19 Feb 2014

Blossoming Blog

I’ve been pretty busy with life and it’s been a while since my last post. Not that I haven’t been blogging, I have, but for a couple of other groups I’ve added into my mix. I work full time, parent full time and try to include my blog and other exciting opportunities in my monthly routine as best as I can.

Three years ago, when I started this blog, I thought to myself, I will make something of it. Blogging is hard to keep up and many lose their momentum. When I started blogging my purpose was to reach other parents of premature children, as well as multiple-births children. I wanted this blog to take off and blossom. I was on maternity leave when I started Twintrospectives and was able to squeeze in lots of blog writing during nap times. Little did I know how connected I would become to the parents I aimed to reach, right across the world! Initially I worked hard to participate in blog hops to share the details of my new blog and it was very exciting to see new comments and visits to my blog.

In the early days, I didn’t know where this blogging thing would take me, but I was pretty determined to make something of it. I wasn’t setting out to monetize my blog (back when I didn’t actually know what monetizing meant), rather I truly wanted to connect with others or at the very least share my thoughts and opinions on raising premature babies and hope that someone would either get a good laugh out of some of my predicaments or identify with my experiences and feel like they’re not alone.

This blog has given me the confidence to reach out to the preemie community and connect in ways I never imagined. The conversations that have stemmed from this blog and Twitter have led to new friendships and professional connections. I am so grateful for both!

The biggest thing the existence of this blog has taught me is that if you take the time to say something that matters to you with complete honesty, people will listen and respond. Doors you didn’t realize existed will open.

I’d love for you to check out some of the groups and organizations I am working with now, which has so much to do with having started this blog 3 years ago.

11 Nov 2013

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

This month the United States is celebrating prematurity awareness month. Many are recognizing premature birth all week long leading up to World Prematurity Day on Sunday, November 17.

All this week, one of the blogs I write for is posting several posts per day to celebrate and recognize the importance of premature birth awareness. Go check out  How Do You Do It? Prematurity Awareness Week 2013 this week to learn about what to expect, learn some of the terminology you might encounter in a neonatal intensive care unit and you can even share your story in comments or by joining in on the blog hop, where you can share your personal blog or preemie story link all week long.

11 Oct 2013

When Even the Professionals Get it Wrong...Really Wrong

Recently I had the chance to sit with a group of mothers, who were much like me, having at least twins in their busy families. We listened to a very nice lady, who happened to be a psychotherapist, who also happened to make a terrible and uneducated judgement during her chat.

While talking about the obvious challenges bringing more than one baby home at a time can bring to a couple, and the ups and downs of making a relationship work, she said she really doesn't know how parents of multiples do it and continue to be able to make time for each other.

She reminded us that it really is hard work to make a relationship work and that's okay. Nothing worthwhile comes easy...or so the saying goes. She had my attention here. She was giving us mothers permission to be tired and have random, dumb arguments with our husbands over the contents of a recycling bin (yes, I had an argument over a recycling bin!) She said she knows from many conversations that couples with multiples or singletons for that matter, often struggle to find time for each other because if you both work all day or one's at work while the other is caring for the kids all day long, once the kids are tucked in bed, the last thing many parents...in particular mothers...want to think about is how to make the only other grown adult in the house happy. Days are long and can be taxing if you're at work all day or hanging out with screaming, crayon eating, runny nosed children. Once bedtime is dealt with many of us want to sit and enjoy the silence, maybe not chat with anyone at all because you actually lack the energy to do so. Sometimes that happens. We're human.

As this psychotherapist went on to discuss how tired we are as parents and had us raising our hands to various questions, she proceeded to ask, "Who here has a nanny?" Two of us raised our hand...one of those people was me. Yes, our household has a nanny. It's not something I openly talk about because lots of people, and I mean lots, make inaccurate assumptions of what having a nanny really means. Since I have a nanny, I am told my husband and I are "rich." I've been told we're "lucky." I've been told, "It must be nice to have an immaculate house to come home to every night after work." My responses are, "No, we're not rich. We can't actually afford to send our kids to an actual daycare because it would cost us close to $3000 a month," and "Why are we lucky? I'm not really sure," and finally, "We have a nanny, not a housekeeper. She looks after 3 young children, not the ring around the bathtub." Having a nanny is about cost-savings and that is it. It doesn't mean I am any less tired at the end of the day. I work a full time job, leaving the house at 8:15 and getting home at 5:30ish. Same for the hubby. We're busy people, working hard to bring home the bacon.

So when I raised my hand, along with the other woman in the room, the psychotherapist proceeded to tell everyone we (us two idiots who put up our hands) have the best...how can I keep this PG? The best "relationships" with our husbands out of everyone in the room! Why? Because we have a nanny looking after our kids. What?? FYI, a nanny is not an accessory. Having a nanny doesn't mean it makes a workday less challenging. Having a nanny doesn't make our lives any better than the mothers who take their kids to daycare for the day or are stay at home moms, so why is there this apparent mythical labelling that a nanny is the perfect fix to a relationship and whatever other inaccurate labels people bestow upon them? Once this woman said this, she completely lost me. Fizzle...Checked out. It left me feeling like this message coming from the expert, was that if we had a nanny, life must be peachy and I really had nothing to complain about. I must not be like the other mothers in the room. Because I have a nanny.

So the moral(s) of this story? Skip the assumptions. Do your research before you cast your judgement. And even if you think it's going to be funny, just don't say it if you don't know your audience!

1 Oct 2013

Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU - Canadian Edition

I originally wrote this post in August on www.hdydi.com for the World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival. I wrote these tips based on my real life experiences of breastfeeding my three little guys during my time in and after their NICU graduations. We aim to promote community support and to normalize breastfeeding for today's and the future's parent. Find more posts that were included by visiting the main carnival page.
This week it is Breastfeeding Awareness Week here in Canada (October 1 - 7.)
A special note I want to make is that although I am pro-BF'ing and I tried very hard to be successful, I do believe each mother has the choice and I hope that mothers will consider and try breastfeeding, and if it doesn't work, seek some help and if still doesn't work, well then, it doesn't work. On another note, many premature babies have difficulty in gaining weight and struggle and in these cases premature babies often benefit greatly from receiving fortified milk or supplemental formula feeds to increase caloric intake. If you are reading this, in a NICU and want to solely breastfeed your babies, but the doctors are advising to fortify, it is important for you to understand the rationale behind it and be on the same page as your baby's specialists.
We all hear it. We all know it. “Breast is best.” Being able to breastfeed babies is something to strive for and many new mothers are bound and determined to be successful breastfeeding mommies. But it’s not always that easy.
What happens when you have more than one baby at a time, each demanding to be fed as newborn babies do? How do you balance the needs of twins, ensuring they are being well-nourished? How do you handle your own needs as a mom, such as getting enough sleep, managing your own diet when you are trying to balance the needs of multiple babies? How do you learn to nurse your babies if they are born premature and are living in a NICU? Each situation is challenging, but each of these needs can be achieved. I am telling you, because I have done it for three premature babies, including twins while in a NICU. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. You might shed a few tears. You might want to give up. People might try to talk you out of it. But I’m telling you now, it can be done!
While in the NICU for over three months with twins, I learned to nurse each of my babies when they were ready. Unfortunately we found ourselves in contact isolation for about 9 weeks of this time, all the while trying to learn to breastfeed and nourish my babies enough to be able to go home when they were ready and continue on with breastfeeding for as long as possible. Wearing gloves and gown while in isolation, I learned to work through the awkwardness of breastfeeding while in my isolation “get-up,” along with dealing with numerous wires and sticky things about my babies’ bodies. It truly was awkward, yet I wasn’t going to give up because of a rash of a bit of bad luck. The one thing that was natural and I could do for my babies, I was going to do.
Here are my 5 tips for you to try with the hopes that you will be successful while breastfeeding in a NICU and beyond.

Why Do You Want to Breastfeed?

First things first, ask yourself why you want to breastfeed. Is it for your own personal satisfaction and goal of providing for your children? Is it because you feel it is best for your children? Or is it because someone else told you that you should? If it is because you either want to gain something out of it such as the feeling of satisfaction of knowing you are providing nourishment for your babies or because you feel in your heart it is what needs to be done and you’re going to do it, then you’re on the right track. To be successful at breastfeeding babies, who are living in a NICU, when you are already under an enormous amount of strain and potential mental, physical and emotional stress, you have to be sure breastfeeding is important to you and you’re not doing it because someone else said so. If you are not mentally prepared to breastfeed, you’re headed for a rocky road.

Communicate Your Breastfeeding Goals to Others

Make sure you tell your babies’ NICU nurses, lactation consultant, and medical team your goal to breastfeed your babies when they are ready. Remember, because your babies have arrived early, they may not be able to start nursing immediately due to their size or health situation. Give it time and be patient. Begin using a breast pump as soon as possible and on a regular schedule, which you will expect to follow when the babies are ready to begin breastfeeding. Most hospitals will have you begin to get accustomed to an every three hour pumping and eventually breastfeeding schedule. Now is a great time to allow your body to what it was designed to do, which is produce milk for your newborn babies. If you find you are experiencing challenges with producing, consider being in a NICU a blessing in disguise. If you are struggling in the early days, you will have a bit of time to investigate and figure out how to have your milk come in. By being in the NICU you have access to the nursing team, as well as lactation consultants, which you wouldn’t have if you went directly home after the birth of your babies.

Use the NICU Resources

No one wants to be in the NICU. I know that. The way I looked at it though, is that it was a chance situation that put me in the NICU, surrounded by medical experts and a team of lactation consultants, occupational therapists and dieticians, so I was going to make full use of the medical team there to support me and my babies. Each of these experts has a different way of looking at the breastfeeding process. Your lactation consultant can discuss tips and tricks for positioning yourself and your babies for optimal comfort and breastfeeding success. An occupational therapist can also be brought into the picture to assess how babies are handling the “suck, swallow, breathe” process and make any necessary adjustments needed for your breastfeeding technique. The dietician may discuss your dietary needs, what’s best to eat while breastfeeding, as well as possibly discuss your infants’ dietary needs and possibility of higher caloric intake, which may depend on weight and rate of growth. These people are a quick phone call away and they will come to help you when you ask. Where else can you get a team of experts like this practically at your fingertips?

Find Your Comfort Zone

Each mother is different and thankfully there are different ways to breastfeed your babies. Figure out what works best for you by trying things out. Once again, since you are in the NICU, now is the best time to hammer out the best approach for feeding your babies. Having premature babies often means they are very small in size. It can be very uncomfortable in the early days when it comes to figuring out how to handle their little bodies and having the confidence that you are not actually hurting them as you move them around getting settled to breastfeed. It will take some time to get comfortable with these things. Ask the lactation consultant if they have a variety of nursing pillows for you to try. One mom of multiples might swear by nursing pillows made specifically for twins, while another mother might prefer a different style which fits her small premature babies on it. Some moms are quite content layering a few pillows across their lap and adjusting based on the babies’ needs for positioning. You may find your babies also have a preference for a certain breastfeeding hold over another. Once again, your time in the NICU allows you the unique opportunity for “practice,” as well as bedside coaching from the nurses and other staff involved in your babies’ care.

Before Discharge from NICU

The day you get to take your babies home will eventually arrive. Make sure you plan how you will transition yourselves from the NICU with constant access to experts to your own household, which will not have a 24 hour staff on call. How will you and your partner handle your breastfeeding schedule once you have brought your babies home? Will your partner be able to support your goal of breastfeeding by helping you keep on top of your feeding schedule and by helping you get up in the wee hours of the night to feed them? These are all important points to consider and prepare for before being discharged from the hospital. To help make a smooth transition from NICU to home, consider contacting your local multiples organization to see if they have a breastfeeding support person, or your local public health office and even your children’s pediatrician’s office. All of these organizations will know how to put you in touch with a lactation consultant or formal breastfeeding supports. Knowing that you can build your own “team” outside the hospital will hopefully help you keep on track with breastfeeding your babies until you are ready to wean them, whenever that day may be.
Landing in a NICU with your premature babies is not ideal, but take it is a chance to accept help you would not have received otherwise. Consider this your opportunity to get breastfeeding right. You are in a place with some amazing experts that you never would have had access to if you’d had your babies and went directly home. The NICU is likely a whole new world to you, so take the time to explore it and the unexpected opportunities it has available to you. I am confident I was able to successfully breastfeed my three children for 13 months and 9 months based on the fact I had supportive experts rooting for me and showing me the way from day one.

21 Sep 2013

The Bed Rest I Didn't Get

Bed rest. It can mean different things to different women. To one woman it could be nothing but a memory of fear and isolation. To another it could be a time she took to deal with the facts of life, take one day at a time and do what she could to get her baby as far along to term as possible. To me it's a time I didn't get and really do wish I had been given the opportunity, but it just didn't work out that way.

Since I didn't get bed rest while carrying my twins, it really is a whole other world I don't really understand. Much like the NICU is a whole other world that most people I meet have no idea about. Ever.

In recent weeks I've been chatting to mothers who have been and expectant mothers who are currently on various forms of bed rest, from being at home and taking it easy to being on strict bed rest in the hospital. I have been learning more about this world I know little about. Some things are surprising and some things I really just never thought of before and why would I if I wasn't in the situation, right? But what I do realize because of the type of work I do, is that it is so important to understand as much as possible about the unique experiences of all the mothers I may encounter, work with or befriend. We all have an interesting story to tell, which sometimes has immense challenges and these mothers truly are warriors.

This week I was asked to review a brand new e-book written by a mother who was on bed rest in hospital, while hoping to hold on to her triplets pregnancy as long as possible. Angela Bickford has written a book that is a quick, funny and helpful read and kept me engaged even though I was never a bed resting mommy. The book talks about some of the silliest, most bizarre kinds of situations every day women are being plunked into at their doctor's orders, but it also discusses some of the challenges and how partners, friends and families can continue to support a mother on bed rest. I think it's a great read for anyone involved in helping a mom get through the bed rest stage of a pregnancy.

I found the section in chapter 9 talking about what friends can do for a friend on bed rest really helpful and I'll be sure to remember some of the ideas for expectant parents I may encounter in the future. There are helpful tips and advice for the expectant mom, the father, the friends and family, so I would recommend anyone involved in a bed resting mommy's situation be handed this book to read to quickly be in the know and do what they can to help the expectant mother make it through.

Angela is a mother to triplets, who lost one and is currently raising the surviving two. She is passionate about telling her story through public speaking, writing in publications, on her own blog and the How Do You Do It? Where moms of multiples tell it like it is blog. You can find her book, Beating Bed Rest available to purchase on her website.

31 Jul 2013

Proud Mom of a NICU Grad 2010 X 2

Today, July 31st is our 3rd NICU Graduation Anniversary day for Twin A! Three years ago we celebrated the discharge of Twin A from hospital, which was a day we waited a long time for. I’m not going to lie, not all of those days were filled with patience and understanding. Some of those days when we were waiting to get to take our babies home were filled with tea
rs, frustration and what sometimes felt like my heart was breaking.

Cat nap in the "care by parent" room.
Final stage of NICU!
That day was one of the most positive days in three months. As any NICU parent knows, we experience many positive experiences or steps in the right direction during a NICU stay, but that final step of being able to walk your baby out of the NICU, which has protected him since the day he arrived is an amazing feeling! No longer is your baby sheltered inside a dimly lit intensive care unit, with alarms, wires and a staff. Now he is all yours and ready to go home! When we walk out those NICU doors and they close behind us, we get this sudden urge to run for the elevator doors and get out of there as fast as possible before someone changes their mind! Imagine that? Funny, but not! 

Big Bro greets Twin A at NICU exit.

All parents who walk out of a hospital with their new little baby walk out with pride plastered all over their faces. A NICU parent does that too, but may have more people to stop and chat with and will be more than happy to take in all the glory of the ooh’s and ah’s and loving coo’s coming from staff and random strangers’ mouths, as they make their way toward the exit to take their small baby home. It’s like a mini, slow-moving parade. On our special day, as I wheeled out Twin B, who had just officially met his big brother after 93 long days apart, the sun was shining and my children’s grandmothers were in tow and they were smiling from ear to ear. It was one of the best days I had ever experienced, but things weren’t quite right yet.

While we focused our attention on getting Twin A situated in his second “home away from home” at the Ronald McDonald House down the street from the hospital, the reality was Twin B was still in the NICU, as he was still working on being well enough to come home. My little family was not yet picture perfect yet.
Getting used to life "on the outside."
Big Bro gets in his first snuggles
with Twin A.

Now my time was not only going to be divided between the hospital and my eldest child, it had to be divided between the hospital with Twin B, Twin A at our “temporary residence” and Big Brother who was bouncing between our actual home and the “home away from home.” Thankfully, I had two awesome ladies front and centre to help balance the needs of Twin A and Big Brother, taking up temporary residence off and on for three more weeks while we waited for Twin B to join his two NICU Grad brothers with his rite of passage in graduating from his NICU stay.
Another cat nap. This time at his
Home Away from Home.

The boys’ father was at work, making a living and bringing home the bacon, while I worked hard with my little boys outside the hospital and my little man working on healing and re-teaching him to breastfeed. He had had a surgery and was very pooped out, losing his will to breastfeed. Those final three weeks seemed like an eternity, but I knew we were in the home stretch. With a lot of collaboration between our NICU team, including the neonatologists, occupational therapist, lactation consultant, our nurses and myself, we devised plans, scaled back, re-thought and tried again to get this little man healthy, packing on the grams (yes, grams) and ready to graduate. Those days were taxing. They were frustrating. I advocated like I never advocated for my child before! And it was so worth it. By this stage of the game I had developed a new found confidence in
my knowledge as a mother and I had learned how to speak for
my baby and for the wellness of my family.

Three weeks after Twin A came home, along came Twin B, right behind is little big brother. That day was the end of our NICU chapter and the start of many amazing new ones in our own home as a family of five.

28 May 2013

Are you aware? National Multiple Births Awareness Day

Today is our day to celebrate and share the fun and the freaky when it comes to raising multiples. Of course people are “aware” of multiples…but are they really aware? My personal experience after having hundreds of conversations with people who do not have multiples is that it is safe to say they just really… are not. No offence to them. It is hard for people to understand and make appropriate conclusions when they haven’t lived the life or walked two or three miles in a multiple parent’s shoes.

If you’re a multiples parent, how many times have you heard “It’s no harder than having two single babies”? In my head I may sometimes be yelling, “Bite your tongue! Bite your tongue!” I usually choose the high road. Usually. Depending on the situation and who I am talking to I might paint a picture of the very early days, the NICU stay, the outright crazy fears we lived with daily for weeks at a time, then the awesome NICU graduation days that came and of course all the amazing things that have taken place since. I might be able to sum it up in 15 minutes. Do you have time to spare?

What I do find hard about being a MoM is that sometimes, without knowing it, people tend to diminish or downplay the experience of having twins. It can be like a slap across the face. On the average day do I care if people are aware that I have twins? No. But on those days when I have two little guys freaking out in a grocery store because I had no choice but to bring them along and someone says something completely silly at the most inopportune time or smiles and says “double the trouble”…I wonder what possesses them to say such an unhelpful or quite obvious thing to a mother who is obviously struggling, probably mortified and just wants to get out of there without feeling like a circus show?

This is where other parents of multiples come in. They get it. Definitely. No doubt about it. They know what it’s like to be adamant about nursing two babies at one time. Yup, us multiples moms do try it…some stick with it…others make the decision that best suits their family’s needs. And that’s okay! There is no judgement, just a lot of positive support and advice. Try this. Do that. This worked for me. Did you hear of this new product for twins?

There is a huge level of camaraderie in the multiples world. It amazes me! Mothers and Dads (we need more Dads in on this action) across Canada unite through Multiple Births Canada, local Chapters and other fun, supportive groups with multiples on the mind. They are communicating on Facebook groups, Twitter, networks and email, all in order to create friendships and bonds with other multiples families. We celebrate each other’s triumphs, like NICU graduations or starting JK, making it through those first hard years without going bonkers. We lift each other’s spirits when sometimes life just seems to be too stressful, messy and tiring when it comes to raising multiples and sometimes more. We take photos of awesome double and triple strollers we find in consignment shops and garage sales, uploading them ASAP to our social networks. “Check this out twin moms! Hurry before this awesome stroller is gone.” We stand in grocery store aisles and message our social networks, knowing that at any given moment someone will be there and can look up a recipe for you because you actually forgot your grocery list at home. We send out mass emails to let our MoM friends know where the best deal on diapers is for that week. I had a singleton and I can reflect on that experience and confidently say there just wasn’t the same type of support going on between “singleton” moms (maybe that’s just me.)

So today I thank all the multiples parents I’ve met, who have supported me along the way, had a laugh with me and shared a hug when I needed it. You are an awesome bunch of people to have something in common with and I’m grateful to be part of such an inspiring “club.”

Happy National Multiple Births Awareness Day!