Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On the charts

Today the ladies had their 2 month checkup, complete with shots. It's such a cliche, but I actually did get teary, seeing them lying so sweetly and unsuspectingly on the exam table, then having their meaty little thighs jabbed. It's pure projection, of course, but their screams seem to be not just screams of pain, but screams of "But why? Why would you let this happen to me??" Heartbreaking! Fortunately, they calmed right down afterward; no prolonged sobbing or accusations of sub-par parenting.

Both gals, I'm proud to report, are gaining weight at an impressive rate. Elsa is eight and a half pounds (this in spite of the fact that she's got a little reflux problem), and Clio is just a few ounces behind. They are now officially on the charts, at around 10% for height and weight. I guess I should be proud of how well they're doing, seeing as they're being fed exclusively on breastmilk. Lots of people--nurses, doctors, the overnight nannies, etc.--seem quite impressed by this fact. Really, though, it's not like I'm really doing anything that extraordinary; I'm just lucky to have a body that's willing to make enough milk for two. (And how -- put a fourth bag of pumped milk into the freezer this week!) I guess it is a time consuming choice, though it's arguably less time-consuming than constantly preparing formula and washing bottles. And it is physically demanding on some level; I have to stay healthy and well-fed, hydrated, and rested (ha!). But I can't say I consider it a sacrifice to have to consume an extra 1000 calories a day. In fact, maybe if I didn't use breastfeeding as an excuse to eat dessert every day, I'd lose these last 10 pounds. On the other hand, maybe my milk supply is, in fact, as copious as it is because of those desserts. Really, I wouldn't want to mess with a system that's obviously working...

So, we've got healthy, growing babies, looking good. But Clio is still not really smiling or making much eye contact, and this has us worried. The pediatrician told us that this was still "within the range of normal," but that didn't sound terribly reassuring. And for the rest of the visit she kept checking to see if Clio was making eye contact. I'm trying to tell myself that she's fine, she's just lagging a little bit, and if we didn't have another baby to compare her to, we wouldn't be worried. But it makes me so damned sad -- not being able to have the sort of connection I'm starting to feel with Elsa. And it makes me sad to think about her suffering from some condition. And -- jeez. I have to stop. She's probably fine. Right? Right. And I will not spend the next hour Googling different combinations of the words "infant," "eye contact," "autism," and "Diet Coke consumption during pregnancy."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

As promised...

Elsa smiles, and Clio rests up for her big smiling debut. (Any day now, we think...)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You're never fully dressed...

The title of this post is my lame, Broadway musical attempt to link the two quick bits of news that I have to report:

1. The girls have basically outgrown all of their preemie and just-born clothes, and have moved into the realm of "Newborn" and 0-3 month fashions. Granted, some of them are still much too big, especially on Clio, who can often be found with both legs worming their way into one leg of her sleeper. But the Gerber Sleep-and-Plays that the girls have worn almost exclusively until now are stretched to the max. In a way this is exciting. (They're growing, they're actually growing!) At the same time, it's a little sad. Soon they'll cease to be little, curled up bundles of newborn, light enough to cradle in one arm, and become bonafide babies. And then toddlers. And next thing we know they'll be sneaking in after curfew chewing gum to hide the liquor on their breath just in case we're waiting up. I'm trying to savor these last newborn days even as I'm looking forward to the next phase of babyhood.

2. Elsa is starting to smile! At first we weren't sure...was it gas? Facial muscle experimentation? Our own wishful thinking? But now it seems quite certain. When she's in the mood -- usually right after a good feeding -- she will respond to persistent, maniacal grinning and cooing by an adult with a very cute little grin. Not every time, mind you. But enough. It's the bomb. Of course, now we find ourselves obsessing over the fact that Clio isn't smiling yet; in fact she's not really so great at the whole eye contact thing, instead sticking mainly to kewpie-doll style side glances and wandering surveys of the ceiling and walls. We've diagnosed her as autistic, blind, mentally challenged, perpetually stoned, etc., when in reality she's probably just a week or two behind her sister, and we have no reason to be worried.

Anyway, we're still down visiting A's parents, but when we're home, I'll post an Elsa smile captured on film this morning.

Monday, February 12, 2007

In the fog

Many of you have commented on how well I seem to be coping. Thank you. Yes, overall, I'm coping well, managing to remain sane while transitioning into this life of twin parenthood. But I wouldn't want to give the impression that everything is just hunky-dory all of the time.

In the past couple of weeks (I think? Time is a blur...) the girls have become much more alert, which is fun -- they look around more, even at our faces sometimes. They make squealing noises and kick their legs and flap their arms when we put them under The Stimulator (click the link for the live video expereince). But they also much fussier. Some of it is definitely related to gassiness, judging by their writhing and whining and, well, the farting. As I've postulated, infant flatulence may be the key to world peace, but it also makes for unhappy, uncomfortable babies.

The other frustrating thing is that fussy babies just don't know what's good for them. Sucking on a pacifier soothes them, but they're constantly spitting their pacifiers out, then screaming bloody murder for us to put them back in. They like being in the baby slings we wear, but protest horribly while we put them in.

They even forget that they like their favorite thing of all: nursing. Elsa or Clio will be happily sucking away, then pull suddenly off the breast and start crying, while rooting and opening her mouth for more. I try to get her back on while she bucks and screams and pushes away and I am saying as sweetly as I can manage, "You got it! It's right there! My breast is in your mouth! All you have to do is close your mouth around it! You were doing it ten seconds ago! You were happy! What happened? What the hell is the matter with you, you ingrate? Do you realize that I am feeding you with my body here? That all I do all day is sit around with my tits out so you'll grow? Do you realize what a sacrifice I'm making for you? You never write, you never call..."

As soon as I get the baby in question to latch back on -- sometimes after several minutes of soothing and letting her suck on a pacifier or finger -- she's happy again. Or, in Elsa's case, sucking and whimpering poutily, like I'd been the one keeping her from eating all along. The mean lady with the breasts.

And, naturally, they get fussiest in the evening, when we want to eat dinner, relax, wind down, etc. Last night, they were both so hungry, and so restless. At ten p.m. I was feeding them for the third time since five o'clock. I started with Elsa, then Clio woke up and started screaming, so I nursed them both at once, which is hard to do when they're both agitated, because I don't have a free hand to help if one needs help re-latching. And I was just so goddamned tired, but there was no relief in sight. I'd have to get up again in three hours, and in another three hours after that. And on, and on, and on. And sitting there on the edge of the bed, a wailing baby under each arm, I just started crying.

The author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which was recommended to us by other twin parents, claims that babies reach a peak of fussiness at around six weeks after their due date, and then tend to mellow out, sleep longer at night, cry less, etc. Since the girls were born at 37 weeks, that means we've got two and a half weeks to go. I hope he's right.

In the meantime, we do what we can: we rock, we shush, we swaddle, we sing, we try to reason with the little buggers, we stick pacifiers in their little rosebud mouths. And if all else fails, there's always the vacuum cleaner CD. A. bought and downloaded 60 minutes of continuous vacuuming sounds. It's grating as hell, and I can't stand the sound of it, but it works wonders and is cheaper (I think) than running the actual vacuum cleaner. We turn it on, and the girls konk out. But not indefinitely. I've had it running while writing this post, but the magic is wearing off. Clio is crying.

And so it goes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Products I will not be buying

This product allows you to nurse modestly in public while looking like that kooky guy you knew from college (or was it high school?) who was funny but bordering on annoying, who came to that Halloween party dressed as someone in the shower, with a shower curtain around his neck, no shirt, and a shower bonnet on his head. You know; the one who brought that big bottle of Jaegermeister and two bags of Cheetos, one for himself and one to share? Yeah, him.

I don't think I'll be buying one. I'm sure it does its job quite well, but I'd rather master the traditional blanket-slung-over-the-shoulder approach. I gave it a shot last weekend -- my first public nursing attempt! -- when we took the girls on an outing to the Institute of Contemporary Art at its shiny new waterfront location. (OK, really, we took ourselves, to avoid cabin fever, and brought the gals along.) The museum was, not surprisingly, rife with babies. When it's 14 degrees out, your choices for outings with babies are basically limited to museums or the mall -- the two extremes of American culture, high and low. We've done both twice now.

So, we found a place to sit in the media room off of one of the galleries, and I nursed Elsa, who is the more reliably adept latcher-on at this point, while A. gave Clio a bottle. I had my back to a big glass wall overlooking the shaft where a humungous glass-walled elevator rose and fell, bringing people to and from the galleries. I wonder if the passengers thought I was an installation myself: in the midst of this ultra-modern building full of avant-garde, contemporary stuff, a mother sits with a pink blanket over her shoulder, nursing, reminding us that no matter how technologically advanced our society becomes, we are still ultimately ruled by our biological nature. Or something like that.

Anyway, the point is, I managed to feed Elsa without exposing myself or traumatizing her, which I was quite proud of.

While we were at the ICA, we saw two other sets of fraternal twin girls: a pair of 4th graders, who were cool as can be, one tomboy and one not, and a pair of sharply dressed one-year olds with their two dads. (I heart Massachusetts!) We've found that parents of twins or people who are twins themselves are always eager to stop and talk -- an instant bond. Of course, other folks like to gape and chat and ask questions too. So far the attention hasn't been too annoying, but I can imagine how it could be if I was trying to run errands or was in a pissy mood.

Or if I had a shower curtain hanging around my neck.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Make gas, not war

Babies fart a lot. At least, ours do. Impressively loud, adult-sounding farts, sometimes accompanied by adult-sized aromas. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that this is pretty universal among newborns. I'm guessing it's also fairly universal that parents find it entertaining. No matter how serious or sophisticated you may be, how can you not laugh when your precious little bundle of joy -- so sweet, so delicate -- starts farting like a frat boy whose finger has been pulled?

I was ruminating on this this morning at four-thirty a.m., half asleep, while nursing Elsa. Or maybe it was Clio. Or some other baby altogether. At four-thirty a.m., who the hell knows?

Anyway, I got to thinking: if we could all just remember that around the world, from Massachusetts to Paraguay to Palestine to China, there are small, flatulent babies, and doting, lovestruck parents chuckling goofily at their intestinal emissions, then maybe the world would be a better, more peaceful place.

Picture a young father in the Middle East, who maybe happens to be a Sunni separatist or a member of Hezbollah, giggling as his newborn screws up his or her little face and lets one rip. Picture an Israeli soldier or a Sudanese refugee or an Afghan warlord or a Southern anti-gay crusader or, hell, Osama fucking Bin Laden smiling as his son wriggles in his crib and toots, and you can't help wondering: can't we all just get along? Can't we forget the scant, superficial differences that divide us and focus instead on all the rich, lovely, malodorous humanity that connects us?

Sleep deprivation. It's a killer.