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)

From the Nursing Chair: Tandem Crying

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

Squish and Squeak at 6 weeks. It's blurry because I could never stop moving!

When the virtues of tandem nursing are extolled, you rarely hear about its worst side effect: tandem crying. When two babies are accustomed to eating at the same time, they become hungry at the same time, thus start crying at the same time. Occasionally they even poop at the same time, necessitating a tandem diaper get the idea.

Somehow, this doesn't carry over to sleeping at the same time, at least not at first. Go figure.

The key, I've discovered, is to get a jump on when they are likely to start crying and give them what they want before they start to panic. By 10 weeks old, we the boys started to get on an eat-wake-sleep rhythm, I could predict with greater certainty what need is next in the queue and act before all hell breaks loose.

Most of the time.

From the Nursing Chair: Breastfeeding Twins

There is a throne in my house these days.

Double-wide nursing pillow, iPad,'s the base of operations. This is where I feed my 12-week-old twins.

Breastfeeding twins has been a horrible, wonderful, sweet, uncomfortable, intimate challenge that I am finally enjoying. Most of the time.

As of 4.5 weeks old, I have exclusively breastfed my twins. Prior to that time, four days of extra hospitalization for me (due to an infection), 8% weight loss for Squeak, and general exhaustion necessitated some formula supplements and expressed breastmilk by cup and bottle, in addition to breastfeeding. Imagine feeding two babies on demand, at least every hour and a half, individually, round the clock, for at least 30 minutes per feeding, and one of them had a poor latch. While healing from emergency c-section/infection/twin pregnancy. Oh and then I had an allergic reaction to a vaccine and couldn't move my arm...followed by an absess on my tailbone that made sitting painful.

It. Was. Insane.

Maybe if I can remember more than a hazy blur of awfulness, I'll tell you about it sometime.

I had planned to breastfeed my children, but accepted that I might have to supplement with formula because there were two of them. I didn't think it was a big deal either way.

It turned out to be a huge deal. I was totally unprepared for how emotionally charged, how tied to a sense of self-worth, breastfeeding would be for me.

Breastfeeding is food, comfort, intimate communion with these people that have been growing inside you for almost a year. It's the center, home, the wellspring. After becoming accustomed to toting around two extra bodies 24/7, I find tandem feeding to be one of the only ways I can comfortably feel complete - that both my babies are close, safe, where they belong. So if it's not going well, or you're a new mother so you have no freaking clue how it's going, because it hurts and feels weird and you can't see the milk and your babies eat totally differently, well...let's just say there are many deep, primal emotions that rise up from the back of the reptilian brain and surge over the rational parts, drowning them out completely.

When I read up on breastfeeding prior to giving birth, I constantly had to wonder: does this apply to twins? How do you do that (feed on demand, get into position, get a full feeding) with twins? I also heard nothing but doomsday prophecies about supply shortage. This cuts to the core of a mother's fears: I can't feed my children. Yes, I have googled "signs of starvation in newborns" at midnight...and again at 2am, just to reassure myself. It's so easy to pass over that first teeny tiny sentence, "Most women will be fine," and skip right to, "but there can be complications," which are described in agonizing details over the next 300 pages or so. This is especially true for multiples.

Despite reading everything ever written on pregnancy, birth, and childcare, I never did find the book I was really looking for: a whole volume of the positive mantras designed to build the new mother's confidence and shore up her emotional fortitude, with a tiny chapter in the back for the few facts you need to know, like get nipple cream and football hold is king.

Meanwhile, we need more stories about variations of normal. So I offer you my normal.

This post is the first in a series of musings on breastfeeding twins. It's based totally on my experience. I have no expertise other than my own experience. I pass no judgement on families who decide to use formula, or expressed breastmilk, or any combination of loving healthy ways to nourish their children. And I readily admit, maybe double breastfeeding isn't a big deal to everyone. But it's a big deal to me, and if it is for you too, hopefully I can offer some encouragement. Or make you laugh a little. Or make you glad you never did it.

In any case, this is my truth about breastfeeding twins. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Professional Mother

Mr Awesome's relationship with Squeak has always come easy. They have a special bond that is sweet to witness. And I've felt a closeness with Squish that is probably a result of exclusively breastfeeding him earlier and for longer (Squeak had a poor latch and it was much more difficult getting started).

This weekend, my husband was able to spend more time with Squish, and even soothe him to sleep several times (not easy - he is a baby that needs a lot of motion, yet low stimulation, to fall asleep). This was a huge confidence booster for Mr Awesome, and a giant relief for me. Bouncing that child to sleep 5+ times per day is killing my back and seriously working on my patience, if I'm being honest.

But then something strange happened. During the last feeding of the day, when he normally drifts peacefully to sleep, Squish started fussing and pulling off. He has been eating less, in my estimation, this whole week, but fussing is very unusual for my little voracious eater. I suspect I have a recent oversupply of milk or forceful letdown as their eating pattern has shrunken to eight feedings per day; while Squeak seems to love not having to work so hard, Squish is overwhelmed by the flow and constantly pulls off/gasps for air/takes rests. Anyway, tonight Squish would not calm down. Attempts to burp were for naught; his fussiness escalated into full-scale wailing; finally I handed him over to Mr A so I could finish feeding Squeak in peace.

Luckily, Squish was able to calm down and settle into a deep sleep in his dad's arms.

I was glad. And upset.

I'm pretty sure there is an actual physical cause for my boy's distress - forceful letdown, too much foremilk, maybe even a touch of virus - and knowing my child is not feeling particularly well is upsetting to this new mother. I plan on calling the doctor in the morning just to check in.

But there is a little place in me that was shaken with surprising force when I couldn't soothe my little boy, and his dad could.

I'm not the one and only.

Don't get me wrong, this is great. I can rest my back, eat a little something, find relief in the knowledge that his stirring isn't the beginning of a(nother) long battle into slumber. And I did take the opportunity to practice self-care (snack, etc.). But what it comes down to is that I am devoting my whole self, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, into this task of motherhood day in and day out, and sometimes the whole of me is going to fall short. Mr A is no less devoted, but this is not his full-time job. I feel bruised as a professional.

I've been considering remaining a full-time mother next year as well. The idea that I could devote myself entirely to this vocation, could give my all 24/7 for years on end, and still be so replaceable is somewhat shattering. Does every professional mother feel like an empty shell sometimes - having given everything and still been found wanting?

There are too many reminders in my life that there is a way to ensure you are your child's sun, moon, and stars: be a single parent. I would never trade my relationship with Mr Awesome, or my sons' relationship with their dad, to put myself at the center of the boys' universe.

This is just my ego, hopped up on hormones, wondering, am I good enough at my job? If I am not the one and only, what is a mother and how am I going to define myself, to myself, in the coming year?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's a Small World After All

My world is small these days.

Besides tiny clothes and hunting for the forever-dropping tiny pacifier, the landscape of my day consists of the apartment and our neighboring streets. No longer do I think of my home as one place; each room is now its own destination.

We are in the nursery pretty much all morning. Around noon we make it to the play space in the living room. In the afternoon, we manage to get into the hallway, and then Outside. A short walk around the neighborhood brings us among neighbors, postmen, other parents and young children, trees, the occasional dog. Then we return home, to the nursery, where we settle into evening and finally to bed.

Is this normal? I don't know. Should I be getting out twice per day? The idea is exhausting. Squeak and Squish need their freedom of movement and play during the brief times they are awake. I don't want them strapped into a carseat all day long. And while I can feed them out and about, I prefer not to, since feeding one at a time kind of messes with the schedule (big post on that coming up). Meanwhile, it usually takes me til 1pm to get dressed and have a meal.

So. The world is small. And lonesome, if I'm being honest.

It's more than geography though. Community is what expands our horizons and makes us feel needed. When I go to a job outside my home, I enter a community where many people are counting on me, asking me questions, including me in news and plans. I'm a part of a larger effort.

The limited shape of my routine and interactions can make me forget that what I am doing is not small at all. For their first year of life, I am able to be a full-time mother to my children. What could be bigger than that? Yet, it is a private, solitary endeavor.

At home I'm the captain of a very small crew, sailing alone through strange seas.

Aw hell. I'm not even the captain.

I'm lucky to live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. When elderly folks stop to admire Squeak and Squish, I let them coo for as long as they wish. I chat a little, hear their advice and stories if they offer them. I realize they must feel outside of society too. Usually it's a little awkward, because we both seem to want to linger, but have nothing to say. Perhaps I should be bold and engage folks with some questions and light conversation.

Perhaps that's where community starts - having the courage to stop and make a little connection.