Having Toddlers

I’ve read and heard lots of parents say, “Oh wow, this age is so much fun!” About a variety of ages. I thought they were those crazy parents who loved everything all the time and who only saw things through rose-colored glasses. In short, I thought they were full of shit.

But it’s true! This age *is* fun! The twins are 19 months old and generally, we’re having a good time.

I realized that in the last few months, I haven’t been thinking about the early days of teensy tiny little newborns (I sort of mourned this stage for a long time, because I felt like I kind of didn’t pay enough attention).  I realized that I’m really enjoying who they are right now, and GASP, I also think they’re way cuter now than when they were tiny!

These little personalities have really started to develop and show, while their physical skills have taken off. They’re steady walkers, they can understand almost everything, they’re really becoming people!

They do silly things, they laugh, they crash into my arms for hugs, they crawl under me like I’m a bridge, they make up little games.

They still adore reading books (when they turn around and plop down into my lap–that is my second favorite thing after big hugs from them) and playing with blocks.  They can do chores and fetch! :) They’re figuring out so many new things all the time.

They’re taller and can reach practically everything, and they give us this look when they’re doing something they’re not supposed to. They try to pry off the oven dial protectors. I caught one of them putting a pot and lid into the trash can. They also like to run off in different directions/at different speeds when we’re out and about, so we can only go out when there are two adults to chase after them.

They’re only just starting to say ‘no’ and get tantrum-y. They often want to be picked up and left alone–simultaneously. Neither is really ‘talking’, so they can’t communicate very much or very well, but they understand everything and have definite opinions about many things.

It still surprises me how little they are. I mean, mostly I am in awe about how huge they are, compared to the 5 pound teeny babies we brought home. Now they’re big, strapping toddlers. But when I’m away from them for a little bit, it’s amazing and fucking ADORABLE how small they still are, compared to big people. Those little legs, running everywhere. Those little feet, with jagged toenails they won’t let us clip. Their little hands wrapped around our arm, or reaching to hold our hand when taking a big step up or down.

Things aren’t always easy, but these little dudes are so wonderfully weird and delightful!

I swear I’m not full of shit, either. (However, we do have full-time child care, so I’m not with them 24/7. That makes it easier for me to be positive. :)) I’ve been terrified of the toddler stage since they were born, and I know that we haven’t hit the hardest age yet, so I’m trying hard to stay focused on the fun/good stuff and be patient through the hard stuff.

DSC_6927_WEB

DSC_7591-001_WEB

I mean, just look at those faces!

Also, I’m laughing/crying at this. I know it will be our future all too soon…

19 Months Old

Dear Sweet Toddler Babies,DSC_6898-001_WEB

You are now 19 months old, cruising downhill toward two. But never mind that for now. You’re continuing to get more sophisticated with your knowledge and understanding about everything. It’s really entertaining to see you do so many things–we’re always in awe of how much you know!DSC_6884_WEBDSC_6891_WEB

Your grandparents visited! They had so much fun cuddling and playing with you, and you loved cuddling and playing with them too!

DSC_3816_WEB

DSC_3720_WEB

DSC_3725_WEB

They got you a kid-sized basketball hoop, and you LOVE IT. Especially you, Emmett-you are still so excited when you see a basketball–you are kind of obsessed!

DSC_3534-1_WEB

DSC_4906-6_WEB (2)

Malcolm, you are a little obsessed with being on the swings. You will just zone out for like twenty minutes and refuse to get out.

DSC_3648_WEB

A few more words this moth: You both started saying “bah-bah” for “basketball.” Malcolm, right at the end of the month, you started saying “no” and “yeah.” You also say “more.” Emmett, you started saying “apple” (for applesauce).

DSC_6828_WEB (2)

We also went up north for your Aunty’s college graduation. While we were up there, we saw you both hug each other at the same time! (Usually only one of you wants to hug the other.) It was kind of amazing to see your little arms around each other–it made my heart want to explode! But of course it only lasted for half a second before you were off and running again. You guys also loved exploring and hanging out with more relatives, like Uncle Cam, who hadn’t seen you for a year and a half!

DSC_6722-1_WEB

You try to jump. It’s super cute–you bend your knees and then pop back up, with a ta-da kind of look. {VIDEO}

You did your first berry picking! Well, technically, you came with us a couple times last summer, but didn’t do anything. We went to pick strawberries, and you figured it out quickly. You also realized that they are yummy, and ate several right after picking, dirt and all.

DSC_6132_WEB

IMG_5064_WEBDSC_6111_WEB

You’ve been loving eating more strawberries and also grapes. Also, you’re a little obsessed with the freeze-dried blueberres/raspberries from Trader Joe’s.

DSC_5518-8_WEB

A recent obsession has been wearing our shoes/walking with our shoes on. It’s really adorable, and you’re actually pretty good at it! Your little feet look so tiny in our giant shoes…I can’t believe that in a few short years, your feet will also be giant. :(  {VIDEO}

And, since you are truly toddlers, you are having more tantrums. Generally for things not going the way you want, which is understandable since you can’t communicate very much or very well. Although, at this stage you don’t always seem to know what you do want…Emmett, one day you refused to be put in your high chair and insisted on having your dinner on the floor. And since then you’ve mostly been happy only if you’re allowed to climb into your high chair by yourself, so we let you do that (with supervision, of course).

DSC_5572-17_WEB

What’s super cool is that you try to comfort each other–one of you will try to rub your brother’s back, or pat his head when he’s upset.

DSC_3702_WEB

Happily, you still want and need plenty of cuddles, and reading time on our laps, and you still run to us for hugs. I can totally forget about the tantrums when your little arms are around my neck. :)

DSC_6099_WEB

We love you so much!

love, mama

The Mama Matters

I’m in a lot of online groups, and many of them revolve around parenting or babies/kids. Often there are posts from moms who are exhausted and frazzled and emotional. I never have much actual advice, but I like to chime in and say something like, “Your mental health and sanity is really important. You matter too, mama!”

A few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick: I’ve been talking to myself.

*I* matter. My subconscious has been hard at work trying to convince me, all this time.

The first few weeks (months? I have no idea) of life with twins, I cried about many things (though I did my best to do it quietly or out of the way. It wasn’t all the time or anything. I don’t think?). I felt frustrated at many things, and I was trying really hard to do All The Things. I kept trying to make my husband take it easier, or not do as much–like go take a nap, or watch some extra tv or something. And he never listened to me. Which I found (and still do find) extremely, extremely frustrating. He would say something about me taking a nap or taking some time ‘away’ or whatever, and I would say, “No, I don’t matter.”

And then I would tear up or actually cry. Because at the same time, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I and my needs truly did not matter, and that it made me fucking sad that I thought I didn’t matter.

Now, my husband was and is pretty much the best partner in this baby thing as anyone could dream of. It’s never been a question that he does the babycare/parenting work. He’s not a babysitter or an “involved dad”; he’s just a parent. No question. So even though we have twins, which is fucking hard, our twins have been good babies, and I’ve had it really pretty good. We got a nanny two days a week when the babies were 2 months old, mostly so that I could do things like take a nap and go outside by myself. Seriously, I have nothing to complain about.

But those first few brutal weeks, I still felt like I didn’t matter. That I was not important, unworthy. The least important person in the house. I stopped saying it, because it made my husband upset (rightfully so!), but I continued to feel it.

Once a new baby arrives, all the attention is directed there. When new twins arrive, there is lots and lots of attention! Not just out at the grocery store, but at home. And not just between the nuclear family, but also the extended family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone’s so excited and thrilled about the adorable squishy baby! And well they should be–babies *are* exciting! (Well, more in theory than in practice; generally they just sit there.) But the parents–especially the mother, I think–get lost in the baby shuffle. Nobody  pays attention to the new mom.

Plus there is or was some remnant in my head of the idea that anything the dad did, was extra, bonus, not to be expected. So I felt guilty, and extra grateful, and extra dependent, and extra beholden. And I was beholden–I physically needed him to do a lot of work those first days, as my body recovered from the c-section.  But I also didn’t want to put him out too much. I didn’t want to be helpless.

Listen to me: I didn’t want to put him out too much? Like I would have to tiptoe and hope and beg for such a favor as to please change diapers today because my torso was sliced open a few days ago and my drugs aren’t doing enough?

There’s a lot of culture at play here–I would have sworn I was immune to this patriarchal nonsense. But look at these words coming out of me without even realizing it! It’s a real thing that women, especially mothers, do and want to and should (????!!!) put themselves last. Because they don’t matter. Or because what their kids or spouses want is more important, and the mom has to make sure to accommodate all of that and mitigate all of that, because her own needs have to take a backseat.

It’s hard to really see and escape this kind of thinking that’s embedded in our society. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political, but it’s kind of really the core of the issue here.

I didn’t think I mattered.

If that’s not something to make you/me tear up, I don’t know what is. It’s heartbreaking! But apparently it’s taken me this long, and the impartiality of a social network screen, to learn the lesson that I matter. That I was and am an important person, not just for the sake of my children, but for my own sake, as a fully functioning human person. I’m not a vessel or a robot. I’m allowed to have space, time and opinions of my own. (How very 20th century of me!)

-

So, listen. No matter what: YOU MATTER, MAMA. Always. Along with your partner, you are one of the two most important people in your new baby/ies’ life. Of course your baby needs a lot of attention, and grueling, tedious attention it is for the first few endless weeks. (But you’ll also get to snuggle with your sweet new baby!) Parental needs get pushed to the back burner for awhile.

But, please please remember: You are a person too. You are not just a feeding/diapering machine. You have wants and needs, and you are allowed to have them. And! you are allowed to get them. Sleep is a biological need, not a selfish want. So naps aren’t indulgent, they’re necessary! You deserve to be at your struggling best–you probably need some rest, time and space away for a few minutes. Away from everything and everyone, blessed quiet for your frazzled new-mama mind. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa (though you certainly deserve a massage at the least!). Just a few minutes to breathe. A few minutes to take a shower, walk through the grocery store aisles, feel the sun on your face–all without a tiny person all up on you, demanding all of your attention and energy. A few minutes to be YOU.

Maybe that means your partner hangs out with the baby/babies solo for awhile. Maybe it means that your free time is only in the evening. But go find that time. Ask for it, demand it. Figure out a way for each of you to get some naps, some alone time, to get some you time, to get that space and that silence. It is so, so important.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent for your sweet new baby. Your baby deserves healthy, rested parents

YOU MATTER.

Pumping for Twins

I’m finally posting this on the one-year anniversary!

Medela Symphony PumpOn the babies’ seven month ‘birthday,’ I pumped for the last time.

Yes, I was finally DONE WITH PUMPING.

It felt like a major decision. And for a long time I still didn’t know how I felt about it!

Once I knew that I didn’t want to nurse, I figured I’d pump for maybe the first three months. Well, that came and went pretty quick and then they were like five months old and I was like, hey…I’m still doing this? But I didn’t want to stop at a random time, and their six month ‘birthday’ was really close, so I decided I would go for seven months as my endpoint.

I can be somewhat terrible at actually Deciding to Do Things. I would much rather decide that something needs to happen and then kind of wait for the chips to fall. Or have something assigned to me. I think I worry that I’ll make a wrong decision, or a strange decision, or that I don’t know how things will play out later on, so I’d sometimes be happy to let the Fates decide! But sometimes I have to be a GrownUp and put on my Big Girl Pants and make a Damn Decision Already.

I was never one to have a ‘goal’ for something like nursing or pumping, because I didn’t know how I would do, if I would like it, or what our life circumstances would be. I didn’t want to tie myself down to some mental milepost in the future.

But once I started, I figured I might as well keep going for awhile. It seemed to be working pretty well, and my supply kept up quite well. I never made enough to fully feed both the babies, but for many months we only had to do one set of formula bottles (for anywhere from five to eight feedings a day). This was pretty great. Especially because with samples and gifts, we didn’t have to buy any for maybe 3 or 4 months.

I need to include an aside about formula itself, as a principle. I love it; I think it’s great. My babies needed more food than my body provided, and formula kept their bellies full so they could grow.

Since the babies tolerated both Enfamil and Similac regular formulas without even noticing the switch, once it was time for us to buy the formula, we tried the Costco brand and it was good.  And it is SO MUCH CHEAPER. On Amazon, the big brands are a dollar an ounce; at Costco those brands are like 80 cents an ounce. The Costco formula is forty-five cents an ounce! Winner! (But really we are just lucky that our babies don’t have any special dietary needs/restrictions. And that I don’t care about organics and stuff.)

Even with the cheapest formula option, it still costs money. As I transitioned to fewer pumps per day and my output dipped, we used more formula each month. And of course then once I stopped, we had to buy a lot. The babies take 32-35 ounces a day, times two, so the giant can only lasts 3 1/2 – 4 days. Again, even cheap, it adds up.

And to me it felt like I was forcing the family to pay this extra money because I was being lazy and selfish by not pumping anymore.

I wanted to be free. I wanted my body to be my own again. I wanted my schedule, all the hours in the day, to be my own again (or as much as they could be with two infants). But I also waffled a bit.

There was a nagging thought in the back of my head that if I was able to make food for my babies, I should keep doing it. That maybe my needs weren’t really needs, just wants, and that my babies’ biological needs trumped whatever I wanted.

Happily, my husband insisted that I should stop. Not pressuring me to or anything, but asserting that I had done a lot already and it was more than okay for me to stop. He respected my seven months of pumping and my decision to be done. But I asked a lot of times, “Are you sure it’s okay? Should I just keep going after all? Is it too much money?” He always said “No, you should stop. It’s really okay.”

Another aside: apparently some husbands think it’s their business to insist on or pressure their partners to pump or breastfeed. What the everloving fuck?! Unless a man is the one strapping a baby or a milking machine to his own body, he has zero right to push for his partner to feed a baby that way!

Anyway, so over the course of a few weeks I weaned myself down and then off the pump entirely.

The last pump was on a Friday. I wasn’t sure how the stopping process would go for me, physically. All was fine for awhile, at first it didn’t feel any different. Later on Saturday I started feeling uncomfortable. By Sunday it was actual pain. It hurt to hold a baby and it hurt to sleep–pressure on my engorged chest. I read that other women had pain for up to a week when quitting! I tried cabbage leaves, I thought about finding whatever herbs or drugs might help after a few days…Sunday night it got even worse and so Monday morning I broke down and pumped for ten minutes. I decided that if I needed to do once a day for a few more days I could handle it. I got another 10 ounces or so, and after that my body totally got the message. No more pain, no more milk, all done, all gone. My body was once again all mine.

It’s been two months A YEAR now and I can’t believe how glad I am that I stopped, and how incredibly much I don’t miss it. I look back and wonder, jesus, did I really do that?! I have not regretted the decision to stop for even a SECOND.

And now for all the random thoughts I have about pumping.

1. NUMBERS! DATA! NERDINESS!

I kept a log while I was in the hospital so I would know when to pump and be able to see how much I was getting. And then…I kept going. I continued to keep track of every single pump for all seven months. And then I graphed it! Is that dorky or what?

Fullscreen capture 7152013 115657 AM.bmp

Several things to note:

-The stars indicate when I decreased a pumping session. At first I believe it was seven times a day, so the first star is when I went down to six times a day. I did 30 minutes each time, until going to five times, when I did 45 minutes each time.

-I don’t even want to think about the total amount of time I spent pumping. Hours and hours and hours. I essentially lived on our couch.

-My supply really jumped up quickly at a clear pace and I had a really good average–over 50 ounces a day for a long time. Again, though, the babies were taking 60 ounces.

-Looking at this graph, it looks like such a short period of time. And I guess it was, in the grand scheme of things. But those days and weeks and months of pumping felt looooooong. So very long. Never ending, really. I can’t even tell you how long it all felt. Such a slog.

-I was fascinated to learn (thank you auto-sum!) that over the course of seven months, my total output was SIXTY SEVEN GALLONS. That’s a full milk case at the grocery store. FROM MY BODY. That is crazy weird strange cool. Check out my badly-photoshopped graphic of SIXTY-SEVEN GALLONS:

Pumping for Twins

2. THE ENERGY

The first few weeks of pumping, I could literally feel the life draining out of me at each session. It felt like I was wilting from the inside out. It was probably because I wasn’t eating much of anything at first. As time went on,  I didn’t feel weak anymore, though I doubt I was ever eating enough. When I went out for errands, I frequently stopped for a chocolate milkshake to get some extra calories.

Sitting in one place for so long so many times a day forced me to drink a lot of water–I easily drank 60oz a day, and that made a huge difference for my skin and for my energy level.

Also, I was surprised that I didn’t lose weight faster than I did. I dropped forty pounds in the first week, but only another six pounds in the next six weeks.

9 wks pregnant; 1 week pp; 7 months pp

9 wks pregnant; 1 week pp; 7 months pp

3. THE SCHEDULE

A lot of women keep pumping every three hours (around the clock–that means overnight!) for way longer than I did. I was never willing to do that. Within a week maybe I was skipping one overnight session, for a total of seven pumps a day instead of the ‘ideal’ eight. My supply may have been higher if I’d done that extra session, but I was not willing to sacrifice even more sleep. As it was, for many months I could only go 5 or 6 hours between pumps, which meant starting the last one of the night around 2am, which meant getting to bed around 3am, and then getting up again to pump at 7am.

The worst part was when someone would suggest that I should sleep in. Or my husband would offer to do something so I could sleep. I wanted to cry and scream every time I had to say (and good lord I hated that everyone else seemed to forget what a slave to the pump I had to be), “I CAN’T; I HAVE TO PUMP.”

Eventually I started doing the last one a little bit earlier and earlier, stretching out the overnight. It took awhile, but man, the difference it made to get more sleep….indescribable. I know that a lot of babies don’t sleep well and continue to wake up every night every few hours for many many months….but ours didn’t, and being unable to take advantage of their good sleep was so frustrating. I was a zombie for months when I didn’t ‘have’ to be.

The best part was when I got to the point of 8 or 9 hours overnight between pumps. And when my amazing husband started getting up with the babies so I could sleep for eight hours. I think that was in April, when the babies were about five months old or so. Oh my god, I felt like a real person again. It was an incredible, priceless gift.

The other sweet spot was when I finally got to four pumps a day. That felt really manageable in the daily schedule: first thing in the morning, lunch time, late afternoon, night time. (Until I got to three times a day; that was even better.)

Of course, the relentless pumping schedule means that you have to schedule your life around your pump. Date nights, playdates/mom groups, exercise–all of it has to be done in those times between pumping sessions. And if they overlap, then you can’t just skip. Your body won’t let you. So you have to pump before and after your fun event.

4. THE HASSLE

Pumping sucks. Literally and physically. In so many ways.

First, there’s all the crap. Keeping track of all the parts, washing them in between pumping sessions, finding room to let them dry on the counters. If you pump in different places, you also have to cart the pump and accessories to different parts of your house (or car, or work, or vacation).

Then there are the accessories. Often I would rush home from an outing and immediately run upstairs and do a fast clothing change to pajama pants and a nursing tanktop. I also had a special hands-free pumping bra, plus a muslin blanket to cover up (I just tied it on like a giant neckerchief). Then the bottles and lids, and eventually you might need to keep extra bottles around in case one fills up and you need to switch before the pumping session is over. It really sucks when one leaks or overflows and you don’t notice until it’s already been going on for who knows how long. Ick and ack.

It is a huge hassle to stick to that schedule. Your boobs don’t need a clock; they know when the milk is due, and whether or not your pump is going, that milk will come. Occasionally time would get away from me, and I would feel a tingling, and then suddenly realize I needed to be pumping. On our trip north in January, three different times I was busy being social and missed the pumping times and leaked everywhere. Yuck.

5. THE IMMEDIACY

When I would say I have to pump, that might RIGHT NOW. Not right now in three minutes, RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MOMENT GET OUT OF MY WAY. Occasionally my husband would try to give me a hug or leisurely talk about something as I was frantically trying to get all the pump shit ready and I would be like I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW I NEED TO PUMP.

Imagine that feeling when you’ve needed to pee for a long time and you’re about to burst and you’re on the way to the bathroom. And someone wants you to stop and chat.

Except that ability to hold it in is not available and the ‘ready to explode’ feeling keeps building painfully and there’s no immediate relief.

So a note to all you friends or partners who are pumping: get the hell out of their way!

I would frequently lose track of time and be like, Shit! I have to pump! And then proceed to run around getting all the pump stuff and accessories ready, and oh yeah, fill up my water bottle, since I’ll be stuck in one place for almost an hour. And I probably need a snack. And I should go to the bathroom now while I can. Where’s my kindle? Is my laptop plugged in? Make sure I can reach the remote!

Now imagine the fun times when I was alone with two babies and pumping! For months I did at least one feeding a day *while* pumping. It was difficult and extremely, incredibly annoying. But I figured that multi-tasking was the best way to use my time. As I slowly changed my schedule and those pumping/feedings got fewer, it was such a relief.

6. THE IN-BETWEEN-NESS

Everyone wants to know how you feed your baby. It’s none of their damn business, and I have a much bigger post brewing on that, but people will still ask. It does come up organically sometimes. And I think people in general like to categorize things, and seek out people with similar situations. It pretty much seems like there are only two options: breastfeeding and formula feeding. And…I was neither. Or kind of both. My babies obviously got formula from the start, so I was a formula feeder. And I only nursed a handful of times ever, so I wasn’t a breastfeeder. But I was pumping. So they were getting milk from me. Does that mean I was breastfeeding because their food came from me? Or does it mean I wasn’t breastfeeding since that food from my body went into theirs via a bottle? Then there are the small, forgotten segment of Exclusive Pumping mothers. Which, I wasn’t that either, since I was pumping like 70-80% of what my babies ate, not 100%.

I never liked being neither, or both, or nothing easily categorize-able. I always wished I could find other people like me, in all those facebook groups where it seems everyone is an exclusive and/or extended breastfeeder. I wish I could have found a community of other in-between-ers.

7. THE UNEXPECTED BONUS

Once I was a little less zombie-fied and was more stable with my pumping schedule, I began to enjoy my late-night (2am) pump session. I’m a night-owl anyway, so it wasn’t a stretch to stay awake for so long, even though I was tired. But I was alone. I could do whatever I wanted, as long as I could do it while sitting on the couch. I wrote blog posts; I read the internet; I watched Netflix (mainly a ridiculous and fun Aussie teen soap called Dance Academy); occasionally I would read on my kindle.

I came to relish that quiet alone time, and actually look forward to it. Even though I wasn’t really doing anything different than during the rest of my day, my mind felt calm and quiet. Relaxed. I suppose the time sacrifice was worth it for the mental break, in a way. Sometimes you just need to get away, and sometimes the only way to do that is to stay up until 2 or 3am.

8. NO, YOU’RE NOT LOSING YOUR MIND.

Many women–including myself–hear the pump ‘talk.’ Especially since I had a hospital-grade pump for the first 6-7 weeks, which is gigantic but pretty quiet, and then moved to the Medela Pump-In-Style (the tote bag version), which is small and lightweight, but very loud. I heard different words or phrases nearly every day the first few weeks with that one! Then I finally started tuning it out. Here’s a funny/frustrating article about pumps being so technologically un-advanced: Shouldn’t the Breast Pump Be as Elegant as an iPhone and as Quiet as a Prius by now?

Medela Pump Tote Bag

9. TIPS

You can use any bottle with a standard opening. I used the Snappies bottles first, then the 5oz Medela bottles that came with the pump, and then I had to move to something bigger. I found a couple cheap 8oz bottles at Walgreens, and also used the Dr Brown’s 8oz bottles. They actually hold closer to 13oz!

However: lids matter! You can buy separate screw-on caps for the Dr. Brown’s bottles (which fit the 4oz and the 8oz sizes) and they ACTUALLY work. The Medela bottle lids worked mostly okay for the Medela bottles, but not for any of the other kinds.

You can use dry-erase markers to write anywhere on any bottle. We have a bunch of the fine-tipped markers for our kitchen dry-erase board, so I used them to write day/time of pumped bottles. Wipes right off!

IMG_9700_WEB

For chafing, almost everyone recommends lanolin. Lanolin is really, really sticky. Which means that you and your pump parts are always a little sticky. I dug around and finally found another suggestion: olive oil! Put some on a paper towel, and then wipe it around the inside of the pump flange. Et voila, no chafing, and no stickiness!

9. IN CONCLUSION

You can feed your baby however you like. One method (formula or breastfeeding) may work best for you, or you might combo feed. You might use a pump also. It’s pretty neat that our bodies can feed our babies, isn’t it? But–the best things to remember are that 1, if you’re feeding your baby and loving your baby, that means you’re a good mother–period. And 2, YOU matter. Your time matters, your physical AND MENTAL health matter. If you want to pump, and you can, then great! If you don’t want to, or you can’t, great! Love your baby. That’s what matters. I support you!

Pinspiration: Father’s Day Craft

Last spring, I decided semi-last minute to do a craft for Father’s Day. I found this on Pinterest :

fathers day pinterest

Pinterest             /        Original source

“Heartfelt quotes” aren’t really our thing, and they’re definitely not my husband’s thing. But I figured it was a great basic idea.

Here’s my take on it:

IMG_0153

This was a really quick and easy project, and I only used things I already had.

First, I used my black stamp pad to stamp each baby’s footprint, so that together they made a heart. (I wrote each baby’s name next to the print.) This was just on regular copy paper.

The background is scrapbook paper, the blue heart is another piece of scrapbook paper. I wanted a cool pattern for the letters, but didn’t like any of the paper I had, so I actually went online and into Photoshop to make a pattern. I then typed out the letters in outline and printed it all, and painstakingly cut out the letters.

Then I put it into an empty IKEA frame we had lying around. Et voila–Happy Father’s Day!

This is a really easy craft, and super customizable. And best of all, besides being free, it’s super cute and a great keepsake!

18 months old?!

Dear sweet babies,

DSC_3491-001_WEB

Wow, this is such an interesting time. You are getting SO BIG but really, you’re still teeny tiny little people. You are growing and learning and hugging and laughing, and we love it all. Here’s the cool stuff you did as 17 month olds:

DSC_3477_WEBDSC_3472_WEB

You’re growing well: Emmett: 25 pounds, 32.5 inches, and Malcolm: almost 27 pounds, 33.2 inches.

DSC_1747_WEB

Your language has really improved/expanded this month. It’s still mostly gibberish, but you do have some consistent ‘real’ words (only your starting consonants and vowels are clear, so to an outsider, most of these ‘words’ probably don’t sound very obvious at all.):  uh oh, hi, bye, lights, all done, yeah, dog, outside, ball, shhh.  Emmett, you started saying “all done” when you don’t want to be somewhere anymore, like on the changing table. :) You both love saying hi and bye to us–and you’re even starting to smile and wave hi to strangers. Sometimes. {VIDEO} {VIDEO}

DSC_1856-1_WEB

You are both OBSESSED with pushing things. The umbrella stroller and the shopping cart are recent faves. It’s very serious though, like you’re doing a job. You have pushed them all the way to the playground and then all around the playground too–more than half a mile! That’s a really long way for such small dudes. You even love the baby shopping carts at Trader Joe’s, even though they’re a tad too tall for you.

IMG_4735_WEB

Additionally, Emmett, this month, a new obsession has emerged: the ball. Any ball, but especially soccer balls. You love them! You want to watch them, hold them, throw them, carry them, you’ve even sort of tried to kick them. {VIDEO}

Of course, since you’re toddlers, you get mad when something doesn’t work or when we take something away from you. You stomp your feet, flap your arms angrily, and do things like lay down on your tummy on the ground, or run to the kitchen wall, or fling yourself onto the sofa. It’s so very dramatic and we try to be as sympathetic as we can…but it’s kind of funny. Don’t be mad. :)

DSC_1902_WEB

You’ve been really hungry, all the time. Your sign for ‘eat’/’food’/’hungry’ is now to basically slap your whole hand over your mouths, and you do this over and over. If you see anyone else with food, you want it now please.

DSC_2449_WEB

Which reminds me, this month there has been a lot less of your ‘please’ signing. I wonder why–I guess it’s our fault. What you’ve started doing instead is pointing or gesturing at something, and nodding vigorously. You see something you want, especially food, and seem to say, “YES, I want that. Yes, that. Yes, give me THAT.”

DSC_3417-14_WEB

Believe it or not, you have MORE TEETH! Your canines have erupted to varying degrees!

Malcolm, you’ll give hugs on command, but only to someone who’s not asking you. So Mama can’t ask for a hug, but Daddy can say, “Can you give Mama a hug?” And you’ll get up with a smile and come over for a hug. :) :)

IMG_4575_WEB

Malcolm, a nasty ear infection finally cleared up after a second round of antibiotics. Unfortunately you’ve now decided you dislike medicine droppers…you really liked them for awhile there. Bummer. Emmett, the same week Malcolm was pronounced clear, you had a burst eardrum from an ear infection! The doc said didn’t look bad so we didn’t need to treat it just yet, and thankfully it did clear up.

DSC_1697_WEB

You’re tall enough and smart enough to push the microwave buttons. The ‘start’ button also is an automatic “go for 30 seconds” button, so our microwave has been getting a lot of extra use lately. We need to get better about closing the gate to the kitchen.

DSC_1820_WEB

Emmett, you randomly invented this funny mouth noise one day–you put the back of your hand over your mouth and wave it, to make a distorted sound. So random, but funny and cute!

Malcolm, you dance a little more lately. You love hearing songs and rhythms and letting your little self move. {VIDEO}

DSC_1984_WEB

I’m selfishly happy that you still want a lot of hugs and snuggles. Malcolm, you in particular have had several days of needing extra holding and cuddles. We happily oblige!
You also are doing a lot of spontaneous hugging and comfort for each other. Often this turns into the hugger pushing down the huggee with the force of the hug, or the hugger is generally too aggressive or lengthy with the hug, and upsets the huggee.

IMG_4702_WEB

Sigh–you’ve figured out that you can CLIMB up your high chairs! (No pictures of this because we grab you as soon as you get up there.) You go through moments of wanting to climb everything. And it’s only going to get worse the bigger and older you get–ack!

DSC_1814_WEB

You don’t run yet, but you can walk pretty fast. When you really get into it, one arm swings harder as if you to propel you more. You also sometimes walk or even crawl backward.

DSC_2535_WEB

So I guess it’s not surprising that we have officially entered the Skinned Knee Years. I thought we had at least another year before that began. But your little knees have been scraped up pretty much constantly the past couple weeks. Most of the time it doesn’t seem to bother you too much, at least.

DSC_1889_WEB

Of course you’ve been fascinated by our phones for months now. But–you’ve really been paying attention, because now you pick it up and put it your ear (well, in the general vicinity) to ‘answer’ it! Facetime with Grandma and Grandpa are extra fun (and extra difficult for us to keep you from accidentally hanging up). IMG_4651_WEB

Your auntie came to visit for a day. She loved hanging out with you, and you loved playing with her too!     DSC_1679_WEB

This month was our second Mother’s Day! I got all the best presents: a sweet handprint craft, time to sleep in, and a photo of me holding you! DSC_2490-1_WEB

Your patience is pretty short-lived when we’re in new places that you want to explore:  DSC_2499-1_WEB

Your new skills bring so much fun and fascination (and sometimes frustration) to all of us. You understand so much and are so interested in everything.  We love you SO much, and it’s a pure delight to hug you and kiss you every single day.

love, mama

Things I still think about, six months later

I wrote this over a year ago, when my babies were only a few months old. I never published it at the time partly because I wasn’t sure how it would be received–I never read  about these kinds of opinions and experiences. And partly because after I wrote this, I realized that I felt a lot better. Getting it all out on virtual paper proved to be truly cathartic, and a year later, yes, I’m still annoyed, but nowhere near as upset and emotional. I decided to publish it now in order to get it out there for anyone else who might be able to relate. I have edited a few details and fleshed out the links at the end, but kept it mostly how I wrote it. Sorry that it’s a little disjointed.

If you talk about or read about birth, chances are you’ll hear about a woman who is devastated about her birth plan going awry and having to endure interventions that she didn’t want. That the birth went completely opposite of how she wanted a beautiful, natural experience. You might also hear about someone who was ‘forced’ or coerced into using formula, or who wasn’t encouraged or supported in breastfeeding.

I had the opposite experience.

I’m still irritated, angry, sad, about breastfeeding. It wasn’t my attempt, it wasn’t something I wanted to happen. For two solid days someone was poking and prodding at me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t know why it was happening.

I think during the intake questions before the c-section, the nurse asked if I wanted to breastfeed. I think I said, sure, I’ll probably try it. I guess I thought they were asking just for informational purposes or something? But that was it. Nobody laid out what would happen or what that would actually, logistically mean for me and these two new babies.  Nobody asked me anything about it after the babies were actually born. Certainly nobody told me that whatever I had said would result in such a frenzy of unwanted activity.

It literally only occurred to me like 5 months post-partum that I could have said STOP. I had just had two people cut out of my abdomen, and my system was full of various drugs. I felt completely helpless and I was completely out of it, physically and emotionally.  Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep. I had no idea what was happening but this stupid breastfeeding thing CLEARLY wasn’t going to work with no milk. Duh. What the ever-loving fuck did they think was going to happen?!

It never even occurred to me to say no, any more than it would have occurred to me to start tap dancing on the ceiling. I was in the hospital and nurses were taking care of me. They knew what was going on. I didn’t know what I was doing; I had never done any of this before!

I think back to that recovery room. My first minutes with these brand new babies, but I didn’t get to enjoy them–I mostly remember that dumb frazzled nurse trying unsuccessfully to latch two 36-week-old babies to my very dry boobs. Seriously, what did she think would happen? Even I knew it wouldn’t work! Why couldn’t they have just left me alone? Why couldn’t they have ASKED me what I wanted to do? If someone had asked me if I wanted to breastfeed–as in, right then, not as in a hypothetical, sure I’ll try it–I would have said no.

She (and the other nurse she brought in because she couldn’t handle two babies) must have eventually backed off or given up. I so wish that I had a better memory and know why and how. Did I tell them to give it a rest? (No. I so wish I had.) Did they just get tired of trying to force something that wasn’t going to work? What made them finally go away?

It makes me kind of mad, and kind of sad. It’s such a frustrating thing to remember and I really wish I could go back in time and slap that nurse’s hands away from me.

But again, it literally didn’t seem like it was my decision. It’s like my body wasn’t mine.

And I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way about breastfeeding.

The hospital was a great hospital, and I loved the rest of the nurses during my stay there. I felt cared for and cared about. This hospital–and many hospitals–boasts of being ‘baby-friendly.’ The more I learn about what that actually means, I’ve come to think of it as ‘mama unfriendly.’ There’s no nursery to give you a break. One nurse sort of broke a rule and took the babies for two hours one night. And those two hours of blessed silence made a huge difference for us. If we had had that first night to sleep and rest and, I don’t know, start to RECOVER FROM THE MAJOR SURGERY I’d just had, I would have felt so much better and more with-it. I understand that rooming in with your baby gives time to bond and a better chance at breastfeeding. But why didn’t we have an option? A choice? Why weren’t my boobs allowed to be in peace? Why on earth are the baby and the boobs more important than the mama who owns the boobs and who just birthed that baby?

I think that’s a key factor–all these well-meaning lactivist folks are thinking about the baby. I guarantee you that the baby has no idea what’s going on. The mama is the one you need to worry about. There need to be guidelines, sure. But why can’t there be very clear questions, options, or statements given before and after the birth happens?

They need to re-name “baby-friendly” to “breastfeeding friendly” because, really, that’s all they’re trying to do.  Apparently that’s all that matters–not what mamas may actually want or need. All the things they do are done solely to encourage breastfeeding. (That’s not hyperbole, either–go look at the policies.) If the goal were to encourage bonding, they would give mothers the OPTION to get some goddamned rest. Our hospital apparently no longer had a regular baby nursery, so we were forced to be woken up every ten minutes by our two newborns. I can tell you that both my husband and I would have been exponentially more sane had we had at least one night of good, solid sleep in the hospital. And I promise, our bonding with our new babies would not have suffered one bit. It might have even been better, if we hadn’t been so desperately exhausted.

Here are two semi-relevant articles that really spoke to me:

America’s Post-Partum Practices

We were in the hospital for four nights, and I would have happily stayed a lot longer (well, if they would have stopped waking me up every two hours, that is). It was a relief and a blessing to have knowledgeable people coming in to help and advise us all day long. To not feel alone.

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one.” I actually did–but didn’t always have the luxury of acting like it, with two babies to care for.

“Perhaps if we started talking about the time and energy it actually takes to recuperate from childbirth, women wouldn’t feel the need to return as quickly as possible to “normal.””

And a Jezebel piece about that same article: Stop Acting like Bouncing Back from Labor is Even Possible

THIS: “What’s really cool is that, on top of all this you’re-on-your-own-sucker bullshit, the conversations a new mom will likely encounter are along the lines of: “Do you love it?! Is it everything you dreamed?!””

I have no doubt that many women have a blissful, zen-like post-partum experience. I was not one of them.