Saturday, December 31, 2011
We started our interesting journey to our twins exactly one year ago today. 2010 was not our best year. In fact, I had never been happier to see a year go. New Year's Eve 2010 saw us with a guest bed packed with medicine and syringes, neatly organized and awaiting their "turn," and hearts filled with excitement, hope, and fear. We knew that IVF was our best chance to have biological children, and we had great hope that we would finally meet our little one(s) in 2011. We also knew, though, that IVF is in no way a guarantee, and that the process we were investing so much into both emotionally and financially could leave us empty-handed. Despite our fears, we jumped in with both feet on December 31, 2010. The girl who once fainted at a flu shot injected meds into her own belly, and off we went. One year later, we are oh so thankful that we took that leap of faith.
Because we did the January IVF cycle, this next month is full of milestones for us and our little ones. Bear with me while I reminisce a bit over the next few weeks...though it may not be interesting to everyone, these are days that will forever be celebrated in the Shafer home.
Happy New Year from our family to yours! May 2012 bring you as many blessings as 2011 brought us.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
goodies from Santa
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
F: It's Santa! Mom says he's going to bring us toys.
B: I hope he brings me more bottles!
F: I better put a bow on...people keep asking if I'm a boy, and I really want girl toys.
F: I can't wait until Christmas morning. I'm sure I made the nice list.
B: Uh oh--is there a naughty list?
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Despite their adorableness, life with twins seems to be getting more difficult for me (mom). Since Thanksgiving, B has wanted to be held all the time. With one baby that might be cute...with two, it's impossible. As they get older and more alert, they require more attention. This leaves less time for the tasks required for caring for them.
The biggest time conflict is pumping. While I am proud to say that they are still getting only one bottle of formula per day, I'm not sure how much longer their almost all breastmilk diet will last. When the babies want to be held, played with, rocked, or otherwise interact, I can't hook up to a machine. I've heard about so many supermoms who pumped for 6 months, 8 months, 10 months...then I remind myself that all of these women had one infant. That's half the milk and half the babies. I am not supermom, and I am outnumbered by my babies. Sometimes I just can't make it all work.
My big goal is 4 months (Christmas Eve), which is almost here. After that, I'm trying to give myself permission to pump less and play more. I'm not going to completely give up, just cut back a bit. I think this will lead to better days for everyone involved.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Sunday night we put them down in their sweet cribs, and by the time Andrew and I got ready to go to bed ourselves the twins were already stirring. Andrew spent most of that night on the floor of the nursery. The next night was even worse...we took turns on nursery floor duty, and Frances basically refused to sleep at all. Tuesday night was more of the same, and on Wednesday they both ended up in our room fairly quickly. So after four of the more difficult nights of their little lives, Andrew and I gave in and put them back in their rock-n-plays. They had their last bottle around 8:00, went down at 8:30, and didn't eat again until 6:30 a.m. Ten hours! Sure, we had to stick their pacifiers in their mouths a few times, but for the most part they slept for 10 hours. What's more, after their morning bottle they both went back to sleep until around 8:30 a.m. (Barnes)/ 9:30 a.m. Frances.
I think these twins may be smarter than we think. It's as if they were trying to prove how good they would be if only we would let them stay in our room. So where are they tonight? In their rock-n-plays next to our bed, of course. In a few weeks we will try the cribs again, and eventually they will sleep in their rooms. For now, though, our sweet twins will continue to occupy our bedroom.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
A special thank you to everyone who celebrated with us and helped make the twins' day so wonderful! A very, very special thank you to Kandi McMahan for using her time and talent to capture beautiful images of our celebration! The pictures were so precious that it was extremely difficult to pick a few to share.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Although an eventual cold was inevitable, it still breaks my heart a little. Hearing their labored breathing brings back all too recent memories of a time when they couldn't breathe on their own. The rattling I hear when they try to sleep or eat is too reminiscent of the respirator and cannula they required after their birth.
As with any baby, all they want when they feel poopy is to be cuddled and comforted. Unfortunately, it's difficult to properly cuddle more than one of the them at a time. I feel like I am constantly choosing a baby to cater too, yet not giving my full attention to either. Juggling sick multiples is a challenge, and we are working to find our footing in this new territory.
Seeing my precious ones so unhappy has totally reinforced my germ-phobia. Up until this past weekend, I have been a germ drill sargent. I have strictly enforced rules regarding hand washing and kid visitors, and I have accordingly encountered more than a few snide remarks. Now I can see that protecting my little ones is totally worth any ire directed my way. So we're breaking out the hand sanitizer and reinstating the "please don't let your kids touch the babies" rule (per our pulmonologist's recommendation), and hoping for healthy babies soon.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Our first Thanksgiving as a family of four (well, really six).
Our whole family (minus Sister Gloria Christi) at the Christmas Market on the day after Thanksgiving. We were so lucky to have everyone together!
Monday, November 21, 2011
For me, my success (or failure) as a parent will be determined by how Barnes and Frances treat others. My great hope is that my children treat each person they encounter well. I pray that they respect others, including those who act or believe differently from them, and that they stand firm for equality. I hope they find joy in serving others and that they are always generous with their time, talent and treasure. I hope they radiate kindness, and that their lives cultivate kindness in others.
Do not misunderstand me...first and foremost I hope that Barnes and Frances grow to know the love of Jesus. But is there really a difference? If my little ones love the Lord, will they not also love others?
"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
- hit movies and popular actors
- favorite tv shows
- popular songs and musicians (other than DH&N, of course)
- best-selling books
- fashion trends (Mollie, I'm counting on you here)
- famous sports figures
- technological advances
All input is greatly appreciated!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Andrew and I both felt strongly that we wanted to name our children what they would be called. Barnes and Frances will always be Barnes and Frances to us. But nicknames have inevitably started to creep in. Frances gets a "Frannie" or a "Frannie-kins" every once in a while, and we very often refer to Barnes as "B." From B, Andrew began using Bumble Bee, and he has now shortened it to just Bumble. Bumble is an appropriate nickname for a few reasons...first because it's adorable, just like our little B. Second, B tends to "bumble" around a bit more than his sister.
So today my little B is dressed in his yellow onesie, ready to bumble around on this dreary Monday. I just hope his buzzing takes sleep breaks today!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
As I've mentioned before, my children will not nurse, so I pump several times a day to ensure that they get the best nutrition possible. Over the past few weeks, the twins' consumption has caught up to and sometimes surpassed my production. I found myself dipping into our frozen supply occassionally and feared that the end of exclusive breast milk was near.
On Tuesday we had our two-month check-up, and I discussed this situation with their pediatrician. Her recommendation? Begin supplementing with formula once a day now so that 1) their eventual transition to formula will be gradual and 2) we can stretch my breast milk out as long as possible so that the babies are still receiving primarily breast milk for many more weeks/months. So on Wednesday, their 10 week birthday, I prepared my first formula. For their goodnight bottle, each twin received 2 ounces of formula mixed with their milk. As I poured the powder in, I stood in my kitchen and cried. I had failed.
The crazy thing is that I have never been that obsessed with breastfeeding. Yes, I believe that breast milk is best, but I also know that children thrive on formula as well. Before the twins were born, I had taken it as a given that we would supplement their diet with formula. So why all the tears this week? Why the agony over beginning to replace approximately 1/12th of their diet with formula? Mommy guilt. An ugly, unwelcome visitor.
What I find ugliest about mommy guilt is that, too often, it is brought about and perpetuated by other mommies. Women have a natural tendency to compete, and nowhere is this more apparent than in child-rearing. Moms who chose natural labor scoff at moms who opted for pain medication. Moms who breastfed well past the recommended one-year are quick to tell their story, while moms for whom nursing didn't work out shyly linger in the corner. Moms whose children sat/walked/talked early boast of their little one's accomplishments, while moms who are worried that their sweet child might be a bit behind stay quiet. Moms who stay at home make working moms feel guilty; working moms make stay-at-home moms feel like they must prove their worth. Our best support network is unfortunately too often the source of our anxiety.
For the immediate future I will continue to pump as often as possible, but also continue to give the twins some formula each day. I will work through my formula guilt, supported by the women who have sweetly and honestly shared their own formula stories with me.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Over the past year, I've had my share of ups and downs with both my faith and the Catholic church, which I call home. When we couldn't maintain a pregnancy and seemed to be facing loss after loss, it was hard for me to sing of God's goodness. I felt like we were being punished, and I was angry that God was letting us go through such pain. As it became clear that our children would be conceived through IVF (if at all), my views on my church started to get more complicated. The Catholic church teaches that IVF is wrong, yet it also teaches the importance of family. Andrew and I prayed over our situation, spoke with authorities both in the church and in the medical field, and made the decision that we felt was right. We found our own peace within the contradiction of a Catholic doing IVF, though it was far from easy at times.
As I sat in the back row yesterday cuddling our daughter and catching glimpses of Andrew holding our son, I was overwhelmed by how God truly does provide. It often doesn't look the way we thought it would, and unfortunately there is no way to opt out of the hard times, but God's faithfulness is real. It is embodied by my loyal, loving husband who always looks for the bright side; by my precious twins; by a church family and priest who are a little different but more accepting than any other Catholic community I can imagine. Yesterday, as I received the Eucharist with Frances in my arms, I was flooded with thankfulness for God's faithful provision.
I can't say that I remember which songs were sung or exactly what the homily was about, but I know that I will always remember our first mass as a family.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
- 40 bottles washed
- 12-14 bottles made
- 12-14 bottles fed
- 20 burping sessions
- 18-22 diapers changed
- 4-6 faces washed
- 3 pacifiers replaced (usually because Stella found one)
- 7 pumping sessions
- pump supplies washed 8 times
- 4 nighttime feedings
- 2-4 times when both babies are screaming at the same time
- 2-6 spit ups cleaned
- adult conversation- little to none
- a million kisses stolen
- more smiles and laughs than we ever thought possible (at least on most days....)
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Barnes & Frances
We had lots of playtime:
We took pictures outside:
Dad took us on our first campus tour:
We went to another pumpkin patch...mom is really excited about Halloween:
We played in the laundry:
And now we're exhausted:
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Despite my dread, I hastened this a bit. Until last weekend, the little ones were on a four hour feeding schedule. It was working so well, and it gave me time to get things accomplished between feedings. Recently, though, we noticed that they were starting to sometimes sleep more than four hours at a time. I am obsessed with them getting enough ounces/calories per day, so in anticipation of them sleeping longer stretches we are feeding them slightly more often (every 3-4 hours). This change upped our bottle consumption and pushed the little ones beyond my production. They are now eating around 48 ounces combined per day, and I'm producing around 42ish. Not quite enough.
It's incredible that they are eating so much and growing so well, but I wanted to sustain an exclusive breastmilk diet as long as possible. Now that we are starting to use our frozen supply, I'm not sure how much longer we will make it. I've been making very short-term pumping goals, and my most recent one was 2 months. Somehow that's only 6 days away! At least I know we can make it that far with nothing but mommy's milk!
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Awake from your slumber! Arise from your sleep!
A new day is dawning for all those who weep.
The people in darkness have seen a great light.
The Lord of our longing has conquered the night.
Let us build the city of God.
May our tears be turned into dancing.
For the Lord our light and our love has turned the night into day.
Lately, I've been meditating quite a bit on the nights and days of life, our periods of darkness and light. Staying home with twins is exhausting--sometimes I literally want to collapse by the time Andrew gets home in the evening. But this is my day...not just any day, but the brightest, sunniest day imaginable. What a difference a year can make.
On this weekend last year, I was in the midst of a gravely dark night. I had travelled with Andrew to Death Valley, California for a cycling event to raise money for juvenile diabetes research, and I found myself in the desert miscarrying our second child. Soon thereafter we had our third miscarriage and had to make hard decisions regarding our path to parenthood.
Later, despite being overjoyed with our pregnancy, I was still not basking in the daylight. Life was more like a foggy dawn...I knew that our children were on the horizon, yet I also knew the risks of multiples and that too many stories do not have happy endings. Then came the NICU, and even though I could gaze at our little ones, the sun seemed to be slipping away. I was more afraid than I ever let myself admit, and I became acquainted with the indescribable fear a parent has for a sick child. But now here I am, with two beautiful, healthy children. Sometimes I cannot believe this is my life.
Today, I was reminded of just how real a different ending to this story could have been. I am part of an infertility community online, and though I don't know these women in real life, I love them. They have been my cheerleaders and my confidantes, and they stuck with me even when I achieved the pregnancy that many of them had not. On Thursday, one of these women lost her twins at 20 weeks. One died during birth, the other lived for around 15 minutes. I feel so connected to this woman...she did IVF, she was having a boy and a girl, she was elated at the thought of raising these children. And now they are gone. I cannot imagine the night that she is in now. What separates us? Why did I get the happy ending, while she is living through hell? Why can't she make it to her day? Please join me in sending her our thoughts and prayers, lifting her up as she struggles through this night.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
I love how Frances holds her hands. When she eats she keeps them upside down, and when she's awake she looks like she's waiting for a manicure. She always stares at you while you are trying to burp her, which is pretty adorable. She is already so interested in her brother...she stares at him while they lie in the floor and scoots next to him when they are in the pack-n-play. She still can't fill out newborn clothes, but she has finally gotten a sweet little double chin. She often sleeps with both arms stretched above her head, and she loves to lie in her boppy. She adores bath time. Most of all, I want to remember her sweet, laid back personality and her beautiful, tiny face.
I love sweet Barnes's animated expressions. He loves to wrinkle his forehead, and he has the most beautiful big eyes. He grunts a lot and often sounds like a grumpy old man. He hates all things wet--both wet diapers and baths--and he makes his dislike known. He has the strongest little neck and already lifts his head all the time, and he has practically mastered rolling from his belly to his back...clearly someone forgot to tell him he was a preemie. He is obsessed with his paci. He loves awake time, and it's incredibly fun to watch him stare and explore his new world. He is the best cuddler I know, and I want to remember how wonderful it feels to hold him tight.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Frances is still quite petite, checking in at 6 pounds even. She is 18.5 inches long and is not on the growth chart in any category, but her personal growth curve looks great.
They are both growing and thriving, and we couldn't be more blessed!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
I left home at 4:15 p.m. intending to do some quick shopping before mass. Between the shopping and church, this would be the longest I had been away from the babies. My first stop was Ann Taylor Loft. I had just walked in and was still standing near the first rack when another NICU mom walked in. Her son is nearing release, and we were able to talk at length about our NICU experiences. I had the opportunity to share much of what we learned in the discharge process and give her some tips that I wish we had known in our final few days there.
A few minutes later in the same store, I ran into an acquaintance who suffers from pelvic pain similar to what I experienced a bit ago. We stood next to the sweaters and swapped stories, finding it strangely comforting to speak to someone else who understood the pain of a bladder distension.
Finally, I went to mass. Because I had been shopping in far west Knoxville, though, I went to a church I had never been to before. I chose a pew at random. On my right was a guy around my age who was also alone. About half way through mass, during a time when the congregation was standing, he suddenly sat down, then rolled into the pew and was unresponsive. I literally yelled "we need a doctor" in the middle of mass in this very formal church. No one responded...the service didn't even pause...but the man regained consciousness and was able to walk to the lobby. I followed him in case he fell again, and another young girl sitting to my left came with us. We got him sitting in the lobby, but as soon as a nurse from the congretation arrived to see if we needed help, the man started seizing and was unresponsive for over a minute. I immediately called 911, then spent the next few minutes corresponding between the EMTs, the nurse, and the man (once he regained consciousness).
As I was leaving home, I felt a bit nervous about being away from the babies for so long. But in just a short time I had three distinct experiences wherein I felt I had been placed somewhere for a very specific purpose. It's nice to be reminded that no matter where we are, God can use us. Whether we are in a church or at a mall or lying on a play mat with our children, we can be of some type of service. We just have to be available when the opportunity arises.
Friday, September 30, 2011
After five weeks of bottles, the babies are just not interested in getting their milk from anything but a bottle. Sure, I can still attempt to nurse, but they are too lazy to get any substantial volume. Switching them at this point would be quite the shock to their system, and I feel that they have been through enough. I literally despise pumping, but life is all about what's best for them. I know that because I am only pumping the babies will eventually outpace me, but for now I can provide them this nutrition. When the time comes, they will thrive on formula, just as millions of babies before them have done.
Interestingly, I am grieving the loss of nursing quite a bit. Much of my path to motherhood has been out of the ordinary. From IVF to a c-section at 34 weeks to the NICU, things haven't gone exactly as planned. I was so looking forward to the simplicity of nursing our twins, to feeding them in the most basic way possible. The loss of this experience has added to my fears that I'm just not cut out to be a mommy. Rather than rallying, my body has consistently failed to perform as expected.
Whether I was made for motherhood or not, I am now a mom. I am reminded of this every time I look into the beautiful faces of my son and daughter. So for now, I will continue to lock myself away and hook up to my pump many times a day, doing my little part in contributing to our twins' health.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
It's been a fun-filled four days at our house. Having our two little ones home is a dream come true, and we are so enjoying introducing them to the world. They are such wonderful babies and are already developing their own little personalities.
Barnes is quite noisy and expressive. He loves mealtime and would probably eat as much as we would give him (though he might not feel well afterwards). His has better muscle control because of his size now, so he's able to sleep in his angled sleeper/bassinet, which he adores.
Frances is getting more and more energy every day. For now she is quieter and more keen on laying awake and entertaining herself, so it will be interesting to see if this changes as she grows. She is so tiny and so beautiful, and her little reflexive smiles just melt our hearts.
Barnes after his first bath at home