Sunday, July 8, 2012

Six weeks old!*

This just in: Life with a three-year-old and newborn twins is busy. Shocker, huh?

There is no way I can possibly recap all that has happened since C and G arrived. I'm going to try to hit the highlights though - please excuse the choppy post to follow!

Hospital time = Mostly good. After the shock of our crazy (but wonderful) birth experience wore off, we spent the next few days falling in love with our adorable new roommates. E was never in our room at the hospital and it is so different and so much cooler to have your baby right there with you!! (Another shocking news flash, I know.) My parents stayed with E and brought him to visit us each day. We had some really lovely nurses and the overall vibe was just really laid-back and blissful as M and I celebrated and bonded with our two healthy babes. My recovery was a little rougher in some ways because I had retained so much fluid and my body was in no hurry to release it. It took a whole day and several bags of IV fluid to jumpstart my kidneys to start producing urine again after my c-section and all that time, I just kept getting bigger and more uncomfortable. Also, the doctor who did my surgery (not my OB, thanks to the boys' early arrival - boo) botched one side of the repair job a bit. I guess it is technically closed now (it wasn't at my first postpartum visit), but it looks weird, like it isn't fully sealed. I'm not sure how else to describe it. Also, for the first two weeks, I had this unbearable nerve pain deep under the incision. Fun stuff. It's still sore, but nothing like it was, thank goodness. The pressure to supplement with formula started within hours of the boys' birth and we resisted it until the day before we left. We had a great pro-breastfeeding pediatrician while in the hospital who completely supported our refusal (truly, she cried with me when we finally had to supplement), but the day before we were scheduled to leave, the boys dropped down to 14% below birthweight and she explained she wasn't allowed to send them home until they at least started moving back in the right direction. My milk still wasn't in, so our only options were to leave the boys there (which assured they'd get formula since we couldn't be at the hospital for every feed once we were discharged) or start giving them formula ourselves. We opted for the latter and began following each breastfeeding session with 15-20mL of formula. The following morning, they'd lost even more weight despite the supplementation, but they let us stay in our room a few extra hours and by 4pm, the tide had turned and we were all able to go home together. Hallelujah!

First week home = Heaven! We came home on Memorial Day and M took the next day off. (Yup, that's all she could take post-hospital.) E was at school and we sat around the house all day, holding sleeping babies and basking in the glow of how seamlessly the transition was going. I know, how inappropriately smug of us. Fear not, we got our comeuppance :-) On Wednesday, we took the boys to their first weight check and to our relief, they were both still gaining. C was back up to 6lbs, 3oz. and G was 6lbs, 2oz. On Thursday, we went back to the pediatrician's office for their first doctor visit. Both boys were pronounced the picture of health. Up until then, we'd continued to supplement with formula in response to the boys' hunger cues. We talked to our pediatrician about wanting to stop this and she was supportive of us cutting the formula out cold turkey. M went back to work on Wednesday, but my mom was a huge help during the hours she was gone. The next few days were idyllic (although as I look back over my notes, I can see they weren't eating nearly often enough - still sleeping when they should have been nursing) and we even managed to have a lovely breakfast out on Sunday - our first as a family of five! We wrapped up the first week home with another weight check on Monday morning, and that is when things began to crumble...

Second week home = The higher the ladder, the longer the chute. Monday morning's weight check did not bring good news - C hadn't gained any weight, and G had lost an ounce. Uh oh. This seriously rocked my confidence, as did some signs of lethargy and weakness I'd started to notice in G. The doctor came in to talk to us and said she was not concerned. The number of wet/dirty diapers we were seeing meant the boys were getting enough to eat, and she guessed they were going to move off the weight plateau any moment. She coached me to stick with EBF and to do whatever I could to r-e-l-a-x. She reassured me over and over again that everything was fine and she'd tell me if she had any concern whatsoever. We made a plan to nursenursenurse as much as possible and bring them back Thursday for another weight check. I went home resolved to take deep breaths and make it work... but the universe had other plans. A couple of hours after returning from the weight check, and just before I was about to sit down to feed the babies, I was (TMI alert) battling some constipation (thank you, Percoset), when I had what was later diagnosed as a vasovagal response, followed immediately by a hot, pulsing headache unlike anything I've ever experienced. I honestly worried something had burst in my brain. My mom called 911 and I was taken to the ER by ambulance. I spent the next 8ish hours being drugged, CT scanned and lumbar punctured, and finally sent home with the diagnosis of postpartum migraine, which is apparently A Thing. I returned home engorged but afraid to nurse because of all the meds I'd had in the ER. The nurses assured me everything I was given was compatible with breastfeeding, but come on... Morphine? M and I looked up half lives and percentages in milk for each drug and felt we should err on the side of caution. The babies had already had several formula bottles at that point, so we decided I'd pump and dump for the next 12 hours to be safe, then start fresh at noon the following day. Oh, I nearly cried watching ounce after ounce of breastmilk go down the drain in our bathroom sink. Uggggghhhhhh. So, that was day one. Nice, huh? The next morning, we had a photographer come out to take newborn pics of the boys. They came out so wonderfully and I'm SO glad we didn't cancel her after what went down the previous day. I will post a couple on the password protected blog. She'd been gone maybe an hour when E's symptoms started to show and by the afternoon, it was clear he was not well at all. His fever stayed mostly in the 102-103 range for three full days and he clearly felt awful. I was terrified he'd pass something along to the little boys so I basically sequestered the three of us in my bedroom and only checked on E intermittently, scrubbing in and out like a surgeon for each visit. M had to work all week, so most of his sick care fell to my mom, which was a heartbreaking introduction (hazing?) to what it feels like to have more children than hands. It was agonizing not to be able to care for him when he needed me, but the babies needed me more right then. (We managed to end the week without the babies getting sick, thank goodness.) On Wednesday, I tried to meet with a lactation counselor to develop a plan to safely wean our itty bitty babies off the formula. I really didn't want their weights to dip again. The LC was out, but I had the opportunity to weigh the babies pre- and post-feed, and when it appeared that they managed to LOSE weight during the feeding, I had an epic meltdown, complete with ugly public crying. This earned me another "You Must Relax" pep talk, and a recommendation to start using this supplement, which I started that afternoon. On Thursday, E went to the pediatrician to rule out strep or hand, foot, and mouth and I had my first postpartum visit - at the same time, of course. My mom took E to his appointment and my dad drove me and the babies to mine since I was still taking Percoset and couldn't drive myself. Fun times! My headaches still had not relented so I talked my OB into giving me a couple of doses of Imi.trex by promising to follow up with my primary care doctor after that. I did just that on Friday and was encouraged to try treating the headaches with caffeine which, blessedly, has been working pretty well since then. I usually don't drink any coffee, tea or soda, so even small amounts of caffeine have been making a big difference for me. Or it's a placebo effect. I couldn't care less as long as it keeps my headaches at bay, which it has thus far. Having a debilitating headache while trying to care for newborn twins and a sick three year old is torture. On Friday of that week, we went in for another weight check and they finally gained! G was only up to 6lbs, 3oz but it was something, and C was up to 6lbs., 8oz! After their 24 hours of formula early in the week, we'd continued to supplement here and there - never more than an ounce a day per baby, but enough to make me nervous to go back to EBF without one more check that they were growing on breastmilk alone. The doctor agreed we could come in for one more weight check on Tuesday, so once again, we attempted to stop supplementing, but this time we were able to follow through. Phew! Near the end of their second week home, M's mom came into town and my parents left. I was heartsick to see them go. My mom had been such an enormous help toward the end of my pregnancy and during C and G's first two weeks of life (especially that second week home, aka hell week). Having M's mom around for a few days was great, but her stay was short, and the day where I'd need to start caring for both babies all on my own was looming nearer and nearer with each passing hour and I had NO idea how I was going to manage.

Third week home and beyond: Finding our new normal. The following Tuesday's weight check brought great news. The babies were up to 6lbs, 8oz (G) and 6lbs, 13oz (C). Both had gained 5 ounces in 4 days with no formula, so I finally had the peace of mind I needed and we've been EBFing ever since. On Wednesday morning, M's mom left at the crack of dawn and I was officially on my own. The babies were one day shy of three weeks old. *Gulp* Somehow, we all survived and since then, the pendulum seems to have come to rest on: Really freaking hard and busier than I ever could have anticipated, but manageable, and peppered with moments of such bliss and beauty that I could burst from the sheer joy that is our life. I have learned so much and I do things with the babies every day that I never would have thought possible, logistically. The learning curve is something else when you're thrown right into the deep end. We get out on our own at least once a day - sometimes for several hours of errands, sometimes just to pick E up at school - but it's something. On a couple occasions, we've stayed out through a feeding time and I've needed to nurse them, in public, on my own. At home, I tandem feed them, but when we're out, I have to do them one at a time and, somehow, keep the other baby pacified too. The first time I did it, I'll admit I felt a little like Wonder Woman. :-) We've also been doing a lot as a family on the evenings and weekends. M has been awesome about this. I'm sure she'd rather put her feet up at the end of her long workdays (HA, like we're going to be doing that anytime in the next 3-5 years!) but she knows I need to get out for my own mental health and she does what she can to make that happen. (Your efforts have not gone unnoticed, Love.) We've been having a lot of picnic dinners in parks, despite the oppressive heat, because the babies love to be outdoors and I can sit on a blanket and feed them while watching M and E play. It's been really... nice. Despite the rough start, breastfeeding is going really well. We haven't had to supplement at all in the past month and my supply seems to be keeping up with their demand. I just hope we'll have a strong enough foundation for it to stay that way once I go back to work in two short weeks. (And now, I will cease speaking of that wretched day to keep myself from vomiting.)

The babies have easy temperaments (one more so than the other, of course) and they don't have the health issues (colic, reflux) that E suffered from, so we joke that the two of them together are still easier than E was as a singleton newborn, which is NOT actually a joke because it's 100% true. They look almost nothing like each other, and yet they both look startlingly like E, which is really freaking cool for reasons long-time readers of this blog will appreciate. They were both up to 7lbs, 8oz and 21.5 inches (exactly the same size!) at their pediatrician appointment just over a week ago. They have started to outgrow preemie clothes by length and are fitting comfortably into NB and some 3mo sized clothes, as well as most of the newborn diapers in our CD stash. During the past few days, they have both become very generous with their smiles and we can consistently elicit them, which is basically the best thing to happen ever.

There are so many things I want to say; so many things I want to document here because time is racing by at breakneck speed and I know I'm going to forget so much. But, I fear I won't even get this much posted unless I pull the trigger on it now. I'd like to say I'll write more soon, but I probably won't. We're very much on our own out here. Our families live many states away and I've been a little sad to find that, with some exceptions, our local friends haven't stepped in to fill the gap the way I hoped they might. That sounds whinier than I want it to because we're really doing okay, but we're also both operating at 110% and we have zero down time in which to catch our breath. None. There are things that are far more essential to the functioning of our household than blogging that are being left to the wayside right now, so... I'll be back when I can, which will hopefully be soon enough that C and G's entire infancies don't disappear into the vortex of my feeble memory. :-)

*This post has had two previous titles, on account'a the fact that I've been writing it a couple sentences at a time for-ev-er. The first was "Three weeks old!" Then, "One month old!" Even this one is technically out of date, but it's close enough so we're rolling with it.


tireegal68 said...

Really good to read some of the many details of your new lives! Great that your mom and dad were able to provide so much support for you. You have my sympathy and admiration. I know what you mean about not having people / relatives locally to help. You really find out who your friends are in these circumstances - or at least you find out who wants to help besides visiting to gawk and coo. Our only relative that is here and is consistent is my sister. She lives very near, but is busy juggling many balls. You did so great with the EBF after crossing all those hurdles!! Way to go, mama!
(( big hugs to you and your cute family!)

Allison said...

What an update! Glad to hear that the twins are both doing well and gaining weight now. Early days with any baby, let alone two little ones are so fully of joy and concerns. I can't imagine how busy it must be around your place but I'm sure you will handle all the challenges. I'm glad to hear your families were able to help out. Hopefully some friends step up to offer a hand too --I think most people are probably quite oblivious to how much their help is appreciated in these early weeks. All the best.

jessie said...

You are a superwoman and a supermom! Congrats on making it through a tough and scary few weeks. Im soooo glad the headaches have subsided! I also went back to work at 8 weeks and it's just too damn early. My wife could only take 1 day off as well. So crappy. Good luck with everything!

Strawberry said...

I am in awe :) You all are rockin' it. I'm so glad the weather is warm and you can go outside and do the picnic thing- that must make it a lot nicer.

anofferingoflove said...

R has an aunt, who in difficult situations, goes to her default phrase of "aw, honey..." in the sweetest, southern way that can't help but make you feel better, like you got a verbal hug. and as i was reading this post, that's all i could think, "aw, honey..." sounds like you had a rough start, with the bf'ing issues, pain, headaches, etc on top of just getting acclimated to being a family of 5. im glad to read you are on the other side of it now and things are looking smoother. you are a rockstar for weathering those difficult first weeks. and kudos on sticking with the ebf, that is no easy feat (to make the understatement of the year).

Meegs said...

So wonderful to read this update. Sounds like a crazy, delightful, exhausting whirlwind!! :-)

EBF twins. You are Wonder Woman!! Keep up the good work!!

I pumped at work for almost 2 years, so please let me know if you need any advise! I definitely have reqs for great items that make it easier and faster, not to mention techniques to get the milk flowing better. Good luck!

Emily @ablanket2keep said...

What a crazy ride! So glad everyone is going well now and I hope it stays that way.

tbean said...

I so loved reading this proper, narrative-style update from you. Even if it took me a dog's age to comment. I'm sorry for all the trials (er visit! no!) but so happy you were able to establish such a great start to bfing. Go you, rock star mama! As you start back to work, I hope you will be kind to yourself if you can't sustain the EBF for the boys. My duo always got SOME formula supplementation and I made a choice early on to not guilt-out on that. Any amount of breastmilk is great, so keep it up. And hugs to you as you start working again. xo