Co-sleeping, How I Survive

imagePeople have co-slept as long as the human race has existed. Babies didn’t have their own separate mud huts, they stayed near mom at all times. Warmth, protection, there were many reasons to not let your infant leave your side. Of course today our circumstances are different. It is highly unlikely a wolf will sneak into your baby’s room and devour it in the night, and we live in comfortably climate controlled homes. Personally, I had resolved to use the crib when my babies arrived. I valiantly declared they would sleep on their own. My own mother, who co-slept all three of her girls, patiently helped me set the crib up beautifully with baby sheets and bumpers, smiling a quiet little smile as I adamantly insisted my babies would only sleep in their bassinets or the crib.

imageWell, my babies finally arrived one day. Not surprisingly, they didn’t like the cold plastic bassinets at the hospital. (Who would when your previous residence had been a warm squishy womb!) We brought them home from the hospital, celebrated our triumphant return as a family of four with a meal my mother had lovingly prepared and got ready for our first night at home. We tucked our tiny new members snugly into their vibrating, rocking bassinets and prepared ourselves to sleep.image

Now, newborns wake up a lot, but that first night our little babies didn’t sleep at all. Not even a five minute stretch. The minute their tiny bodies touched the bassinets they would begin to wail. We were desperate, in a haze we wondered if this up all night routine would be our lives the next few months. I still get PTSD from that first night when I hear the bassinets whirring.

The following night while nursing them I realized as long as they were near us, touching us, they would sleep. Of course they woke up to eat but they would at least sleep a little. After my 24 hour holdout, I brought them into our bed. Of course they didn’t immediately start sleeping for long periods of time, but they slept. And that was all I asked for. We tried a few more times to let them sleep in their bassinets but to no avail. They calmed instantly when near us, and it seemed absurd to insist to these tiny beings they couldn’t be with us for comfort when that was all they asked for.image

Nowadays, they sleep like angels. They wake a few times a night to eat, and since I sleep between them I simply flop back and forth. One latches, we both snooze off. The other one wakes, I flip over, they latch, we snooze off. Sometimes they wake up simply because they want an arm wrapped around them. And since they’re right there, it’s easy to do. My mom never said I told you so, just smiled a quiet smile when I announced the babies were in our bed to stay.

imageAnd I don’t regret it a moment. Given a choice of trucking across the house multiple times a night for feedings or waking periodically for cuddles, let me tell you, cuddles win every time. With my twins eating the way they do, I would spend less time in my bed than I would walking back and forth though the house. Cuddles aside, I credit my sanity to our decision to co-sleep. No, it hasn’t ruined my marriage. My husband and I are even excited for the day we add more wee ones to our brood and our bed becomes even more full. And yes, my children will one day sleep in their own beds. I hope that day takes a while to get here, I don’t know what I’ll do without their soft cheeks, midnight hugs and sweet hair to smell.

Nap Strikes

imageI’m quite certain everyone with a child has experienced it, the infamous nap strike. Occasionally my little ones will resolve to avoid sleep at all costs. Eyes become bleary, voices raise, arms and legs flail and tempers stretch thin. Normally a walk in the stroller or carrier will resolve the nap strike, but yesterday they put up an exceptional fight. Five hours in, and my little girl was stubbornly still wide awake. Now, five hours is a VERY long time to be awake when you are about four months old. As seen in the set of her tiny furrowed brow, she wasn’t pleased with the way things were going at all.image

When my little ones go on a nap strike, they won’t eat, they won’t soothe, and they definitely won’t sleep. It’s not an ideal state for any of us. Yesterday I was especially motivated to get them to sleep as Auntie Hayley was coming into town and I was very hopeful she could see her darling niece and nephew in their normal, more pleasant state, not the whirling dervishes that were currently inhabiting my stroller.

Auntie Hayley arrived, adorable baby clothing goodies and protein snacks in hand, and while my son had thankfully dozed off, my daughter was still in adamant Sleep Refusal. Her joy at seeing Aunt Hayley overtook her bad mood, and while she still wouldn’t sleep, as long as she was being carried by her aunt she was happy.

imageWe took off for another walk to the store, and by the time we returned my poor little girl was at the end of her sleepless rope. I sent my husband a terse text, “SHE WONT SLEEP”. Valiant daddy that he is, he immediately left his studies and somehow got her to sleep in a matter of moments.

The rest of the afternoon went quite smoothly, playtime was had and my tiny son performed one more small attempt to continue the nap strike, complete with heart breaking lip quiver and tears, but succumbed once again to the soothing vibrations of the stroller. Aunt Hayley returned home to everyone’s disappointment, and bedtime was remarkably uneventful, to everyone’s relief.

Baby Acrobatics

Of all the wonderful aspects of parenting multitasking is an area in which you are guaranteed almost constant practice. One example would be taking a shower while home alone. (I highly recommend bouncy seats for this endeavor.) Before children, showers were not nearly so exciting. Now I simultaneously scrub, sing, (this is the way we shave our armpits, shave our armpits, shave our armpits) make crazy faces and reach out with a careful toe to bounce the seat when someone gets worried where mommy is, all while reassuring my wee ones ‘mommy is almost done! Just one more armpit!’.

My husband calls it Baby Acrobatics, as seen here in this pic of him bouncing one baby, holding the stroller with a foot and shielding the other baby from the sun for a diaper change.

We are getting quite accomplished with Baby Acrobatics. At bed time we are a well oiled machine, one changes a diaper while another fastens pajamas, trade babies! Now turn down the bed swaddle that baby hand over the other, turn on the mobile and turn off the light. All while carrying on a conversation that is frequently interrupted with my husband stopping to sing a soothing bit of a song when a tired baby starts to fuss. Meal preparations, eating, bedtime, phone calls, multitasking has become the norm at our house. Need me to make a phone call? No problem! Just let me bounce this baby/feed that cat/chop that carrot while I do.

Occasionally I will set the play gyms or bouncy seats in the kitchen instead of wearing the babies to avoid spattering one with hot oil or having them near while shredding cheese or other dangerous cooking tasks.


During these times I can find at least two pairs of eyes on me at all times due to the babies and whichever cats have joined us. Cooking becomes a speedy rotation of head pats, tummy tickles, repressing mobile buttons and shaking toys. ‘Oh, you sound busy’, says the person on the phone. ‘Shall we talk later?’ No not to worry, later I will be washing diapers, scrubbing heads, slathering lotion and singing lullabies.  Busy? Always. But I love it.

Saying No

 One of the biggest lessons I am learning as a parent is how to organize my priorities. A big, giant chunk of this involves learning to say no. Not just to other people, but most often to myself. I have realized that many things that were very important to me must become less important in favor of my children. A dear friend recently said to me, ‘I didn’t realize how selfish I was until I had children’.

I’ve never considered myself to be a selfish person, in fact I have often had to work on ever putting myself before others or tasks. In short, saying no has been very hard. And, until recently, this seemed in my mind to be a non-selfish personality trait. But having children has greatly changed my perspective on this.  Who benefits from saying yes to every engagement to make myself look good? Who appreciates that the dishes only sat in the sink for five minutes? I’m the first to admit that I’m an obsessive clean freak. But. At the end of the day, the dishes don’t need me to be their hero. My pants will last to be washed another day. That makeup lesson can be taught just as well next week. Today, my children need me to be their hero. They need those five minutes of us staring into each other’s eyes.

It sounds so cliche, ‘I had to learn to leave the mess to spend time with my kids’. But I have. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to walk away from the messy bookshelf to read a story, to leave the pile of laundry to share a giggle. I want to be SuperMom. I want the laundry always clean and folded, the floors always sparkling, dinner always made. And some days, I do get it all done. I get up early, they sleep, and it all comes together. And then some days it doesn’t. I have to remind myself it’s ok if we eat nachos again, and the laundry will eventually get folded.

I chose to bring these beautiful little people into the world, and putting their needs first is not just a privilege I now have, but a responsibility. At the end of the day, my daughter and son need me to be all I can be for them. And if I have already given everything to other people, or tasks, and have nothing left of myself, how can I have enough left for them?

Learning to say no doesn’t mean living life in isolation, saying no to every coffee date and turning down every opportunity to help friends and family. I don’t need to live in a dirty hovel of a house and wear stinky clothes every day. But it does mean making the right choice when something has to be sacrificed, and making the choice that doesn’t compromise myself or my children. That spot on the floor will still be there tomorrow.

Personal space, or Baby Defense 101

imageIf you have a child, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Walking into a store with a baby is very much like dropping a magnet into a pool of metal shards. Suddenly, there are people in your face, in your baby’s face, and they seem to all have a story to tell. Some stories are sweet and short, some stories are, well, not so sweet and seem destined to last until the world ends. And the touching! Why do people think it’s ok to paw at my baby’s face, hands, and other parts?! I mean, yes I know my baby is cute and I’m sure you’re a real nice person, but no I’m not ok with you fondling my little one! They can’t exactly fend you off at this point, so I will.

I’ve already mastered the art of the nod/smile/walk quickly backwards while defending my babes with my arms/legs/shopping cart. And the questions! With twins, I’ve been asked everything from ‘are they identical’ (no…they’re boy and girl…) to ‘did you use fertility treatments’ to ‘you had twins, on purpose?!’. (Ummm….really?!). Yes, walk into a Whole Foods with a double stroller and everyone looks at you as if you’re single handedly ruining everyone’s carbon footprint. (Hey, I breastfeed AND cloth diaper, thank you very much).

I have decided that an important part of parenting is How to Defend your Baby in a Public Place. Just the other day, my mom and I were checking out of a Natural Grocers, each carrying a baby. The cashier asked with an expression of shock, ‘how close did you have them together?! How far apart are they?! How did you do that?!’ I stood in stunned silence, thankfully my mom had the presence of mind to reply in cool tones, ‘They’re two minutes apart, they’re TWINS’. I know my boy is a little bigger than my girl, but not that much bigger for goodness sake! Yes lady, I got pregnant while 2 months pregnant and gave birth twice in a span of weeks. While I was processing all this, another cashier approached, arms out, repeatedly asking to hold my girl. Are you serious?! Lady I don’t know you from Adam no you can’t hold my baby! We checked out and almost ran backwards out of that store.

I will admit before babies I wasn’t very good at confrontation. However, having little ones who depend entirely on me for protection has done wonderful things for my backbone. While you might get away with offending me and invading my personal space, invade my kids space and my claws come out. My baby can’t tell you that you’re making them uncomfortable, or that they feel violated. So, until they’re old enough to tell people themselves, (so maybe 25?) I will absolutely be telling people for them.

 

 

 

Regarding Bedtime, or the Lack Thereof

imageIll be the first to admit bedtime is rather unorthodox in our house. Nap times also follow a more casual pattern, my little ones tend to do the ‘plop and drop’, rather than regularly scheduled naps. I do make certain that if they don’t sleep we at least do quiet time every hour and a half, as I have discovered going much longer than that without rest results in an acute case of windmill mode. Occasionally one or the other, (or both) will go on a nap strike despite my efforts and the dire and unfortunate state of windmill mode ensues.

Due to my teaching schedule, we eat dinner pretty late. Our usual evening schedule consists of dinner after 8pm, making an early bedtime for the kiddos very difficult if we hope to have any family time at all. After I finish teaching, we feed, change and put the babies in their jammies, sometimes giving them a quick bath. They both then usually fall asleep near us in their bouncy seats, leaving us a few quiet moments to eat dinner and catch up on the day. We all four go to bed at the same time. Diapers are changed for the last time, we swaddle them up, and they both nurse to sleep. Swaddling was something we introduced later, our first attempt was not well received by my itty bitties, (think full fledged screaming rebellion). Now they love it, it has an instant calming effect and it is an important part of our little bedtime routine. I don’t have a very set routine, we try to read a story before they pass out and we nurse and cuddle to sleep, but that’s about it.

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Now, bedtime is different for every family, and you have do what works for you. Last week I had a wave of mama guilt that perhaps I should be having the babies to sleep at a certain time every night, and that maybe my lack of bedtime routine was setting us all up for disaster. I chose a night in which I didn’t teach as late, and we did bathtime, story time, and to bed by 8pm. At first, they crashed into what appeared to be a deep sleep. However, a mere 15 minutes later, bright, eager little eyes were darting around the room and smiles and giggles were growing in volume. I got back into bed and nursed them to sleep again. A little bit later, the wiggles started and my tiny wrapped munchkins were wide awake again. (I do highly recommend this process if you desire to get your daily workout in while trying to get your babies to sleep. Up, down, into bed, out of bed. Repeat).

This process continued for over the next few hours, when they finally fell asleep for good. (Or at least for the next two hours). They woke up unusually early the next day and with a major case of Cranky Baby-itis.  (Mama also had an equally major case of  Cranky Mama-itis).

After pondering the failure of our attempted bedtime, I realized I could either commit to this process and keep at it until they learned the habit and it worked, or I could continue with our current routine which is working great. They go to sleep at some time before 10, they fall asleep fast and stay asleep, and then stay in bed until usually after 9 with a quick nursing snack or two. They wake up full of smiles and in the most wonderful moods. Thus, I determined that, at least for now, a strict bedtime was not something I deemed worthy of the effort. I get up early in the morning while they’re sleeping and that gives me a little time to accomplish some house chores and work, etc. I do like that my children seem to be learning flexibility in scheduling, and as they grow older hopefully won’t have their balance completely upset when we have events, go traveling, etc.

Will this routine continue working? I don’t know, as I said before parenting is a constantly changing learning process. I do know it worked for my parents and my sisters, and I love that growing up, while we always got our needed sleep, we also got to watch fireworks and roast marshmallows and have many experiences a strict bedtime would not have permitted us to partake in. I hope to be able for my own children to have those experiences, I know they were a huge important part of my childhood. And of course, what works for babies today may not work tomorrow, and hence why my personal mama playbook is an ongoing source of discovery.

Don’t sleep through the night

People often ask me if my babies are sleeping through the night yet. No, I reply, and I’m totally ok with that. Those nighttime feedings are so precious to me, sweet sleepy eyes, tiny coos and soft smiles, little fingers reaching for mine. Of course sometimes they wake up crying, and no I don’t remember the last night I slept more than two consecutive hours, but it’s ok. I’m not ready to let go of those little moments through the night yet. Waking up to little arms and mouths reaching, knowing they only woke up because they need you, is a feeling that cannot be compared.

So no, they’re not sleeping through the night yet. None of us are ready for that.

It’s a walk in the park! Or not

Yesterday, my sweet twins and I joined up with our dear friend, The Mama Pad and her darling Baby N for a walk in the park. We’ve had unseasonably beautiful weather, and I was eager to see Mama Pad and her son and get the twins and I out for some vitamin D. The babies were all decked out in their newly acquired scarves and we headed out the door.image image

 The drive to the park was uneventful, even peaceful, albeit we were running late as usual. Since both twins were sleeping I elected to take the double stroller and pack my TwinGo. Mama Pad was patiently awaiting our arrival, we grabbed coffee and headed to walk.

Now, pushing a double stroller isn’t the most graceful event, especially while trying to carry an overly full coffee. Less than a minute into our stroll I had somehow managed to spill coffee all the way up and down my left side, leading me to wonder why in the world I chose a white shirt. Uneasy sounds were starting to emit from the stroller and before I could stop thanks to a well placed kick our precious musical giraffe from Grammy had flown out of the stroller and I had run over its neck. I stopped in horror, that giraffe gets us through car rides, walks and baths. To my immense relief it was still blissfully singing Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring, I put it back in the stroller and we continued on. The sounds of displeasure from the stroller were increasing in volume and we determined a nursing stop was required.

We found a lovely bench by the lake to park our strollers, and I proceeded to try and feed my little ones. Having checked the weather before I left the house and seen a forecast of 70 degrees, I foolishly chose to not bring the babies jackets. It was windy, it was bright, my babies were not pleased. Thankfully, Mama Pad and Baby N are wonderfully calm, peaceful friends, and remained a source of serene support as I tried to bop, bounce and nurse my screechlings. Eventually everyone calmed down enough for us to resume our strolling, and we got a beautiful few minutes before I remarked on the peace and quiet, and of course my baby boy woke up then, cranky and hungry.

However, to my delight Mama Pad taught me the art of carrier feeding, and I managed to stroll along with my tiny son eating away hidden from the world. Thankfully he went to sleep after eating, as my little girl woke up in a state of great displeasure. Poor little thing, it hasn’t been her week. Diaper changes, attempted feeding, nothing was calming her down. We eventually made it back to the car, where patient Mama Pad held her own equally patient Baby N and my poor shrieking babe while I frantically threw everything into my car. Thank heavens my baby boy was still sleeping, I transferred him to his car seat and then attempted to sing and soothe my very wrought little daughter until she finally calmed down enough to eat. She kept falling asleep and I attempted to gingerly place her in her car seat, but she wasn’t having it. Every time her tiny bum touched the seat blood curdling screams would ensue and I would snatch her back out and start the soothing/feeding process again. I considered calling my husband and telling him we were going to live at the park now as I literally couldn’t get home, but she finally was able to stay asleep and we blasted home in a cloud of dust and Ode de la Baby Puke.

imageMy dear husband presented me with tea with an encouragement sticker when I returned home. I changed and fed the babies and determined to take another walk to do groceries with the hubs in the hope that the babies would finally sleep peacefully, which they did. We returned home with mama sunburned but everyone in a much better mood.

Next was bath time, something my daughter lives for and my son tolerates. I do love our latest bath toy, and we now no longer have tears (at least while in the tub).

Bath times always brings about a blissful nap, and I determined a little wine was required to go with our nachos. I felt it to be quite indicative of the day when I failed to get the wine into my mouth and it joined the coffee I had previously splashed most decorously on myself. Eventually dinner was done, my precious babies were wrapped and sleeping peacefully, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I was no longer covered in coffee, wine and baby spit and the only crying I would hear for the next few hours would be in my head.

Wear those babies! Or, how I ever get anything done

imageHaving twins presented me with an interesting daily challenge. Not only are there many times throughout the day they both need soothed at the same time, (and, while possible, holding both at the same time is difficult and somewhat exhausting), once in a while the laundry must be done and something for dinner besides peanut butter toast is lovely.

imageWhen they first arrived, I tried wearing them both in a Moby wrap. This would last a maximum of 3o minutes, as even from the beginning neither of my babies liked their heads being pinned down. I would have a brief, blissful shot at blasting around the house getting things done before the screams would begin, and I would have to frantically attempt to extricate all three of our sweaty bodies from the wrap as fast as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many ways to wear babies and many different wraps, and I look forward to exploring those as the twins get older. But there are only so many ways to  carry bobble headed babies, and they didn’t like what I had tried thus far.

Needless to say, frustration ensued. I attempted bungling together a couple different carriers I had been given in a sort of homemade back front carry situation, but it always ended in me being smashed and my babies being uncomfortable. And uncomfortable babies cry, not good.

I determined if I was to successfully soothe both babies throughout the day, let alone ever get anything accomplished again, something must be done. We conducted careful research and determined the TwinGo carrier had to be our next acquisition. Several factors led to our decision, the TwinGo had amazing reviews, it had the promise of longevity of use as it would hold the babies until they were very likely too old to want to be carried, and it could be used as both a double carrier and as single carriers when we were both out with the babies. (Or, when Grammy was around and wanted to carry a wee one). I also loved that it was designed by a mother of twins. So, we bit the bullet and ordered one. Thanks to Amazon prime, our carrier arrived in the mail full of promise a mere couple of days later. (I know, I just really love Amazon).

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At first, the babies were not convinced. What was this thing and why was I stuffing them in it?! But after a few minutes of fussing they both fell fast asleep. And without fail, (short of being hungry or having a diaper situation) they will both sleep and hang out happily while I run errands, take out the trash, wash dishes, vacuum, etc. In great excitement I called to show my family on FaceTime. Game. Changer! Watch me work! Now when they’re fussy I can cuddle them both, all while making dinner or putting away the laundry.

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In short, I highly recommend the TwinGo. It is a lot like two Ergo carriers combined into one double carrier. Super comfy and supportive for parent and babies, breathable, and easy to use. (Even I can figure out how to attach it!). It’s also possible to carry kiddos of different sizes for those wanting to carry siblings. So far, our TwinGo has been vital to household chores, errands, general walks around the neighborhood, and my own sanity. Stand by, as I know I will have more adventures of twin carrying to share soon!

Errands, well planned chaos?

imageGetting out of the house and in and out of stores has become a bit more challenging these days. I will readily admit that if it were both possible and economically reasonable I would probably order everything online and have it delivered to my door step. And by everything, I mean, everything. Is it possible to have a smooth trip running around town doing errands wth babies in tow? Of course! But, mildly put, today was not that day.

The fact is, most of the time my errands consist of speedy, sometimes loud and often chaotic, dashes in and out of stores. No longer do I walk the aisles, I bounce up and down them in an effort to soothe fussy babes, all while trying to remember why I went down that aisle in the first place. When the cashier asks the typical, “did you find everything ok?” I survey the pile of groceries that multiplied in a seemingly miraculous manner, “oh yes…” I reply, wondering why exactly I thought I needed 7 bags of cheese. Then the dreaded, “did you bring your own bags?” I respond with an embarrassed “well yes but no because I left them right inside the door as I was dashing my twins one by one to the car in a desperate effort to finally get out the door but don’t worry I will recycle these”. The cashier nods in a condescending manner, as if they’ve heard this story many times before. I want to say, look lady, YOU try remembering bags on your way out the door with two babies but instead I just smile and know that one day if they have children, they too will forget their bags at times.

Today my husband came with me for errands, and having two people wrangling two babies undeniably makes it infinitely easier. But even that cannot prevent the chaos that insists on presenting itself at times. Knowing well the baby hunger game, I fed and diaper changed both babies in the car immediately before attempting the quick shopping we had to do. This entailed popping into one store for some bandana baby bibs I been coveting, (ha, like I “pop” in and out of anywhere these days),  grabbing a few groceries and some food for the cats. Despite having been fed less than five minutes previously, my little girl decided to wail her heart out incessantly the minute I put her in the carrier, and no, I am not one of those blissfully talented souls who can feed in the baby carrier. My baby boy, who was being carried by my husband, was on one of his infamous ‘nap strikes’ and had also begun crying inconsolably.

We briefly considered throwing in the towel and going home, but decided since we were already there, to brave it and just go for it. And let me tell you, if you think people don’t look at you enough with twins, try walking around with WAILING twins. One bonus, folks do tend to let you cut in line at the cashier, probably out of a desire to have the screaming go away. You know what’s fun? Bouncing, shushing, and trying to check out all at once. It’s great fun, really. You can imagine the looks on the cashiers faces.

We did all make it home in one piece, the babies resumed their more cheerful demeanors, and all was far more calm than just an hour before. We had survived the outing and the nosy fellow shoppers who all forget the concept of personal space the minute they see a baby, but that is another story for another day.