The nightly torture

Toothbrushing. It is the bane of my existence. Or at least the bane of our evenings with toddlers. I *hate* it.

We only started brushing their teeth regularly a little over a year ago. They screamed and writhed and had to be held down by a second person. I found a toothbrushing song to sing, in hopes that they would start to recognize it and be a little happier, or at least less terrified. It hasn’t worked.

This went on for probably five or six months, and then suddenly they would just sit there and open up. Without crying! Without squirming away! What a miracle! I was all, woohoo, we just had to wait a little while and they finally got used to it!

Hahaha.

The protests began again in the fall or winter. They were older now and more verbal, so they just say No and run away. They once again squirm away from the toothbrush. They also figured out that they can clamp those little chompers down on the toothbrush and lock it in place (and suck out the toothpaste). It’s a less violent event now, but it’s still a huge, giant pain in the ass. Many nights one of them will be mostly okay with it but one will not. I hate it hate it hate it.

Tonight, after M chomping down on the toothbrush every.single.damn.time I put it in his mouth, he said something about pizza. And randomly I decided to give the toothbrush a Cookie Monster voice and say, “I want pizza! Mmmm, pizza snacks! Give me pizza! Yummy, I see baby cookies! Gimme gimme! More baby cookies!” while brushing his teeth. He giggled and laughed and let me brush his teeth.

Then I did the same for Emmett. (He likes to do it ‘by self’ which of course is terribly ineffective, so I’ve been trying to negotiate that I do it first then he gets a turn.) He laughed and giggled, and then when I was done, he handed me the toothbrush again and said, “More?” {cue angels singing}

Oh my god. I have no idea if this tactic will ever work again, but it will live on as a bright spot that maybe, someday, there may be hope?!

Also, we’re taking them to the dentist for the first time this week (they’re almost 2.5). I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be a complete and utter disaster, and that we won’t get ‘in trouble’ for having waited so long. Wish all of us much luck and patience.

One good thing about me

If I am out with other people at a restaurant and the server asks about dessert, I will always immediately say, “Yes.” Many women hesitate and waver and make excuses and apologies and justifications. Not me–I raise my hand as a proud dessert-haver. No excuses, no guilt. JUST DELICIOUS DESSERT.

So if you’re out with me, you never have to worry about the dessert question, you never have to worry about having a reason. We will have dessert, we will enjoy it, the end.

Life is short, people. Cake does a body good.

Note that this post is tagged with “advice” and “health.” On purpose. 😀

PS: After I drafted this, I found this link snippet on Joy the Baker: “Eating: A Manifesto: Hey ladies, we can stop torturing ourselves about the brownie and just eat the brownie.  My goodness the way we torture ourselves.” AMEN.

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?

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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!

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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!

Imperfections

Our babies have flat heads.

At our two-month appointment in January, I asked about it and was told not to worry (we saw a nurse practitioner for that one, not our regular doctor). At the four-month, I asked again, because they were still flat. Our pediatrician said it would probably be fine, but she said we could have the craniofacial specialists check it out.

I was simultaneously scared to have it confirmed and not have it looked at. But I did the grownup thing and made an appointment. (It’s a huge university/hospital complex at the top of a big hill in northwestern Portland. Huge buildings and structures everywhere you look–honestly I felt like I was in the Jetsons or something!)

Anyway, the woman we saw there was wonderful–very warm, loved the babies, and was very open with us. It was clear that she had no agenda, wasn’t going to automatically make us do helmets, but was very objective. She measured their heads, and sure enough they were flat. Emmett’s worse than Malcolm’s, by a lot. We’d already been able to see that, but the numbers were stark. There’s a certain measurement difference cutoff that would make a baby eligible for a helmet; Malcolm’s was below, and Emmett’s was above. But both have acquired positional plagiocephaly (the medical term for flat head).

She gave us exercises and stretches to do with both of the babies, to work on their torticollis, which would also help them move their heads and necks better. She wanted us to have the babies do fifteen minutes of tummy time every few hours, which was WAY MORE than what we’d been doing, and quite frankly, way more than the babies wanted to do. We were to come in again two months later to check the progress.

We did fairly well with the tummy time, and the babies got a lot better about tolerating it. We would give them toys and squishy books, or lay them on our laps facing out/down, and they would be okay. The stretches really helped their neck tightness ease and loosen. We also had them do a lot of supported sitting–in the Bumbo, activity seat, jumperoo, exersaucer. Lots of playtime not laying on their backs.

By the follow up appointment, Malcolm’s head had gotten noticeably less flat, and his measurement difference dropped in half. Emmett’s had also gotten less flat, but his hadn’t improved as much, and he was still over the ‘cutoff.’ Too flat.

Time for a helmet.

The specialist was again very honest and caring. She told us that after a year or two, heads/skulls aren’t really that malleable anymore, so if you wait, a helmet either takes longer to round out the head, or won’t work at all.

Three weeks ago we had our first appointment at the orthotist so his head could get scanned for his custom helmet. Doesn’t he look like an adorable little Ewok?

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Last week we went back to get the custom-fitted helmet.

The night before, I took a special photo of his cute, happy little self.

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At the office, still happily unaware.

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The doctor had to adjust the helmet openings to fit his head. It’s made of molded foam and has a rounded back to guide his head growth over time.

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Here he is back at home, getting used to wearing the helmet for an hour. This first week is a schedule of increased time wearing it so he can get used to it. Starting at the end of this week, he’ll wear it 23 hours a day. He’ll have it for 3 to 6 months, depending on his growth.

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It’s been a few days now, so he’s worn it for hours at a time, including for naps. He seems to be doing just fine with it. When we go to put it on him, he moves his head around to look at it, and then I swear, he recognizes it and lowers his head so we can put it on. When we take it off, his head is sweaty and his considerable hair is plastered to his forehead. But that’s just how it goes, so we’ll be washing his hair and cleaning the helmet every day during the one-hour break.

Okay, so those are all the facts about Emmett’s helmet.

Now for my feelings.

I’ll sum up: as the orthotist put the helmet on him that first time, tears welled up and rolled down.

When the craniofacialist confirmed the flatness for both and that Emmett would probably need a helmet, I felt my heart sink. Sadness. Guilt.

My poor little babies. Their heads were perfectly fine when they were born. But since they slept in the Rock N Plays pretty much all day and night for the first however many weeks and months, and they both leaned their heads to the right, they got flat spots on that side. I could have held them more. Or forced them to sleep in the co-sleeper (they didn’t sleep as well in there and also spit up more). I could have carried or wore them more. (With naps, feedings, and pumpings, and two babies…I don’t know how.)

The specialist told us that twins are extra susceptible to flat heads, especially Twin A’s (the twin closer to the ‘exit’, if you will). Emmett was our Twin A and his head was wedged in my pelvis for the last three months in utero (Malcolm was breech; neither of them ever flipped), so I guess it’s logical that his little skull already had some extra pressure on it.

So in theory, it happens to a lot of babies and it’s not my fault. But I still feel like it’s my fault, like I let him down, like I didn’t do my job. I dreaded the fact that something was Officially Wrong with one of my babies. We have been so incredibly lucky that our babies have been so healthy thus far. I know that many twins have a lot of medical issues right away, and that sadly many babies come down with flu, RSV, whooping cough, and all kinds of other scary things. We’ve avoided all that so far. I also know that flat heads and helmets aren’t really a health problem, and that he’s still a healthy baby, and I should shut the fuck up with my whining.

But oh, my sweet little baby. We already get looks and comments all the time because they’re twins–and now there’s another reason people might gawk and say dumb shit. He won’t know any better, but I will. I know that we’ll be glad to be helping his head round out, and it’s only temporary, and he won’t remember, but I feel bad that we’re making him look ‘different.’

I’m getting used to it, sort of. I’m happy that Emmett doesn’t care and is his usual self. I still think he’s really cute. It’s harder to kiss his adorable little face with the helmet in the way. And I still have a little sinking, sad feeling when I see it. My poor baby.

Nobody’s perfect, and everyone has a ‘thing’ or issue. But I didn’t think I’d have to accept imperfections for my small babies quite yet. I know that over time there will be plenty more and it won’t be a big deal. Maybe this first hurdle is the biggest.

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Update: He outgrew the helmet three months later! Read the post here with more details about the experience with the helmet.

Couch potato

You know, I’ve been un-pregnant for three months now. I figured my body wouldn’t hurt anymore. But somehow lately, everything kind of aches. My shoulders, my back, my hips, my calves.

Most days, I spend literally 19 hours a day sitting on the couch. I also tend to hunch over when I’m at the sink or changing table (though I finally got some risers to get the table higher, and that was a big help), and when I’m on the laptop my shoulders tense and hunch upwards. Honestly, for the past few weeks, it feels like the entire day is uncomfortable somehow. And now that I’ve started to notice it, it’s worse because I don’t know how to fix it or prevent it.

Every so often I’ll notice my shoulders and try to un-tense them. When I try to relax, though, I think I tense my lower back. Also, the tension creeps back within seconds or never un-tensed in the first place. At this very moment I’m typing around the pump, as I so often do nowadays, and that makes the shoulder tensing worse, because my elbows are forced outward a bit, so the position is unnatural and my shoulders and back seem to be over-compensating. In other words, it kind of hurts just to sit here sometimes.

A couple days a week, I go out for a walk for 30-40 minutes, which I think has helped melt off some pounds and inches, but doesn’t seem to do much to undo the muscle fatigue. (Muscle ‘fatigue’ of sitting on my ass all day? Get a grip. I don’t know what else to call it, though. Laziness ache? Couch potato syndrome?) I’ve been trying to stretch a bit while I’m moving around the house–lunges to stretch my atrophying hip flexors and calves, forward bends to relax my lower back. Those brief stretches feel good, but it still isn’t enough. Neither is walking. It’s like I need to do the physical opposite of sitting to undo the damage. I don’t mean standing, I mean the angles need to swap. Instead of sitting in a 90 degree angle, I need to stretch to a 270 degree angle! Haha, can you imagine!

I’m starting to wonder if lying down in bed more would help. I’m still only getting about five hours of sleep, which is also not helping because I am so tired. But lying straight instead of sitting up is probably less stressful on my body. I certainly don’t hunch my shoulders when I’m sleeping! Doctor Self, I’m prescribing ten hours of sleep a night to combat your aches! Along with weekly massages and jacuzzi baths!

One major problem: there’s no end in sight for the sitting. I’m still pumping five times a day for 30-50 minutes. On the couch. Often that doesn’t overlap with feeding the babies. Can’t exactly do that on-the-go, so on-the-couch I am. This week I’m starting some work from home again, and you can guess where I’ll be stationed!

I do have some yoga-ish dvds that I think would feel really good. It’s just a matter of finding time and space to do that during the day. Not as easy as it might sound, unfortunately.

I hope I can find some solution that works, so my body will start feeling good again. Or at least stop feeling so uncomfortable.

Sigh.

These every-three-hour feedings never stop. I mean, duh, but the time between them feels so fleeting. And I feel chained to this stupid pump. I’m so tired of doing that all the time. I’m trying to multitask, but there are always so many things I want to do at the same time (like eat or go to the bathroom). I’m already antsy to be done with it altogether, but I want to delay full-time formula for as long as possible, mostly for financial reasons. These babies already go through so many diapers, it’s crazy (about 20 a day). So to have that expense plus formula every month…I would feel so guilty. But I’m already afraid to stop pumping or even reduce it, for money reasons but also because I don’t know what will happen to my supply. God, and they’re only going to eat more and more at each feeding. So far I’m keeping up, but who knows how long that will last. If I have to keep pumping at every feeding (I’m already skipping one overnight one to sleep), I’m going to go stir-crazy. But that’s so selfish and small-minded. So I keep telling myself to suck it up and just do it already. But I whine about it every time, either out loud or in my head.

The other day I hit the wall of tired–I can’t seem to feel rested. Even though I’m getting 5-6 hour stretches of sleep, thanks to our overnight shared feeding schedule. And I shouldn’t be complaining really, since our babies aren’t screaming all the time like I know some do. But they do get seriously grunty, so there isn’t a lot of long periods of actual quiet. Again, if I were someone else, I would kick me for saying anything at all.

I have all these keepsake-type projects I want to do. There’s Project Life, which is a long-term thing, but I also want to take handprints and footprints. In several different formats. There are two long-term series I want to do as well. Not to mention some more photos I want. I’m really unsatisfied with the photos I’ve been able to take so far–they aren’t up to par with what I would like. But taking the kind of posed photos I want and doing these projects all mean that I need cooperation from Andy, and the time to actually just freaking do it, when they’re quiet enough to. And I’m tired of asking for things and needing things done for me. Especially things like this that he doesn’t really seem to care much about. The thing is, though, is that these are all time-sensitive kinds of things, if you will. Their adorable, tiny little hands and feet will only get bigger. If I don’t do these things now, I will regret it and wish I had done it.

Speaking of photos and projects, I keep spending money on them. So far in the last month or so, I haven’t been spending much at all, since all I do is sit on the couch and feed or pump. But these projects that I’m excited about–some of them cost money. I’ve made a few trips to the nearby craft store and spent a decent amount. Not to mention the professional photo shoot we did–I will order some prints but not too many. It’s hard, because as a photographer I really dislike it when clients are too price-conscious and cheap. I am not cheap, but as a client, I honestly can’t afford much. But I won’t make that the photographer’s problem–I will just order a few things for now and maybe more later if I’m working again.

My back suddenly started aching from all the hunching I seem to do–at the sink, at the changing table, at my desk, even somehow sitting on the couch.

I’m at this weird in-between stage of body and wardrobe. I realized today (or was it yesterday?) that I’m no longer eating for three and I need to shape up. But then I remembered I’m pumping to feed two, and allegedly one is supposed to take in 3,000 calories a day when breastfeeding. Yikes. Does that mean I don’t need to feel bad about going to the Jack in the Box drive-thru for curly fries and mini churros? And my clothes…I guess I need to get a few items that aren’t maternity but that are bigger than my previous size. I’m currently apple-shaped (I have no waist and a chubby midsection) and I hate it. I’ve been still wearing maternity clothes for the past few weeks, but they don’t fit quite right (obviously), and I’m tired of my one pair of maternity jeans. So I should probably go spend yet a little more money for some in-between clothes. And then I’ll have to make time to go through the boxes of my regular clothes that have been sitting in the basement. (Hallelujah for basements.)

It hasn’t even been a month and I’m some kind of restless. I feel like I need something but I don’t know what.

One Maid A-Milking

I don’t know if it makes me a bad person/woman/mother, but I don’t actually want to exclusively nurse. Maybe because there are two babies and it sounds too daunting. But it makes me feel like I’d be too tied to them. I want some freedom. I want and need a second person to do feedings. I don’t want to be the exclusive food source–that’s intimidating! I don’t want to deal with the drama of public nursing (I don’t have a problem with it, but it seems kind of stressful to do it and be discreet and also deal with other people’s comments or whatever. Ugh). Before they came, I didn’t know how my body would do with breastfeeding at all, let alone how it would work with twins. I definitely wasn’t married to the idea of breastfeeding, but wanted to give it a try. If it worked, good, if not, no big deal.

When we were all in the hospital, the nurses kept trying to push breastfeeding right away, trying to get the babies to latch right after birth and at every feeding. It never worked, because there was never any milk there. Duh! For two days every feeding involved using a syringe to inject donor milk while the baby sucked on a finger, and the other baby would be attached to a nipple shield while the nurse did the syringe. (Two days doesn’t sound like a long time, but when the feedings are every three hours or so, that’s what, close to twenty feedings?) It was always a long and irritating process. I was still so out of it that I didn’t know what to do about it or if there were other options or even that I could think about/ask about trying something else. Finally one of the overnight baby nurses, when I was asking–and starting to cry–about the nursery so we could get some sleep, took pity on us. They no longer ‘offer’ a nursery, in order to be baby-friendly. (This is a very trendy thing, “baby-friendly” hospitals. It means the baby always stays with the mother in the room, for bonding and such.) But she finally said, “Here, I’ll take them for a couple hours and do one of their shots; that’ll be my reason to keep them a bit.” I also asked about the feedings or using bottles or something. (Or maybe she suggested trying bottles? I can’t remember.) I asked if someone (the lactation people that were supposed to come but didn’t for at least three days) would give me grief about nipple confusion and sabotaging breastfeeding and shit like that. She was like, no, whatever, don’t worry about that. She took the babies, we slept like the dead, and the babies came back two hours later *silent* with pacifiers and bottles of donor milk. Our lives got much better after that. Hallelujah for nurses taking pity and taking charge!

As an aside, I’ve never been a super shy person physically, but I wasn’t sure how I would be in the hospital about breastfeeding. I thought I would be a little reserved at least. But starting from the recovery room, my boobs were out there and all kinds of people were not just seeing them, but actively manipulating them. And I wasn’t self-conscious at all. It was like they were just business equipment being used and they weren’t really private or mine anymore. I didn’t mind, which surprised me. Also, I was probably too tired to care. Also also, I don’t think I had a choice.

My colostrum finally came in on Saturday and milk followed on Sunday (babies were born on Wednesday). The lactation consultant finally showed up on Saturday and helped us get going with tips and info. I rented the hospital-grade pump and pumped every few hours at the hospital and then after we went home on Sunday. The right side produced a fair amount, while lefty was producing next to nothing. After a few days, both sides stepped up a bit. Since then, one or the other side has dropped to very low, or both have done a lot, or neither has done much. All over the place. For a day or so, we were almost a day ahead with pumped milk, and some days we’re only a couple hours ahead.

We usually do a formula feeding in one or both of the overnight feedings so that the stockpile of pumped milk can keep ahead. We’ve gotten some free sample cans of formula, so that hasn’t cost us anything as yet. Full-time formula feeding twins would cost a lot of money, so it would be really great to have as much milk as possible for as long as possible. That would be ideal financially as well as for health reasons for the babies (assuming there are no allergy or sensitivity issues), not counting the value of my time.

Earlier this week I started trying to nurse the babies (with nipple shields) occasionally to see how they did. Started with like four or six minutes one day, and the next day they each did over 20 minutes! That made me feel pretty good and hopeful.

Here’s a fun tip: if the baby stops sucking, you can move his arm–in a chicken-wing motion or in an up-and-down/hand-raising motion–and he’ll start sucking again.

This Wednesday I returned to the hospital to see the lactation consultant I’d worked with. She tried to get the babies to latch, but neither of them quite got it. Since they were both starting to get fussy hungry, we got them on using the nipple shields. And for the first time, they both nursed at the same time. It was kind of neat to see both of their little heads right there, getting some nourishment from mama. However, I hold no illusions that I will be able to tandem nurse–nor do I want to. At least not right now.

(I have finally just started using the double nursing pillow though, and I really like it. I’d been using a pillow over a boppy, which was awkward. And I still need some extra blankets/cushioning with the nursing pillow, but it’s more stable, and since I’m only using one side of it, I can use the other side as a makeshift table for snacks!)

The consultant told me that basically I have three babies right now–the twins and the pump! Gah, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but yep, is that ever true. So she wants me to nurse at least one of them at every single feeding–even for just ten minutes–and then follow with a bottle, and then follow with pumping. At every single feeding. According to my log–yes, I keep a chart in a little notebook with the pumping times and amounts, like a little nerd–I’d been pumping about four times a day, while they eat about eight times a day. So the idea of doing all those things literally twice as often is quite intimidating. And tiring.

On Thursday morning I did as she suggested. And I was on the couch for literally four hours. It was the second day of each of us taking one of the night/morning feedings solo so the other person could sleep. Andy did the last evening feeding, we both did the overnight one, and I did the first morning feeding. Emmett nursed while Malcolm had a bottle while propped in a boppy. Emmett still needed some more milk from a bottle afterward. Then I pumped for about 30 minutes, and then I did skin-to-skin with both of them on my chest while I watched a tv show and dozed off for a nap. Half an hour later Andy was up and it was time for the next feeding. So Malcolm nursed, Andy fed Emmett, Malcolm took more milk from a bottle, and I pumped for another 20 minutes. I hadn’t eaten anything during the first part of that, either.

This kind of schedule sucks. Obviously the extended skin-to-skin time was my choice and won’t happen very often. (But seriously, it’s one of my new all-time favorite things.) Since feedings happen every three hours or so, and generally take close to an hour, now that hour is even longer if I’m doing all three of those things. So then I have two hours, or less, left to do things like eat, shower, or things around the house (or let’s face it, on the internet. These posts, for example, all get written in bits and pieces ahead of time.). Really I should be napping for at least one of these breaks. Basically, I want to or have to be in several places at once, during the feedings and in between. And that sucks. I feel pressured and annoyed. And thank god the babies are easy right now (PLEASE STAY THAT WAY, BABIES), so it’s easy to do those other things between feedings (PLEASE STAY THAT WAY, BABIES).

This morning (Friday), it took two full hours to do a solo feeding and pumping. The feeding part went well and quickly, and then my heart sank when I remembered that I wasn’t done yet. Plus I always like to hold a baby or two for awhile after they finish eating, and now I can’t do that. It makes me really sad that a pump has to override holding and bonding with one of my babies. Or if I do hold them, that pushes back my time that much more.

However, what else am I going to do? Not do my best to nourish my babies with the ideal food? (That was a little sarcastic. As you can tell, I’m not a die-hard breastmilk person. Plus I have twins; my milk has to go twice as far!) I’m in a pretty damn privileged position–I don’t have anything else to do all day, and thank god my husband is around this month to share the feeding duties. And I guess this part is short-term, to establish my milk supply. So I can try to think of it that way, that this won’t last forever. And I won’t beat myself up if I miss a nursing session, as long as I do a pumping.

Sigh. I guess I just need to push through. Good thing I have a Roku (Netflix on tv) and a laptop. And that the babies can sleep through music and tv.