September 18, 2014

Me, Professionally

I always wanted to be a mom, I knew that. I also knew I wanted to work with children. The younger the better. My father is a special education administrator and my mother is a special education teacher who also has her bachelors in speech therapy. As a child my mother worked part time as a speech therapist at the end of the day after her full time job. I enjoyed going on therapy sessions with her as I loved the kids and thought it was really fun.

When it came to going to college I knew I wanted to work with children. I thought I wanted to study general education but with some guidance from my parents I decided to pursue speech therapy. They convinced me that it was easier to work 1:1 versus as a classroom teacher. I received my undergraduate degree in 2005 in Communication Disorders. This meant I could get a speech therapist job (generally in a school) go on to become either a speech language pathologist or an audiologist. I thought I wanted to work in audiology. I was so interested in cochlear implants but quickly realized most of audiology is testing hearing and dispensing hearing aids. That didn't sound very interesting to me.

Right after I graduated (I graduated a semester early in December) we moved out to Jackson Hole Wyoming for the winter. I became a ski bum and absolutely loved it. I worked for the ski resort and skied over 100 days that winter. It was amazing. Then the summer came. We quickly realized when you aren't skiing, you're just a bum. So, we moved back to NY. W decided that summer he wanted to be a physical therapist and signed up for prerequisite classes for the fall. I decided to try to get a job with my bachelor's degree. I landed a daycare job. It lasted about 10 days and I realized I needed to get my master's degree. I quit my daycare job and applied to graduate school.

I graduated with my master's degree in speech language pathology from Ithaca College in the spring of 2009. Prior to graduation I had a job lined up with a company working with early intervention and preschool aged children.

I loved my job but never felt like there was much room for growth or advancement. I became interesting in feeding difficulties with children and wanted to pursue more of that. I took continuing education courses and learned as much as possible without hands on experience. I landed a feeding early intervention case that didn't go well. The daycare provider didn't like all of my questions I asked her (about the child and what/how she was feeding him) so told the mother to request a different provider. Unfortunately, it stopped there. I didn't get any other feeding cases despite my interest and continued asking. I continued to work with the same kinds of cases. 

After everything we went through to get the girls I knew that if it was possible I wanted to stay home with them. W got laid off from his job around the time that I was 30 weeks pregnant but he lined up a new job that gratefully paid much better. This has allowed me to stay home with the girls. I work and do evaluations about 3-4 times a month. It's not much but it brings in a little extra cash.

With all of the hurdles we encountered breastfeeding I sought out lots of help. I spoke with at least 10 different lactation consultants. Initially I kept in contact with the IBCLC Char from the NICU. She was amazing and so great, but incredibly busy and difficult to reach. I remember one day in December when Lucy's eating was absolutely horrible I called at least 5 different places and spoke with so many different people. The La Leche League put me in contact with another IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) named Erin. She also had a NICU background and was incredibly helpful. She was the one that actually identified the oral aversion and helped me work through/past it. I still text her regularly.

It was through my contacting various people that I realized how difficult it is to find good help. I had so many horrible suggestions and people telling me things that were definitely not the problem. It was then that I started to think about pursuing my IBCLC. I researched it and read about it. I learned that there are different pathways to achieving this international certification, one of which is for "healthcare professionals" including speech pathologists.

Basically, to obtain the IBCLC I would have to: take a 90 hour lactation specific course (that is offered online), complete 1000! hours of clinical experience, and take an examination. I looked into the coursework and learned I could use it towards continuing education credits for my speech pathology license that I have to maintain. I then started to think about the hours. How on earth would I get the hours? It was there that I stopped. For months I didn't really think about it much. Then, the girls' birthday was coming up and I reached out to Char from the NICU. I invited her to the birthday party and we talked some on the phone. It was then that I brought it up to her about the hours (we had spoken about my interest in getting my IBCLC many times prior). She gladly offered that I could do the hours with her. I was surprised but didn't say much at the time. 

I spoke to W about it. He wasn't wild about me doing 1000 hours of unpaid work, but he said he would support me and my efforts if I really wanted to pursue it. So recently I spoke with Char again. I sent a resume to her that she brought to the charge nurse. The NICU has approved her mentoring me but now it's up to the hospital. I've spoken with educational services and am waiting to hear back. They were concerned that since I'm not with a university that I may not be covered for liability. 

To be honest, I'm super excited about getting an amazing experience and hours in a level 3 NICU. I know from experience how knowledgable and amazing Char is and I can't wait to learn from her. On the other hand, I'm incredibly nervous about being away from the girls. I've never really been away from them for more than a few hours at a time, and that's not all that often. We've introduced milk in sippy cups and dropped a daytime feeding. I'm hoping to drop another feeding soon (yesterday was great with Clara but a fail with Lucy). I know some time apart will be great for everyone, but at the same time making any changes comes with uncertainty. I'm not sure exactly when I will start but I'm so excited about learning new skills and information. 

September 17, 2014

1 year old

Playing footsie in the stroller
Finally able to play together again after Lucy got her cast off. 
Good morning cuties.  
One last swim in the lake for the year. 

A little over a year ago my life changed in ways I was unable to comprehend at the time. After years of infertility and heartbreak I gave birth to perfect twin girls. When I was pregnant I tried to picture my life and how it would look as a mom to two girls, but I honestly had no idea.

"I wanted you more than you ever will know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go." This is the first sentence in one of our favorite books to read to the girls. The power of those words aren't lost on me. It's so true.

I cried so many tears, we drove thousands of miles, I injected my body with countless medications and went through several surgeries, and we spent our savings and an inheritance check from W's grandmother just for a chance to be parents. Unlike everyone, we got lucky and were given the 2 most perfect little girls.  I'll never regret anything I went through for it.

As much as getting them here was difficult, I had no idea how difficult the first year of raising twins would be. Everyone says the first 6 months are the toughest and that it all becomes a blur. It's true. While we were living it it didn't feel too blurry, but looking back it sure does! But, we made it. We kept 2 babies alive for the year and they are thriving. We are falling into our roles as parents and embracing all that it means.

One of my biggest goals was to make it to a year breastfeeding. I wanted to give up so many times. Lucy was so difficult for months to feed and her lack of weight gain was a reflection of that. Despite how difficult it was, I had heard to never quit on a bad day. The bad days were the only days I ever wanted to quit. So, I persisted and never gave up (thanks also to a good friend who was in the breastfeeding twins trenches at the same time). I'm so proud of myself and my girls. I regained so much confidence and love for my body from the experience. Unlike getting and staying pregnant,  I realized my body could succeed at something from the get-go.

Lucy- Your blue eyes sparkle and light up your little chubby cheeked face. You're still so little for a one year old, but I think petite will be a word to describe you for a long time. You are such a mama's girl and I love that. You are one of the toughest little babies I've ever met and that was apparent from the start.
You are trying to imitate and talk but won't do it around anyone else. You've said, "hi, bye-bye, yup, no, Pepper, Pop-Pop, and stop" as well as imitated animal sounds for the kitty, dog, sheep, and lion. You have perfected different expressions and I love your little looks of wonder, excitement, uncertainty, or confusion. The last month of your life you spent stuck in a huge cast. You rarely complained and you became so chill and relaxed. You really were such a trooper. When the cast came off you complained out of fear, but then were so happy and relieved to be able to move around again.
You love your sister and think it's hilarious to pull her hair while she's trying to eat. You watch her so closely and imitate a lot of what she does. Your bond is already so close and I can tell how much you love each other. Having a sister is one of the best things!
 You had a rough month with eating but I don't blame you. I'm sure your appetite wasn't the same in the spica cast. Despite your lack of eating solid foods, it didn't slow down your nursing at all. Although uncomfortable for both of us, we still managed in the cast. You love to eat greek yogurt though and often have to also use it as a moisturizer while eating it (aka rub it all over your hands and face). You also love watermelon and raisins. You missed a month of baths with your sister and are so happy to be able to splash with her again. We even got some new bath toys during that time so you're extra excited about those.
You still aren't a great sleeper, but don't tell daddy, I love snuggling with you in bed. Your daddy said one morning he found us both sleeping with your hand on my face. I guess we both like the closeness of another body in bed for sleeping.
You're a happy girl that loves music and dancing. Even when I sing horribly, you get into it and start bobbing your little head. You love to clap your hands and are starting to learn a few body parts. I love you so much little Lucy. Thank you for being such an amazing daughter and for teaching me how to be a great mommy to you this past year.

I often said the only cute part about the spica cast was the way her buns looked in it. 

Trying out a chair at Mashall's
Waiting at the dr's office
The same size as a 2 month old baby!
What nursing in the spica cast looked like.
Just hanging out in her beanbag chair.
Cast free and sitting up!
Jamming out.
Clara- Every time I look at you I see so much of myself. You look just like me (but with hazel eyes) and you're a little wild and outspoken, just like your mama. You started crawling this month and nothing can stop you. When grandma dukes came over one morning and she yelled upstairs to try to locate us, you squealed and screamed back and crawled towards the gate at the top of the stairs to alert her to where you were.
You are big on equal treatment and advocating for yourself. When your sister gets something, you make sure you get it too. When she gets picked up, you make it clear you want it to. We joked when Lucy first got the cast that you wanted one too since she was getting extra attention and you were getting jealous. For this reason I know I won't have to worry about you. I know you will be direct and clear about what you want in life. Hmmm...I wonder if I know someone else like that....
You love playing and take it very seriously these days. I'm amazed by your attention span and persistence. You love to put things in and out and will do this for hours every day. It's so awesome to watch you play with toys as they were intended rather than just mouthing everything.
You're so silly and love to giggle and laugh. I often hear you giggling to your sister when I'm in another room. You love books and even if you are upset they always calm you down. You haven't started to really talk or imitate much yet, but I'm sure once you start there will be no stopping you. You're understanding so much more and are starting to show us that.
You're a great sleeper but with learning to crawl, your have a harder time falling asleep. When I put you down in your crib you like to sit back up and chat. You used to just roll over and fall asleep but now it takes you a little more time. You started pulling to stand in your crib so we had to lower it down. That means your shorty mama had to buy a stool so she didn't have to drop you from a foot above the mattress to put you down.
You love eating and still prefer carbs and sweets. You love watermelon and blueberry pancakes. Your favorite foods seem to change often. You still love nursing but recently bit your mama. When I told you it wasn't okay and stopped you you got so upset. I felt horrible, but it really hurt. You still seem to have a sensitive stomach and spit up from time to time. When I try to give you water you almost always chug too much and then throw up. You can't help it that you're enthusiastic.
You're such a happy, lively, and persistent little girl. I love how much you remind me of myself, and although I know you will be trouble at times, I can't wait to watch and see what kind of person you become. I know you'll do great things! I really am the luckiest mama around.
So cute!
Modeling her tutu skirt mama made for her birthday party. 

Wait, that doesn't go there!
Crawling to mama in the bathroom.

Sitting in her new chair.
Looking like such a big girl!
Blueberry picking
I can't believe Lucy and Clara are a year old and we are officially into the second year of their lives. It's been the best year of my life and I'm so grateful for my beautiful daughters.
Hanging with our friends Quinn and Kensi. They are 2 weeks older.
At the zoo. 
When daddy first assembled their new chairs/birthday presents. 


September 11, 2014

First Year Necessities

I decided to write a post about the things we found most useful in our first year with twins. Some items are twin specific, but most aren't.

Breastfeeding Specific:
Madela pump in style breast pump- I used this for the first 8 weeks after every feeding to help build up my milk supply as well as my frozen stash. I was able to use a hospital grade pump while the girls were in the NICU since I could pump there. To be honest, I never noticed a huge difference between the hospital grade pump and PIS, but I didn't use the hospital grade one for long. I'm sure if I had used it more I would have. I also found out later that often insurance companies will cover a rental of a hospital grade pump for preemies. I did fine with my PIS, but I always had an adequate supply. I purchased mine from a friend who only used it a few weeks. 
Pumpin Pals flanges- I purchased these after reading about them online. They are so much more comfortable than the flanges that come standard with the pump. They are angled so you don't have to lean forward and be so uncomfortable while pumping. I also found my breasts emptied much quicker and my milk let down faster when using them. I wish I had discovered them sooner! 
Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags- Cheaper than the Madela ones and with a double seal to prevent leaking. We've gone through so many of these!
Madela nipple shields- I think this is more preemie related than anything else, but we relied on them for a long time (probably too long). Without them I don't think I would have succeeded from the beginning. They were first given to me in the NICU as I had flat nipples and the girls were unable to effectively latch without them. I just wish they weren't clear because I lost so many of them. Keeping them in a pacifier holder connected to the diaper bag helped for on the go. 
Double blessings twin breastfeeding pillow- This was given to me from a friend and I was so grateful. I tandem nursed about 95% of the time for the first 6 months as it saved so much time. I don't really use it anymore since the girls are so fast to eat and I almost always feed them separately, but it really made tandem nursing possible. Too bad it took me about 6 months to figure out how to strap in on correctly with the little back pillow. 


Sleep Specific:
Babywise- We bought read this book prior to the arrival of the girls so we could be on the same page as far as scheduling went. We stuck to the eat, play, sleep schedule for quite a while and found this book to be helpful. I would recommend it to anyone looking to get their baby on a flexible schedule. 
Aden + Anais- We used the swaddle blankets for at least the first 6 months. They are huge and soft and the girls associated them with sleep. When they starting rolling and not wanting to be swaddled we switched to the sleep sacks. My friend got the girls monogrammed dream blankets for their birthdays and we've started using them instead of the sleep sacks in their cribs. The muslin is so soft but also very breathable. I've heard they make an adult sized one that I really need for myself. 




Blackout curtains- We bought ours at Pottery Barn kids but I think they help with daytime sleep so much. Worth it if you ask me!


Rock and Play Sleeper- The girls slept in those at night for quite a while in our bedroom. It was nice as we each had a baby on our side of the bed. It also let me rock them with my foot while staying lying down in bed. Great for reflux babies. 

Wubbanub pacifiers- My girls liked the soothie pacis and these were such a life saver. It makes finding the paci so much easier in the dark or a sleep deprivation stupor. They also stayed in the girls mouths so much better when they were little because they have some weight. We have a dog, cat, frog, elephant, and caterpillar. 
Motorola MBP41 Pan and Zoom Camera- We have one video monitor that is mounted in a high corner of the room. Because it can pan and zoom we are able to see both girls. The battery life isn't great, but it has night vision and a long charging cord. 

Feeding Specific:
Antilop Ikea Highchairs- these were recommended to me by a mom of 4 boys. They are small, cheap (think 20 bucks cheap) and so easy to clean. It's basically a hard plastic shell that can even be thrown in the shower to be cleaned. There are no cushiony seats (although their is an optional cushion for when they are smaller) with tons of cracks and crevices for food to get stuck in and have to clean. I do wish the trays were more easily removable and that there was a place for their feet to rest. All in all, no complaints for the price and ease of cleaning. My in laws bought a set for their house too. 


Tommee Tippee easy roll bib- Once again I opt for ease with cleaning. These can be rinsed off and reused over and over. They are sturdy was the girls don't play with them as much as the thin plastic bibs. 


Mountain Buggy Pod Clip-on High Chairs- We bought these for travel and love them. They work great and are super convenient and light to carry. The clamps open large enough to work with a table that has a lip as well. We haven't found a table they haven't worked with yet. 
Playtex nurser bottles- It took a long time to find a bottle the girls would take as I primarily nursed them. These have fewer pieces than Dr. Browns bottles and have a disposable drop in liner (not the most environmentally friendly). Being able to squeeze the liner some helped the girls when drinking. Plus, the nipple wasn't huge and it more closely resembled my own. We just bought playtex sippy cups with straws that I introduced yesterday. 


Sili Squeeze reusable food pouch- These are great for on the go. It's a reusable food pouch so you can control what's it in. It's also very easy to clean and eat from. The girls love yogurt from it. 

Cloth diapering:
Tots Bots Tini Fit- these were our newborn diapers. They are an all in one that are so cute, soft, and reliable.



Skip hop duo double deluxe diaper bag- Big enough for cloth diapers for twins for a whole day plus clothes, toys, and wipes/changing pad. W picked it out but I was okay with that since he'd be carrying it most of the time we were out together. It's big and black and awesome. 

Bum Genius Freetime diapers- These are our favorite one-size diapers. There is no stuffing involved and they have lots of cute prints. We use them overnight without problem and have about 35 in our stash. 

Cloth wipes- I made my own that have terry cloth on one side and flannel on the other. It made sense to use cloth wipes as we didn't need a garbage can in addition to our diaper pail. 

Bummis Swim Diapers- We wanted reusable swim diapers so got these because they had matching sun hats. They've been great minus some color fading in chlorine. 

CJ's Butter- Our go to Cloth diaper friendly rash cream. It comes in lots of great smells and works great. The girls haven't really had many rashes but this stuff is great for dry skin, cradle cap, eczema, and many other things. 

Gear:
Baby Jogger City Select stroller- I wish I had known about this stroller sooner and not gotten the side by side one. Although expensive, it has tons of different configurations (including one that lets the girls face each other) and is a tandem stroller. This means it actually fits in store aisles. The basket is also large enough for me to do a weeks worth of grocery shopping without needing a cart. 


Britax B Safe infant car seat- We got this brand because I had heard great things about its safety rating. We are still using these seats but now leaving them in their bases in the car since they were so damn heavy to carry all the time. They are also rated for a lower birth weight baby so we could bring our preemies home in them. 
So there you have it, the most useful items for the first year (as much as I could remember at least). I hope someone finds this helpful.