Monday, February 28, 2011

How do you convince your body of a truth when it does not feel it?

As I've mentioned in this space before, the early days with twins were rough.  Really, really rough.  It's easy to sit back from my vantage point of 12 months, snuggle my beautiful boys, and say, "It wasn't so bad."  But it was.  It was very bad.

And in an effort to share my honest experiences, and in pursuit of healing, I've decided to be brutally honest here.

When I was pregnant, I went on bed rest at 24 weeks.  I began pre-term labor shortly thereafter, and visited the hospital seven times over the next ten weeks.

The first time I went to the hospital, I received shots of terbulatline, and when those didn't work, I got the mag.  Magnesium sulfate is what the doctors called "the big guns" when it comes to stopping pre-term labor.  Mag makes you hot, and sleepy, and confused.  It also worked; the contractions stopped, and I went home.  I was on oral procardia and home contraction monitoring.  The next five trips to the hospital were short outpatient visits: I got more terb shots and went home.  The final time I went to the hospital, the terb didn't work.  The contractions kept coming.  They put me on magnesium sulfate again.  But it didn't work that time.

I was 3 cm dilated with a bulging sack of waters when it was decided that "Today is a birthday!" as my OB cheerfully told me.  But since I'd been on major doses of mag for the past twelve hours or so, this didn't register with me as being the big deal that it truly was.

I was prepped for surgery, cut open, delivered of my babies, sewn back up, and put into recovery while I was still under the thick, sodden, grey wool blanket of mag.  Gus and Jack were born at 2:07 and 2:08 pm, and whisked away to the NICU shortly afterwards. Moviedad went with them, per our birth plan.  I was alone and staggering mentally under the weight of all that had just happened.

I remember waking up in the post-partum room, alone, confused, and looking at the clock.  It was eight o'clock.  My first thought?  "Oh, I guess I won't be able to watch Lost tonight".  This was apparently my brain's way of reverting to something normal.

My mom came in around 1 am, and got me set up on a pump.  I was still too dazed and drugged to realize what was happening, though.  It wasn't until a little before 5 am that I roused enough to have a coherent conversation.  I asked to be taken to see my babies.

I didn't touch my babies until 15 hours after they were born.  And I didn't hold them, I just touched their heads and stroked their arms inside the isolettes.

I am still mourning the loss of those 15 hours.

Over the next three days, I learned how to be a mama of babies in the NICU.  I learned about beeps and alarms and three-hour schedules.  I saw the names on the isolettes and knew those were my babies.  I saw their daddy's nose on their tiny, raw faces and knew those were my babies.  I was pumping my breast milk every two hours around the clock to give to my babies.  But it was a very intellectual experience.  My brain knew those were my babies.

But my body was achingly empty.  I wanted to hold them.  I wanted to cover them with claiming kisses, and inhale the pure baby-ness of their sweet skin.  I wanted to count their perfect toes and marvel at their exquisite fingers in peace.  I wanted them to lay on my chest, warm and nurtured, where they belonged, their heartbeats matching mine, my breath their cue.  It is impossible for me to find the words to adequately express the depth of my desire to mother my newborns.

Instead, my reality was wires, and alarm tones, and swaddled bundles of babies who were too new to have coordinated their suck-swallow-breathe reflex.  I knew that they were getting the best medical care possible.  But I felt bereft.

I honestly believe that my body was mourning the loss of my babies, even though my eyes and brain were telling me Gus and Jack were alive and maturing in the hospital.  The impersonal whoosh-whoosh-whooshing of the double electric hospital grade breast pump was enough to extract the life-sustaining milk, but it was not enough to convince my empty chest and grieving heart that all was well.

That was my introduction to motherhood.  It's no wonder the next months were fraught with struggles.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Body Talk

Ok, I owe this one to Amy at Anktangle for her post On Body Image, Pregnancy, and BMI and to Lauren at Hobo Mama for her post Fat and Pregnant: Heartbeat Video.

I have struggled with weight and food issues since I started college and began to use eating as a way to comfort and shield myself while in an emotionally abusive relationship.  And it's been a roller coaster of a ride ever since.  I've found a lot of healing along the way, and pregnancy was instrumental in accepting my body for the miraculous things it can do just as it is.

I called my sister when my regular pants didn't fit.  I called her when I could see the inside of my belly button.  I reveled in the fact I was carrying the boys all in front, looking like I had swallowed a basketball (or two).  I loved being round and pregnant.
This was taken at 30 weeks.  I used most of my standing up minutes that day getting good belly pictures.
I was put on bed rest at 24 weeks in an attempt to stop pre-term labor.  It worked for 10 weeks, but during that time, I stayed still.  I didn't move much at all for fear of harming the babies.  I surely didn't exercise.  And when it came time for Gus and Jack to be born, I was physically weak and mentally exhausted.

Between the babies being born, and the stress of them being in the NICU I lost about 50 pounds in 4 weeks.  I had yo-yo'ed in weight from the beginning, though.  I lost 15 pounds in the first trimester from not eating much due to near-constant nausea.  I only gained about 16 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight to delivery, but the doctors weren't concerned because with the first trimester weight loss it fell into an acceptable range of gain.

So there I was with colicky, refluxy newborns.  Weight was the last thing on my mind.  I ate more food, and of better quality, than I had ever eaten before.  Between pumping for and then nursing two babies, I needed all that fuel.

But-- and here's the kicker-- I was in survival mode.  I did not exercise.  I hardly even showered.  I certainly didn't sleep much.  Mostly I sat on the couch and nursed the boys and ate.  Day and night.  Literally all.the.time.  

I continued on like that for months.  And by the time things settled down and I actually began to see glimmers of a life off the couch, I had gained back ALL the weight, and then some.  And my new normal had settled onto me like the extra pounds.

Right now, I am heavier and unhealthier than I have ever been.  I am not brave enough to give you specific numbers, but suffice it to say, I am a fat mama.  I'm scared to diet because I intend to breastfeed the babies until they self-wean and I am terrified of losing my milk supply again, even if they don't rely on it as their only sustenance anymore.

I understand that I don't have to fit society's expectation of a woman's body.  I never will, and that I can embrace.  I loved my body when it was strong and healthy, no matter the numbers attached.

Right now I am searching to find a way back to strength, back to health.  I know it will be easier when spring arrives and we can go to the park again.  Until then, I have taken the first steps to reclaiming a part of myself from before, one that can co-exist with my mama-self.  I joined a yoga studio and started going to class again, and I scheduled an appointment to talk to a therapist to begin working through the trauma of this past year.

I will move more and eat less.  I will keep reading about other real women who love their bodies.  I will stop hiding behind the camera and allow myself to be photographed more right now, as I am.
I can't even find a good "bad" picture of me to share. 

And Lauren?  This one's for you.  Thanks for getting the ball rolling for me to write about this.
This ended up being the day before the boys were born.  I'm glad I have this picture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mama Showed Me

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I cannot imagine parenting without my own mother.

My mother means what she says.  When she told me "I would do anything for my family", she meant it.  And like all the other wisdom she has imparted to me, she backed it up with her actions.

Mom has literally been there for me and my husband every step of our journey as new parents, guiding and listening, holding and consoling.  Her help has ranged from the practical-- showing hubby how to bathe a newborn-- to the philosophical.  We've had many long discussions about the benefits of breastfeeding, sleep sharing, and gentle discipline.

My mom also embodied the safety net of family when she uprooted her life and came to live with us in Las Vegas when the babies were born.  She stayed for the better part of two months, leaving just once, then jetting back when Jack ended up in the hospital and I had a shattering crisis of faith in myself as a mother.  She whispered softly to me as I gingerly gathered the pieces of myself up and began reassembling them into the woman I am today.

Then, when it became clear to everyone that Mom had to go back to her home and resume her life, I asked her to take us with her.  And she did.  She and my dad opened their house to us-- daughter, son-in-law, and brand new colicky newborn twin grandsons.  We recklessly (bravely?) abandoned our life in Vegas for the comfort and security of raising our sons with family.

These are just the most recent and magnificent examples of how my mom has shown me what it means to be a mother.  I've been watching her and absorbing these lessons all my life.

She has shown me how to be a gentle and capable mother by being one herself.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things's relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can't imagine parenting without her husband's sense of humor - he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can't imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs "me time" in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer's Daughter doesn't appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn't imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It's More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can't imagine parenting without her breasts; here's why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family's needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama's next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn't even know you needed (and probably don't…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn't survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it's afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren't things at all.
  • I'm No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without...Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can't imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it's not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn't easy at first, Knocked Up - Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can't live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What "stuff" does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I'm a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship...and made life easier to boot.
  • It's Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can't imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin' Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us...
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter's perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles - come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oh, look!

I am really excited to have some of my writing featured at The Natural Parents Network!   

There's a piece about setting yourself up to succeed, which is an expansion of a post I wrote here.

There's also a small article about how Gus and Jack's baptism integrated them into our church as the smallest parishioners.

And finally, Stacey over at Is There Any Mommy Out There included some advice I gave her on reading with your kindergartener.  (I'm an elementary school teacher by profession... and will be again someday!)

I started blogging as a way to connect with other mamas, and I am so honored to see my words on such fabulous sites.  Please check them out!