Our Feeding Process – Twin Style

This is another post in the “let’s remember the pain, since people say you won’t remember it but I seriously wonder how I could possibly forget” department.  I’m going to document just how crazy our feeding processes have been with these two little girlies.

Bear in mind, that we have done this every three hours (or sooner in many cases) for the past 3 weeks. How about this: we’ve been home for 19 days.  That’s 456 hours. Divided by a feeding every 3 hours is 152 feedings. That makes me even more tired to think about than I was previously… Anyways, here is our process.

Scene: 2:15am

Meri starts stirring and squaking. It’s time. Jess gets out of bed to grab Meri before she full on blasts into crying. Jess gets her feeding pillow ready and works to get Meri to latch and start eating. Meanwhile, I will get up and quiet Alex, if necessary, otherwise I head to the kitchen to get our gear together. Here is what I pull out. 2 syringes, 2 plastic pipettes, a snappy full of breast milk from the fridge and a bowl of hot water. Plus 2 bottles and “nipple cups” for Jess to pump into. I fill the two syringes with 30ml of milk each and put them in the hot water to warm. I take all of this back to the bedroom and wait for Meri to finish her 15 minutes of breastfeeding time.

Jess burps Meri and I get Alex rousted and ready to go. I also take Meri’s swaddles to the changing table and lay them out ready to go. I swap Alex from the crib to Jess and I take Meri to my chair to proceed with “finger feeding” her, while Jess gets Alex on the breast for her 15 minutes.

For those who don’t know, “finger feeding” is done in order to supplement babies without creating nipple confusion. Since these girls were so small (3rd and 5th percentile for size/weight) they needed to eat more. The process works like this. Holding the syringe in my right hand, I use a piece of scotch tape to affix the plastic pipette to my left pinky finger. I then insert the tube and finger into Meri’s mouth and (ideally) she starts sucking. As she sucks on the finger (and straw) I have to keep pressure on the plunger of the syringe to make sure she gets milk when she sucks. Some times, she sucks hard enough to almost take the plunger down on her own. Other times, she is fairly lazy and it takes a long time to try to get the 30ML into her. Not to mention, that many breaks need to be made in order to burp her, since if I don’t she will scream and/or turn into a milk-based fountain and spew it everywhere. Probably 50% of the time, Meri likes to do what I call the “suck-suck-cry” method, which just extends the amount of time it takes to feed her. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how tough this is, but it’s not fun.

While I’m doing this, Jess has finished breastfeeding and burping Alex and starts to finger feed her. I take Meri to the changing table and change her diaper. Pull her diaper off and wipe her down (which always results in screaming). Hopefully she doesn’t pee when her diaper is off or puke on her blankets before I can get her swaddled up. Clothing goes as follows: new diaper, shirt (more crying), swaddle with one blanket, swaddle with a 2nd blanket and then her hat. Since she’s worked herself all up crying while changing, it is now time to try to do more burping and calming before trying to put her down again.

In a perfect world, Meri is starting to doze off as soon as Jess is finishing changing Alex. Then, I can take Alex and calm her. Otherwise, I have to finish calming Meri while Jess starts calming Alex. Eventually, one of them will go down and I can take the other. This will allow Jess to start pumping her breasts in order to give us extra milk with which to feed the girls next time. She pumps for 15 minutes. If both the girls are down, I can then take all of the gear back out to the kitchen and clean it all. Fill a bowl with hot water, and squeeze water through both syringes and pipettes and clean out the snappy we emptied with this feeding. Jess finishes pumping and takes the bottles and pump gear out to be stored and cleaned while I do any remaining calming.

By this time, both girls are in the crib but not necessarily sleeping. They will grunt and groan and make all sorts of noises. Hopefully, neither cries and needs to be picked up and burped or calmed more. We then try to lay down and fall back asleep. With any luck, it’s now 3:45 or 4am. We’ve been done feeding for about 30 minutes ago. Which means at 6:15am, just 2 short hours away, we gotta do it ALL over again.

The really bad nights are when all you want to do is sleep and you keep staring at the clock. Doing the mental math, “if they fall asleep right now, I’ll still have 2 and a half hours to sleep…” tick tick tick tick “ok, 2 hours wouldn’t be bad…” tick tick tick tick “hour and a half… better than nothing.” tick tick tick tick “they’re finally down… Shit… it’s 49 minutes until next feeding… *sigh*”.

Bad is being up 2/3 of the night feeding. Worse is spending the other 1/3 dreaming about feeding. It’s like you never stop.

That was the original process, but we have since made some changes. As of a week ago, we’ve swapped the finger feeding for bottles. Which is MUCH easier. Especially since the syringes only held 30ML and the girls are now easily downing between 40 and 80MLs which would have been a super pain in the ass if we had to do that with syringes. Bottle, nipple and insert cleaning is a pain, but the actual eating part is better.

Also, we’ve introduced pacifiers which is both good and bad. Good, in that we can use them to quiet down the girls when they’re fussy. However, that is a double edged sword. These girls will often times be sucking on them, only to spit them out and start crying. Which introduces the really fun game of “catch the bink”. You wouldn’t think it would be that tough, but you’d be wrong. Especially when they suck on it juuuuust long enough for you to get back into bed before they spit and cry. Drag ass out of bed to put it back in. Repeat as necessary.

I’m not even mentioning the diapers: 152 feedings… 1 diaper per kid, per feeding is over 300 diaper changes in just under 3 weeks. Also not mentioned is the random getting peed or puked on. Often this will happen when you are least equipped to deal with it.

Such is life with twins. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never sleep again. People tell us that things will be so much better in 6 weeks. All I can think is, “6 weeks!? You might as well say 10 years. I’ll never make it.” To be perfectly honest, Jess and I have talked about how pissed we are at single baby couples. They could swap feedings and sleep 6 solid hours! A feeding could conceivably be done in 30 minutes. They don’t have to worry about one kid screaming and waking the other. I’m sure they have their challenges as well, but man… I’d like to try that for a few nights.

But, we are seeing some slow improvement. We’re pushing almost 4 hours between feedings. The girls have started looking at your face while you feed them, which is far superior to them rolling their eyes around the room. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 5+ hours. That would be incredible, especially since I go back to work in less than a week.

And so it goes. We’re sticking with baby steps…

Birthday Story

The following is the story of the day our brand spanking new baby girls were born. Mainly writing this for their mother and and I so that we can remember what the hell happened, since it feels like we’ve been hit with a freight train every day after this momentous day. I’m sure all you other parents out there can relate. Note, you can click on any of the images to view them on Flickr.

So, without further ado…

Sunday, December 5th 2010

The day had started just like every other day for the past couple weeks. Jess had been off work since before Thanksgiving so she was relaxing. I had just finished my work for the year the previous Friday. We were both preparing mentally for the coming Tuesday which was when we were scheduled for the c-section to remove these little girls, since both of them were breach and there was no possibility for normal labor. I can tell you, neither of us were expecting this to be our last childless morning of our lives.

After lounging around sipping coffee and watching some early football, we decided that we needed to do a little shopping. So, we headed out to the Nampa marketplace. We browsed around in Cost Plus for a while, purchasing some Christmas candy and looking at possible stocking stuffers for each other (Jess loves marzipan). We also did a lap through Bed, Bath & Beyond and ended up getting old Murphy a stocking stuffer also. Final stop of the day was Costco. We walked the aisles looking for more Christmas presents and purchasing a couple of frozen food items to stock up for the baby arrival. On our way out we hit up the food court for a hot dog for me and a beef bake for her. This was exactly like every other Costco trip we’d ever made. Although we had plans to hit a craft store on the way home, but Jess was feeling a bit wore out and wisely decided to just head home.

After we got home she decided she was going to take a nap, which I thought was a terrific idea. I wiled away time on the computer, as usual. Jess didn’t sleep very long and soon she was up and cleaning the bedroom. “I can’t bring babies home to this mess,” she said. Going so far as to vacuum our nightstands. I told her she was seriously nesting, but she didn’t believe me.

Late that afternoon we had plans to make an appearance at an annual family Christmas party so she was getting ready as I was looking up directions to get to our cousin’s house. I called my mom to confirm we had the right address and told her we’d see them in about an hour. As Lee Corso might have said, “Not so fast my friend…”

About 4:30pm or so, I was memorizing our route, and Jess had finally gotten ready and was just going to the bathroom one final time. We were literally 5 minutes away from leaving when she walked into the office: “Um… I think my water just broke,” she told me. I’m fairly certain that I just stared at her as a wave of ultimate panic washed behind my eyes. “Wait wait wait… that can’t be” I thought. “We’re scheduled for Tuesday. This can’t happen until Tuesday. We’re not ready!” my brain was screaming at me. Jess asked what we should do and if she should call her doctor. “Yes,” I decided. “Fine idea… they’ll know what we should do”. Jess was standing in the dining room on the phone with the on-call doctor with a towel between her legs because the volume of “water” had not abated. I just stood there dumbfounded looking at her and hearing her side of the conversation.

Last Pregnancy PhotoI believe I did know what to do, but I just didn’t want to believe it. I mean, we had a plan! We don’t deviate from the plan! For this entire pregnancy these girls never once gave any indication that they would come early. Even at our doctor’s appointment the previous Thursday our doc said we were all scheduled for Tuesday and there was no reason to bring them out early. That Tuesday was locked in my brain as the day. And since these girls were both breach, I don’t believe it ever crossed my mind that they might come early. We knew Jess would not labor normally, so why would they come early? It makes no sense, right?

Well, the doctor indeed confirmed our amateur diagnosis that these babies were indeed inbound and it was time to head to the hospital. HO-LEE SHEEE-IT.

I will fully admit that I got a little manic at this point. Mainly for this reason… we had done NOTHING to prepare for our trip to the hospital. For some reason, we were waiting until the final Monday to pack our bag and get everything we might need for a couple day stay in the hospital. We had a plan! We don’t alter the plan! So, we didn’t even have an empty bag set out. I kicked into high gear and started grabbing everything we might need. Jess packed her clothes and I went for everything else. Luckily, I had a idea in my head for what I wanted to remember to bring, especially cameras and laptop and other electronics (various chargers and cables for said electronics). But I was also prodding Jess to hurry since she was taking her own sweet time grabbing her clothes. Of course, I forgot to bring any clothing changes for me (more on this later). We also hadn’t installed the car seats yet, so I just threw those in the back of the SUV with all our other stuff.

Finally, we hit the road, leaving a bewildered Murphy behind. We’d have to get some family to come grab him later. I had to remember to take deep breaths and not drive 70mph down Chinden Blvd. It was in the car that Jess grabbed my hand and I first became aware that she was actually having contractions. Good god! Contractions?? I finally got my wits about me and asked how far apart they were. “About 5 minutes” she replied through gritted teeth. Now, I didn’t recall much from our birthing class, but I remembered the 5 minute mark. These kids were ON THE WAY and I was freaking since they could not make it out the natural way. Jess called her mom along the way to let them know that we’re heading to the hospital but weren’t sure what was going on. Her mom told her that the hospital would probably send us home. Um, not exactly.

Luckily, I also remembered some of our breathing techniques from class, and I was able to safely make it to the hospital about 5:20pm. We pulled into the circle drop-off of the labor/maternity ward and she got out of the car and head in. I drove off to park in the parking lot. Nearly running over a couple people walking slowly in the middle of the road, and getting a stink-eye from both of them for my trouble. It took everything I had to not stop the car and scream at them, “F**K YOU! My wife is having twins and you’re dicking around in the road!!” but I digress. I find a parking spot, hop out of the car and grab the suitcase and cameras and try not to sprint into the hospital. As I’m walking in, I see a sign that says “Complimentary Valet Parking Mon-Fri 9am-7pm”. Shit. Thanks for nothing.

I get to the security door to the labor ward and pick up the call-phone. They let me in and I speed-walk to the nurses station as I hear someone mention “twins”. Yup, that’d be us. I see Jess with a nurse and they were heading into a room to change so I follow. We get in there and she strips down and puts on the supplied robe thing and we move into what I’ll call the “prep” room. I don’t know what the actual name of the room is…

I do not look calm.Jess climbs into bed and I take a seat and try not to freak out. The nurses strap a couple of baby monitors to her abdomen and I try not to hyperventilate. It doesn’t take long before the nurses confirm that yes, the babies are on their way and we had better call who we need to call. They used the phrase “within an hour” which tends to up the urgency a little bit.

First I call her parents and let them know… we ain’t going home and these babies will be here shortly. They said that they would be on their way down. I then try to call my family to let them know. They were all at the party that we were supposed to be at so I try cell numbers. First, I call Dad. No answer. Call big sis Kim. No answer. Call little sis Kristen. Still no answer. Call Dad again and finally he answers. I don’t remember what I said other than “babies”, “coming”, and “soon”.

Nurses try for the 4th time to insert the IVThis whole time, the nurses were trying to get Jess prepped. However, we were right at the shift change and they both seemed a little punchy. Took them like 6 times to get the IV in. They we’re both cracking stupid jokes that I didn’t find particularly funny at the moment. Apparently, they were stalling since they couldn’t reach our doctor on her pager and the on-call doc was in another procedure and wouldn’t be available for a while. Finally, the nurse tells me that I should go eat a little something in their little kitchen since it could be a long night and they didn’t want me passing out. Hmmmm… good idea. I don’t want to pass out either. So, I find the pantry and make myself a PB&J and wash it down with a carton of milk. I felt a little better as there is nothing that a PB&J can’t fix.

PaperworkNow it was time for Jess to push a little paper. Apparently, we shoulda done some sort of pre-registration for this, but true to our (lack of) pregnancy plan we didn’t. Thusly, Jess got to fill out 20 minutes of paper work between contractions of course. That probably could have been planned out a little better. While she was playing secretary, her family showed up and I went out to talk to them and give them an update.

Mythbuster?Finally after a couple hours in this prep room, Jess was wheeled out to head to get prepped in the OR. This, I did not like too much, since they left me in the prep room all by myself. They told me that “a nurse will be along to get you when it’s time” but all I wanted to do is go with her. Plus, being left to my own devices in this room gave me waay too much time to think. They gave me a paper suit to zip over my clothes with the protective booties and hat… even the surgical mask. I felt like a Mythbuster or something, which was pretty cool. I proceeded to pace around this small room and worry that they would forget to come grab me.

Deserted Zombie HospitalFinally, after what seemed like forever, but was really only about 15 minutes the NICU team picked me up on the way to the OR. Since it was about 8pm on a Sunday the hospital was pretty empty. We’re talking really empty. It was about a 5 minute walk to the OR and when we finally get there I’m thinking the hospital looks like something out of a horror movie. We make it to the OR and they point me to the “waiting chair” and I have a seat. I didn’t even peek in the window of the door for fear I would see something that I could not un-see, if you know what I mean. Both of the surgeons “scrubbed in” and we chit-chatted and I tried not to freak out.

Eventually, they grabbed me and told me it was time to come in.

Heading in the OR I see about 12 people in there. 2 surgeons, a few nurses, the anesthesiologist and 2 separate teams of people, one for each baby upon arrival. Jess is on a table with her arms out to each side. The drape is across her upper chest and the doctors are working behind it. I sit on the chair next to her head and ask Jess how she’s doing. “Good” she says, through her oxygen mask. I then pass the time by shooting a couple pictures.

Jess on Operating TableDuring the procedure, I was quite shocked at how violent the whole thing was. See, since both of these munchkins were breach, it was much tougher to pull them out. At times, the whole table was moving as they were torquing on her body. I guess I hadn’t fully thought out what would happen during this little procedure. Jess, luckily, was feeling no pain. She wasn’t even feeling a little discomfort which was my one saving grace. Once I saw a hand reach up to adjust the overhead lighting and the glove was covered in blood… Woo… it was like watching a live action ER episode. The doctors also set items on her chest at times and those items would touch the drape… spreading a little blood through it. It wasn’t queasy or anything, which was good. Just more fascinating.

Ultimately, the table really moves and we hear the doctors say, “hello there!” followed by 15 seconds of silence before I heard the best sound I have ever heard in my life. Baby A was born and blasting forth with a healthy cry. They tell me that I could stand up and take a look so I do. I wasn’t sure what to expect to see, but it really wasn’t as bad as I would have thought. Mainly, I was focusing on this new little life the doctors were holding. After a few seconds, one of the NICU teams takes her over to their station to clean her up and do what they do, she’s wailing all the way. My eyes absolutely filled with tears. Had there been fewer people in the OR I would have cried. But I felt like I had to keep my composure, especially for Jess who was laying there and couldn’t see anything.

Baby B is BornI sat back down and tell Jess that Baby A looked awesome. Less than a minute later, they tell me to stand up again as they yanked Baby B screaming into existence. It was a mindblowing experience. It really was. The second NICU team takes Baby B to their station and start cleaning her up. Both girls crying in stereo. A minute or 2 later, one of the nurses asks me if I’d like to go see the girls. Um, of course I do. They give me one instruction for walking around Jess’s operating table: “Don’t touch anything blue.”. Roger. Got it.

I head around her open abdomen (without looking too closely) and stop at Baby B first. The nurse slaps a pair of surgical scissors in my hand and asks if I’d like to cut the cord. Absolutely! Their instruction is that, “It will be tough to cut… like a piece of gristle”. Sure enough, it was. Took a couple of saws with the sheers to snip it. One of the other nurses captured a picture of the moment. It was a bit interesting to see the “fluids” spurt from the cut cord… After I tried to hand the scissors back, only to have them say, “We’ve got one more!” So, we walk over to Baby A’s station and repeat the same routine. Definitely a moment I will not forget.

Cutting the cord on Baby B Cutting the cord on Baby A

Let's show momI then go back to Jess’s head and report to her that the girls look perfect. It didn’t take them long to stop crying and just look around the room serenely. The 2 nursing teams bring the girls over to Jess so she and I can see them both. The girls were just so peaceful. Not long after, it was time for the girls and I to return to the original prep room. I think they asked if I wanted to carry one there, and I chose to not… I could just see myself trip or something. I’d leave that to the professionals. After the long walk through the darkened hospital we made it back to the prep room. The nurses put the girls each onto their individual warmer table to do all of their necessary checks and balances. I just kind of hover around and shoot pictures. Funnily enough, it was during this time that I had the first mixup of who was who.

Baby A weight Baby B weight

New DadWe then measured Baby A for weight and length: 5lbs 4oz. 17 3/4 inches. Then we did Baby B and got 4lbs 15oz and 18 1/4 inches long. Once the nurses were done doing their work, they asked if I would like to hold both babies and I couldn’t have been happier.

Mom and girlsEventually, Jess was finished in post-op and was brought back to our prep room. It was here that I got to tell her everything about our little girls. She was fairly glazed over from the various anesthetics she was given, but she still looked really happy. I couldn’t stop smiling. Soon, with the help of the nurses, we got both of the girls to latch onto a breast and feed. It was awesome. The nurses mentioned that sometimes it can be difficult to get them to feed right away, but these 2 little girls acted like they were old pros.

It was about now that I started to feel bad about all the family that had congregated in the waiting room. It was now about 10:30 and many of them had been waiting since about 6. But, the nurses weren’t done with what they needed to do with both Jess and the babies, so the family would just have to wait.

About 11:20, we finally got moved to our postpartum room. The nurses loaded the girls onto moms bed, and pushed her… I followed with our cart loaded with all of our stuff. When we got to the room, the nurses told us that Baby B’s blood sugar was low and in order to prevent a trip to the NICU she needed some formula immediately. Well, the nurse gave me the bottle and told me to get it into her pronto. So, with that sort of pressure, I started to freak out a little bit. It was then that the entire family came into the room to fawn over these little bundles of joy. I don’t remember much of what went on in that room what with all the excitement, adrenalin, and added pressure of trying to get this 3 hour old little girl to eat as much formula as I can get down her. This was the first time since my little sister was born that I had fed a baby and there was serious consequences if I didn’t get it done. How’s that for pressure. Luckily, she had about 10ML of formula and got her blood sugar up enough that she could stay in our room that night.

The family didn’t stick around for long, mainly because it was so late. Jess wasn’t much of a conversationalist having just had a operation and I couldn’t be distracted with chit chat. They promised to come back the next day and all left in one large group. It was then that Jess and I were alone with our girls for the very first time. We just kinda looked at each other in disbelief of that evening’s events.

The rest of that night was a bit of a blur. I was super tired, coming off the rush of the previous hours. Jess was still a little loopy. Nurses were in and out of our room for most of that night. I attempted to sleep on this absolutely rock-hard couch they had in the room, but there really was no chance of that happening. I spent the night laying there, eyes closed and not sleeping a lick. You know that strange state between asleep and fully awake where you hear what is going on in the room, but you might still be dreaming/hallucinating? That was me that night. Jess finally ate a chicken sandwich she had ordered before she had gone into surgery.

I do remember trying to get the girls to breastfeed again around 3am. The nurse told us that because they were so small we needed to supplement their food intake. So, she showed us how to get them to latch on the breast then feed a syringe with a skinny pipette of plastic into the corner of their mouths while they were nursing. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re half out of your mind. Jess is on the bed and I’m bent over her trying to get these little babies to keep this formula in their mouths instead of dribbling it all over themselves. I was really starting to get frustrated when Jess calmed me down and we were able to get them fed.

Here they are

All in all it was a miraculous, crazy, draining, exciting, fascinating, unforgettable night.

That is just the beginning…

The Big Reveal – Baby Names

I know a lot of you out there have been on pins and needles wondering what the names were going to be with the newborn twins. So here goes.

Baby A shall now be known as Alexandra Jaye. Alex for short… or perhaps AJ.

Baby B will be known as Meredith Althea, or Meri for short.

There are stories behind those name choices but I am way too tired to come up with a creative way of telling them. Keep watching this space.

Welcome to the world, Alex and Meri. Your mom and dad love you very much.