(charleston on top with his face a little hidden and whitman on the bottom- or right side depending on how you look at the picture)
We are home now with the boys. We brought them home 4 days ago. Its been an...interesting week. And by interesting I mean difficult. Don't get me wrong - I love them. Oh man do I love them. But feeding two babies around the clock is T-I-R-I-N-G. I am so deliriously tired that I find myself in the middle of the night suckling pillows and with pieces of the breast pump still in my hands. And for those of you, like myself, who had no understanding what it meant when people talk about how tired you are when you bring home new babies, let me explain the schedule a bit so you get a better picture (something I would've appreciated people explaining rather than just snidely remarking how tired I would be all the freaking time). Every three hours these guys eat. The rule is "one up, both up" so that they are on the same schedule. These means that I'm either tandem breastfeeding them (yeah I'm bad a** like that) or feeding one on the breast and one with a bottle or for the really early morning feeds (like 4am or so) feeding both on a bottle. SO Lets say they wake around 3:30am. At 3:30am we feed them both bottles because I've discovered this week that I'm too uncoordinated and impatient to tandem breastfeed at this hour. My husband gets up and warms up the breast-milk that I've pumped into bottles. Doug will mix it with some neo-sure, which is basically baby weight gainer since these guys are just now at 5lbs each, and then we get all set up to feed them (burp cloths, boppy pillow, etc). While he is doing that, I get the babies out and get them calm. If they cry very long then they use all their energy crying and not feeding and feeding them and having them gain weight is our number 1 priority right now (besides keeping them alive and healthy and all that). It takes about an hour to feed, burp, and change diapers if we are really on it and the boys actually eat pretty well. Sometimes they take FOREVER to eat and will often just suck on the bottle or breast and spit out the milk, which at 3:30am is really aggravating. Then after they eat and burp and get changed we lay them down. We then clean the bottles, throw away the diapers, and I pump breast milk. Either me or my husband then need to clean the pump stuff. By the time this is all done its another 30 min or so since they've been laying down. This means that we have 1.5 hrs before they are ready to eat again. SEE its not every 3 hours from the time they stopped eating, its every three hours since they BEGAN eating. And this is if we are really rockin. Sometimes it takes longer. SO this means that we generally get about 1 - 1.5 hrs of sleep in random chunks throughout the day/night. Throw in a need to bathe them and do developmental excercises and our need to eat and pay bills and get Christmas stuff done, etc, and you can see why life is a bit exhausting right now. BUT they're home. :) I sure love having them home. They are such good babies. They are already on a great schedule. They are easy to calm. They are so dang cute and they even smile periodically. Its great.
See - I'm even smiling
These are crappy phone pics but sometime soon we'll take some high quality photos and I'll include some photos of their nursery and I think I'll even be brave and post a picture next week of me at 6 weeks post babies. I think its helpful for moms to see what someone looks like 6 weeks after having twins (don't worry - this won't be a "WOW look how awesome I look photo").
Anyway, we were told at the hospital that the first two weeks would be the hardest, as we struggled to get into a routine and while everyone adjusts to the newness of it all. I'm just hoping that it gets easier by the time I start back to work in January. Eek!
Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers as we struggled through the NICU. We truly felt an outpouring of love during that time and it was SO greatly appreciated.
I've received many inquiring emails since the boys were born about what we're doing these days and why the lack of communication through this blog, especially at a time when there is a lot of information to be had.
But then again, I don't.
Let me explain.
I'd like to explain to everyone what the NICU is like. I personally had NO IDEA what it would be like. I thought the boys would be born a bit early and they'd go to this mysterious acronym place and then come out all clean and smelling nice and ready to come home.
So, here is what the NICU is like for those of you who have no idea, like me.
First, a few pictures to frame the conversation -
(above pictures - Whitman on the vent)
(Charleston under the bilirubin lights to help prevent jaundice)
(Whitman wearing the c-pap)
(above - the boys beds, prior to being put in the same bed)
Everyday we go through 4 different sets of security in order
to get to the floor that the boys are on. After getting several wrist bands, heavy locked doors are opened for us to go into the NICU. We immediately put on hand sanitizer and walk past the beds of 6 or so different babies, including Kaydance, who was born at 24 weeks and is a crack baby. We pray for her everyday. There are around 40 - 60 babies in the NICU at any given time.
We approach the bed where our babies are at check all of their monitors before we even speak. We are allowed to touch them to say hello but because of the risk of over stimulation, a serious concern with premies, we only touch them for a moment. We touch them the same way everytime in order to get them familiar with us. If we see that their monitors have alarming numbers (low respiratory rate or oxygen numbers) then we don't touch them at all.
We set down our stuff and Doug goes and places all the milk I've pumped into the refrigerator after having it checked to make sure its adequately labeled. Every 3 hours we do their cares. Their cares consist of checking their temperature, changing their diaper, weighing them, and then trying to feed them. Two times a day I try and breast feed them. The other times they are fed through a tube in their nose. Immediately after the two times a day that I try and breast feed them, we get to do "skin to skin", where we take off our shirts and hold their little bodies against our chest. This helps regulate their temperature and is good for development.
That is, hands down, the best moment of my day.
It usually lasts for 30 minutes.
The boys both have 4 monitors on them at all times as well as a feeding tube in their nose. This makes holding them, moving them, changing them, or doing just about anything difficult. The monitors also beep all the time. Loudly. Many times the monitors are just faulty and the boys wiggle and the monitors just sound off. Sometimes, though, the boys stop breathing or their heart stops for a few seconds and the monitors sound off. You never know which it is so we nervously check them ALL the time.
Because most babies are protected by the womb until they are full term, they don't have to prematurely use or even develop their eyes, or ears, or nose, for example. Our boys don't have that luxury so we must keep things dark and quiet and unscented - very difficult things to do in a hospital and with loud monitors going off all the time. We've become very protective of the boys in this regard, for fear of them becoming over stimulated and not developing appropriately.
In addition to these things are the nurses. NICU nurses are mostly amazing. However, nurses are required to report on me just as much as they report on the boys. If I wear sweats everyday to the NICU, for example, it can be a sign of post partum. Any signs of post partum require that the nurses stay near you and your babies at all times. This means I'm seldom allowed to be around my boys alone because the sheer stress of the NICU usually results in me showing some sort of post partum issue.
Add in lots of crying babies, monitor noises for all of them, nurses and doctors and practitioners and lactation consultants and nicu parental support group people, other nicu parents...
and you can see why the NICU is sorta hellish most days.
However, its the only way we get to see our boys so we are there all day everyday.
And they are doing better. Now they are in the same bed and are actually in the NICU overflow, which is much quieter.
And because people ask - lastly, let me explain what they must do to come home.
1. breath on their own (check)
2. regulate their temperature (check)
3. take all feedings orally (not check)
The third one takes the longest and is what we are working on now. They currently eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of their feeding orally twice a day. They must take the entire feeding before they can be moved up to 3x a day, then 4x a day, then over 12 hrs of oral feedings, then 24 hrs of oral feedings, and then finally we get to take them home. The connection in their brain telling them to feed orally isn't even made till around 36 weeks (and they are 35 now this week) so the fact that they are breast feeding at all is really great. But still, they tell us to expect to take them home by the end of the year (4-5 weeks from now).
so thats the NICU and the reason for the radio silence
aren't they cute though?
(below - Whitman)
(below - Charleston)
Pray that they learn to eat so we can bring them home!
As of this weekend I no longer lead the teenage girl's youth group at my church.
And it sucks.
And I hate it.
And I can't explain to you how much it meant to me to be able to work with those girls each week.
For those of you who are of a different religion (likely the majority of people who read this blog - all 2 of you) I'll probably need to explain a few things here...
The church I belong to is run entirely by volunteers. So, for example, my husband is the finance clerk. He processes tithing and cuts checks for reimbursements and so forth. Now unlike most organizations where you sign up for whatever you want to do, in our church you are given a "calling". This means that the bishopric (essentially the pastor and two assistant pastors) pray about what position to place you in and then extend the "call" to you. You then have the opportunity to also pray about this position and either accept the call or not. Having not grown up in this church, I have zero experience and only a very small understanding of most of the positions within the church. Hence, when I was called as the "Young Women's President" I had no idea what that was or what that meant. Thus, I also had no idea how much I would freaking LOVE EVERY FREAKING MINUTE OF IT. ok there were probably times when I didn't love it... but I can't think of any of those times.
Seriously it was one of the best experiences of my life. The opportunity to help mold the future female generation of America? HELLS YEAH! The opportunity to do sleepovers and tea parties and go camping and teach them how to be strong Christian women? I mean, does it get better than that?
Quite frankly, it doesn't.
And just like a calling is extended by the bishopric when they feel so impressed to extend it, it is also taken away. This is called being "released". It feels, at least at this moment, a little like getting your heart ripped out of your chest for no good reason. That is if you enjoy your calling. I suppose some people accept a calling out of some weird sense of obligation or something and then bide their time till they get released. But either way, you just have to trust that the bishopric has received inspiration from God that your time is up like they received inspiration for your call in the first place.
My time is likely up because I'm about to have babies and leading a large organization of leaders and youth will get more challenging. Our church emphasizes family so much that they try really hard not to ever have a demanding calling (some are more time consuming than others) that could interfere with families.
But that's dumb. At least in our case.
I freaking worked full time and went to grad school full time and held it together. Why is having babies an automatic shut out?
And I think its a seriously poor message to send to young women - that you can't be a leader and have babies. I feel like I'm fighting this stigma on so many fronts. Does no one believe me when I say that Doug and I really are equal partners in this whole thing? That he will be raising these boys just as much as I will?
I hate it.
So I'm crying and pouting, and likely will be for a while.
And I know, I know. Babies will be great and maybe this is for the best and blah blah blah. But right now I just feel frustrated by the whole thing.
And I miss those girls.
And I know I can still see them around and attend their school events and stay in touch over facebook and all that.
But I want more. And I fear that eventually they'll just be creeped out that I still want to keep the relationships we've developed over the last 3 years. And creeped out that I'm not letting go like everyone else does when they are released. And I'll go from seeing them multiple times a week to seeing them every once in a while. And all that sucks.
And my next calling is probably going to be something like 'toilet bowl cleaner'.
Yay for blurry phone pics! Also - notice how angry I look... hahaha. Honestly its because I was concentrating and I always look pissed when I'm focused for some reason.
I realized if I'm going to actually keep you posted on these growing developments then we're going to have to be okay with crappy phone pictures rather than fancy DLSR photos. I just don't care enough to have a fancy and flattering photo taken every week.
And sorry for the radio silence. I'm just not sure what to say at the moment. I have a lot of conflicting feelings right now. Like -
happy that the boys are still inside and growing unhappy that the boys are still inside and growing
grateful to have a job and still be able to work ungrateful to have a job and still be working
and so on
And this whole process has been so interesting. I kinda thought that I would have a lot more doctor's appointments and that they'd be really concerned about me all the time. But that hasn't really been the case. For example, statistically speaking - the likelihood of me getting past 35 weeks is really really low. However, when speaking with our doctor last week he said "yeah we'll see you again 32 weeks for a minute and then around 34 weeks and get an ultrasound and then around 37 or so we'll start figuring out an induction date..." Both Doug and I looked at him a bit incredulously, like, um... does he just have a feeling or something that I'm going to be one of the few people who actually go full term with twins? Me? Like, 5 feet tall and (used to be) 100lbs? We both sorta responded with a "oooooookaay doc, whatever you say"...
And not being able to really plan around their arrival makes things a bit interesting. Like, "Yeah let's hang out...unless we are having two babies and then we'll hang out later..."
And I sorta thought that by having some baby stuff that I'd feel more prepared to have babies... but I don't.
And my birthday is coming up and I'm going to be older and I'm going to be a mom. Weird. And people will call me mommy or momma and I'll have to think twice before I correct them and say, "No, my name is Jo."
I've had a bit of a crappy week so instead of complaining and spewing negativity all over the interwebs, I thought I would just share a few pictures of our living room in the fall time. It's a happy place.
Well here we are at week 29. I hadn't planned on showing the bump much but I think I will try and document it from here on out. If nothing else, I think its helpful for those women who are pregnant with twins to get a comparison. At least that has been mostly helpful for me (except for when I think - crap, look how amazing that woman looks).
So here is the babies update -
I had an INCREDIBLE baby shower this weekend thrown by my best friend Leah who flew from Colorado just to throw me this party. Isn't she the best? I wish everyone were so lucky to have such a wonderful person in their life. I didn't take any pictures because I was busy being...uh, showered?! ha anyway, I will get some pictures from those who were able to snap a few of the event. It was just perfect.
The boys are both breech right now. Hopefully they will turn in the next little while and stay that way.
They weigh about 2.5 lbs (Baby A) and close to 3 lbs (Baby B). They need to double in size in the next few weeks before they are born.
I failed my gestational diabetes test. I go in for more testing tomorrow.
My husband and I attended a birthing class last week and have part 2 of the class this evening. We sat in the back and watched the instructor with wide eyes. Doug was very intrigued and learned a lot. He now tries to casually throw in words like "fundus" into our conversations. Fun! ...dus (that was terrible. sorry)
Well I had a unique experience today. I got stuck in an elevator for an hour and a half.
I was on the third floor of our building in a meeting and decided to check out the library in one of the offices up there. I was looking for a book on productivity (oddly enough) and roped a co-worker into helping me browse through the books. We grabbed a few books and then he held the elevator for me. The very second I stepped in, the elevator door closed and then freaked out. It started making noises and then all of the lights turned on. It was at that time that I mentioned that I have a strange electrical problem and that I've shorted out 5 computers at work and have blown almost every fuse in my house by plugging stuff in. He didn't appreciate my withholding that information until then. Luckily my co-worker had a phone and we were able to call the building operations manager who then called the elevator people who showed up quite quickly.
There was a large crowd outside when we finally emerged. They clapped and cheered for us. I felt a little like a rock star.
And I was told later that telling the elevator people that there is a lady who could possibly deliver twins any day stuck in the elevator, really sped up the average response time.
So see? Being pregnant isn't all bad?! :)
And here is some proof -
Above is some of my co-workers having fun OUTSIDE the elevator
Below is a picture of me emerging from the elevator with my co-worker Jason (check me out looking huge at 28 weeks pregnant)
So we found out on Friday that the boys are what are known as 'di/di' twins. This means they are Dichorionic/Diamniotic, which in normal people speak means that they are in two separate sacs and have two separate placentas (we actually knew this before but I wasn't familiar with the medical term). This is the safest situation for twins (woot!) and also means that the chance of them being fraternal (or non-identical) is somewhere between 75% - 99%. We won't know for sure until after they are born. They will first do a blood test to see if they have the same blood type. If they do, then we will do a DNA test in order to determine if they are identical. Some people opt not to have this test done but I feel like it's important information for them and for us in case of any medical situations in the future.
I've started to have a lot of contractions this week. Most of them are fairly mild but a few have been pretty hard. I've started to get really worried about them being born very prematurely. I'm at 27 weeks this week and really need to get to at least 34 weeks. I constantly look up terrible things about how early twins can be delivered and survive. Right now they have a really good chance but they'd be in the NICU for a very long time. Ugh. It makes me sad to think about. There are so few things to comfort me about all this. I feel them kick and I hear their heartbeats at the appointments but I want more. I have literally tried to find out if I could purchase a little heartbeat hearing device thingy just to calm my nerves. Turns out people don't really sell hospital equipment like that to street folk... and x-ray machines? Don't even try. :)
Oh and heteropaternal superfecundation? yeah it's like a really rare twin thing where a woman gets pregnant while she is already pregnant and gets pregnant by a different father. So essentially she has two separate babies in her stomach by two different men that are gestationally about a month or so apart.
I read about all these random twin things now. It's a sickness.
Maybe say a prayer that these boys stay put for at least 6 more weeks. We'd appreciate it.
We've been up in the canyon as much as possible these days. The colors on the mountains are just incredible. Here are some of our (unedited) photos of late...
We found an apple orchard that will give us all the apples on the ground for free. Bruised apples are usually called "seconds" and they make for GREAT cider. So tonight we are heading up to the canyon again to pick up apples in the orchard. The picture directly above this is taken from the orchard. Not a bad place to spend an evening, eh?
I've done this giant dinner now for a number of years and I thought I would just quickly jot down a few tips for pulling off an event like this. So here are my ideas, for what it's worth:
1. White Christmas lights can make any event feel magical
2. Candles are cheap and have large visual effect so use a ton of them for evening events
3. If you use candles in jars and also use coffee beans, use tall candles. Coffee beans are visually pleasing and have a nice aroma but they hold heat really well. If you have short candles (like I did last year) it will melt the candle in about 3 seconds flat. Use tall candles and have the heat at the top of the lid and your lovely candle display will last much longer.
4. Glass with lights is also visually catching. Jam jars are your cheapest so if you want to use glass and also not worry about if it breaks in the hubbub of the evening, use different heights of jars with candles in them.
5. When feeding a huge group, really really plan the menu. Turkey, for example, is one giant piece of meat that you stick in the oven and virtually forget about. This will make life easier. Trust.
6. And about turkey - use a brine and a bag. It makes all the difference. Essentially you lock in a fabulous flavor with perfect moisture with a brine. By cooking the turkey in a bag you don't have to baste it every 30 min. You just put it in the bag and forget about it in the oven. The turkey turns out perfect and you free yourself up to do other stuff in the kitchen.
7. Chutney with meat is a great way to go. Gravy feels too Thanksgivingish and chutney sounds fancy. It can also be served at room temperature so you can make it in advance.
8. Try to plan something from each food group but also try to cook as little as possible. Autumn greens. Butter Rolls. These things I purchase. I get the rolls from a bakery because they are just as good as anything I can make by hand. And salad is salad. It doesn't taste any better if you buy it in a bag or if you chop all the lettuce by hand (in my opinion). Save yourself some time and just buy these low impact plate fillers.
9. The Power of Marketing. Describe your food with finesse if you're going to have a menu.
10. Visual impact with food is also key. Try to make it look as appealing as possible. Garnish? Sure. Lovely dishes? Yeah. Space a placement on the table? Yup. Sometimes the yummiest food doesn't look awesome and will never get eaten. If you're cooking for that many people, you want every last morsel to be devoured so take the time to make it look as good as it tastes.
11. If you're going to have people help you (and you should) give them the fun stuff to do but give them guidance. For example, I had my friend Kelsee do the honey butter favors. I had Doug do the lights and set up stuff (tables and chairs and lights - all perfect for the husband to work on). I drew up a little plan of what I wanted and Doug put it together perfectly. This allowed me to not have to think about what was going on outside so I could focus on food and other details.
12. Fabric. Fabric can have a big impact. Toole over the lights helps keep bugs out, has visual impact, and is cheap. It is about the consistency of gauze. Burlap on the table is also pretty cheap for fabric and makes for a lovely fall runner. White table cloths are classic and you can often find bulk table cloths for fairly inexpensive (and these get used ALL the time so its worth the investment if you host things often). These table cloths were actually round ones but when they are layered, it makes for a scalloped edge effect and still looks nice.
13. Music. Its important to have something in the background playing. No one notices it until there are those few awkward little pauses in conversations. Its nice to break up silence. I always go with something like the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora. Classic and pleasant.
14. BORROW EVERYTHING. For this event I borrowed silverware, white plates, chairs, tables and so on. If you belong to a church, they will often let you borrow things or rent for pennies. Loads of people have white plates and silverware so you can create a cohesive look without spending money. The pears were provided by my boss. He brought some pears in one day and I asked him if he had a tree. When he said he did I immediately jumped on the idea of free pears! The more free things you can get the better. But you have to think out things in advance so you can be keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities when they come along.
15. Know when to hire someone. I have the desserts done by a friend of mine who does desserts professionally. Dessert is an important icing on the cake of the event. It's important to have something that leaves a lasting impression since its likely the last food impression you'll leave. Because of this, I hire someone who is better than me at desserts. Then I also get to enjoy them because it's a treat for me as well. I can do desserts but this lady can DO desserts, so I kick it up a notch and have her do them. (plus - trust me, you'll have enough to worry about without adding desserts to your list).
16. Have fun. You are the host and if you're stressed then it immediately changes the mood of stuff. I read years ago in a Martha Stewart magazine that she purposefully doesn't have everything in place when people arrive. She enlists people to help finish things like setting the table because it helps people not feel awkward, gives them something to do, and gets them invested in the meal right off the bat. I do the same thing (though not always intentionally- sometimes I'm just running a few minutes behind). Learning how to delegate will help you to be in a better mood and will help others enjoy the meal as well. Things I delegate are things like, 1. lighting candles 2. filling water pitchers 3. filling glasses with water and/or ice 4. setting the table 5. placing food/butter dish/salt and pepper/etc on the table 6. getting music set up and finding right volume 7. any dishes that could be quickly washed or placed in the dishwasher
and so on
(oh and another tip - IKEA. I get so much stuff from there for cheap. Goblets are cheaper to buy there then rent anywhere - though you should borrow if you can. And they have a fabulous napkin selection...)
Anyway, this was a long wordy post and probably doesn't even apply to many people but I wish I would've known some of these things a few years ago when I began. I did individual chicken breasts and had to use 3 different ovens. Ugh! Or last year I had candles on candle sticks and the wax dripped all over the burlap. Getting wax out of burlap took FOREVER! Putting candles in jars was much cleaner and still looked just as fabulous.
Hopefully these are helpful things to know for any of you who might put on a big event like this in the future.