4 months

My babies are 4 months old, I cannot believe it. It is so amazing how much they are changing and growing every day. We really have hit a stride with them in this last month. Things are becoming really fun and not so draining. Trust me, there are still many moments when I just need 5 minutes of quiet or to re-group before I freak out. Overall they are joys to be around. It is still a lot of work, but I think that we are all getting better at communicating and just learning about them as individual babies. I feel good about myself too, and have been exercising again regularly, this makes a lot of difference in who I am as Alicia and who I am as mom. One of they joys that I have watched this month is Jamin growing as a dad. He has always been amazing and supportive but now that the kids interact it is so much more fun for him. They know him and smile at him in a way that they do not with me. I really want our kids to have distinct relationships with each of us. It is important to know that we are a unit as parents but that we are also individuals and we should spend time with them individually apart from the family unit. I had/still have this with my parents and I think it is amazing.

This past month I have really concentrated on getting out of the house more. We were never shut-ins but it takes a while to build up the confidence to leave with two infants and all of the “stuff” that goes with. We have been running and walking the lake a few times per week and even met up with another twin mom and her girls. We also go for a walk daily once Jamin gets home. I have been grocery shopping and running errands like normal, it takes a lot longer so the list is usually one maybe two stops before we head home but it is enough to get me out and among the public. They travel pretty well, Crosby does not always like his car seat but that is to be expected. I have also started to lay them down for one nap in the crib, between 12:30-1:30 they go down and sleep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. One will wake up earlier than the other and they seem to take turns doing that. I cherish the times that one is up while the other is sleeping because I do not get alone time with them often. I am feeling good as a mother and that is a great thing to acknowledge.

Henley- My darling you are growing so much. You are BEAUTIFUL in this way that I never know how to fully explain. I look at you sometimes and get teary because you are this beautiful girl who is so full of life. I cannot believe that I grew you and that you are equal parts your dad and myself. There are things that I am trying to lock into my memory for all eternity now as I see you changing. Your breath is so sweet and amazing, it is weird but I love it. You have the softest head and I rub it and kiss it at every chance I can (you are asleep in the wrap right now and I am kissing your head constantly). While you are feeding I love to study your hands, they are small and perfect with really long fingers, you will hold onto me while I am feeding you and it is the best connection ever.

On January 10 your dad was holding you on his knees and was making farting noises at you, you laughed for the first time in your life. It was this sweet little squeaky laugh and your face lit up. It was this moment that you decided to give to your dad that I know he will never forget. That weekend you turned a corner, you started to smile all the time. We used to have to work to get a smile from you but now you are so happy. You are starting to laugh more and more, last night I had you looking in a mirror and you started to giggle at yourself. It was hilarious. Every time I see you smile and hear a coo from you my heart explodes in the best way. You are such an amazing person already, I just love being in your life and being your mom. Just in the last few days you have stared to make noises a lot more, sort of cooing and a tiny bit of babbling. You are getting more and more vocal by the day. I cannot wait to see how much you grow in the next month but I also get sad that my tiny infant is gone now. You are blossoming and it is incredible. I love you baby girl.

Crosby- My happy boy, your smile lights a room and I cannot help myself but laugh when I see it. Your mouth opens and your eyes light up. You are so happy most of the time, you really love to be talked to and scared. I think you would be laughing if you had more of a voice but I am not sure. There are times when you smile so big and you squeak a bit, I think it is your laugh right now. You are growing slowly but in your own steady way. We no longer top you off with a bottle, you are exclusively breastfed and it is an achievement we both can celebrate. Right now you are 10 lbs! You are growing and changing, your face is changing and you are cuter than ever. Your cheeks are big and round while your body is longer and lean. You love to stand up and get so excited when we hold you this way, you make these little strong man flexing motions with your arms and you grunt with glee. On January 16th you really started to open your hands and reach for toys, until then you kept your hands in fists. We were just starting to wonder about it then, bam, you were grabbing things and trying your hardest to get them into your mouth. Now I will find you with a fist in your mouth, not as much as your sister, but the dots are connecting and it is so cool to watch. There are things that I am locking inside my memory forever like your bitter beer face, I do not know how you do it but when you pout/cry your entire face scrunches up and your cheeks puff out. You love to stretch the same way every morning, you arch your back and make duck lips while your arms are above your head. Every day you do this and it is adorable. The last thing always makes me laugh, after your 1 am feeding you are always so smiley and happy. You will be smiling while dad burps you and when we swaddle you, then you will realize we are putting you back down and you get so sad. My baby boy you amaze me with what you have been through and how happy you are, you teach me that even if things can be bad to appreciate the good and happiness in living. I cherish you.

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4 months old my darlings!

* We also transitioned to cloth diapers, I will do a separate post on what that looks like soon.

Breastfeeding twins…the journey with Crosby

With Crosby’s heart condition he had to be stabilized by the NICU team right away. He was not doing well and was taken away after I gave him one kiss. We did not get any skin to skin time, he did not get to breastfeed at all. He was gone to Children’s within 2 hours of birth and I would not even get to see him until Sunday night. Due to these reasons I did not get the immediate bonding time with him that I did with Henley. I truly feel that right after birth there is a magical bonding that happens, skin to skin and just having your baby with you creates this unspeakable bond and connection. I do not usually have regrets about my life but this is a big one, I really regret not getting that immediate time with him. That being said I know he needed to go away and we all felt relieved once he was stable at Children’s.

Crosby was “fed” TPN which is the very basic blocks of nutrition through IV. This prevented him from loosing weight as well as providing the basics needed is an easier way for the body to get what is needed without working hard to digest and assimilate the food. As I wrote in the previous post I was sending over colostrum for Crosby, it would be determined by the nursing staff when he could start “eating”. I was adamant that the first thing he gets was my colostrum. It was important to me that he got my antibodies as well as the basic nutrition from me not formula first. My requests were followed and Crosby started to get colostrum through IV at a VERY slow rate. They also had him sucking on a binky to work on his suck swallow breathe coordination, he seemed to take to that well and really liked the binky. It was great that he could suck so we did not have to get over that hurdle. Crosby ended up crashing Saturday night due to some other complications with medicine. They decided to take him off of food and put him back on TPN so his system would not have to work to digest. Every ounce of his energy was needed for the surgery and recovery. Post surgery he was still on TPN so he could just start to heal and not shock his system. S-L-O-W-L-Y we started to add the remaining colostrum that was in the freezer. Then we started to use the breastmilk that I had been pumping the entire time. I would feed Henley and then pump for 15 minutes after every feeding. The pumped milk was then stored for Crosby. As he got stronger they would decrease his TPN by certain caloric amount which was then replaced with breastmilk. On average breastmilk contains 70 kcal per 100ml. Crosby was tolerating the feeds pretty well, then things went down hill. While on TPN the body does not ingest solids so there is no solids to excrete. Crosby pooped once then became constipated. He was very irritable and uncomfortable, it became so much of an issue that we had to stop the breastmilk feedings. There is always a set back after surgery for us it was the feedings. His body was not used to real food and we had to kick start his system so it knew what to do with the food. It took a while but eventually we very slowly added feeds in again, he seemed to be tolerating the feeds and we would increase them ever so slightly every 12 hours. The hospital also would supplement my breastmilk to increase the caloric capacity, basically then added formula to the breastmilk and in turn he would get more calories which was the big goal.Once we were on the recovery floor he was off TPN and just being fed through his feeding tube. Unlike the TPN through IV he now had a feeding tube inserted through his nose down into his stomach. the supplemented breastmilk would be inserted into the tube and go straight to his stomach.

The first time I tried to nurse Crosby it felt very odd, I was so used to Henley and how she ate, felt, sounded, and acted. I was just getting comfortable feeding her and then I had to learn all over again with my baby that was recovering from heart surgery. At first it felt like I was feeding someone else’s baby, I really needed to bond with him and feel like his momma. Crosby latched so differently from Henley, he was gentle and almost timid. He did not have a lot of strength so for the first few times I fed him he would only latch for 5 sucks then fall off or go to sleep. It was frustrating but, at least he could latch and suck. We would try it more and more, eventually it started to feel more natural, my son and I were learning about each other and how to work together. Crosby’s main nutrition still was given via the feeding tube, we slowly increased the amount he ate per day and then started to slowly move the feedings from constant to bolus. This meant that instead of constantly getting food he would get a set amount but over a period of time, we could then increase how fast he was fed which would create a gap in time where he was not fed at all. All of these steps took days to work through. I am glossing over many details that also took place in order to concentrate on feedings. The closer we got to discharge the more we concentrated on feeding him. We met with occupational therapy and lactation, we tried bottle feeding him but the flow from the nipple was too fast as his vocal cord paralysis was a major hinderance in his suck, swallow, breathe. I was still putting him to the breast but was scared because I knew my letdown was too powerful or him. I would feed Henley for 10-15 minutes, then latch him and let him see what it was like. This seemed to work pretty well and his latch was getting stronger. Soon we were condensed on the bolus feedings where he would eat every three hours. We were taught how to work the take home pump for this feeding tube and were discharged.

We were home as a family of four finally after 3 1/2 weeks living at Children’s. It was a TON of work to feed Henley and make sure we got Crosby’s pump all set up with the fortified brestmilk and turned on. We started to slowly feed him from the premie bottle more and more, he got stronger and stronger with eating from the bottle. I would still allow him to breastfeed but his nutrition was coming from the pump and bottle. Once we fed him the same amount from the bottle as we were from the pump we decided to try to remove the feeding tube. Well, Crosby had his own plan, one night he just pulled the whole tube out on his own! I took this as a sign and did not replace the tube. We were just very diligent to feed him from the breast then from the bottle. It started 90% bottle and 10% breast but slowly it started to shift where he would eat more and more at the breast and take less from the bottle. It took about 3 months for him to not need a bottle top off at all. Crosby still eats very different from Henley. He is slower and not as strong, he takes more breaks and needs to breathe more but he is doing so well. I still cannot believe all that he as been through and how much we had to really work with him in order to get him to breastfeed. It truly has been a journey with him and I am thankful that Henley paved the way for us so it was a bit easier. My little boy is strong and so determined, I am proud that we can now work together and bond in that special way. I will never get back those early moments that we did not get to have, but I know that now what we have is special too, not just because it is breastfeeding but because of the journey we took to get here, together.

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Nightmare

We were told both by friends and our pediatrician that we should stop swaddling the twins when they sleep,that they need to learn how to sleep with their arms free. So the night before last we decided to loosely swaddle them and see what happens. BAD IDEA. I was up every hour from midnight to 5am with screaming babies. I was so frustrated and so were the babies. It was bad and I do not know why we decided to chance their whole sleeping arrangement at one, rookie move mom.

Needless to say yesterday was also bad, sad babies who were over tired and not smiling at all, a mom who needed to sleep and was sad about making her babies sad. Sort of a shit show. Luckily they finally slept about 12:30-2 and I got a nap as well. We went back to swaddling last night  but not the legs and have decided to SLOWLY make the transition as they are not ready.

This is just another example of listening to your babies, just because people told me I thought we had to do it, not the case at all. They sleep a lot better swaddled and really like it so we are following their cues from now on. If we introduce something new it will be slow and steady. Listening to my mom gut and not just other people.

We are off for a run around the lake, Happy Friday!

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BEST stroller ever!

 

Breastfeeding twins… the journey with Henley

Warning: This post contains a lot of talk about breasts and the process your body goes through in order to feed another human (or two).

My experience with the babies was a little different due to the fact that Henley had to do double the work. With Crosby at Children’s he could not eat and Henley was with me starting the process for both her and her brother. I always thought that breastfeeding was something that was easy, you just have your kid with you and they eat easily and anywhere. I had, and still have strong opinions about feeding in public and how marvelous the human body is. I read a lot before having children about how much work breastfeeding is and hoped that it would not be a struggle for me. With my c-section instead of labor I really wanted the chance to breastfeed my babies, it was very important to me.

Henley and I had to work really hard to get to a comfortable feeding place. She was so small that we were feeding her every 2-3 hours, no longer than 3 could go by. Right after birth she was at my breast, she latched on and started as they were sewing me up. It was an amazing and really odd feeling. Once back to the room I started to hand express colostrum as soon as possible. Colostrum is what comes in first before your milk. Colostrum is what comes in first before your milk, it has many benefits for your baby including passing along antibodies, populating the gut flora, and providing adequate nutrition. I was expressing drops at a time, it seemed so insignificant but the nurses kept telling me it was amazing. I would allow henley to latch and feed as long as possible then I would hand express drop by drop and send that over to Crosby for when he could eat. The term hand expression really means I had to squeeze my breast really hard until it was somewhat sore. This is when I started to realize that it is work to breast feed.

With twins you have a few things working against you to start off with:

1- They tend to be smaller and have less brown (filler) fat, this means that they cannot loose as much weight after birth without concern

2- Since they are small they tend to get sleepy at the breast, you really have to wake them up and torment them to eat for longer periods of time

3- If they do not eat enough and sleep more (as they tend to do ) then their blood sugar levels tend to drop. This means they are checked (poked in the heal with a needle) more often.

Henley was getting her sugars checked before and after every feed, her heels were black and blue, she hated it and would scream. They were low and trending down. She was eating at the breast as much as possible but would get very sleepy. After she would eat then I would pump to stimulate the breast. I felt as if I was working so hard and not making any forward progress. I was questioning if I had enough milk and if I was giving my daughter enough nutrition. The pediatrician came in and started to talk about supplementing with formula or going to the NICU since she was loosing weight. If you would have asked me to do this when I was pregnant I would have said no way. I knew Henley was smaller and I wanted to make the correct decision, I called Jamin and talked with him about it as well as had a meeting with lactation, pediatrician, and my mother. We collectively decided to supplement just for a bit in order to get her sugars up and prevent her from loosing anymore weight. This was the first time that I realized there is no right decision, just the one you make based on as much information, love, and gut feeling.

My milk still had not come in yet fully, I might get a few drops when pumping but not much at all. I did not want her to be bottle fed so when Henley latched on we would insert a tiny tube along the side of my nipple, as she sucked she would also get the formula. After she was done eating at the breast she would then get “topped off” with the same tiny tube but on a finger. This took a long time and by the time I was done feeding her at the breast, finger feeding her, then pumping I may get 1 hour of down time or sleep then repeat. I kept up at this pace and slowly there was more milk in the pump, also when I would hand express the consistency changed to more liquid, also the color changed to a butter yellow. My milk was coming in, by day 3 I would say that my milk came in. I will always remember the first time she latched on and gulped, it is still the sweetest sound I have ever heard. Up until that moment I was questioning if I could nourish my baby, if I had enough to feed two, if my milk was good enough. Once I heard her gulping at the breast I knew it would be okay, I felt so relieved.

We continued to top off Henley with formula while at the hospital, and for a few days once home. I knew my milk was in and was pumping after every feeding so I was storing enough for Crosby too. I knew we would be okay and I decided to stop formula about 1 week after discharge. Since that day she has been exclusively breastfed and I can say that it is a true accomplishment. Now I can feed her anywhere and she knows exactly what to do. Sure there are still feedings where she is lazy or squirmy and will only eat for 8 minutes, then there are times when she is latched on for 25 and eating the entire time. You have to think in aggregate not in terms of individual feedings. At the end of the day is she getting enough in total?

Things that surprised me about breast feeding:

1- I never knew my nipples could hurt so bad, it does go away…slowly

2- I never knew my breasts could be so big, they more than doubled in size and I am still adjusting to life with boobs

3- When you feed your baby in the days right after birth it helps your uterus shrink back down to normal size. These cramps are serious and HURT. The body has a great way of working as a system, it is truly amazing.

4- When your milk comes in you have “let down” it is as if the faucet is turned on and the milk starts flowing, when I was in the hospital I would literally feel like a truck hit me. It was the rush of hormones that my body was adjusting to, it is still the craziest feeling I have ever felt. I would liken it to having a really intense body high for 30 seconds or so then wanting to pass out.

It is hard work to feed a baby much less two, but your body knows what to do and will eventually get to a easy point. Just trust yourself, your body, and your baby. It is worth all of the pain and work just to look down and see your baby being nourished with the only milk that is made exclusively for them.

3 months

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My babies are 3 months old. It is amazing that this much time has passed. I always thought of three month old babies as no longer infants and it is true. They are interacting more and more, staying awake longer, playing with us and it is amazing. I do miss the tiny little newborn cuddles but I have those stored in my memories forever. We have slowly gotten used to a little bit of a schedule. We have successfully gone out to dinner with friends and had grandparents watch them. I am getting better at feeding and just allowing time if they need. I feel more comfortable as a mom and that feels good.

Trust me they still have their fussy times when I just want to put them down or have someone else console them but that is to be expected and I know that those moments will pass. It is nice being able to read them a bit more, often times they are over tired and just need to be held and de-stimulated. Communication is amazing between a baby and parent, you can tell so much based on their body language and actions. It is like winning the lottery when you look at them and select the correct course of action to calm them in an instant. Big wins.

Henley- You have this coy little smile that starts on the right side of your face, I think you will have a dimple soon. You are so big now and growing into a little girl, feminine in your own way. Your eyes give you away and take in the entire world, I love how big and blue they are. You are amazing and are starting to explore the world more and more. You can bat at the play mat and watch the moving mobile. You look across the room and follow people and their voices a lot. You sleep more during the day than your brother but still sleep well at night, thank god. I am in love with you my little girl and I hope that we can be best friends in only the way a mother and daughter can be. We can now dress you in bigger clothes 0-3 months fit perfect as you are about 10 pounds and growing daily. I have a feeling your hair will be curly but you need a lot more of it before we can tell for sure. You play with your dad and he is growing closer to you daily. We love when you are alert and awake, not so much the fussy days. You are the light in our life right now and we cannot wait to see how you continue to grow and change.

Crosby- Your smile lights up your entire face, it is usually with an open mouth and your eyes come alive with joy. You are so cute when you smile it melts my heart. You are growing slow but sure, we call your growth line the Crosby line as it is all your own and that is perfectly fine. Just keep growing and developing my little boy. You are long and skinny like your sister, you get the littlest belly after you eat and it is adorable. You are generally happy but when you are pissed you really do not like to snap out of it. Often you cry hard with your eyes closed and don’t even bother to open them. You love tummy time unlike your sister but do not really like the activity mat yet. You are awake and alert for most of the day, I can usually get one nap when both you and your sister are asleep. Sometimes at 3 in the morning you are so awake and smiley it cracks us up. Your daddy is still your favorite I think and you two love to watch football on the TV. You really like looking at the TV and I am not sure how I feel about it. Your hair has grown in a lot and it is dark brown, your eyes are steel grey/blue. I love your curiosity and how you soak up the whole world with your eyes. We love you bug and are excited to hear you talk and coo more!

3 months is a great age so far things are connecting and they are growing into little people before my eyes.

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We now can use the jogging stroller and it is AMAZING!

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Our NYE selfie