Friday, May 16, 2014

Surviving and thriving in the NICU

A twin Mom's take on surviving the NICU

Whether anticipated or not, the NICU is a scary experience. I found out at 8 weeks pregnant that my girlies had almost 0% chance of coming home with me. They would likely spend weeks in the NICU due to their rare condition. To read about Monoamniotic Monochorionic Twins click here.

My number one piece of advice is this:

You miss one-hundred percent of the shots that you don't take
or in our case, you miss one-hundred percent of the opportunities you never ask for. 

The first time I held Annelise and Olivia together, Annelise reached
out to hold Olivia's hand.

Even though we knew the girlies would be in the NICU, and we had taken a tour, we had NO IDEA what the protocol would be once the girls got in there. We didn't even know what questions to ask. My advice is that you ask every silly question that comes to your mind. 

You want to hold your babies but there are so many tubes and lights and beeping machines that it's intimidating? Just ask.

You have a photographer friend that you would like to come into the NICU to do a photoshoot of your babe/babes? Just ask.

You want to let your baby try and latch even though they've only been feeding through an NG tube? Just ask.  (this is called non-nutritive suckling, and is great for developing a good breastfeeding relationship)

Trust me on this. It's intimidating, and it might even seem silly, but there is no harm in asking! Asking will also inform your nurses that you want to be involved and they will feel more open to asking YOU if you want the opportunity to do something. 

Number Two

Try to be there when the doctors and the nurses do their rounds. This way you get all of the information/orders that the nurses are getting from the doctors and you get a chance to speak to everyone who has care of your baby at the same time. 

Rounds were usually around 7am and 7pm at our hospital. 

In the same vein, if you don't get along with/can't communicate well with a certain nurse, ask the head nurse to schedule someone else for your babies. It's important that you develop a relationship with the people who will be nurturing your babes while you are gone.

Number Three
they call this "liquid gold" (colostrum, the first milk that comes in)
Pump like crazy through the day, but sleep at night.  I pumped every two hours during the day and then I allowed myself to sleep 6-8 hour stretches through the night. I assumed that my body would adjust to nighttime feedings when the girls came home and I was not disappointed. Eight months later and I'm still breastfeeding my little beauties!

This was hard for me to do, because it meant that I wasn't with my girls during the night, but I attribute healing so quickly to this one tip. Also, it was important for me to sleep in my own bed with my husband and to get time with our son. I had been in the hospital for 10 weeks prior to the birth of my girlies and sleeping at home with my husband was crucial to maintaining our bond during this stressful time.  As much as my girlies needed me at the hospital, my boys needed me at home as well. 

If I hadn't spent a little time at home I would have missed out
on precious moments like this!

Number Four

Be involved. This goes along with number one. Help take your babe's temperature, change their diapers, give them baths, do skin-to-skin. Ask what the different monitors mean and what is expected of your babies before they can come home. 

Some nurses might make you feel like they can take care of your baby better or faster, but it is YOUR BABY. Some nurses might even make it seem like it's a big deal to let you hold your baby because they have to remove monitors or switch cords around but it is YOUR BABY. Unless a nurse gives you a sound medical reason that your baby should not be moved or held, or that you can't be involved with their care, don't take no for an answer.

You may feel like you are in the way at first, but believe me, your bond with your baby and your nurses will grow as you take responsibility and get involved. 

This is our sweet nurse showing us how to bathe our girls. Doesn't Rob look like
a natural??

Number Five

Ask for free stuff. Most hospitals get piles and piles of free product to distribute as samples to their patients, especially baby stuff. If you plan on formula feeding, ask if they have samples you can stock up on. If you plan on breastfeeding/pumping, check if they have storage bottles you can keep at home. Ask about diaper cream and nipple cream and anything else you haven't had time to shop for during all of the insanity.

Number Six

Make sure it's covered by your insurance. You will be offered plenty of things/care that is not free, and may not be covered by your insurance. Lactation consultants are possibly one of these things. Some hospitals have them on staff, free of charge. Some insurance companies cover lactation consultations. But some hospitals have independent consultants that come into the hospital and offer care to patients THAT IS NOT COVERED.

Also, your Doctor may talk to you about running some tests and he/she might tell you that "it's your choice". If those words are spoken, it might also be coming out of your wallet. Necessary care is most likely covered by your insurance, but if you are given the choice to do a procedure, then it is usually filed under "elective procedures" and you have to foot the bill. 

I know that it's overwhelming, but you can do it! It's been exactly 7 months since my girlies came home from the NICU and it all seems like a distant dream. Look at them now--

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The last two weeks...

...according to the iphone

There is a beautiful little lake near our house and it's perfect for an afternoon out with the family. Two weekends ago we picnicked there and busted out the inflatable kayak and a good time was had by all!


Safety First!

Last weekend we continued our adventures by driving to California. My youngest sister was getting married (pics to come) and Rob took a couple of days off of school to make the journey.

Apparently this is the comfiest way to sit in a carseat for
hours at a time

The weather in California was beautiful, as always. We went to the pool one day and the lake another. The water was perfect and everyone got a chance to enjoy it.

Gideon's cousin, Peyton, is a total sweetheart and loved to play with him!

Gideon decided to enjoy some of the book I was reading.

   Rob is such a stud!

All in all, the last two weeks have been wonderful and crazy at the same time. Getting out with all the kids seems like a totally daunting task, but it is totally worth it. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dear Nurse

*I wrote this after my 10 week hospital stay, while the girls were still in the NICU but I think that Nurse's Day is the perfect day to share it.

Dear Nurse,

I see you.

I see you coming to work early, even though you stayed late last night. I see you clocking off but then returning to a discouraged patient's room just to chat. I see you skipping meals to take care of the needy girl in room 16. I see you brace yourself when you have to enter the room of the not-so-nice-lady.

I see you taking food trays and making beds. I see you cleaning up messes that you could probably leave for housekeeping.

I see the frustration on your face when a doctor won't listen. I see the hours of charting you do on your own time.

I see the pain in your eyes when you can't help a patient.

I see you checking your watch, hoping you can get home in time to tuck your own child in. I see you taking the night shift so that you can make it to your son's Allstar game. I see you rushing from room to room, trying to fill every need you see.

I see you working 12 hours straight with a screaming woman, only to have to leave right before she delivers her baby.

I see you standing there, holding monitors in place in the middle of the night. I know your hands are cramping, and your back is aching, and you wish there was an easier way. I know that there are moments when you wonder if it is all worth it.

But it is.

And you might never see the fruits of your labors, but every day I get to hold them. Everyday I get to love on them because of you.

Thank you. 

Camping with Babies

Camping with babies can be challenging, but my biggest piece of advice is to plan ahead.

I have always been a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of girl, so planning ahead in detail is something extremely difficult for me, but it certainly paid off on this trip!

Here are my top 5 items*** that I could not live without while camping with babies (in no particular order):

1. Wraps/carriers- This is how we got by while we set up camp. I am wearing my oscha nebula size 6 woven wrap and we also brought a kelty carrier and mei tai for Gideon (not pictured). This is something I cannot stress enough. The ground was uneven and rocky and Gideon often got frustrated and wanted to be carried. There was also a large hill leading up to where we parked the car and a double stroller just wouldn't have been able to hack it.

2. Eddie Bauer soothing comfort bassinet- We got the first one second-hand when Gideon was a baby and used it a ton with him (until he was almost a year!) and I knew that I would need a second with these girlies. It folds completely flat for easy travel and it has a bug screen. I LOVE THIS BOUNCER. It is perfect for days at the beach, the park, or just the backyard. As you can see, it left us plenty of room in our 3 man tent for me and Rob and Gideon. The only problem is that I don't think they manufacture it anymore. I was lucky enough to find our second one on craigslist for only $15! Also, it gets terrible reviews on amazon, but if you are planning on doing a lot of outdoor adventures I would definitely recommend this item.

3. Warm stuff- We have two JJ Cole Bundleme things that we used for sleeping bags for the girls and they worked great! They are actually for car seats and have slits in the back so that the straps can come through but that actually worked perfectly for the bouncers as well! Gideon's sleeping bag is just a child sized bag that we got at Smith's Marketplace. It was a little large for him so we had to cuddle up a bit, but I can see it working well in the future.

4. Bumbos- at this particular site there was no optimal place to lay down a blanket to let the girls play, so we were very happy that we had brought the bumbos. They love to sit in them and hold hands and just watch the world as they relax.

The Car- I know it seems kind of silly, but hear me out! For your first camping trip with babies I would suggest NOT backpacking a couple miles away from your car. Our car was a nice little distance away which was perfect for when the girls got too hot and overstimulated. They decided they didn't want to take a nap and didn't want to be held but just wanted to scream. I finally gave in and put them in their car seats and drove around for a few minutes and that is all it took to calm them down and set them up for their long midday nap. 

Many people thought that it was crazy to do this trip (myself included) but some of my favorite childhood memories come from camping as a family. 

My biggest advice is to plan ahead, but to not be disappointed if things don't work according to plan. I definitely didn't expect to drive the girls around for their naptime, and it felt a little like cheating, but in the end it was what we needed to do to keep things happy. 

 ***I put links to every item, but we bought every single one of the items listed second-hand. We never payed full price for any of them. Check out,, or facebook for local used items.

Gideon was helping me blow on the fire to get it started
We were so glad we brought Meisje along! She kept Gideon company
and they played all around the campsite together

Gideon had no fear when it came to the snake that we found

Rob's buddies from school were great with the kids!

Things were pretty comfy at our campsite