Monday, April 30, 2007

Elsa my heart, Clio my soul

Sometimes I love these babies so damned much I just don't know what to do. It's amazing just how much...I don't know...personness a chubby, toothless little being can exude.

When Elsa smiles it is with unabashedly innocent amazement and delight. Sometimes she'll smile or squeal out of nowhere, with no one even looking at her. Who knows what she's thinking about or reacting to? You get the feeling she's simply thrilled to be alive.

This weekend, when we were down visiting A's parents, we think she laughed for the first time, sort of. One of their dogs snatched her pacifier, and as we all laughed about it, she let out a screech that sounded an awful lot like laughter. Squawky, dolphin-like baby laughter.

But when she cries--God, how distraught she sounds! And how deeply hurt and upset she looks, her face puckered up, her eyes squeezed to slits, streaming tears. As if her little heart has been shattered; the universe has betrayed her. All I want to do is hold her close and reassure her and make everything all right, forever and ever; to shield her from the cruelty of the world -- which is impossible of course. She'll soon experience meanness and violence and thoughtlessness and heartbreak, and I dread having to see her hurt.

If Elsa's outlook on the world is amazement, then Clio's is (most of the time) amusement. Life is a hoot, a game, a joke she's in on. You get the sense that maybe she's done this whole life thing a few times before. She's an old soul, and she knows the score. Not that this makes it any less funny when mom and dad make goofy faces at her -- though sometimes we think she's not so much smiling at the faces we make as the fact that we're making them. She humors us.

And she's got things to say, Miss Clio -- ever true to her namesake, the muse the Greeks called the Proclaimer. Lately she's been talking an awful lot (as captured on film here), cooing and gurgling with great focus and serious intent. I'll sit her on my lap and look down at her and we'll have whole conversations together, consisting entirely of the sounds "goooo" and "llllluuuuhhh" and "eeeoooo." She seems to think she's speaking English. We humor her.

But oy -- that girl can go from smiles and coos and sweetness to an all-out screaming fit (and back again) in a matter of seconds. She arches her back and goes stiff as a board and yells and yells and yells. Sometimes the culprit seems to be gas. Sometimes boredom, hunger, fatigue. But sometimes she just seems to be mad for the sake of being mad -- or for reasons we can't possibly understand -- and no amount of bouncing or singing or rocking or feeding will help. She's just being Clio, all piss and vinegar. It's infuriating and exhausting and I love her for it. She's so punk rock.

It's still hard, this whole baby deal. They still rarely sleep more than 4-5 hours at a stretch, and they still cry and kvetch and fuss plenty. But it really is getting to be more and more fun. They've started to feel like our children.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The F-word

I don't know when I turned into a breastfeeding militant. When I was pregnant, and people asked if I planned to breastfeed, I generally said "I'm going to try," and said that with twins, it's often necessary to supplement with formula. I had no problem with this notion.

But now that I've managed to feed these girls exclusively on mama's milk for four months, the idea of introducing formula - even just once a day, which is all we're going to do for now -- feels akin to putting Coca Cola in their bottles. The overacheiver in me (who is a large one) bristles at the thought that I can't keep on doing this impressive thing I've been doing. I love that I've been able to only give them breastmilk. I have been a human cow, a font of nutrition, a burbling, overflowing spring of lifeblood -- in short, a goddess. Yes, that's right; I am a fucking goddess.

Elsa, however, is a piglet. And Clio is fast becoming one, too. This presents a problem. They are now regularly drinking 5 or 6 oz. of breastmilk when we bottle feed them. They're no longer satisfied with 4 oz., which is what I pump, per breast, during an average pumping session. And lately I seem to be pumping less than that more often. It's a simple matter of mathematics: I can't keep up.

There are ways to increase milk supply -- herbs and relaxation techniques and voodoo and prescription drugs. Some people recommend looking at pictures of the babies while pumping (which I've tried) or smelling a piece of clothing they've slept in (which I haven't). But in the end, there's just no getting around the fact that a rushed pump while sequestered in a shower room in the middle of a busy, sometimes stressful workday is just not going to yield the same amount of milk that a nice, relaxed nursing session at home on the couch will.

And so, last night while I pumped, A. gave the babies the first formula they've had since the hospital, when we had to give them the stuff to get their weights up. Formula, for those of you not familiar with it, is nasty stuff. It's brownish and rank-smelling, and results in chunky spit-up and ugly brown poop. It's overpriced as hell because the formula companies spend millions of dollars each year trying to convince people that it's just as good as breastmilk.

On the other hand, it digests more slowly than breast milk. Which means small tummies stay full longer. Last night, Elsa slept from 11:30 to 5:30 without so much as a peep. That's six hours, folks. SIX HOURS. Clio, meanwhile, did an admirable four and a half. (And I'd already gone to bed an hour before her last feeding) In other words, thanks in part to that nasty-ass formula, last night I got the most consecutive sleep I've had in four months.

Still, I'd keep them 100% on breastmilk if I could. What can I say; my ancestors were Calvinists and Lutherans. We suffer for the sake of righteousness. We suffer!!

Formula. Good grief.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Just say no

OK, I need a little cheerleading and morale support here. As some of you know, I work 25 hours a week at an ad agency. I also take on occasional freelance projects with other clients -- something which, last year, added a significant chunk of change to our household income. It's enjoyable and profitable work, but time-consuming. Every hour I spend on it is an hour I'm not spending on finishing my novel. And the thing is, I'm excited about my novel. I think it has a fair chance of getting published. I want to work on it, and I want it to be good. With two babies in the mix, finding that time is harder than ever.

So, I've decided to stop taking on freelance projects until I finish my book. In fact, I just said no to an offer for a project that I normally would have taken, and let the client know that I'm going to take a break from freelancing for awhile. It was a little scary.

The money is certainly a large part of the reason I've done these projects. But the main reason is a sort of pessimistic pragmatism. Realistically, the chances that I could actually ever make a living (or even part of one) at fiction writing are next to none. So, it has seemed practical to continue to augment my copywriting career, make new contacts, etc.

But by doing this, I've realized, I'm holding myself back from really throwing myself fully into the novel, both practically and psychologically speaking. I'm hedging my bets. Protecting myself. Assuming the worst.

If I'm completely honest with myself, I have to admit that these projects are also a way to procrastinate. Doing them is a lot easier than working on the novel. And because they pay well, they're easy to justify. I can't work on my book, I tell myself; I have to do this "real" work first. But I'm never going to write the book I want -- at least not anytime soon -- if I don't start treating it as "real" work. Especially now that I've got a whole other "real" job in raising two children.

We can get by without the extra money, at least for now. I just have to hold onto the foolish hope that the sacrifice will pay off in the long run -- if not in monetary terms, then at least in terms of my being able to say, without feeling like a total phony, "I am a writer."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hallelujah, the strike is o'er, and other news.

Clio's feeding shennaningans seem to be over, for the most part. Though she still frequently cries when I first try to nurse her, I can now get her to calm down and eat eventually. Often, this requires the old pacifier switcheroo -- I let her suck on the pacifier, then, once she's calm, take it out of her mouth and slide her swiftly onto the boob before she can tell the difference. It usually works. She also does well with a side-lying nursing position, wherein I lounge like a golden retriever and she does her thing.

While I'm on the topic of breasts (which is common these days) I must ask: at what point will mine not be so huge? I thought that once your body adjusts to your milk production needs, your hooters go back down to a more normal size. Maybe this doesn't apply when you're breastfeeding twins. I've still got total porn-star tits. Not that this is entirely a bad thing. But it has meant that while I can now fit into my old jeans and pants, almost none of my sweaters or tops fit anymore; they're either too tight around the bust, or too short, or both. Or, they simply reveal cleavage. And as a lifelong B-cupper, I'm just not used to having cleavage. I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of a conference room door at work the other day, and I looked like freakin' Erin Brokovich.

The upside of all this is that it's an excuse to go shopping. I spent a couple of hours at the mall last week on the way home from work, scouring the sale racks, and came away with a couple of good finds. I also splurged on a very cute jacket from...I can't believe this..Benetton. (My faithful readers will remember that I am still traumatized over not having been allowed to get a green and white Benetton rugby shirt in 6th grade like all the cool girls.) Anyway, here's hoping it will still fit fabulously a year from now when I'm no longer breastfeeding and my boobs have shrunk to mere shadows of their former, pre-pregnancy selves, which I hear is common. Bummer.

Elsewhere in the self-improvement category, a couple of weeks ago I got my hair highlighted for the first time in my life. My stylist was, naturally, aghast to hear that at my age (33 as of last week) I'd never had my hair professionally colored. Guess I'm just generally a low-maintenance gal. But I will admit that there's something about becoming a mother that has made me want to put more effort into looking good. Maybe it's all those episodes of "What Not To Wear" that I've been watching while my ass is parked on the couch nursing two babies, witnessing the horror of mom jeans, sweatshirts, and white sneakers.

What else? Last week, for a pair of brunches (one Passover, one Easter) we put the babies in dresses for the first time in their wee lives. They looked awfully cute, though Elsa definitely pulls off the girly thing better than Clio. It's fun now that they fit into some larger clothes to dress them in actual outfits instead of just sleepers all the time. A. still isn't entirely on board with me on this; he doesn't see the point, and would rather just keep them in sleepers, for easier diaper access. But cuteness, I tell him. Cuteness is the point!

Before I go, one last, more somber note: what the FUCK is wrong with our country that any head-case can get a semi-automatic 9mm handgun? Why is ANYONE, for that matter, allowed to get a semi-automatic 9mm handgun? Yesterday as I listened to the news about the shootings in Virginia, all I could do was look at my daughters' beautiful, innocent faces and think: my god, each one of those victims is some mother's baby.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Strike Two

Clio is at it again. We all seem to be thrush free -- they did their two weeks of treatment, I did mine, everyone's happy. But now, with the exception of sleepy middle-of-the-night feedings, Clio refuses to nurse. All I have to do is try to get her into position and pull out the ole boob, and she starts screaming. She wants that bottle something awful. It's stressful and frustrating and infuriating, to say the least. We don't see anything to suggest that she's teething or has an ear infection or is congested or any of the other things that frequently make babies go on nursing strikes. The trush, as mentioned, seems to be cleared up. (If it was ever there in the first place).

The most reasonable explanation seems to be that it has to do with my going back to work -- especially since this just started a few days ago. Apparently changes in routine can throw a baby off nursing temporarily, and obviously she's getting used to having more bottles.

So, I'm trying very hard to get her to nurse. Twice today, I've gotten her to relent eventually after 20-30 minutes of bouncing (I sit on a big fitness ball and bounce with her in my arms) and singing every freaking pop song, show tune, lullaby, aria, and classical piece I know--I hummed "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" in its entirety--until she basically wears herself out crying and is so hungry (I guess...) that she has no choice but to nurse. I also tried giving her expressed milk from a cup, which a la leche league person suggested. This pissed her off, which is, in part, the point. Given the choice between the cup and the boob, with the bottle option taken off the table, they'll give in and go for the boob.

I hate to feel like I'm in a battle of wills with my 14-week old daughter. I'm trying very hard to keep the mindset of "Oh you poor sweet thing, how confusing and frustrating this must be for you" instead of "oh you little shit, how confusing and frustrating this is for ME," but it's not easy. I just hope that this isn't going to be a weekly occurrence; I spend Thursday through Sunday retraining her to nurse, and then come Monday she hits the bottle again and we're back at square one. Baby AA anyone?

All this would, of course, be much easier to manage if there wasn't another baby in the picture who also needs feeding, holding, changing, playing, etc. And who gets upset by her sister's crying and sometimes nurses more fussily herself as a result.

I'm going to go eat some easter candy now.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Words, words, words

If you could read the type on this crossword puzzle from today's Metro, you would see that the clue for #58 across is "Famed lioness" (answer: Elsa) and the clue for #52 down, intersecting the former, is "Ad award" (answer: Clio).

Coincidence?? Or do we have a Jane's Calamity reader at the Metro headquarters?Either way, I'm taking it as a good omen. Thanks to my friend Mara for bringing this to my attention.

Speaking of Elsa and Clio -- which I usually am -- I must say, they are the most schizophrenic damned babies you ever met. For the past few days, Clio has been a terror, crying and fussing, waking up to wail inexplicably in the middle of the night. (And man, that baby has some pipes on her. Jennifer Hudson, look out.) I was beginning to wonder if she had late onset colic or something. Elsa, meanwhile, was being the "your sister" as in "why can't you be more like your sister?" Calm, smiley, contented, adorable. Then, today, Elsa was suddenly Fusspot #1, while Clio appeared to be making a bid for Baby of the Year. We spent ten whole minutes just grinning at each other. She even spoke: "Guh!" she said.

Speaking of speaking, I think these babies ought to be doing more of it by now. Not reciting the Gettysburg Address, mind you, but cooing. Aren't they supposed to be cooing? Ahs and Ohs and Ooohs? They come out with short little bursts of verbalization (see "Guh!" above) and sometimes make drawn out guttural gurgles, that sound more or less like "lllll!" They occasionally squeal. But they don't coo, per se. Maybe they're skipping vowels and going straight to consonants. Crzy Ls nd Cl.