ahugging guitar all 3 on daddypushing the twin daddy is home poolgoing for a walkfamily portrait photobomb

Moms Are Not Good for the Environment: An Apology to the Earth

I guess I do bathe them sometimes.

I guess I do bathe them sometimes.

As my dad always says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” Despite my good intentions, since I have become a mom of three, I apparently no longer care about the environment. Well, I do, but you would never know that because of all this naughty stuff I do.

I used to be an environmentalist. I was careful with resources. I have been taking care of this earth since I convinced my parents to start recycling in the early 90s when I was a mere pre-teen.  It was no easy feat to recycle while living on a mountain with no trash-pickup! It required going all the way into the next town to the real dump, and not just to the dumpster in our own little town. We paved the way to the recycling center!

Anyway, sorry, Earth, here’s a list of things I used to never do… but now I do them because I am an Okayest Mom. I am an Okayest Mom who is paving the way to hell – or at least to the landfill – with my good intentions .

Using paper plates sometimes: I swear, I never did this before kids. I never even bought paper plates before! But now, sometimes the dishwasher is just too full. And sometimes I haven’t unloaded it. Also, it already takes me about 20 minutes to clean up after each meal at this stage, because of all the food on the floor and the two high chairs, and sometimes I can’t spare any more minutes that the dishes would …oh, well, nevermind. Excuses.

Using paper napkins: I was raised on cloth napkins. I used them in the first eight years of my marriage. I like them. They were not a big deal. Now they are.

Using ridiculous amounts of paper towels: We go through a Costco-sized pack of paper towels more often than I’d like to admit. With my first son, I wiped the cute little sweet potatoes off my cute little sweet potato’s cheeks with a cute little washcloth and let it dry on the cute little towel rack. No. No more. There is no towel rack big enough to hold all the washcloths I would need to clean these twins. Also, we have a lot of clean-ups that involve things that I don’t want to see on a regular towel.

Using ridiculous amounts of disposable diapers: I used cloth diapers for a short time with my first son. I actually kind of liked it. It wasn’t too bad. Plus, his bum was enormous – and enormously cute – in those things. However, once my twins came, those cloth diapers were out the window. (Or, to be more precise, they were on their way to the consignment sale.) At our peak, when I had three kids in diapers and the twins were doing that pooping-every-hour newborn thing, we used more than 25 disposable diapers per day. To the landfills of the world, I am truly truly sorry.

Using ridiculous amounts of wipes: To all those more-hippie-than-me moms who are using those reusable washcloth wipes or making their own wipes, I salute you. I think.

Wasting gas by driving around to keep a sleeping baby asleep: I would have never ever done this in my pre-mom life. But a parent will do ANYTHING to keep a baby asleep. Tiptoe, stop breathing… you name it, we’ve done it. And so have you! Don’t lie.

Wasting gas by idling the car to keep a sleeping baby asleep: See above. (Funny how I didn’t waste gas back when it was only a dollar per gallon, but now I will willingly waste it at four dollars a gallon when the budget is tight. Go me!)

Not recycling as much as I used to: Okay, for this one, I am super ashamed. It is hard to admit, but sometimes I am too tired or too busy to rinse out the dang yogurt container, and I just throw it away because it’s easier. Seeing other people do that used to make me really angry.

Letting a kid pull out all the wipes, tissues, or toilet paper: If it allows me to shower or make dinner, who am I to stop him? I calculate how much that roll or box cost me, and then I ask myself if the peace is worth that price, and the answer is always yes. The earth might disagree.

Using more propane, oil, or electricity: Turn that heat up, baby! If my kid is waking up with cold hands and feet after being clothed in a long-sleeve onesie, socks, and fleece footed zip-up jammies overnight, then it’s too cold in here. (By the way, that was only one of my kids. I also have one normal one and one who feels like a furnace that has a fever.)

Letting the water run: I will happily let the water run in the sink for 45 minutes to keep my preschooler occupied quietly. Sorry. It’s water therapy, right? Besides, I make up for it by hardly ever bathing my children. And, when I finally do bathe them, all three share the same bath water.  Also, my own showers are super short. As my friend Anne once said, “My shower is only as long as the crib mobile’s song.”

Okayest Mom wants the earth to know that she is SO SORRY. When my kids are in school, I will make it up to you.

Because I will be sleeping, in the dark, all day long, without using any resources.