Monday, December 27, 2010

"Set yourself up to succeed."

Sound advice.  I think I first heard it from my mom, but quite a few good teachers also passed on this bit of wisdom over the years.  I take it to mean success doesn't just happen, it requires work and planning and forethought.  

And it can apply to attachment parenting as well.

We visited my in-laws' for Christmas this year.  It was a magical holiday, filled with family we never see enough, great food, and happy babies forming attachments to Grammy and Grampy.  Excellent!

But it was my first experience as a mama of twins in a house that wasn't truly childproofed.  I've come to learn there are two levels of childproofing.  Level one is where you put some outlet protectors in and get locks for the doors of the cabinets that contain poisons.  Very important stuff.  But level two childproofing is outlet covers, cabinet locks, and putting EVERYTHING out of reach.  

In my apartment, there is nothing within a baby's reach that a baby can't safely have.  I can let them roam the place somewhat freely.  I keep a close watch on them, but I don't generally have to spend my time removing them from someplace it's not safe to be.  At my in-laws' house, there were tantalizing knick knacks calling to them from every surface.  There were low-hanging ornaments, candles on the coffee table, fake holly berry and pine cone arrangements in the hallway, and plates and platters lining the buffet.  

We all spent a lot of time removing babies, telling them "no touching this" or redirecting them, or moving things from reach.  It was exhausting.

So, what does this have to do with setting yourself up for success?

By understanding our children's developmental stages and creating safe spaces for them to exist within those parameters, we can set ourselves up to have a very positive relationship with them.  

If I had to operate every day like I did over these past few, my relationship with Gus and Jack would get very strained very fast.  I would feel like we were adversaries.  Me vs. them, in a battle for knick knacks.  Of course, they're only doing what babies do, and exploring their endlessly fascinating environment.  

Instead, I can arrange their environment in such a way as to make us partners in discoveries.  What's in this cabinet?  Oh, look, toilet paper!  Let's see how it feels.  And tastes.  And moves.  And we can make towers and knock them down!  That is so much more fun than scolding them for taking the toilet paper out of the cabinet.  

By being purposeful and mindful, by taking into consideration the developmental needs of my babies, I can set myself, and them, up for success.  I can set myself up to be a good mama.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oh, Christmas!

I have always loved the holidays.  I am especially excited to share Christmas with Gus and Jack.  In the fine tradition of wearing sweaters at Christmas time, here they are in their "nice guy" sweaters.

The presents are nice, but the very best part of this Christmas, the part that makes it magical, is that we get to spend it with family.  We will have four celebrations this year, with various branches of our extended families.  I am beyond thankful to be in a place in my life where this is possible.  

Last Christmas we lived in Las Vegas.  I was on bed rest, restricted to the couch or bed, doing my level best to keep my babies on the inside, fighting preterm labor with every resource available to me.  I had to miss Christmas Eve mass, but got to visit the Labor and Delivery floor-- again-- with contractions.  It turns out I was dehydrated, and got discharged fairly quickly this time, but not without four needle sticks before the IV needle actually slid home.  

We will be at Grammy and Grampy's house on Christmas day this year.  I don't know exactly what will happen, but I know I will be with family, including my two precious boys.  

And that is the greatest gift I could ever hope to receive.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Evolution of Sleep

Moviedad and I bed share with our twins.  Gus and Jack are ten months old, and have been sleeping in the big bed with us since they were seven months old.  I love it.  My husband loves it.  My babies expect nothing less.  Who wants to sleep alone?  But it wasn't always this easy*.  

What follows in a factual words-and-pictures journey of how we got to where we are today. This is our story, what worked for us.

I'll try to keep the emotional writing to a minimum (during most of the early months I was devastatingly sleep deprived, and probably depressed.  But that's another post).  

It is my hope that other twin parents will see this and know that it is possible to share sleep with twins, even after a rocky start.

When Gus and Jack were born, they were six weeks early.  Gus spent the first 12 days of his life in the NICU, eating and sleeping when he wasn't being poked and prodded and monitored.

Jack stayed in the hospital for 21 days, with much the same schedule.

So, for 9 days we had Gus at home by himself.  I am not actually sleeping in either one of these pictures.  I knew I should be, but I couldn't.  I was too keyed up, wracked with guilt that Gus was home and his brother wasn't.  Every peep Gus made caused me to bolt up and check him.  And there were lots of peeps.  His first nickname was "Squeaker".

We side-carred the crib, but due to as-yet-undiagnosed reflux, Gus couldn't sleep well laying down.  Skin to skin was a huge part of our lives in the NICU, so I decided to keep it up at home.  Gus slept better that way, but I was afraid to breath deeply for fear of disturbing him. 

During this time, I had my husband and mother home with me to help care for one baby.  But I was up feeding and pumping, day and night.  Gus' mouth was very small, and he couldn't latch.  So we bottle-fed him expressed breast milk.  I was tired.  Moviedad was tired.  My mom was tired.  Gus slept just fine.  

Finally, both babies were home.  We set them up in the crib. 

This picture makes me sad.  I had this thought, this assumption, that they needed to be in the crib, and Moviedad and I needed to be in the bed.  All together.  All sleeping for undetermined stretches at a time.  So, when this didn't happen-- which was basically all the time-- I was disappointed.  

There are two distinct times, in my mind, during the immediate post-partum period.  First, when Gus and Jack were preemies.  They slept a lot.  Second, when the babies officially become newborns.  This was after their original due date.  After that time, they "woke up".  And started crying... and crying... and crying.  They were colicky.  They had acid reflux.  They only slept well when they were on someone.   So that's how we did it.


Sometimes Gus and Jack would sleep in their bouncy seats.  I would set them up on the floor right in front of the couch and doze fitfully while they slept.  We had to angle them sideways so they didn't slip down in their swaddling blankets and so there was no additional pressure on their tummies from being bent at the waist. 
When they were seven weeks old, we transitioned from feeding them with expressed milk from a bottle to straight-from-the-tap nursing.  Then, their favorite place to sleep was on the nursing pillow, nipple in mouth.  (This is actually where the name of this blog comes from... we were attached at the nip for most hours of every day.)

When the babies were two months old, we moved to Ohio to live with my parents while Moviedad finished his job and packed up our apartment in Nevada.  I learned to sleep in the wingback chair, but it wasn't big enough for the nursing pillow, just the boppy.  During this time, at night, I would sleep propped up in bed with one baby and my mom would sleep propped up in a recliner with the other (this was not safe sleep-sharing, but I didn't know that then).  The babies' reflux was still quite bad, and they needed to be upright after every
     nursing session.

When Gus and Jack were four months old, I bought two second-hand side-to-side swings.  Those swings were life savers.  The babies could sleep in them for longer stretches of time.  Combined with the pure magic that was the microwave vent fan, those swings were little battery-operated miracles.  Mom and I had both spent nights in a rocking chair in the kitchen with the vent fan running so Jack could be calm enough to sleep, but the swings were much better for everyone.

This was the time that Moviedad made it to Ohio.  He would have Gus in a swing up in our bedroom, and bring him down to me whenever he needed to nurse.  I slept in the daybed in the dining room (which had been converted into baby central) with Jack in the swing by my head.  Jack woke frequently, but was just beginning to tolerate sleeping prone.  Sometimes I would bring him into the bed with me and he would nurse and sleep while I learned to sleep through it.  At this point I had started researching sleep sharing and was able to make the daybed a safe sleep space for him.

The six-month mark was when we decided to try the boys in the side-car crib again.  This time it worked!  They were able to sleep laying on their backs!  I would nurse them to sleep, lay them in the crib, climb into bed with my husband, and fall asleep myself.  It was delicious.  When a single baby woke, I would pull him into bed with me, nurse him down, then pop him back in the crib.  When both boys awoke, I would nurse them both on the pillow.

When Gus and Jack were seven months old, Moviedad and I moved into our apartment.  The single best investment we made was a king-sized bed.  The boys were too big to share the side-car crib, and getting a bigger bed for everyone made infinitely more sense to us than buying another crib.

Now, we have a family bed in every sense.  It's the only bed in our apartment.  We made it into a safe sleep space for all of us:  it's on the floor, up against two walls, with pillows softening the edges of the window sill.  Moviedad and I sleep on the outer edges.  The babies go in the middle.  Everyone has their own blanket.  When a single baby needs to nurse at night, I arrange myself next to him-- which often entails Moviedad and I switching sides.  When both babies need to nurse at the same time, I pull one next to me, do a half-side half-back lean and lay the other baby on top of me, nestled in the crook of my arm.

We are all sleeping peacefully and securely.  Until it's time to wake up and play peek-a-boo, that is.

*It's important to note that throughout this journey, it was my husband and I who needed to change.  As soon as we realized-- through research and listening to our own intuition-- that our infants were displaying completely normal night-time behavior, and that we needed to parent them the same way at night that we did during the day, everything clicked and became easier.  Nothing changed but our expectations, but it made all the difference.

Update!  As the boys grow and change, so do their sleeping needs. Check out The Evolution of Sleep Part 2 here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

When Mom Gets Angry

Today was a rough day.  My mom got angry with me.  It was actually well-deserved, since I was flipping out and not listening to what she was saying.

I was trying to find a way to give my iron-deficient babies some icky iron drops.  I was over-tired from a night of babies who needed constant parenting.  And I was just plain cranky.  So, I called Mom.  Eventually, she lost her patience with me.  And you know what?  It felt terrible.  Even as a grown woman, with children of my own, having my mom angry at me was devastating.  My stomach dropped, and I felt a brief moment of panic.  What would I do if Mom stopped helping me?  What if she stays mad forever?!

I realize now it's silly, but I felt those feelings sure enough, sitting at my kitchen table, staring at my dark cell phone, flanked by Gus and Jack pulling terrible "I hate iron" faces.

After some deep breaths, an admission of temporary defeat on the iron front, and a diaper change for my boys, I had epiphany.  It was one of those moments when you stop in your tracks and realize your whole world-view has shifted.  It was powerful.

I came to understand that as The Mom, I am that person whose love and acceptance is so critical, so empowering, so necessary to my sons.

And when they want me, they need me.  My smiles and gentle words are like rain to thirsty fields.  My loving touch and nurturing breasts are literal and figurative food for them.

As a gentle parent, it is my responsibility to love them and parent them unconditionally, in such a way that they never have to feel that stomach-dropping "Is mom mad at me?" wave come over them.  Because they have only had 10 months' experience of life on this earth, and they're still developing an understanding of how this whole big world works.  If they see me angry (and I know they will-- I have no disillusions on that front) they need to know it is not directed at them.  Or, if it is, I need to control my emotions and comfort them accordingly.  I'm the adult.  I'm the parent.

I'm the mom.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What's in a Name?

So, why "Attached at the Nip"?  Why Mama Mo?  Here's the whys behind the blog you're reading right now.

I had been feeling the pull to write for some time before I set up my blog.  It's my teeny, tiny corner of the internet, my place to just muse about whatever is on my mind.  But, I wanted a good name.  The right name.  It's really very simple:  My twin boys nurse a lot.  I love plays on words.  And so, Attached at the Nip because it's apropos for my lifestyle as a nursing mama of twins and because it's a play on the expression "attached at the hip".

When I was in college, I took on the caretaker role among my group of friends.  I made sure everyone had a cake on their birthday.  I bought Christmas presents and filled little stockings for each friend.  I got the nickname Mama.  I used to live in Missouri, MO.  And Mo is a nickname for my real name... not that anyone other than my SCUBA coach ever called me by it, but still... I decided I would be Mama Mo now that I'm a real mama.

I hope you like my blog.  I'm glad that you've even seen it!  It makes me happy.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I was all set to write a sad post about this being the one-year anniversary of when I had to go on bed rest--and my whole world came to a screeching halt, never to be the same.  But then Jack woke up and wanted to be nursed back to sleep.  It was then that I realized I needed to write something else.  This is it.

When you...

...arch your back, hold out your trusting hands, and roll towards me to nurse in your sleep

...shriek with delight as daddy gives you an Inuit kiss

...look over your shoulder as you crawl down the hallway, making sure your brother is there with you

...reach out to touch the Christmas tree lights with one wondering finger with your whole face to see daddy walking up the stairs

...taste each roll of the toilet paper treasure you discovered under the sink, just to see if they're the same

...tip slowly to the side as you hold your socks over your head in triumph you like to dance to marching band music

...giggle at your brother as you play because he is just the funniest person you ever did see

...roll around like puppies together on the floor, laughing

...tell me the most wonderful stories about dada, baba, mmmm, and eeeey

...peek your eyes open to make sure I'm still here as you nurse to sleep

...sing your sleepy song

...sing your eating song

...pat your brother's head as you nurse together

...hold hands and dance

...wake me up in the mornings by crawling over and patting my face

                                                                                           ... I know that I am blessed.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Intense Gratitude

After thinking about all the things for which I am thankful this year-- and nearly bursting at the seams from the joy of it all-- I have decided that there is one that stands out.

I am thankful beyond words, with a soul-smiling gratitude, that my boys have grown into the happy, healthy babies they are today.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November's Carnival of Breastfeeding: How Women in my Family Feed Babies

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!  November's theme is Your Family History.  

My mom’s side of the family is Irish.  As in Gramma- and- Grampa- came- over- on- a- boat Irish.  Tradition is important to us, everything from holidays to vacations.  Children are valued in our family; they are cherished by the men and women equally.  I can trace the child-rearing wisdom of my family’s women in a direct line, from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, to my mother, to me.  “Burp baby high up on your shoulder to help the gas bubble out.”  “If baby is straining to move his bowels, let him push his legs against your hands.”  “When baby is very agitated, tuck him up under dad’s chin so he can hear and feel the deep calming voice.” 

But there is a significant hiccup in the infant feeding practices of the women of my family.  My grandmother formula fed all six of her children.  I’ve wondered:  why on earth would she do that?  Great-Gramma breastfed her children because that was the only way to feed infants in rural Ireland in the early 1900s.  Why didn’t Gramma do the same?  Because she raised her children in the United States, starting in the mid-fifties.  Formula was promoted as the norm.  Doctors pushed it.  New mothers were given charts and schedules and samples.  Women were led to believe that there was no need for breast milk.  Science has a much better alternative, here in this shiny tin.  Have a few free weeks’ worth to get you started, just until your milk dries up and you become dependent on our product. 

            (And now the side note:  I have absolutely nothing against mothers who use formula.  I understand that it is sometimes necessary, and even life saving.  I am not here to judge other mothers.  I am, however, enraged at the underhanded practices of the formula companies, practices that perpetuate myths about infant feeding and take away fully informed choice.)

It’s slightly amazing to me that not much has changed from then until now.  However, there was one event in my personal history that very much matters.  Somewhere along the line, my own mother decided to breastfeed her children.  She didn’t make a big deal about it, there were no agonizing discussions long into the night, or lists of pros and cons.  There were no arguments with Gramma, either.  Gramma didn’t necessarily know how to support Mom when there were questions, but she respected her daughter’s choices, different though they were.  Luckily, Mom knew where to find the answers she needed, and joined Le Leche League. 

I remember those meetings.  I remember going to the leader’s house and eating carrot sticks and applesauce-bran muffins.  I remember drinking unfiltered apple juice.  I remember seeing women nurse their babies, just like Mom nursed me and my sister.  Honestly, those muffins fazed me more than the breastfeeding.  Some things were normal and natural.  Bran muffins were not. 
By the time my brother was born, ten years after me, I was a staunch lactivist.  I began boycotting Nestle at the ripe old age of 13.  I had no idea what “counter-culture” meant, nor did I care.  My normal was what I saw and lived every day.  And I saw mothers nursing babies. 
Now, I am a mother myself.  I nurse my twin boys.  Before they were born, I had nice mental images, soft-focus and gentle smiles, of breastfeeding.  But all softness and calm were blasted out of my post-partum self by two premature, colicky babies.  It was an arduous journey, those early months, but ultimately breast feeding saved me.  It was the one mothering behavior that I could do, and do well.  So I did.  I nursed my boys because that’s how women in my family feed their babies, one or two at a time. 
My sister plans on breastfeeding her future children.  I hope my sister-in-law does, too.  In fact, I hope all my cousins do, too.  I have made it a point to normalize breastfeeding in my extended family by just doing it, in front of anybody and everybody.  I want them to see babies being nursed.  I want it to become commonplace, yet special.  I hope that in my generation, nursing becomes another tradition that everyone loves and cherishes, just like the babies themselves.   

For more of the Carnival of Breastfeeding, please visit:

Christine @ Christine's Contemplations: Carnival of Breastfeeding- My Family History of Nursing 
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Family History of Breastfeeding
Jona @ Breastfeeding Twins: Beer & Bottles (and other motherly advice)
Alicia @ Lactation Narration: Only the Hippies Were Breastfeeding
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: An Unbroken Chain

Monday, November 15, 2010

Today and Every Day

November 17 is Prematurity Awareness Day
Today was a day to remember and celebrate premature babies.  November is The March of Dimes' Prematurity Awareness Month.  I am a lucky mama of twins who, though born 6 weeks early, had a relatively short NICU stay, and are hitting milestones somewhere between their actual and adjusted age.  

Despite the luck, I had a rough go of it during the early weeks.  Leaving my boys in the hospital while I was discharged was one of the most harrowing things I've ever had to do.  I grieved the loss of my babies on a cellular level, while on a rational level I knew right where they were.  But they were away from me, and that felt wrong.  Prematurity is hard on the babies born early, and the mamas made early, despite good luck and the grace of God.  

Some mamas aren't lucky.  Some mamas lose their premature babies.  With them we grieve, with them we celebrate the lives that slipped away too soon.  

Hug a preemie today.  Or better yet, give one a nice pat on the leg and keep your germs to yourself!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Open Letter to My Family

Dear Family,

Hello!  I'm so glad I got to see you this Sunday.  Dinner was fabulous, so filling and warm.  The conversation was as lively and loud as usual.  There is one small issue I'd like to address, though.

I understand that you want to hold my babies.  I understand that you see them so rarely, and they are getting so big, and they are so stinkin' cute.  I get that, I truly do.

However, I need you to understand that there are a few adults with whom my babies have developed secure, firm attachments.  Namely Mama, Daddy, Auntie K, Uncle C, Nana, and Papaw.  So if one of those adults is holding onto a baby (especially after a crying jag, or during a particularly fussy time), it is for the sake of the baby, not to keep him away from you.  Sometimes beside a familiar face and within known arms is the safest place to survey the world, especially when it's crowded and new.

So please don't be upset with me when I won't let you hold a baby after he's just woken from a nap, or when he's needing some Mama-time after I've been away for awhile.  He needs me, or Daddy, or Auntie K for now.  There will be time for you to hold him later, when he's ready.

Thank you for understanding.  It's so much easier explaining this to you than a nine-month-old.

Mama Mo  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My two cents' worth

Here in my teeny, tiny corner of the internet, I feel compelled to put forth my opinion on the Great Amazon Debacle of November 2010.

Amazon if offering an e-book called "The Pe.doph.ile's Gu.ide to Love and Pleas.ure."  Many mommy bloggers, tech bloggers, twitter-ers raised the issue and covered the web with links.  There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of Kindles.  But the sad fact is that that piece of filth has jumped in sales by over 100, 000%.

Amazon's statement says that they are upholding the first amendment and allowing customers to choose what titles they purchase.  In the help section of Amazon's page on selling items, it outlines the items that are disallowed.  Child pornography is one such item.  However, it's not porn unless there are photos.  So a how-to guide for sexually abusing children is ok, right?

Wrong.  This whole thing is just wrong.  Amazon also claims the right to take down digital titles that promote illegal activity.  Um... pedophilia is illegal.

I believe in freedom of speech.  I don't dispute this pervert's right to say or write these things.  I just happen to believe that Amazon has a moral imperative to chose to NOT sell it.  They can do that, ya know.  But until they do, I will be speaking with my dollars.

I am boycotting Amazon this holiday season until they remove this book.  Will you join me?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"What do you do all day?"

As a stay-at-home mom, I've been asked that question a few times.  Mostly, it's been with genuine curiosity.  Here's my answer, as told to my Grampa last weekend.

"We wake up, and I change the boys' diapers.  Then I dress them.  Next, I nurse them.  And I feed them.  On a good day I get dressed and fed too.  Then we play for awhile.  I spend the rest of the day trying to get them to sleep."

That's the simple version, but that's it in a nutshell.  It's a rare and special day that I get them both napping at the same time.

Often one will nap while the other plays and snuggles with me, then they switch off.  I actually really enjoy those days, especially the one-on-one time, unless I'm exhausted and yearning for sleep myself.  Some days the babies fight sleep with the strength and intensity of samurai warriors.  On those days we pile into the car and drive around until they drift off, then we go to Nana's house where I attempt to carry them inside oh so slowly, oh so carefully.  Usually they wake up, so we play at Nana's.

I am alone with two nine-month-olds for much of every day, but the amazing, wonderful, comforting fact of life is that I'm not really alone in this.  Hubby comes home every day after work, ready to scoop up his boys and give me time to shower, or sleep, or read.  And Nana comes home, delighted to see all three of us at her house, and sings and plays with the babies while I read the newspaper or grab a real lunch.  And I can always call my sister, my brother-in-law, my brother, or my dad if I need them.

So what do I do all day?  I raise my babies, surrounded and supported by my family.  Best. Job. Ever.    

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mommy Wars

I am new to the blogosphere, I've found a few mommy blogs that I love and want to be when I grow up, and I've been introduced to the term "mommy wars".  

Apparently, the choices you make for your children put you on one side of the battle line or another. 

I breastfeed my babies.  So, if you don't, we're enemies, right? 

You put your baby to sleep in a crib.  I don't, so we can't be friends, right?

Look at the language.  War.  Enemy.  Really?  Being a mother means you face a constant stream of decisions aimed at keeping yourself and at least one other human being alive and functioning.  Is there really time to battle other mommies?  I'd rather play with my twins.  

Don't get me wrong; I have plenty of strong opinions on how to raise my children.  And I truly feel that our culture has overruled basic biology when it comes to a multitude of parenting options.  However, I won't fight with other mothers who make other choices.  

Sharing information is one thing, battling it out over disposables or cloth is another.  I've been labeled "crunchy" by some and "mainstream" by others.  But my boys will just call me Mama, like all the other Mamas on both sides of every battle line.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"He's perfect."

That was the answer I got when I asked a dear friend how her son was doing.  We had already covered the weather and work, and it was on to the good stuff.  I wanted to know about her baby, and I could hear the change in her voice.  She perked up, and fairly sparkled over the phone.  Her baby, born two months after my boys, is perfect.  And so it goes.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately.  "He's perfect."  I realized that my sons are also perfect.  They're eight months old, and full of wonder, unsullied by the cares life will lob at them someday.  We've passed the newborn, colicky stage.  They are smooth and round and happy.  Their little bellies are calm, and fit so snugly under their barrel chests and chubby chins.  They wake up happy every day, looking around to see what's new.  My face, puffy eyes and unruly hair notwithstanding, is beautiful to them.  Every mashed banana is the best banana in the world, every bite is partaken with gusto and verve.  Movement is play.  Kisses and smiles flow freely.  So does the mama milk.  Life is good.

Don't get me wrong... life is good, but it's still hard.  I'm still adjusting to this new math.  1 mommy + 1 daddy + 2 babies + 1 salary = a whole different lifestyle.  And my little marathon nurser will go the distance and nurse ALL NIGHT LONG if I let him.  (Which I sometimes do, because it's easier to sleep that way.)  And I'm tired... and hopelessly out of shape... and and and.  But my boys, the lights of my life, my babies?

They are perfect.