23 Jan 2012

And the beat goes on...

At 20.5 months, we are well over 350 appointments that we have gone to or have attended in our own home.  The appointments never end!

My calendar continues to be a constantly changed and updated item that I cannot live without.  I wouldn't know where I was supposed to be each morning (aside from being at work) if I didn't have my calendar.  While I was on maternity leave I took the twins to all of their appointments.  I only had to manage their appointments and it was straight forward and uncomplicated...although the calendar was always packed.

Now that I have been back to work for just about 5 months, my calendars are a mess!! Yes, calendarssss.  My hubby has been added into the mix of taking the twins to some appointments.  Now I update my hard copy daily planner, my work Outlook Express calendar, an online email calendar, which sends invites to my hubby's Blackberry.  Can you say over complicated? LOL.  I can't see my husband wanting to refer to an actual hard copy calendar and I know he'd forget it more often than not. 

Then of course we have our son's pre-school daycare calendar to refer to and make sure he doesn't miss out on "Wacky Hair-Do Day," because we forgot to check! God forbid! 

We are still averaging 2-3 appointments per week and it's a lot to balance.  Sometimes I really don't know the actual day of the week.  I just know where I am supposed to be and who we are supposed to be seeing because I made sure to check the night before.  The rest of the time I'm at work!

In one year I wasn't late and never missed a single appointment.  I go back to work and share the duties of getting the twins to appointment and one appointment I didn't know was scheduled because it never went on the calendar(s).  We missed another because it conflicted with an evening Christmas concert and I forgot all about an appointment. Oopsie! Then today, our third mishap...I sent my hubby and twins out in the pouring rain to their speech therapy appointments, only to have the therapist arrive at our front door...where the twins weren't.  Whoops!

All in all, I think we are kicking butt getting our little guys to the places they need to be.  We've had our moments, but I think our track record still remains pretty darn good.  That's what I'll keep telling myself!

And after today's mishap and a huge apologetic email off to our therapist, I arrive home to another invitation to 2 follow up appointments in March!  All in a day's work!

And the beat goes on...

18 Jan 2012

A Twins Mom-to-Be Wish List

New Year - New Babies!
I have recently learned of two families I know who are now expecting twins in May and June, so this year is going to a spectacular and memorable year for them for sure.  I'm very excited for them!

So today I am going to focus on what I think every twins' mom should be equipped with before getting home from the hospital and additional items to be on the lookout for after they come home.  I'm also going to explain why.

You won't need double of every kind of toy or piece of equipment, but sometimes 2 of the bigger, every day items might save your sanity.

2 carseat/carriers
This is an obvious one, but if you don't plan ahead you will realize how expensive carseat carriers and the whole combo sets can be!  My advice is to do your research, watch for sales and when family asks what they can buy, you should make sure to ask for assistance with these items, which you'll use every day.

1 twin stroller (different than a double stroller)
There is a "twin" stroller and there is a "double" stroller.  When shopping around, find out if you're looking at  a twins style or a double.  Some brands will say "Twin" stroller, but look closely and see what the real details are and how they will or will not work for twins.  The reason I suggest this is because a true twin stroller will usually have the same size seats for the babies/children and the double stroller usually has one smaller unit and one larger, enabling only one carseat to be clicked in for daily use.  For example, it might be referred to as a 60/40 split.  The bigger kid goes on the 60 side (up to 60 lbs.) and the smaller kid goes on the 40 side (up to 40 lbs.)  In this style you cannot click two baby carseat carriers into it.  That is not what you want to have happen as a mother to twins and you don't want to find out after you fall in love with the style or buy it that it doesn't even work for your needs.  That would be a very expensive mistake!

I personally have 2 twin tandem strollers, which is the type on which the seats are one in front of the other.  I call one my "winter beater" because it's a little older and I'm willing to allow it to get all salted up and dirty from the winter weather and slushy parking lots.  The spring/summer stroller will hopefully stay in clean and "pretty" condition for a few years.  The kind of strollers we have are the Peg Perego Duette and Duette 2.  I was able to find both of these strollers for $100.00 and $150.00 on online classifieds ads.  This is a far cry from the minimum $850.00 for a brand new Peg Duette!! Yikes!

The beauty of the tandem style is that you will more than likely have no problem getting through doctor's office doorways, mall doorways, down aisles in tight stores and so on.  Additionally, you can get tandem brands that allow you to setup the seats in three ways. 1. Both babies facing away from mom/dad 2. Both babies facing mom/dad or 3. Babies facing inwards, looking at each other.  I personally enjoy my twins facing each other so they can interact and keep each other occupied.  I am sure when they are older I will be facing them away from each other on days they are fighting or having tantrums.

When the twins are babies, the tandem stroller will accomodate both infant carseat carriers.


You will also become an expert at manoeuvring that sucker in no time!   People will probably stare at you in awe as you come down the mall or hall.  The one thing these tandems don't have is a back up beeper signal, which I really think they should have!  They have them on mini-vans, so why not gigantic strollers too??  You do need room to back up and turn, but with patience you'll figure out how to do it like an expert in no time.

The triple stroller is another story and if you have to go the route of a triple stroller, don't be surprised if you feel like you're on exhibit as onlookers' eyes bug out as you pass by.

**I don't recommend the most current versions of Peg Perego, which have "steering wheels" (see above pic) to move the front wheels.  I used the triple mentioned above of this brand as well, and it was impossible to turn the wheels all the way to make tight turns.  The wheels are only able to turn so far and do not swivel like the older models do.  I really do recommend getting a gently used older model that allows for all of the wheels to turn a full 360 if needed. 

2 High Chairs
I recommend a full sized high chair versus getting the type you attach to a kitchen table or a booster seat.

What I like about the free standing/full sized high chairs are they are spacious for the baby, they have a large tray/eating surface, they have a 5 point harness (at least you should try to get a 5 point harness,) they can recline 2-3 positions, they adjust up or down in height.

The booster seat or table attachment chairs cannot compare to the above.  We used the full sized chairs for our twins' first 17 months.  During that time we could adjust each baby's chair for their specific needs.  For example, one of the twins didn't have very good neck control when he first went into the highchair, so we could recline him to a comfortable position so he wouldn't struggle to drink his bottle.  You can't do that with a booster or attachable chair.  They don't recline.

We have the Fisher Price Rainforest Healthy Care High Chairs and I love them.  They are easy to clean.  The seat cushion comes off very easily and can be thrown in the washer with the harness and hung to dry without losing shape.

4 bassinets
I suggest 2 bassinets in mom and dad's room and 2 on the main floor where you will probably spend most of your time.  This will be a huge time saver for you, as you will not have to run up and down the stairs all day long when they wake or cry.

2 or more playpens
We used one playpen in our household and had an extra playpen at each grandparents' home.  Our twins were able to take their naps in a shared playpen--they didn't need each need a playpen.

1 or 2 swings
I would suggest starting with one swing and seeing if each baby will even like a swing.  I know many babies don't end up enjoying the swing and it becomes a very large dust collector.  We had one swing from our first child and we did end up getting a hand-me-down swing, which was in perfect condition.  Our babies loved the swing.

1 Exersaucer
This is an item, which I didn't see a need for two.  By the time the babies can go into an Exersaucer, they are most likely bigger and a little more independent.  Both babies will not necessarily want to do the exact same thing or even care if they do.  We would usually put one baby in the Exersaucer and the other in the Jumperoo if we needed some free hands time.

1 Jumperoo
See above.

1-2 Tumzees
What is a Tumzee?  It's a fairly new, Canadian product, that is meant for assisting with the development of a baby's upper body strength (shoulders, arms, necks.)  It's an addition to regular tummy time.  Many babies hate being on their tummies during a period when it is very important for their development.  Our babies, given that they were so premature, needed all the help they could get with this area of development.  They spent the majority of their first 3 to 3.5 months on their backs or sides and very rarely on their tummies.  We had a lot of catching up to do and the Tumzee helped.  It can get babies eye level up to the area of their toys dangling off the playmat, for example, and that can begin to interest them in holding their heads up and using their arms to do so.

2 Bumbos
I love the Bumbo! I think it one of the best recent baby inventions!  Since it helps children sit before they are technically at an age they can do it on their own, it is a really big help for preemie babies (as long as they are at a point they can hold their own heads up.)  You can take the Bumbo when you're on the go and easily put it in your trunk and use it at the park for picnics or where ever you won't have a proper high chair.  Until the grandparents were able to get enough high chairs for the twins we would often take at least one Bumbo with us when we visited. The tray you can attach is also a great accessory to have for playtime or eating time.

2 interactive playmats
At first your babies will most likely fit on one playmat together fine, but as they grow it will become more awkward and a fight for the babies to reach for toys they want.  I ended up getting a second playmat when they were obviously too big to share one.

Dozens of receiving blankets
When you think of twin babies think double the spit up, double the mess and double the need for blankets/burp cloths and the like.  You will have much less time for laundry, which is the reason I say you will need dozens of receiving blankets (I didn't use burp cloths--too small.)

4-6 sleepsacs
For example: Back to Sleep or Grobag. Depending where you live, you may want to have the light weight ones and some heavier weight sleepsacs.  It will also depend when the twins are due to be born.  If they will be born spring-summer, then I would suggest having 4 light weight sleepsacs and maybe 2 heavier/bigger ones, which can be grown into in the fall/winter and vice versa.

The Back to Sleep brand in particular offers the choice of being able to bundle the baby.  You can easily put the baby in the sleepsac, zip the baby in, then wrap a matching piece of material around the back and tummy to bundle the baby snug, which secures with some velcro.  This was a nice feature in the early days and a big time saver if you're not good at getting a nice tight bundle on your own with a receiving blanket.  The other bonus is that it can't unravel when the baby shifts and moves about, as a receiving blanket probably would.  If you end up living in a NICU for a while, you'll probably have the process of bundling a baby with a blanket down pat, and the baby will probably be snug as a bug.  Either way the sleepsac is quick and easy and I loved them.

Tonnes and tonnes of diapers.  Again, when people begin to ask what can they help you with/buy for your twins on the way or once they've arrived, ask for help with diapers.  Whether the gift is actual boxes of diapers or gift cards to the bulk store or grocery stores/pharmacies.

We had about 60 bibs in the early days, especially when they were bottling and learning to eat new foods.

I could go on and on I am sure, but these are the main things I recommend without thinking about it too much. 

10 Jan 2012

Communication in the NICU: The Blue Ivy Incident

If you're not up to date on the news events over the last few days, let me update you: Beyonce and Jay-Z's baby, Blue Ivy is born!  In like a lion and out like a lamb, is a common phrase that seems fitting.  In comes little baby Blue, loud and proud--Divalicious!  She was discharged and made a quiet exit from hospital today.  Her name is splashed all over the news and tabloids, Twitter lit up as soon as Apple's mommy, Gwyneth sent out her very rare tweet that Blue had arrived.

A newly renovated maternity ward just for Blue and mom.  A unit shut down for one lady and her infant and the crew that comes with them. A battalion of security ready to take down the first NICU parent wanting access to their child that happened to dare be born or moved to the same hospital as baby Blue.  A new family trying to shelter their newborn from reality?

It's hard to imagine anyone having the ability or the audacity to attempt to manipulate multiple parents and staff members of a hospital in order to have privacy.  Have you ever heard of pulling the curtain or shutting the door for privacy?  I'm not sure what makes a starlet so much more important than the average Joe and his wife, that a hospital would see it fitting to close a maternity ward and cordon off areas when the Carters wanted to escort family through the corridors or go get some crushed ice in the kitchen.

Another thing that makes no sense is, if the NICU was on the 6th floor of the hospital and Ms. Knowles was labouring and delivering on the 4th floor, why would the Carters' security be hovering around the 6th floor, where they really had no business being? It all sounds fishy...Maybe she was in a high risk delivery room on the 6th floor at the time of delivery? Who knows?

An idealist at heart, I'd like to think that the Carters had the decency and respect to keep to themselves and not worry what was going on outside their labour and delivery room.  I hope they would not put any additional stress on any new mother or father, given that the experience of having a baby is stressful and scary enough, let alone having premature babies or ill babies having to stay in a NICU. 

Unfortunately, I do think there is some truth to the matter.  It sounds like there was a lack of communication, yet again.  It seems only reasonable that the NICU management, the hospital management and anyone that oversees policy and allows this type of situation to take place, would also ensure all those involved are advised and kept in the loop.  If the hospital staff was preparing the details on Friday before Beyonce's grand arrival on Saturday, they had at least 12 hours or so to put up notice in the hospital hallways, by the NICU entrance, in the waiting rooms and anywhere else a piece of paper and tape can be stuck, to inform anyone that cared that there would be some unusual circumstances that may cause certain areas of the hospital to be inaccessible for short periods of time.  The NICU manager could have called a couple of impromptu meetings inside the unit to advise the parents in order to avoid any shock and surprise.

When we had our second NICU stay with our preemie twins, the hospital would post signs as soon as they could if something unusual was expected to happen.  For example, we were advised about 1 week in advance that the floors of the NICU family room were going to be buffed and polished, and therefore we would not have access to the family room for about 12 hours. Something this simple was communicated.  Why?  The NICU management were aware that sudden change or unexpected things can be frustrating for families who are already dealing with a very frustrating and tumultuous time.  Little inconveniences can add up when you feel like your world is falling apart to begin with.

These are the details and the feelings that perhaps the Carter family didn't have the forethought or knowledge to be aware of.  It was the responsibility of hospital management to think like a NICU parent would and think like any mother in labour would and ensure a positive outcome for all.  If the Carter family wanted privacy and discretion, well they certainly failed at that!

Where did communication fail?

The Carters - It seems they didn't ask or care to ask questions about how their presence would impact other families just like themselves or families who are in the hospital under different circumstances.

The Hospital - It seems, like I said, that they didn't paint a very good picture to the Carters as to how their circus would inevitably cause disruption and potential trauma to the families who have unwell children or even the families who had or are having uncomplicated deliveries.  The hospital seems to have made several exceptions to several rules and they should have flipped it back on the Carters when it came to certain situations--such as continuing to allow NICU parents in and out privileges to the NICU as usual.  The families of NICU babies may be experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A NICU parent's state of mind can be very fragile after experiencing a premature delivery, the loss of a spouse, terrible complications and so on.  So to throw in unnecessary roadblocks to accessing the NICU would only heighten some NICU parents' emotions and potential inability to cope.

The Complainant, Mr. Coulon - It seems, rather than approach the NICU manager or the hospital management or a patient advocate, he approached a news reporter.  Perhaps this was a fatal error on his part, because now he has many people questioning the legitimacy of his claims.  Why wouldn't a ticked off father stomp down the hall to the NICU management office?  Why wouldn't he call the actual hospital security to address the situation? Maybe he wasn't in the right state of mind at first, because really, I would be shocked too if some big security guy approached me and told me I can't get through.  The bottom line is this upset parent chose not to address it with the correct people and made the issue public, thus making his family's hospital stay and the Carters' hospital say one for the record.  After his second block, and time to think about this situation, he should have asked to speak to someone to resolve the situation or hear him out. 

Here I am, way up in Canada, and I can tell you he should have called the Patient Relations Department to speak to a Patient Representative who is available to help resolve any concerns and problems related to care, explain hospital policies and procedures, and answer questions patients/families may have regarding Health Care Proxies.  It is located in the main lobby of the hospital or people can call the department at extension 42095.   Given the fact they are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m and the issue seems to have started on the weekend, his next step could have been to call Ext. 42468 and ask to have the hospital's nursing supervisor on duty paged. I found this information in seconds on the hospital's website...way up here in Canada...

The breakdown or lack of communication always winds up ending with a lot of finger pointing, name calling and failure to accept responsibility.  There is also nothing worse than a complainer who hasn't tried to think of a resolution to the problem or doesn't address it in an appropriate way.  Like I said, I'm an idealist. 

In the long run, it would be nice to see these three parties come together, pose for a picture and shake hands and make peace.  It would also be nice to see Jay-Z donate the proceeds of his new single about his new little bundle of joy to the NICU, which just might need a nice facelift, new equipment or a freshen up too.