Thursday, September 25, 2014

The right formula


I've debated for a long time about sharing this, but I've decided that it might help people who are in my situation.

Like most moms, I had a plan for how I would feed my babies. I had always heard that breastfeeding was best for the baby and helped the mom lose the weight quicker. I knew how expensive formula was from my years working in a grocery store, and I figured I'd probably have to supplement with twins — but I planned to breastfeed them as long as possible.

And then life happened. Henry and Norah came more than two months early, way before we expected them, and my body was completely out of whack. Not only was I recovering from the HELLP syndrome and trying to keep food down, I was an emotional wreck. I felt guilty about not being able to carry my babies longer, I worried about them in the NICU, and I was terrified about going home from the hospital and not being right there to see them.

When the lactation nurse came in a couple days after they were born and explained how to use the breast pump and told me I needed to pump every three hours to get used to nursing (once it was safe for them to be out of their incubators long enough), I was overwhelmed.

I pumped every three hours except for a few hours a night and visited the NICU at least twice a day, taking the tiny bit of milk I was getting each time so the nurses could feed it to Henry and Norah via a tube. The nurses were reassuring at first, telling me that I'd be getting more milk soon, and it was fine because my babies were only eating about 10 ml every three hours.

Of course, they got bigger and needed much more than 10 ml each feeding, but my body simply wasn't producing that. I still pumped every three hours, juggling NICU visits and then work — and I got more and more anxious and depressed that I couldn't feed my babies and wasn't producing any more than before.

I tried holding Henry and Norah skin to skin and getting them to latch, but they were so tiny and still weren't developed enough to know how to suck. While I loved feeling them snuggled against me, they hardly got any milk and ended up frustrated and hungry — which made me frustrated and miserable.

We worried about them getting too agitated and spitting up their food. Fortunately, they were learning to suck formula from a bottle and growing quickly on that, and we were feeding them the tiny bit of breast milk I pumped from bottles as well.

Everyone has a solution when you mention that you're not able to breastfeed. Nurses recommended without recommending (because they're not allowed to recommend vitamins and supplements that are not regulated by the FDA) fenugreek, and I drank cups and cups of mother's milk herbal tea. I was trying to drink plenty of fluids and eat well. Nothing was working.

When we finally brought Henry and Norah home from the NICU, we were overwhelmed with taking care of two tiny babies and worried that they would stop breathing or have other problems now that the monitors were gone. Neither Andrew nor I was sleeping much, and when I did have a break when Henry and Norah were sleeping, the last thing I wanted to do was pump and get less than an ounce of milk.

A few days after they came home, I sat down with my mom (who was there to help) and Andrew, feeling horrible that I couldn't get any milk and that I'd basically given up on pumping. Instead of making me feel even more guilty or telling me to keep trying, they told me it was OK to feed Henry and Norah formula.

My mom reminded me that I'd given them breast milk, even a tiny amount, for five weeks, and that it was incredibly helpful to building their immune systems with antibodies. Andrew told me that I'd done the best I could and that there was nothing wrong with giving them formula — especially since they were healthy and were growing so well on it.

When I decided to stop pumping and trying to get them to latch, I felt like an anvil had been lifted off my chest. The stress of trying to feed my babies when I simply wasn't producing enough milk was crippling, and I felt so much relief.

Unfortunately, one of the first questions women seem to ask new mothers is how breastfeeding is going. When I told them I wasn't able to breastfeed, I felt like they instantly had tons of questions. Why not? Did you try fenugreek? Are you pumping?

When they weren't asking questions, I felt (and I know that some of this was in my head) like they were silently judging me. Women are constantly told that breastfeeding is best for the baby and the mom, since it helps you lose the baby weight faster and bond with your newborn. I had heard all of it, too, and I understood why they might look down on me for feeding my babies formula.

Except that it really hurt. I was finally feeling relief about not breastfeeding, and all the questions about it made me feel worse. I was doing what was best for my family and my kids, and I knew my babies were getting the nutrition they needed from the formula.

One of my neighbors came over a month or so after we brought Henry and Norah home, and I discovered that she had decided to exclusively feed her daughter formula and never even tried to breastfeed. She simply knew that it wasn't for her, and she was OK with it.

Talking to her made me realize that breastfeeding is absolutely a choice — and just like how I've decided to continue working full time, I can choose to feed my babies formula and shouldn't be judged harshly for that.

Do I think breastfeeding is a good thing? Absolutely. I think it's amazing that your body is supposed to produce milk that's customized for your baby and protects him.

Do I think formula is a good thing? Of course! Formula has been an incredible blessing in our lives. Though it's expensive and can be inconvenient to have to constantly run to the store, it allows Andrew and I both to feed them and makes it much easier to take Henry and Norah to daycare. It also allows us to see exactly how much they are eating and protects them from the daily medication I have to take that could be transferred through breast milk.

There is no reason to "mommy shame" or ask a new mother personal questions about breastfeeding, and there's definitely no reason to feel guilty about feeding your baby formula. Every situation is different, and you shouldn't have to defend yourself to anyone.

I am so glad to see how quickly Henry and Norah are growing, and I'm not going to let myself feel bad for doing things a bit differently. Don't let yourself feel that way, either.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Four months


Henry and Norah turned four months old on Sept. 6, and I feel like they're totally different babies than they were at three months! Life just keeps getting more fun with these cute kids.


Henry:




  • Very rarely takes his pacifier now (only when he's sleepy will he suck on it, and only for a short time)
  • Weighs 13 pounds and is probably close to 22 inches now
  • Still fits into a few 0-3 month clothes but fits pretty well in 3-month clothes now
  • Loves to coo and make lots of noises
  • Smiles at us all the time now, especially when we're holding him
  • Has hazel-blue eyes currently (probably on their way to brown)
  • Likes to kick his legs a lot, and we love hearing him kicking in his car seat
  • Takes short cat naps during the day now, but usually sleeps really well at night
  • Always seems thoughtful as he looks around
  • Likes to snuggle up to Norah on their play mat
  • Has started to grab things, especially his blanket
  • Loves to suck on his fists and still curls them by his face when he sleeps
  • Still loves music and smiles a lot when I sing to him
  • Likes sleeping on his dad's tummy but prefers to sit up when we hold him so he can see
  • Holds his head up really well and tries to army crawl already

Norah:
  • Loves her pacifier and chomps down on it hard when we give it to her — probably because she's starting to get teeth already
  • Gives us lots of gummy smiles and follows me with her eyes when I leave the room
  • Usually hates her car seat at first but calms down when the car starts going
  • Weighs 11 pounds 11 ounces and is probably around 22 inches as well
  • Is a little too small for 3-month clothes still, but I've put her in a few anyway :)
  • Has pretty bluish-brown eyes currently (probably on their way to brown as well)
  • Still loves to take long naps during the day and curls her fists by her head
  • Is very drooly and loves sucking on her blanket and her hands
  • Loves her brother and will talk to him when they're lying on their play mat
  • Makes lots of little noises just like Henry, sometimes giggling in her sleep
  • Holds her head up and won't usually lay on my shoulder anymore to burp
  • Is very alert and widens her eyes to take everything in
  • Loves when I sing to her, too, especially "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"
  • Will lay next to me on our bed and sleep for hours (or curled up in Andrew's arms as he sleeps)
  • Is as dramatic as ever and likes to scream at us when she's mad (or wakes up from nightmares occasionally) — but we love that she has a fiery personality :)
I'm planning to get back into the groove of blogging and reading blogs, but things have gotten even more hectic since I've gone back to work. Hopefully I'll have a bit more energy to blog soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What shall we name the baby?

Another of my favorite shots from the talented Valery Bunnell when they were just seven weeks old

I have always been fascinated with names. When I was a little kid, my parents had an old, dogeared copy of What Shall We Name the Baby? that I used to read through to find out what different names meant. I actually pored over it trying to find a name for my brother's video game character once. Yeah, you could say I was obsessed.

So of course, when it came time to name our sweet babies, I was SO EXCITED to pick out the perfect names for them. Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as I expected it to be. There are always names that have negative connotations or names that you simply think are ugly — or just don't fit with your last name. And, of course, you have to agree on names with your husband or wife. We talked about names for a while, and I thought I'd share the story of how we chose them, which I've meant to do for a while.

Henry Andrew

While there were several girls' names we liked, we found it a lot harder to choose a boy's name. Finally, as we were talking one night, we both realized that we loved the name Henry. There was a little boy in our church with that name when we were first married, and he was feisty and funny and made that name absolutely charming.

Then, while we were driving through the middle of nowhere in Idaho heading to Jackson, Wyoming, to celebrate my birthday this year, we drove through the tiny, nearly abandoned town of Henry — and the name just felt perfect. I also realized that my hometown has the Henry's Fork of the Snake River running through it, and my family and I used to go boating on Henry's Lake, near the Montana border, with friends. Henry is a classic name that means "ruler of the home," and I loved that it has a nod to my heritage as well.

His middle name, of course, is for Andrew, and we liked how the names sounded together. :)

Norah Kathryn

I have loved the name Eleanor for a long time, but Andrew was not a big fan of it. However, we both thought Norah was a beautiful name, and I particularly like it because I have been enamored with Norah Jones since her first album came out when I was 15. Norah means "honor," and I love that it is also a classic, pretty name with meaning that she can be proud of.

Norah's middle name, Kathryn, is for her grandmother, and it's also one of my favorite names.

Henry and Norah pair together well, and I fall even more in love with their names as I watch them grow. They make my heart absolutely swell with joy, and I hope they'll love their names as much as we do when they get older.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to work

Today, after three months of snuggling my sweet babies, I returned to work. I knew it would be hard, but I didn't anticipate all the emotions I would feel. Andrew and I pushed them in the stroller last night as we window shopped, and I kept looking at their little faces and feeling such overwhelming love for them. They are both becoming so alert and recognizing our faces and voices, but they're also still so tiny and want to be snuggled all the time.

Andrew fed them last night so I could get a little extra rest, and I cried when I saw them all snuggled up. Even though I knew I'd be working from home in the morning (and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from now on), I couldn't help feeling a bit like it was the ending of an era. I wouldn't be there for every smile. I couldn't comfort them every time they cried. I wouldn't be able to snuggle them after feeding them in the afternoons.

Then Andrew, who is always much wiser than me, reminded me that we'll both have the evenings to feed our babies, to hold them, to watch them smile and laugh and grow. We'll have Saturdays and Sundays and vacations with them. And occasionally, when they're sick, we'll have weekdays to snuggle them and revel in their tiny hands and feet.

I look forward to work life and making a difference there, and I also look forward to my new life as a mother, making a difference to my sweet babies. We can do this.

Photo by Valery Bunnell

Friday, August 8, 2014

Four years and three months


Henry and Norah turned three months old on August 6! They are still really small for three-month-olds (they're more like newborns in size, especially Norah), but we are excited to see how much they've grown since they were born. Here are the details of month three:


Henry:

  • Weighed 9 pounds 7 ounces at his last appointment two weeks ago, so he probably weighs more than 10 pounds now
  • No longer fits in most newborn clothes and has graduated to the 0-3 month sizes
  • Still isn't sleeping in his crib, but sleeps really well in his rocker most of the time
  • Loves having his head stroked and will smile and coo a little
  • Has discovered his hands and likes to suck on them if his pacifier isn't handy
  • Likes his carseat now and enjoys looking around and going for rides
  • Has decidedly blue eyes (though they could still change)
  • Loves me to sing to him and stares at me while I sing (which is the most wonderful thing in the world)
  • Holds his head up really well and doesn't like to be burped on my shoulder anymore
  • Has finally developed his lungs more and has the saddest cry when his tummy hurts
  • Is still snuggly as ever (and I soak that up)
  • Has started smiling at us and recognizes our voices


Norah:

  • Weighed 8 pounds 10 ounces two weeks ago, so she probably weighs 9.5 pounds now — and she's a quarter-inch longer than Henry at 21.5 inches
  • Still smacks her lips after eating, but not as often now (so sad)
  • Unfortunately has some baby acne that we can't seem to get rid of (suggestions are welcome!)
  • Has the same loud scream and has learned that when she uses it, she gets picked up and snuggled
  • Is still a great sleeper once she's in a deep sleep and doesn't scoot around in her crib quite as much
  • Loves to lounge in the Boppy and see what's going on
  • Has hazel eyes that will probably turn brown
  • Grew soft, fuzzy hair on top again after it all fell out last month
  • Has a pretty deep soft spot on the top of her head that moves when she breathes
  • Discovered her tongue recently and is always sticking it out
  • Loves snuggling on Daddy's tummy and sometimes on mine
  • Is still skinny and long but is filling out more in her cheeks



Andrew and I also celebrated four years together August 6. It's hard to believe we've already been married that long, but it also feels like we've been together forever (in a good way). We obviously couldn't do much for the day, but we did go out to dinner and left the twins with Grandma for a couple hours.

I hope you've all had a nice summer! Blogging (and reading blogs) has been falling off my to-do list with two babies to take care of, but I'm hoping to post more regularly soon and catch up on what you've been doing, too. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Two months


Henry and Norah are two months old now and quickly growing out of their newborn clothes — though the 0-3 month outfits are still baggy, for the most part. Here's how they've grown in the past month:


Henry:

  • Sleeps peacefully in his rocker but hates his crib and his carseat. We're trying to get him to sleep in his crib, but it'll take some time to transition — and right now we need sleep and a happy baby.
  • Still has skinny legs and tiny feet but is filling out more in his face and tummy.
  • Loves prune juice, surprisingly (and you can probably guess why he's had to drink it).
  • Is happiest when he's swaddled tightly and being snuggled.
  • Weighs about eight pounds and is 20 inches long.
  • Has blue eyes currently, and though it's still early to tell, I think they'll remain blue.
  • Usually burps really well after eating and gets the hiccups.
  • Likes to look around and is fascinated by his new mobile (when he lays in the crib to look at it).
  • Is a messy eater and looks like he's had an ice cream cone when he finishes his bottle.
  • Frequently smiles in his sleep and props his fist under his chin.


Norah:

  • Is a great sleeper most of the time and has slept in her crib since the first week.
  • Has a loud, high-pitched scream that she uses when she's hungry or has a nightmare — or, sometimes in the middle of the night, for no good reason at all.
  • Scoots all around her crib and often ends up upside-down with one arm out of her swaddle.
  • Eats really well and usually falls asleep on my shoulder while I'm burping her (which I LOVE).
  • Usually puts herself to sleep in her crib if she's still awake when she finishes eating.
  • Weighs about eight pounds and is 19 inches long, a little smaller than Henry.
  • Is finally big enough to wear headbands instead of just bows.
  • Has big, expressive eyes and likes to look around her room.
  • Will go right to sleep on a blanket on the floor if she's screaming in her crib.
  • Has lost most of the hair on top of her head and is sporting a Franciscan monk look.
  • Smacks her lips after she eats, which is ADORABLE.

I never get tired of kissing their cheeks, grabbing their tiny hands and looking at their little feet. Time is flying by, but I'm grateful that they'll still be small for a little while longer.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 8


Dear Henry and Norah,

Today is your due date, and you're also nine weeks old today. While I knew you most likely wouldn't be born on July 8, I didn't expect you to come more than two months early, either. July seemed so far away when we discovered you were on the way, and now it's here and all I feel is joy.

You are still tiny, only about eight pounds each, and most of your clothes are still too big on you. You spend most of your time sleeping, but you are staying awake longer and looking at your dad and me while we feed you. You melt our hearts when you snuggle up against us or curl your little hands by your faces in your sleep.

We don't get much rest anymore, and car rides, even just to the doctor's office, require a lot more equipment. We're buying formula by the crate and doing laundry at least once a day. We're going through hundreds of diapers and wipes and constantly washing bottles.

But we don't mind. You are absolutely beautiful, and we're so grateful to have you home with us and growing so big. You already have strong personalities, likes and dislikes, and while we want you to stay little forever, we want you to get bigger at the same time so we can play with you and watch you change.

You have brought us so much joy, Henry and Norah. We're glad we've had these extra two months with you and love you more every day.