Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Things - Zoe Edition

Adam calls Zoe, "Z," and I call her "Zo-Zo." I wonder which will win out as her nickname, if either. We tried to pick two nickname-proof names, but I guess there is no name that can't be mangled.

Zoe had a checkup at the pediatrician today and I took both babies all by myself for the first time. (Adam had to pick up Sammy from school.) It was easy!

Zoe is now newborn size, at least what passes for newborn size in our family - 6 pounds, 8 ounces - 4 ounces more than Sammy weighed at birth. She's gaining weight at exactly the right pace and continues to be perfectly healthy.

While undressing Zoe to have her weighed, a potato chip fell out of her clothing, right in front of the nurse. How embarrassing. No wonder she's gaining so much weight - munching on chips behind my back! (It took me a minute to realize that I had gotten her dressed on my bed, where I had been eating potato chips the night before. Even more embarrassing.)

At the doctor's office they have a computer for self-check-in. You have to enter the first two letters of the patient's first and last names. Zo-Mo. Maybe that will be her nickname!

Best of all, we have the first sign of the twins coming out of the blob stage: Zoe is beginning to make her first cooing noises. Up until now, all we've heard from either of them has been crying or grunting. Now we're getting some real vowel sounds - mostly "ah." And for once, Zoe is first!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Did I Tell You?

Here they are, doing their Big Things. It was almost impossible to get a photo of Leo when he was not moving. The boy is just constantly in motion! Zoe, on the other hand, kept her eyes open and held still.

[caption id="attachment_4911" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Leo"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4912" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Zoe"][/caption]

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Twins Update - One Month Old

Zoe and Leo are one month old! Actually, by the time I publish this, they'll be well over that age. I don't think we're going to be able to keep up with the monthly photos as well as we did with Sam.

I'm actually enjoying my babies and all the things that go along with them. I had set in my mind that the first year would be hell and that it was an investment in the future. I didn't enjoy Sam's infancy much at all. It has nothing to do with my feelings for her - I just didn't like the utter dependence of a baby. And with L&Z I still don't like it, but I'm more accepting of it. I also know that it will end soon enough. So I'm focusing on the good parts, and I'm finding that there are enough good parts to make the whole baby experience somewhat pleasant.

Of course, we've had a lot of help this first month. My parents have been here almost every day, doing a lot of the household chores, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, etc. My mom has also helped feed and change the babies quite a bit. We also have our "mommy's helper," I'll call her T., who has been coming some afternoons and also helping Sam get to school when Adam teaches. My parents leave in a week, but we'll still have T. I think I'll wait until then to say whether this is easier than I had expected.

There's not too much to report about Leo or Zoe themselves, beyond what I said in my earlier post. Leo continues to grow quickly. He is over seven pounds now. Zoe is still smaller at around six pounds, but she is growing steadily. They still mostly just eat and sleep. Occasionally I'll give them a bath or put them on a blanket for some tummy time (video!), but most days we change diapers, feed them, and put them right back to bed with no activity at all. They usually pass out in bliss after eating and there's no waking them.

We have Leo on Zantac now for his reflux, and he sleeps in his car seat in the crib since he simply can't tolerate being horizontal. We only have the one crib so far, so Zoe is sleeping there next to the car seat. The car seat and the Zantac are helping somewhat, but Leo still cries in discomfort a lot, which is the most difficult thing for me to deal with. We try to comfort him, but there isn't much we can do, so quite often we just have to listen to him cry. Zoe is still the "easy baby." The worst thing she does is that she seems to like to poop during a diaper change. I actually find it quite funny. Sam got to see it happen the other day and it was hilarious to see her look of revulsion after all the poopy hell she has put me through over the years. I really should make her the official diaper-changer. Well, maybe not.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Breastfeeding and Bonding

I'm a huge fan of breastfeeding, but not for the reasons you hear most often. I'm not 100% convinced that breast milk is any better nutritionally than formula. (I suspect they both have their advantages.) I guess breastfeeding is cheaper, but as Tori points out, the typical analysis ignores all the costs of breastfeeding; it is certainly not free. It's more convenient at times, but it can also be a hassle when you have to pump and deal with leakage. I could go on...

What I love about breastfeeding is the bonding. I enjoyed it so much with Sammy. It was hard to imagine having a baby and not breastfeeding. There is just something wonderful about giving your child sustenance directly from your body. But it is also the most interactive thing you can do with a newborn. You spend a lot of time looking at your baby; it's not a passive enjoyment, but a time of active observation that allows you to get to know your child's personality just a little bit. You have to learn your baby's signals and your baby has to learn yours. When you both learn how to do it, you achieve a kind of symbiosis that is very fulfilling. For those of you who've never experienced it, I'd liken it to the feeling you get when you learn how to control a dog or a horse; when you both understand each other and work together, everything becomes easy and you experience the true joy of teamwork. It's also like the concept of flow, but between two people instead of just an internal state. Everything just feels right when you are nursing.

But with Sammy, I had no differentiation for my observations about bonding through breastfeeding. I had nothing to compare it against. I only had one child, and I breastfed exclusively. Not only that, but Sammy never even had a bottle of breast milk because I was unable to pump effectively. All I knew was nursing.

With Leo and Zoe, I've learned so much more about this bonding. Mostly, I've learned that my conclusions were right.

Since Leo was born bigger and stronger than Zoe, I was able to nurse him almost immediately. I can't remember the exact dates, but I think I began nursing Zoe at least four days later. I only nursed Leo once a day, but in those days I felt much closer to him than I did to Zoe. I had a relationship with him that was simply absent with her. I've been able to continue breastfeeding both children at home and to this day, I feel closer to Leo than I do to Zoe. That could be due to other factors, but based on that early experience, I think it has a lot to do with the breastfeeding. But they are only one month old and I expect that to change.

I've also bottle-fed both of them, and I'm surprised to find that the bonding that takes place with this kind of feeding is very similar to that of breastfeeding. You still get a lot of the interaction. Both baby and parent must pay attention and adapt to the other. It's possible that the only things missing are the skin to skin contact and the hormones. Adam never got to bottle-feed Sammy, and he is thrilled to be able to do so with Zoe and Leo. I asked him if he now feels cheated that he missed the chance with Sammy and he gave me a (friendly) sarcastic reply about how, yes, they just don't have a connection between them. (Adam and Sammy have just about the best father-daughter relationship that I can imagine and they are super-close considering that he is not the primary caregiver.)

So in the end, I don't think any of the bonding is relevant to future relationships. I find absurd the idea that, if you don't breastfeed an infant within 5 minutes of their birth, something will be forever lacking in your relationship. My relationship with Zoe is growing deeper by the day and just because it started out slow doesn't mean it won't catch up. And I don't think bottle-fed infants suffer from some kind of lack of love. Of course, I don't even buy attachment theory, so there you go. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing, but it's really just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Both, to the tune of Mr. Sandman:


Mr. Leo
Wearing yellow
You eat so much
As we all know
It is your job
To grow and grow
We love you, Mr. Leo


Little Zoe
So very pretty
We have to clean up
Your poo and your pee
But we don't mind
It's not a duty
Cuz' we love you, Little Zoe

Monday, September 19, 2011


Update 9/20: I fixed the link to the Picasa account.

Finally, I got all the photos and videos of Zoe and Leo uploaded and organized. Here is a selection of the best of them.


Zoe and Leo's First Month



If you want more, you can go to my Picasa account. (There are some great photos from Sammy's birthday there, too.)

A Little Thing

Sammy no longer calls our Honda Odyssey, the "Honda-See." But she still calls hand sanitizer, "hanitizer." You have to admire her creative contractions.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Photos Coming Soon!

I've almost got our photos organized and will have tons of pictures of the twins to share soon. But I just ran across this photo of Sam at her Montessori school from last spring and had to share it immediately. Look how grown up she is!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


So far, one of the most awesome things about having twins (and there are many) is that we have a much better idea about what is common to all babies and what is unique to Zoe or Leo, and even in retrospect, what was unique to Sammy when she was a newborn. We know because we can compare two babies who are at the exact same developmental level at the same time. Their differences highlight their personalities, and tell us that these things are not "just the way all babies are." And when we see something that is common to all three of our children, we have to consider that maybe that is something more universal. We've already discovered things we thought were unique to Sam that turn out to be just common baby behaviors.

Now, we don't want to make the mistake of translating infant behavior into projections of adult, or even childhood personality traits. A fussy baby does not equate to a wild teenager. And we don't want to pigeonhole Leo or Zoe by "labeling" them, something my favorite parenting authors warn against. (I put that term in scare quotes because I'm not completely comfortable with it - I'm not sure it has a clear definition and I suspect it might be a package deal. I have to think about it more before I decide one way or another.) And yet, comparing them gives us such wonderful information about them!

Some things we've learned:

  • Leo loves pacifiers (we call them suckers). Zoe could care less about them. (Sammy never wanted a sucker but we weren't sure if it was her or if we just didn't push the idea hard enough. Now we know it was her.)

  • Leo almost always cries first. Zoe doesn't cry much at all, but when she does, you don't want your ear within 5 feet of her mouth or you'll go deaf. Still, we call Zoe "unflappable." Nothing seems to faze her. Neither Leo nor Sammy could be called "sensitive," but they certainly react more strongly, especially in negative ways. Zoe is just chill and I hope she remains that way. It would be nice to have one like that. (We used to think that Sammy was a fairly "easy" baby, but, at least for now, Zoe seems to be proving us wrong about that. So far, Zoe is the easy one.)

  • Leo seems to have reflux, or some kind of digestive system issue. Zoe doesn't. (Sammy did.) He arches his back and cries in a way that sounds like he is in pain and spits up much more than Zoe. Related to the previous point? Quite possibly.

  • All three of our children are great breastfeeders. Either that, or I'm good at it. Or a combination of the two.

  • Both Leo and Zoe can be calmed quite easily just by picking them up. (When Sammy would get herself wound up, there was really nothing we could do but let her work it out on her own.) I hope this is not something that changes when they get a bit older - I can't remember when it started with Sam.

  • Leo really, really needs to be swaddled. Zoe is happy in a swaddle or a loose blanket. (Sammy needed the swaddle.) Again, I wonder if this is related to reflux, or whatever the problem is.

  • Apparently, all babies make essentially the same faces when they have to poop. And they won't poop while they are eating. It's a whole big production which is fascinating to watch. (Leo is the cutest pooper because he makes these grunts that are absolutely adorable.)

  • Zoe and Leo can sleep through just about anything. Zoe sleeps through Leo's crying right in her ear all the time, and they both sleep through the dog barking, the vacuum, and Sammy's high-pitched happy squealing during tickle-time. Sam was awakened by any loud noise when she was a baby. Do you remember the scene in Marley and Me when Jennifer Anniston puts the kids down for a nap and lies on the bed and takes a huge, deep breath, and you see the tension just flowing out of her into the mattress and you know she's about to fall asleep in an instant but then she hears the beeping of a truck in reverse and she bolts upright and says, "Oh no, oh no," in absolute horror because the dog is about to go crazy barking and wake the kids and that is indeed what happens and she totally loses her freaking mind? Well, that was me when Sam was a baby. Toby is lucky to still be among us. Thank goodness for the NICU with all of its noise.

  • Physically, they are looking more and more different as they fill out. Leo has a triangular face with a pointy chin which I believe he got from The Italian (as I call our egg donor). His nose, so prominent when he was born, now seems just right for his face. Zoe has a rounder face and is kind of jowly. She also has much darker skin and hair than Leo which obviously comes from The Italian.

  • Leo's Big Thing - the thing that stands out the most about him - is that he is physical. He moves, he squirms, he uses his hands in amazing ways for a 4-week-old infant, and he is strong. Within a few days of his birth, he had a reputation in the NICU. We kept hearing how he would escape his swaddle and his diaper and then pull off his leads. We were told "He's all boy." When I asked what that meant, the nurse said that he was very physical. She warned us that he'd be climbing the refrigerator in a year. He was also called a "superstar" in the NICU because of his quick progress in becoming strong enough to go home. (Premature girls usually do better than boys so it was doubly impressive.) He can already hold his head up for quite long stretches. At his first pediatrician appointment, the doctor suggested that we put his mattress up at an angle to help with his reflux, since, "he can't really move around yet so you don't have to worry about him ending up upside-down." Well, we had already put the mattress at an angle, and he is perfectly capable of ending up upside-down, thankyouverymuch. Leo is The Mover. And I love that about him.

  • Zoe's Big Thing is her vision. She looks at everything. When she was first born, she'd open her eyes and her eyeballs would roll up in the back of her head because she couldn't control them yet, but she'd open those lids anyway. By Day 2 on this planet, this tiny little 4 pound baby had her eyes open all the time and was focusing on anything that was close enough. She keeps them open much more often that Leo does, and she looks at faces much more intently than he does. Her eyes are very prominent, and there is something about the way she uses them that is utterly captivating and endearing. Zoe is The Looker. And I love that about her.

  • I wish I could look back and compare Sammy as an infant to these two, to determine what her Big Thing was. But the details are gone now. I remember my own judgments about her - my conclusions - but not so much the facts that gave rise to them. What I do remember is that we always called Sammy "highly opinionated." From the beginning, she seemed willful, stubborn, and independent, and the term "highly opinionated" actually came from one of our midwives and was seconded by her pediatrician. But what particular behaviors made them and us see her that way, I don't recall. Still, I think we were right, because I can't imagine calling either Leo or Zoe "highly opinionated," but it still describes Sam to this day. Sammy is The Rebel. And I love that about her.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Zoe Comes Home

Finally! Our Zoe is home with us. Our baby-making journey is complete. Our family is complete. And now the real adventure begins!

Zoe came home yesterday after 22 days in the NICU, exactly twice the length of Leo's stay. By the end, we were getting quite frustrated because we couldn't figure out why they were keeping her so long. When to discharge an infant is a judgment call on the doctor's part, and I think Zoe just ended up with more conservative doctors. To us, she seems more solid than Leo was when he came home. She's over five pounds now, eating and sleeping with no problems.

Both she and Leo are now more or less regular newborns. Their gestational age is almost 38 weeks now - exactly when Sammy was born. They're still a bit small, but they have already outgrown much of their preemie-sized clothing. They probably sleep a bit more than a full-term newborn. We basically change their diapers, feed them, and put them back to bed.

Sammy, who was so much more excited about having a little sister than in having a little brother, wasn't as moved by Zoe's homecoming as she was Leo's. Of course, it's the same thing that I experienced when they were born. The first one has an impact that the second just can't match. Hopefully this will be the last time that Zoe will necessarily be second. Maybe we shouldn't have given her a name that starts with "Z".

Still, Sammy is clearly thrilled. She didn't spend as much time with Zoe upon her arrival, but later, she drew a picture of Leo and Zoe together, and wrote their names on it. She wants to kiss them and touch them as much as possible. And last night she woke up for a middle-of-the-night feeding and stayed for the whole thing, just like she did on Leo's first night home.

With Zoe coming home on a Sunday, it was trial by fire for me and Adam. He teaches on Mondays, which means he has to do class-prep on Sunday nights. It also means that he has to wake up early and leave the house around 8am, so this morning I was on my own with all three children. With just Leo, on teaching nights I was doing the night feedings and letting Adam sleep, but with both babies, I needed his help. So we both got up at 2am and 5am and each took one baby. Thank goodness both of them slept very well and we had an easy night. And somehow, between 7:15 and 8:30am, I managed to feed both babies myself plus wake up Sam, get her dressed, get her breakfast, brush her hair, and everything else that goes along with getting her ready for school. It was not easy logistically - I couldn't plan ahead because I didn't know exactly when the babies would wake and which would wake first. I ended up doing a half-feeding with Leo before Sam awoke, then put him back to bed while I did my thing with her, then I fed Zoe and finished up with Leo while Sam took care of herself and finished getting ready. My babysitter arrived at 8:30 to take Sammy to school and we were all ready, no stress, and almost no crying at all! It was great! I hope I can manage it that well every time, but I know these class-day mornings are probably going to be the hardest part until the semester ends in December.

I'll write more soon about Leo and Zoe (or, I suppose I should say Zoe and Leo) and their personalities and what we've learned about them and how we're bonding and what it's like to have two babies. But right now, Leo is ready to eat. Oh, he's first again!



Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Birth Story

This is the story of Leo and Zoe's birth. But it's really my story. I'll tell you more about them some other time.

My water broke at 5:30am on Saturday morning. My first thought: "Noooooo!" It was too early. And I don't mean the hour of the day. I was only 34 weeks and 3 days. They were supposed to stay in there for 3 more weeks! I was in a bit of denial at first. Maybe the leaking would stop. Maybe it was a false alarm. It took me about 10-15 minutes to accept the inevitable. They were coming. Then, I started getting a little bit excited.

I wasn't feeling any contractions, but we knew we still had to get to the hospital asap. My labor with Sam was only 4.5 hours and we dawdled and barely made it to the birth center in time. This time, we would do better! We needed to call the doctor, find someone to take care of Sammy, eat, shower, and pack up a few last items. The eating and showering might seem optional, but I knew I wouldn't get another chance for either for at least the rest of the day, if not longer, so they really were absolutely necessary, and I'm glad I took the time.

My OB, Dr. K.,  wasn't on-call that weekend, which was a huge disappointment. I was told that a Dr. A. would be handling my delivery. Great, some woman I've never met, who has no access to my records. I chose a sole practitioner knowing this might happen, but it still just made me sad.

Our next-door-neighbor ended up being available to take Sammy. This was really the perfect situation - Sam got to spend the day with her best friend, and they had our house key and could come to take care of the animals as well. They even let the contractor in so he could put the finishing touches on that goddamn bathroom. (I'm not convinced that the bathroom project had nothing to do with me going in to labor so early. It was a source of stress for 5 straight weeks.)

We got it all done and got out of the house within an hour without any panic or even a big rush. That was nice. But the most precious moment of the whole morning was when Sammy woke up. She heard me in the shower and came out rubbing her eyes. We told her that the twins were coming. She said, "But mommy, my clock isn't green yet. We can't get up yet." (Her clock turns green at 7:30am each day and that is how she knows it is morning.) We told her that the twins don't know what time it is - that they come whenever they are ready, and they were ready now. It took her a few minutes to process all of this, but at one point I saw her comprehend what was going on. She finally realized, Zoe and Leo are coming TODAY. Her face lit up with joy and excitement, and I wish, oh how I wish, that I had that on video. It was one of my favorite moments with her, ever.

We had no problems getting to the hospital or checking in. I still couldn't feel any contractions. We were brought to the triage room which is just a bunch of beds separated by curtains. They hooked me up to the monitors: one heart rate monitor for each baby plus a monitor for contractions. These are just belts strapped around my waist with sensors in the appropriate places. But none of the nurses could get those sensors positioned properly - I guess Zoe and Leo were moving around too much - and I was continually poked and prodded for the next 4 hours as they tried to get them working consistently. It was frustrating because they could not accept that everything was fine from the readings they did get. They have a rulebook that requires continuous monitoring, and no matter how that interferes with the rest of the process, they have to keep trying. I also got an IV (evil, evil IV) and they took my blood and did a couple of other tests. The monitor told us that I was indeed having contractions. They were mild and irregular. I only felt a few of them for the next 4 hours.

Besides the medical stuff, the staff had to do tons of paperwork while I was in triage. The most extensive form was the one where I acknowledged that "falls happen" and that it is not the hospital's fault if I fall. Ugh, liability bureaucracy. We found out that Labor and Delivery was extremely busy that morning and that they didn't have a room ready for me yet. The plan was to move me to an L&D room for my epidural and the labor process, then to an OR for delivery. But nobody was in any rush because they didn't think I was in active labor yet. After a couple of hours, though, nobody had checked my cervix and I was starting to get nervous. Everything in the hospital was moving so slowly, and I knew that I could go from nothing to pushing in a very short time.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed my nurse's name tag. Her last name was the same as my OB's. Then I remembered that someone had told me that his wife worked in the hospital. Click! I asked her and it was true! She was Mrs. Dr. K.! (For some reason I didn't understand, she didn't want to tell us, but she didn't mind that we figured it out.) I don't know why, but this made me so happy. I didn't feel so alone. My nurse had a special connection to me. Dr. K. would get a firsthand report of at least part of my labor. And I just felt like he was there for me, through his wife. We chatted a lot with her and we liked her as much as we like Dr. K. It was a wonderful surprise.

Around 11:15am, I started feeling the contractions, and the monitor confirmed that they were becoming stronger and more regular. The first few were no big deal, but then they started getting intense and coming very quickly. I demanded that someone check my cervix, but I was only 2cm. The nurses continued to assume that I had a long wait ahead of me and nobody was making any moves to get me to an L&D room. I still had not seen any doctor, which is pretty normal, but at this point I demanded to see the doctor and for them to get me to a room for the epidural. When the doctor finally came, I think around 11:30, she agreed to get me a room, but her attitude was that I needed the epidural and pitocin, to "speed things along" since my water had broken but I wasn't progressing much. My blood pressure was also high, but since she didn't have my records, she didn't realize that it was actually pretty normal for me. She was concerned about it spiking. I didn't really care about her reasoning, as long as she was willing to get me out of triage for the epidural. I wasn't dying of pain, I just knew that things would move very fast, and I didn't want to get into an emergency situation, or not be able to get the epidural and end up having a C-section under general anesthesia. So I didn't argue about the pitocin, even though I think that trying to induce or speed up labor with drugs is almost always a mistake. Adam got upset because he knew that I didn't want pitocin. But I told him that the doctor's stance was reasonable, given that she didn't know about my blood pressure history. But more importantly, I told him, "Don't worry - by the time they get me the epidural, I'll have made so much progress they won't need the pitocin."

So, they got me a room and I got the epidural pretty quickly. I only had to endure about a dozen strong contractions (mixed with another dozen weaker ones) before I got it. And it was wonderful. I didn't mind laboring with Sam when I could move around and be left alone to deal with my contractions. But in the hospital, when you are forced to lie in bed on your back, and when you have people constantly talking to you and have to tell them to shut up when a contraction comes along, it was really, really painful. The hospital environment simply does not allow you to relax and focus. I recommend that anyone who is giving birth in a hospital should have the epidural. It's insane to try to deal with contractions in that environment. If you want a natural birth, have it outside the hospital, or at least hire a doula to make everyone leave you alone, and don't allow them to limit your movement. Continuous monitoring is the first problem in the chain of interventions leading to C-sections.

After I had been in the L&D room for a bit, Mrs. Dr. K. arrived. She had either ditched her post in the triage room, or had finished her shift and come to me on her own account. She stayed with us through the rest of the delivery. Even though my primary nurse, Ann, was excellent, I was so grateful to have that connection again.

Dr. A.'s orders were to start pitocin at this point, and the nurse could have just put the bag on the IV, but I told her about my fast labor with Sam and how I knew by the strength of the contractions that I was progressing quickly. I asked if she could check me first and she agreed, even though I'd been checked so recently. As she was checking she said, "I'd say...I'd say...[long pause]...I'd say you're complete!" My response: "Ha! I knew it!" Thank god I knew my body and was an advocate for myself. I have no idea what would have happened if they hadn't gotten me that room and the epidural, or if they had given me pitocin when I was already fully dilated. The whole situation reinforced my belief that hospitals do not handle childbirth well at all. I'm grateful for so many aspects of modern medicine: the drugs, the skills of the doctors and nurses, the blood banks, the NICU, and so much more. And I needed that for this situation. But I've done it both ways and I know that hospitals could do much better. Maybe if the "natural birth" advocates weren't so anti-medicine, they would stop promoting birth centers and midwives and try to make changes within the excellent medical system that we already have. I'll have to add that to my long-range to-do list. (Otherwise known as my wishful thinking list.)

Anyway, I was feeling great. I was in no pain and I was ready to be moved to the OR. I still didn't know if I would end up with a C-section or not. Leo was head-down, but Zoe could go either way. The plan was for me to push Leo out and hope that she turned head-down as well. But if she went into a breech position and if the doctor recommended it, I was going to take the surgery and not try to force the issue. They wheeled me into the OR. Adam had to wait outside while they set up the room. I had enough feeling to slide myself onto the table. I felt pretty powerful and in control. But then I spent the next 30 minutes watching as the doctors and nurses fumbled around trying to get things set up. A couple of them had never participated in a vaginal delivery in the OR before, and nobody seemed to know how to get things set up properly. They practically had to pull out the user's manual to get the stirrups hooked up to the OR table. They had machines that were not normally in the room and they couldn't figure out how to plug them in, so there was some crawling around on the floor, stringing wires and cables under my bed to the other side of the room. It was comical!

As this was going on, a steady stream of people were entering the room. There were three or four people for each baby, my anesthesiologist, his assistant, my doctor, my two nurses, another assistant, and probably more that I'm forgetting. My doctors had blue gowns, and the baby doctors had yellow gowns. The yellow gowns were all behind me, so I knew that Leo and Zoe would end up there, where I couldn’t see them. I suppose they do that in case something goes horribly wrong. But I wasn’t too concerned about the babies’ health at this point. I knew that they would go to the NICU for sure, which made me sad, but didn’t freak me out. I was mostly focused on the time elapsing – hoping the staff could get their act together in time. With the epidural, I couldn’t tell where Leo was, and I wanted Adam in the room. I kept reminding everybody, "Don't forget my husband!" Finally, they let him in and the pushing began.

Leo was easy. I pushed a few times and he was out. I'll never forget looking down past my still-huge belly and seeing him being lifted up towards me. I'd been here before - with Sam. I didn't think a second child could be as shocking and awe-inspiring. But he was. I said, "Oh my god. He's real!" There is no other way to describe it. No matter what you experience when they are on the inside, you can't be prepared for the reality of an actual human being coming into this world. They let me hold him for a moment before they whisked him off behind me to check him out. He looked great - pink and full of energy. But his cry started out pretty weak and I worried a bit until it grew stronger. Then I knew he'd be okay. He was four pounds and seven ounces.

Zoe didn't suddenly make a break for it. She just stayed put. That ended up being the best thing, because the doctor was able to guide her to come down head-first as I pushed. I wasn't going to need surgery - hurray! I still had to push her all the way down, so it was a lot more work than it was for Leo, who had been right there at the door. Zoe did end up head-down, but in a posterior position - face up. This means a slightly more difficult birth, but since she was so small, it wasn't a real problem. Still, despite her smaller head, I noticed how much more difficult it was to get her out than it was Leo. I feel for mothers of full-term babies who are born this way! Anyway, after all that pushing (it really wasn't that long - about 10 minutes), it felt like a real accomplishment when I finally got her head out and I cried, "Yes!" like I had just aced a serve at Wimbledon.

Zoe's appearance didn't have quite the impact that Leo's did since I was a bit more prepared for her reality. But still, there was the mindblowing realization that this was a unique human being who had just arrived. She looked different than Leo. She was smaller. Her face was more delicate. She moved differently. Leo and Zoe are not a “set.” They happen to be twins, but that doesn’t mean much more than that they are siblings. I knew all of that in the abstract, but seeing Zoe for the first time made it concretely real.

Despite her smaller size, Zoe’s cry was strong from the moment she let it loose. I knew she would be okay, too. She was three pounds and fourteen ounces.

I didn’t get to see either of my babies much after the first few moments. I didn’t fall in love with them right away. I was stunned from the whole experience, and I ended up having some problems delivering the placentas, which required that I be drugged up even more than I already was. By that time, Adam and Leo and Zoe, along with all the yellow gowns, were gone to the NICU.

Eventually, I was brought back to the L&D room and I dozed off for a while. It seemed that hours had passed before Adam finally came back. He gave me a report on Leo and Zoe which is a complete jumble in my memory now, but which boiled down to “they look good.”  I wanted two things: I wanted food and I wanted to see my babies. I felt like they had been stolen from me. It just seemed so wrong that everyone could see them except me. Still, my hunger was even stronger than my desire to see them. I kept begging for food, but I didn’t get it until many hours later. They made me drink juice and eat a few crackers first (crackers don’t count as food). They are so scared that people might vomit. The whole thing is just so wrong. They should have a feast waiting for you after you give birth and trust you to eat according to your needs!

The hospital was still busy. The next step was for me to be moved to a “Family Centered Care” room, and there was a room available, but there were 13 women ahead of me in line just waiting for someone to physically move them. Apparently, the move process requires more paperwork and specially skilled “transfer personnel” in order to accomplish the daunting feat of wheeling the bed into an elevator, pushing the right button, and then wheeling the bed into a room. But my nurse, Anna, decided I was special and she wheeled me there herself. I know this is something she normally doesn’t do because when we arrived in the FCC area, she said hello to a lot of the staff saying things like, “It’s nice to finally meet you in person.” “We’ve spoken on the phone so many times but I’ve never seen you before.” I’m not sure why we got such excellent treatment, but I was so grateful for it because it meant that I’d get a meal that much sooner.

Zoe was born at 3pm. I arrived in the FCC room somewhere around 5pm. We quickly found out that the NICU doesn’t allow visitors between 6:30pm and 7:30pm because that is when they do their shift-change. I didn’t want to wait until 7:30 to see Leo and Zoe. I told everyone that I was going to make the trip (four floors down and maybe 40 yards of walking), so they should help me get ready. I had to use the bathroom and they had to give me some lectures about this and that. I ordered food from the cafeteria so it would be there when I got back. Suddenly, it was 6pm. I told them I was going now. They tried to get me to go in a wheelchair, but they were so slow about everything I was afraid that I’d lose my chance if I waited. So Adam and I walked, wheeling my IV cart along.

I don’t even remember much of my first visit to the NICU. It was overwhelming. I just wanted to see their faces, and once I did, I felt better. First I saw Leo, and noted what a big nose he had. Then I saw Zoe, and noted how tiny she really was – more tiny than I had realized in the delivery room. As I was finishing up with Zoe, I felt something dripping down my back. My epidural injection site was leaking. Someone found me a wheelchair and we went back to the FCC room. It turned out to be nothing. Then I ate.

That’s the end of the story. But there’s a postscript. About two weeks later, while I was visiting Zoe (Leo was home by that point), one of the NICU nurses came up to me and said, “I just had to come over and say hello. You probably don’t remember me, but I was there when you came to visit Zoe that first time. I’ll never forget how determined you were to see your babies. I couldn’t believe you had just delivered them three hours ago. You were amazing.”

Yes, I was.



Monday, September 5, 2011

A Little Thing

On Leo's first night at home, Sammy got up for one of his middle of the night feeds. She stuck with us through the whole process.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Random Thought of the Day

The NICU is a great way to break in your baby. Your baby will come home on a three hour schedule. Your baby will sleep through any kind of noise, up to and including the loudest barking dog you can imagine. Your baby will drink formula at any temperature, from any bottle or nipple, and will also breastfeed as long as you did that in the NICU, too. Your baby will be used to crying and not getting immediate attention. If you have a preemie, that crying will not be too loud or disconcerting, and it almost always means hunger, so there is no mystery to it.

And as a bonus, the NICU breaks in parents, too. When your baby comes home, you will already know how to take his temperature, feed him with breast or bottle, give him a bath, swaddle him, and change his diaper. You will also know his personality and how to read his signals.

Still, I don't recommend it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Random Thought of the Day

The only thing worse than every day being completely different is every day being exactly the same.

We're in completely different territory now. There is no routine. Every single activity has to be managed on the fly. Meals, showers, trips to the bathroom. It takes up enormous mental and physical effort. But, if I recall correctly, there is a long period with a new baby (or two), where you do get into a routine. The problem is that the routine takes up 98% of your time and bores you to death. Luckily, that doesn't last forever either.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sam Update - 5 Years Old

Today is Sammy's fifth birthday. It is her first as a big sister and, at least right now, she definitely sees that as the best birthday present ever. But there are so many other milestones at five years old.

Besides Zoe and Leo, the biggest thing going on for Sam now is school. She is starting her third year of Montessori next week, which is the equivalent of kindergarten. She will be in school from 9am-3pm this year. They call it "extended day" at her school. When she started there two years ago, she couldn't even pronounce "extended day." Now, she is a true little-kid: looking forward to showing off her new lunch box, eating lunch with her friends, and bossing - I mean, showing the little kids how to do the work properly. She reads and writes, does addition and subtraction, and can take care of a lot of her own needs without adult help. She is even old enough to truly miss her teachers. She keeps talking about them and I can tell that she is not just mimicking the feeling, but truly longs to see them again and get back to school.

This summer has shown us another great leap in Sammy's development. She seems to have learned how to practice and to accept help. She spent a lot of time this summer writing her letters and numbers - she has most of them down now, which is a great improvement. The motivation is her own. She sits down to work on it without prompting. But even better, she will sometimes ask me for help. If I give too much, she gets angry, but she will take minimal help if I get it just right. This has been a challenge for her (and me!) in the past. She is so fiercely independent that she would say, "Mommy, can you help me?" but then rebel as soon as I gave her the tiniest bit of instruction. (Then she would give up.) Now, she will allow me to write a letter on her paper so that she can have a model to copy. If I tell her a letter is backwards she doesn't yell at me and tell me I'm wrong or that she wants to do it "her own way." If I do it properly - not too often, and offered as a choice to her such as, "do you want to see the right way?" - she actually wants to know the right way! (Of course, I've also explained to her why there is a right way.) I'm learning a lot about how I'm going to have to work with her once I become her teacher. And I can finally see that it might indeed be possible for us to homeschool without destroying our relationship. I'm going to have to work extra, extra hard at providing the most minimal "instruction" possible, and I'm going to have to tune in to what motivates her. It would be so much easier if she'd just swallow what I want her to learn. Damn those independent minds and wills that children have!

We eliminated Sam's afternoon nap as a part of our regular routine after she was having some trouble sleeping. Now, she takes a nap if she feels tired. She'll just disappear and go upstairs and nap. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to see my child knowing herself and her needs, and taking care of it all on her own. I definitely got the timing right on this one.

Bedtime is still a parent-directed activity, partially because I believe she still needs guidance to get the amount of sleep she requires, but also because we all enjoy bedtime so much. When I've talked to her about how things will change with two new babies in the house, I've asked her what special times she most wants us to keep untouched. The first thing she said was reading books at bed time. Adam and I have been taking turns putting her to bed since she was about a year old (we did it together before that). It's a long routine that can take close to an hour. We might have to shorten it somewhat, but we'll never take it away from her, as long as she wants it.

Also at bedtime, we've tried to allow Sammy more freedom in coming out of her room. She still wears pull-ups (and there's no end in sight to that) so she doesn't need to come out to use the bathroom, but sometimes she wants to get water or a snack. We've gone through periods where we allow this, and periods where we don't, because she'll abuse the privilege and start coming into our bedroom to chat, or sitting in the hall to play with the cat. The night before I went into labor, she was in one of her "wandering around the house" phases and just wouldn't get to bed. I called her into my room where I was lying in bed like a beached whale and I cried in frustration, telling her that I needed rest too, and would she please just go into her own room out of respect for me. She got it, and went right to bed. But it doesn't always work that way. There are still nights when we struggle to get her to bed and there is a lot of yelling and crying. I know she does not want to be controlled, but I don't know how else to ensure she gets her sleep, and also to make sure Adam and I have our own time together. I'd let her have the run of the house if she could restrain herself from knocking on our door or making a lot of noise, but she's not there yet. And most nights, she does go to sleep right away, so overall, the situation is tolerable. But I know we'll all be happy when she is just a bit more mature and we can let go of this control.

Something that is shocking to me is that Sammy has recently developed the high-energy that I expect to see out of a two- or three-year-old. She's always been so calm (compared to most kids) that I thought we were in the clear. But I guess I forgot that when it comes to anything physical, Sammy is way behind her peers. Now she's bouncing off the walls and having trouble focusing and listening. She needs a lot of physical activity to get through a day without going stir crazy. It's strange that I finally have one of "those" kids, but at least I'll be a little bit more prepared if Leo and/or Zoe are the hyper type.

Sometime just in the past few weeks, Sammy developed a new laugh. Her toddler giggle still comes out, but sometimes this completely different laugh escapes her. It's loud and, well, I guess I'd describe it as jolly. It's her little-girl laugh. It could come from a ten-year-old. It's funny how it just came out of nowhere like that, instead of morphing, as I would have expected. For now, we get both laughs, but I know it won't last long. I'm going to have to be sure to take a lot of video before the toddler laugh disappears altogether.

Even with all of these changes, Sammy would tell you that the most important thing about turning five is that now she can have two gummy vitamins instead of just one!

We've had a couple of days with Leo at home now, and we're learning what Sammy is like as a big sister. So far, so good. It's going to be interesting to watch her as the novelty wears off. If I can keep my cool, I might learn a lot about "my oldest daughter" in the next few months.