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March 2008

3

Caroline and Edward and I took Steve to his post-op appointment yesterday. Holy cats, what a circus act we are. Steve on crutches, me pushing a six foot long stroller (I love the Contours Tandem. love love love it. but there really is no small way to transport two babies unless I stacked them on my head), purse diaper bag X-Ray envelope jackets helping Steve while holding Caroline while jostling Edward in his seat... even I felt sorry for me.

The word on Steve is no weight bearing for at least another month. No stairs for three. I had been hoping for something a little more immediate, but we'll get through it. I have developed something of a routine and, apart from the fact that no one picked Patrick up from school on Wednesday, things are going really well.

Ahem. AIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I lost my mind and got confused and NO ONE PICKED UP PATRICK (see: REDBOOK post Unforgiven). I get teary just thinking about it.

So I have figured out that my threshold for sleep is three hours. As long as I get three consecutive hours at least once during the night I can cope. Without it I grow increasingly fragile until I do things like NOT GET PATRICK FROM KINDERGARTEN.  Last night was better, though, so hopefully I can manage to go an entire day without endangering anybody. It was depressing to have to change the workplace safety sign in the kitchen to read NUMBER OF DAYS WITHOUT FORGETTING A CHILD: 0.

The other day I was talking to a friend on the phone, carrying Edward around and tidying. Then I put Edward down, kept talking and continued to tidy. A few minutes later I realized that I had absolutely no idea where Edward was. Had I put him down in the living room? Steve's office? No clue. Obviously he wasn't going anywhere but still, rather alarming to realize that I could not tell you to within, say, twenty feet where my baby was.

But let's talk about breastfeeding because nothing crosses boundaries and brings women together like an open-ended discussion on how to feed a baby. I got an email the other day (that I will reply to, I swear) from a woman who runs a breastfeeding site (that I will look up and link to, I swear.) She wanted me to leave a comment there offering some encouragement for a woman who seemed likely to deliver her twins early and who, in consequence, was doubting her ability to breastfeed. I read her message and thought: what? Who? ME? I hardly consider myself a breastfeeding twins success story. In my plus column you have the fact that I was nursing Edward as I typed that first paragraph. In the minus column, do you know what I just bought at Target? One of those little battery-operated stirrer things that promises to eliminate formula clumps. Did you know that formula can clump even with vigorous shaking such that you can get to the end of a bottle at, oh, four in the morning and discover a deposit of yellowish sludge that lets you know the baby has just finished some barely flavored water? Well it can.

So it's been thirteen weeks since they were born and I am still nursing, pumping and supplementing. Does that count as successfully breastfeeding twins? I dunno. Since I have done everything lactation experts say not to do I sort of feel like I should keep a low profile in the breastfeeding community. Although Caroline and Edward are healthy and growing (see also: The Point) and getting all the milk I can produce, I still feel... what? Guilty? Ashamed? Ummm, not quite that. Uncomfortable, I guess. Certainly not like a spokesperson: My Babies Get Quite A Bit of Breastmilk in Addition to Enfacare! Ask Me How!

It is not like they get formula so someone else can feed them while I get a pedicure (I wish) or so I can get a few extra hours of sleep at night (and for the love of god if that is why your baby gets formula amen to that and sleep on my well-hooved sister) - I breastfeed 'round the clock on demand. Any time someone starts to smack their lips around here, I strip. And, when I can, I pump a few times in between feedings, say, three times a day or so, in order to increase production and in an effort to augment the formula. And I have moved from Fenugreek to the big guns of Domperidone (wow. the stuff is great. Domperidone literally doubled the amount I was pumping to three whole ounces at a time and I can tell the babies are getting more). All of which is to say: despite the very best efforts of myself and the pharmaceutical industry, I do not produce enough breast milk to exclusively breastfeed twins. I do, however, produce enough to keep us all happy, so shimmy shimmy boom boom.

And if it so happens that Caroline and Edward's continued flexibility when it comes to what they will eat should extend long enough for me to one day get a babysitter so I can get a pedicure... well, hooray for me.

On a related note, my new guilty pleasure is watching reality baby shows while I feed/pump/supplement. I read as long as whatever I am doing can be accomplished with one hand (although my increasing ulnar nerve issues are rendering holding a paperback more and more painful - ortho appointment scheduled for next week) but when I need both hands I sit on the couch and watch my Tivo'd trove of all things infant.

Steve hobbled in the other day, watched for a few minutes and then said, "Ah. So it's a cheap self-esteem boost for you, I see."

OK, yes, some of these people are bumbling idiots; and, yes, fine, I guess I do like to watch two people and a mother-in-law flail in overwhelmed confusion while one (ONE!) three day old baby does nothing but sleep. It makes me feel better about myself, what can I say.  However, the rest of the time I just like it because the babies are cute and everyone is so excited and I suppose I must have some residual hormones floating around that are suspending my natural cynicism and making me goopy, because I can watch these shows ad infinitum. They soothe me.

Where was I?

Oh so I have been watching these shows and I finally understand who the breastfeeding advocates are talking to when they say things that I thought were painfully obvious. They are talking to a whole fucking boatload of women, that's who. Seriously I had no idea that there was so much confusion out there. Over and over I have watched nice, reasonable, educated women who were gungho to breastfeed get derailed by the silliest things. And I just want to reach through the TV and shake them, gently, and say, "Honey! I know the nurse told you that you need to keep feeding the baby because he has the slightest whiff of jaundice but that does not mean you need to stop breastfeeding and go to formula because you think you don't have enough milk to handle the problem. No no no." Or, heavens, the woman who first struggled for ten minutes with that ridiculous pink nursing cape the size of a tent (the easiest way to feed a very new baby is either 1) topless or 2) in an unbuttoned shirt - everything else gets in the way and makes things even harder than they need to be; you're welcome) and then poked the baby at her breast for thirty seconds before announcing, "She's sleepy. She's not interested" before the camera cut to her switching to formula. 

So I now understand the patient reminders that breast milk is awesome (I know it sounds patronizing but seriously you should come over to my house and watch these shows with me; you'd be amazed. and bring brownies) or that you need to keep breastfeeding to build supply. It's sort of sad to watch women who want to do it give up because they don't understand the basic mechanics and they have no one around to help them.

Hmmm, I seem to have started by saying that I have maxed out my personal supply (there IS a law of diminishing returns, you know. weak economics analogies don't just end with the easiest of the graphs) and ended by saying it is sad when women don't understand they need to nurse more to produce more. Huh. Yet another example of the fact that it is always easier to solve other people's problems.

Hope you are well.

PS I FORGOT TO PICK PATRICK UP AFTER SCHOOL. AIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

PPS And a picture of Caroline who is just so damned happy to be here she is giddy with the joy of it all.

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PPS I knew I would forget, damn it. The breastfeeding blog is www.breastfeeding123.com. Hi Angela. I will try to leave a comment for you. I mean, if you still want me to do so, under the circumstances.



Yo

Reports of my death were mostly exaggerated; although there have been a few moments in the past week when it was touch-and-go. The night after Steve's surgery I was up at:

1:30 when a drug-addled Steven hobbled off on his crutches to use the bathroom in the dark and I was convinced he was going to widow me via a toilet related head injury
2:30 when Edward was hungry
3:30 when Caroline was annoyed
4:30 when Edward was hungry again
5:30 when Caroline decided that she was hungry too
6:30 when Edward thought a little smack of something...
7:30 when Patrick burst upon the day like Dawn's Awakening

I was ridiculously tired the next day and everyone kept needing something simultaneously and my house plunged further and further into irretrievable chaos and... it was hard. Even though my mom and brother were here last weekend it was really hard. The children seemed to up their neediness to take advantage of all available resources and then some. Caroline and Edward, who are usually good for a few naps during the day, stopped sleeping and had to be carried in endless laps. Patrick, who can quietly entertain himself for DAYS during, say, March Madness, suddenly needed nonstop attention. I was convinced that the moment my family abandoned me I would flounder and drown in disorganization and miserable dependents. And then, I don't know why,it all got better. I am still tired and I am more than ready to have Steve back but I no longer feel completely panicky and overwhelmed.

Oh and since you asked it turns out Steve has (had) arthritis in his knee which they carved out (or something. I do not understand it) and then there was some other stuff that they took out and finally something else that they put back in. He has a lot of stitches. He also has this machine that bends his leg for him six hours a day. Despite this he keeps wobbling around trying to get his own tea and he actually made Patrick pancakes one morning. I keep telling him to just embrace his inner sloth but he seems incapable of doing so. Since bed rest was the highlight of my year I find this determination to get up and do stuff baffling (do you know what I would give right now to be forced to sit still for six hours a day?) but Patrick did appreciate the pancakes.

Caroline and Edward have settled back into a nightly routine that is bearable. Edward gets put down in his Moses Basket (smiling! awake!) at eight'ish and that's all we hear from Edward for the next four/five/six hours. He then wakes up twice to eat and slather me in adoration. Edward LOVES me - it's so gratifying. His eyesight (we assume) has improved by about a billion times (confirmation of this still pending another visit with the ophthalmologist in April) and he gives me the sweetest smiles now that he knows where I am. I just love Edward. He is such a calm happy baby and his hair is turning reddish. With the blue eyes and the ruddy cheeks he looks like every Irish-American bartender I have ever met. And I've never met a bartender I didn't like. 

Caroline is my sweetheart. She goes to bed at 10:45 and doesn't wake up until five/six/seven. This morning it was 7:30. I try to put her down when Edward goes to bed but it simply doesn't work. Fortunately she is perfectly content to stay in the living room with us and burble while we watch, say, college basketball or House Hunters International (hey! here's an idea! why not shop for a second home in Costa Rica despite the fact that you have never been there! crazy person) so her continued presence until the late hours is quite nice. That said, I will continue to try to put her down earlier and eventually it will take. You know, I am so thankful that Patrick was such a crappy sleeper. Not only I am pathetically grateful to only be woken up two or three times between eleven and seven but I know that even if I do absolutely nothing about their sleep habits all it will be fine in the long run.

Speaking of Patrick I owe a great debt to Ruth at Woolyheaded. She recommended the computer game Crazy Machines as something Patrick might like and it made all the difference this past week when spring break met surgery. Check it out if you have a Patrick of your own at home. Nice and challenging.

The boy goes back to school tomorrow and I have finally wrestled my house back into shape (I know I am a freak for needing an uncluttered house but I do) so I should have more time this week to fritter here.

Post-it for next time: breastfeeding, Patrick school stuff, birth control, um, something else... how funny, I forgot the fourth thing between typing the P and now. Christ I am tired.

Hope you are well.


Beloved

You know what occurs to me? It occurs to me that I only write blog posts these days when I have the time to do so. That means that the babies are either asleep or content to the point of stupor, Patrick is occupied, I have written for REDBOOK as per my agreement with those fine people and my house is clean. No wonder I write so infrequently but when I do I produce roseate valentines to love/children/family/togetherness. I am in such a good mood because when I sit down at my computer I am not dealing with any of them.

So, in the spirit of total honesty, 99% of the time  I am sleepy, slightly overwhelmed and mostly crabby.

Last night around midnight I said to my sweet pretty baby girl, "Oh for the love of god Caroline, STOP SMILING AT ME AND GO TO SLEEP." Seriously, it is like living with Shirley fucking Temple.

Patrick, who I remember as being such a wonderful child upon whose every word the fruit of my life was hung, has been trying my patience to no end - what with his bouncing around all over the place with those flailing, baby crushing limbs of his and the fact that he. never. stops. talking. Good LORD. And to think that this was the kid whose urgent need for speech therapy left me tearfully worried that we might never know what was going on inside that well-shaped head of his. Fear not - there is never a thought that goes unuttered. For a while he was getting up six to ten times a night after we had put him to bed, just to open his door and shout down new observations to us (e.g. "They must have eclipses on other planets!" - Go to sleep; "Sassy started her own science museum in 1872!" - Go to sleep; "If you make a puppet without ears you would need to do sign language with your left hand but if you had TWO puppets without ears they would live in silence" - What? I mean... GO TO SLEEP!) He has stopped doing this but I recently discovered that it is just because he simply gets up after we leave his room and reads. At some later point he gets tired, turns off the light and goes back to bed; so that by the time we check on him around eleven he is just as we left him at eight. I might never have caught on to his Make-Your-Own-Bedtime shenanigans if he hadn't implicated himself WITH ALL THAT TALKING HE DOES. A few days ago he was blathering on and I heard "... blah blah blah blah and then when I got up and finished that book... ." Ah ha! Busted.

Although, you know, I am having a hard time feeling passionate about correcting this behavior, probably because I am insomniac myself and I can remember lying in the dark for HOURS as a child waiting to fall asleep. BOR-ING. On the one hand he is spending the time constructively, he is still getting about eleven hours of sleep, and he is not bothering us so... why fuss? On the other hand, we do say "OK, good night, go to sleep" so the whole getting up and reading instead is clearly defiant behavior.

It's a pickle, and I am so ambivalent about it that we are following a don't ask/don't tell policy. I suppose that is bad parenting.

Who did I forget?

Oh, Kelvin the crazy (excuse me, the spacefuck crazy) cat has been peeing in the corner of our bedroom off and on for a while, despite the fact that he is monitored more closely than Castro for changes in his medical condition and the fact that Steve lovingly carries him around like a baby when he is not asleep on Steve's lap. One could argue that the cat is jealous of the twins but hell, they should be jealous of him. So we just got the restoration cleaners back in again and they pulled up the carpet and replaced the pad and pumped 5 billion gallons of water through the area and finally gave it a clean bill of health. As I was handing the guy the check - as I was handing the guy the check -  Kelvin nudged my foot over and  started to pee.

I. Could. Have. Killed. Him.

Steve has been rather sweet lately but he is finally having his knee surgery on Friday morning, so he is on my list, too. As far as I know they will be fracturing his kneecap and then... then I don't know what because at that point of his medical narrative I always start thinking about how I am going to cope with FOUR NEEDY PEOPLE in my house and the next thing I know I am in the fetal position and Steve has stopped talking. The part I am clear about is that he will be on crutches for six weeks and he will have some sort of machine that moves his leg for him eight hours a day. Every five minutes I discover a new thing Steve will be unable to accomplish with crutches (taking the trash down to the road. changing the vaulted ceiling light bulbs. carrying a baby... the mind boggles.) Obviously Steve is still my precious baboo and I am sorrier than I can say that he is broken and I hope the surgery will enable him to eventually walk without pain but I cannot help but notice that his surgery is a trifle inconvenient, is all. Besides he walked around like Banquo's ghost moaning about the extra work when I was on bed rest, so there.

Oh dear I forgot Edward. What a terrible mother I am. Let's see, what has Edward been doing to irritate me? Oh right. I was so excited about the new stroller setup that I planned a massive errand running excursion yesterday to celebrate my return to mobility. Which is when I learned that Edward really really really hates the car. He was fed, he was dry, he was clean, he had an amusing little hanging toy; and yet he screamed and screamed. I am used to some objections at the beginning of an outing but nonstop yelling for the duration of a wee trip for more fenugreek (fenugreek to benefit him, I will have him know) is just rude.

Well, that feels better. Nothing like admitting that your entire family is annoying you. Fortunately my mom and brother arrive tomorrow for a long weekend and I expect they will let me escape for a restorative pedicure and everything will be gumballs and rainboots again. Or they'll kick my ass - since they have never tolerated for long these unbecoming fits of temper.

Hope you are well and enjoying each and every second with the cherished people you hold dear.    

    

But Cubital Sounds Weird

Hi!

First, I am wandering around with my arm tucked against my body like Napoleon (Steve often accuses me of having a Napoleonic complex, actually, what with my being shorter than him and refusing to believe that Moscow cannot be conquered.) I am in pain. Details at REDBOOK. Link to side. And upon further review (in other words people who know what they are talking about commented/emailed) I have decided that it is not carpal tunnel but an ulnar impingement. Oh, and speaking of REDBOOK they are fairly sure they have fixed that niggling commenting problem so... keep it in mind. If you like.

But moving on. Or rather, moving backwards, thank you for the excellent suggestions about how to get two babies out of the house. As it so happens I already own a Kangaroo Kozy (is that right? now I have to look it up - no, Kangaroo Korner) sling and although I have used it around the house I had not thought to, you know, take it outside. Largely because it seemed a little dangerous. Do you want to know why? I'll tell you. Because I am a complete fool, that's why. The Kangaroo Korner fleece sling that I had received as a  thoughtful gift is ordinarily idiot proof, but I am no ordinary idiot.

Contemplate: the sling is a long piece of fabric folded lengthwise and secured at the ends to form a circle. To use the damned thing all you have to do is pull it over your head and pop the baby in. And yet every time I tried it with Caroline or Edward I had to use both hands to keep the child from sliding out on to the floor. Which sort of defeats the purpose of a sling, no?

I know what you are thinking. You trying to figure out how the baby would slide out of the contraption I have just described.

Yeah...

So imagine that you have taped an envelope to your abdomen, no doubt for the best of reasons. You then take five twenty dollars bills and, rather than put them into the envelope, you slide them between the envelope and your skin. Got it? So that when you start to walk the money falls out? THAT is what I was doing with the Kangaroo Korner adjustable pouch. S-M-R-T, huh? Somehow I failed to understand the directions or pick up on subtle cues like "kangaroo" and "pouch". I thought the tension of the fabric was supposed to... anyway, fortunately no babies were harmed during the creation of this blog post.   

But now that I understand how to make it work without endangering the children - yes! Thank you! Excellent idea. And for those times when I want something with wheels I just sucked it up and bought a new double stroller. The only one that works with Keyfit car seats is Kolcraft's Tandem Contour. It is kinda snazzy, actually. Rather than snap the infant seat on top of a stroller seat like your basic travel system everything pops off, leaving you with a base with wheels. You can do one infant seat and one normal stroller seat, two stroller, two infant, et cetera. I have not actually tried to use it yet so it is possible it does not work as advertised, but the idea is nice. I'll let you know if I like it, should you be in the market for such a thing yourself. Or you could let me know if you have it and the wheels came off or the baby went flying with the approach of a two degree incline - I still have another 26 days to return it.

Caroline and Edward seem to have taken me literally when I said I did not want them on the same schedule. I meant at night and then I only intended for them to stagger it long enough for me to feed one at a time. Unfortunately they completely misunderstood and have spent the past several days on opposite schedules while the sun shines. The good news is I always have a wide-awake baby on hand - and isn't that what I have spent the past umpteen years moaning about? The bad news is I always have a wide-awake baby on hand - and I am neither a martyr nor a masochist:  how can I miss you if you never go away? Right this second I have Caroline gazing at me adoringly from my lap (new babies are so good for the self-esteem) and Edward is sleeping. She, however, is starting to look heavy-eyed and Edward - as if by prearrangement - is making those little I-might-wake-up-soon noises from over yonder. No wonder I had fifteen loads of laundry to do yesterday; it piles up when you cannot use your one good arm because it is perpetually full of baby.

Speaking of yesterday, Edward rolled over from his stomach to his back for the first time. Steve Patrick and I stood around and applauded him, while Patrick cooed "Good JOB Edward. Nice rolling there, sweet baby." He then insisted that we look up when babies usually start to roll and when he saw that it said between two to three months he jumped on this fact: "WE rolled at two months; so this is early!"

"We" did, you see. His proprietary interest in the babies just slays me. He is so cute with them I could cry. We went out to dinner the other night (we have been dining out with shocking frequency lately - I figure we might as well do it while we still have babies that fall asleep in their car seats and stay asleep while we eat) and Caroline should have been fed before we left. Mistakes were made. So she screamed for the duration of the twenty minute drive. Screaming babies that I cannot do anything about make me want to slam my head in the glove compartment, but Patrick sat next to her and reassured her the entire time: "It's ok, Caroline. It's ok. Don't worry. Don't be afraid. We'll be there soon. It's ok  baby."  The fact that she never shut up did not discourage him, he just kept talking.

And because I think my children are adorable and I cannot stop sharing this fact; here is Patrick reading  to Edward. I had, uh, sort of ditched Edward in the hallway after bathing him while I started on Caroline. Patrick discovered Edward lying there and ran to get a book for him.

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Caroline lighting up everything

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And, finally, I love this picture of Edward. You know, when the shutter clicks just as a series of involuntary reflexes have converged to give an impression of great profundity

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Oh and the Dr. Evil comments about the photo of Patrick on the last post made me laugh. That pinkie thing is a characteristic gesture of Patrick's - so I suppose it is just a matter of time before he makes a doomsday device out of Legos and rubberbands and threatens to hold the entire river valley hostage. Pity.