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.

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The Recovery

Today marks two weeks post-baby, and there are still lots of changes going on body-wise.

Almost all of the PUPPS rash has faded and now the scratch scabs are finally healing. So glad that I don’t look like a leper anymore.

My feet started swelling this summer. Certainly by mid-August they were puffy pregnancy feet. Over the last month, they got even puffier. Imagine my delight in noticing last week that my toes look like toes again (instead of sausages), and the thickness of my feet is now back to normal. Plus, no more cankles! Phew. Now I just need to get some long-overdue new (comfortable) shoes.

My hands also swelled; I had to take my rings off in July. I’ve tried them on this week and they don’t fit over the knuckles yet. I hope that ‘fixes’; I hate having naked hands and I miss my pretty rings! My hands look fairly normal again, at least.

Then of course there’s my face. Oh, face, you cause me so much trouble. In the late summer I noticed that my face was somehow fuller, and then a double chin developed in the fall. I am happy to note that two weeks after babies, the double chin is gone, and my face looks ‘normal’. I’m really happy to look like myself again!

Here’s my round-faced drivers license photo from October:

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And tonight (with a baby on my chest):

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My final weigh-in the day before delivery was 216 pounds–around 66 pounds gained. I visited the doctor the following Monday, 5 days post-baby, and weighed 189. Today at my two-week follow-up appointment, I weighed in at 178. Wow–almost forty pounds gone already!

I’m not super stressed about weight, but I was/am interested in seeing how it all works for me. I’m surprised how quickly my belly seems to be going down. I thought it would be a lot slower, actually. I don’t really look pregnant anymore, just kind of thick around the middle. I won’t expect weight to drop dramatically, but will try to manage my expectations in a healthy manner.

DSC_7753(1 week post-partum)

DSC_7932(2 weeks post-partum)

It’s kind of amazing, but not surprising I guess, how soft my belly is. It’s soft, and squishy, in a way I’ve never felt before. Last week it was a little bit numb, which felt like a very deflated nerf ball was attached to my abdomen. My belly button is still an outie; I wonder if it will stay that way or return to innie.

My incision is still sore and irritated. I heard that by the two-week mark I should feel a lot better. And it is better than the first week, but it’s still quite painful at times, especially at night getting up out of bed so often (to attend a baby or two). I am really, really ready to be pain-free. My doctor today gave me another prescription for the painkillers I was taking at the hospital and only sporadically taking at home. I don’t like taking medicine/pills, and the pain isn’t extreme, but I think I’m ready to accept that I still need the help. It’s been months since I’ve been fully, comfortably mobile, and I know I’ll have to take it easy, but I do want to be a little more active.

I will look forward to getting out and about with the babies. We’ve taken our stroller out for a couple times and are happy at how easy it is. I hope that next week I’ll be ready and able to take short walks around the neighborhood, or even go to a park to walk around.

In general, I guess things are going pretty good. I guess I can’t expect to bounce back super quickly physically, after not just pregnancy but a major surgery. I should probably keep a positive attitude and be aware of progress.

My husband continues to be very supportive and helpful, and though I’m able to do more than I was two weeks ago, there’s still a lot I need help with. I continue to be so thankful for him. And also for our cute babies:

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33 weeks

Well. It finally happened.

I hit a big number. Two of them, in fact.

50 pounds gained.

I now weigh 200 pounds.

These are both large numbers. Big, round numbers that look menacing.

But then I take a breath. There are two fetuses in there, with all their accompanying fluids and support organs (plus the amount of blood actually doubles in a woman carrying twins, versus an increase of 1.5 with a singleton), and 50 pounds so far can’t be that bad. And I can look at myself (well, not physically; I can’t even see my belly button, but I do have a mirror) and can see that I’m not a huge fat person-blob. I really don’t look like I weigh that much (see above!), which tells the rational part of my brain that all is fine. Then of course I have to remember that I/they are not done growing yet, so I’ll will probably hit 60 pounds gained, if not more.

My doctor hasn’t said anything about the number of pounds at all. She says everything is still going great, in fact. I’m really hoping that these two will stay in there and keep growing for awhile.

In other news, I think I have hit the wall in terms of comfort in the last week or so. Pretty much anytime I’m upright and moving, something hurts or aches. The lower backache is pretty much constant. There’s also a weird ache/pressure in my pelvis or somewhere, which hurts the most when I get up after sitting. It’s got to be pretty hilarious to watch, as I struggle to standing and then waddle-limp tiny steps. In the morning is the absolute worst; I push up sideways so I’m sitting on the bed, and then stand up. I stay there for a minute and rotate my hips a bit, but then I have to move, and I can barely put weight on at least one of my legs (ache/pressure/joint pain in my lower back/hip). I wobble across the room to the bathroom and by then it’s better.

Not very fun.

Additionally, in the last few days I’ve noticed that I think I’m getting Braxton-Hicks contractions any time I’m up/walking for more than a couple seconds. They don’t hurt, but they aren’t comfortable either.

I still have no classic heartburn, which seems kind of miraculous when I talk to other pregnant ladies. Sounds like they can’t eat a lot of things or a lot of volume. I seem to be able to eat plenty still. A couple times I do get some kind of acid-y feeling around my belly, but not up above it where heartburn/reflux would be. I have some acid reducer that seems to help, so maybe it’s indigestion? Also the occasional vomit burp…which seem to be getting a little more frequent.

Last week I realized that I can’t sit up straight, because my belly hits my thighs.

I have to take big deep breaths or sighs randomly to get in more air. Even just sitting on the couch. I swear that last night while trying to go to sleep I felt like I wasn’t getting enough breath through just my nose.

Sleeping has been a little difficult since early summer, but it’s the worst it’s been now. It still takes several moments and a series of small movements to turn over. The last few days, that wakes me up enough to realize I need to get up and go to the bathroom. Which then wakes me up even more and sometimes I can’t go back to sleep easily.

My belly button seems to be all on the outside, though I’m sure it has farther to go to pop out even more. You can see it through my top in that photo!

A week or two ago, I noticed that I’m starting to get faint stretch marks around my belly button. I’m disappointed about it, and I’m disappointed that I feel disappointed, if that makes sense. I know that there’s nothing to be done, and that it happens all the time, and it’s genetic. Nonetheless, I feel a little sinking sadness whenever I see it. I have started applying the Trofolastin twice a day now too, to see if I can hold off on further development. (I bought another tube last week–it’s back on Amazon now, and the shipping was really fast!) I guess it’s a vanity issue, one more thing I didn’t want ‘marring’ me.

In sum, things are uncomfortable. I know that it won’t get any better, it will probably get worse, maybe a lot worse. However, I’m really not complaining much–I still have had no complications, no problems, and overall things have gone so well. Everything could be so much worse. I’m doing my best to accept that it’s not going to feel good for the next few weeks. That’s not a bad trade-off if the babies are healthy and growing.

Really hoping that all continues to go well physically so that these two can keep cooking for up to five more weeks. And holy cow, FIVE WEEKS is not very many weeks! Making it to at least 36 weeks would be fantastic…except that that’s only THREE weeks away, holy shit! End of November is still my goal, though 38 weeks (the longest I’ll be allowed to go) would go into the first week of December. As long as possible is great by me!