Sunday, June 1, 2014

table for two

It's not often that I'm alone with all three kids. When I am, it's usually for just a few hours and it goes surprisingly well...except, of course, when it doesn't. Andrew left for work this evening, and about an hour and a half later, I sent him this text:

So far...complete shit show.

And that's not an exaggeration. It was chaos. During that hour and a half, Harriet watched an hour and ten minutes of Barney. Barney is useful because he puts her in a sort of cooperative, I'll-do-whatever-you-say-as-long-as-you-let-me-keep-watching-this-purple-dinosaur trance. She doesn't like to eat, but Barney helped her eat a microwaved corndog (full disclosure - it was her third in three days). Barney also helped me get her to pee on her little potty chair...I literally carry the laptop in front of her like a carrot dangled in front of a mule as we walk to the bathroom. My respect for myself as a parent sort of goes out the window whenever I use this technique, but it works, so whatever.  Barney wasn't especially useful with the whole teeth brushing thing, because she still threw a fit. Thanks for nothing, Barney.

While I'm doing all of this, the boys are screaming...like off and on for an hour and a half. I pick up the loudest and/or reddest one and hold him until the other one matches the first in intensity. Then I lay the first boy down and pick up his brother. We do this taking turns routine until one or both of them fall asleep. But even that only lasts a couple of minutes.

So I'm carrying this dumb laptop and a baby around, trying to get my toddler to cooperate with the bedtime routine and she's throwing little fits about...I'm sorry...the dumbest stuff ever, like the importance of holding the handrail on the way up the stairs and which sort of toothpaste we need to use. And it kind of blows my mind that she thinks that these things matter at all in the midst of such chaos. I mean, can she not hear two tiny boys absolutely losing it in the background? But then I remember that she's two, so yeah, it totally matters...even though one particular brother looks and sounds like he's a couple breaths away from complete combustion.

I'm not one for letting babies this little cry it out...day or night. I am their mom and it's my job to help them. When I pick them up, they instantly calm. In fact, they melt. They just want to be held and whispered to. And I can do that, so I do...as often as I can...which isn't as often as I'd like because, like every parent out there knows, there's always someone or something else pulling on one of our arms or legs. So I get a little panicky every now and then, wondering what sort of awful damage is being done to my children due to the fact that sometimes, despite our best efforts, they have to cry for a while. I worry about attachment. I worry that they won't feel as loved as Harriet has. I worry that they'll give up on me when I don't seem to heed their calls. But then I remind myself that my best is my best. It's all I've got.

So anyways...I get Harriet to bed (early, in fact...woohoo!). Louie has tired himself out by this point...classic Lou. And Gus is raging red as a raspberry...classic Gus. I change them, swaddle them and put them in their little rocking bassinets, looking like two cranky little egg rolls.

This is out of the norm. Usually, I'd plop them into their boppy's. One on each side of me on the couch. I'd shimmy into my nursing pillow like it's an inner tube and hoist them onto it one at a time. I'd latch Louie first, then Gus. Lou finds it quick, always desperately hungry but still with his wits about him. Gus is usually stiff as a board and I have to coax him to bend his knees so that he can nestle in under my arm and find what he's looking for.

When they're both latched, I wait. It doesn't take long for my milk to come in, fast and strong. That's when the games begin. The boy on the left unlatches first and milk goes spraying everywhere. When this happened to Harriet and I, I'd catch the squirting milk with a burp cloth, but with the boys, both of my hands are tied up, so we just sit there while the milk soaks our clothes. The baby on the left is crying, no doubt because he thinks he's drowning. When I finally get him calm and re-latched, the son on the right is squirming and making faces like he smelled something awful. He needs to burp. This isn't a surprise. I've been hearing him suck air while he guzzles the rush of milk. So even though he's only been drinking for a few minutes, he already needs to get rid of that extra gas. I squeeze my arm underneath him and lift him to my shoulder. In the process, I squish his tummy a bit so he spits up on me. I burp him for a while. He lets out a couple of big ones, all the while trying to climb away or something. I have no idea what he's doing but he's certainly not cooperating. I get him re-latched and now the baby on the left needs to burp. Somewhere along the way, one boy inevitably tries to eat his brother. And this is how it goes until I decide we're done. I get them both in a safe spot with their heads elevated so that they don't lose more of their lunch, and I look down at my shirt. I am completely drenched. Sometimes I change my shirt, but I never change my bra because I have two nursing bras that I like, and I'm not risking having both in the wash at the same time. By evening, I'm transported back to summer days in my childhood - that feeling of wearing a wet swimsuit all day long. As a kid, it's fine. As an adult, you feel like you're getting trench foot...except in your bra.

So back to those cranky egg rolls...Tonight, I decided to forgo the breast in favor of bottles. Now you need to understand, these bottles were the third and forth bottles I have personally fed my children...ever. Andrew had to teach me how to heat it up before he left for work. When I put that rubbery plastic in their mouths, part of me wanted to cry. But then I got myself together and decided to enjoy it. I sang them John Denver and CeCe Winans. I smiled into their beautiful, sleepy eyes. And you know what? It was actually kind of nice.

I wasn't wet at the end. No one spit up. No milk went spurting everywhere. The boys didn't cry or make those sad, gassy faces. And I thought, Wow...could that have possibly been more peaceful and straightforward? I never understood moms who pumped and bottle-fed until that moment.

And that scares me a little...okay fine, it terrifies me. I don't want to give up nursing. I love nursing. I just worry that we're not going to figure out how to make this work. I worry that every feeding is going to be a battle.

And now I'm super mad at myself for not going to bed immediately after I put them down. I've now spent forty minutes blogging and eating rhubarb crisp directly out of the pan when I could be sleeping. So I'm vowing to do it differently tomorrow...never gonna happen.

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So now it's 2:30 in the morning...the boys slept six hours straight after I gave them those bottles - their longest chunk so far. It's bittersweet. I'm so glad that they slept such a long time. I feel amazing after sleeping five straight hours. But it kind of makes me wonder if I'm the problem. Much of the time, when I tandem nurse them, it's wonderful. Seeing those four beautiful eyes staring up at me and snuggling their warm little bodies brings on overwhelming feelings of joy and gratitude. More than a few times, I've cried happy tears while nursing them...like this day:

Maybe it's weird to take crying selfies but I love to remember these moments. 
Andrew was outside working on the yard. Harriet was upstairs napping and I was burping the boys after a feeding. He peeked his head in the patio door and asked if I wanted him to put them in their bassinets so that I could stand up. I shook my head no. He asked if I was okay, and I just started to cry. He stepped inside and shut the door behind him, just looked at me and smiled.

"We have a great life, don't we?" he said.

I nodded. "So many of our dreams are coming true."

There's something about nursing these boys, and specifically nursing them together that brings out so much beauty in this mother/children relationship. I'm not giving that up just to get more sleep, and the good news is, I don't think I have to.

Here's my theory. I think that the bottles seem to work better at night for several reasons. First, they don't spit up with bottles because I'm not jostling them around trying to keep them both latched, trying to burp one while the other eats, then switching them up. They're just in one spot, so they don't get sick from having their tummies scrunched and all that. Also, they control the rate of flow with the bottles, whereas when my milk comes in, it's kind of a firehose effect. There's no way for them to turn it off, so they gulp and gulp, which leads to upset tummies. Also, they fall asleep more quickly at the breast than with bottles, probably because with bottles, it's more about the business of eating and isn't as comfy-cozy. Lastly, because I have such an abundance of milk (I'm freezing over 100 ounces per week in addition to the milk that's feeding Lou and Gus), they have to eat a long time to get to the hindmilk (the really rich stuff that keeps them full longer). When I pump and fill up bottles for them, the hindmilk and the foremilk all mixes together. I know that an abundance of milk is a great problem to have, but it's still a problem. And pumping before feedings doesn't help all that much. In fact, I think it makes the problem worse because it makes me produce even more milk.

So I think I'm going to do bottles at night and nurse them during the day. I keep reminding myself that they will be sleeping through the night soon (maybe wishful thinking), so who cares if we do bottles for a couple of months? I also keep reminding myself that Harriet went through this same thing at the same age. She actually seemed to develop a fear of nursing which lasted over a month. As she got bigger and could handle the flow better, the problem just fixed itself. I'm hoping the same happens for the boys, but pushing through the problem just feels a little harder with two babies than it did with one.

I'm also going to do more individual feedings. Nursing them one at a time has its perks - I can walk around the house and do things while I feed them or I can give that baby my undivided attention. I can read Harriet a book and turn the pages, or we can sit on the floor and build a block tower. So most of our feedings have become individual, but I'm trying to do at least one or two tandem feeds per day just to keep up the skill, because I'm guessing that if you don't use it, you lose it.

I'd love thoughts, input, stories and tips from any of you tandem nursing moms out there...or regular nursing moms...or dads or grandmas or anybody! This is so important to me, and I can take all the help I can get.

14 comments:

  1. I just think you're a superhero. I can imagine everything you describe cause, you know - big imagination, but truly I can't imagine such precious moments and equal concern. Know that you ARE doing you're best. Your boys will love your best. You're awesome.

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  2. Unfortunately I have no tips to offer but I think the bonding between you and your boys is beautiful. I love your happy tears selfie and you shouldn't hate yourself for using Barney...a girls gotta do what she's gotta do.

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  3. My only thoughts are that you are a ROCKSTAR mama. Harriet, Louie and Gus are so lucky to have you as their mama. Your boys are beautiful and so are you. Do you thing. Eat rhubarb crisps. Use a bottle. Use Barney. It's about the love and they obviously are swimming in that! :)

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  4. I have no thoughts or tips but know I will need YOUR thoughts and tips in the not too far future :). Sounds like, as chaotic as it is, you have it down my friend!!

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  5. I'm with Lindsey; you, my dear, are a ROCKSTAR! Louie and Gus (and Harriet) are so lucky to have you, whether it's milk from a bottle or songs from a purple dinosaur! You're doing GREAT!

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  6. Em, if it works don't worry about what others think. I too try to tandem feed once a day, but I don't have near the amount of milk you do an usually end up supplimenting with a bottle at the end. If I individually feed, usually the other gets a bottle of EBM at the same time vs boppy or Grey. And I suppliment with one bottle of formula a day. And you know what? It works for us and they are thriving. Anyone who wants to tell me otherwise (and someone has tired) can go jump off a cliff. My point is do what works for you guys. If it's not, then we can talk. But I think you've got a good system going. And with twins and a toddler, that's awesome!

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  7. I nursed my twin boys for 16 months & LOVED (almost) every second of it!!! And I'll tell you what, they got a lot of (pumped) bottles!! Every night before bed their whole first year, they got a bottle. It was hubby's & my favorite part of the day...our older daughter asleep, & just he & I each feeding one sleepy baby. We would trade off every night who we fed & then we would diaper & dress & snuggle that baby as it fell off to sleep. Then after they were in bed, I would pump & that would be our milk for our next feeding. I liked getting nice & empty before bed, knowing that would signal my body to make a lot more milk, & I liked feeding them every single ounce of milk they would drink before bed, knowing they would sleep longer. I know you know this, but often your milk supply is lowest that last feed of the day so I felt better knowing their little bellies were nice & full. for what it's worth, they also slept through the night really early, about 2.5 months. my hubby & I also took turns (him one night, me the next) bottle feeding them in the middle of the night. the tandem-nursing-mania you wrote of was just too much stress for me in the middle of the night. if it was hubby's night to feed bottles, I would wake up & pump in my room (took like 15 mins & I got to go right back to bed!) as he went out to the living room to bottle feed them. if it was my night, I would bottle feed them, lay them back down, then pump (prob 30-45 mins). I would always DVR a show to watch during that pumping. I would also bottle-feed if we were going to be out of the house during a feeding...no tandem nursing in public for me!! I would pump before we left, bottle feed when out, then pump when I got home (or nurse when we got home & pump off the excess). I also nursed them separately far more than I did tandem. I just nursed one boy about 15 mins before the other, & they would usually stay on that schedule all day. if the other really freaked out I would plop him on but it usually worked out fine. and I know it is SO hard to listen to them cry & scream, my daughter definitely never had to do that & I kind of mourned all of the one-on-one time I had nursing her, rocking her, snuggling her all day. when hubby was home I would REALLY try to get some one-on-one with the babies & you know what?? we were SO attached & I was SO close to them & they certainly don't remember the crying they did as newborns :). they are amazing & & I still ADORE the rare treasure of being a twin mama. you are doing amazing!! soak it up!! and p.s., that picture of you weeping while holding your boys is priceless. priceless.

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  8. I wish I had advice to offer, but all I know is you are one amazing momma!

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  9. i would have loved to nurse longer! the other day, i tried in the shower and C just kept smacking my boob like a balloon. i cried. oh how i miss our short lived nursing days. but pumping and bottle feeding worked for him and he sure was a happier baby because of it. your supply seems fantastic. i envy that! theres no right or wrong way to do it mama. you're feeding them and thats all they know. they love you for that regardless of a plastic nipple or flesh nipple.
    beautiful beautiful picture.
    i am dying to see you!
    and never forget how wonderful you are!

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  10. I honestly love the crying selfie. So real, so intense - the highs and lows of parenting.

    I like what Meg said about the final feed of the day being a bottle feed and you and your husband each get one baby to snuggle and bond with for that feeding! It will give you more flexibility in the long run if they're both good at taking bottles, and if it helps their tummies be full and not gassy as they head into nighttime sleep, I think that's a win/win for everyone!

    They are so tiny now, so I'm sure the spit-up is more of an issue at this point, but remember that as they grow, that problem should decrease, so hopefully feeds will become less about you being soaking wet and more about you gazing into those two sets of eyes.

    Hang in there lady! You're a rock star.

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  11. Goodness gracious you are super mom. Two things to share with you. One time I was in the bathroom and the baby started crying in the crib, I had the baby monitor with me and all of a sudden I heard two babies crying. The echo was crazy and I thought ah! this must be what life with twins feels like. I can't imagine the joy and craziness you are dealing with, both are awesome!
    Second thing to share (I plan on blogging about this soon). My baby nursed like a champ at the hospital, then I brought him home and he would scream bloody murder every time I whipped those suckers out. I began pumping and have pumped ever since. I actually really enjoy exclusive pumping because he gets what he needs from me, we still bond, but my family gets to feed him as well and I get tons more sleep. I'm NOT a good mom on no sleep so I feel like that is so important. Two months later we found out he was tongue tied which can cause issues with nursing, I hope to try again, but if not we are doing just find with the system with have. And the transition to me going back to work was much easier on all of us. Every baby is different and YOU are doing a GREAT JOB!!!

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  12. I love your happy tears selfie. Brings tears to MY eyes knowing your dreams are all coming true. You deserve it sweet friend and you ARE such a rockstar!! xoxo

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  13. Aww, that picture is so sweet. Nursing one was hard enough for me to get used to so I can certainly see how nursing two will take some getting used to. I'm glad you got a decent stretch of sleep, six hours for them is awesome!! You are doing a fabulous job, and whatever you decide will be perfect for all of you.

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  14. Just commenting to give my support. Little K was a mix of nursing and bottles of pumped milk (given by a care provider while I was at work). Everything turned out fine.

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