Monday, April 14, 2014

Letters from the Twin Trenches: From one M.o.M to Another (One Month in)

Back story to our "Letters from the Twin Trenches" series...When we were in the BVI's we met up with some blog followers.  They were young, fun and we enjoyed hanging out with them (and the left over provisions they gave us from their charter when they flew home the next day).  Fast forward to months later when I announced our twin pregnancy on the blog...  Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Kimberly telling me that she, too, was pregnant with twins and only a week ahead of me.  "Must have been something in those painkillers!" she wrote... And so began a pretty incredible and prolific E-pal friendship chronicling our respective pregnancies and birth stories that continues to this day.  Her beautiful fraternal twin girls were born (full term) two weeks before ours and I have to tell you, sharing our (eerily similar) journeys via email has been very cathartic for me.  Solidarity.  If there is one thing you need as a parent of twins it's community.  We need to know we are not alone when it seems our sanity is teetering on the brink, which it will do from time to time when there are two newborns in the house.  Particularly if those newborns are screaming in unison.  These are some letters to her...they tell it like it is.  The good, the bad, the ugly...
Friend! 
I have been meaning to write you for DAYS and DAYS....I was having withdrawal symptoms but writing my response to the Rebel Heart drama took up all my bandwidth...thank you for the support!  And don't you worry about exposing your girls to the world, you and Michael are intelligent, worldly and fantastic people who will no doubt find a way to show them a life less ordinary...baby steps my friend.  Rome was not built in a day.
So I joined some twin Facebook groups and I read this quote yesterday that I am now convinced sums up life with multiples: "it gets easier...then harder....then easier...then harder.  Like a constant ebb and flow" (I added the ebb and flow part for a bit of poetic license).  I mean, is that true or is that true?!  I, too, now rate my nights and days by the whole "drive a van into the ocean" metaphor (as inappropriate as it may be, it works) and, while we seem to be having those moments less and less as we "find our groove" (laughable phrase, I know), those run-out-of-the-house-pulling-our-hair-out moments are there...my God are they there.  In fact, every night between 6-9 pm it's a pretty good bet that it will be a total shit show up in here.  Yes, I am talking about the dreaded "witching hour" (though with two - it's hours, plural).  The girls get all possessed split-pea-soup-style and the only thing that will calm them is the boob or wearing them and walking around the block, and even those things don't always do the trick.  It's a constant juggling act.  I pity any fool who sees me during those hours because I'm a raving lunatic (thank God for wine) and probably look slightly possessed myself.  Nights, thank heavens are going well (well, as good as can be expected while sleeping propped up in the center of the bed, surrounded by my nursing pillow and flanked by a baby on my left and right.  Scott now sleeps on the floor - his choice - because space in our double bed has been severely compromised by this arrangement).  We are usually melt-down free between the hours of 9pm and 6am - though it's still a crap shoot from time to time.  It's amazing what a bad fart can do to the disposition of a newborn.  Yowsas.  But we're managing and doing - dare I say - pretty well.  If it weren't for baby wearing and the Moby wrap though, I would be singing a different tune.  I am a total default attachment parent in that these babies are attached to me all. the. time.  As much as I love it though, I do fear that I will be a full inch shorter by their first birthday.  Toting around eighteen pounds of baby is nothing to shake a stick at.
Mira is fine, she will sleep happily in the rock-n-play without me, but Haven has now been nicknamed "Haven the handful" (a stark contrast to "Mellow Mira").  I know, I know...we're not supposed to "label" our twins because then they will 'live up to the labels'...blah blah blah.  But Haven is definitely the needier of the two.  As we near the six week mark I hope we see her fussiness subside, but this child has gusto and has the whole "squeaky wheel" thing down pat.  I swore I wouldn't compare my twins but it's almost impossible not to from time to time, especially when one is so content and so mellow and the other....isn't.  Show me a twin mom who hasn't done this at some point and I will show you a liar.  I'm just really, really grateful that both are not so needy/fussy, otherwise I fear I'd be residing in a padded cell.
Speaking of Haven, she's totally the "come from behind" girl.  In the womb she was baby "B" for the entire pregnancy, then wriggled her way to the "A" position in the final inning (much to the shock of my doctors, apparently switching position that late in the game is rare).  She was the smaller of the two and now outweighs Mira by a whole pound, and has already mastered rolling over and  - good grief - her neck control?   Off the charts.  The child is a beast.  She's going places I tell you.  Amazing how different they are, even down to bowel movements.   Yes, bowel movements.  Haven poops with just about every feeding and Mira?  Mira poops once a week, I shit you not (whoops, no pun intended!!). We were super nervous about this fact but the pediatrician assured us it was totally normal and said we are a perfect study in "fraternal twins and the wide ranges of normal".  I was skeptical but had to take her word for it.  So we waited, tentatively opening each diaper with the hopes of finding poop (I know, the things that excite us now, right?).  Mira finally had a blow-out this morning which, of course, resulted in the exuberant announcement "She pooped!" and was reason to celebrate over here.  We were such proud parents of that poop.  But, yeah...we are a real study in the beauty and bafflement that is fraternal twins.  Really insane.
What else?  Oh...I'm getting out every day by myself with all THREE kids, can you believe it?  I had a total "I'm a BOSS mom" moment the other day walking to the grocery story with the twins in the Moby Wrap and Isla in the BOB stroller.  People were gawking and staring and smiling and I was all "Oh yeah, I'm a super mom!! Ogle away!!" totally basked in the glory and held my head high.  Of course two hours later it all fell apart with screaming babies, blow-outs and puke in my hair, but whatever...I will take my 15 minutes of awesomeness when I can.  But you are so right - getting outside in the sun makes the world of difference.  It's amazing.  Thank GOD winter is over, although the news just threatened snow tonight.  I flicked off the weather woman, and in some weird way I felt better. 
Okay, gotta run. Stay strong mama - you are doing awesome and your emails are always always a pleasure and crack me up.  Sorry I have been such a stranger. 
OH - one more thing...I put on a cute outfit today.  Boot cut jeans, ankle boots, a nursing camisole, and a fitted jacket with a cute scarf....and that's not all! I currently have no puke on me and I might just go to the grocery store in a bit just to show off.  Have you noticed how going out with them sometimes makes you feel better in that "I'm a 'B' list celebrity" kind of way? HA!
xox
Brittany

PS.  Attaching some of the professional pics my SIL took of the girls, as well as my "1 month" pics.  Also one of Isla walking her "twins".  She kills me with her sweetness. 
Big thanks to Bright Eye Photography for these professional pictures of our girls! 

Haven Jane
Mira Ann
Our slumbering girls.  The fact that they remained sleeping during photo shoot might qualify as a miracle.



Love the blocks?  Me too.  Get them at bbblocks.com.  Best shower gift ever.
To read more "Letters from the Trenches" or other articles about our experiences with twins, please visit our TWINSANITY page.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Baby On Board: Cruising with Kids and Dangerous Parenting

By now you have heard of the unfortunate events surrounding the rescue of Rebel Heart and her crew.  It has, quite literally, exploded into a media firestorm with just about every news source, local and international, covering it.  I have absolutely zero interest in recounting the story of my online friend and fellow boat-mama, Charlotte, nor do I feel like speculating on what went right or wrong but one thing I have noticed following this story is the fact that it has morphed from a "rescue at sea" saga into a pretty ferocious debate on parenting.

I have already vehemently defended our lifestyle on this blog before, and I have also learned that arguing with ignorant, closed minds is pointless.  But what I would like to say to the many people out there who are not closed-minded but simply uninformed, is to look before you leap onto this bandwagon of judgement and hatred because there is another side to this story...

Thousands of children live very happy, healthy lives on boats with their parents. For many years before the Kaufmans, and for many years to come, families with children (yes, even babies) have embarked on journeys across the worlds oceans without incident.  We don't hear these stories of course, because they are not what make headlines...No, instead we hear of those that fail, because those are the stories the masses want to hear.  Torre DeRoche, one of my favorite bloggers and author of the fantastic memoir, Love with a Chance of Drowning, said it best in her response to media frenzy:
All the people who never had the courage to live their dreams and do something meaningful and inspired with their lives are having a field day right now. Charlotte dared to do something amazing with her family, which evokes furious jealousy in those who are committed to living out fear-ridden and inane existences. But oh how delicious it feels to those types when the dreamers fall down. "See?" they say. "The easy and mediocre choices we made were the right ones". - Torre DeRoche
As someone who spent a significant amount of time living on a boat raising a baby, I feel compelled to show that boating with a child (or children) is not, despite what the masses may believe, inherently dangerous, selfish or irresponsible.  In fact, many of us who sail with our babies are incredibly capable, self-sufficient and mindful parents.  Before we embarked with Isla, Scott and I (having cruised as a couple for almost 2 years prior) had a very good idea of what to expect from a life at sea with a little one and we took what we saw as the necessary precautions:  we bought a boat that was easy to single-hand, we made the choice to stay "coastal" and "island hop", and invested in various safety measures (from life line netting to infant antibiotics) to ensure our baby would be safe.  Both of my pregnancies were boat pregnancies and we even cruised right up until the final trimester of my twin pregnancy.  Month after ballooning month passed without incident or complication but had something gone wrong with me or our babies during that time, no doubt I would have been blasted for my selfishness and carelessness instead of celebrated for being the adventuring mama I was.  I took calculated risks by staying on our boat in the islands during that time and I had luck on my side.  It's the type of gamble all of us as make on a daily basis whether we take our kids sailing or strap them into carseats.

I don't think too many people can argue with my belief that the most important thing we as parents can give our children - particularly from the ages of zero to three - is that of our time.  There's plenty of scientific data to back this up. We, along with the Kaufmans and all the other cruising families out there, found a lifestyle that gives this to our children in spades.  Furthermore, our kids spend almost all of their waking hours out in nature, and again - there are loads of scientific articles stating what a profoundly positive effect that has on a child's development. Living on a boat with a baby is certainly not for everyone, but can be an incredibly rewarding way to raise a child and there is no one who will persuade me otherwise. I have seen first hand the results. It's incredible and beautiful and amazing. Of course, it is not without challenges and risks, but raising children - be it on land or sea - is inherently demanding and risky.  I feel very lucky to have been able to live this way, and I know every other cruiser feels equally privileged.  We adventures stand united on this front, and as my friend Behan said so eloquently"Irresponsible? Crazy? If that’s the bucket we get tossed in, well, I’m proud to be a member of the tribe that’s chosen to raise children differently."  Amen.

We all take risks every single day, whether we know it or not.  Bad things happen that are out of our control on land and at sea.  No one is immune.  We cruisers choose not to live in constant fear over what "could" happen and instead embrace life as an adventure to behold.  Fellow cruiser, freelance writer and boat mama, Diane Selkirk, wrote an excellent piece entitled Raising a Child Dangerously in an effort to restore a little balance to the reporting of the Rebel Heart saga.  Her words are powerful: "I’m not going to lie: Our lifestyle comes with risk. There are storms at sea, illnesses in remote locations, white-knuckle moments, and near misses... But to me, the potential payoff has always outweighed the risk."  The bottom line is this: we all do our best as parents with what we are given.  None of us are intentionally putting our children in harms way, though some of us might be more comfortable living outside the box than others.  But I ask you, who do you think is more at "risk": the solitary child sitting in front of the television eating fast food and playing video games all day or the child who is spending almost every waking hour with one or both parents, outside in nature, with the opportunity to live differently and see the world?

I know my answer.

Sail on, Rebel Heart, sail on.

To read more about our experience boating with a baby, please visit our page Baby on Board

If you are a Rebel Heart sympathizer and would like to help, please consider donating to the fundraising page that has been set up by friends.  Thank you.

Enjoy this short video compiled of images of hundreds of boat kids from all over the world put together by a fellow boat mom in support of Rebel Heart.  This is our tribe:

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Letters From the Twin Trenches: From One M.o.M. to Another

When we were in the BVI's we met up with some blog followers.  They were young, fun and we enjoyed hanging out with them (and the left over provisions they gave us from their charter when they flew home the next day).  Fast forward to months later when I announced our twin pregnancy on the blog...  Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Kimberly telling me that she, too, was pregnant with twins and only a week ahead of me.  "Must have been something in those painkillers!" she wrote, referencing the alcoholic beverage made famous on Jost van Dyke... And so began a pretty incredible and prolific pen-pal friendship chronicling our respective pregnancies and birth stories that continues to this day.  Her beautiful fraternal twin girls were born (full term) a week before ours and I have to tell you, sharing our (eerily similar) journeys via email has been very cathartic for me.  Solidarity.  If there is one thing you need as a parent of twins it's community.  We need to know we are not alone when it seems our sanity is teetering on the brink, which it will do from time to time when there are two newborns in the house.  Particularly if those newborns are screaming in unison.  

I wanted to write a pithy blog post yesterday and update you all on what's been going on but struggled with what to write and how to start it.  So instead, I stepped away from the blog and replied to Kimberly's most recent email.  Once I hit send I thought, "Heck! Why not post my reply to her on the blog?" It tells it like it is (good, bad and ugly) and, let's face it, I'm all about efficiency these days.  If I can kill two (or more) birds with one stone, well, I will...so, with Kimberly's blessing, here it is...  I've edited and added few bits here and there, but this is the gist of it:

First of all, you look great.  Amazing actually.  I know you are wearing the Moby wrap in that picture (high five!!) but, honestly, you look thin and cute and not at all like a zombie.  As for me - do not be misled, I do not look good in a bikini YET - but there is hope (like you, I have no stretch marks or "twin skin"- hooray!), and I can cling to hope.  When I put on normal clothes, however, I feel chunky, frumpy and blah.  Not good for moral when you have a decent sized vanity streak like I do.  I just need to be patient I guess, a trait that I was not naturally blessed with but one that motherhood has planted in me - and one that twin motherhood has fertilized Monsanto-style.  I am impressed you went sailing. I barely get outside, but that is mostly due to the fact that this winter will Not. Let. Go.  I feel your concern about the whole 'falling in while baby-wearing' thing, but I honestly felt safer with Isla on me rather than in a life jacket in the cockpit or something when she was a newborn, and she was much, much happier that way as well (fyi, tiny babies, in our experience, do NOT enjoy life jackets!). 
So good to hear from you.  When your email came in I was literally *just* about to write you.  Breath of fresh air!!  Relieved to hear we are going through similar things.  Last night I was at wits end.  Dropping curse words all over the place, suuuuper frustrated and doing the whole "why me?" thing in my head...Mira (surprise!) was the one last night; she cried non-stop for about four hours.  Simply could not be consoled.  She has awful gas and it was totally heartbreaking and trying my sanity.  As soon as we'd get her calm, Haven would pipe up.  It was non-stop mayhem between 6pm and 11pm.  Scott and I were totally wrecked.  I swear if I'd had a time machine between those hours I would have hopped in that sucker and not gotten pregnant when we did.  It's nights like last night that make me want to drop kick anyone who complains about the stress of one newborn child.  I mean, are you joking?  I cannot stop thinking of how much easier this would be if it were a singleton...and again, I know that is super unproductive, inappropriate and totally unfair but...well, yeah.  I absolutely love our girls but this whole two newborns at once is a total roller coaster.  One day I am on top of it and feel great, the next I am looking for the "return to sender" label.  Fun times.  
During the madness, I made the colossal mistake of googling "when will twins get easier?" (similar to Googling "twin skin" while pregnant.  Do. Not. Do. It.) Imagine my horror upon finding forum after forum full of people who lament, "My twins are nine and worse than ever!! Help me!!" or "It NEVER gets easier, only harder with each passing stage!" and the like...Not to mention the fact that a family friend, who has twin granddaughters comes over and tells me, "Oh, when they are three life gets so much better!" I realize she's trying to be helpful and positive but I'm thinking to myself, "You do realize you told me I have to wait THREE YEARS for life to get better, right?!" Haha...I laugh though.  Thank god for a sense of humor.   
Luckily I stopped reading and I have a feeling once we pass this itty bitty newborn stage (aka "the fourth trimester") and our girls get a bit more independent (i.e. can sleep without physically touching me) and their digestive systems mature a little more (i.e. less painful gas) things will get much, much easier.  Hell, I don't even care about sleeping through the night at this point (three hour chunks is actually totally do-able for me) - but a couple consecutive hours not sleeping sitting up would be heaven right now (so funny you sleep the same way - thought I was nutso and the only one!)?  Oh, perspective.  It's the little things over here.
Today has been so much better and I feel human and sane again.  You know how it goes.  And actually Haven and Mira are sleeping soundly not on me right now and have been for 30+ minutes which is quite the milestone.  We started giving them probiotics to help with the crying/colic so I am hoping this is part of the issue (digestion/gas/reflux) and we're on track to happier, more comfortable babies.  But we shall see.  
Okay.  That is all for now.  The sun is actually out today and it is above 30 degrees so I am going to take the girls on a walk! Yay me!  I think a daily outing; be it to the park or down the aisles of a grocery store - is necessary for my sanity to feel human and productive.  Days I get out are a lot better than the ones where I feel a slave to the couch.  Oh - and days when Dancing with the Stars is on are always good.  Man, I love that show.
Hugs,
Brittany  
Our sleeping arrangement.  It's really kind of great, actually.
Our beauties.  Wide-eyed Haven on the left, mellow Mira on the right.  Love bugs.
The tandem breastfeeding position with my twin nursing pillow.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday to Our Isla

Today our sweet baby Isla turns two.  Can you believe it?  TWO!!  It's incredible how fast this year has flown by.   It seems like yesterday we were on the beach in the Bahamas celebrating her first.   I look at her now, especially in contrast to her itty bitty sisters and she looks so big.  So grown up.  Sometime in the past year she stopped being a baby and turned into a little girl.  I have no idea when it happened but it hit me the other day watching her play with her toys and sing to herself.  She seemed so independent, so...capable.

I absolutely love this age.  If I could bottle her up and keep her like this forever, I would be so tempted to do it.  The cuteness knows no bounds.  Her personality is in full-bloom, she's learning new things every day, talking up a storm, soaking up the world around her like a little sponge and cracking us up on a daily basis.

Isla is joy personified.  Literally. Walking, talking, giggling, cuddling, kissing and loving joy.  She is such a happy little person - I just hope and pray that we can maintain the level of happiness and self-confidence she possesses now for many more years to come.  She loves to laugh with gusto and she is a total sweetheart - so loving, gentle and kind.  What can I say?  She's awesome, and anyone who meets her agrees.  How my love continues to grow for her I have no clue (because is it possible to love her more?!) but it does.  Every day.  Amazing.

We had a little birthday party over the weekend for her.  Her best friend and cousin, Bryn, came over along with my brother and his wife - and we celebrated along with my sister, my mom and my dad.  Simple and perfect.  We decorated in a Minnie Mouse motif and daddy made her a Mickey Mouse birthday cake.  It looked pretty perfect, except when we tasted it we discovered he used vegetable oil that expired in 2009 which, in case you didn't know, makes a cake taste exactly like play-dough.  Whoopsie.  She got a few presents and upon opening each exclaimed "Oh my gosh, I don't believe it!"  Where she got that one we have no clue, but it was pretty hysterical.  We played pin the tail on the donkey, danced to her favorite CD and all in all, it was a pretty awesome second birthday.  She was stoked.

Happy birthday to the light of our lives.  Isla, you are SO loved.  You have no idea.
Turns out you cannot make your cake and eat it too (when it's made with rancid veggie oil)
Lots of laughs with this old classic! 
Isla and her cousin (and best pal) Bryn
Her new tricycle!
Sidewalk Chalk!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Notes from the Twin Trenches: Three Weeks In

Okay, so this whole "twin" thing isn't so bad.  We're finding our groove as a family o' five and I can actually come up for air (and put my boobs away) for periods of time here and there.  We're getting out of the house a bit more (I got my nails done and even got a facial this week!), the girls are sleeping longer stretches at night (three to four hours which, to me, is totally do-able; three hour watches is what we are used to on our boat), and I have not shed a tear of desperation in over a week.  These are all things to celebrate, people.  Of course, because I have actually written the words "finding our groove" everything is going to go haywire again but, whatever, we need to appreciate our victories over here while we can because with three kids, everything can go pear-shaped in an instant.

My two obsessions at the moment are the ERGObaby Performance Baby Carrier with infant insert and the clothing brand Kickee Pants.  I'll go over each to explain*.

We used the Ergo baby carrier with Isla a ton on the boat, it was infinitely more useful and more convenient to us than a stroller.  As most of you know, I started "wearing" the girls in a Moby wrap (which I still love) but I found it slightly impractical for two, not to mention the fact that wearing two babies at once will only be possible for a few more weeks before it renders me a Quasimodo-style hunchback.  So I ordered another Ergo carrier and Scott found a couple infant inserts on craigslist.  Now, we can comfortably and easily wear one baby at a time, or we can wear one baby each at once and still be hands-free to cook, clean or play with Isla.  The Ergo is much easier to get on than the Moby Wrap and the little infant inserts make nice, cozy cocoons to put the babies down in once they are settled and sleeping.  We've been using the heck out of our two carriers.  For us, they are a twin must have.  But again, I am a huge proponent of baby wearing, which you may or may not be.

My other (slightly impractical) obsession is the super soft, super adorable clothing brand Kickee Pants.  One of my best friends turned me onto this clothing line and I love it.  Unfortunately, they are pretty costly because they use only the best materials (eco-friendly bamboo) which result in the softest, coziest and most breathable baby clothes I have ever found.  So far, these are the only newborn outfits that our girls are not completely swimming in.  If you are looking for a sweet baby gift or want to splurge on an outfit or two for your little one - check them out.  I found some deals online and our girls are living in comfy Kickee pants these days.

Aside from breastfeeding twins (which is a considerable time suck...pun intended) I have also been working really hard tweaking the heck our of this blog.  You've probably already noticed the re-design, but I'd also like to invite you all to check out our new "pages" as well because I left no stone unturned in this design process.  Check out our new About page for our general story.  Or maybe you're new and want to see where we've been - if so, check out our Route page.  In addition, you can now find all our information regarding raising a baby on a boat on our Baby on Board page as well as answers to the more general questions we get on our FAQ's page.  I also answer the financial questions we typically get on our Cruising Kitty page, which includes other resources on cruising costs and budgets you might find helpful and I've re-formatted and added new pictures to our Boat page.  You can read about our latest additions on our newly designed Crew page and I have added a Twinsanity page which is pretty self explanatory since we have a whole new audience on that front.  I'll be adding more in the days and weeks to come as we negotiate the madness (and fun) of having twins.

So there we have it.  While my posts are more sporadic, rest assured we're doing great.  We manage to smile and laugh daily and we haven't left a stray baby anywhere yet.  It's "one day at a time" over here and we are totally okay with that.

Yikes! Babies are screaming and they need the boobs....gotta run!
Haven and Mira.  3 weeks young and rocking Kickee pants!
* We have no affiliation with Ergo or Kickee pants.  I just genuinely love both products.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Breastfeeding Twins: A Delicate Balance

Yesterday marked the first "official" day of spring.  Which also meant, as Scott pointed out, that yesterday was the spring equinox meaning the Earth's axis is "just so" and the suns rays are hitting the equator in such a way that you can easily balance an egg on a table...or something.  Of course we had to see this for ourselves and, whaddayaknow?  He was right.  Except he was not (which he admitted after the fact), the whole egg on the table thing is a myth - it's no easier to balance an egg on a table on the equinox as it is any other day - but still, it looks pretty cool to see an egg balancing on a table.

Speaking of balance, I have a baby for each boob.  How's that for balance?  All joking aside, I do have to say I am pretty proud of the fact that breastfeeding two little people is going so well (for now).  I'm not out of the woods yet, but my milk supply has met the demand and Haven and Mira are gaining weight as they should.  Don't get me wrong, breastfeeding two at once is not easy, is a colossal commitment and there have definitely been moments where I wondered "why am I doing this?" But then I focus on my goals and remember why I made this choice. (For mothers who choose to formula feed whether by choice or necessity,  fear not - here's a great account from one twin mom and her journey, for a different perspective).

I absolutely loved breastfeeding Isla and did so for sixteen months (stopping only when we discovered I was pregnant with twins).  In my experience, it's an amazing mother/baby bonding exercise and - let's be honest - you cannot beat the calorie burning factor (I have already shed 30 of the 50 pounds I gained) and, hey, it sure is nice to be able to fill out a top for a change.  Oh yeah, and it's really, really good for our babies.

So what does it take to establish breastfeeding for twins in the early weeks post delivery?  Well, I am no expert but have been successful thus far.  Aside from a lot of dedication and patience, here is what has worked for me and my girls:
  1. Initiate breastfeeding as quickly after the birth as possible.  I began nursing Haven and Mira within an hour of their delivery.  Of course there are always situations that arise which might prevent this from happening, but if you can - try to nurse your babies within three hours of birth.  They say the most important time to establish breastfeeding and milk supply are the first seventy-two hours after delivery, so do what you can to set that off on the right foot (that includes pumping if your babies are in the NICU).
  2. Room in with the baby at the hospital.  Again, this might not be possible for NICU babies (and that is okay, there are many, many success stories of women successfully breastfeeding NICU twins) but if you can, room in with the baby and do not opt to have the nurses take them to he nursery overnight.  As mentioned, the first seventy-two hours are critical to successful nursing and having your babies at your side, ready to nurse on demand (or every two hours at least) will help to establish that and greatly increase your chances for success.
  3. Begin tandem breastfeeding right from the start.  I was very fortunate  to give birth in a very pro-breastfeeding hospital.  Unless you tell them otherwise, it is assumed you will breastfeed and they do not supplement with formula, give pacifiers and lactation consultants are available at your disposal.  My lactation consultant advised I start tandem nursing from the get-go and I am thankful for it.  Now, my girls feed at the same time almost every time.  If only one wakes up hungry, I wake the other and feed them together.  This is a humongous time and sanity saver.
  4. Invest in a good twin nursing pillow.  I have the Double Blessing Nursing Pillow and it is, hands down, a lifesaver for me.  I brought it to the hospital with me as well and it makes positioning the babies and nursing two at once so much easier. (Side note: I nurse Haven and Mira with the football hold).
  5. Start tracking feedings in a journal.  I bought one similar to this one, but really - you can just create your own in a notebook or excel spreadsheet.  Whatever you do - keep track of each individual baby's feedings, pees and poops and when they sleep and wake.  This has been so helpful for me, especially for keeping track of which baby was on what boob, when (I switch them every feeding to ensure a balance in the milk supply) and tracking diaper output, which is the only real way for a nursing mom to know if her baby/ies are getting enough to eat.  When you are nursing two at once it is incredibly easy to get confused (remember, you are sleep deprived and there are two of them) so just keep track of it.  Trust me.
  6. Feed every two hours, around the clock.  This is where things get tricky.  For the first few weeks, in order to establish milk supply, it was recommended to me to feed the girls every two hours no matter what.  Occasionally I have let them go three hours between feedings (mostly at night) - but the general schedule is to put them on the boobs every two hours.  It's a ton of work and doesn't leave a lot of "me" time in between, but hey, it's all for good reason, right?  In another week or two I will stretch this out a bit.
  7. Be prepared for pain, and a lot of it.  The hospital lactation consultant told me to "accept no pain" and, if I did feel pain, to re-position the baby/ies to ensure a proper latch.  Well, that is way easier said than done when you have a babe on each boob.  I am convinced that, no matter what, the first week or two of breastfeeding involves some pain.  For me, it was the same with Isla and after a couple of weeks my nipples "broke in" and got used to the constant stimulation.  Like breaking in a new pair of shoes, the first couple wears might result in a blister or two, but before you know it - your feet (and the shoes) will adjust and you will walk pain-free.  Yes, I just compared my twins to a pair of new shoes.  
  8. Have support.  This is incredibly important.  I would not be able to do this if not for Scott and my mom.  Because we have a toddler at home, the above schedule doesn't allow for too much time to tend to her.  Of course Isla and I have our special "us" times during the day, and story time at night is always reserved for her and I, but if you plan to nurse every two hours around the clock, you will NEED help on the home front to care for any other little ones. Luckily I almost always have my mom and Scott around to help divide and conquer.   It also helps to have someone be on call to get you water/food or the remote while you are nursing.  Not to mention when you start tandem breastfeeding, you will need help positioning the babies and ensuring proper latch, and it definitely helps if your partner can be on diaper duty so you can focus on feeding and getting into position (tandem nursing requires a tremendous amount of prep).
  9. Stay hydrated.  I chug water, coconut water, and Mother's Milk Tea like they are going out of style.  I also take Motherlove More Milk Plus, a (horrible tasting) herbal supplement which is supposed to aid and boost milk supply.  Whether or not it has helped me with my milk supply is hard to say, but it can't hurt.  Hydration, on the other hand, does effect milk supply so drink up.
  10. Co-sleep.  This is very controversial, I know - and many doctors and pediatricians do not advocate co-sleeping (of course, like anything, there are many advocates of this practice as well), but it is a personal decision and I went with my mommy instincts here and am glad for it.  It has worked for us, though my comfort is sacrificed (I dream about sleeping in the blessed supine position).  We do not plan on co-sleeping much longer, but for these first few weeks I have found it very beneficial.  I sleep more or less sitting up with our babies on their backs on the nursing pillow, ready to feed when the time arises.  It's much easier for all of us this way and we all get a little more sleep because of it.  
  11. Stay focused and positive.  I mentioned that there are times when you will want to throw in the towel and give up.  At times, you will feel frustrated, discouraged and maybe even angry.  There will be times when it will seem so much easier to have someone bottle feed while you get a few more zzzzzz's.  When your nipples will hurt so much you will wince and grimace in pain upon latching.  It DOES get better and it DOES get easier.  Try to remember that this will one day be a distant memory and this time in the trenches will be a thing of the past in a few weeks. 
Any other tips I have missed?  Feel free to share in the comments.

Additional Resources: If you are interested in more information on successfully breastfeeding twins, I highly recommend reading the book Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More by the La Leche League.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

(More) Notes from The (Twin) Trenches

I am sitting here in my "spot" on the couch with my two little muchkins snuggled around me sleeping soundly on my (awesome) twin nursing pillow.  I'm tired, but nowhere near as exhausted as I thought I'd be.  Of course, we are only in the first inning but, so far, we're doing pretty good:  Tandem nursing is going great, and Haven and Mira are gaining weight as they should be.  This morning I even managed to slap on some makeup, a cute outfit, and put both girls in the Moby Wrap for our first "public" outing to the grocery store.  The birth announcements went out.  I have managed to stay on top of thank you notes.  We've successfully packed all three kids into the car and made a trip to the pediatrician.  Isla is still in the running for sweetest big sister ever and has nothing but love for our new additions.  Scott and I are getting nighttime sleep in digestable 3-4 hour chunks.  Life is plugging along quite nicely, if not a bit robotic at the moment:  breastfeed, cuddle, put down for nap, try to steel a moment to myself, mash something edible in my mouth, guzzle water, love up on big sister, soothe agitated baby/babies, rinse, repeat.  A little groove is emerging.  I like grooves.

But...

I have learned quite a bit these past ten days.  Namely, that the first couple weeks of having twins involve a lot of highs and lows and they swing wildly from one second to the next, exorcist-style.  One moment I'm all "I've totally got this, piece of cake, I. Am. Supermom!!!" and the next I'm all "How the f**k am I going to do this?!"  I know this is normal, but as much as I prepared for the birth and arrival of our twins (and, believe me, I prepared) I was not ready for the emotional roller coaster that supersizing your family automatically puts you on.  It's quite ride.  Whew.

Let me indulge you with a couple examples of what I am talking about...

Twin high moment of the week:  successfully "wearing" Haven and Mira in the Moby wrap.  I was on cloud nine.   Not only could I use both my hands to play with Isla, cook, use the computer or go on a walk - but I was giving our girls the benefits of baby wearing.  Oh yeah, life was pretty good when we figured this one out.  Still pretty stoked about it, actually.  This was a close second to when the pediatrician told us their weight gain was right on track (my indication that breastfeeding is going well).  Side note:  if you are a breastfeeding mom, you will become obsessed with poop, pee (better known as "diaper output") and weight gain - not necessarily in that order. (For baby wrapping instructions, check out this pdf - twin wearing towards the end.)

Twin low moment of the week:  last night, Isla strangely awoke at 1:00am from a nightmare screaming for mama but I was nursing the girls and couldn't go to her.  Of course Haven and Mira chose this precise moment to have little meltdowns themselves so Scott and I were quickly introduced to the horror that is children screaming in surround sound.  The whole ordeal was so utterly heartbreaking to me that I cried like a baby and threw myself a little pity party while slumped in bed nursing our girls.  It was all over within 25 minutes but still, it's a tough lesson for a parent to learn that they cannot be in two - let alone three - places at once.  Not to mention how quickly things can go from copacetic to chaotic in a household with multiple children.  It's impressive.  Sigh.  

And there are more examples of both.  So many more.

A huge part of the ups and downs no doubt have to do with the fact that Scott and I are in total limbo at the moment.  We went from living on our boat in the Caribbean with a pretty sweet and sustainable set up, to moving in with my parents during a particularly brutal winter and facing a relatively uncertain future.  We feel a bit out of place, a little out of sorts, and between the individual demands of three children under three, we're trying to figure out a "plan" for the future which is kind of impossible at the moment.  Pardon the cliche, but it's difficult to see the forest through the trees right now.

Of course all this is to be expected.  All of this is normal.  Anyone who's had one baby, let alone twins, is familiar with the wacky hormones that race through a woman's body post-pregnancy.  And anyone who has made a significant and semi-abrupt life adjustment understands the "culture shock" that comes with it.  This is life.  We've all been here in one way or another.

Yep, it's hard work.  Sure, there are moments when I wish we could just go back to the boat and pick up where we left off.  This wasn't part of our 'plan' -- but if we've learned anything this past three years it's that plans are written in sand and, sometimes, you just gotta go where the wind blows.  Our girls are awesome.  We are totally, utterly in love with them.  They are bringing our family so much joy.  Sometimes, it's the unexpected detours in life that take you somewhere pretty dang awesome -- so we'll just keep on cruisin'.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Notes From the (Twin) Trenches

We've now been home 48 hours with our twins.   Or has it been more?  Less?  Not so sure.  Our girls are four days old and we are in the stage that many twin parents liken to "survival mode" which sounds a bit dramatic if you ask me.  But I see where they are coming from -- two newborn infants in a house really stirs things up.

So how are we doing?  Overall, we're doing good.  Really good.  Our girls are healthy and big sister Isla is absolutely head over heels in love with them.  She has yet to show a single sign of jealousy or any indication of feeling displaced (*knocking on wood*) and this fact alone makes me so happy.  "Wanna see babies!" is the phrase of note around here and they've gotten more kisses from her than anyone else I think.  Because my delivery went so well and I didn't need any stitches, my recovery from birth has been a dream (though the post-delivery uterine contractions?...WOW.  Ouch) which makes life so much easier.   My incredible girlfriends have been making us meals, taking "cooking" off of my list of things to do and I have successfully established tandem breastfeeding (*knocking on wood, again*).  Scott has again proven to be the most supportive husband and daddy I could ever wish for, running out and about at all hours to get me everything from my favorite cookies to breast pump shields.  He even got me stool softeners.  Yeah.  I just went there.  Sorry.

We are also incredibly blessed to be living with my parents at this time.  My mom has made this transition so much easier with her help and care of Isla, and I honestly think that all the attention Isla gets from her is a very large part of why she's adjusting so well to being a big sister.  While the notion of the "boomerang child" (s/he who comes back to the nest in adulthood) is a relatively new phenomenon and one that gets it's fair share of scrutiny and judgement, I think I speak for all of us (my parents included) when I say it is really a gift for all involved.  We feel very lucky and super thankful to have ample family support right now.

Of course it's not all roses.  I am writing from what has become "my spot" on the couch, a spot that I am pretty certain will forever have my butt imprint on it from sitting here so much.  Because breastfeeding is so important to me, I have literally been parked in this same place for the bulk of most days with my boobs hanging out while I nurse two babies almost around the clock.  Glamorous, it is not.  National Geographic?  More like it.  I am grateful that visitors have been respectful and kept their distance.  Right now it's all about getting into a little groove, and it's going to take a while to get there.  But we'll get there.  I was told I would feel very much like a milk cow and that about sums it up.  I'm tired, I look like crap and while I have managed to take a shower daily and actually blow dry my hair, I still feel a whole new level of frumpy and gross.  In other words: I am not ready for my close-up, thankyouverymuch. Blech.  But, like everything baby, this wonky adjustment period will be over before we know it.

Nights are hard because I am nursing every two hours and since nursing two babies at once is such a production, I find it much easier to sleep sitting up with my nursing pillow around me and the girls sleeping on either side of me.  We all sleep better that way.  I would kill to lay down on my back, side or tummy and stretch out for an hour or two but it's just not in the cards right now.  So instead, I sleep propped up with a hilarious and very specific concoction of pillows, blankets and accouterments all around me.  It works.  The girls are getting awesome skin to skin bonding time, which is important and I'm getting a chest that could rival that of any Victoria's Secret model.  Point for breastfeeding.

So far I can say that being a mom of twins requires a tremendous amount of forethought, patience and preparation.  And it's pretty cool.

Kind of like sailing, actually.

So far, so good.  We've got this.

Haven Jane (left) and Mira Ann (they are fraternal in case you can't tell)

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Welcome To The World Little Fish

They're heeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeerrre!!

Our beautiful angels Haven Jane ("Hay-vin" meaning: safe harbor, sea port) and Mira Ann ("Meer-uh" meaning: ocean in Sanskrit) joined our family on March 6, 2014 at 3:52 and 3:58 respectively.  Their incredible birth (thankfully) went as planned and without complication (no c-section).  They weighed in at 6lbs, 19.5" and 6lbs 9oz, 20", respectively, and are perfect and healthy in every way.  Of course we are biased about the "perfect" bit...but, hey, what can I say?

Life is good.  We are grateful.  The love is overflowing.

Words can't really do justice to all the emotions right now, and - honestly - I'm too punch drunk to try.

Big sister Isla is over the moon with her sisters and cannot stop kissing, cuddling and watching them.  We're all settling in and getting to know each other.  There is no doubt going to be a huge adjustment period these coming months but so far, we have no complaints and are taking this in stride.  One day at a time.

Thank you so much for all the support, well-wishes, prayers and kind words that so many of you have left us on our Facebook Page... we are lovin' all the love.  Much appreciated.

We'll post more when we can, but just wanted to share our little miracles with you as we know so many of you were so excited to "meet" them.
Baby "A": Haven Jane - born 3:52pm 6lbs, 19.5"
Baby "B": Mira Ann - born 3:58pm 6lbs 9oz, 20"
(check out Isla's birth announcement from two years ago)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

39 Weeks with Twins: Go Time

I love being pregnant.  It's incredible, magical, spiritual, ethereal and I embrace it as a gift; something to cherish and be thankful for.  That said, being just about thirty-nine weeks pregnant with twins can really weigh a woman down, pun intended.  It. Is. Exhausting.  But so worth it.  Our sweet Pisces girls will be born big and strong, and my body will have been the vessel that made them so.  Pretty awesome.  I'm proud of myself.  I'm proud of my body.  Truth be told, I'm going to really miss this belly.

We went to the doctors on Monday and, of course, they were shocked to see me.  "You're still pregnant?!?!" was the general greeting when I waddled in.  We all chuckled and laughed.  What can I say?  Babies like my womb.  Thirty-seven weeks is considered "full term" for twins and the average twins are delivered at thirty-five weeks, so I'm like a marathon twin mama over here.  Carrying twins to thirty-nine plus weeks is not unheard of, but it's certainly not the norm.  As good as the girls are doing and as good as I feel (relatively speaking of course, I have accepted a constant state of discomfort as my default these days), my doctors have decided it is time.  The eviction notice has been posted:  their deadline is 8am tomorrow morning.  If they have not made their entrance into the world on their own volition by then, I will be induced which is something I was hoping to avoid for a myriad of reasons, but it is what it is.  As long as the end result is two healthy girls, I'm cool with it.

That said, I've been doing what I can to coax them along.  I took an essential oil infused bath thinking water might entice our little fish out, but no dice.  I've eaten big meals, taken stairs two at a time, guzzled raspberry tea, chomped on pineapple, gotten pressure point massages, squatted to my hearts content, bounced on a birthing ball and tried just about everything else under the sun that is out there (except castor oil - not going there).  These girls ain't budging.  They're cozy in there.  It's cold out here.  The world is a pretty overwhelming place for newborns.  I get it.  

Yesterday I got acupuncture to help move things along.  It worked for Isla (who was ten days past forty weeks) and perhaps it will get her sisters moving.  One way or another, we're going to meet our angels - and it will be very soon.  It's so strange to go about my day today with the distinct knowledge that everything I am doing is for the last time as a mom of only one.  It's weird (and seems a little unnatural) to know precisely when your life is going to change drastically. We're excited.  Nervous.  Anxious.  And ready.  I think we are actually ready now.  Well...as ready as you can ever be for twins, which kind of sounds like an oxymoron. 

We want to meet them and hold them and introduce them to their big sister.  We want to begin our life as a family of five.  Yikes.

Thank you all so much for the outpouring of love and support, it's been almost overwhelming and very touching.  I never anticipated that my womb would be so watched, but according to our growing Facebook Page  - my womb is all the rage!  Definitely didn't see that one coming. 

Anyway, it's go time.  We'll catch you on the flip side friends.
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