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.