I Gave Birth to a Cling-on?! Or, The Fourth Trimester

img_1332Being a new mom is exhausting. (To put it mildly…!) Crying babies are stressful, and as I explained to my loving patient husband after multiple times of yelling at him for no reason as my babies cried, us women literally have a physiological reaction to our babies wails. Our milk lets down, we sweat, heart rates elevate and our natural biological response is to respond to our babies. Thus, when our baby is crying and we cannot figure out why, it is obscenely stressful. We are programmed to answer our offsprings needs, and when they are young they have one way of communicating their needs, and that is crying. You can safely assume that if your baby is crying, they have a legitimate need. They’re hungry, scared, cold, perhaps something hurts (colic anyone?) but they will not cry to manipulate or because they are selfish. A baby cannot be selfish or manipulative, they simply do not have that extensive of an understanding of the world.

When I brought my twins home, I did not plan at first on co-sleeping (read more on that in a previous post, click here). That decision changed the second night of their being earthside, and it is without fail one of the best parenting choices I have made to date. As I said in that earlier post, the minute I would set my babies down they would scream as if they were on fire. Now, I understand why. Thankfully I had my own parents loving example to follow in attachment parenting and thus when things ‘weren’t working’ with my wee ones I was confident to change them. fullsizerenderLet me elaborate. Have you heard of the fourth trimester? I hadn’t. The fourth trimester is the months that follow a baby’s birth. No one, not my nurses, not my midwife, not the pediatrician for darn sure, NO ONE mentioned to me anything about this fourth trimester business. Let me try to explain this succinctly. Up until birth, your baby had zero unmet needs. They weren’t hungry, they weren’t cold, they weren’t afraid, absolutely nothing required them to communicate their needs. Suddenly, that all changed. In a split second they went from a warm dark place where they were quite literally connected to you, to a bright, cold, foreign space where not only are they no longer attached to you, but they get hungry, they get uncomfortable, and you know what, THEY DONT UNDERSTAND. They have no way of grasping what has happened. Suddenly things hurt, they’re alone, and it’s terrifying. So they do the only thing they know how, they CRY.

fullsizerender-3And our culture expects this scared little human to be ok sleeping alone in a crib/cot/bassinet and new mamas are left questioning what on earth they’re doing wrong because their new little charge won’t sleep or stop crying! Mamas, you are doing NOTHING wrong! Your baby is crying because it wants YOU. They want to feel safe, fed, and CONNECTED. Your uterus was a lot more welcoming than the softest blanket on earth could ever be. There is nothing wrong with your baby because it looks to you for protection and nourishment 24/7. And the nicest, warmest, softest cot can not replace your beating heart and the smell of your skin, no matter if it sways, vibrates, sings or flies. You are truly the only thing your baby knows. That baby does not need to learn independence right now, independence is born out of confidence and confidence is born out of knowing their needs will be met. And they learn that their needs will be met when you answer their cries. No, you won’t be able to prevent their crying altogether. And some times you may have to put your baby in a safe place so you can pee, or cry yourself for a moment. Babies want to be touching you constantly, and yes it’s exhausting! And sometimes you just need to take a second and BREATHE. And they may cry. But setting them down briefly, that is different, that is an exception! That is not training them that their needs are insignificant.

img_0633In addition to cosleeping, I started wearing my babies. And things became infinitely easier. They slept on me while I made dinner, or did grocery shopping. And no, they didn’t stop crying altogether. They didn’t magically fall asleep every time. But because I was holding them, at least I knew that I was trying to answer their pleas for help. I wasn’t ignoring their cries, even if I couldn’t always prevent them. I wasn’t teaching them that their needs didn’t matter. When a baby cries and is ignored, they learn they don’t matter. They learn their needs will not be met. I fail to understand how that is a recipe for raising a confident human being.img_0634

It is infinitely frustrating to me that this concept of teaching our babies to function without mama is portrayed as necessary to being a ‘good’ parent. Human babies are born more dependent and helpless than any other species, and yet we are the only species that tries to force them to be ok without their mamas so early. And in doing so, many mamas are left feeling that they are failing, or that something is wrong with their baby because they won’t succumb to this cultural expectation. I cannot tell you how many times I had someone tell me, ‘eventually you have to let them cry’, or ‘you’re spoiling them, they won’t ever sleep alone’, or my favorite as someone told my husband, ‘stop babying them’. Stop babying them?! They’re BABIES for the love of all that’s holy! I hate the blame game that is played, somehow in our culture it becomes the mothers responsibility to teach their child that they don’t need them. Yes, you read that correctly. Mothers are expected to teach their babies that babies don’t need their mothers. And no, it makes zero sense.

fullsizerender-2It wont last forever. One day your tiny little cling-on won’t want to be attached 24/7, you will pee in peace, and they will sleep in their own beds. And they will do so when they are ready, and armed with the confidence that they are safe. As painful as it may be to consider the fact that one day my babies won’t need me as they do anymore, I want my children to grow up to be confident people who know who they are and go into the world empowered, people who can make a change in their world because their own is a solid one and they are strong in knowing who they are. And I personally believe that teaching them that who they are matters, that it is ok for their needs to be met, is crucial to them developing into confident, kind, empathetic strong human beings. It is hard to see another persons needs as important if you never believed your own needs to be important.

So mamas, hang in there and hold those babies close, don’t feel like a failure because they won’t sleep without you, or because they cry when you go out of sight. Be confident and know that although it’s hard (especially some days!) you are teaching your baby that they matter, that they are important, and that will never be something you regret.img_1333

Don’t Take My Babies

imageEver since time began, in many cultures, babies have simply just been with their mamas, whether that meant going to work or staying home. Wrapped on their mamas backs with cloth, or perhaps strapped on in a basket, depending on where they were from, it wasn’t considered weird or out of place that if you had a baby, they would be with you, wherever you went. Our current culture not only doesn’t support that line of thinking, but in my experience downright discourages it. There is immense pressure on women to return to work as soon as possible postpartum, and it’s practically unheard of that your child would be anywhere near you after you resume working.

imageAs I have mentioned before, due to financial reasons I went back to teaching when my twins were three weeks old. And I kept them with me while I taught. Did they cause disruptions? Of course they did at times, they are BABIES. But they learned to adapt, I wore them or had them nearby and we found our groove. As I taught long hours, I was ever so blessed to have my wonderful amazing parents to help, (mamas need their villages!) and sometimes they would stroll them or just play with them in another room to give them a break, but they were never apart from me for more than an hour. The majority of my student parents were understanding, but some were not. I received all manner of interesting feedback, ranging from “how do you focus” to “but really when will you put them in daycare? Don’t you want a break?” A break? I was working anyway. And I waited all my life for these kids. Why would I want to send them away? I want to raise my babies, I want to soothe their cries, see their smiles, watch their first steps. I’m going to blink and they will be off to college, and then they won’t be my babies anymore. imageAnd I need to work. I need to help provide for my family. I find it extremely frustrating that our society makes it difficult, and most of the time impossible, to merge the two.

I’m blessed to work for myself, it made it possible for me to make the decision that I would “bring” my babies to work. Not all women are so fortunate. Imagine bringing your baby to the average desk job, you’d be fired faster than a blink. Why is that?! I understand high risk jobs, places that are unsafe to have a child, but why can’t we as a society make it possible for parents to both support their families and raise their children themselves? Personally, I think it’s sad. You can’t even be in the same room as your child if you work at most day cares. What is that even about?! My husband and I recently moved back home to live with my parents for a while so we could cut our workweek down and have weekends off as a family (this subject merits two other posts, a hilarious one on living in a tiny house with six adults two babies and a cat/dog zoo, and an angry post on how ridiculous it is to make a living these days, standby for future postings). Being a piano teacher I am working on rebuilding my studio after our move, which takes time. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing odd jobs, one of which has been sign shaking on the street for my Aunt’s women’s gym. Definitely not a job I’d choose as a career path, but it’s been helping pay our bills for now. imageAnd I have my babies with me, in my wonderful TwinGo carrier. (If you have two small children, you need this carrier, just trust me). But back to the sign shaking. It’s exhausting waving a sign and carrying around 40 pounds of babies. For this admittedly out of shape mama, it’s meant sore muscles and aching back. But my point in discussing this is the reaction I’ve gotten from people.

Yes, I’ve been called a hero, applauded, sympathized with and encouraged. But I’ve also been the ever so fortuitous recipient of shocked looks, incredulity, and even harsh judgment. One lady went so far as to lean out of her car and scream horrible unkind words. “What kind of mother has her children out on the street?!” she shrieked, didn’t I know they were in the sun?! What I wished I had said was that I was doing whatever it took to put food on the table for my family, that my children were scrupulously sunscreened and at least they were at the one place in the world they wanted to be, with their mommy. Sadly I am never good in the moment and instead of answering her back I retreated hastily behind a tree to hide my tears. Yes, it’s hot out there. I’m careful to give them breaks and they’re not getting heat stroke. How many thousands of children in this world have survived strapped on their mamas back while working in the fields?! But having your children at work? Socially unacceptable, frowned upon, and shamed. Recently I’ve been applying for nanny positions in the effort of providing for my family while my studio rebuilds. And I have been TURNED DOWN for childcare positions because, wait for it…I would HAVE MY OWN CHILDREN WITH ME. I literally have had people fail to understand why I don’t have my children in childcare while I provide childcare to others. Y’all, that is weird. It just is.

And lately I’ve taken my own humble pill. I fully admit to my hatred of being invited to selling parties. No I don’t want to buy your candles/leggings/nail polish. But I have realized lately that most of these invitations are coming from mamas who are trying desperately to make an income without leaving their children. My mom and I started selling children’s books and in the next month will also be doing essential oils. Both are topics I am passionate on, and I have been frustrated by how many doors have been slammed in our faces. It’s meant for a “come to Jesus” moment for me. No longer will I fume at your party invites, I get it. I get how hard it is to be able to both work and be with your children.image

Imagine a world where not only did mamas get adequate maternity leave, but once they resumed work their children simply came with. What would that change? For pumping mamas, you could continue typing that email while sticking a baby on your boob. It could mean no longer choosing between taking a family weekend or paying for childcare that week. Would there be more interruptions in workflow? Of course. Would it mean an all over higher level of happiness for mom and baby and thus better life quality and work output overall? Could it positively affect the drastic rise in women experiencing postpartum depression? (Oh PPD, yet another topic on which I am passionate and will write about…)

What would it change for you mamas? Share your stories, maybe, just maybe, one day we can even make being a mama mainstream (again).

 

Let’s Run Errands, or Not

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As a mother of five month old twins I find getting out the door to do errands a sometimes mountain sized challenge. Let’s just say I order everything possible via the internet for a reason. Efficiency is key once at the store, baby nerves wear thin fast when being snatched in and out of car seats and dashed through stores. I am certain their nerves reflect mine as we weave our way through curious fellow shoppers and attempt to more or less politely fend off the never ending barrage of questions from persistent folks. I set out to do my errands the other day, whisked my children away from their toys with which they were playing peacefully and prepared to stuff everyone into car seats.

imageEfficiency being foremost in my mind, I made certain I was set up for success. The car was loaded with reusable bags, car seats loaded with baby toys, diaper bag packed and at the ready. I was clad appropriately in mom shorts and nursing scarf and already wearing my baby carrier to avoid parking lot delays. Babies were fed and diapered with stuffed toys in hand and I began my first attempt at loading us all into the car. This was cut abruptly short as my little boy valiantly filled his diaper. Back to the changing table we went for a fast change. Not to be outdone, my little girl promptly filled her diaper. imageChanges complete, the hungry fussing began and I realized it was either take the time for a quick feeding or listen to screams all the way to the store. Feedings done, one more diaper change, and we were finally in the car and on our way with my poor sister in tow. By this point, the wind was screeching and getting from car to store was a challenge in and of itself. I hastily tucked my wee ones into the carrier and stroller and imagedashed into the grocery store.

In my rush, I dropped my bank card into the unzipped carrier pocket after checking out and then promptly forgot about it. We dashed to our next location, with one frantic stop at a light to give my hysterical little boy our trusty singing giraffe. I leapt back in the car still sporting my baby carrier and realized to my horror I had never taken my bank card out of the still open, and now empty, carrier pocket. I jumped back out of the car and frantically scoured the ground for my card, it was nowhere to be seen.

Back in the car and on our way to our next destination, I began to furiously berate myself that my brand new (very recently replaced due to having lost it twice recently before) shiny card was no doubt in repose at the last parking lot we had just left. I shot off a terse text to my husband, ‘LOST BANK CARD’, and as by now the babies were crying and hungry we all sat in the parking lot while I fed them and alternated singing quietly to the babies and vehemently scourging myself. So much for buying baby toys! I cried hysterically. Now we had to trek ALL the way across town AGAIN! My groceries were going to spoil, not to mention my card was lying around in a parking lot. Back to the grocery store we raced, and miraculously, my card was still there. My sister graciously allowed me to drop her and the groceries at home, and the babies and I were at last able to get the coveted toys. Next time, I’m just ordering them from Amazon.image

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!