My Story

The chronicle of the journey from infertility, to miscarriage, to finally raising twin girls born in June 2012.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The harness is off and we might hire help

Yay!  The harness is officially off!

And ever since, Tina has become very talkative.  Just cooing and chatting away with giggles and rolling over while hanging out on my tummy.  Usually when I hear these noises, it's Charlotte.  They sound just alike.

K is still trying to figure out how to get out of so many closing shifts, but last night we had some issues.  He was doing the overnight shift he's been stuck on once a week for the last couple of months.  Well, the window of drowsy hit the girls around the same time and I put all my effort into getting Tina fully down before tending to Charlotte since Tina has been the difficult one lately.

By the time I was able to feed, bathe, and rock Charlotte, the window was long gone and she was upset.  She did that screech that we haven't really heard from her for a while.  It was horrible.  Her face all red, little eyes bugging out, and she just sounded like she was in so much pain.  I started to get scared and around midnight I called K and told him I was getting desperate.  He was scheduled to work until 2:30am but I was totally at the end of my rope.  He told me to give her some Tylenol and call him back if she was still going in 20 minutes.  So 30 minutes later, I called him back because she was still going.  I believe what I screamed was "Tylenol doesn't fix over tired!" and when he asked if I was desperate I told him "I called you when I was at my wits end.  I'm now 45 minutes beyond my wits end."  So he came home.  The house finally got quiet around 1:30am.

If K had been home in the 9-10pm hour, we would have been able to catch both their windows and had them down no later than 11pm and all would have been well with no gut wrenching screeching.

Even though we can't really afford it, I've sent an inquiry to a local nanny service about hiring a mothers helper for those nights that K is closing.  Part of the reason I haven't wanted to ask for help is because some nights things are really easy and I feel like an ass having someone there to do nothing.  But then there are those nights when everything goes to hell, but I don't know how bad it sucks until after 10pm and I would feel like an ass calling anyone that late.  Maybe if I had a mothers helper from 7pm-11pm on nights that K closes, s/he could help out when the nights suck, and on the good nights, maybe she'd be able to cook a meal or two to freeze for later in the week or help me catch up on laundry and dishes.  It would also be nice to have someone I could call when I'm offered a video job and don't yet know if K will be working that day. I could take the job knowing that I have someone available to babysit if he's working.

I really don't want to hire help.  What I want is for K to work reasonable hours and be here in the evenings.  But that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon and we can't go on with the three ladies of the household being miserable for a few hours of every night.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crossing over

It looks like the days of me freezing obnoxious amounts of breast milk may be over.  We're going to start crossing over from freezing the extra to dipping into the stash.

Last week I produced a total of 362oz.  The girls ate a total of 343.6oz.  When you figure that an ounce or two goes down the drain every now and then, I didn't have any extra last week.  My supply hasn't changed at all, they're just catching up to me.  We're now prepping 5oz bottles for Tina and 5.5oz bottles for Charlotte.

I did the math a few weeks ago and as long as I produce 40oz a day, between that and my freezer stash, I can anticipate having enough for the girls through their first year and probably won't need to buy any formula before they are fully on food.  I'm still producing 50-55oz a day.  Intellectually, yeah, I know I'm fine.  But there's still that emotion and sense of fear when we start thawing milk instead of freezing it.  Totally irrational, but there you have it.

In other news, Tina's harness should be coming off tomorrow.  I'm sooooo glad!  I hate that thing!  It interferes with her ability to strengthen her legs at all.  Charlotte likes to play "up down" where she pushes her legs and has me hold her standing up until she collapses her legs and sits back down on my lap.  I can't play that with Tina yet.  We just come across a dozen little things like that which the harness interferes with.  I can't even bicycle her legs and press her knees to her chest to help her fart when she has gas.  We're anticipating a much happier baby overall after tomorrow.
The cat figured out how snuggly the feeding station is.

Her head is still a bit deformed though.  We're trying to get her to rest facing the left in order to take weight off the flat spot and put it on the pointy spot in hopes that we can naturally round out her head but I'm not seeing a lot of progress.  It's gonna suck if we have to put a helmet on her shortly after taking the harness off.

Sleep - we're going to have to start waking the girls up at 11am or so because they've let me sleep past noon a couple of times now.  We've been getting up twice during that 12hour stretch to feed them.  When one wakes us up, we attempt to dream feed the other as well.  Apparently it's been working a little too well.  So if we start getting them up at 11am now, and then when the clocks roll back in a week or two we'll change that to 10am (so no change according to the babies perception), we should have a much more reasonable schedule around here.  I'm hoping that getting up a little earlier will help them go to sleep a little better at night and nap better during the day.

Charlotte is doing a great job of grabbing at the dangling toys in her play gym.  Tina still hasn't quite figured out the whole grabbing thing yet.  It has me a little concerned.  I try to remember that every baby is different, but that really seems like something she should have figured out a long time ago.  Maybe when the harness is off and she has a little more power over the movement of her body in general, she'll start exploring these kinds of things.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's all about who you work with

As I've said many times before, K is a great guy.  Both at home and at work.  Him being a great guy at work is causing problems at home right now.

K is a retail manager asst manager of the store) and that comes with certain realities that many jobs don't have to deal with.  The main one is that his schedule is inconsistent from week to week and he often works odd hours.  For us, this often works out really well.  If I have a video gig (requires me to be out of the house for 2-3 hours and then I bring the work home to my computer), he can usually schedule around it as long as he knows in advance what day off to ask for.

For the last couple of years, he's been pretty happy at work.  He and the manager worked really well together, were generally on the same page, and it was a very cooperative environment.  A couple of months before the girls were born, corporate decided to shake things up and they split up the really good teams and spread those individuals to stores that needed to improve in some way.  So K was transferred to another store, notorious for drama, in the hopes that a solid, even tempered, non drama guy would help to change the tone there.

That's not how it's working out.  The staff at the new store has been resistant to him from the beginning.  The manager doesn't view the staff as a team, but rather as her employees that are to do what she tells them to do.  They have been so set in their ways that any change is considered a threat, even if that change would make their lives easier.  K has been doing his best to fit in and function, but things are often done so poorly or so inefficiently, he can't help but try to make them better.  His old manager has even told him of some of the bitching that his new manager has done about him, the old manager of course knowing that the bitching is pure bullshit and that a lot of what she's claiming are complete lies.  K is now miserable at work.

The big problem that's been affecting all of us is the scheduling.  Every member of the management team is required to work at least one closing shift per week.  There are supposed to be 5 managers at the store so in theory, no one should have to close more than 2 nights per week.  Guess who's been closing most nights!  Of the 5 managers, the boss refuses to close (we think at this point she doesn't even know how), one got fired several weeks back for bringing pot to work, one had to refuse to close for a while because his wife has been having pre-term labor issues and is on bedrest with 6 other kids that need taking care of, and the last one hasn't really had any long term issues, but he is on vacation this week.

In recent weeks, K's schedule has looked something like this -
Sunday - 8am - 6pm
Monday - off
Tuesday - 6pm -2am!!!
Wednesday - off
Thursday - 1pm - 9:30pm
Friday - 1pm - 9:30pm
Saturday - 8am - 4:30pm

It looks like there's practically a 3 day weekend in there, but it doesn't work out that way.  On Mondays, K is trying to rest and somewhat reset his sleep schedule so he can survive the Tuesday shift.  Tuesdays we're trying to give him a nap at some point and Wednesday he's exhausted and trying to recoup.  So all three days are practically shot.

To make it more frustrating, the next weeks schedule is supposed to be created and posted on Tuesdays.  K finally found out what his schedule will be next week yesterday (Friday).  Between Tuesday and Friday, several video gigs have been offered for next week, and I've had to let them all go by because I had no way of knowing if he would be home, and my parents are out of town so I can't count on them to come and watch the girls.  That's $900 out the window because his boss can't get her job done when it's supposed to be done.

We thought this was about to change.  His boss talked to him about the fact that because he's not there during the days, he can't get done what he's supposed to be getting done.  She said she needed to get him back working more days than nights and we thought "hallelujah!"  And then K came home last night, told me his schedule for next week, he's closing all 5 of his work shifts.  Son of a bitch!

Why him closing is so difficult on me - during the day, the girls are relatively easy.  It's 11am right now, Charlotte has been up, eaten and is taking a nap, and Tina is still asleep.  I'm glad she's wearing an alarm so I know she's alive, seriously, other than a dream feed, she's been down for 12 hours now.  I'm warming a bottle because she should be up any minute.  Anyway, in the afternoons is when things start to get difficult.  They'll both be up at the same time and will get fussy, naps sometimes only last about 15 minutes and that's after a lot of crying before falling asleep.  Somewhere around 8-9pm, it's time to do the bedtime routine of baths and cuddles and such.  I tried to make bedtime earlier but they have really decided that they will go to sleep for the night somewhere in the 10pm hour.  I can't do the bedtime routine for 2 fussy babies by myself!

By the time bedtime comes around, I'm exhausted, frustrated, and at the end of my rope.  Whichever baby is not getting the full attention will be crying and getting more and more upset until I can put the other one down to do bath and cuddles and stuff.  So then the first one gets upset.  Instead of a nice calming routine, they simply get more and more upset and it spirals out of control until K finally rushes in the door sometime after 10pm and does his best to help.  What could be a 1 hour routine if I had two sets of hands becomes a 4 hour ordeal of frustration every night.  Because I'm always on my own during the hard part of the day, when K is home, I just can't handle it anymore and he takes on 90% of the household/baby duties.  He works his ass off, does his best to take care of the girls in the middle of the night and let me sleep because he knows how frazzled I am, and that's really taking a major toll on him.

This is critical time.  This is when habits are established.  What we do now will set the tone for years to come.  I don't want to flail my way through this critical development period and pay the consequences later.

When he told me his work schedule for next week, I cried for 3 hours.  I thought this shit was about to be over and it's getting worse.  He's miserable, I'm miserable, the girls are not getting the best mommy I could be and they are sleeping through the daddy time that he's available to them.  If he were home during the difficult time, the difficult time of day wouldn't be nearly as difficult and I would have the energy to be more helpful when he's home so that less work will fall on his shoulders and we would all be so much happier.  Evenings would be the four of us playing together instead of me just trying to calm the fussy and all of us getting more and more upset as the hours tick by.

K's MO is to be the great guy, don't make waves, and he expects to eventually be rewarded.  That is so not how this company works.  We've seen total shitheads who are completely incompetent keep their jobs after obnoxious infraction after infraction, and yet he's somehow afraid of getting fired if he does anything remotely imperfect.  So last night I laid it out for him, he CAN NOT close more than his fair share.  2 nights per week, 3 if there's a real desperation in the store.  It's not a matter of "hey boss, I don't want to close very often" because that soft language doesn't work.  Others are saying they can't and they are being accommodated so K needs to say he can't and it's time to accommodate him.   I told him that if the schedule doesn't change to what he needs it to be, he's going to start catching the flu a whole lot and will be calling out sick until they figure out that no, he really won't be there when he says he can't be there, so they had better schedule around him.

It's been years that K has been doing everything asked of him and more and it's time to put his foot down and say no.  It's time for him to cash in the good will he's been building over the years.  When he brought up his fears, I told him that he's been trying it his way for X number of years, and it hasn't gotten him anywhere.  It's time to try a different tactic.  And whether it succeeds or crashes and burns, I will prefer those results over what we have going on now.  He warns me of the shitstorm that will rile up if he makes waves and I'm all for it.  Shit needs to be stirred and the bosses above his boss will side with K.  That's why they put him in this store to begin with.

Some recent financial changes have added a level of security to our household and if he were to lose his job, it would suck, especially the health insurance, but we'd survive.  And seeing the shit that other employees pull and how impossible it seems to be to get them fired, I really don't have any fear at all that Mr. Great Employee will lose his job over insisting that the people around him do their jobs so he doesn't have to do them.

He promises he's going to do it.  He's going to put his foot down and let the shit storm fly.  This is so out of his comfort zone, I know it's like jumping off a cliff for him.  But it needs to happen.  I'm crossing my fingers that he can do this.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The constant question

The girls are starting to outgrow a few things and it leads to a bit of a dilemma - what do I do with their stuff?

The twin specific stuff like matching outfits, that's easy.  Send those to the consignment store and get a few pennies for them to spend on more stuff.  Odds are another set of twins ain't gonna be showing up around here and I'm sure the consignment store doesn't get the opportunity to sell matching outfits for twins very often.  My OB has already informed me that he'll probably kick my ass if I show up pregnant with twins again.

But what about the rest of it?  The things that I've bought, the massive amount of things that family and friends have given me in hand me downs.  It makes for a constant question - will we have another baby in the future?

My instinct is always to pass it on.  A blogger buddy (hey Tulip!) is due at the end of December and it only makes sense to outfit her little girl as others have outfitted mine.  I keep shopping around my house and have to remind myself that we're still using some things, don't give them all away before we're done with them!

In my family, I'm the last of my generation, on both sides.  By quite a bit.  One cousin became a grandmother long before I became a mother.  And I missed the wedding of another cousins kid because I was busy giving birth and all.  With the exception of the newlywed, no one is likely to be having a baby any time soon, and even the newlyweds don't seem to be in much of a hurry.  So there isn't really anyone within the circle to rotate all the stuff too.

So, if I give stuff away and we do end up having another kid, I'll have to replace it all and I'll feel like an idiot.  No more freebies are available, I've currently got ALL of them from every household that's in any way remotely connected to me.  But the odds are slim that we'll have another baby, so it's stupid to just let it all sit in a closet rotting away when other babies can be using it and saving another family a few bucks.  And due to some recent events, we are likely to be in a better financial place to purchase baby items a few years from now.

Here's my decision of the day, subject to change of course -

  • Overtly matchy matchy stuff will go to consignment, as will equipment that we were disappointed with (like the audio only baby monitor).  
  • I will pick out a very small handful, like two or three of my favorite onesies and jammies and store those somewhere in case our family has use for them again.  Because most of those favorites are very feminine and odds are another child would be a boy, I'll pull out a handful of gender neutral staples and store those as well.  
  • Anything stained that I can't fix with my oxyclean stain stick, or anything in need of repairs hits the garbage can.  
  • Anything in good condition, that would only be appropriate for a girl, and isn't something that would make me cry to give away, that goes to my blogger buddy so her little girl can enjoy them.
But every day, when another outfit is tossed into the laundry bin we have labeled "Outgrown outfits", it reminds me that we have a question constantly hanging over our heads.  Will we ever try this again?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exiting Survival Mode

When you have a newborn (or two), every minute of every day is just about surviving.  There's a lot of flailing going on and you don't really do the kind of parenting that sets things up for long term happiness.  But that's fine.  A baby can't even begin to establish habits until around 2 months of age, so whatever you're doing to survive at first won't do any long term harm.

Life is good with a wubbanub a cool wall to look at
My girls are about 4 and a half months old now, 3 months adjusted age.  The last week or two, we've been coming out of survival mode and we're starting to attempt to set the foundations for more long term parenting habits.  I think things are going pretty well.

It's started with really working on their sleep habits.  I'm still letting them determine nap times and bedtime, but I'm much more attuned to their sleep cues now, and by really getting them down during their drowsy window, some patterns are starting to emerge.  Nap times are still kind of up in the air, but they are consistently going to sleep around 10pm.  We tried to establish bedtime at around 7 or 8pm, but they are falling asleep between 10 and 10:30 regardless of when we do the new bedtime routine, so 10:00 it is!

That works out just perfectly for our household.  K and I tend to want to go to bed around midnight, so this is giving us an hour or two to watch TV, or hang out together without us having to sacrifice a significant amount of sleep to do so.  K also has a work schedule that's totally inconsistent, and sometimes he's closing until 10pm and gets home around 10:30pm.  With the girls going to sleep between 10-10:30, if I'm having a rough night, K will be home within minutes to help out and we won't completely blow the schedule.

We've dropped the scheduled dream feeding and we're now leaving a bottle for each girl out on the counter so it's room temp whenever one of them wakes us up.  Last night, they went to sleep at 10pm and Charlotte didn't wake us up until 6am!  Unfortunately, my rock hard, soaking wet boobs woke me up at 5:30am, but woot all the same!  However, the bottles we had set out before going to bed were starting to smell funky so those were wasted.  I was pumping a nice warm bottle when K headed into the kitchen to get new bottles made up, so I was able to provide warm milk with no waiting.  He fed Charlotte, then did a dream feed for Tina (I was still pumping) and we all got back to sleep quickly and slept until 9:30am.  Holy crap on a cracker it felt good to get a long period of sleep!
Tina cares not for your "schedules"

I wish I could claim that my awesome parenting skills are to thank for this new found calmness in our household, but according to the Wonder Week app I downloaded, this is supposed to be a very easy and calm week.  In theory, next week should explode with another development leap, which leads to cranky babies, so we'll see.  Knowing that things like Wonder Weeks are happening makes you feel a lot better when all is going to shit right on schedule and you can be comforted knowing that it has nothing to do with anything you're doing, you really have no control and aren't doing anything wrong, it's just a time period that babies are scheduled to be cranky.  On the other hand, it's frustrating to know that no matter how awesome your parenting, there's not much you can do to control and prevent the cranky either.  But hopefully we're establishing some good patterns during this scheduled easy time and that will help make the next scheduled cranky time go a little easier.

A well rested baby is a happy baby
I'm really starting to feel like myself.  It's like my brain is back in my head and I'm allowed to use it again.  I'm so much busier now than I have been in the last 3 years.  With K home yesterday, I tackled a ton of little projects like changing the doorknob on the nursery door (the old one was sticking) and cutting down a huge overgrown bush in our front yard.  I've spent so much of the last 3 years either pregnant or trying to get pregnant that I've felt like this fragile little flower.  My days have been nothing but sitting in front of the computer wasting time and I've forgotten that I'm actually a very capable person who doesn't need to be handled delicately.  I reminded myself of my capabilities yesterday by tackling projects that I normally would have deferred to K and getting them done.  Ok, so I locked myself in the nursery while messing around with the doorknob, but that's neither here nor there.  The point is, I'm actually doing more with my day than entertaining myself with internet memes.  I've even turned to K a few times said "see?  I'm not lazy, I just couldn't do it before."  Honestly, I'm a little shocked myself.  I thought I was a purely lazy slob.  I guess not.  I guess I just needed someone (or 2 someones) to need me to do things to be motivated to do them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Household happenings - 4 months

Just a basic update on life around here as the girls cross over the 4 month mark.

They had their 4 month pediatrician check up and things are good!

Christina - Weighed in at 10lbs 5.5oz, length was 22 3/4 inches.  She's still below the 5th percentile but her rate of growth and weight gain is right on target, she just started so far behind that she's likely to remain below the chart for quite a while.  She's generally healthy, but she's developed a flat spot on the right side of her head.  We're supposed to encourage her to look to the left whenever she's lying or sitting against something.  So far, we're not having much luck.  I see her sleeping in her swing and her head is always turned to the right which will make the flat spot worse.  I have a call in to the pediatrician for hints on how to even this out without waking her up by turning her head left every time she takes a nap.

Charlotte - Weighed in at 11lbs 6.5oz, length was 23 inches.  Woot!  She's actually on the chart at the 5-10th percentile!  Everything is normal so not much to report.

We're going to stop using the Neosure and just have them on straight breast milk for the next month.  The doctor gave us a weight target to check when that month is up to make sure that they are growing fine without the extra calories.  Going to straight breast milk is going to make life easier around here.  I can make up bottles immediately with pumped milk rather than store it in the fridge waiting to be mixed with the Neosure.

We've also taken Tina off of her acid medication.  What we thought was reflux might have just been a constant overtired from sleeping in her swing instead of getting proper naps.  So we'll see how she does and if she's still having issues next week, we'll call the doctor about trying a different medication because I don't think the one she was on was doing anything.  But lets wait and see if proper naps and plain breast milk makes for a happier baby.

The harness is still a pain in the butt.  We're a little over halfway through the treatment.  It should be taken off on Halloween.  I can't wait to get this stupid thing off of her!  She's become slightly more cranky since putting it on and I don't blame her.  She can't really move her legs a whole lot, the straps might rub her from time to time, and it's just annoying.  When she's cranky, we'll rub her feet and squeeze her legs in case they have fallen asleep.  Her feet almost seem to have "off" buttons on them.  We squeeze them and the crying tends to stop.

In personality news, Tina is the moodier of the two.  She is far more giggly and has the bigger grin, but she also gets far more cranky.  Once over tired sets in, life is hell and she goes from giggly to over tired in the blink of an eye.  Charlotte seems to cruise more the middle of the mood spectrum.  She has her very giggly and cranky moments, but in general she's just content.  Tina hates all pacifiers, Charlotte loves her wubbanub.

Sleep training is going about to be expected.  Some good nights, some bad nights.  Last night started out sucky.  It took a couple of hours to get them down which finally happened about 10:30.  We were woken up at 2am, fed both while I pumped (I now have a portable pump for when I really need to help K out) and we were back in bed by 2:30.  Then a phone call woke us up at 9am!!!  Followed shortly by the girls of course.  But 6.5 straight hours!!!  So what started sucky ended really well.

Tonight my parents babysat and I was really concerned about the night off from the consistent schedule.  But when someone offers to babysit for 4 hours, once a week, every week so you can have a date night, you take them up on it.  So we come in at 9:30pm and it's quiet.  Wow, quiet, in my house!  I turn the corner, and I see Charlotte in her play thingy on a pillow, watching TV upside down, sucking on the wubbanub like there's no tomorrow.  My parents are on the couch, and Tina is on my moms lap, also looking at the TV like she's hypnotized.  *sigh*  Oh well.  I knew I would give up on the whole "tv is evil!!!" notion eventually, but I was hoping to hold out longer than 4 months.  Fuck it.  If it makes them happy, I'll let them look at the pretty lights from time to time.  But no Spongebob!  That's friggin annoying.  The kids can watch the Food Network and Rachel Maddow with us.  Not so flashy and we like listening to it.

And tonight, we did bath time around 10pm, and I'm writing this at 10:30pm with 2 sleeping babies.  Maybe 10:30 is their natural bed time.  Good lord I hope so.  That would fit in with this family so well if that's the right time for them to go to bed.

Let's see, what else.  Oh, I went through many, many hand me downs and pulled out the 3m size because at 4 months, the girls are finally growing out of newborn size.  Yup, those are my itty bittys!

Charlotte grabbed a toy today!  In her play mat thingy, she grabbed the hanging rattle on purpose!  So that's new.

Oh yeah, and the other day, the girls finally understood the existence of the other.  I think I got the moment, or at least one of the first moments when they looked at each other with real comprehension.

And this picture is just because I love it.  It's my hubby and his mini me.

One more picture.  A picture I wouldn't usually post, but there's that blog post making the rounds right now about how we moms need to get our fat asses into the pictures so that our adult children will have evidence of our loving them as little ones.  So, here's a picture of me with my kids.  This is the real me folks, dirty hair, jammies, plopped on my couch.  I'm not usually one for a big cheesy grin, but so far every other picture I have of me with my kids is me looking down at them.  Even in this series of pics, the one I would normally choose is the one where I'm looking at the kids instead of the camera, but I figured it was almost a joke at this point so I'm posting the big cheesy grin pic.  Be kind.

Just this moment I realized that Tina in the above picture and me in this picture, head cocked the same way... same grin....  Ok, sorry, didn't have anywhere to go with that observation.  Carry on.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sleep training - night 1

OMG, it's almost midnight and I can not believe how my night has gone!

K works a whackadoodle schedule today, 6pm - 2:30am.  The girls usually gear up around 9pm and it's just misery and hell until whenever they get to sleep.  A couple of nights ago, the torture went on until 3am.  So I wasn't really going to try anything much tonight but grit my teeth and survive.

All day, I've been putting them to nap in their normal swing and bouncy chair, and after they fall asleep, I've turned it off.  The naps were a little bit shorter, but they were in a much better mood today.  I really paid attention to sleep cues and they were coming after being awake only 45 minutes (they're usually up around 90 minutes).  So I went ahead and put them down even if they had hardly been awake.  Gotta catch that drowsy moment!

Tina had one nap that didn't quite work out for her.  She did her sleep cues but would cry when I put her down.  At one point, she went ahead and sat in her bouncy chair, and just relaxed there for about an hour.  I figured a quiet time was better than nothing so I didn't disturb her.  Then I saw her kind of squinch her face and heard her let out a poo and she was asleep moments later.

Both girls woke up from naps about 8pm and I thought "ok, here we go!" and prepared for a horrible night of screaming in stereo.  I got them both fed but didn't interact with them much.  The sun was down, time to be boring.  About 8:30, I gave them each a bath.  There was some upset baby crying whenever one was stuck waiting for me to finish what I was doing with the other one, but it didn't get horrible.  By 9pm, I had both swaddled and in the crib.

Charlotte went down immediately.  She had her wubbanub and just drifted right off to sleep.  Tina did some over tired crying and got some extra cuddles and rocking.  It only took a couple of minutes to get her quiet, and then I rocked her on her back on my lap for another couple of minutes so the transition to putting her on her back in the crib wouldn't be as severe.  I put her down when her eyes were about half closed.

Between about 9:10 and 9:25, there were a couple of times that I had to go in and shush Tina or replace Charlotte's wubbanub, but it's now midnight and I haven't heard a peep in 2 and a half hours!  I'm pumping now and then I'll do a dream feed and hope they don't wake up.  Then I'll leave a note for K asking him not to wake me up when he comes home and we'll see how long the girls will go.  A dream feed is a risky maneuver, it could start the cycle of hell, but if it goes well, it could buy me a solid 5 or 6 hour chunk of sleep.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sleep Tips

I wrote a few days ago about how we're going to try to get some structure around here in terms of sleep.  And as if they were reading my mind, EMOMs (Eastside Moms of Multiples) had a sleep consultant as the guest speaker yesterday who did a speech on the basics and then opened the floor to questions.

Perfect timing!  The girls are 4 months old, with an adjusted age of 12 weeks.  They are old enough to learn habits, but still young enough that bad habits won't be that hard to break.  I learned a couple of things that I'm thinking will make our household a ton happier.

First and foremost, I learned that motion sleep (sleeping in a vibrating bouncy seat, in the car, in a swing) isn't really sleep.  It's just dozing.  I had no idea!  So here my girls have been napping in their swings all day and I'm having no clue as to why they are so over tired when we try to put them to bed at night!  To break this habit, I'm still going to start them in their swings, but once asleep I'll turn them off so they go into a deeper sleep.  I'll work on transitioning them into the crib for their naps over the next few weeks.

A couple of nights ago demonstrated our problem perfectly.  The girls got up from a nap around 8pm, we ate, changed wardrobes, interacted, and I saw a yawn right on cue at 9:30.  So we swaddled and put them to bed.  Tina only slept a few minutes before the night of torture began.  She was so overtired and I couldn't figure out why since every indication told me that we put her to bed at the right time.  She was screaming as if in pain a lot of the night, but every so often she would calm down, smile at me, give me some giggles, and then when she got bored, she would start screaming again.  Since she was feeling fine enough to giggle, I knew she wasn't sick or in pain, just over tired.  Well now I know she was over tired because all of her daytime naps were full of crappy sleep.

Second, we're gonna have to bite the bullet and become morning people.  It's just not going to work to try to have a late bed time and late wake time.  This sucks because K usually works at night and will be coming home after their bed time.  Not to mention, we're naturally late night people.  But the babies need to start learning that life is really boring when the sun is down, so our interaction with them is going to fade with the sunlight.  Bed time routine will start around 8pm with a goal of having them in bed by 9pm.  Dream feed when we're ready to go bed (probably around midnight) and then see how much sleep they give us.  If they wake up before sunrise, they get a very boring bottle and stay in the crib to go back to sleep.  Whenever they wake once the sun is up, our day starts.

Third, day time and night time wake ups need to be very different.  At night, we only tend to their needs, not necessarily their wants.  So no talking, no bouncing, only enough cuddles to induce the drowsies, if we do cuddles at all.  During the day, it's "good morning!!!!" and "yay life!"

Fourth, I was doing dream feeds wrong.  I thought you could pick them up and rouse them a little to eat.  Nope, a dream feed is just leaning over sleeping babies in a crib and sticking a bottle in their mouths.  Then you kind of move the bottle around to summon the sucking reflex.  Not sure what to do about burping if I'm not supposed to pick them up at all.  Just not burp them?  That doesn't seem right.  Anyone have an answer to that one?

Fifth, we need to allow them to fuss for a few minutes to teach themselves that they can get themselves back to sleep without us.  We've decided that our tolerance is 5 minutes so now we have stopwatches next to the bed.  When they wake up with night nurfles, we set the countdown for 5 minutes.  If they haven't gone back to sleep when the countdown ends, we go and soothe them.  That's enough time for them to try to put themselves down, but not so long that they rile themselves up with being upset if they can't.  It's amazing how long 5 minutes actually is when you're timing it and not just guesstimating it.

Sixth, they are now old enough to sleep with little loveys.  Those wash rag sized blankets with a soft toy in the middle of them.  So I've been stuffing loveys in my bra all day to get them mama scented.

That's what I learned last night!  Now to try this stuff and see if some patterns start to emerge so we can create a proper schedule.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Random Things I've Figured Out - Make Life Easier Edition

This is going to be a very random post.  Just all the odds and ends of things that don't really warrant a full post in and of themselves, so I'm collecting them here for one really disjointed post.

Meal Planning

Ok, we really suck at this.  Every day it's a question of what are we going to have for dinner and I don't think we ever resolve this to our satisfaction.  So we're trying to do things to make it easier on ourselves.

Audit your fridge.  Look at what's going to expire, then start with the proteins and plan out a few days of dinners in advance.  Make a list of what you might need to complete the meal like if you're out of ketchup but need it to make meatloaf.  We have a calendar white board that we're now using for this.  Once you've got a few proteins figured out, figure out side dishes based on what produce is going to die the earliest.

Schedule in a few leftover meals so your leftovers don't grow their own city in the back of the fridge.

Package leftovers in single servings so you're more likely to grab them for lunches.  Huge things like lasagna, freeze one or two portions because if you try to eat all of those leftovers this week, well you're probably not going to.

Keep a frozen cheese pizza as a staple or find a nearby Little Caesars that has a hot pizza ready for $5.  A lot of leftovers work great as toppings on pizza like pulled pork, curried chicken, stir fry, etc.

We now keep a ceasar salad kit and precooked chicken pieces in the fridge as staples.  A chicken caesar salad will work as a meal in a pinch and it takes only a minute to toss all the ingredients together.

I give up on whole produce.  We're just not having time to cut and prep anything so it's dying in our fridge.  We're now spending the extra money on pre-cut veggie bags.  They now sell it in bags you can toss in the microwave and steam it right in the bag.  So that gives us ready made steamed veggies as a side dish, use it in a stir fry, or just grab some ranch and go dipping.

Pre-prep a bunch of crock pot kits.  Put all the non-perishable ingredients in a bag, write on the bag what else goes in it (pork roast, chicken breasts), and what time of day you would need to toss that in the crock pot for it to be ready for dinner.

Keeping Track of Things

Baby ESP.  If you have twins, this app is a lifesaver.  It's totally worth the $5 per device that it takes to have it on every phone within the household.  When you've got fussy babies, and you've been trying to soothe them for who knows how long, time gets away from you.  If you look on the app, you'll see that 3 hours have gone by since you last fed a baby even though your brain tells you the baby JUST ate.  I use the stats and charts to keep track of how much I'm pumping so I can see for sure that going from 3 hours between pumps to 4 hours between pumps has not diminished my supply at all.  I also set reminders so I don't have to think about when my next pump is, or if Tina is due for her reflux medication.  I've even set up a profile for our pets because we keep forgetting to give the cat her insulin shot.

I'm a big fan of white boards.  If things aren't in my face, it won't occur to me to go and look for the little reminder sticky notes I left somewhere.  If it's on a whiteboard, I see the reminder constantly.

It's very important to me that bills get paid on time.  When they arrive in the mail, I write the due date on the outside of the envelope and put them in a pocket on my wall in order of the due date.  At a glance, I can see when the next bill is due so nothing gets forgotten.

Baby Pictures and Video

Keep cameras everywhere.  Cell phones, old cell phones, regular cameras, whatever.  A picture taken on a crappy camera that was within reach is better than the picture on a great camera you never took.

Set things up so that people have access to your pictures without shoving them in their faces.  I have our phones set up to back up all pictures to my google+ account.  Every few days, I toss those pictures from the instant upload folder into the current months folder/.  At the beginning of the month, I'm sending the link to the new album to all the grandparents.  They can look at every picture I take, download what they want, and I don't feel like I'm being that pushy mom who thinks everyone wants to see all of the pictures of the kids.  I hate those moms.  This has stopped the constant request for me to send new pictures.  I also like that I have a back up of all of my shots and as the years go by and I've got millions of pictures, I'm keeping them somewhat sorted all along.  And it's easy to upload pictures from other cameras to the same albums so everything is in one place.

I've downloaded an app called "media shortcut" to my phone.  With this, I can toss a shortcut to individual pictures on the home screen of my cell phone.  I keep a handful of my favorites shortcutted so that when I run into people and they want to see a picture of my kids, it's right there rather than having to dig through my gallery to find a good one.

I talked about this in a previous post, but especially for newborns, look at how to use the burst feature on your camera or download a fast burst app for your cell phone.  Those smiles are fleeting and if you're taking a series of really fast snapped pictures, you'll catch it.  If you use a regular camera that takes a moment to focus or flash, you're gonna miss it.

Take a million pictures.  Eventually throw out 999,999 of them (or archive them out of sight).  The great picture you take out of a million is better than the great picture you take out of 10.

Cell phone lights and flashes create horrible red eye.  I haven't figured out quite what to do about that yet other than edit the picture later.  But it's really horrible when you're doing video on your cell phone, you set the phone light to on so there's light on the babies face, and you end up with a video of demon baby.  Better to turn on other lights in the room if you can.

When taking video, mute the TV.  20 years from now, do you really want to listen to a MASH rerun you were watching when your baby took their first steps?  Sounds such as music or dialogue makes editing little moments together later a real pain in the ass.  So mute.  Let the baby noise be the soundtrack.

Diaper Bag(s)

For a newborn, you really don't need to carry much.  The first several times I went out with the babies, we didn't touch a thing in the bag because they just slept the whole time.

You need plastic bags such as those sold in pet stores for dog poo.  At doctors offices, you aren't allowed to throw diapers away so you'll have to take your dirty diapers with you.

I found that a bag under the carseats of my snap and go stroller was impossible to get to.  So instead of a diaper bag, I'm now sporting a diaper utility belt.  Yes folks, I'm Batmom.  I found it at a consignment shop so I have no idea where to point you to find one for yourself, but if you see one of these fanny packs on steroids, I recommend grabbing it.  The little pockets on the strap hold chux.  The main pocket with the blue flap holds 4 diapers, a travel pack of wipes, and some aquafor.  The roundish pocket next to it holds 2 pacifiers, burp cloths, my spool of plastic bags, and it can hold one or two 4oz bottles.  The next pocket, which doesn't really look like a pocket in the picture, it holds 2 spare onesies and 2 spare pairs of jammies.  The black tube holds a bottle or two and can hang off the belt.  When I don't feel like wearing it, it's easy to clip it to the stroller and everything is within reach.

Keep an emergency diaper bag in every car.  My husband took a baby to the doctor and texted me "I left the diaper bag on the counter!"  It happens to the best of us.  Just a diaper, washrag for wiping, a bottle, a bottle of water, some formula, and a spare outfit.  My girls are on breastmilk, but I have formula in the diaper bags anyway because I'd rather feed them formula once than have them starve should my hubby get stranded with the girls somewhere.  My car has the battery operated breast pump that I got as a hand-me-down (do I have an awesome family or what?).

Odds and Ends

Accept everything people offer you.  I have the baby stuff of about 5 households.  The benefit of being the youngest of my generation and having babies late in life, every brother, cousin, and friend of my parents has funneled all of their baby stuff into my house.  Even if you think you'll never use it, take it anyway.  Before the girls got here, I was certain I was going to be a moby person.  I've only put it on a handful of times and Tina is currently sleeping on my chest in an Ergo.  We also have 2 bjorns, a ring sling, and some other carrier I don't know the brand of.  We ended up with 4 pack and plays, one of which will eventually move to my parents house for when they babysit when the girls are older.  You never know what widget is going to work for your kid in the real world no matter how much research and trying things out you did before the baby got here.  If time goes by and you truly don't have use for something, take it to a consignment shop and earn a few bucks towards stuff you do want.

Don't throw it out until your kid has completely outgrown it.  We were using the regular Dr. Browns bottles for Tina at first but she leaks from the side of her mouth a lot.  So we tried her on the wide neck Dr. Browns and for a while, those solved the problem.  Then, for some unknown reason, she started having trouble latching onto those so we tried the old Dr. Browns again and she did better.  I was just about to consign those out but I'm glad I still had them on hand.

Save your old clothing that you would otherwise throw out because it's basically free fabric for crafts.  I have some stuff that I might use to extend baby clothes in the future.  For right now, I'm practicing my sewing skills (I have none) on making extra burp clothes from old tshirts.

Make extra space by taping boxes to walls.  I have a bunch of little boxes taped to the side of the fridge to hold bottles and it clears up some kitchen counter space.

Patting the tushy calms the baby.  I don't know why but I saw someone else doing it and it seems to work.

Keep outdated electronics.  K's cell phone developed black spots on the screen shortly after the warranty expired.  While he's waiting for his upgrade discount in a couple of months, he's using my old phone.  The black spot phone is being used as another device to update Baby ESP (I'm paranoid about the water from warming the bottles spilling on our current electronics and I don't care if this phone gets wet) and it's another camera around the house.   I'm also assuming that in a couple of years, the girls will want to play with my phone and I'd much rather give them one from several years ago that they can play with and destroy if they are inclined to do so.

I never used to be obsessed with my phone but now it's permanently attached to me.  Besides Baby ESP, I've also downloaded the Wonder Weeks app, use it for facebook, baby center forums, Audible (for listening to books during endless baby rocking sessions), pictures, email, google reader for blogs, it even allows me to access the files on my computer if my computer is turned on.  I rarely have time to sit in front of my keyboard anymore so my phone is my lifeline.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dream Feeding

So we're trying something new with our night times.  Here's what we've been doing -

Pretty much all day we let the girls sleep when and however long they want to.  This means that we never know when we're going to bed at night.  But whenever we generally decide it's time for bed (between 9pm-midnight depending on when they naturally go down), we swaddle and put them in the crib.  This often means an hour or more of crying and fighting off sleep and frustration.  I usually end up crying, and we go to bed too wired to go to sleep right away.  Then we sleep as much as we can until a baby wakes us up.  I prep bottles while K brings them into the living room, changes the diaper of the first baby and puts that baby in the feeding station.  I start feeding her while K gets the other one.  Once the other one is in the feeding station, K takes over feeding both and I go pump.  I get some "me" time on my computer while K wrestles with feeding and burping 2 babies, one of whom spits up pretty much consistently.  When I finish pumping, I help with the rocking and putting them back to sleep and then we go back to bed.

K does his best to let me sleep as much as possible for other wake up times until he just can't handle it anymore, and on his days off, I'm still stuck with babies all day because he let me sleep through part of the morning and thus needs to sleep a good portion of the day.

This has been ok for the first few months, but K finally expressed that he kind of resents listening to me merrily type away while he's struggling to burp both babies.  I didn't realize he was having a difficult time because he simply never complains.  And I've kind of resented his valiant attempts to be kind to me because while I might have wanted to nap during a day that he's home, now I can't because he tried to be nice and let me sleep in the morning, but since I can hear him struggling with babies, I never sleep deeper than dozing during that time.  Then I feel guilty all day if I have to ask for his help when both kids go off at the same time because he's exhausted.

What we've been doing kind of works, but there's a lot of stress, frustration, and flailing going on.

When we went out on Monday night for dinner (my parents are now babysitting every Monday evening so we get a night out), we looked over the babies sleeping records in BabyESP and came up with a new plan of attack.

The babies are consistently sleeping approximately 4.5 hours in the middle of the night, they wake for feeding and then go back to sleep for another 3-4 hour chunk.  Sometimes we get lucky and they'll go 5 or 6 hours, but that's not very often.  We've been patiently waiting for them to take the initiative and sleep through the night and we've been lucky with the occasional and random really long stretch of sleep.  But we can't count on that and it's been rare.  So at the risk of missing out on when they would naturally sleep through the night, we've decided to take some control over all of this.

We've decided that come 11:30pm, the girls will be in the crib regardless of how much they protest, as long as they are fed and clean of course.  They normally fall asleep somewhere between 9pm-midnight so this hasn't been a problem so far.  But if there's a night where it is a problem, we will soothe them in the crib rather than taking them out and flailing around trying to quiet them.  We know this might mean some torturous nights, but we're hoping the payoff will be that they begin to recognize that at night, they belong on the crib and it's sleep time.

We'll set our alarm for 4 hours after the first one goes to sleep, somewhere between 2am-4am.  I'm going to drop my middle of the night pump.  We get up and prep bottles and go into the nursery.  We keep the nursery relatively dark and quiet and keep the girls in there.  We'll feed the one that fell asleep first, only waking her enough to make her eat.  If she doesn't really need a diaper change, we'll not bother.  The goal is to get her fed and back to sleep before she realizes what's happening.  And then we do the same for the other.  Then we go back to bed and let them wake us up when they want to in the morning.

In order to start letting us get more sleep, one night I will do the middle of the night feeding (which is now reasonable to accomplish since neither baby really wakes up and we can do one at a time), then he'll do a night, then we'll do a night together, and on night four we'll see what they naturally do (maybe sleep through the night???).  For the morning wake up, whoever's night it is to do the dream feed will sleep through it, but if the other parent needs help (like if they both wake up at the same time), no guilt about waking each other up.  Maybe both parents will get a 6 or 7 hour chunk of sleep, but if not, at least one should get a solid chunk like that once or twice a week.

We're only a couple of nights into trying this, but so far dreamfeeding is awesome!  The stress level has decreased dramatically.  It is soooooo much better waking up to an alarm and leisurely prepping bottles than it is to wake up to 2 screaming babies and trying to will the bottles to heat up faster while we get yelled at for not being fast enough.  Because the girls never stress out or even fully wake up, putting them back down to sleep is almost instantaneous.  No more endless rocking or walking around while we're half asleep.

We're really hoping that by getting more and better rest at night, the girls will be less stressed in general, and going to bed at night will become easier.  We might miss out on the opportunity to sleep through a night since we're getting up by alarm, but if every night is less stressful, I think it's worth the trade off of one really great night.

Once we get this pattern established, we'll start pushing the dream feed out by 15 minutes every week or two.  Hopefully we'll eventually have it pushed out so far that the girls will sleep a solid 7 or 8 hours.  And with all great ideas and plans, who knows how long we'll stick with this, but it's worth a shot.

And now, obligatory recent baby pics!