That Time I Left My Nursing Twin Babies Too Soon and Sounded Like a Maniac

breasfeeding portraitWhen the twins were six months old, I left them overnight for the first time. I was still nursing, and still only sleeping 1-2 hours a night. Needless to say, it was too soon.

My husband had already left the twins for his business trips, and, of course, every single day when he went to work, and, well, every weeknight too (because I had night duty when he had to get up at 4:30 AM for work every day). He had also almost lost me in childbirth – and had somewhat lost me to the omnipotent needs of three children in diapers – so it was understandable that he was ready to arrange a night away. I was actually somewhat excited, too.

I left the children in the care of my extremely capable, loving, and willing in-laws. Even the best possible in-law care could not overcome my deliriously sleep-deprived, hormonal nursing self. I didn’t expect that handing the babies over would trigger a whole landslide of feelings about the near-death experiences that Twin B and I shared during the birth. Leaving those babies felt like death to my addled brain.

As I tried to force my arms to hand Twin B to my tender and devoted mother-in-law, I began to weep. As we separated, my weeps turned into sobs and I cried out,

“HE LIKES IT WHEN YOU BREATHE ON HIS HEAD!”

He likes it when you breathe on his head? Umm, well… okay.

Hear me out. He’s a twin. He’s used to constant contact, you know? And he is just a wild man who needs a lot of physical input to settle down. To a person without children, that all might sound ridiculous. But, my sweet mother-in-law nodded with understanding. Mother to mother, she knew I wasn’t crazy.

And I knew she would breathe on his head.

He’s three now. Thriving. He still needs a ton of sensory input. He likes back scratches, firm foot squeezes, shoulder rubs, idle strokes, “belly pets”, being thrown in the air, being smooshed, being rolled, going fast, being upside down, a heavy hand on his back in bed, and head-butting. An adult hand on his thigh during dinner even makes him eat more food. Basically, he likes every kind of touch that his brothers don’t.

wp-1456004211966.jpgAnd, yes, he still likes it when I breathe on his head.

During the day, he is so wild, I can’t believe he has not yet experienced grievous bodily harm (other than a black eye every so often). He drives me crazy and gives me heart palpitations. But, but… in the rocking chair in the middle of the night, he nuzzles into my bony shoulders and sighs. I breathe in his baby-fine scent that has never left. I exhale my breath into his hair. My inhales calm me down; my exhales calm him down. We both win.

I’m not a maniac. I’m a mom.

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“My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding” was posted on the Scary Mommy Blog…

…and I have a few things to say about that.

I wrote a post for Scary Mommy about breastfeeding multiples, and they posted it last week on their home page. It has over 11,000 shares on facebook right now. I think I might have had my fifteen minutes of fame. But it’s over now. (I have been tracking my stats. Thousands of views and shares does NOT actually produce more followers or likes. The internet has a short attention span.)

I originally titled it, “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding”, which I thought was way more clever and accurate than the title they gave: “The Truth about Breastfeeding Twins”. I was criticized in the comments for generalizing and discouraging other twin moms, but I was simply trying to tell MY story. I think the title change is a little to blame – I was not telling anyone else’s “truth” about breastfeeding. I was only telling MY truth, hence the “my” in “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding.”

Most of the comments were extremely kind and loving. However, a handful said that breastfeeding twins was “easy”, and I want to kick them in the head. Annnnnd there was one woman who said, “Lots and lots and lots of women experience complications pre, during and post pregnancy. You aren’t a martyr. You aren’t the first woman to have twins. Get over yourself.” Hmmm. I think if she read my blog, she would know that I have already said the exact same thing myself. Many times. Also, I would like to challenge her to say that to my face. Ah, the internet.

To Scary Mommy, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to write for you, but chastise you for your typos. Come on, Scary Mommy, you have over half a million followers. I think you could be a little more careful (less scary?) with your editing.

To any of the new twin moms that I scared, I apologize.

Here’s my original text:

My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding

Was it me or was it the twins who did the sucking at breastfeeding? Maybe both. After surviving one adoption, several miscarriages, fifteen rounds of fertility treatment, hellish high-risk twin pregnancy, bedrest with a toddler, and almost dying from postpartum hemorrhage, I certainly knew better than to expect breastfeeding would go smoothly. It sucked, both literally and figuratively.

I read every book I was supposed to read on the topic of breastfeeding twins. I underlined so many sections of my La Leche League multiples book that my husband asked me if perhaps I should consider underlining only things I didn’t want to remember. I tried to be prepared simply by adding post-it notes of information in my brain, but I knew I would have to wing it when the twins arrived.

I couldn’t have been more right. Who would win when this twin momma faced off against all the books she read?

 

The books say: Breastfeed immediately after birth, or within 60 minutes after a C-section. That should be enough time to get you all stitched up and ready to go.

Twin mom says: Breastfeeding is impossible in the ICU while you’re knocked out.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Frequent breastfeeding will teach your body to double or triple the amount of milk you need for multiples.

Twin mom says: Almost dying and getting blood transfusions messes with the body’s ability to produce milk.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Feed each twin separately at first, to teach proper latching techniques. Tandem nursing can wait.

Twin mom says: No problem. Tandem nursing can definitely wait.

Winner: Books.

 

The books say: Avoid bottles and pacifiers during the hospital stay to establish proper nursing.

Twin mom says: You don’t have a say when you’re knocked out in the ICU.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: When you begin to tandem feed, the double-football hold will work the best.

Twin mom says: WHATEVER. You totally need substantial boobage to pull off the double-football hold, because you’ve got to have boobs that actually flop around. Not all of us are so endowed, even with the milk! Why didn’t any book talk about THAT?!

Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my boobs.

 

The books say: Your milk will come in within three to four days after birth.

Twin mom says: Be a rebel! Mine didn’t come in until the eleventh day after birth, which was the latest my lactation consultant had ever seen.

Winner: Twin Mom!

 

The books say: The best way to help a baby learn to nurse is skin-to-skin contact.

Twin mom says: It’s hard to do when I was so bruised, battered, and patched up from all the ways they saved my life. I wanted nothing more than to put my babies inside my hospital gown, but I was too mutilated from all the procedures they performed on me. I came home from the hospital with a walker, a lot of bandages and bruises, and a physical therapist.

Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my babies.

 

The books say: Within the first two weeks after birthing twins, be sure to pump and/or feed every 2-3 hours to teach your body to establish and double the milk supply.

Twin mom says: No problem. I will never sleep again anyway. I will never not be holding a baby again anyway.

Winner: The books.

 

The books say: Rent a hospital grade pump for multiples. You need a pro to suck out enough milk for twins.

Twin mom says: NOBODY TOLD ME HOW MUCH PUMPING SUCKS (literally and figuratively)! I had no idea how bad it would feel and how much I would hate it. I had no idea how long it would take. I had no idea how much my toddler would misbehave when he knew I was attached to those tubes and completely immobilized.

Winner: My toddler.

 

The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is harder with fraternal twins than identical twins, because they only share 50% of their DNA. They will have different hunger cues, feeding patterns, and body clocks.

Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. My fraternal twins were opposites in the womb, and they were opposites while breastfeeding. One was a pro; the other had feeding difficulties – including allergies, reflux, and nipple confusion.

Winner: The books. Or maybe the one twin who was good at nursing.

 

The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is the best choice for twins.

Twin mom says: Um, nobody told me how MUCH I WOULD HATE TANDEM NURSING. It was almost impossible to position the babies even with another adult present. How do I get the second baby latched on after I already had one attached to my boob? (When I was alone, I would try to position the second baby on the couch beside me, and hoist him up by his jammies with my one free arm. If he was wearing snap jammies, he would fall out of them. I quickly switched to zip-up jammies.) Nursing two at once felt overwhelming and, I hate to say, a little creepy. They finished eating at different times, so what was I supposed to do when one baby had to burp and one was still attached? And how do I care for a needy two-year-old while I am completely immobilized by two nursing babies? What do I do when the toddler gets into the knife drawer? Do I pull the babies off or do I try to stand up with two of them attached? I guarantee I would either fall down or lose the latch. What about my (adopted) son’s jealousy while I was nursing both babies? I had to deal with some major adoptive momma guilt there. I did not have the answers to these questions. I gave up and nursed them separately.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Alternating bottle-feeding and breast-feeding is not recommended. It creates more work, and less milk production.

Twin mom says: Too bad. I never made enough milk, despite every effort. We finally established a system where I would breastfeed one twin, supported by a Boppy and one of my arms, while, with my other arm, I bottle-fed the other twin, supported beside me on the couch with a Boppy. This also enabled me to leap off the couch, if needed, to help my toddler not die.

Winner: Twin mom! And my toddler.

 

The books say: Breastfeed for at least a year.

Twin mom says: My goal was one day at a time. I made it to just under seven months. I figured that counted as a year in my Twin World! By that time, I was about to crack from having 1-2 hours of sleep from my non-synchronized, non-tandem night feedings. Also, my poor-at-nursing-twin was completely off the breast and only drinking pumped milk anyway. It was time to sleep-train them. I couldn’t let them “cry it out” while nursing. We dried it up, cried it out, and started sleeping. (PS, The last time I breastfed my last twin, I was listening to “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones: “Well this could be the last time, This could be the last time, Maybe the last time, I don’t know, oh no, oh no.”)

Winner: Twin Mom! I did what was best for MY FAMILY! (“My family”, of course, refers to me not cracking.)

 

The books say: Any amount of breastmilk is good for the babies.

Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. I never made enough milk for twins, despite visiting several lactation consultants, pumping with a hospital grade pump, reading every book, and trying every home remedy. I had to supplement with formula from the very beginning. I was happy to give them immunities, even if I couldn’t make them full.

Winner: Everybody.

 

The moral of this story is that books are great, but twin mommas are better!

 

from: http://www.scarymommy.com/truth-about-breastfeeding-twins

My Kids Eating Lunch Under a Blanket in Honor of National Breastfeeding Month

I’m not shy about the fact that, uh, my relationship with breastfeeding was, uh, complicated. Adoption. High-risk twin pregnancy resulting in near-death. ICU and NICU stays. Tandem twin feeding. Everything about me and breastfeeding is complicated. However, there is nothing complicated about THIS. I’m still happy that it’s National Breastfeeding Month and I honor it with this photo.

One Good Dad

Kids eating

In honor of National Breastfeeding month, I made my kids eat their lunch under a blanket just like the old days of when they were infants. It turns out it isn’t the ideal way to eat. Who knew?

Other posts on breastfeeding that you might enjoy:

A Dad’s Thoughts During National Breastfeeding Month

Reaction to the Time’s Breastfeeding Cover

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Guest Post: A Mom Who Went Kicking, Screaming, and Pouting into Motherhood

This article is the fifth 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 good friend, Jen. I was actually friends with her husband first – he was one of my best friends in college. We met when he, um, started “hanging out” with my roomie. Anyway, after college, when he married Jen, I knew that they didn’t plan to have children. Now she is mother to a 4-year-old and is due with baby #2 any minute, and her feelings about motherhood are beautifully complicated. Having a treasured friend like her who knows that motherhood isn’t all “sunshine and rainbows” (i.e., a friend who encourages my snarky side) definitely helps me on my bad days. Here’s Jen:

jen

I am both flattered and surprised that Mrs. Okayest asked me to guest post for her blog. Flattered, because she’s awesome and is clearly a talented writer, so it’s truly an honor to be asked to be a part of this incredible space of hers on the internet. Surprised because, unlike Mrs. Okayest, I’m more of that upfront, in-your-face, snarky friend that often says inappropriate things like “breastfeeding was horrible, it made me feel like I was in prison,” or “I can’t handle the newborn stage; they’re like a rude houseguest that just demands food and screams at you for 6-8 weeks before even offering up a smile.” Yes, I’m that friend. To my credit though, saying some of those things out loud really helped some fellow struggling moms to feel less guilty, and that’s enough for me.

Let me introduce myself and say upfront that I’m not one of those women that readily or easily embraced parenthood. I kicked, screamed and pouted my way through my first pregnancy (and with my current pregnancy as well) and the seemingly endless newborn and baby stages. It might seem shocking, but not all women were wired to enjoy being new moms and have newborns, some of us have to muck through it. For me, I celebrate each passing year with joy. I love my beautiful girl getting older, more independent, interesting and interactive. I don’t miss the newborn stage or the baby and early toddler years. I’m not one of those blissful women who find be-all-end-all life fulfillment in changing diapers, wiping noses, and dealing with the adult version of the Neverending Story: Laundry. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter fiercely and wouldn’t change her for the world, but she’s not my entire life. Despite what an awesome kid she’s turning out to be, and how much I’m (mostly) enjoying it, I still have rough days where I want to hide in my closet and not have anyone talk, touch or even look at me for just a few minutes. That being said, how does someone not wired naturally for motherhood even start to make “okayest” work for her and her family?

There’s a lot of ways that I’ve made “okayest” work for me (store-bought baked goods and avoiding socially expected preschool playdates is a large part of that), but I think the most important okayest moments for me came in the first days, weeks and months of having a newborn. When you’re a first time parent, everyone tells you how amazing and special having a baby is going to be with all “the firsts.” The “newborn baby smell,” the snuggles, the bonding, the cuteness, the rainbows and the unicorns. Luckily, some seasoned mom friends will be helpful with tips about the weird stuff; breastfeeding conundrums, your recovering body, sex issues, and so on. For some of us, however, those adorable firsts and bonding experiences are overshadowed by dark days of serious hormonal imbalances and the onset of depression; and the breastfeeding, body and sex issues only serve in feeding the downward spiral. Worst off, because we’re expected by a polite society, that still stigmatizes mental health issues, to only feel blissful joy at this new life, shame sets in. Nothing fuels depression quite like a stinking pile of shame.

I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat things; there were times in those first few weeks of having a newborn that I’d find myself wishing the MAC truck barreling down the road would run in to my car, or that my heavy-footed loud neighbor would cause the roof to come crashing down on my head, or that somehow I’d find the nerve enough to swallow the entire bottle of Percocet that my doctors had prescribed me for the immense amount of physical pain I was in. I truly didn’t think I could do the whole mom-thing and survive. Having a screaming, unhappy, newborn (it’d be two months until we had her diagnosed with severe reflux which, once treated, changed things for the better) didn’t help my doubts or fears, and of course, I didn’t want to admit out loud to anyone that I didn’t think I could do it.

Long story short, there’s very little I remember from those dark survivalist newborn days other than forcing myself daily to repeat (in whispers to myself, of course) that I couldn’t let my daughter grow up having a mother who’d committed suicide. I knew that suicide was a selfish act and I survived one hour at a time until things started getting better. Forcing myself to get outside and walk; with or without the baby with me helped me to clear my mind, as did deciding not to feel guilty about asking all the grandparents to come and babysit so I could take a nap, go grocery shopping by myself, and even once, see a movie. But what helped me the most was being vulnerable and putting my ego aside by talking to my good friend Beth about how I felt. I honestly just needed someone who I trusted and respected and who’d survived the infant stages twice already, to tell me that yes, it was hard and sometimes terrible, but that above all, I was going to be okay. That it was okay to ask for help, or go see a counselor, or take antidepressants, because what my child needed most from me was for me to be healthy.

After that talk things slowly started getting better. There was no overnight miracle, but the relief of knowing I wasn’t alone was enough to help keep putting one foot in front of the other. Finally getting used to the rhythm of things, finding help for my daughters reflux, getting more sleep, and physically healing all helped as the weeks went by. I stopped feeling so alone, and was finally able to start enjoying this new little life; especially after she actually started sleeping and smiling more!

So how did I make “okayest” work? I stopped worrying about what everyone else thought and did what was right for me, with the encouragement of my husband, my friend Beth, and a few other friends who to this day may not know how much they helped me survive those first few months. “Okayest” is different for everyone, and new mommas (or seasoned ones who might have found their way to this post), please know that it’s okay to do what’s right for you and your family. Maybe it’s going to counseling, maybe it’s spending a kid-free weekend with your spouse, or going out with your girlfriends. Perhaps it’s just getting some fresh air, getting a babysitter or grandparent to watch your kids so you can get an extra hour of sleep, or making sure that when you’re feeling the most vulnerable that you’re not alone. And know that you are not alone in this struggle, there are other women out there than can empathize because they’ve survived this as well. I’m living, snarky, opinionated proof of that.

When Twins Are Both the Problem and the Solution

Some things are actually easier with twins.

IMG_6674(Well, making dinner isn’t. Mercy. And don’t look at my counters.)

When I found out I was carrying twins, mostly I only felt grief and fear. I grieved for some lost things. It might sound crazy to grieve about twin pregnancy after doing fertility treatments for six years, but I wasn’t alone. I found entire chapters devoted to grief in my twin pregnancy books. Parents of multiples actually go through the stages of grief, often in order. We have to deal with letting go of all of the preconceived notions we had. In my case, I grieved about:

1) Future adopted children that I can’t have: We would never be able to adopt again through our church agency because LDS Family Services only approves couples who have no more than two children.

2) My oldest son: While I can’t predict how he will feel, I never intended for him to be the only adopted child in our family. I didn’t want him to be the only one who didn’t biologically resemble us.

3) The ideal pregnancy I wouldn’t have: Having two babies in there at once is almost less…. intimate. At first, I couldn’t tell who was who; I couldn’t bond one-on-one. I couldn’t really even explain it to myself, but I felt kind of outnumbered. It made it harder to bond, feel cozy together, and to imagine the future. In addition, my pregnancy was a living hell that I would not wish on anyone. I won’t go into too many details here, but I can throw out a few hellish keywords: morning sickness until 17 weeks; contractions starting at 18 weeks; choking and almost fainting while lying down by 20 weeks; being unable to walk up stairs without crying by 24 weeks; outgrowing maternity clothes and going on bedrest by six months; heart enlargement, anemia, narcotics, and an inability to sleep, shower, or care for my bodily needs in the last month. Maybe I should write a blog post about that. Let me get on that.

4) The ideal birth that I wouldn’t have: I had to give up my ideas about birth, because I knew it just wouldn’t go the way I wanted or expected. I couldn’t choose which hospital, or which birthplan, or any of that stuff. But maybe that’s a relief. I saved a lot of time not doing any research!

Ten years ago, I was so much more of a know-it-all, or a “breastfeeding Nazi”, or a no-gray-area kind of person. I think having an adopted child really loosened me up. I couldn’t breastfeed, so obviously I had to let that go. (See Tina Fey’s thoughts on silencing the “Teat Nazis” with “Adoptive Mommies” *) We didn’t have time to choose the most perfectly-rated carseat or decorate a cute nursery. We just picked the lightest-weight carseat and threw our kid in the guest room.

And, then, with the twins, I felt a similar feeling. We may have had the luxury of time this time around, but it was not a normal pregnancy. The normal rules didn’t apply. I couldn’t exercise, I had to gain more weight, my body contracted and acted like it was two months ahead of where it was, and I had to give up any ideas about choice that other moms have about their pregnancy or birth. In a way, it was kind of relaxing. It actually didn’t make me sad or upset- it made me let go and quit worrying. Too many choices make us crazy. That’s why people like Costco. (When I ask my husband to bring home laundry detergent, there are a couple to choose from, so he always gets it right. I call this my Costco Theory. )

Besides the grief upon finding out I was carrying twins, I had so many fears. I guess I had “Infertility Aftermath”. People who have been through miscarriage or IVF go through a kind of PTSD, even if they do get pregnant. We worry more and can’t enjoy the pregnancy like other people. I had so much anxiety and fear from my last miscarriage that I felt cheated out of enjoying my pregnancy.

Basically, I was scared to lose them and scared to keep them.

Other fears that kept me awake at night included:

1) Taking care of the twins + a toddler alone at night and during the day after Mr. Okayest would go back to work
2) Having to birth one twin vaginally and one through c-section (yes, it happens!)
3) Failing at breastfeeding
4) Succeeding at breastfeeding
5) Not using migraine medication during breastfeeding too
6) Having 3 kids under 3 (shudder)
7) Having 3 kids in diapers – who does that? Honestly? People have a kid, he grows, they potty train him, then they have another. It’s the natural order of things. What the heck did we do?
8) Never being able to go to the store again. At least until R is old enough to walk beside the cart.
9) Buckling 3 kids into carseats
10) That Mr. Okayest and I might be mean to (or at least snippy with) each other for the next two years
11) My body! What lovely things were awaiting me? Saggy boobs, stretch marks, exhaustion, no libido, jelly belly, blah blah blah… ? And the guilt I felt about worrying about those things when Heavenly Father has affirmatively answered my prayers- oh my!
12) You know that moment when your kid is in bed and the toys are picked up and the dishes are done and the husband’s lunch is made, and you can flop down on the couch and watch whatever mind-numbing drivel you want to? Or even read a book? Would that ever happen again? It was my favorite part of the day, no matter how much I love my kids or how long I waited for them.
13) Having the house to myself while my toddler “naps”. I doubted I would ever get three kids to nap at the same time and ever get the house to myself again.
14) Dealing with migraines with three kids under three
15) Hmmm, what euphemism to use for “marital intimacy”….?
16) Bedrest! What if I needed bedrest? It was quite possible with twins! Who would take care of my toddler?
17) Mr. Okayest’s grad school. He planned to keep going, no breaks, even when they were born. How would I handle that? I worried not only about the looooong days when he would be gone from 5AM- 9PM, but also about all the homework and papers that would require me to care for the kids on my own.
18) Cleaning. How would I keep up with keeping the house? I was already struggling at keeping up with 4000 square feet and a toddler. How would I ever find time or energy with 3 kids? (Well, it’s pretty dirty now- who am I kidding?)

Those fears came true. Well, not #2. But most of the others came true. But you know what? Now that the babies are almost one year old, I am realizing that a lot of those fears came true, but only for a short time. It was temporary, and we survived. Actually, I would say we thrived. Yes, I didn’t sleep for months on end, and I wanted to die, but the babies learned to sleep through the night by six months. Yes, I had not a single moment to myself for months, but I eventually trained all three to nap at the same time in the afternoon by seven months. Yes, Mr. Okayest still goes to grad school, and it sucks, but we also have help from my mother-in-law and from a mother’s helper. Yes, I can’t grocery shop with three little ones who need to sit in the cart, but Mr. Okayest has learned how to grocery shop (and even use coupons!). Yes, Mr. Okayest and I snapped at each other more than we ever had, but we knew it was temporary and were welded together by what had happened to us. Yes, my house is filthy, but I clean it a little bit, once in a while.

Now that they are almost one year old, I am pondering all the positive blessings that twins bring. These bonus things were not on my mind during the terrifying months of bedrest and recovery and sleepless nights. But I see them now. Some of them are trivial and some of them are amazing.

1) I never had to refer to my in-utero offspring as “it” before I knew the sex. The pronoun “they” is so much better.
2) We picked one name before the birth (to appease curious family and friends) and announced the other name at the birth (to surprise family and friends).
3) They keep each other company. They are never alone; they are never friendless or bored.
4) They don’t cry at naptime or bedtime, unless one twin is late getting into his crib. They look for each other, sigh, and just go to sleep.
5) They can entertain each other for an hour in their cribs in the morning before I have to get them up. They wake each other up with a Pterodactyl Scream of Joy.
6) They teach each other things. Watching a mirror image of himself learning to eat, sit up, crawl, and stand must really change a baby’s brain chemistry. (The downside of that is the mischief that comes on quicker!) I really hope this will be helpful during potty training.
7) They don’t mind riding in the car. Our oldest son was miserable in the car, but maybe he would have been happier if he always had brothers to look at next to him in the backseat.
8) I never waste baby food, formula, or an avocado. As soon as I open something up or serve it, I am sure it will somehow get finished by someone. (Today, my three babies ate six eggs in one sitting.)
9) I can always buy diapers and wipes in bulk to “save” money.
10) People take pity on us and donate far more clothing, toys, and gear because we have so many little ones (I think).

Forgive me for so much list-making, but I am usually typing while someone cries. I can’t always organize my thoughts.

Anyway, Okayest Mom has learned a thing or two since the terrifying moment when the doctor said, “What would you say if I told you it was twins?” I was sad; I was scared. The books told me to do it one way, but I forged my own path and became an atypical twin mom. I try to focus on the joyful moments, even if I don’t feel giddy all day long. And I am realizing that having a toddler and babies at the same time might be divinely inspired: a toddler wants nothing more than someone to watch him do weird repetitive things all day long, while babies want nothing more than for someone to do weird repetitive things in front of them all day long. I win.

***

*“Teat Nazis” , from Tina Fey’s Bossypants

These are the women who not only brag endlessly about how much their five year old still loves breast milk, but they also grill you about your choices. You can recognize the TNs by their hand-carved daggers:

“Are you breast-feeding? Isn’t it amazing? I really think it’s how I lost the weight so easily. Did you have a vaginal birth? I went natural and I didn’t even tear. Are you back at work already? Do you feel weird about going back to work? I just love my baby so much I can’t imagine going back to work yet. You’re not nursing? She’s only fifteen months; you should try again!”

Now, let me be clear; millions of women around the world nurse their children beautifully for years without giving anybody else a hard time about it. Teat Nazis are a solely western upper-middle-class phenomenon occurring when highly ambitious women experience deprivation from outside modes of achievement. Their highest infestation pockets are in Brooklyn and Hollywood.

If you are confronted by a TN, you have two options. One, when they ask if you’re breast-feeding, you can smile and say, “Yes. It’s amazing.” (You owe it to your baby to lie.) Or you can go for the kill. The only people who can shame the Teat Nazis are the Adoptive Mommies. If you have a friend who has an adopted child, especially one from another country, bring him or her around, because they make the Teat Nazis’ brains short-circuit: “How can I… feel superior… you… bigger sacrifice… can’t judge…” and…they crumple to the ground and disappear.

Why I Hate My La Leche League Group… And Why I Stay

breasfeeding portrait

(what I wished breastfeeding looked like every day)

I joined a La Leche League for Multiples support group when I was pregnant with my twins. I hate it. And yet I continue to stay. Why? I stay because I seem to be the only one who says, “Don’t worry. Just do what works for you and your family!” to the poor new moms who are consumed with worry and guilt and stress. The rest of the members seem to piledrive them into ground with the “Crying-It-Out Makes You the Devil” and “Not-Tandem-Nursing Makes you a Terrorist”.

Breastfeeding can have some weird challenges. My mom says, “I don’t know what the big deal is. You stick them on the boob and they eat.” But there are a thousand things that complicate nursing – latching problems, NICU stays, tongue-ties, engorgement, mastitis, plugged ducts, low milk production. In my case, what happened to get in the way of nursing was almost dying. I needed two blood transfusions , which messed with my pituitary glands, and, therefore, my milk production.  My milk finally came in on the tenth or eleventh day, which is later than any lactation consultant ever heard. To complicate matters, I was sedated in the ICU for the first 48 hours after the birth and had one baby in the NICU. I spent a week total in the hospital, and was mostly unable to care for my babies during that time. (You can read more about my birth story here.)

Multiples further complicate the breastfeeding. How do you feed two babies at once? How do you make enough milk for two? How do you physically maneuver in the middle of the night alone? I read a lot of books about all that during my pregnancy and kind of just adopted a wait-and-see approach. I joined an online La Leche League for Multiples support group, to get ideas and friends in place before I had any problems.

If I had given birth in my twenties, I might have been one of these LLL know-it-alls. I saw the world as a little more black and white back then. I assumed I would get pregnant when I wanted and nurse how I wanted. Ha! I had a more one-size-fits-all approach to the world. Now that I am well into my thirties, and have made God laugh with all my plans, I know that everyone deals with problems we can’t see. I would never assume that I can predict my future or my reaction to problems in my future. I especially would never assume that I know what is best for another nursing mother and her family.

So where the heck do these LLL members get off?!

I would like to point out that I am not including the leaders of the LLL in my rant. The leaders – professional lactation consultants – have all been well-trained and reasonable. They have supported any of my questions, problems, and solutions. I am specifically complaining about when a member posts a question for the group and the members all leap on top of her.

I absolutely, 100%, completely, wholly, wholeheartedly HATED tandem nursing. I most certainly had to supplement my twins’ breastmilk with formula. I most certainly had to give them bottles. I most certainly had them cry-it-out when the twins were ready – and when I was about to stab someone with a fork or get really really sick from not sleeping. (Apparently, two or three hours of sleep for seven months was my limit.) I most certainly was happy to stop nursing at seven months. I had a challenging (and sometimes very sad) two-year-old who seemed to know instinctively that breastfeeding was more intimate than bottles – and hated it. I also dealt with the sorrow of not nursing him, since he came to me through adoption.

All of these things, apparently, have made me a complete rebel in my LLL group. However, I have NO GUILT for feeling or doing any of these things. (Thank goodness for my church sisters and my friends!) Only me and Mr. Okayest know what is best for our family.

Today, a worried mom posted on my LLL group that her pediatrician, who is also a twin mom, suggested that she stop feeding her 6-month-old twins in the middle of the night. Although she said she loved the idea of more sleep, she was unsure of what to do. Many members immediately posted things about  how crying-it-out should never, ever, be done under any circumstances and that it raises babies’ cortisol levels. First of all, these women are not doctors. They are just moms! How dare they contradict a doctor before they have all the facts? Second of all, this mom was truly hurting and struggling with her decision, and, if she were to choose to cry-it-out, now she would have more guilt piled on top of her guilt. I simply added to the commotion that we cried it out, it worked for us, and to just do what works for her and her family.

A few day ago, a worried mom asked the LLL group what she could do to increase her supply. She was exclusively pumping, not putting the babies to breast, because her babies had had an extended NICU stay. The members immediately criticized her for not putting the babies to the breast because, in their opinion, it was the only way to increase your milk. She eventually replied to all the comments that people might look down on her because she is a nurse and has to pump to get through her 12-hour shifts at work. How horrible is that?! A new mom is already struggling with the guilt of pumping, babies in the NICU, low milk production, and going back to work – and these women made it worse! She was apologizing for having to pump! WTHeck?! I chimed in to say that taking fenugreek worked for me, and that no one should ever make her feel badly about her decisions and that she should do what is right for her and her family.

I could go on and on with stories like this. Mr. Okayest is used to saying, “Why don’t you just leave that group?” after every time I exclaim with frustration at the comments. It’s because someone has to tell a mom to just do what is right for her and her family.

Dang.

breastfeeding(what breastfeeding really looked like every day)

19 Things That Help a New Mom (And I Should Know!)

Clueless about how to help? Here you go.

After months on “modified bedrest” with a high-risk twin pregnancy and a 2-year-old, then almost dying during birth, and then spending a month learning to walk again and get my strength back, I learned a thing or two about service. Other people took over my life for me. They cared for my bodily needs, the needs of my toddler, the needs of my home, and the needs of my new babies. My husband cared for me with the strength of an army, but it wasn’t enough, between working full-time and going to grad school. So another army came. Several people have asked me for a list of things that would be helpful for a new mom, and, dang, I should know!

19 Things That Help a New Mom – Don’t ask! Just do!

1)      Come over, but call first. Call the husband if you have to. Ask them to tell you honestly if they are overwhelmed with visitors.

2)      If they are too tired for visitors, ask if you can take the older child away for a lunch date or a playground date for an hour or two.  I guarantee he hasn’t had enough attention or exercise lately.

3)      Arrive in your jammies, with no makeup, and your hair in a scrunchi, so momma won’t feel like such a slob.

4)      Bring food. Preferably:

  1.  Fresh veggies or fruit that are already washed and cut, or
  2. A dinner that can go in the freezer if someone already brought dinner

5)      If there is an older child, pay attention to him first. Maybe bring him a trinket. Nothing fancy. A crazy straw. A cool leaf. A matchbox car.

6)      Take out the trash.

7)      Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a nap. Insist again.

8)      Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a shower. Insist again.

9)      Ask her how her pain is. Let her cry.

10)   If she’s feeling down, or doesn’t want to talk, just sit with her. Maybe just watch TV together.

11)   Load or unload the dishwasher. Wash the dishes. Don’t ask. Just do it.

12)   ASK if you can throw in a load of laundry. Unlike dishes, laundry is a little personal and momma may not want you to wash her afterbirth-y undies.

13)   Fold any laundry you can possibly find.

14)   Vacuum.

15)   Quietly wipe down the bathroom counter and toilet seat when you’re in there. Use a baby wipe if you have to.  Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just do it.

16)   Bring in the trash can and the mail.

17)   If they have a (nice) dog, ask if you can take her for a walk. I guarantee she hasn’t had enough exercise lately.

18)   If the mom has recovered enough, ask if she’d like you to help take her and the baby on a walk. I can guarantee that she and the baby haven’t had enough fresh air. The sunshine will help her mood improve and help the baby sleep better at night.

19)   Don’t ask  “Do you need anything?”   Instead, when you are on your way to the grocery store or Target, call and say, “I am on my way to the grocery store or Target. What can I bring you? Diapers? Wipes? Dog food? Hemorrhoid cream?” Ask again. Insist that you are going anyway. Be specific.

Someone did each of these things for me at some point. No one has to do ALL these things- just pick something! Each person has her own strengths. My mother-in-law always brought fresh fruit – and washed and cut it and fed it to my toddler. She always sent me upstairs for a nap. My mother always did my dishes and my laundry. She would bring ingredients for a meal, and then make it here, while enlisting the help of my son. My father-in-law always took my son to the playground or out to lunch. He also always brought in the trash can and the mail and fixed anything he could find. My church friends always brought dinner – in an orderly fashion, on a schedule, for five weeks. When nursing was slow-going at first, they poked and prodded my boobs, checked my latch, and brought fenugreek pills and tea. (Also, during the bedrest, my church sisters made a schedule of who cared for my son each day.) My cousin Emily redirected my toddler’s tantrums with fun and laughter. She also cut all 60 of my childrens’ nails while I was in the shower once! My Aunt Susan cleaned all my bathrooms, vacuumed, mopped, and even washed my kitchen trash can! My Aunt Cindi provided me the valuable service of letting me cry. She also just sat and watched TV with me while we held babies and laughed until my stitches almost burst. Each of those things was exactly what I needed at that time.

I never expected (or wanted) any one person to act like any other person when providing service to me. All together, they covered everything. The list of people who helped me is enormous, and I can’t name them all. I am indebted to every one of them. They volunteered their time – including, in some cases, time off work without pay, time away from a dying husband, and time away from their own children – to help me literally get on my feet again. I cannot express the love I have for them all. They have taught me how to help others in the future.

blessing day(the babies’ blessing day, 2 months old, with just a fraction of the people who helped us…)