Friday, September 30, 2011

plans gone awry

I bought the super duper twin nursing pillow. I took the classes and watched the videos. I read the books. I was as prepared as possible to nurse our two little ones. Then my water broke at 34 weeks, and everything changed. I didn't get to meet our children until 6 hours after they were born, and I didn't get to hold sweet Frances until she was 8 days old. Nursing was out of the question. The pumping began, and our babies were fed mommy's milk first through tubes, and then through bottles. When they became more skilled at bottle feeding, I was able to put them to the breast one time each day...but this completely exhausted our little bugs and screwed up their subsequent feeding. We knew that to get them home they had to be able to take all feedings by bottle, so I had a choice to make--keep putting them to the breast and potentially lengthen their NICU stay, or focus on the bottles and get them home. I chose home.

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

one month

Our precious set of shafers are officially one month old today! It's quite surreal that they have already reached this landmark, especially since we have only had them at home for 10 days. Over the past month, we've been privileged to watch these little ones grow and change in incredible ways. They have started packing on the ounces and both look so much healthier than they did at birth--Frances is now checking in at 5 lbs. 3 oz., and Barnes is a solid 7 lbs. even. They are starting to have a little more awake time each day, and they can focus on our faces now. Their tiny necks are getting stronger, and while they may come in little packages their personalities are large. They both love their pacis and adore being propped in their boppies. Bottle time is a favorite, of course, but bouncy seat time is also a treat.

Happy one month birthday, sweet Barnes and Frances! We are so blessed to be your mom and dad.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 19, 2011

newborn pics

We had newborn pics taken Saturday, and our photographer just posted a preview on facebook. Wanted to share these precious images with all of you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

lots of firsts

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.

Napping together in their pack-n-play, one of their favorite hang outs. No matter how far apart we lay them, they often manage to wiggle together.

Barnes loves his bouncy seat

Barnes after his first bath at home

Frances after her first bath...she loved bath time and kept kicking her feet around like she was at the spa

On their first walk. They were a little small for the stroller, but we figured it out. They both loved being strolled and were fast asleep by the end of the walk.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


We are so excited to announce that the twins are both home! They were discharged from the NICU yesterday after a little advocacy by mom and dad. We are so thankful to have them here...they finally feel like they are truly ours. Being able to cuddle and carry them without asking a nurse first is such a treat.

Barnes and Frances were both fabulous on their first night. We were a little worried at first, but they slept well between their 2:00 and 6:00 feedings, then again until their 10:00 feeding. Barnes tried out his bouncy seat today, they went to the pediatrician this afternoon, and in a few hours they will get their first bath at home--exciting times in the Shafer house!

Thank you all for your love, support and encouragement over the past three weeks. The twins are still small and still need a little extra protection (they aren't even supposed to be here yet, after all), but we are so proud of how far they have come.


Saturday, September 10, 2011


To say that Andrew is an amazing dad to Barnes and Frances would be quite the understatement. He is truly a natural. From day one, he has jumped on board and been as involved as possible in every aspect of their care. He wakes up early to make it to feedings, changes dirty diapers, and has become a master swaddler. He keeps up with all their daily stats and progress. He loves them deeply, and I fall a bit more in love with him every time I see him with our children.

I am worried that he is stretching himself too thin, though, as he has come up with some interesting new ways to conserve energy. Last night we were eating dinner at home, and when he stood up I informed him that his fly was not zipped. His response: "I know, I left it down on purpose. I knew I would have to unzip it again in 30 minutes, so I thought I would save the time." I think he may have taken his quest for efficiency a bit too far.

Friday, September 9, 2011

16 days and counting

Today is day 16 in the NICU. Thank you all for your kind words of encouragement, whether by voice mail, facebook, or email. Each note means so much, and we are beyond thankful to have so many people praying for Barnes and Frances. Please know that even though we aren't really returning phone calls right now (we can't use cell phones in the NICU), we are thankful for each of you.

Our babies are now considered "feeder/growers," which means they are working primarily on learning to bottle feed and gaining weight. They still have some issues with breathing too quickly, but their tiny bodies are slowly learning what to do. Barnes is a bit ahead of Frances on the eating issue, but Frances has made incredible progress considering the extra hurdles she had to overcome. We are working on getting Frances to gain weight, as this seems to be one of her struggles.

They are both such sweet babies. Barnes will happily play awake in his crib, and he loves his pacifier. He likes to wrinkle his forehead and is already learning to pee on his cute outfits. Frances is still so tiny, but very expressive. She is not afraid to show her grumpy face when she disapproves of whatever you are doing. She is such a fighter, but so cuddly at the same time. We are so proud of our two angels...they are literally the strongest two people I have ever known.

Many people have said that this is really better, that this is a time for us to rest while we prepare for the babies to come home. While I know they mean well, let me assure you that this is not better than having our little ones at home. We have been preparing for these children for 34 weeks--really for the last year and a half--and we want nothing more than to have our entire family home. Having babies in the NICU is not a's exhausting. While we may be more sleep deprived once the twins are home, we are by no means well rested now. Here's a sample of our current routine:

6:30-7:00: Wake up. Andrew gets ready for work and packs anything he needs for the day. Jessica pumps, cleans all pump supplies, dries all pump supplies, gets ready, packs a bag for the hospital.
8:00: Andrew comes to the hospital for the first feeding of the day, then goes to work.
9:00: Jessica heads to hospital. Jessica pumps sometime before the next feeding.
11:00: Babies have another feeding (some are by tube and some are by bottle). Andrew arrives back at hospital. One of us holds Frances up to reduce her reflux after her feeding.
12:15: Andrew and Jessica eat a yummy lunch in the hospital cafeteria.
12:45: Jessica pumps.
1:00: Andrew returns to work (though I'm not sure how great his concentration is right now).
2:00: Babies have another feeding.
3:00: Jessica pumps again and then leaves hospital sometime between 3 and 4.
4:00: Jessica lets dogs out, cleans all pump supplies, tries to do any house things that have to be done.
5:00: Andrew comes home from work, works on house work and errands.
6:00: Dinner, walk dogs, pump again.
7:30: We both head back to the hospital to make it in time for the babies' 8:00 feeding. Pump again at hospital.
10:00: Leave hospital. Prepare pump supplies for the night. Eat a snack because we are usually both starving.
11:00: Pump.
11:30- 12:00: Go to bed.
3:30 a.m.: Jessica gets up to pump.
7:00: Start again.

While this is exhausting, we are so thankful that, for our family, this will eventually end. Many families here have no end in sight, and seeing kids who are so sick is truly heartbreaking. Through this process, we have learned how lucky our friends and family are to have so many healthy children. A pregnancy is not ensured to end in a healthy birth, and for each that does we should all praise God.

Friday, September 2, 2011

funny story...

Well, it's either funny or completely depressing, depending on how you view it. I was walking the dogs during our "dinner break" yesterday, and the neighbor who lives behind us stopped her car, rolled down her window, and said, "So, no babies yet?" SERIOUSLY!!!! I still look 35+ weeks pregnant with twins?! In her defense, she cannot see the bows on the front porch from the way she drives to her house, but she had a clear view of me in a somewhat fitted t-shirt. Quite the blow to my post-baby self-esteem, and too funny not to share.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

one week

Yeterday marked the twins' one week birthday! They have come so far in 7 days, and though they still have a long way to go, we are proud of every little accomplishment. Both are off all oxygen and IV fluids, and both are receiving all their nutrition from milk. Barnes is a bit better at digesting his food, but Frances is working on it. Both are still breathing too quickly, which is one of the big things they need to work on. Frances got her first bottle on Tuesday, though since then she's had to be tube fed because her breathing is too fast. Barnes had his first bottle today (Thursday), and did much better with it than we expected. Learning to suck, swallow and breath is a lot for a preemie! Barnes is now regulating his body temperature on his own, so he can wear clothes now and got to move to a bassinet today, which is a much less cumbersome bed. Frances passed the four pound mark last night, checking in at 4 pounds 1.8 ounces (though she could dip back down). Most importantly, we finally got to hold Frances today, 8 days after her birth.

It's strange how your perspective changes with babies that weren't quite ready to enter the world. We ask every morning how their stools were and celebrate poops without suppositories. We get excited when they remember to breath and keep their heartrate up. Before every feeding, we watch as the nurse takes any milk not digested out of their tummy to see how they are doing. It's not something you ever plan or something you ever wish to do again, but it's strange how it all becomes your normal rather quickly.

Here are two more pictures from their one week birthday--one of Frances hanging out in her pink bed and one of Barnes and dad cuddling. Please continue to keep our little ones in your prayers.