Tuesday, September 3, 2013

from the diary of a doula

The only [sane] book that I could find when I was expecting our twins was Having Twins And More by Elizabeth Noble. The information I found there was invaluable. I am afraid that now parents have an overload of information and studies are actually being done as I write, about that overload and the
too-often results being that parents become so taxed with the glut of information that they opt out altogether, unsure of what choices are best and what choices they might make if any, that might not be the best ones. So, if you don’t already have too many notes on this subject you can also read about Penny Simkin, PT, author, and doula who is considering research on this at this time in Seattle at:
            In 1982 bonding wasn’t being addressed at all as far as I could tell, so my priorities at that time were just to get my babies fat enough so that they wouldn’t be under 5 pounds each and have a better chance of not being born prematurely. I wanted to do everything possible so that we could have them at The Farm with Ina May Gaskin and their protocols included not being able to deliver premature babies at their clinic. (See: Twin Birth on The Farm, at the toolbar under April listings)            

I was also blessed to have found a La Leche League leader in our backwoods town in Wisconsin, though I cannot recall her name now 30 years later, who had successfully nursed twins and who never balked at my almost daily phone calls for advice. She was a BRICK! (That’s Brit for an angel.) The rest of the time we simply bumbled along on our own, finding some things that worked and chucking out the ones that didn’t.
I wonder if bonding with our twins came easier to us because they weren’t identical. We had a boy and a girl, whom I never dressed alike. I think it was easier than it could have been had they been identical boys or identical girls. I was able to view them each as unique, separate little individuals from the start. The funny thing was, however, that before their 10th birthday they came to us, obviously having discussed the subject at great length, and requested matching outfits for their presents. They had already, by their 5th birthday, figured out that most children got their very own birthday cakes, whereas until then they had to share one. So began our family tradition of having three birthday cakes in one week every October. Their older brother’s birthday is during the same week as
theirs. So I sewed them matching outfits that year. I had found a beautiful piece of African batik cotton with green turtles wearing red sunglasses and all swimming in a blue-greeny sea of water and seaweed. They insisted on wearing those outfits even after they had obviously outgrown them.

       Because my husband was in graduate school and working when the twins were born, I didn’t want to keep him up every night helping out with one or the other, so I had made a nursing corner in the living room where we wouldn’t disturb him during their fussiest times. All of our children slept with us and I usually just turned over to feed them, but in the beginning it was a bigger production and feedings were definitely more often than when they were bigger and slept for longer stretches.
I found out the hard way how to take care of myself (or not) during that first year. As soon as both were asleep, most days I would switch into high gear and do up the dishes, clean the house, start supper, and even try to squeeze in reading or calling a friend on the phone. And I burned out before long doing that. Of course my milk supply was noticeably less when I didn’t get enough rest. Even an hour here and there would have been much better than ignoring my constant sleep-deprived state.
            Be sure that you nap when your babies do every day and don’t miss that very important element of self-care. Yes, it is fun and inspirational to read about how others have done it, but you will quickly become frazzled if you don’t sleep enough. The two leading causes of low milk supply are actually worry and a lack of sleep. When you weigh your baby (ies) before, and after each feed and worry if they are getting enough to eat, it actually diminishes the output. The best way to be sure your baby is getting enough is to feed often, throw out the scale as long as they are past preemie stage, especially when they show an interest with feeding cues and have 7 or more wet diapers a day starting by day 7 (counting from their BIRTH day.)
In the end, I think streamlining many parts of our life gave us more bonding time and contact with each one. You will find the right way if you keep that in mind. One thing that did help us was moving our futons off of their frames and putting them on the floor. I didn’t have to be checking sleeping babies constantly, afraid they might fall off. I could also rest and let one or another wide-awake little rug rat play on the floor nearby without getting into trouble. We baby-proofed everything of course, electrical outlets first. We also found that an overload of toys didn’t help. In the end their favorite ‘toy’ was what they dubbed ‘the horse’: the vacuum cleaner! They would both get on it and make all sorts of animal noises. They were perfectly happy having just one or two toys at a time and having each other and their big brother Avi. This was vastly different from having our first, Avi who was a singleton who wanted my attention constantly and followed me around all day if I wasn’t carrying him.
       I bathed all three together, laying them on a clean towel on the floor until it was their turn or later when they were done. David often got into the tub first and would wash each one, handing them out to be dried and ‘catching’ the next one. For meals I started out with three highchairs, (one for each of the twins and one for our toddler,) three bowls of food and three spoons, shoveling the food in and trying not to share germs until one day when I was just too wiped out to care and realized that one big bowl of oatmeal and one spoon worked just as well. I never used baby foods or ground up portions for them, but rather went right to finger food when they first sprouted teeth. Bananas, avocado, tofu squares, cheese cubes, steamed cubed squash, beets or potato; melon, etc. (NOTE: peanut butter on bread has been found to cause choking as it sticks in the mouth and throat.) Most cultures around the world have had babies who obviously survived quite well without Gerber baby food. (See toolbar at right for “Rosemary’s Wisdom on Bonding.”)
I got rid of the rocking chair when the twins could crawl. For one, I was afraid of rocking on little fingers. Then I got tired of one or the other hanging onto my legs while I nursed the other. By then they were too big to both nurse at the same time and all three of us fit in the same chair. It also excluded Avi, our toddler from joining us. Back to the floor. We got a futon for the living room with a washable slip cover and that became our cuddle corner then. I could even rest a bit while they played, crawled over me, or nursed. I also put a gate in the doorway to avoid any unforeseen expeditions into the kitchen or bathroom. We were given a double stroller when they were about 6 months old which occurred at the beginning of summer, so I could take the kids out on walks by myself. I am not very keen on strollers, but it was nice to be outside and when we arrived at a park I would open up the blanket I had brought along and let everyone loose. (See: “Threshold Theory” on toolbar at right) We also got two baby carriers, one for each of us to wear on our hikes and outings. (See: “Wear Your Baby!” July stories on toolbar at right.)
As they grew up our twins became two very different personalities, often quite opposite in temperament. One day when they were almost 3 they appeared together at the stove where I was cleaning up from breakfast. Isaac spoke first. “She wants a girl cheese sammich and I wanna boy cheese sammich for lunch!” (He assumed I had been always calling them ‘girl cheese’ sandwiches. They often finished sentences for each other, though Isaac would do so out of impatience as Ruth needed more time to formulate her sentences. He developed much faster than she did, walking at 10 months while she didn’t start until she was 15 months old. He got teeth earlier and crawled earlier, too. He figured out how to unzip their one-piece footie pajamas, first his and then hers and would also open their diaper clips before I woke up, gleefully dancing around our bedroom loft  in their birthday suits. By winter, I started putting on the PJs backwards and securing the zipper pulls with safety pins in attempt to thwart them. I know they were having an awesome time but I was worried about colds and flu back then. I know now they will put clothes on if they become cold.
We never had problems with bedtimes since we didn’t have one. We had observed our Hmong friends’ parenting style years before and they seemed to have far less strife surrounding bedtimes than I remembered in my own family. When their kids got tired they dropped where they were and were gently transported to the communal bedroom. When our kids were little we lived in a log cabin in Wisconsin and to save on lamp oil we often retired as a family up to the sleeping loft and all climbed into bed as the sun set, eager for Papa to read. He read for close to an hour every single night for all the years we lived there. They never tired of the “Little House on The Prairie” series which we read through at least 3 times during those years. One by one they would fall asleep until Papa blew out the lantern. We also woke up with the sun during those years. This arrangement was quite stress-free and one felt fully rested in the morning.
I did not know then what I know now, especially about continuum bonding and I know I would have done many things differently if I had. I regret putting so much stock in doing what I wanted like sewing and baking pies. I was never satisfied with just making one Shoo Fly Pie. I had to make 5 to last all week and serve guests besides. I continued to make intricate quilts even after the twins were born, calling that “my personal times” but I only know now in retrospect that I would have definitely felt less stressed if I had waited to do all the sewing for a while. They have all grown up and I miss them very much. Ironically I have all the time in the world now to sew, though I no longer have any desire to fiddle with piecing quilts.
We do the best we can as parents with what knowledge we have at the time. We cannot berate ourselves for not knowing enough at any particular juncture in time. And I believe our children know we want only the best for them and can feel those intentions. Talking together as parents is critical. Discussing ideas, plans for better ways of doing things, or suggesting doing some things differently for a while must come from both of you being united on each point. I found my best resources though, in other couples we could turn to. And now that our children are all grown and gone, we can help younger families find their way.
Just a few of the numerous websites to read about bonding with twins are here below. There are too many to list them all. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there. You just have to tap into it. Gina Osher is The Twin Coach in Los Angeles. She bravely writes about some of the uneven feelings that twin parents may experience in hopes of helping other moms who are having the same challenges.
Also see:  http://www.thetwincoach.com/
www.everydayfamily.com Raising Twins or Multiples
www.netplaces.com › Twins, Triplets, and More
Books and videos about twins:
Chicken Soup for the Soul Twins and More: 101 Stories Celebrating Double Trouble           and   Multiple Blessings by Susan M. Heim, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Books and videos about multiples:
Chicken Soup for the Soul Twins and More: 101 Stories Celebrating Double Trouble and Multiple Blessings by Susan M. Heim, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Everything You Need to Know to Have a Healthy Twin Pregnancy by Gila Leiter with         Rachel Kranz
Having Twins And More by Elizabeth Noble
Hello Twins by Charlotte Voake
It's Twins!: Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy through Adolescence by Susan M.           Heim
Little Miss Twins by Roger Hargreaves
The Everything Twins, Triplets, and More Book by Pamela Fierro
Twinspiration: Real-Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year by Cheryl    Lage
There are many more books and valuable web sites out there. Mothers of Multiples groups are springing up all over, too. If there isn’t one near you, start one!
STAY TUNED... This and other stories will be appearing the book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century© pending by Stephanie Sorensen 

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