Friday, March 27, 2009

I'm not playing anymore

I was at the Children's Museum with the twins last week when another twin mom tried to engage me in the nursing game.
I don't like the nursing game.
It's not fun and these moms only goad me into playing it because they know they will win.
It starts bluntly like this:
"Your boys are so big! Did you nurse them?"
Does breast milk include huge doses of growth hormone? Their dad is 6-foot-5. Their brother and sister are way off the charts for height. So why shouldn't the twins be tall too? Then again, my husband and both older kids were nursed as babies.
I stupidly make the next move.
I don't know why.
Boredom maybe.
I am often aching for adult conversation.
"Yes. I did."
"Oh really? For how long?"
"Four months."
I don't explain. And that complicates the game. She's stuck--unless she plays the formula-is-so-expensive.-Thank-goodness-I-never-had-to-use-it-because-I-nursed-my-twins-exclusively-for,-like,-two-years card.
I am fortunate though.
One of her twins takes off and she's off like a shot with him, the other twin in tow.
The boys and I wander elsewhere and I don't see her again.
But I'm tired of the game and I don't want to play anymore.
So I've decided to show my cards once and for all.
I nursed my older kids. My son gave up on me at 8 months. He had better things to do and really resented the time it took to nurse. He preferred a bottle even though I made him drink it on my lap.
My daughter nursed for 15 months and showed no signs of quitting. Then she fell on the tile near the fireplace and sliced her tongue with her teeth. She couldn't nurse for several days and, finally, made her transition to cups.
I felt terrible for her, but I also felt that she'd had a darned good run.
When the twins were born, I was determined to nurse them too. I shouldn't deny them, I said to myself, simply because they happened to be born at the same time. It wouldn't be fair. And, of course, I thought it would be a breeze.
I was a breastfeeding veteran.
But Matthew and Jonathan both had trouble latching when they were born, identical troubles. I spent ten frustrating days nursing, bottle feeding and then pumping with barely an hour's break before I had to start all over again.
When they finally did latch (on the same day at about the same time), they still had their issues. Matthew would grab on and go to town for ten minutes straight. Then he'd quit. That was it. No more no matter how hungry he seemed to be.
Jonathan would take a full ten minutes to get latched. Then he would nurse endlessly and scream if I tried to take him off. He was a slow nurser. For some reason, it took a great deal of effort for him.
It was stressful.
And school added to the stress.
My daughter attended half days and my son attended full days. I had no help during the day or when my husband travelled and we live nowhere near family. Poor Matthew and Jonathan were often rushed through nursings so I could get the older kids to school, then rush to the bus stop after school, get my daughter to dance, get my son ready for Cub Scouts.
I tried pumping, but I had even less time for that.
And the stress took its toll. I was lucky to get two or four ounces when I pumped and I sometimes pumped for an hour straight.
The only time I could nurse the boys comfortably was during those few hours in the afternoon when both older kids were in school, and I lived for those moments. It was peaceful. It was pleasant.
Most of the time.
Okay, hardly ever, but sometimes and sometimes was good enough.
Most often, both boys would cry with hunger at the same time and I wasn't good at tandem nursing. I was too big when I nursed (a quadruple D I'd say, if there is such a thing) and it was terribly uncomfortable for all three of us. Someone had to cry while the other ate. So I started using formula, a few ounces here and a few ounces there, more and more.
After three months, I was such a mess that I knew I had to make a decision.
Nothing beats breast milk, but I had the health of the family as a whole to considered.
So, one month later, the day school ended, I nursed Matthew and Jonathan for the last time.
I ought to reflect on the sadness of that moment, but I can't.
While I'll admit I felt some guilt, the overwhelming emotion was relief.
Immense and intense relief.
Game over.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A different kind of mom

I used to be a good mom.
My kids, my older kids, never had more than two hours a day of combined screen time (TV and computer) as per the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even then, I allowed only commercial-free TV and educational computer games.
I scoffed at moms who regularly visited McDonald's or Burger King. Once a month was too much in my opinion. I shopped for fruit and vegetables at a local produce store and dessert was a rarity.
Forget it.
The house was clean.
The kids were in bed by 8 p.m.
My children were well-disciplined, knowing that time-outs would come swiftly--anytime, anywhere--if they misbehaved.
I was in tune with them, responding to their every whimper.
Now they have to scream.
The twins had their first McDonald's French fries before they turned a year old (They don't like the nuggets). The television is on whenever they are awake. Sometimes, I just pray that they'll actually watch it so I can have a break.
At least once a day, I pretend not to see an infraction because I don't have the energy for a time-out. I know it will come back to haunt me in the long run, but I don't think as far in advance as I used to. I just hope that I'll get through each day.
I lose my temper with the older kids quickly if they argue. On the weekends, they get far more computer time than they should. They went to bed at 9:30 last night, a school night, because my husband was sick and I had too much to do before I could get around to their bedtime routine.
I was feeling horrible about my new parenting methods as I prepared, at midnight, to finally drag myself up to bed. Then I picked up the snack dishes the older kids had left behind and I smiled.
Riley, who just celebrated his 9th birthday, had asked for spinach as part of his snack. Not a leaf was left behind. His 7-year-old sister, Kiersten, had asked for a cheese stick. Granted, they'd had two small cookies, but it never occurred to them to ask for more.
I'd had good conversations with each as I read to them and tucked them in.
They had cleaned their rooms when I asked, showered when I asked and turned the TV off when I told them to. Earlier in the evening, they had come into the nursery to give their twin brothers goodnight kisses. Jonathan and Matthew had grinned in delight at the sight of their older siblings, who share a bond not much unlike their own.
As I turned off lights, removed books from beds and shut bedroom doors, I couldn't help thinking that Riley and Kiersten have not been "ruined" by a few too many hours of television or computer time. Nor have they been destroyed by an occasional doughnut on a Wednesday morning.
And I think I know why.
The one thing that has not changed is that we all listen. We listen to each other with respect and caring and love even when we're angry or frustrated or overwhelmed or when we need to take a few minutes to ourselves first.
Maybe the rest is overrated.
Maybe there is hope for the twins.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More

I am not generally a sentimental person.
The twins do have baby books.
They are those bulging manila envelopes on the shelf next to my desk.
The older kids have boxes.
I don't save birthday cards. I don't read romance and I rarely read inspirational books.
But I bought Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More anyway. I'd gotten to know the co-author, Susan Heim, who is mom to 5-year-old fraternal twins and two teen-aged boys. Susan has agreed to write the foreword for my yet-to-published book, a compilation of interviews with stay-at-home moms.
She is a wonderful person and an insightful author so I thought I'd check it out.
I can't put it down.
And I'm not just saying that because of my connection with her.
I really can't put it down.
The stories are short enough that I can read one while the twins are bathing, another while they are watching Diego and another before bed when everyone is fast asleep.
They are addictive.
Some are sweet.
Some are sweetly sad.
Some are just fun.
Susan first hooked me with It's Twins, a book of advice and stories from other twin parents. She has other books to her name and she does it all while staying home with her kids. She is my inspiration.
Well, sort of.
I asked her one day whether things get better as the twins get older.
She laughed (virtually. I could hear it in the exclamation point after, "So far, I would have to say it hasn't gotten much easier!").
That was not inspiring.