MicroblogMondays: Babies’ First Halloween

I know… I am kind of late, but I realized that I never wrote about the babies’ first Halloween.

The babies were only 6 weeks old on Halloween, but we still wanted to buy them some sort of costumes.  Remember how I used to wear superhero socks  and Bob used to wear his Batman shirt to all of my retrievals and transfers?  Then Bob continued his own tradition of wearing his Batman shirt on the day of all of Annie’s prenatal appointments.  Even though the first few weeks of the babies’ lives were daunting, we still desired to purchase a costume for each one of them.  It seemed fitting to get superhero outfits for them.  We decided on these two:

The Batman onesie even had a cape!  The Super Girl one had a bow which was the only bow that I have allowed Bunny to wear so far.  (I have a thing against baby girls wearing big bows on their heads when they hardly have any hair.)

The babies wore these outfits on Halloween only for the photos.  They didn’t go trick-or-treating, but it was enough for us to feel festive with their costumes on.  They were super adorable!

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MicroblogMondays: More on Night Nanny

Without a doubt, despite the high cost, hiring our night nanny is the best investment ever.

Our night nanny is a sweet lady in her late 40s.  She is very pleasant and has a calming presence.  She arrives on time and sometimes leaves our house later than required if one of the babies is fussy (usually Okra, our baby boy).

She is reassuring.  She tells me that I am doing a great job as a mama.  She encourages me not to worry about the babies as things will sort themselves out.

Most importantly, I have learned quite a few things from her regarding feeding and sleeping that have helped regulate our babies’ schedule.  An approximate daily routine means sanity (most of the time) in this household.

Prior to the night nanny, I did not know that tandem feeding was possible with twins at this age.  During the day my mom and I would feed one baby at a time and at night, I would usually feed one baby at a time.  At the end of our night nanny’s first night, I woke up at 5 something in the morning to go check on her and the babies.  I was so in awe that she was feeding them both at the same time.  She sat cross-legged with one baby on her and the other baby on a Boppy pillow on the rug in the nursery.  When she burped one of them, she put the other one down on our Tw.in Z pillow.  I was so enlightened by this sight and knew that it was possible for me to try to tandem feed the babies especially in the middle of the night.  From that day on, I have been tandem feeding the babies in the middle of the night and a couple of time during the day.  I have my own set up and can even sometimes free up one hand to get a drink of water or hold my phone.

Our night nanny observed and suggested a few things after the first night.  Okra, our baby boy, was using Philip Aven.t bottles and was gassy and eating very slowly.  I thought that he hated the Dr. Bro.wn’s bottles that Bunny had been using.  But Dr. Bro.wn’s bottles have an extra part that is supposed to be good for reducing gas.  Night nanny tried the bottle on Okra that night and got him to eat quite a lot of formula.  So we switched him to that same bottle with Bunny.  When we did our night feedings, we would take the babies to the living room or dining room with lights on.  Our night nanny suggested doing everything in the nursery in the middle of the night with lights outside of the room.  It is enough to see what she is doing but the dimness is perfect for keeping the babies calm and drowsy so they would go right back to bed after they eat.  In terms of swaddling, we usually put Bunny in a sleep sack that didn’t have the swaddle because she hated to be swaddled.  Our night nanny observed how squirmy and unsettled she was that first night and swaddled her.  Bunny slept so much better that night.  Our night nanny also put socks on the babies.  With all these changes, the babies have been sleeping a lot better rather than waking up often.

As the babies are becoming a bit older, the nanny helped us put them on a similar feeding schedule.  We would feed them about every three hours, with night time feeding at 4 hours apart.  We try to feed them both at around the same time.  Since about 1.5 weeks ago, we have a more definite schedule.  When the babies wake up in the morning, my mom and I would feed them both at the same time.  We adjust the schedule for every 2.5 to 3 hours, and we often land them on a feeding at a time between 4pm and 4:15pm, so that they would eat again at around 7pm to 7:15pm.  Prior to the 7pm feeding, we would change them into their sleep gowns for easy diaper changing.  We would feed them a full feed (about 120ml) if they are willing.  After they finish their formula, we put them to bed.  When the night nanny comes at 10pm, or on nights that she is off, the babies have a dream feed at 10ish.  They usually have a stretch of three to four hours.  We feed them at around 2am, and then 5am.  In the future when the babies get to around 12 lbs, we can start to stretch the time between feedings in the middle of the night, trying to move the 2am time to 3am, 4am, 5am, so on and so forth.  The 10pm feeding time will be the last one to be eliminated so hopefully they will sleep through the night after the 7pm feed until the next morning.  Of course this will not happen instantly as the babies are not there yet.  Bunny has shown signs of being able to eat a full meal at 7pm and 10pm, and then waking up at around 3:30am for another feed.  Okra has had a bit of difficult time recently.  He was waking up every couple of hours crying and demanding food.  We suspect a growth spurt of some sort.  Hopefully this phase will pass soon.

One interesting thing is that the babies eat better and more when she feeds them, but they don’t eat as much when I feed them in the middle of the night.  I don’t know how she does it, but like I said, she has a calming presence.   The funny thing is, she feeds them at around 5am fulling anticipating them to continue to sleep until at least 7am so I could have some rest.  But it seems like we have an early riser in our midst.  Mr. Okra often starts screaming and crying after 6am.  A few mornings he woke up at exactly 6:39am yelling regardless of how much he had eaten at 5am.  I have to resign to the fact that this boy may just be an early bird no matter what we do.  It is fine on the nights our nanny comes, but it’s a bit tough to entertain him after waking up feeding them a few times a night.

I often text our night nanny during the day to ask questions about the amount of formula to feed and the feeding time in the middle of the night.  She often writes me back quickly and calls to chat about the plan.  I am so grateful that she is so responsive and good with communication.

Another bonus to have her around is that she does everything baby-related.  So she washes all the bottles and folds all the laundry.  She would even do laundry for us if I would let her.  I haven’t asked her to wash any baby clothes for us because the noise might wake everybody up.  She helped me sort out multiple bins and bags of hand-me-down baby clothes into sizes.  It was just so helpful to have that done so I didn’t have to find time during the day to work on that.

All in all, it has been such a blessing to have our night nanny.  Like I said before, I enjoy the babies so much more in the morning after having a really good night of sleep.  I look forward to the evenings when I hear the knock on the door at 10pm knowing that my babies are well taken care of and I can have the luxury to sleep through the night (well, at least until 6am when my baby boy opens his eyes for a brand new day to start).

Birth Story Part I: Before the Birth

It’s been a few weeks exactly 8 weeks since the birth, but I still can’t believe that Annie kept the babies in for so long/the babies wanted to stay in for so long that we got to travel as planned.  The last nonstress test for us was on Monday September 11, and our scheduled C-section was that Friday.  Annie passed the nonstress test, but that particular test recorded four contractions.  It could be the beginning of something or it could be nothing.  Regardless, I was on high alert from that moment on.  Dr. OB said that if Annie was to have real contractions or if her water somehow was to break, then she’d go right to delivery and wouldn’t be able to wait for any of us to arrive.  The reason was that the drugs to hold off labor would be too dangerous for the babies at that point.  I was truly alarmed by that statement.  We were merely two days away from traveling.  No one knew if the babies would decide to come earlier than planned.  I was hoping and praying that Annie and the babies would continue to hold on tight.  My phone was always with me and any ringing would make me jump.  Annie promised that she would contact me immediately if it got even a little close to her thinking that it was the real deal so maybe we could try to jump on a plane to get there in time.  Because of this, Monday and Tuesday were both a little stressful for me as we had already come so close to delivery.  If we had to fly earlier, we would have to book all the flights, hotel, and car rental last minute at a much higher cost.  Money was not the biggest concern.  If we didn’t have to spend the extra money, it’d be great.  But if we had to, it was already prepared.  Missing the birth all together would be the biggest disappointment of this whole journey.  At the same time, I was trying to keep my emotions in check.  It would be totally okay for the timing to not go my way as long as it meant for the babies to arrive safely.  With this uncertainty, I managed to stay at work until the last planned day. My desk had never been so clean.  My file cabinets were all sorted out.  My therapy room was free of clutter.  My return to work in six months would surely be smooth at least when it comes to space control.  The babies made it possible for me to enjoy my last few days of work before motherhood began.

With our suitcases and two original packages of car seats plus car seat bases in tow, my mom, Bob, and I flew to Annie’s state on Wednesday.  That day was exactly 38 weeks of the pregnancy.  There was no emergency text or phone call from Annie, so we continued our journey knowing that there was a very high chance for us to be able to make it to the birth.  We rented a hotel room right across from the hospital.  It was a room with a king bed and bunk beds, which was just right for the two of us and my mom.  We knew that we wouldn’t be using the room much ourselves during the babies’ hospital stay but it was a good location for a base.  Plus my mom could walk to the hospital without needing a ride from us.  I was grateful that a hotel was available within walking distance to the hospital.  The rental minivan wasn’t something I was used to, but I insisted on driving it (rather than Bob) because I knew full well that a minivan was going to be in our very near future once we got home with the babies.  It wasn’t bad driving it, and that particular make and model actually weren’t too impressive as the cargo space was lacking for all the luggage and stuff we had.  The 2018 Ho.nda Ody.ssey that we drove was much more impressive.  Anyway, I was still appreciative of the available minivan rented at very reasonable rate.

Annie had blood work done at the hospital in the afternoon.  I asked what it was for.  She said that she was told that sometimes a gestational carrier’s blood might mix with the babies’ blood so the blood type had to be confirmed once again before the C-section so that enough blood would be ready in case a transfusion was needed.  Right after the appointment, she and her whole family met us at the hotel before our dinner date.  It was just so nice to see her all healthy and well prior to the birth.  She really did have the best twin pregnancy one could have asked for.  No complications.  No bed rest needed.  She was still driving, still taking walks, and even attending bible study in the evening.  Her bump was big, but wasn’t overly so especially considering that she was at the point 38 weeks pregnant with twins.  We all had a lovely Italian meal with Annie, her husband, two younger kids, her oldest with his fiancee, and her brother.  Afterward, we took a stroll by the lake across from the restaurant.  It was a great time for all of us to catch up with one another and to enjoy each other’s company before all of our lives were going to be changed forever.  I was just amazed that Annie could even take a long walk at that point of her pregnancy.

I was still watching my phone very closely that same evening and of course there was no emergency phone call.  The next day, I was feeling good as we were coming so close to delivery.  I was relieved that we would be able to make it to the birth as we were now staying so close to the hospital.  At the same time, I was still feeling a tiny bit anxious that somehow she wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time if her water was to break or some other emergency happened.  We installed the car seat bases that morning.  We had a lovely visit with Annie’s family that Thursday afternoon as well as to pick up the frame stroller that was mailed to Annie’s house.  Then I asked the question: “Are the babies moving?”  Annie answered, “They were going crazy after dinner last night, but I haven’t felt them much today.”  She said all day long her uterus felt very tight and strange, but it wasn’t really contractions.  Suddenly, my mind was filled with worries because of this.  Annie reassured me that she was certain that the babies were just resting and they were probably getting ready for the birth as the time was near.  But it was hard for me to rest my mind.  I have read too many blogs and been on this journey for too long that stillbirths are very much real in my mind.  It was so hard to shake the worry.  I told Bob who urged me to be excited about the upcoming birth rather than being worried, but my mind just wouldn’t cooperate.  I didn’t tell Annie that I was worried.  Bob could see it in my face though.  Annie did say that she could feel that the birth could be right around the corner even if we weren’t going to have a C-section.  Either way, I couldn’t show her my worries, so I just hid my emotions.  Sitting there in the backyard with this person who had been carrying our babies for so many months knowing that the journey would end very soon was one of the most surreal, strange, and exhilarating moments in my life.  Very difficult to describe.  Right before dinner time, we said our goodbyes.  The next day would be the big day.

That evening in the hotel room my worries continued to consume my mind and heart.  I so desperately wanted to relax and enjoy the last evening before the babies would be in my arms but I just couldn’t.  Bob said that I should text Annie and ask about any movements that she felt that evening, but I refused to do so because I didn’t want to alarm her with my worries.  Excitement, worries, and nervousness were some of the emotions that I experienced that night.  I still managed to have quite a few hours of sleep knowing that it would be the very last night I would be so carefree to sleep through the night.

Annie was due to arrive at the hospital at 5:30am.  I didn’t find any text messages from her, so it meant that she didn’t give birth overnight.  While we were getting ready to head over to the hospital, Bob saw on Fac.ebook that Kenneth, Annie’s husband, checked in at the hospital online.  I was relieved to know that they had already arrived at 5:27am.  When we went to the birth center at 6:25am, Annie was lying in a hospital bed with things hooked up on her belly.  I could see two monitors on the side showing heartbeats of the babies.  That was such a sweet sight for me.  I could at that moment drop all my worries believing that the babies were still there and were waiting to make their debuts into this world.

(to be continued……)

MicroblogMondays: Mom/Grandma

I have had some reflections (in my head) since motherhood began, but time is lacking in terms of blogging.  I at least want to write about this one particular one:  My mom and I had never been so close in the 43 years of my life, and I hadn’t fully realized the magnitude of her love to me until these past couple of months.

I know my mom loves me.  She has always had a servant’s heart and had taken very good care of me as she had been living with me every six months prior to my marriage (and continues to do so with Bob and me).  But the way she takes care of me and my babies shows me a whole new dimension of her love.

Since Bob returned to work after two weeks of parental leave, my mom has been by my side to care for the babies (and for me).  Her routine used to be like this: going to bed at midnight and sleeping in until 9am.  Ever since her grandchildren came, she has adjusted her sleep/wake time.  She would go to bed at 9pm and get up at 6am.  She would come upstairs to check on the babies at that time and urge me to go take a nap with my ear plugs on.  She then takes care of the babies until time to feed them again.  She has been feeding the babies with me side-by-side so I don’t have to always tandem-feed them.  She washes all the bottles.  She does the laundry for them.  You should see the way she plays with the babies, sings to the babies, talks to the babies, and rocks the babies to sleep.  She won’t let the babies cry more than a few seconds, and she patiently waits for them to finish their bottles even if it takes an hour and the babies fuss in between.  She praises the babies all the time.  She is the gentlest grandma ever.  You can see the love in her eyes and her voice for my children/her grandchildren and for me.

In the past seven weeks, she has experienced many episodes of vertigo.  The first time she was feeling dizzy was in my bedroom while holding onto Okra, my son.  I urged her to go lie down.  The second time it happened, she burst into tears because she felt useless for not being able to help me and take care of the babies.  But I told her not to feel guilty and that she needs to take care of herself so she can take good care of us.  Even when she doesn’t feel dizzy, she constantly feels tired with an aching back.  Well, we have to kind of blame it on baby boy because he’s probably 10 lbs by now.  It is not a small feat to lift him especially when he likes to be held a certain way.  She always jokes that she now has definition in her arms because of them.

Of course she knows that they have no genetic connections to her.  And of course this fact makes no difference in her love for them.  My mother is truly an inspiration for me to learn how to be patient with my babies when sleep is lacking and crying and whining become frequent.

We were not without conflicts.  In the early days when everyone was trying to adjust to this new life with crying babies and without the night nanny’s help, my mother said some very hurtful things to me that I won’t repeat here.  In her overly fatigued state, she didn’t realize how hurtful her words were.  We had our fight.  We shed our tears.  And we reached a new understanding as mother and daughter.  Although the incident was unfortunate, the outcome was unexpectedly good for our relationship.

My father was here for six weeks to help take care of the babies.  He was super helpful with food delivery, watching the babies while I took a breather, and feeding/playing with the babies.  Now that he is gone, I miss him tremendously.  I am quite sure that I would even miss my mother more when my in-laws come next April and my mom has to go back to Asia.

Really.  I don’t think I can function so well these days without my mom’s help.  She is truly the best mom and grandmother.  I am so blessed to have her.

MicroblogMondays: Gas and Reflux

In our household, nobody was happy for about four to five days.  It all started when we switched both babies to Formula B after Okra had had difficulty with gas and Bunny began to have a hard time burping.  I thought that we might as well switch both of them on the same formula.  Well, they began to have even a harder time burping, and were eating progressively less formula during each feed.  Often times they’d appear to be ravenous but would stop and scream in terror after one ounce.  They would totally stop eating after two ounces.  We are talking about babies who have gone up to 3 to 3.5 oz at each feed.  They even started to spit up more and more and the content appeared to be curdled.  My heart just hurt seeing how they were unhappy and suffer.  I also dreaded feeding time because sometimes the usually happy babies were just inconsolable.  I messaged my pediatrician and continued with the new formula thinking that it would take them a few days to get used to it.  The more they appeared to be miserable, the more I felt that we needed to do something about it.  I hadn’t heard back from our doctor.  End of last week, I just made a same-day appointment with our pediatrician online without even calling to consult with the advice nurse or waiting for our doctor’s response.  At the doctor’s visit, my babies were described to be “healthy” but “miserable”.  Okra was 9 lbs 4.5 oz at the visit.  He gained over 3.5 lbs in less than six weeks.  Bunny was 8 lb 14.5 oz, so she gained about 2.5 lbs since birth.  The doctor took a listen, and found that both of them had a lot of gas, which is not uncommon for infants.  Their gas pain in the middle of eating made them want to stop, but they were still hungry, so they would cry for more food in a shorter period of time.  With the reflux and the excessive gas that didn’t seem to be able to be released through burping or farting, the doctor decided to treat them with prescriptions for reflux as well as thrush for the whiteness on their tongues that might also be swallowed and contribute to the pain.  He also advised me to go back to the previous formula because the babies were eating a good amount of it.  Since last Thursday, with all the changes (medication and using Formula A again), the babies’ situation started to improve.  Okra went from eating an ounce or two to eating 3.5 to even 4 oz at times.  He also became the burping champ.  He still spits up some, and he still cries sometimes in the middle of a feed, but he is so much happier.  Bunny is still at times difficult to burp, which is puzzling because she used to eat well and burp well, but the amount she eats has gone up to also 3.5oz to sometimes 4 oz.  Being a new parent is hard when everyday is a puzzle.  My happiness seems to be tightly tied to the babies’ happiness.  I am just so relieved that the doctor’s solution seems to work.  Now we can go back to being a happy family with two very cute babies who are usually happy and nap/sleep well.

Time just flies.  They are already over six weeks old.

MicroblogMondays: Night Nanny = Sleep

I was going to write about how great our night nanny is but our babies have other ideas.  At the time I wanted to write a post, the babies were going through what newborns go through at sundown.  They weren’t eating much at meal time and they were wailing on and off for a couple of hours.  Dinner time was late and they would be up again soon.  Both babies have been having feeding issues. Okra has a really difficult time burping.  Every time he eats he cries because he can’t pass the gas.  Bunny used to be a champ at burping.  The past few days she has been having trouble as well, and sometimes she doesn’t finish the full feed.  Needless to say, this is exhausting and a big puzzle to solve.  Hoping trying new formula will help.  In the mean time, I am very thankful for our night nanny who has been giving us a full night sleep a few times a week.  It makes such a huge difference in my ability to enjoy the babies.  The morning after the night nanny is here, I would wake up refreshed and feel like I can deal with fussing, crying, and feeding issues all over again.  And even for those nights that I feed the babies myself, I feel better because I know that our night nanny will show up the next night helping out so we can put our ear plugs on and sleep.  We even attended church on Sunday because we had a full night sleep.  I have learned a great deal from our night nanny about taking care of babies and hopefully I will have more time to write about it in the future.

MicroblogMondays: One Month Old

We blinked (and have had many sleepless nights) and the twins are already one month old.

Time goes by fast when all you do is to feed the babies, rock the babies, change diapers, and figure out why they fuss.  The biggest thing last week was all about Okra.  In light of the feeding problems, he saw our pediatrician who told me that the formula the babies had been on is one of the most gas-inducing ones.  I brought the gas drop that someone bought us off the baby registry.  Dr. Easygoing gave him the right dosage and right away the gas seemed to have dissipated when he listened to Okra’s tummy.  So baby boy has been put on the sensitive version of the same formula the last few days.  Baby girl is also using the same formula because it’s just easier to switch them both.  The doctor said that since Okra gained over 2 pounds in three weeks, he’s doing really well health-wise, so he is not worried about the baby.  So off we went to switch formula.  The new kind seems a lot foamier and I still don’t know how suitable it is for them.  All you can do is to try, right?

Two days later, Okra all of a sudden developed this congestion.  The advice nurse on the phone told me to use saline nasal spray and the bulb syringe or Nosefrida to clear his nose.  Lo and behold, some huge snots came out two different times.  So I thought he was okay, but the next morning, he was again congested with some audible breathing when he was eating.  My mom instinct told me to make an appointment that day with the pediatrician’s office just so I would feel better.  At most we’d make a trip for nothing and waste our copayment, but I had to know if he was okay.  Dr. Easygoing checked his lungs and he was all clear.  He didn’t have an ear infection or a fever.  His O2 level was good.  Upon checking his nostrils, Dr. Easygoing said that his left one was good but the right one might have a bit of a cold.  And the breathing sound that resembles an 80-year-old man who had smoked for 60 years?  He said it wasn’t a cause of concern.  I was told to continue the saline nasal spray and bulb syringe, and separate him from his sister.  We originally had planned a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant for the babies’ one month celebration.  Since I really don’t want to expose him to any more germs, we postponed it to another week.  Poor boy, he has been having a hard time breathing at times, so he has been struggling with eating.  He screams his head off during the saline nasal spray but often looks and feels better after it is done.  Sleep has been tough, and poor baby girl has been mostly ignored in her rock and play because everyone has been tending to baby boy’s illness and neediness.

After an almost sleepless night and the accumulated sleep deprivation from the last few weeks, Bob and I reached an agreement to try out a night nanny for three nights per week.  One night nanny’s name keeps on coming up on the FB posts in our local parents of multiples group and many of the parents there vouch for her.  I sent her a text and she immediately called me back.  We discussed the details of her duties and the her rate.  I would say her rate is mid-range, which is fine by me.  She has 20 years of experience helping parents with twins, and many parents in the group gave her glowing reviews.  After a few hours of consideration, we decided to book her on a trial, week to week basis.  She is currently free for us to choose any nights.  The family that has booked her in the future was supposed to start November, but it seems like the babies may come earlier, as early as next weekend.  Since we are starting first, we have first dibs in choosing our nights.  Bob opted for Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday so we can sleep through the night every other night and he can go exercise on Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings.  I will update you later on our experience with her.  I just feel tremendously blessed that we are in the financial position to do this.  Hopefully it helps with my sanity on a day to day basis, so I feel more productive during the day.  And maybe with the night time help, I will finally have the energy to work on our birth story?!

Here is a glimpse of them napping in their rock and play:

We will see how they do with weight and height at their one-month old check up today!