Sunday, August 17, 2014

Babywearin' Part 2

Jake and I have both moved on to more comfortable/challenging/elitist/cultish babywearing options. 

This is a Hoppediz mei tai (pronounced /may'-tie/), and Jake has one in all black. He claims it's far more comfortable than any SSC (this is a particularly comfy brand of mei tai since it's made using woven wrap fabric) and he's starting to get pretty quick at tying it on himself. It can be used front or back. 

And this bring us to my latest obsession, the woven wrap. What's not to like? Luscious, finely crafted textiles? Breathabilty? Infinite tying options/styles?Supreme comfort? Okay, it's not always the easiest or cheapest or fastest to get in. This is why I still keep my Boba and ring sling handy. But I like a challenge and the process of learning a new skill, so this woven wrap chapter of my babywearing life is proving to be a fun one that will keep me interested for a while.  Check out all the cool carries one can learn!:

Side view of a back-carry.

Wearing both in the same 15 feet long swath of fabric.

Hip carry.

Boba on the back, woven wrap threaded through the straps on the front.

I've owned only two so far: Natibaby Golden Feathers (30% hemp/70% cotton in a size 4 and Girasol Diamond Weave Dark Rainbow (100% cotton) in a 7. I've already sold the Girasol and am on the lookout for a great size 6, preferably in a linen blend. I want to try ALL THE WRAPS.

And I'm not alone. I have made so many dear, awesome mama friends through our local babywearing group. These are not only smart, savvy women who make attachment parenting look cool, but they are also textile geeks like me! Double score.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Babywearin'- part 1

I may not know much, but I know that we would not have survived our first three months (i.e. the fourth trimester) without our baby carriers. Here's what we got and what we think about them so far.

We both own a soft-structured carrier (SSC), the Boba 3G.  Mine is the cute pattern pictured here, and Jake's is a manly black with white pinstripes.  Jake basically lived in his for 3 months.  Z sleeps her best naps nuzzled against his chest, and for many months it was basically the only way he managed to eat while at home.  I was less crazy about it until recently because they were too small to wear the normal way, with their legs wrapped around my waist, so instead we'd have to cinch the carrier up really small and put them in with their legs froggied up.

This was fine when they were TRULY newborns and basically stayed in that shape all day long, but once they were squirmy, active 2 month olds, they kept trying to stand up, shoving their feet between you and the waist band.  So irritating!  The folks at The Nappy Shoppe showed us how to covert the carrier to the normal setting and adjusted it for our smaller babies using a rolled up blanket.  It was way more comfortable but a little fiddly to get them situated.  The newer Boba 4G has an infant insert built in for this. My favorite way to use the Boba now is on my back (not recommended before about 6 months), which is ideal when I'm out by myself and juggling two babies. A final word about SSC's: Jake switched to the Ergo for a few months when Harper chewed up a buckle on his Boba, and it TOTALLY jacked up his back. Also, if I could go back in time, I think I would have ordered a Tula instead of a Boba, as they are are even more comfortable and stylish.

Jake also owns a Seven Sling, which is just a big loop of fabric, sized for the user.  His is white with little red and blue jolly rogers stamped on it.  It has been used once.  It was quickly abandoned in the first week when we realized that you're supposed to carry a newborn in a cradle position like this:

And yet it's VERY IMPORTANT to make sure their chin isn't resting on their chest.  What?!  It was really stressful constantly checking and adjusting, which upset the baby being held.  It can't be made tighter or looser, so if you order the wrong size or baby grows really fast, you're going to suffer. Just say NO to the pouch!

I had a Rockin' Baby Sling, and folks, it did indeed rock.  So comfortable, so quick, so fashionable.  This particular brand sports an extra long tail (which works well with my height), a reversible fabric, and a pocket on both sides.  Ring slings take a little bit of practice and patience the first few times, but I was surprised by how quickly it became intuitive.  And I love that it is equally appropriate for a tiny newborn and a curious one-year old.  Now that they're heavier, I wouldn't choose a ring sling for a long walk or a day at an amusement park, but it's divine for quick up-and-downs, errands, etc. I ended up selling the Rockin Baby and getting a wrap-converted ring sling or WCRS (more about wraps later) that is less clashy with most of my wardrobe. (Yes, I coordinate my carrier to my outfit.  Shut up.) I wear that thing at least once a day. It's always within reach.

I also own a Baby K'tan.  I've only used the kangaroo and hug positions. When they were teeny tiny newborns, the K'tan was my favorite, particularly for talking those very important walks when recovering from my c-section.  They just snuggled up so sweetly and perfectly and went to sleep instantly.  However, since they've grown, I've started wondering if I have the correct size carrier for me, because whenever I put a baby in, we both look and act pretty claustrophobic. Between the ill fit and the general warmth of this, it's been entirely discarded. I hope to sell it soon to an expecting mama in need of something for a tiny squish.

Continued in the next post...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Breastfeeding Twins

I followed all the rules.  I educated myself by reading at least three books on the topic.  We found a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician.  I breastfed them in the first hour after birth.  I spent our first days in the hospital completely skin to skin. I fed them on demand, not on a rigid schedule.  I eschewed bottles and pacifiers until their latch was nearly perfect.  I contacted lactation consultants (six of them, to be precise).  I used a nipple shield to help with a poor latch.  I immediately took action to correct a tongue tie.  I rented a hospital grade pump.

And it was still kind of a disaster.

Because they were two weeks premature, D and Z were sleepy and disinterested in eating.  Because they didn't eat much, they didn't stimulate my breasts enough to feed two growing babies.  By the time we left the hospital, they had lost between 10% and 12% of their body weight, and we were strongly encouraged to supplement with microscopic amounts of formula via syringe, administered usually into the corner of their mouths while feeding at the breast to inspire more vigorous sucking.

But their weights continued to plummet.  I was put on a strict 2 hour feeding schedule, around the clock, no breaks.  Due to poor latches, they weren't able to feed simultaneously, so I fed one for about 45 minutes, then the other, then I took 30 minutes to nap or poop or cry hysterically before starting again.  Before long, I was hallucinating from the sleep deprivation, lashing out at family with paranoia and envy.  As bad as the schedule was, it staunched the weight loss, and I was rewarded with a 7 hour nightly block of feeding only on demand (so...every three hours).

By three weeks, they were still refusing to gain, despite the fact that I was spending nearly every waking moment with one attached to my breast.  I was demoralized and terrified that my doctor would pressure me to give up breastfeeding entirely (or make me supplement with so much formula that I might as well give up).  Instead, she put us on a program I later learned was called "triple feeding."  Every two hours went like this:

Breastfeed D (10 minutes)
Breastfeed Z (10 minutes)
Bottle feed D 2 oz (10 minutes)
Bottle feed Z 2 oz(10 minutes)
Pump (20 minutes)
Eat, nap, poop, and/or cry (one hour)
Rinse and repeat 10 times a day while caring for two babies

It. was. brutal.  Furthermore, I wasn't pumping enough after feeding to give them four ounces every time.  Enter my dear friend Temple, my angel, who generously shared her freezer stash of breast milk with me so we wouldn't have to resort to formula.  Obviously, she couldn't give us extra milk forever, and Jake, who would eventually need to go back to work, was HIGHLY instrumental to making this insane schedule possible.  I was miserable all the time, fearing we would never drop the bottles and supplementation, that my supply would never pick up, that my babies were suffering constant hunger and frustration.

We started going to The Nappy Shoppe--a natural parenting store specializing in cloth diapers, baby carriers, breast feeding supplies, natural toys, etc--on a weekly basis for their Breastfeeding Cafes.  A specialist always hosted to field questions from exhausted, freaked out moms, and they had a baby scale on site to check on regular weight gain (or do a weigh-feed-weigh to see what your baby takes in during a single feed).  Under their guidance, encouragement, suggestions, and support, we slowly, slowly, SLOWLY weaned ourselves off the triple feeding just a few ounces at a time.  At this point, we are down to only two 2 oz bottles (and two pumping sessions) per day, and the rest of the time, we feed on demand.  The kids are now about 10 and a half pounds and gaining steadily on their respective curves.

On the one hand, I've never been more proud of myself.  Whenever I see that roll of fat around Z's wrist or bury my face in D's full cheeks, I sigh with the satisfaction that I DID THAT.  I made them with my body, and now I'm helping them grow big and strong.  It's mind blowing.  On the other hand, I feel like I've had a loss of faith.  Going in, I believed in the sanctity of breastfeeding.  I believed that if you followed the rules, you would be rewarded with years of happy, easy feeding.  I believed that the lactation consultants had the answers.  But it's not always true.  Sometimes, it's a real, honest-to-god failure.

Yes, we're finally finding some success, but it's not because I'm so great or because breastfeeding is so perfect a system.  We're finally getting this to work because we had a boatload of support.  And I want to thank those people openly.  First, my husband, who took a full THREE MONTHS off from a brand new job that he loved to change two dozen diapers a day and soothe screaming babies with his mad baby-wearing skillz.  Next, to Temple and Simone, for sharing their liquid gold and ensuring that my babies never had to go hungry while I challenged my supply to keep up.  To my mother, who made and bought and delivered countless meals, who opened her house to us that first hellish week and slept in shifts with my dad and Jake so there was always someone to sit with me while I fed, even at 3am.  To Becky, my mother-in-law, for taking on the Herculean task of being my day-time help three days a week, and of course, for all the coffee!!!  To Hannah, who held my hand and wiped my tears when I thought I could not handle the guilt and fear one more minute.  To Cheyenne and Lydia and all the girls at The Nappy Shoppe, our home away from home, for simultaneously cheering me on and teaching me patience.  So many other people: Dr. Agrawal, Melissa and Courtney from NDDA, Autumn and Tom at Cafe of Life, the LCs of Baylor Hospital, the Facebook support group Breastfeeding Multiples...thank you, thank you, thank you.


Things I did not expect about the postpartum period:

1) Temperature regulation problems: During and immediately after surgery, I shivered and shook like a leaf.  In the four days of recovery in the hospital, I roasted and could rarely stand to have more than a sheet on me.  Once settled for further recovery at my mother's, I alternated between hot flashes, suddenly ripping off whatever clothing or blankets I could, and chills, literally chattering my teeth and huddling under 3 or 4 blankets. It was BIZARRE.

2) Swelling: Everyone knows pregnant women swell during pregnancy, particularly their ankles, feet, and hands.  But I had NO IDEA that the swelling gets substantially worse AFTER you deliver, for about two weeks.  I was looking forward to wearing real shoes home from the hospital.  Instead, there were times when the back of my legs all the way up to my mid thigh was so swollen, I couldn't bend at the knee.

3. Pain: Yes, recovery from major surgery was bound to be rough, but HOLY MOLY did I have a hard time with the pain.  I have a few theories of why I had such an unexpectedly hard time coping (maybe my body had more to recover from after multiples pregnancy, maybe I was not clotting appropriately due to my low platelet count, maybe because I was not allowed anti-inflammatories for that same low platelet count, maybe I'm actually a total wimp, etc), but one things is for sure: my first shuffle to the bathroom and back was far and away the most physically difficult moment of my life.  I nearly vomited and blacked out from the blinding pain.

4. Weight loss: I was sure that I was going to be one of those women who looks about 6 weeks pregnant for the next two years.  I was fully prepared to wear the majority of my maternity wardrobe throughout the next season.  I was shocked when 50 pounds just fell off in the first two weeks.  I'm not trying to brag; I have no idea how/why other than breastfeeding twins, and I still have some baby chub around the lower half of my body.  But hot damn, it's good to see my waist again!  The female body is kind of amazing.

5. The baby blues: Everyone has heard of post-partum depression.  Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experiences with it.  It makes the news every time some poor woman without the proper treatment does something horrible to her child.  It's terrifying and extreme, but I was fully prepared to struggle with it to some degree, seeing as how I have a history of garden variety clinical depression, for which I am normally medicated.  I figured there was no way I was going to lose two placentas (and all their mood boosting hormones) at one time and be able to quickly find hormonal/emotional equilibrium.  What most people don't know or talk about enough are the "baby blues."  It's estimated that as many as 80% of mothers experience the baby blues (though my OB said it's more like every mother, and the other 20% are "full of shit"), which is a milder form of PPD that only lasts the first two weeks of postpartum.  It does not feel anything like classic depression to me.  I did not feel listless or uninterested in things or extra sensitive to hardship.  I just felt like I was made of glass and the whole world was upside down.  I felt off kilter, disoriented, and most of all, unable to stop crying.  I cried for no reason from sun up to sun down.  It was truly wild to just weep and weep and not be able to say why.  So far, I think I have avoided true PPD, for which I am deeply grateful.

6. My incision: They don't use stitches for c-section scars, they use STAPLES.  It makes your belly look like Frankenstein's monster for a few days (my husband likened it to the spine of a spiral notebook), but when they remove them (which I was nervous about but didn't hurt one tiny bit), the remaining incision line is SO subtle and thin.  I was truly impressed with the medical technology.  Now, if only they had thrown in a tummy tuck for my stretched out skin!  On the downside, I still have nerve damage in that area, so even 3 months later, it feels like I've been shot with novacaine all along the scar.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Birth Story

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I went in for my final prenatal appointment.  Dr. G and I went over the details of my scheduled c-section, set for the following Tuesday.  I was 37 weeks and 5 days, measuring 48 weeks.  We did the same old sonogram, cervix check, urine analysis, weigh-in, blood-pressure check, etc.  Everything was uneventful and as expected.  The kids looked huge; my cervix was closed tight, blood pressure nice and low.  Dr. G gave me some paperwork and a directive for blood work to take across the street to Maternal Observation at the hospital.  They basically needed my blood type and a few other tests before I went in for surgery.  The breathless waddle there and back nearly killed me, but I left excited about enjoying my last week with just me and Jake.  Should we go out for a fancy dinner?  Were there any documentaries on Netflix we'd been putting off?  What could I do or get for him to show him how much I appreciate his help and understanding these last few months of hell?

Later that night, Jake and I were curled up on the couch, eating frozen pizza and watching The Mindy Project when my phone rang.  It was Dr. G, saying that he was looking over my lab work from home and was slightly concerned with one of my numbers, namely my platelet count.  A normal count is anywhere between 150,000 and 500,000, but mine was a paltry 98,000.  What did this imply? Well, he said, it could be nothing, or it could be an early sign of a HELLP syndrome, a special variation of pre-eclampsia.  The final LP in HELLP stands for low platelets.  The first H is Hemolysis, meaning red blood cells breaking down, and the EL is elevated liver enzymes.  Hence, he wanted to check my liver and kidneys for other signs of HELLP and suggested I go down to Labor and Delivery within the hour for further testing.  I was flabbergasted, of course.  I gulped and asked him what would happen if I did have HELLP.  He replied that in that case, I would be meeting my babies tonight.  Jake and I took a deep breath and went about packing our bags for a four night hospital stay, all the while repeating to ourselves, "I bet it's nothing.  We'll be home by midnight."

Testing at the hospital went well.  We had a great nurse who kept us chatting and laughing for about two hours while they monitored my blood pressure and the babies' heart beats.  Finally, Dr. G, who had been watching my blood work and monitors from his home, called my hospital room.  It WAS looking like early onset of HELLP alright, and the recommended treatment was delivery.  Furthermore, if we decided to wait and see, we might compromise several aspects of our birth even further.  For instance, if my platelet count, which was continuing to fall, dipped below 50,000, I would not be allowed an epidural during my c-section and would instead be knocked out entirely with general anesthesia.  Additionally, Dr. G was about to leave town to visit family for Thanksgiving, so if something cropped up over the weekend, I would be delivering with someone I barely knew.  I called my mom around 10:30pm and told her the news.  "You're kidding!" she said. "I just took a Nyquil!"

The day before, I had met with my doula again, this time to discuss our plans for a Cesarean.  I wanted to take as many steps as possible to ensure a gentle, family-centered experience.  I didn't want doctors chatting over my open body about where they were going to get lunch.  I wanted to play my own music and to touch my babies as soon after their delivery as possible.  I wanted skin-to-skin contact right in the OR, and I wanted to delay the clamping of their cords until they stopped pulsing.  My doula would be there to hold my hand and keep me calm while my husband accompanied the babies to the warming table.  Most helpfully, she walked me through the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of a c-section so I would be prepared.  Finally, we discussed the fact that complimentary drugs are customarily administered via IV after an epidural is placed, drugs intended to offset the nausea, anxiety, headaches, etc. that often accompany epidurals, often without explicit approval by the mom.  In her experience, mothers often become drowsy and detached as a result of these secondary medications (even though the anesthesiologist swore it has no such effect), and this sleepiness can make breastfeeding after the surgery especially tricky.  Research has shown that breastfeeding success rates are notably lower for c-section births than for vaginal births, so I felt that anything we could do to protect our chances was worth doing.  Therefore, I had a long talk with the anesthesiologist before the surgery about what I did and didn't want added until I specifically asked for it.

Overall, the surgery went as planned.  I did experience a tiny bit of anxiety as a result of my dropping blood pressure, so I was able to ask the anesthesiologist to add just a half dose (what he called "a little margarita") so I could focus and enjoy myself.  Thankfully, I experienced no drowsiness from this.  My doula took pictures in the OR and then worked very hard to help me breastfeed in the post-surgery recovery room while they monitored my vitals.  I cannot imagine now how anyone gets through a c-section WITHOUT a doula!  I was so uncoordinated and overwhelmed after surgery, so distracted by my violent shuddering and teeth chattering, I'm sure I wouldn't have had a chance feeding my babies those first few precious hours without her there.  Jake was wonderful and sweet and supportive every step along the way, and my OB was a total rock star, as usual.  Overall, despite it being drastically different from the birth I had wanted, I was able to find peace with this experience, the moment I fell in love with my beautiful babies.

Zoey Haven Lewis, born at 12:36 am, 7 lb, 6 oz, 20 1/2 inches long

Dexter Allen Lewis, born at 12:38 am, 6 lb, 15 oz, 19 1/4 inches long

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The 3rd Trimester

There's so much to catch you up on, but I'll try to start from the beginning.  This final stretch of the race was pretty brutal for me.  I started to feel like every weird, embarrassing, uncomfortable pregnancy side effect out there, I had.  Swollen feet?  Carpal Tunnel?  Hemorrhoids?  Yeast Infections?  Heat rashes?  Acne? Sciatica?  Leaking breasts?  Braxton Hicks?  Back pain?  Check, ch-check, check, CHECK.  My issues with my pelvis (SPD) continued to severely limit my movement, and I'll be damned if I didn't get a nosebleed every single day.  And the stretch marks!  Oy vey, the stretch marks.  Some of them even bled.

Here I am at 37 weeks.

However, the babies were doing GREAT.  Both were around the 90th percentile, growth-wise, and my blood pressure, weight, urine, etc. were always right on track.   Zoey, our lower twin or Baby A, continued to hang out head down, and though Dexter (Baby B) was breech, I knew I had a doctor who would deliver the second baby that way.  I had a great meeting with my doula, going over the nitty gritty of all our birth plan questions and options, and we left saying to ourselves once again that we had found the MOST AWESOME doula; she had earned her fee with us long before the big day.  I was practicing my Hypnobabies labor preparation every night, and was feeling so confident, so happy, so eager for my natural birth.

Alas, life had other plans.  Dexter was starting to grow far bigger than Zoey, according to their sonogram estimates, and Dr. G sat me down one day and told me that I should probably start preparing for a c-section.  With his footling breech position (feet down) it was very likely that Zoey's smaller head would not adequately prepare the birth canal for his exit.  He consulted every doctor in his practice, and they all agreed: it would be incredibly risky to attempt, and if his head got stuck, those two minutes of emergency c-section (for which I would have to be knocked out by general anesthesia) might still be too long to save him from permanent brain damage.

I was devastated, both by this hypothetical scenario of horror and by the sudden change in direction.  I've been dreaming of birthing my babies naturally for about as long as I've wanted to get pregnant.  I have read every book on the subject, watched every documentary, listened with rapt attention to every birth story.  I knew it was going to be challenging, but I was so joyfully looking forward to that sacred rite of passage, that unique, enigmatic, controversial side of motherhood that leaves some women shuddering in recollection and others glowing with nostalgia and pride.  I wanted to KNOW, to experience, to be there.  I wanted to physically GIVE BIRTH to my babies, not have them cut out of me.

Now, I don't want to get mired in the politics of medicalized birth.  Some people see every new advance in obstetric care a boon to women, while others view our current model as totally crippled by interdependent interventions.  I strive to be a skeptic: I neither believe that doctors push c-sections for monetary or convenience reasons at the cost of maternal/fetal health, nor do I believe that there is something so wrong with the American female pelvis that one in three births NEED to be surgical.  All this is to say, I was deeply conflicted as to whether I should trust my doctor implicitly or dig into the research and seek another opinion.  My head was swimming with the possibilities and eventualities of every angle.  I didn't know which way was up.  And apparently, neither did my daughter, because the very next week, she turned transverse, sideways, across my cervix.  That pretty much settled that.  A c-section was scheduled for December 3rd.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Second Trimester

What got better: less fatigued, fewer nosebleeds, much diminished rhinitis, tiny round ligament pains are gone

What got worse: heartburn, boob pain, sleep discomfort and disruptions, unbelievably intense round ligament pain that feels like my uterus is being torn from my body.

What's new: Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction! My extra high levels of relaxin have totally destabilized my pelvis, and this problem equals pain, pain, pain, particularly when I do things that involve my legs moving separately. For example, pulling on my jeans while standing is excruciating. I have been seeing a special pregnancy chiropractor twice a week and started wearing a special (super sexy) support belt. These steps have enabled me to function like a nearly normal person during the day (even though I'm usually walking like a geisha by the end of the night). The worst part is that I had to quit yoga and switch to water aerobics....way, way less cool.

As of yesterday, 26 weeks and 5 days, the kiddos weigh about 2.5 lb each, and my belly is measuring equal to that of a singleton pregnancy at 33 weeks. Cervix is nice and long, blood pressure is low, and I do NOT have gestational diabetes! Looks like smooth sailing (read: no bed rest) ahead!

So, are we ready? I've never seen Jake so excited and so impatient! We finally secured our awesome apartment downtown and have a move-in date scheduled, October 12th (wanna help?  Haha.). We have a lot of the big stuff already: stroller, glider, changing table, all on SUPER sales! And somehow they each already have more clothes than Jake and I combined. But ready? Hmm...ask me in a month.

For those who haven't yet heard, we're having a boy and a girl, Dexter Allen and Zoey Haven (names are mostly set in stone but who knows?). We love them so much, but if Dexter doesn't stop trying to play the vibes on my rib cage, we're going to have words upon his arrival.

I feel like (probably because we've been told so many times by various in-the-know people around Dallas) we have the dream team for this birth.  Between our chiropractor Autumn Gore at Cafe of Life, Melissa Espey-Mueller with the North Dallas Doula Associates, and Dr. Ashwin Gaitonde, I think we have the best chance of an unmedicated, vaginal birth possible.  Yes, we are aware that with twins, we'll just have to be flexible, but if there was a way it was going to happen, I do believe it's with these people.  We've done our homework, found brilliant people, and written our birth plan.  Everything from here on out is just a matter of letting go.  To that end, I've been practicing deep relaxation and eyes-open self-hypnosis with this program on a daily basis.  Here we go!