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!