Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sleep Training Sucks, But It Works

Okay, blog friends, we are going on Night 11 and things are smoothing out. Thanks for all of your encouragement to see it through. Tonight we had 5-6 minutes of mild fussing, with both boys asleep within 20 minutes. The boys are even settling very easily, with no crying, after both of their night feedings. They're getting up later (7:15am), smiling and ready for the day. And hey, there are smiling, relatively well-rested parents there to greet them.

Sleep training is the right choice for our family.

But what the heck. All the books (and even our pediatrician!) assured me it would take 3-5 nights of crying to get to zero...and that at the most we could expect 20-30 minutes. Ha! Meet my twin screamers! At Night 8, we were at 33 minutes of crying, which was a huge improvement but still a lot to take, so I broke down and talked to a sleep consultant. Part of me felt lame for needing help with something so basic, but why? I help people all the time so I should ask for it when I need it.

It was money well spent. When you're sleep deprived and have new-parent guilt to boot, you need someone to spell things out for you. Turns out I may have a couple of "spirited" children on my hands. I don't feel totally comfortable with labels, but the consultant did offer a range of expectations that seemed more realistic for my guys - including an adjustment period of 10-14 days for major changes (like sleep training). I no longer feel like it's all my fault that the boys never fell asleep on their own when I put them down "awake but drowsy."

She also helped me formulate a plan moving forward, including how to get the boys to fall asleep in their bed for naps. Currently I'm walking or nursing them to sleep for every nap. Yes, that means 2-4 times per day, I pack them up in car seats, schlep down 2 flights of stairs (oh yes, and carry them back up 2-4 times), and prowl the neighborhood, hunting for the Sand Man. Okay that makes me sound a little "Night of the Living Dead," but I do get a bit zombie-like on limited sleep and this strict fitness regimen the boys have me on. They are quite the taskmasters :o)

On the bright side, I'm back in pre-pregnancy jeans and becoming a real fixture in the community.

I'm sleeping again! I can see a bright side!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sleep Training Sucks

It's 8:20pm. Mr Awesome is asleep. The boys are asleep. I am eating fried chicken and blogging in the darkened living room.


Sleeping training is eating my soul.

We're on Night 6 and it feels like Sixth Circle of Hell. Because I dread the crying, the resurfacing of my own abandonment issues every time I walk out of the room and their smiling faces follow me, only to fall into confused and angry tears moments later. I abhor the sound of my precious babies wailing into the dark air and nothing answering them. I see their arms reaching out, finding no one, and I crumble.

When they finally settle and fall asleep, I feel only marginally better. I remind myself of how they scream and cry and thrash about in our arms, the car seat, the bouncy chair, wherever and whenever they are trying to go to sleep. I remember the hours I have sat, bleary-eyed and nipples stinging, between two suckling, slumbering babies, fearful to move them, desperate for rest myself. I know they are not calling out for mom and dad. They are crying for sleep, and learning how to get there.

But when all has gone quiet and I see their relaxed little bodies on the video monitor, still I wait in tense anticipation. The crying could happen again at any moment. Any moment.

And I need every single moment that I get at night to recharge. I look forward to it as much as dread it. I miss them as much as I feel relief that I am not going to see them for 8 hours (barring an emergency, of course).

An ugly little voice fills my head when difficult parenting moments come my way:

If I only had one child...

...I'd co-sleep and we'd all actually sleep.
...I'd breastfeed on demand and never ever look at a clock.
...he'd nap in the front pack whenever he got tired.
...I'd always know what to do, never feel overwhelmed, and we'd all live happily ever after with our pet unicorn, Vestibule. Oh, and there would be no such thing as armpit hair. Because what the hell is that for.

People who judge my choice to sleep train (um, myself, I'm talking about myself, because I judge myself about it every single nap and bedtime and the verdict is always Guilt, Shame, and More Guilt) don't know what it's like to have two. They don't know what it's like to be faced with a stark and terrible reality: I have limits. There is a limit to what I can give.

Because I'm only a human.

It feels woefully inadequate to be only a human when you have twin infants to care for and you care about them so damn much that your little Grinchy heart has grown ten times bigger than can manifest in physical action.

Sometimes I wish I was two mothers.

Sigh. I know it doesn't matter how many mothers I am or how many kids I have. People have to meet their own challenges in this life, and even a whole pod of mothers can't protect you from the frustration and struggles of growing. A mother can only guide you, with love and wisdom, toward growth and away from habits that cripple you.

God, give me strength to give them what they need, even when it doesn't feel good.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

From the Nursing Chair: Breastfeeding at Four Months

The sweet stuff:
They hold hands sometimes. They each other and at me.

The sour stuff:
They punch each other in the throat/eye/forehead, grab a fistful of boob and pull it out of the other's mouth.

The gross but cute stuff:
They suck on each others fingers.

The short-lived stuff:
They fall asleep.

Ah, sleep. The twin mom's obsession.

We are going to be sleep training next week, mainly because the boys don't fall asleep on their own anymore. Ever. Like, ever. They need nursing, rocking, bouncing, or a stroller ride to snooze. All night. Every nap. Amidst thoughts of "where did I go wrong?" I question whether this is a problem.

When they are both peacefully cuddled up next to me, I bask in their sleepy noises and little puffs of breath and it's not a problem, it's the best, most natural thing ever!

When one of them stirs after only 20 minutes, wakes the other with attempts to settle, finally reattaches and goes to sleep, but now the other one is awake/crying/wet/wants to play, it's a problem. A big problem. I have bounced an energetic 4-month-old on my right while another baby is sleepily sucking away on my left. It's not fun. For anyone. And it's worse when I just. Have. To. Pee.

I used to worry a lot about the boys having to adjust their own internal rhythms to match another person. It's not fair, not natural, they are short-changed, how will we ever get to know them as individuals, blah blah blah. I was an idiot.

The same schedule gives twins the opportunity to do the same thing at the same time. Different schedules and non-independent sleep take away the ability of twins to meet their unique needs.

We offer food at the same time. Squeak and Squish control how much they take in. By offering a common nap time, away from mom, the boys will get to determine their own sleep, as well as enjoy play time that is not curtailed by a slumbering brother.

Oh yeah, and maybe their mom won't go crazy because she'll have a chance to pee/eat/shower.

This is how I'm preparing myself for sleep-training. Wish me luck.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Which I'm a Wuss at the Library

Toddlers make me nervous as hell.

Yesterday I ventured out with the boys to visit Baby Rhyme and Story Time, a great program offered at our library. A good 25 minute schlep dodging rain clouds and we were there! Amazing how getting Outside, in any capacity, for any reason, is so much better than sitting around the apartment staring at each other.

was surprised to see about 30 adults, each with 1-2 small charges. The library website said the target audience was 0-18 months, but some of those kids totally looked 2 or 3 years old. And those were the ones careening around the room, picking their noses, opening cabinets, and encroaching uncomfortably close to where Squeak and Squish were staring bug-eyed at the whole circus-like production.

Doing these Mommy-and-Me deals isn't so easy with twins that don't sit up on their own yet. Squeak promptly fell asleep (so much for an enthusiastic review there!), but Squish was all about it. I set him on my lap and held his little hands to do all the motions for the songs. We weren't close enough to see the book (it was really crowded) but he didn't seem to mind because there were all those kids to look at. He watched them in absolute wonder. 

It didn't take long for us to be noticed either. In the course of five minutes, four different kids came over and peered at the boys, some uttering "Baby," before wandering away; others shyly sidling up and creeping ever closer. Why did I feel surrounded by a hungry, scheming pack of mini-wolves?! I tried to shake my apprehension, but toddlers are just so unpredictable. After sizing you up (creepy in itself), they could just as soon smack you as smile at you. And the total lack of boundaries. And the germs. There, I said it. They all look like walking, talking totems of bacteria.

Then one of Them approached. Finger lodged firmly in the back of her gums, snot trickling down into her mouth, other hand tugging at her grubby dress - she came right up and put her hand on Squeak, who was dozing in his car seat. She was actually quite gentle, and her care-giver immediately pulled her away and apologized, but I was already knee-deep in a silent freak out. Another human! A stranger! Touched! My sleeping infant! With a moist hand!

As I tried to calm the f-@! down, Story Time Lady announced free play time and pulled out a big box of awesome-looking toys. Squish literally wriggled with anticipation. He was loving those plastic cylinders with colorful beads in them and the children literally crawling over one another to play with them. The kid leaned forward to join in the fray.

I briefly considered jumping in, since I could protect him on my lap, but what was I going to do with Squeak? The play mat is no place for a sleeping infant, carseat or no. As I debated, an exuberant toddler dashed headlong over a seated child. Care-givers rushed toward the tangled heap. Before the cries could even start we were packed up and hitting the road. I'm not even sure Squish had time to register disappointment, though I felt really bad for taking him away from all the fun.

I know some day I'll have toddlers. Two of them. Four sticky little hands, two constantly runny noses, and oh my deity, the diapers. I'll probably realize how awesome these little youngsters are (expect a blog post!), but for now, heaven help me, the pint-sized persons turn my bones to jelly.

I just hope I can build up some courage before Squeak and Squish need me to have it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thank You, Universe

Being a parent to 3-month-old twins is hard.

I get lost in the minutae of the much sleep they've gotten today, how the hell we're going to transfer from 5 naps per day to 3 without ever staying awake longer than 2 hours (math = more fun with sleep deprivation!), and how to institute that perfect bedtime routine.

But thankfully the universe delivers periodic reminders of the big picture.

Yesterday, Mr Awesome and I loaded the boys into the Baby Bjorns and set off to Golden Gate Park. We took a beautiful walk around Stow Lake. He goes back to work tomorrow, after a wonderful vacation together, and our conversation was drifting from our fun holiday memories to the logistics of returning to our daily routine. There is simply too much to do in a day, and inevitably our needs are not going to get totally met. My back was starting to ache with the weight of it all. And the weight of little Squeak. He's getting so heavy!

Suddenly we hear a shout, "Are they twins?" A family was drifting alongside us in a paddle boat. Two tousle-headed boys pedaled in tandem, the parents reclining peacefully in the back. Grins adorned each face.

"Yes," we called back. "Three months." We must have looked it too, with our tired eyes and spit-up stains and my awful too-big-but-still-the-only-fitting maternity jeans.

The parents' voices were full of sincerity. "It gets so much easier. It a few years, they will be carrying you!" They gestured to their 11-year-olds, cheerfully ferrying their parents around the lake. "Two is much better than one. They're best friends and we have so much fun. It really does get easier."

I absolutely believe them.

Keep sending me reminders, universe, that one day all the tiny things I worry about will be a distant memory, that change is inevitable, that the days are long but the years are short.

That the thing to do with abundance is to embrace it.

Monday, December 31, 2012


The other day my Squish looked at himself in the mirror for the first time.

It happened to be a low mirror, and he was standing up (with my help, of course), so he didn't see his face - only that beautiful chubby little body, earnest strength under dimply softness. He took in his moving legs, the pudgy knees, the healthy round tummy, the stomping little feet. On his face was a look of awe, of wonder.

Not a trace of judgement.

I'm going to come out and say I love my body. This is not to say I don't judge myself - I have a few little hang ups (which twin pregnancy has drastically recast) as we all do, but overall I like what I see, how I feel, and what I can do. I love my body's capacity for change, for efficacy, for sensual grace and for frank expression. Bodies give us the distinct gift of an evolving, expanding concept of beauty throughout our lives. They force us to continually reckon with ourselves. Martha Graham famously said that "the body never lies." Yes, bodies are so honest it's almost brutal, but what's better than the truth? This is who you ARE, and it refuses to be cowed by the expectations of others.

There are, however, expectations of others.

Already, people ask us which twin is bigger, longer, heavier. They make predictions on future size and strength, on who will walk first and who will have a bigger head (this is an odd obsession in my family). Noses are compared to relatives and eye color speculated upon. Later, I know my boys will come under pressure to throw the furthest, run the fastest, maybe even be the thinnest or have the coolest hair.

A day will come when Squish looks in the mirror and sees, for the first time, himself through the lens of others' judgement. I only hope he can dismiss the voices that cause him harm, and hear echoes of the ones that deepen his acceptance of himself.

I will strive to be one of those positive voices.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From the Nursing Chair: How to Hang Out While You're Hanging Out

This post is part of From the Nursing Chair, a series on the joys and challenges of breastfeeding twins.

If you come over to my house, you're probably going to see my boobs.

Tandem feeding means you feed two babies at the same time. I mean, the math works. But the logistics take time and patience (a natural proficiency for acrobatics doesn't hurt) to master. This isn't like the posters you see of serene (thin? well-rested??) mothers with one rosy-cheeked babe (and her hair is done?!), gazing down at him lovingly (holding him in one arm?? Her poor back...) while discretely hiding all of the food source except a tiny peep of bosom so smooth and milky white you might mistake it for a baby's cheek. No. Tandem feeding is full frontal nudity lunging over a giant nursing pillow, arms spread wide to collect your tiny brood to your bosom like a protective mama hen. Sure, the babies bellied up to the milk bar cover the X rated parts...until they are done, and decide to hide under the boob to sleep (Squeak), enjoy the softness of a boob pillow (who wouldn't?), or randomly startle backward, like a magician doing his big reveal!

What about a blanket tastefully drapped over the tender scene, you ask? Well, hormones make you hot. And double hormones make you feel like you've been roaming the savannah for 10 sun-baked days. Meanwhile, juggling the crying babies, fighting their tiny, razor-sharp claws, and stuffing two nipples different directions into two frantically grasping mouths is sweaty work, my friends. Add a large heavy cloth to the mixture? No thank you.

Now, I don't tandem feed in public. Much. I have done it in breastfeeding center (is that even considered 'public'?) and a couple times in a parking lot in the back of our car. But typically if I'm out and have to feed the boys, I do it one at a time under a blanket or hooter hider like everyone else. In my own home, however, I have no interest in hearing one hungry baby cry while I try to rush the other along just for the comfort of our guests. So I've spent a surprisingly lot of time chatting with friends while my top is completely exposed.

Here are some tips for making your guests feel, if not more comfortable, at least less horrified:

1. If you're eating while breastfeeding (and who are we kidding, of course you are), avoid wiping the crumbs out of your cleavage right away. I know they're itchy, but wait til you're in the bathroom. And while the guest is holding a baby and you're alone for one brief shining moment, catch up on flossing, nail trimming, ear-cleaning, and your mail.

2. Set up your throne in a room other than, but ideally adjacent to, the living room. This way people can select their own comfort level. Plus, you get to eavesdrop. Try to get your husband to get them to say something about you so you'll know what they really think.

3. Before handing off a baby, tuck that boob back into your bra. Nothing quite like realizing you've been wildly gesticulating for the past 10 minutes while your mammaries fly akimbo.

4. More reason to tuck the boob away immediately: the eager baby-holder might accidentally graze your nip with the back of their hand during transfer. The jury is still out on whom this is the most unpleasant for.

5. Interpret that wide-eyed, car-wreck-I-should-look-away-from stare thusly: wow! She's amazing! I could never do that! How impressive! And it's true: all those sweet little rolls and dimples your guests are admiring were made by you, times two, by your wonderful body. You are performing two miracles at once. Hang out with pride - and if someone has a problem, don't hang out with them :o)