Thursday, May 31, 2012

The First Year

I am duly ashamed that I have been a crappy baby journalist.  I'm finally back to update now because the girls are about to turn 1 on June 1st, a milestone that is exciting and so depressing, because my sweet little babies will become sweet little toddlers.  And even though I love the progress they've made and how much more like people they are now, I wanted to embrace this current moment of babyhood.  I want to paint as detailed a picture I can of who my babies are now, rather than describing it after the fact once they cross that threshold.

So!  Let's catch up a bit.








As you can see by the picture progress, Sarah grew some hair!  Hooray!  She also grew some more squishy rolls.  I think the earlier pictures with her thin face, short hair and perma-scowl look like her army days.

Look alive, maggot!

She's filled out a lot since she decided to start drinking her bottle.  This was a HUGE step forward for us, and it happened very suddenly.  Both she and Hayley had been sick for about a week, with lots of barfing and little to no eating from either of them.  Then when Sarah regained her appetite, it stayed for good and she never had a problem with her bottle again.  It's such a relief to be able to feed her without a fight; I actually enjoy bottle time now, when before I dreaded every meal of the day.  

Unfortunately, she's still far behind the eating curve.  She refused to let a spoon into her mouth and was on 100% formula until nine months old, when Hayley was already eating avocado chunks.  And while she's a decent puree eater now, she has almost zero tolerance for texture.  A tiny lump will make her gag, barf, and slam her mouth shut like a bear trap against all other food offerings.  We're trying to work with her to get her comfortable with texture, but with all the stressing and planning and research and tactics, I don't know if we've made any progress at all.  So now I'm just trying to step back and realize it's not up to me.  Sarah tends to work in instantaneous miracles.  For months, we tapped baby food spoons against her tight lips with absolutely no response, until one day she decided "Today's the day" and ate some guacamole and a tub of Apple Chicken.  So I think it will go the same way with texture; she'll gag and gag until the day she pops her own bag of popcorn and munches it down.

While the willfulness when it comes to food is still strong, otherwise Sarah has become a completely different baby.  When she was first born, and for months thereafter, I thought she was always going to be my feisty little firecracker.  She knew what she liked, and damn it, she would let you know when she wasn't happy.  But as time passed, she got snugglier, friendlier and more easygoing, and now she is definitely "the sweet one."  I think she just outgrew the irritability that goes along with being a preemie.  Matt thinks she realized she would never beat Hayley to the physical milestones, so she's trying to become the favorite with her personality instead.  It's a good strategy.  When Sarah's sleepy, she clings to me tight and lays her head on my shoulder, and it just melts my heart.  She also likes to bump foreheads like big cats, and if she's feeling extra playful, will chomp on my nose while our foreheads are pressed together.  (I have to be more careful with that now that she has needly little bottom teeth, but it's so worth it.)  She loves Eskimo kisses, which make her giggle and coo, and after she's finished her bottle, she likes to throw her head back so I'll kiss her under her chin.  She's such an affectionate little girl now; I never thought she had that in her.

The list of things that make Sarah happy is much longer now.  Demon is definitely near the top.  So is Bubbles Bubbles, the Sesame Street board book.  Just hearing the opening line, "Bubbles, bubbles, on my nose" makes Sarah drop what she's doing, swivel her head toward you and grin ecstatically.  She likes Elmo the best and always points at his eyes on the page.  She likes small toys that fit well in her hands, and she always wants one in each hand.  No matter how appealing a toy is, she doesn't feel complete until her other hand is filled too.  In general, she prefers quiet contemplation to more active fun, and is perfectly happy to sit by herself and meticulously examine her toys.  She is coming out of her shell a little, though.  She never cared that much about playing "I'm going to get you!" and only gave me a mildly amused chuckle when I came after her.  But now I've started getting some actual shrieks of joy out of her, which is adorable and rewarding.  But I think Sarah's favorite thing in the world is getting her face stroked with something soft, especially her furry dog blanket.  It puts her in an instant trance, with half-closed eyes and a dreamy smile.  She's even started picking out furry cat toys and rubbing her own face with them, but it's always best when it comes from us. 

What else is there to say about Sarah?  There are so many little details that combine to form her.  She sucks on her sleeve when she's sleepy or hungry, at the inside of her wrist so her fingers point outward.  She hates having her nose wiped.  Her feet smell like Cheetos.  She has a strangled little laugh that never lets loose completely.  She expresses her anger by increasing pitch, not volume, until I think the windows will shatter.  She grins at us but doesn't crack a smile for strangers.  She occasionally cries at night because she got into a sitting position and can't figure out how to lie down again.  She enjoys slapping at our faces, but she does it with such a big smile and soft little hands, I don't want to tell her to stop.  She loves any rhythmic hitting, actually; palms on the table or a stick on her drum.  She's cautious to try new things and understated in showing her enthusiasm, but I think she takes in a lot and has more going on inside her than she lets on.  I think she's going to grow up to be an incredible person.  Maybe a little hard to get to know, but that much more special when you do.

It would be easiest for me to say, "Reread the Sarah section, except reverse everything.  That's Hayley!"  In fact, it's hard for me to think of anything that wouldn't apply to.  (Except Bubbles Bubbles; they both love that book.)

Appearance-wise, I think they look pretty different, although people tell me they're looking more the same now that Sarah's plumped up and grown hair.  Hayley's still got almost three pounds on her, though, and a couple inches.  She's a rock solid baby, with thick leg muscles and a strong core.  Her hair is long and wild, and she gets bedhead that Matt says looks like someone set off a firecracker in it.  We always keep a clip in her hair to keep it out of her eyes, because neither of us wants to cut it.  Hayley has enormous eyes and cheeks, and a big silly grin that's pure joy.

I love everything!!

We've had zero trouble feeding Hayley; she's a little garbage disposal and will eat anything you offer her.  She particularly loves avocado, and is eating soft chunks pretty well now.  She has her four front teeth, which she bites bananas with, and I think once she gets her molars she'll be eating people-food in no time.  (I can't even imagine such convenience!)  She's also a fantastic sleeper, although she's started having nightmares in the past couple months.  They happen in the first couple hours of sleep; she suddenly starts screaming with no wind-up at all, and when I run upstairs and pick her up, she falls instantly asleep in my arms.  In fact, I'm not sure if she even wakes up at all.  They don't seem to bother her after the fact, so I kinda like getting an extra hug out of her some nights.

When I think of how to describe Hayley's personality, I keep coming back to the word dynamo.  She's a little tornado of energy, curiosity, and drive.  She is fearless (except for the vacuum cleaner and blender) and has no respect for gravity, which makes climbing the stairs and scaling furniture extra fun.  She desperately wants to get around the world, so she pushes herself hard to increase her mobility.  It's paid off; she can crawl like lightning and she just took her first (four!) steps on Memorial Day!  The downside to this drive of hers is that she becomes easily frustrated, bored, and irritable.  In fact, she's fussier now than she was as a younger baby.  It's a reminder to me that her needs are changing, and she is indeed growing up.  A jangly set of keys doesn't cut it anymore, and she needs more stimulation and physical challenges.  It's hard to play outside, since she has a pathological need to cram rocks in her mouth, so I try to get her ya-yas out inside.  She loves any toy that lets her be active, like the toddler chair that she climbs in and out of, the big stuffed bear that she wrestles, the ball that she chases around, or a pacifier that she can chomp on hands-free while she crawls around looking for trouble.  She adores her walker too; she'll gleefully toddle with it as far as she can, then sobs and wails when it gets stuck, and goes immediately back to laughing when we straighten her out in a different direction.  

Despite her frustrations, Hayley is an extremely happy baby.  She always greets me with an ecstatic squawk when I collect her from her crib, and she's rarely without a huge, bug-eyed grin.  (Which got her her nickname "Crazy Face")  She loves to greet strangers and is happy to absorb all their attention, which Sarah appreciates.  But while she's so outgoing and friendly, she's not a very cuddly baby.  When I hold her, she's either looking around the room or actively pushing me away to try to get down.  I can get some cuddles when she's sleepy, but not like Sarah's full-body clings.  She's like a wriggly puppy that way, and she has that wonderful puppy energy, constantly shrieking with excitement, then looking back at me with eager eyes as if to say, "Are you seeing this too??  Can you believe how amazing the world is??"  If she keeps that energy when she grows up, absolutely nothing will stop her.

Now what about Hayley's little details?  She likes to blow raspberries, excessively and wetly.  Her hair smells like wet dog in the bath.  It takes two people to change her diaper, one to distract her with a toy to keep in her place, and the other to change her as fast as possible.  She sleeps flat on her face with her arms at her side and her butt sticking up in the air.  She'll chew on anything she can get into her mouth.  She loves to be swung upside down.  And it may be a cliche, but if she goes quiet, she is absolutely doing something that she shouldn't be.

The Family
What?  There's more?  You just slogged through two baby novels, thinking that the end was in sight, and now I pull this on you.  And there aren't even any pictures!  All right, here are two:


As for the whole family, everything is at a happy equilibrium.  Matt gets to enjoy the girls in the morning before he leaves for work.  They like to visit him while he showers, and if I'm feeling generous or just resigned, I let them crawl in there with him, jammies and all.  (Best baby treat ever.)  Then in the evening, we have about an hour of family time after Matt gets home.  The girls go absolutely nuts for their daddy, especially Sarah.  As soon as he gets home, I put both girls in his arms, and they cry if I try to take them away.  After bottles, Matt lies on the ground and the girls climb all over him like a jungle gym.  It's very sweet and fun, but bedtime comes quickly and they're down by 7.

During the day we have a nanny come from 10 to 1, and including their naps, I work from 9 to 2ish.  The work has been largely theoretical up until now, mostly self-training and planning, but as of yesterday, I'm actually getting paid!  For the first time in over a year!  It's a really great arrangement; I enjoy the girls' company a lot more when I have a break in the middle of the day, and our nanny is fantastic.  She's energetic and caring, and the girls have so much fun with her.  I love that I can have my own personal time while the girls are happy and taken care of.


I feel like there's so much more to say.  The way Hayley invades Sarah's personal space and makes her shriek.  The way Sarah pulls the clips out of Hayley's hair.  The way they both make each other giggle and it's the sweetest feeling in the world when they play peek a boo with each other.  The way they sit in the swively chair together and get spun around until they're dizzy and laughing.

But I did want to post this before they turned 1, and I have 20 minutes left.  So I will just close by saying that this has been the most interesting year of my life.  It's amazing to think of how far we've come since those chaotic early days.  It's tempting fate to say the hardest is behind us, but I do think the best is still yet to come.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  We had dinner at our house this year, and things did not go quite as planned.  First, two fancy pie recipes went down the sink before I made a good old Libby's pie in a Marie Callendar's frozen crust.  Then the Fergs had to back out because the plague had descended upon their house and they didn't want to spread their germs to us.  And then we had to take Sarah to the hospital.

Can you spot the owie?

The poor little thing had a nasty hair tourniquet around her toes.  She had cried a lot at bedtime last night, but we thought it was just her reflux acting up.  So that means it had been on there quite a while before we noticed it this morning.  The hair was wrapped around her middle three toes and continued to wrap individually around the ring toe.  Matt was able to cut the hair and dig it out, much to Sarah's screaming displeasure, but the ring toe was so horribly swollen and the gouge was so deep that it was impossible to see if he'd gotten it all.  And since the swelling didn't go down after the unwrapping, we had to assume that he didn't.

We called the doctor, who paged the nurse, who paged another doctor, who told us to go to urgent care to get her taken care of.  We told him that the hair had actually cut through her skin on the bottom of the toe, and he warned us that they might have to make an incision in her skin to remove the hair.  I was just worried that she was going to lose her toe, but since it hadn't turned blue yet, she was still safe.  Matt's parents were good enough to come to our house early and watch Hayley while we took Sarah to Children's Hospital.

It was pretty desolate in the waiting room.  I wondered if we'd see any turker fryer casualties, but apparently the children of northern Colorado were safe this year.

The doctor called us fairly shortly and had a look at Sarah's toe.  She told us that we might have gotten the hair out after all.  Apparently the swelling will stay very tight for a day or two even after the hair is removed, and she couldn't see deep enough into the gouge to see if it was still there.  Now, I debated whether or not to include this picture because it creeps me out, but I feel an illustration is warranted.

Here it comes.

Nasty baby toe.

Looks really painful.

All right, here it is.

Sure looks like the hair's still on there, doesn't it?  Well, we couldn't tell for sure, so the doctor put a little blob of Nair on her toe to dissolve what might be left.  (Just on the top, since the bottom was cut open.  That would sting like a mofro.)  Then we sang and danced for her while the Nair sat for ten minutes.

"On a long and lonesome highwaaaay, east of Omaha..."

"My toe smells like a perm."
Then the doctor came back to inspect her toe with a probe, and oh my god, my poor little Sarah.  She screamed and screamed as loud as her little lungs would let her.  It was horrible.  And since the doctor still couldn't tell us if the hair was clear, she gave us the option of cutting her toe just to be on the safe side.  The idea being that if we cut through her skin, we'd also cut any hair left inside.  I asked if she'd be anaesthetized, and the doctor hesitated and said, "Well... it goes so fast..."  

Maybe I was still raw from the screaming, but I didn't want to do that to her on the slim chance it was necessary.  So we took her home with instructions to watch for any worsening over the next day, in which case we'd come back and get her sliced.  But now, eight hours later, her toe is already getting back to a normal color.  Whether it was Matt's work or the $50 dollop of emergency room Nair, the important thing is that she's keeping all ten toes.  Hooray!

And now, since Hayley wasn't featured in this story, here is a picture of her looking heart-meltingly adorable.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How do you do it? (Part Two)

I just spent a lovely weekend in Keystone.  Thanks for the invite, Fergs!  And now we're all back home, the babies are in bed, and I can hear Hayley slurping on her hand all the way downstairs.  Slurp on, baby!

So, back to every single detail of my day.  The intent of this post was just to outline the time management and organization that two babies take, but I keep getting side-tracked with other notes and observations.  I'm running with it, though.  I find that I'm already forgetting details of those wild early days, so it's comforting to preserve this day in the life for history.

So where was I?  Right, playing with babies and wishing I could hold them both at the same time.

10:30 - Time to feed the babies again.  They eat every three hours, which is the same schedule they had when they were brand newborns.  They were on a four hour schedule for a while, which was awesome, but we couldn't maintain that when Sarah decided to stop eating.  She just couldn't take in enough calories with only four meals a day, so we had to add an extra one back in.  Hayley could do four meals easily, but that would require seven different feed times at 7, 10, 11, 1, 3, 4, and 7, and the nap schedule would be disastrous.  So, three hours for everyone!  Eating and napping at the same time is by far my most important sanity saver.  It is everything.  Sometimes one baby will wake up early, and I just can't bring myself to wake the other one up at the same time.  No one is happy at the end of those days.

10:55 - Hayley is done eating and I'm in the middle of Sarah's feed.  The doorbell rings; it's our Early Intervention coordinator, Jolie.  I told her she could come by around 11 so I could sign some paperwork, but I was hoping I'd be done feeding the girls by then.  It throws Sarah for a huge loop to have Jolie come in and coo at her; she's startled and intrigued and she can't even think about her bottle anymore.  It's kind of ironic, since we're using the service to get help for Sarah's eating issues.

Sarah does manage to eat some more, and when she's done, I notice that both she and Hayley have very sleepy eyes.  Jolie and I have just been chatting so far; I haven't been able to sign anything yet with an armful of baby, and now I need to put both the girls down to nap.  This is kind of a helpless feeling.  I have stuff to do.  I have someone sitting in my house waiting on me to do a simple task, and I have to put it off even longer because the perfect-put-down window is razor thin.  If I catch it, the girls will lie down, blink prettily, and fall right asleep.  If I miss it, they will scream, scream and scream.  Luckily, Jolie is in the kid business so she understands, but I still feel bad and rush through the process.  Scoop up Sarah, take her upstairs, lay her down, kiss her forehead, repeat with Hayley, then stand between the cribs with my breath held.

Yep.  Too late, screams all around.  So now I'm bouncing back and forth between the babies, trying to offer pacifiers, but they just fall right out of their screaming mouths.  I frantically shush, pet foreheads, and keep shoving pacifiers, but to no avail, and I keep imagining Jolie downstairs, whipping out a notebook and writing, "Cannot quiet crying babies."

I give up and go back downstairs.  There's nothing else I can do.  If I pick them up to cuddle them, they'll go quiet, but they'll be even more livid when I put them back down.  So I tell Jolie that they're going to cry for a few minutes, but hopefully they'll fall asleep soon.  She tells me, "Good for you!  It's so great that you can let them cry.  That's going to help you out a lot in the long run."  It's nice to hear that, but as she goes on to talk about the paperwork I'm signing, I can't hear a word she's saying.  I see her lips move, but I'm only thinking, "Crying.  Crying.  I hear crying.  Hayley stopped, but Sarah's getting worse.  She's not going to fall asleep.  She needs a pacifier.  I have to go to her!"  And meanwhile I'm just signing and signing.  I probably sold the girls' organs or something.

Finally, I tell Jolie I need to go check on them, which is kind of embarrassing since she just praised my backbone.  I run upstairs, kiss Sarah's crumpled, teary face (which breaks my heart), and give her a pacifier.  She takes it easily now since she's too tired to put up a fight, and her eyes close immediately.  Success!  And relief!

I finish up quickly with Jolie, and as she leaves, she tells me how impressed she was with Matt for actually coming to the girls' evaluation earlier, and what a fantastic father he is for being so involved with the girls.  She also tells me that I have a wonderful attitude as a mother because I don't try too hard to be perfect or do everything I did before, like keep up my appearance.  Not in those precise words, but yeah.  (I didn't tell her, "Actually, this is exactly what I looked like before, minus the barf.")  But it did make me think.  Matt and I put the same effort level into the girls.  Obviously, I spend more time at home, but I keep Matt posted on everything that happens during the day, and we're equally involved in their eating, their exercises, their sleep scheduling, their milestones, their doctors' appointments, etc.  It never occurred to him not to be, and I think most of my dad-friends feel the same way.  Yet for equal effort, Matt gets praised for going far above and beyond, and I get praised for not trying too hard.  I think that says a lot about society's expectations: mothers are martyrs and fathers are idiots.  I mean, Matt really is a fantastic father, and I know how lucky I am to have him.  But still, we both found it strange that Jolie was all aflutter simply because he came to an appointment. Anyway, just a bit of social observation.

11:15 - Jolie is gone, the girls are asleep, and it's Friday.  DVR'd Project Runway time!  I settle in with a Diet Dr Pepper and thank the girls yet again for being good sleepers.

12:00 - I hear hooting coming from the baby monitor and the episode is only two-thirds through.  Oh well, it was a boring one anyway.  (Menswear... who cares?)  I bring the girls downstairs, but it quickly becomes apparent that Sarah was only pretending to be done napping.  She is pissed.  PISSED.  She starts crying, then howling, then screaming like her hair is on fire.  Her face is purple-red, her eyes are scrunched shut, and her little toothless mouth is huge and quivering with rage.  This is pretty unusual; I've seen them cranky when they wake up too early, but this is a whole new level.  So I pick her up and she instantly quiets in my arms, but she really needs to go back to sleep.  I decide it's time for a walk; even as out-of-her-head as she is, I know she's no match for a gently jostling stroller.

I put both of the girls into their car seats, and of course Sarah starts screaming again as soon as I set her down.  Her baby siren goes off while I strap her in, then strap Hayley in, then go into the garage, get the stroller out of the trunk, unfold it, go back inside, get Hayley, take her into the garage and click her into the stroller, then finally go back inside for Sarah.  She sobs while I carry her outside and click her in, and then halfway down the driveway, she's perfectly calm.  Works every time.

The stroller is front and back, not side by side, and both seats face me.  I put Sarah in the seat farthest from me, since I want her to sleep.  Hayley gets the coveted eye contact seat today.  That's usually the deciding factor in who sits where: the sleepy one gets the back and the perky one gets to be up front with me.  If both are awake, I may decide based on who's being social versus who seems interested in looking at the world.  Or if one is spitting up a lot or just seems to need me more, she'll go up front.  If all things are equal, sometimes I'll switch their positions at the halfway point of the walk.  Or, if it's very sunny outside, I drape their gauzy blankets over them and immediately forget who's where.

I have the blankets over both of them today since I want them to have a little darkness, and five minutes into the walk I peek underneath.  Both of them stare back at me with huge eyes.  That's a little unnerving; they're beginning to resist the stroller!  Five minutes after that, they're both still wide awake, so I give up and uncover Hayley so she can look around.  Sarah stays in the dark though, and finally she drops off.  We walk for over an hour through the neighborhood, past the elementary school with all the kids out for lunch and through the greenbelt area where I can spy on other people's back yards.  I'm hot and sweaty, and I'm sure the girls are too, but at least they're quiet and happy.

1:45 - Back home, I lay the girls on their playmat to cool off.  Hayley's a hot-blooded baby, and she's completely sweaty all over.  Sarah gripes about being laid down, so I pick her up and tell her I'm not about to walk her around for another hour.  Then she defiles her diaper and coos happily at me.  I guess sometimes that's all it takes.  So I change her, lay her back down, and she's perfectly happy to look at her dangly toys.  I watch them for a while and am amazed at how quickly they're learning.  Just a couple weeks ago, it was all they could do to flop an arm in the general direction of a toy.  There was a lot of guessing on our parts, "Did she try to touch the monkey?  She brushed it's foot, was that an accident?"  And now we find them gripping monkey feet and parrot tails all the time.  They still have only about 80% accuracy, but it will probably only be a few more weeks before they're grabbing toys out of our hands.  It's just incredible how much and how quickly they're learning.

2:00 - Sarah starts griping again and I realize I'm half an hour late for their lunch.  Oops.  Sometimes it's hard to stick to the clock schedule, but the most important thing is to keep them synced to each other.  I feed Sarah first since she's the one complaining, and since Hayley's still having fun with her toys.  I do try to mix up their feeding order occasionally, but it never lasts.  It's just to easy to get Hayley's quick feed done before settling into Sarah's endurance trial.  I worry sometimes about Sarah being the squeaky wheel getting all the grease, so I try to give extra attention to Hayley.  Then I worry that Hayley is getting more fun time while all Sarah's time is maintenance.  I don't think I'll ever stop this emotional bean counting, but I don't know if that's bad.  I should always be cognizant of who's getting more attention, because I know that they will, and I want to be as fair as possible.  But if I over-analyze, will that over-emphasize the issue to them?  Or is it even in my power to de-emphasize it?  I guess I'll find out when they start talking and telling me how unfair I am.

2:45 - The girls just about fall asleep during their feed, so I put them down to nap, and luckily they go down easily.  I take this nap window to clean out my closet, something that's been eating at me for ages.  I'd like to work on the shirt I'm sewing for Matt; it only needs buttons and buttonholes and it will be done.  But the sewing room is right next to the nursery, and the machine has started waking up the girls.  Well, there was one time that I started sewing and one of the girls woke up.  It could have been a complete coincidence, but I'm not willing to test the theory.  Lots of baby care aspects foster superstition that way.

4:00 - I have a garbage bag full of clothes to give away, and the girls are making wake-up noises again.  Umm... I don't really remember the rest of the day now.  But you can see the pattern.  Babies wake up, I change them, I feed them, I play with them, they go to sleep, I take care of some business, and it all starts over again.  And again.  Matt comes home around 6:00 when the girls are usually in their last nap.  We talk.  If the babies are awake, Matt plays with them and exercises them on the mat.  Dinner gets made/delivered, and we either eat it with a baby in each of our laps or let it get cold until after they go to bed.  We each informally pick our "ward" for the night and bathe her (if time permits), feed her, PJ her, and put her to bed. They're usually down by 8 to 8:30, and 99% of the time without any fight.  When they're overtired during the day, they scream when they're put down, but when they're overtired at night, they just pass out.  I don't know why, but I'm not complaining!

After I run the bottles through the dishwasher, Matt mixes the next day's formula and fills them.  Then we get about three hours to ourselves, enough to watch a movie, work on our hobbies, or just hang out and play Scrabble on our phones.  I go to bed when I chose to, between 10:30 and 11:30, and it's very rare that the girls will wake me up until the morning.  It's vital to my morale that the amount of sleep I get is in my hands, not theirs.

And that's it!  That was my very long-winded description of "how I do it" with twins.  It's a full day, but as long as I stay on top of my schedule and basic home maintenance, I don't feel like I'm drowning.  It doesn't always work out, of course.  Just last night, the girls missed their last meal, Sarah woke up to eat in the middle of the night, then Hayley woke up an hour early and Sarah woke up an hour late, and the schedule was chaos.  But I got them sorted out by dinner, and they both went to bed full, happy, and on time.  And tomorrow is a new day to get it right from the beginning.

So the moral of the story is:  Don't pity twin moms, because we probably don't have it as bad as you think.  But don't make fun of us for being obsessed with our schedule, because we couldn't survive without it!

Now here, have some silly Sarah faces.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How do you do it? (Part One)

That's what people ask me a lot, and it's kind of embarrassing how manageable taking care of the girls is.  I mean, it's time-consuming, but it's usually one steady stream of work, not a juggling nightmare.  So I thought I'd outline my day so people can see what taking care of twins is like.  At least, what taking care of good-natured, fantastic sleeping twins is like.

(Excruciating detail warning - I like to be verbose for posterity, so I won't be offended if you get bored and wander off.  Seriously.  There aren't even any pictures.)

7:00am - My alarm goes off and I immediately hit snooze.  I had set it to go off before the girls wake up so I can shower, get dressed, and have some nice, caffeinated tea, but at the moment I don't care about any of that.  The girls have been sleeping solidly since 8pm and I've been sleeping since 10:30pm, so I can't say I'm deprived.  I'll just never want a shower more than I want to sleep.

7:15am - Alarm again.  Snooze again.  I hear grunts coming from the baby monitor, but no one sounds upset yet so I go back to sleep.

7:25am - Hayley's gone from grunting to cooing to griping, so I finally get out of bed.  (Matt is already halfway through his morning routine.)  I go into the nursery to find Hayley writhing around, looking flushed and confused.  As soon as she sees me, her eyes focus and she breaks into a gigantic grin and flails her arms and legs.  I stroke her hair and she tosses her head around and squeals crazily.  It's so close to laughter, but not quite there yet.  I play with her a little longer because it's one of the best times of my day.

Then I check Sarah; she's awake and quietly looking around.  When she sees me, she gives me a big smile too.  She kind of bites at the air with her grin, like she wants to smile wider but doesn't know how.  She also does some limb flapping and gentle cooing, but it's nothing near Hayley's exuberance.  That's okay, though; I know that she's at her happiest even if she's more subtle about it.

7:30am - I try to determine who's in a better mood.  The happier baby will be fine to stay in her crib while I carry the crankier baby downstairs.  The walk will put the cranky one in a better mood, and hopefully that will sustain her while I go back to pick up the happier one.  This is the sort of logistical thing that I had to figure out at one point, but it's just mindless instinct now.

Everyone's happy, so I take Sarah downstairs and lay her on her playmat.  That makes her cry for some reason, so I put her in her baby rocker instead.  Then I get Hayley, lay her down in the bassinet downstairs, and put her bottle in the microwave.  While it heats, I change Hayley's diaper.  Then I measure out her Prevacid in a plastic syringe, shoot it into her bottle and swirl it around.  I put a bib on Hayley, which makes her grin crazily again.  (I don't know if it's because she knows she's about to get fed or if she's just happy to be handled.)

7:40am - I pick up Hayley and sit in the recliner closest to Sarah so she can watch us.  Sarah's sitting quietly, and she'll probably stay that way, but it's best to be in a position to make interesting faces at her in case she starts griping out of boredom.  I give Hayley her bottle and she drinks it way too quickly.  I stop her every couple of minutes to burp her, but it's also to prolong the eating experience for her.  Otherwise she'd be done in about five minutes and I don't want her to get shafted on the eating/cuddling time.  She still finishes in under ten minutes, though, so I hold her a little longer and kiss her chubby cheeks.

7:55am - I put Hayley down in the swing.  I don't know if she still requires upright time after eating, but I'm never motivated enough to try laying her flat and risk getting barf in her hair.  I pick up Sarah and put her in the bassinet.  Hayley starts whimpering, so I try to give her a pacifier but she won't take it.  The attention seems to be enough, though, so I go back to Sarah and repeat the bottle/diaper/medicine drill.  We sit down next to Hayley and I give Sarah a little extra cuddling before we begin, since she eats better if she's happy.  Unfortunately, she can't figure out her sucking motion immediately, so she cries around the nipple in her mouth until I soothe her again.  We repeat the try/fail/cry/soothe cycle a couple times until she finally gets it and drinks hungrily.  After a few ounces, she loses her latch and we have to go through it again.  I feel bad pushing the bottle into her mouth when she's crying and making her even more upset, but I remind myself that she's crying because she wants to eat but can't.  However, that means that when we near the end, the only way I can tell if she's full is if she screams extra hard when I try to get her to latch again.  Some feeds are better than others, but it's rare to have a completely tear-free one.

8:20am - (OMG, this is so long already...) I set Sarah back down in her chair next to Hayley in her swing, then sit down in front of them.  I pet their feet and make faces at them, and they smile and coo at me, but they're starting to wind down.

8:30am - They go back down for their first nap just an hour after they wake up.  They're both smiling when I lay them down, but they quickly realize that they're not being held anymore and they start crying.  It's a gulping, irritable, scrunchy-faced cry that they only do when they're overtired.  Hayley takes her pacifier fairly easily, but Sarah tosses her head around and cries about it like she does with her bottle.  I finally get her to hold onto it just long enough for her eyes to close, and I bolt, shutting the door behind me.

8:35am - It only took five minutes to put them down, and I know that I'll get at least an hour to myself now.  If either of them wakes up, they'll be sleepy enough to take their pacifier without a fight and immediately fall asleep again.  It really is that easy.  I do some dishes, eat my breakfast, read my e-mail, and do some planning for an upcoming camping trip.

9:40am - Hayley starts yelping and I'm actually disappointed that their nap was "only" an hour.  I know so many parents would kill for one predictable hour every morning, so I try not to take my sleepy girls for granted.  But just like a lot of hassles seem perfectly normal to me, so do a lot of my blessings.  They sleep for an hour minimum, but sometimes I can get an hour and a half or even two out of them.  I really am spoiled.

I go upstairs and get my excited baby greetings again.  I put Sarah into Hayley's crib so they can squirm together and accidentally grab each other's arms.  They've only just started looking and smiling at each other, so I'm trying to encourage their relationship.  I change them both out of their pajamas and into onesie outfits, which they tolerate because I'm smiling at them and touching them.  But when I try to put a cute little hoodie on Sarah, she loses patience and starts crying.  I take it off and cuddle her, but I can tell she's in a bit of a mood.  I wonder if she's still tired and cranky, but it would be impossible to put her back down, so I just go with it.

9:50am - I take the girls back downstairs and lay them on their playmat together.  I used to lay them head to toe, but when they got more active they started kicking each other's heads, so now they lie in the same direction.  They still poke each other's faces with their hands sometimes, but there's a sweet spot that I can position them in where they're mostly safe.

Sarah cries when I lay her down again, which is frustrating because the playmat is usually her happy place.  (Maybe she remembers getting kicked?)  So I pick her up and cuddle her while Hayley plays, but seeing Sarah's sweet, blissful face in my arms just makes me feel guilty.  The happier she is being held, the more I feel I'm being unfair to Hayley.

Now, this is absolutely the hardest part of having twins for me.  I'm constantly worried about giving them equal love and attention.  The real point is to give each one enough love and attention, but I keep getting hung up on the equal part.  Which is why it's easier for me to lay them both down on the mat and scratch their bellies and make faces at them at the same time.  No one's getting held, but it's fair and it's easy; everyone is getting equal mom time.  So even though Hayley is perfectly happy playing and is so not keeping track of who gets held and for how long, I still feel like cuddling Sarah is somehow subtracting from Hayley's love.  I know that by that logic, I should be able to even things out by cuddling Hayley for the same length of time later, but because I have that sense of subtraction, that can feel like two wrongs making a right.  I KNOW.  It's so stupid and backwards and it doesn't benefit any of the three of us.  I really am trying to get over it, but it's harder than logic makes it sound.  Feeding, diapering, and all the practical stuff?  That's easy to deal with.  This is when my two arms feel so painfully inadequate.

Good lord, it's past 11pm now and I'm not even to noon yet.  Are you still with me?  You're awesome.  But it's time to slap a "Part One" on this and go to bed.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Three months

So much has changed in three months. Sooooo much. And I did a poor job of documenting it. I'm sorry.

Don't worry about it.  It's only my CHILDHOOD.

Life is more harmonious now. I've learned a lot about how to handle two babies, and the girls have gotten happier, calmer, gigglier, and more entertainable. So life's been improving at double speed.

Mommy doesn't call me as many bad names anymore.

I love the girls more and more now. That sounds like such a negative thing to say, doesn't it? Like that necessarily means that I used to love them less. But it's a different love. The more time I spend with them and the more their personalities develop, the more I am loving them as their own little people and not just their potential.

We are pretty charming.

On a shallow note, they have both grown up from adorable but bleary preemies into gorgeous babies.

Hayley is a whopping twelve pounds; she's more than doubled her birthweight. I call her Chunk, Matt calls her "the little butterball," and we sing "Hungry Eyes" to her with the words changed to "Thunder Thighs."

Guess who?

But we love that she's eating and gaining weight well. We tell Sarah to be more like her sister, because she hates eating and is only ten and a half pounds. I call her Tiny Ass because she was in newborn diapers for over two months. I also call her Fatty Fatty Fat-Fat when she has a good weigh-in, to encourage her.

Words hurt, you know.

Yes, yes, we will stop the weight comments and sibling comparisons when they're able to understand us. We really do want mentally healthy kids; it's just too entertaining to smile and say terrible things that they can't understand. That's probably a sign of sociopathy... I'm not going to look too deeply into that part of myself.

Someone please adopt me.

Sarah's eating actually is a real concern. Sometimes she'll eat peacefully and sometimes she'll freak out and scream at the bottle like we're jamming a hot poker in her mouth. But even on a good day, she still doesn't have a big enough appetite to support good weight gain. She's been improving on her own a little, but mealtime is still a real chore. It's just so frustrating when you know she's hungry but she simply refuses to eat. She's like an ancient god who gets enraged when her tributes are offered incorrectly.

You'll rue the day you dishonored me.

On the plus side, both girls sleep amazingly. They were good sleepers from birth, but now they're all organized about it. When the sun goes down, they go down too, and all we need to do is plunk them down in their cribs and say, "Good night!" They were waking up around 3am for one middle of the night bottle, but the last couple nights they've slept all the way to 7am. Forget that "sleeping through the night means five consecutive hours" crap. We're sleeping through for real now! *knocks on EVERY piece of wood*

Divine providence

During the waking hours, the girls can't get enough of Looking. It's their favorite skill. They like to Look at dangly toys, bright lights, the clock pendulum, the TV, their feet and each other. But nothing is more limb-flailingly spectacular than Looking at mommy and daddy first thing after they wake up.


Recently, they discovered Batting when their wildly flailing arms happened to connect with some of their dangly toys. That was exciting enough, but now they're both on the hairy edge of Grabbing, which is blowing their tiny minds. Sarah is slightly better at it, but Hayley made a good, concerted effort today. She slowly raised her arm and tried with all her might to aim it at the dangly giraffe. She totally whiffed it, but her hand ended up near the parrot, so she moved her gaze and aimed for her new target. Another whiff, and then her arm collapsed with the mental and physical effort. But I love how hard she's trying!

A for effort!

I love spending my days with the girls. Now that they no longer require constant triage, I get to really enjoy interacting with them and watching their brains grow. Even the smallest things, like Sarah rubbing her fingers together today, are amazing because they're brand new accomplishments in coordination. I feel like now is when I'm really watching them being born. Everything that it means to be human, every tiny piece that we take for granted, is indivdually falling into place.  They've already learned so much, and they've still barely even begun.  I can't believe how lucky I am to be able to watch it happen.

Matt may have a hard time talking me out of a third.

Funny how a full night's sleep changes your outlook, huh?