Twin Life / by Martha Keyes

The other day my mom returned from being gone over the weekend. "How did the weekend go?" she asked. I thought for a moment and then said, "I don't remember." 

That pretty much sums up life right now. Brandon laughs at the number of videos and pictures I take, but I swear that's the only way I'll remember anything for longer than 3 hours from this period of life. Sometimes life is full of joy. Other times I honestly don't know how I can continue or make it through another hour. I still get overwhelmed with how to handle the babies on my own. I'm really trying to let Brandon work more, and my mom has been SO amazingly helpful in that. She has gone so far above and beyond what anyone could expect or hope of a mother. But at some point, they're going to have to throw me into the deep end for longer than a few hours at a time, and that still makes me feel like a hunted rabbit. I know of other twin moms who handled things alone from the get-go, but I honestly don't know how. 

Ah, sleep. Before we had our babies, I can't even tell you how many people told us to sleep as much as we could. I always thought that was such strange advice. It's not like you can stockpile sleep, after all. (Though if you could, Brandon and I would probably be in decent shape!)  Now, each night brings a bit of anxiety as I wonder what the night will hold. Will the boys wake up every hour? Will they give us that blessed 4 hour stretch we sometimes get? Or will it be something in between? I have yet to find any rhyme or reason to their nighttime sleep quality. With twins, if you want any sleep at all, you have to wake one twin when the other wakes up. This means that your sleep is reduced to the lowest common denominator. Jonah could probably do a good 6 hour stretch, but Micah rarely sleeps more than 2.5 hours at a time, often less, so that's when we all wake up. 

Additionally, on the rare occasion thay they both do give us a great stretch, I almost always wake up multiple times anyway, hearing them fuss, thinking they're about to wake up for real. At least a few nights a week, I'll wake up to one or the other baby fussing, so I get up and get the bottles and my pumping gear ready. By the time I've done that, they're sound asleep again. So I get back in bed and fall back asleep. Or more frequently, I get back in bed, pull the covers up, and then they start fussing again. I'm telling you, it's like clockwork how they wake up anytime I decide I'll sneak in some zzz's. They have special powers. I hate the stress of getting things together once they're already wailing, so I try to preemptively get things going once I hear the signs of one waking. More often than not, this leads to getting things ready for no reason because they're not actually waking up. Sometimes they give us a great stretch but I have to wake up to pump anyway because I'm just too full of milk to sleep. My boobs control my life these days. Seriously.

I'm still exclusively pumping and, I'll be honest, it's gotten old real quick. It's a serious challenge. I'm so grateful that I'm able to pump enough milk to feed these two, but I wouldn't say that exclusively pumping is taking the easy way out by any means. It carries many challenges that breastfeeding and formula feeding don't, but it also carries many advantages that breastfeeding and formula feeding don't. Right now it's what's working for us, though I admit there are days when I would dearly love to throw in the towel and never touch my pump again. One of my main frustrations is nighttime pumping. We never know when the boys will go down for the night or how long they'll stay down once they're down, which means I'm often left with a dilemma. I try to pump every 2-3 hours during the day and every 4 to 5 hours at the max during the night so that I average 7 times a day. I often find myself having pumped an hour and a half ago once the boys are finally down. So do I pump at that point to make sure I have a good 4 hours of sleep in case they make it that long? Or do I capitalize on the fact that they're *already* asleep, go to sleep immediately, and wait to pump, risking having to pump before they wake to feed because I'm engorged? I tell ya, these are the dilemmas I face.

I'm very protective of my pumped breastmilk. Teddy is actually scared of bottles now due to how crazy I act when he comes near them. Brandon laughs at my protectiveness, but I spend so much of my day connected to that pump to ensure that our babies have food that I feel fairly justified. The other day as I was capping off freshly pumped milk (one of those exciting sessions where I pumped 10 ounces total), I had a clumsy moment and spilled one of the bottles. My body reacted swiftly enough with suddenly-acquired cat-like speed reflexes that prevented the full 5 oz from spilling, but I yelled a very dramatic and heartfelt, "NOOOOO!" as it happened. It was bound to happen at some point, and I'm sure it will happen again, but it was very sad all the same.  

My appetite continues to be all-consuming. Seriously it's a bit out of control. As Brandon watched me eat what was likely a fourth lunch the other day (his eyes wide in some kind of mix of disgust and fascination), "What are you gonna do when you stop breastfeeding?" It's a fair question, and I admit that it worries me a bit. I eat whatever I want right now, and I know it'll be tough to retrain myself to be more mindful of my eating habits when that time comes. But for the moment, I often need quick calories, so this is where we are. 

The boys are doing well. They are eating enough food, so I stopped tracking their eating habits. That's been nice not to worry about, since I felt like I was spending way too much mental energy keeping track of how many milliliters were in bottles, subtracting how much was eaten, when, by which baby, reminding others to keep track and then relay the numbers to me...blah blah blah too much math. I know how much I pump every day, so that gives me a fair idea how much is being eaten. When we took them in for their 2 month appointment, Micah weighed 10 lbs 12 oz, and Jonah weighed 10 pounds. They officially made it back onto the charts, so that's exciting! Adjusted for prematurity, they're fairly middle-of-the-road. When compared with full-term babies, they're below the 20th percentile in all categories, but still on the charts, nonetheless! The other day I went to a meet up of moms in the area, and one of them asked me, "Aren't twins usually smaller?" I took it as a compliment. 

We had a really awful few days a couple weeks ago where the boys were just miserable. They were clearly in a lot of pain. They would cry a lot during feedings, pulling away from their bottles but then getting agitated because they were so hungry. When they were awake and not feeding, they were crying inconsolably most of the time, and it was a cry like they were in pain. It was so awful and sad. They had terrible gas that was waking them up. We tried gas drops, gripe water, exercises, etc etc. Finally we took them in to see the doctor and they prescribed reflux medication for them which we have been adding to their bottles along with probiotic drops. It has done a lot to help them, thankfully, though the last few days have been tough again for Jonah. I didn't know how long we could survive with them hurting like they were. I have no clue how twin moms with colicky babies do it!   

I've been so blessed to have abundant help from my mom and husband these last 10 weeks that I've become a bit spoiled, I think. Anytime I'm going to be left alone with the babies, I get some anxiety. Pretty much the only time both babies are content at the same time at home is after they've woken up and eaten in the morning. They kick and coo and smile, and it's the happiest time of the day for me. That means the rest of the day consists of trying juggle the needs of two fussing babies--eating, sleeping, being held, changing diapers. It's really hard in so many ways, especially when you just can't figure out what's wrong with one or both babies. Sometimes it seems like trying to spread myself between two babies just ends up making both sad and that I'd be better off focusing on one and letting the other just cry. But it's so hard to hear and watch your baby cry. It really takes a toll on my nerves as well. Not to mention that their sad faces have gotten 10 times more heartbreaking--those darn bottom lips can bring me running lickety split. So I have started taking the easy way out most times I find myself alone. The chances of both boys being happy at home at the same time are about 5%. The chances of both babies being content (or asleep) at the same time in the car or stroller are more like 90%. So I choose the latter option, despite the chaos of getting them ready and into carseats. While I'm out, lots of people give me props for getting out with twins, but the truth is that the alternative is a lot harder at this point. 

I get stopped a lot nowadays. Twins bring a sort of celebrity status upon you, I've found. I don't mind it except when I know that the babies are due to start crying any moment because we are close to feeding time. I also get a lot of comments by passers-by--comments directed at the person's friend but referring to my babies. Things like, "Oh my gosh! Twins!" Or "Look! How cute!" I never know whether or not I'm supposed to acknowledge the comment. 

I do like getting out with the babies. Thankfully the weather has gotten nice again which means we can take them with us to the track, go on walks, and spend some time outside at parks. It's so nice to get out of the house. I have to do it once a day at least. It keeps me much more happy and sane. 

There aren't many tranquil moments as a twin mom when I just get to sit and enjoy my babies. There always seems to be something that needs to be done--comforting another baby, feeding another baby, pumping milk, washing bottles, doing dishes, showering. Last night, after we had fed the babies and I had pumped, I put Micah down. A few minutes later, he started fussing. I picked him up and snuggled him and just took a moment to take in that moment that I know I'll miss in the future. I know when my boys are toddlers who have become independent little guys adventuring around the world and leaving messes wherever they go, I will miss their snuggly, needy days. It was a sweet, quiet moment that I hope to seek more of. I really do try to appreciate all the wonderful things about this stage, but it requires a seriously concerted effort to do so amidst all the chaos. 

Speaking of getting out of the house, we are building a new home! We had plans to build in Lehi, but suddenly an opportunity opened up in Vineyard at the same time as a change was made to Vineyard's city code--one that had kept us from building there in the first place. We had about two days to decide between our Lehi plan and the Vineyard option. The house should be ready for us to move in by the beginning of July. It will put us in a much better location for Brandon's job, saving him a whole lot of time and gas money. He drives all over Utah County to show homes, so Vineyard/Orem is a good central location. We will be sad to leave our neighborhood in Springville, but we are mostly just very excited!

My younger brother Tim came into town at the end of February for med school interviews. He and his wife live in Seattle, and we rarely get to see them, so it was wonderful to spend a little time with him. It was my longest outing alone with the twins, since it required that I drive to Salt Lake (Brandon had to work). I'm so glad I did it, though! 

My family came down to hang out with us on my birthday. It was so fun seeing everyone! It's pretty crazy when we get together nowadays since there are grandchildren all over the place, but it's so much fun. My mom made a delicious Cafe Rio-style salad bar for dinner, and for my birthday cake, she made banoffee! I'm pretty sure I ate half of it on my own. 

We are spending more and more time in the nursery these days, since the boys enjoy kicking around in the crib. They haven't moved to the crib for sleeping yet--they're still in our room in their rock n plays for now. 

Their obsession with fans is real. They lay on the bed and watch the fan, waiting for it to go around when it's still. Even at night when we feed them and there is barely any light in the room, I catch them staring at it. They coo and smile and kick joyfully as they watch it. 

Jonah

This guy is still about 3/4 of a pound smaller than his brother, but he's growing quickly, nonetheless. He's become such a smiley guy when he's happy. He has more of his mom's temperament, though, meaning that it fluctuates, and sometimes rapidly so. He can be wailing and seem almost inconsolable one minute and then be smiling the next minute. He does the cutest little bashful smiles, showing his adorable little gums. We are still working on his messy eating habits, but his nighttime sleep is generally great. We don't really know how long he could sleep if we let him because we always have to wake him when his brother wakes, poor guy! He likes the changing table, bath time, and is obsessed with the fans in the house. 

Things I love about Jonah:
So much personality
The way he dramatically tells you how he's feeling
His gummy smiles
His enjoyment of the world around him
His adorably plump lips
How much he loves the changing table
How intently he stares at me

Micah

This guy is growing and growing! His temperament is a lot like Brandon's. He's an observer, always looking around with wide eyes and not saying much. Just this past week he started smiling and doing a sweet little coo/laugh. He's starting to vocalize and coo a lot more, though. It's all been very sudden, and it's the best. He's still our less-than-stellar sleeper, but a couple nights a week he'll give us a longer stretch. He loves the bath, kicking his legs, and watching the fan. He's often good at kicking back and being chill while his brother's needs are being attended to. 

Things I love about Micah:
His general serene nature
His wide-eyed wonder
His bottom lip
His round little head
His adorable smile that often comes with a coo
His intensity when he's kicking around in the mornings
His snuggliness

I love these boys something fierce!