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!

15 May 2013

Cuddle Time: Kangaroo Care and Your Preemie

Today is International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. Honestly it seems to be each week there is something to bring to the forefront of peoples’ minds when it comes to the world of prematurity and to be quite honest, I think that’s perfectly okay!

Last week I got the amazing opportunity to speak on a local radio station during a radiothon for a local child development centre and I discussed how the parents of preterm infants really end up thinking about all the smallest, finest details of how to parent and care for their small, fragile babies. From the moment they are born we are on alert and want to protect and do anything we can to keep our babies from harm, as well as do anything we can to help them grow and progress in order to go home.

This is where Kangaroo Care comes in. Kangaroo Care is not a new concept, but it has been growing in practice in North American neonatal intensive care units. As the years go by there is more research indicating the close skin-to-skin touch between a mother and baby or father and baby really does wonders for the well-being of the preterm or NICU baby, as well as for the mental health of the parents. When babies are held in kangaroo fashion, which is usually just in a diaper and held snuggly against the parent’s bare chest the babies are found to have more regular breathing (less apnea) and heart beat (less bradycardias) patterns and therefore less desats(low blood oxygen) episodes. It seems that this close contact with the parent stimulates the baby’s body and neurological system, making it seem as though the baby is protected as it would have been had the baby still been in utero.  This is one mom with three preemies’ thought anyway.

I recall the first time I got to “officially” hold my baby as though it was yesterday. It was actually 5 years ago, but I remember the setting, the sounds, the whole surreal feeling I was having in this place we were suddenly calling home; The NICU. In that dimly lit, private room I was finally able to hold my baby and get to know him, while reclining in a chair and holding my baby snug as a kangaroo (a bug?), close to my skin and tucked in for a nap for the first time. He was 5 days old, but finally Mommy and Baby were together as we were meant to be. I ended up snuggling with him for close to an hour that first time. My husband was giddy with excitement to finally get to hold him like this when the next turn came around.

The Kangaroo Care experience was peaceful. When we were sitting like that in the early days, getting to know our baby, that is when we were able to accomplish much of our much needed bonding that had to be put on hold for a few days anyway.

Two years later we were well-versed on the value of Kangaroo Care and you didn’t have to tell me twice that it was time to begin Kangaroo Care with the twins when they were finally healthy enough. I mentioned how great Kangaroo Care is for the mental health, but it is also helps parents release the tension they may be holding in their bodies. I remember walking around feeling tense; this tension in my chest (real or imagined, whatever) and as soon as I was holding each baby closely I could truly feel that tension release.

So if you find yourself in a NICU and questioning the point of doing Kangaroo Care or if you feel shy or embarrassed for whatever reason, I suggest giving it a go anyway. Talk to your baby’s nurse about wanting to do Kangaroo Care and to discuss when the time is right. Then when it's time, pull that curtain closed, have your own comfortable button up shirt (that you’ll wear backward) ready and waiting, which you’ll use to wrap the baby in, rather than a hospital gown. It’s worth a shot and you might be surprised how relieved you feel and you’ll see your baby respond practically immediately.

A couple of special notes to be aware of: Sometimes babies will need additional time to mature and be well enough to take out of the incubator to do Kangaroo Care. Be patient and don’t give up during that waiting process. The opportunity to bond with your baby in this way is not one that should be dismissed. To put it in perspective: I didn't get to hold Preemie 1 until 5 days old, Preemie 2 until 14 days old (hey, today is that anniversary--3 years ago!) and Preemie 3 really had me in a holding pattern, because I didn't get to hold him until he was 24 days old! The waiting periods were worth it! The first time I held each of my babies it was for formal Kangaroo Care.

Nowadays you can buy a snug wrap, which was purposely designed for Kangaroo Care. I didn't have that option at the time and I used a backward hospital gown or my own button up shirts worn backward and they did the trick. Once your baby is tucked in, you can also ask a nurse to tuck a blanket over you and your baby for additional warmth if needed. To avoid "boredom" while doing Kangaroo Care, bring a book to read.

10 Apr 2013

Most Popular

People often ask me what are some of the most popular topics people check out on this blog. So here are the two most popular. The picture of my twins' diapers, size by size, gets me every time!

Diaper Backward Spells Repaid

"Discharge" -- A spectacular word!

I'll follow up with more popular posts in the coming weeks.

9 Apr 2013

I'm a Home Run Hitter

I’m a homerun hitter in this game called Parenting. That’s right. Some days I practically “hit the ball out of the park” with my parenting skills…but (of course there’s a but) then there are other days…those bleak days…where it’s three strikes and I’m out and I haven’t even finished my morning cup of cold coffee yet.

Last week I took part in a workshop, put on by a local social service agency in partnership with the POMBA I am part of. The workshop was on Positive Parenting and Raising Responsible Children (us multiples moms and dads need all the advice we can get!) The facilitator used a baseball analogy in her explanation of positive parenting, which I will explain shortly.

We all want to raise awesome children and give them all we can to achieve success…but we learned maybe that is not exactly the right approach. We need to let children make mistakes, as painful as it may be to watch happen. We need to let them learn from their experiences, not clear the path or fight their battles for them, while thinking we are doing them a favour. We talked about the importance of give and take when it comes to the parent and child relationship. We heard about the reasons why children may seem to be “misbehaving,” when perhaps in fact they are having a hard time verbalizing or expressing what it is that’s actually making them react in ways we consider “bad.” We also learned from other parents’ reactions we are not alone when we wonder where the heck The Parenting Manual is and why didn’t we get training before we had multiples running around the neighbourhood when the lights are out and all the other kids are home in their beds?? Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

The facilitator of this workshop discussed the importance of understanding the difference between praise and encouragement. Another key thought was to consider the difference between punishment and discipline.  At first glance I am sure many parents, including myself might think these words are one in the same, just a different way to state them…but with further explanation many of us had our “a-ha moments” going off one by one through the session.

For starters the facilitator explained a concept called STEP – Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. The main point that drove it home (like a homerun) for me was praise is used to reward only for well-done, completed tasks. From this the child begins to develop the ideal that “to be worthwhile I must meet your standards,” allowing the child to develop unrealistic standards and measure worth by how closely the child reaches the parents’ perceived level of perfection. From here children learn to dread failure. On the flip side, in comparison, encouragement is when a child is recognized for effort and improvement. The child internalizes the idea that he or she does not have to be perfect and that efforts and improvements are valued and important. Based on this type of repetitive experience the child learns to accept his/her and others’ efforts. It also enables a child to learn discipline and persistence to stay on task.

Bringing up the rear were the concepts of punishment versus discipline. I thought, Aren’t they the same?…one just seems to have a meaner tone? I looked it up, because that’s what I do, and yes, they do have similar meanings…but “discipline” is also defined as activities, exercises or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

During the workshop, “punishment” was outlined as our belief that we must teach a life lesson and that a punishment, such as taking something away will make the child think before acting next time or “suffer the consequences.” You may randomly take something away, that has nothing to do with the problem or situation and will make no sense to the upset child. That sounds scary and frustrating…Then on the other hand is the concept of discipline, which is to train the child by working with him/her to develop effective strategies for expressing their emotions and managing behaviour to avoid grocery store mid-aisle meltdowns for all to see (and judge.) 

To discipline, you have to work at achieving your own skill of understanding a child’s reasons for behaviour and misbehaviour, use firmness and kindness in your approach, look for solutions and alternatives. The ultimate goal is to teach the child self-discipline. In other words don’t start screaming and yelling, thinking you’re going to help the already frustrating situation. In this sense you’re really reverting to child-like mannerisms because you can’t get your point across. I get it…but it’s going to take a lot of practice to make it right…and ultimately this whole concept of parenting indicates we should not strive for “perfection,” but rather a balance of confidence in our abilities and a willingness to persevere and try again next time.

To close, the way the facilitator of the workshop summed up these ideas is that when you start to learn to play baseball, you don’t immediately know how to swing and hit a ball, or pitch and throw a strike. This was my a-ha moment, after playing many, many summer baseball seasons over the years, I knew what she meant. I realized this idea of baseball is similar to learning to parent; these are all things that take time, dedication and potentially many mistakes along the way to become as good a parent as you can be. Rarely does a pitcher ever throw a perfect game and so it’s reasonable to think parents will make mistakes, feel like they should be thrown out of the Parenting game and maybe even take themselves out of the game for a few minutes to collect themselves and then start again with a fresh approach.

This post can also be found on another blog site, How Do You Do It?, where moms of multiples tell it like it is. It is a network and collection of blog posts written by other multiple moms living in Canada and the United States. Stop by and have a look inside the minds of many other parents of multiples. We may have had two or more babies at one time, but so much of the parenting experiences are the same as every other parent, so it's well worth a visit.  Happy reading!

10 Mar 2013

I Survived an Earthquake! Parents of Preemies Day 2013.

One June afternoon the earth moved, the ground shook and the building I sat in swayed. For several moments I thought I was losing my mind, and then I thought I must be having a stroke, and then the shaking stopped almost as sudden as it began. I slowly crept out of my room and looked in the hall. No one was there. I was alone. I walked down the stairs for fear of becoming trapped in the elevator if the shaking started again. I wasn’t sure I had it right…had I just sat through an earthquake…or was I really losing my marbles? Everything seemed pretty usual down on the main floor of the building I was living. Nothing was tipped over or broken, but then I began to come across a few people here and there who had experienced what I had. I was not alone. Others in the building had absolutely no clue what I was talking about and didn’t understand what I or some of the others had felt. Those of us who did experience this unusual moment immediately began to recount our experiences and compared our stories. We wanted others to know what we had actually just lived through.

Does this sound familiar? It’s comparable to the rocky experience we preemie parents go through when our babies show up too soon and then afterward when we want to share our experience with the world. When my premature babies came along, I wondered, How could this actually be happening?…then Why did this happen to our babies…and there were days I wondered, Did this really just happen? Is this my reality? I found it hard to connect with other parents in the NICU because many of them, through no fault of their own, were not able to stay close by and so their babies were there with the nursing staff, while I was there pretty much every day chatting with our nurses, hanging out in quiet areas of the hospital and willing my babies to get better and be well enough to come home. I did find some great friends in the NICU— two other preemie mommies—whose babies were going through very similar struggles as our twins.  The three of us mothers were also there longer than many who came after us and left before us, so we shared that common bond as well. We “got” each others’ emotions; we could read each others’ faces…and minds. We knew each other’s deepest fears, without having to say a word. We were a mini support network without a label.

Eventually the three of our families made our way out of the NICU, each of us having experienced very trying times, although the reasons and exact experiences that led us to the NICU were very different. The main bond was the experience in the NICU—the emotions, the fears and finally the triumphs. I am glad to be able to call these two awesome moms my friends. 

Little did I know that day of the earthquake, June 23, 2010, which was almost two months into our twins’ NICU stay that I would be writing about it to compare the experience to the life changing experience of a NICU stay. I also didn’t know how much opportunity would arise after we came home from the NICU. I write this blog not only for parents of preemies and multiples, but for others who are curious or just want to know more about how to help families with premature children and how to identify with their unique needs.  After having 3 preemie kids my life was forever changed and I wanted to help parents going through the same preterm birth experience. The most common thing I hear from other parents of preemie babies is they compare it to a rollercoaster or some kind of a natural disaster—a tornado, a tsunami…an earthquake. It’s a life altering experience that can include the scariest moments of a person’s life. Ever.

Today is the 2nd Annual Parents of Preemies Day and I am happy to wish all my preemie parent friends a wonderful day and a virtual high five for kicking adversity in the butt and fighting through it all in the name of your babies. It’s a huge challenge, which in my case has been the greatest challenge of my life! Parents of preemies deserve a pat on the back and congratulations for making it through and for building a support network around themselves for when the going gets tough even after leaving the NICU because discharging a baby home doesn’t always mean parents have a well-baby at home.

So, to all the Parents of Preemies, I wish you much happiness today and for the future of your amazing families. 

Happy Parents of Preemies Day 2013!

1 Mar 2013

Twintrospectives is 2 Years Old!

I'm two years into writing my blog and I can hardly believe how quickly the time has flown by, as well as how fast my little preemie guys have been growing right in front of me!

When I started this blog my main goal was to be able to think out loud (or in text) and share my thoughts and opinions, trials and tribulations of raising three busy little boys, as well as the ups and downs of raising preterm babies.  I think it is safe to say I achieved this basic goal. I have reached people all over the world; Japan, Ukraine, Germany, Philippines, Ireland, Australia, Belarus, Russia, Canada, USA and so many more. It amazes me every day to see how many people are dealing with raising twins, preterm kids or are just interested in learning more about this amazing and inspiring world of prematurity.

When I started blogging what I didn't realize was how many people I would reach, how many new friendships I'd make and collaborations that would come from them and all in the name of prematurity awareness. It's awesome and I love this online, world-wide community I have found.

Taking my blog details to blog hops and onto Twitter has been so much fun and they've taught me so much about other parents and their experiences raising multiples, their prematurity experiences, parenting issues, questions and concerns, as well as the true camaraderie you can find by sharing these experiences.

Here's a little rundown of my first 2 years in the blog world:

In the summer of 2011 I wrote the first Parent Perspective blog post for Peek-a-boo ICU's blog, thanks to one awesome NICU nurse, Jodi, who gave me this opportunity. The topic I wrote about was pseudomonas aeruginosa. She also hosted my blog on her preemie parents blog roll for quite some time. I'm very grateful to her for the opportunity! Jodi also included my 3 precious preemies in her first photo compilation video, released around Mother's Day 2011. Here it is on the Peek-a-boo ICU YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wbr-X75iqOA. My little guys are seen in the hospital, as well as you'll see them in Future Heartbreakers red shirts, and again in blue bunny ears.

In October 2011 I was honoured to receive an online "award" called the Liebster Award from a woman by the name of Sharon in the NYC area. Sharon is a journalist and writes her own blog http://mamadoitall.blogspot.com. Right around the same time a "Blog on Fire" award came along. Although these are not tangible awards to put up on my mantle, they are very meaningful in that there are people out there taking the time to read certain blogs and letting fellow bloggers know, "Hey, you're doing a great job. Keep going!" I think the fact blog readers go out of their way to tell other bloggers they're doing well is such a great testament to what the blogging world is all about.  I'm very thankful for it.

Through Twitter and information sharing on prematurity and NICU support groups, Facebook pages and commentary on websites and blogs, I have connected with some pretty amazing multiple and preterm parents. I learned of The Painted Diaper, which popped up not long after the earthquake occurred in Haiti in 2010. This was another preemie mommy, determined to assist with the purchase and placement of a warming bed for preterm infants in Haiti. I also found a home on her blog roll. http://www.thepainteddiaper.com/

One thing I know about being a mom of preterm kids is this immediate urge to help others get through the stress and trauma of dealing with preterm infants in the NICU, as well as the aftercare experience - from how to get comfortable with feeding your baby through a tube at home without nurses around to dealing with all kinds of therapies and learning how to answer crazy questions coming from complete strangers.

In 2012 I found new connections with Multiple Births Canada and currently have an opinion blog post listed on their Media Inquiries page in relation to the EI Parental Leave for Multiple Births Families (in Canada) http://multiplebirthscanada.org/index.php/about-us/media-inquiries/

Most recently I blogged for the Canadian NICU Support Foundation on the topic of making it through the NICU with twins. http://cnsfoundation.blogspot.ca/

My blog hasn't been about making money or promoting products. That's not to say I wouldn't consider this if it was the right kind of product or idea, so I am definitely open to it. I did join Mom Central Canada as a blogger member quite some time ago and in February an invite came around that made sense for me to attend. I was able to head to the Eaton Centre in Toronto to attend Sears' Carter's Osk Kosh Launch Media Event, which several other "mommy bloggers" were invited to. There were about 20 of us there to meet the executive team that brought the line to Sears Canada. Carter's and Osk Kosh are actually my go-to brands of children's clothing because of their fun lines that come out each season and their durability, so I couldn't pass up this opportunity to meet other moms and of course...Shop!! I got to take some photos, make some new connections and share some fun new clothes with my kids when I got home that day. Here's the Carter's Osh Kosh line at Sears http://www.sears.ca/catalog/oshkosh-bgosh/100000776

And finally, because I am not already busy enough blogging for myself, my place of employment and other opportunities that I can get my hands on...I've started writing over at How Do You Do It? since this is a question I am asked on a daily basis by those who know me and complete strangers. http://www.hdydi.com/

I'm looking forward to many more years to come on Twintrospectives and I'm already planning some ideas for 2013. This month I will do a rundown of some of the more popular posts and add to or reflect on some of the ideas in them as well.

Thank you for reading and sending your friends and family my way.


6 Feb 2013

Half the cost?

So last week I was driving into an underground parking lot and didn’t see the overhanging sign must have come loose and was left hanging on an odd angle after a brutal wind storm we had last week. Only when I heard the terrifying screech of metal on metal, did I realize what had happened. It was a fluke and it was all about timing as I drove under the sign and heard that grinding noise kick in.  It pretty much peeled back a chunk of the metal on my roof, much like a can opener on a tin can. It was a pretty unusual experience and I was shocked it was even possible to happen to me or anybody. It was just a matter of chance.
I didn’t have time for a random accident like this, let alone time to call in an insurance claim, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  I called it in and they told me to take it to a specific auto repair shop on their list of recommended places. So in I went the very next day. Considering it’s been -17 degrees Celsius more often than not for the past two weeks, I figure this unwanted moon roof that doesn’t actually close is top priority and since it’s covered by insurance I’ll get it handled A.S.A.P.
So I dropped off my car so the auto repair shop could take a look at the damage and waited for a phone call at work.  They did call me toward the end of the day and told me the “damage.” They said my situation is kind of unusual because of where the metal sign started to tear up my car. On closer examination they noticed the metal landed along the windshield seal and damaged that, as well as chipping the top edge of my windshield glass, dragging along the roof and cutting that up. So I knew about the ruined roof, but to be told it also seriously damaged my windshield was a major double whammy. I have a deductible, but I expected my insurance provider would pay the remainder of the cost. No. My insurance company decided the quote to fix the damage was too high and wanted me to take the car to another recommended auto repair shop. Seriously? I’m a busy person.
But off I went to the next best place, according to the insurance company. They too quoted about the same cost to repair the damage.
Do you know what the insurance company told me…the insurance company I’ve been paying thousands of dollars to without a prior claim? They told me they can only cover the cost involved for one issue, not two issues. So I can either have the damaged window fixed to avoid leaks and long term damage or I can decide to fix the gaping hole in my roof. They told me I can choose to cover the remainder (not including the deductible I will also have to pay.)
How silly is that? It’s just not right, right?
So this leads me to fess up and tell you this story is not true, but I hope it makes a point...
The point being that for those of us who pay into Employment Insurance, often for many, many years without ever accessing it (thankfully), and for those of us who happen to become pregnant with twins, it would be reasonable to anticipate an extra boost of support to cover the costs and needs of two babies while a parent or both parents take a Parental Leave. Newborns do much of their development in their first year of life. This is the optimal time for parents to develop confidence in their ability to raise multiples, which is doubly harder to do when one parent is not there or has to go back to work more quickly than he or she had hoped.
Currently there is question as to why parents of multiples should have their Employment Insurance time away from work (Parental Leave) increased to compensate for the birth of more than one child at the same time. My answer is because it only makes sense. Would you want to drive around with a half fixed car because the insurance provider you paid into for years and years tells you they will only pay for half the costs? Driving around in a car with a chunk of its roof missing would be cold, uncomfortable, stressful, not to mention frustrating. Imagine how it can feel for parents who want to do nothing more than give their newborn twins equal attention, which they do deserve from day one, but instead one parent will have to separate themselves from these young babies two or three weeks after they come home? This scenario usually leaves mom to fend for these new little bundles of joy for long periods of time alone. It can be exhausting, stressful, uncomfortable and outright mentally and emotionally draining dividing your attention between two dependent babies.
What those who contest Bill C-464 may be overlooking is that those who pay into and qualify for Employment Insurance for parental benefit are receiving insurance monies, not tax payers’ dollars. There is a difference. They are two different things…just like twins.

24 Jan 2013

The Great Canadian Twins Debate...

As teenagers, my friends and I would imagine having kids one day. We’d talk about what we might name them. We’d wonder if they’d be future NHLers or little ballerinas and even considered the thought of having twins and what that would mean. Out of my group of friends I really wanted twins. Seriously. I hoped for twins. Who does that? I do! My goal was to have twins “on the first try” and I held on to that ideal right until my first boy was on the way—a singleton. 

Back in the day, when we’d discuss my fascination with twins, my one good friend would recoil at the very sound of the word “twins” whenever I mentioned the prospect of having two babies at once. “Why would you want to do that??” she’d exclaim. “Well…why would I not want to??” Even at the tender age of 16, this friend, who is still my friend today, was thinking about the financial ramifications of having two babies at one time. No joke. She realized the costs involved with diapering two babies, feeding two babies, of losing sleep because each baby was likely to sleep on slightly different, if not completely different patterns. She knew being a mother to two babies at the same time would be exhausting and frankly, you’d have no life for a while. She was also fully aware that there was no consideration for the fact that there were two babies arriving at the same time and that the parents would be awarded a single maternity/parental benefit (if the parent had actually acquired enough insurable hours before the babies arrived.) This was my friend’s biggest bone of contention when it came to our twins discussions.

And you know what? My friend, that 16 year old was right! At that time in the mid-90s, a mother could get about 15 weeks maternity leave and 10 weeks parental leave. This was for one pregnancy, regardless of the number of babies that were born from that pregnancy. Same standard as it is today, except the number of weeks has increased.

I, for one, am definitely grateful to live in a country in which we do have the opportunity to receive employment insurance based on becoming a mother. I know this is an “opportunity” or a “privilege” and not an absolute. If you have not been employed for enough hours leading up to the time of the arrival of a baby (babies in some of our cases,) well then, you don’t qualify. Makes sense. I know we are ahead of the game in comparison to many countries, but at the same time there are other countries out there that have even greater benefits to parents.

Our Employment Insurance system is in the midst of a major transition. Many people are worried and unsure at this moment in time about what the changes mean to the average working Canadian when it comes to potential job loss. So perhaps the recent events of a Canadian couple attempting to change the rules surrounding maternity/parental leave are falling on deaf ears (and unaware minds.) The basic story making headlines today is, back in April 2009, when a couple’s twins arrived, Christian Martin and his wife, Paula Critchley, had each applied to Service Canada to take the full parental allowance of 35 weeks (CBC story 2013/01/24)Originally Martin and Critchely were each approved for a 35 week parental benefit by a Board of Referees, but then the benefit was retracted by an Umpire who cried foul. What are these kids? Pucks and Baseballs?  

For the past couple of years Martin and Critchley have been drawing attention to their Appeal. The feeling is that if a pregnancy results in twins, then why shouldn’t that mother and/or father receive double the benefit to be with their twins for an extended period of time? This makes sense to me. BUT I can see how it would be alarming and seem unrealistic to the average person who does not have twins, triplets, quadruplets…and yes, even octuplets. Today I’ve been reading enormous amounts of backlash and snide remarks, coming primarily from individuals who do not have multiples, based on how they describe their family make up. Once again, the argument comes back to the old saying, “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in his shoes.” Please and thank you!

Although I do think it would be amazing to be able to have a husband or partner take off 35 weeks of work simultaneously with the mother to care for their infant twins, I can see how that can raise big question marks in peoples’ minds. If parents of twins get 35 weeks each, then do parents of triplets get 70 weeks each and so on? Well of course not. Evidently, there needs to be a new approach to the fact more people are having multiples (twins are still much more common than triplets or quadruplets,) regardless of how the pregnancy came to be (I.e.: assisted vs. au natural.) I think that it would be reasonable to have a happy medium, so that parents who do conceive and bring into the world some multiples can have extra time to spend with extra offspring. It seems reasonable!

Going back to my friend’s philosophy…having twins doesn’t add up. Doesn’t help the bank. Doesn’t help the sanity. So true…and so…if parents of multiples were able to benefit from even a slight increase in the number of weeks able to spend with their young babies, such families would fair better for the long term. 

So to respond to the nay-sayers now…who are probably huffing and puffing at this thought of an increase in benefit weeks…Did you know families of multiples suffer greater rates of divorce? Did you know mothers of twins are more likely to suffer greater levels of Post-Partum Mood Disorder and Post-Partum Depression than those who have singletons? Did you know both parents can suffer from such depression before and after (for many years) due to the experiences involved with bringing multiples into a family unit?  Did you know more multiples are born pre-term than their singleton counterparts? Did you know this experience can also add to the strain, physical and emotional well-being of the parents and other family members, as well as the infants living in the NICUs? Did you know that parents can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the preterm arrival of their multiples? Did you know that many twins born pre-term also go on to live with chronic and potentially debilitating health issues, which the parents must learn to manage on a day to day basis? Such parents must learn CPR before their pre-term infants can leave the hospital. Such parents may have to equip their home with medical technology, not to mention the doubles of cribs, bassinets, bottles and diapers. Having twins (multiples) is not a walk in the park like many parents are indicating all across the web today.

An unaware person’s rebuttal to the above may be something like, “I have two kids and I’m just fine.” Yes, yes, you do. But, you didn’t have two kids born at the same time, with two different personalities, maybe a few special needs thrown in there, both having to be attended to at the exact same time with breastfeeding or bottling, bum changes, learning to use a spoon at the same time and so on. Usually it’s mom who is doing about 95% (that’s my guesstimate) of this work during the day. Alone. 

Imagine if the mom and dad could take the time off at the same time or dad follows up after mom is ready to go back to work when her parental leave time ends? The children would have more time dedicated to them for a longer period of time, since honestly, when it comes to twins (or more) the attention given to them must be divided from day one. There is no choice in the matter. They don’t have it quite as nice as that singleton. I know, so I can say this. I had a singleton first. I had a singleton when I didn’t know he was a “singleton.” He was also a preemie, I might add. The concept of singleton vs. multiple really and truly had no solid meaning in my mind until my multiples arrived. When they arrived I had that “A-ha! Moment.” This is the difference! I really don’t sleep! I thought I had it hard when I had baby number one and felt sleep deprived. For the first several months after the twins came home, I really, really did not sleep. I also took my twins to 298 specialist appointments in the first 11 months after they were discharged from their 3+ months’ NICU stay. My husband was at work, so he couldn’t help dress the kids, help me pack up two infants in their car seat carriers and get their older brother into his back row car seat to get on our merry way for another run to the hospital. And these nay-sayers say having twins is no different than having one at a time. Yeah, right. There are many other issues I could bring up here and point out to the unenlightened, but we multiples parents know what is accurate and what is not. The goal now is to assist the Martin/Critchley family with building a better, stronger, undeniable case for when they approach the Supreme Court.