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I missed therapy last week.  At 4pm, when I should have been parking my car and entering the building, I was instead holding my son as he screamed through a nebulizer treatment on the pediatric inpatient unit of Bryn Mawr Hospital.  E had been wheezing over the weekend, and we did nothing. Sure, Mr. Apron had noticed it, had asked for my confirmation (I heard it, too), but I did nothing.  I figured, as with most infant illnesses, it would resolve on its own, and, with the new conservative stance on such things as cough and cold medicines for children, we wouldn’t be able to give him anything anyhow.

A miserable Monday night’s sleep had us headed to the pediatrician on Tuesday, and after they’d tried to jack him up with breathing treatments in the office, we were sent directly to the ER.  What followed was a 36-hour ordeal filled with doctors, nurses, changes in treatment plans, screaming babies, childcare arrangements, and poor sleep for all.  My son had to endure being poked too many times in his chubby arms.  Even after digging around in his fat flesh for endless minutes, they still could not strike a vein, so the threats of putting in an IV “just in case” were abandoned, and the poor baby passed out from sheer exhaustion.

“He looks tired,” the nurses commented.  “Yes,” I said, “He slept poorly last night and hasn’t had his nap yet this morning.”

“No,” they demurred, “When we say, ‘he looks tired,’ we mean, tired of working so hard.”

But whether from exhaustion, fatigue, or defeat, the child napped on the stretcher, ensconced in the same hospital blanket they’d used to restrain him for the failed IV attempts.

Hours later, he napped again, this time securely attached to my breast for the better part of an hour as he tried to rehydrate and comfort himself while blocking out the noise and lights of the hospital.  By the time we reached the pediatric unit, he had rested, fed, and was perking up.  It would be another 12 hours before his labored breathing relaxed enough that his little chest wasn’t retracting with each breath, but his affect was brighter, and he’d stopped the endless helpless screaming.

All Tuesday, and into Wednesday as well, I stayed by his side, cuddling my son, feeding him, and letting him sleep on me whenever he could.  I tried 6 times to transfer my sleeping child to the prison-like crib provided for him, and for about 3 hours he slept by himself as I shoveled down a soggy garden burger brought up hours earlier by room service.  When the white noise of the nebulizer shut off after the 1am breathing treatment, he awoke again, and I gave up on the lavish plans I’d had for myself – to pump milk for my daughter, and text message my sister – and just let him sleep by my side on and off all night.  We lay on the pull-out cot together from 1:30 until he woke after 5am for his usual breakfast, despite the night nurse’s pleas that I put him down in the crib.  Co-sleeping is not a hospital policy, especially for babies on oxygen, but if he hadn’t sleep with me, neither of us would have slept at all that night.

I stepped up, I rose to the occasion.  I played with him for hours when my husband went home to our daughter.  I left for only an hour to go home and take a nap.  I advocated for his care, asked about his treatment plan, saved his diapers for the nurses to weigh, and cut up bits of fruit for his breakfast.  I gave him apple juice by syringe in 5ml increments, and let him nurse whenever he wanted.  I commandeered the best toys on the hall and brought in his favorite books from home. I sat for an hour just watching him sleep in the crib — after my only successful transfer — afraid to put the crib rail up for fear of making noise and waking him up.

And when we got home Wednesday night, just in time for bed, the family breathed a collective sigh of relief.  The nightmare was largely over, save for nebulizer treatments every 4 hours, oral steroids, and more follow-ups to the pediatrician.

I blame myself for ignoring the wheezing and landing us all in the hospital.  I blame my inadequacy as a parent.  I was in denial that he was sick because I couldn’t allow myself to believe something serious could be wrong.  Lurking around the corner, hiding behind that sweet baby wheeze, is asthma.

They technically won’t diagnose a baby with asthma, as they can’t really cooperate with all the breathing tests to measure tidal volume, and blowing out the birthday candles or whatever assessments Mr. Apron has told me about from his years of experience at his pediatric allergist/pulmonologist (to whom he still goes, but at least they don’t make him do the birthday cake any more).  But he might have it.  Having a nebulizer, giving him albuterol treatment, listening for wheezing, having an “asthma treatment plan” as part of our discharge instructions — it all scares  me shitless.

“This should be the worst thing that ever happens to him,” Mr. Apron says.  Asthma, or reactive airway, or wheezing when he gets a cold – all of these are manageable things.  Still, I found myself collapsed on the kitchen floor at 9:40pm the night we got home from the hospital, having a whimpering, silent, self-indulgent adult tantrum about having to give my baby nebulizer treatments.  Because I was in denial, and couldn’t face the fact that something real and scary might be wrong with my baby.

Eventually, Mr. Apron refused to coddle me, I shelved the self-pity, and I pulled on my big-girl panties to go help my son.  I learned about all the meds, familiarized myself with the nebulizer, figured out how to detach the individual vials of meds from the plastic strips, and determined how to teach the nanny all of this horrific mess of plastic tubing and drugs.  I labeled each vial with a time, and taped them to E.’s daily communication notebook.

Nebulizer aside, meds aside, asthma aside, it’s just one more task in a seemingly endless series of “have to”s in caring for my children.  And it’s just exhausting.  Choosing to breastfeed means managing milk, rotating my personal dairy, freezing it when it reaches close to expiration, worrying about producing enough, and making sure others know how to handle the Liquid Gold.  Choosing a convertible car seat (and having to buy 4) means researching safety, ease of installation, trying them out in my tiny car, and finding the best deal (did I mention we had to buy 4?).  Starting solid foods means more preparation, choosing healthy, kid-friendly foods, and keeping alert for hidden, forbidden ingredients.  Managing food safety.  Making bottles.  Teaching my husband or in-laws how to use the car seats. It’s an awful lot, and I was managing pretty well.  But along came bronchiolitis and a nebulizer, and treatments every 4 hours, and I just melted down.  Being a detail-oriented, perfectionist mom is hard enough.  I was stretched to my breaking point, everything just working, but without wiggle room.  Adding one more “have to” just set me over the edge.

I’m okay now.  I debriefed with my therapist.  The nanny used a nebulizer when she was a kid.  And the pediatrician said we can skip the overnight treatments, as he supports my belief that sleep is restorative and uber-important.  I love our pediatrician.  I may have a doctor-crush on him; don’t tell Mr. Apron.

I don’t really know how to end this post, as it was just meant to be a Brain Dump, cathartic way of processing the hospital stay and my resulting feelings.  I’m glad we’re all home and on the way to healthy.  I’m glad I’m no longer scared of the nebulizer.  I’m relieved I’m able to care for my son.  I’m scared, too, scared for the future, whether the next emergency is my son and asthma-related symptoms, or something frightening with my daughter, my husband, or my parents.  It’s certainly not the last crisis in the years to come, but I hope I can get my big girl panties in gear so I can handle the situation like a grown-up.

In my house, only the babies are allowed to shit themselves.

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Honey wheat?  How did that even get in our house?  As they say in the film, Funny Bones, “I only eat brown bread”.  Now that Arnold no longer makes the “Bran’ola” I grew up on, it’s been a struggle to find a whole grain bread for the house.  I bring home whole wheat, multi-grain, something healthy sounding with whole grains in the ingredient list.  But honey wheat?  I estimate I do at least 75% of the grocery shopping in the house.  And I put away at least 80% of the groceries.  How did that loaf sneak in under my radar?  Yet there it was, in the form of toast for our ten-month-old twins, sitting innocuously enough on their trays, slathered in yogurt or apple butter, being raked into tiny doughy hands, slipping almost unnoticed into our children’s mouths.  As soon as I saw the loaf in the fridge, as I was raiding the bread drawer for some other morsel, I flipped.  I ran to their trays, grabbed up the offending squares of toast, and chucked them into the trashcan, with perhaps a bit more force than was necessary.

“Two things they can’t have,” I said slowly and sternly, perhaps a little too loudly, “Two.  Honey, and nuts.”

“Children under one year should not be given honey under any circumstances,” said Carole Allen, M.D., pediatrician and Vice President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “There is too great a risk that the infant may contract infantile botulism.”

Are my kids under one?  Yes.  Are they practically 11 months old, and mere weeks away from one?  Yes.  Do I think that any magical processes happen in the digestive system the day of their birthday, allowing them to be safe from botulism?  No.  But I don’t think completely adhering to a recommendation from the AAP when the risk is paralysis is unreasonable.  Will they probably be okay, being merely weeks away from the (magical) one year old, having consumed a smidgeon of honey baked into a highly processed loaf of white bread?  Yup.  Still, to me, not work the risk.

Rigid, inflexible.  Resistant to change.  These are adjectives I used to write on evaluation forms and IEPs to describe preschool-age children with autism.  Am I so like them?  I intend to breastfeed my children for one year, and not a day less.  You have to make some goals for yourself, some guidelines.  And if you don’t stick to your own, completely achievable (only 4.5 weeks to go, and no signs of earnest weaning yet) goals, what’s the point of setting them at all?  AAP says, breastfeed for (at least) a year, so I will.

Apparently, though, it’s not the goal setting that’s an issue, nor the good intentions.  It’s the rigid adherence to the path that sets me apart, that makes me feel like a petulant child.  A few years ago, going through a bout of digestive disquiet, I was unable to eat anything for breakfast besides cereal, soymilk, and low acid orange juice.  I missed leisurely weekend brunches filled with pancakes, eggs, or even yogurt and granola.  If I found we were going out for brunch, or if Mr. Apron wanted to grab breakfast sandwiches from Delancey Street, I would pre-game with a mini-breakfast of cereal.  My stomach just wouldn’t have it any other way.  Without my pre-breakfast, I’d be miserable for hours.

Thankfully, after I gave birth to the twins, my stomach improved and I was able to consume large quantities of whatever I wanted.  It was liberating.  And necessary.  As I struggle to keep up with the demands of two milk-consuming monsters, I’m grateful I can (and do) eat anything that isn’t nailed down.

I look back through the various aspects of my life, and I see the rigid adherence to an ideal (if not an overt goal), sometimes flavored with notes of perfectionism, or at the very least, the idea that there is a right way to do things.  Growing up, we never had a uniform set of dishes or towels.  Towels had been accumulated through the years, through various moves and houses, and there were sets from my mother’s childhood through my own.  There were the yellow ones from the duck bathroom in Plattsburgh, and the purple ones from my parents’ master bathroom in Rochester.  There were the soft, almost velour-like orange towels that could only date from the 70s, and a random assortment of washcloths that could tell the story of the textile industry from the industrial revolution through modern day.  Dishes were another story.  Owing in large part to my bargain-hunting grandmother, we had full sets, but never in one color.  One set of plates were 80% blue, and 20% yellow.  The melamine Dallasware was blue and red, with one random set of yellow.  I desperately wanted matching towels for my wedding, probably because I had never known such uniformity in a linen closet.  Though we registered for all sage green towels, Macy’s ran out before our friends and family could buy them all.  We have coral, green, and honey colored towels.  All the same brand, mind, but it seems I was not meant to have my towels match.

Who cares?  Apparently, I do.  Apparently, in some deep recesses of my mind, towels and plates should match. That that is the right way (that there is a right way) to furnish one’s linen closet and one’s home. A right way to get your car repaired or to choose a dentist. A right way to feed your children, a right time to have children. While I’m working on my new mantra of “Other people make different choices,” there is still the niggling voice that adds, “which I would never make” and the tacit thought besides: because it’s wrong, or at least wrong for me. I can get smug (even to myself) when I do accomplish something grand, or do succeed at making a “right” choice. And I can get positively furious with myself when I fail at self-imposed perfection. My first cavity, my first B, missing an appointment or shirking on a potluck by not bringing something homemade. I’m setting myself up, if not for self-defined failure, then for disappointment, when I can’t, or refuse to flex. Boxed brownie mix taunts me, as does the Cooper Hospital-emblazoned diaper bag we use, a reminder that I wasn’t able to make a diaper bag for myself before the kids were born. I don’t reflect on the crib skirts (with their combined 16 pleats), the tree mural, the mobile with hand-stitched birds dangling from a branch, or the name buntings I was able to complete, only on the few points I fell short of being as ready as a new mom “should” be.

I will always fall short of my own ideals unless I find a way to be flexible. To look at other ways, not just as inferior options for legions of “other” people, but for a human version of myself, too.

“He made a different choice,” I told the 5-year-old.  The boy I had been working with in this particular church basement in North Philadelphia was using his pencil to color in some “educational” worksheet that alleged to teach about Jesus, apples, or the letter M.  This particular daycare center had a culture of tattling, and all the teachers were called, “Teacher”, so there was a constant refrain of, “Teacher, he goin’ up the slide!”  or “Teacher, he bite me!” On this day, coloring in a worksheet with pencil set off alarms of propriety in the sometimes rigid preschool mind, which knew that crayons were the only thing allowed for coloring.  This was not a far-flung assumption in a center which passed out only one crayon per child, and only red crayons for apples, despite that fact that apples come in myriad colors.  Away from the distracted gaze of the daycare providers, I assured the tattler (“Teacher, he colorin’ scribble scrabble!  He usin’ a pencil!”) that using a pencil to color however he wished was simply a different choice.

At the beginning of my parenting journey, I, too, was like the inflexible preschooler.  I had read all the books, absorbed all the literature, and while I acknowledged that there were different approaches to parenting infants (e.g., no-cry vs. Ferber for sleep-training), I knew certain truths:  babies must sleep on their backs, in their own bed/crib/bassinette.  They may not have covers other than swaddling blankets and/or sleep sacks.  They must sleep in tight-fitting flame-retardant pajamas. Thou shalt not take a baby to bed with you.  Otherwise, the SIDS monster was lurking outside the nursery door, certain to attack in its mysterious, not completely understood way.

Then, I became a parent.  Despite sleep-deprived hallucinations that my husband’s flannel pajama pants (and the leg inside) were actually a swaddled baby we had brought to bed, I clung to certain knowledge of what was the “right” thing to do.  At an early breastfeeding support group meeting, the first time I heard a parent talk about co-sleeping (and not in a co-sleeper/sidecar, but actually sharing a bed with a baby), I silently tsked at the parent, who was asking for advice on how to get her 18-month-old out of the parental bed, and into his own crib to sleep.  I tsked not only because it went against American Academy of Pediatrics (gospel itself) guidelines to co-sleep, but because it basically proved to me the ill consequences of her own, wrong decision 18 months ago, to bring her child to bed.  Well, now look what you’ve done, I concluded.  You made your bed (pun intended), now lie in it.

My children are now 5 ½ months old.  In the past 5 ½ months, I will admit I have let my children sleep on my chest, in my bed, in my arms, in a sling, on their tummies, and under a blanket.  I have nursed them to sleep, despite warnings about sleep-association problems.  I have put two children in equipment made only for one, and I have exceeded weight limits on the bassinet of the pack n’ play.  I don’t change them into pajamas when they nap, and they’ve even fallen asleep (and been left to do so) on Boppies, despite their huge “NO SLEEP” warning tags.

Am I a bad parent? Am I engaging in reckless behavior?  Or am I merely making a choice that I can live with, a choice that enhances my sanity (by gaining precious minutes of baby or adult sleep), and thus, my parenting skills overall?  In all of these choices, I had to weigh the risk of SIDS, sleep-association problems, and countless other fears with my own choices, and the benefits I saw in my children being comfortable, being happy, being fed, and being well rested.  I made a different choice.

Making different choices is a theme that comes up often these days, as I struggle to allow myself to be human, to make mistakes, and to be flexible in understanding how people do things differently.  It has become a constant refrain as I seek to understand the actions of my spouse, my parents, and my in-laws.  For as ridiculous as it seems to me that my father-in-law and sister-in-law would choose to lease Buicks solely on the fact that they are one of the only companies to offer 24-month leases, or as absurd as it is that my mother-in-law drives her car ¼ mile to work regardless of the weather, those are their choices.  Despite even research that driving cars such short distances is harmful for the vehicle, it’s her choice, and it’s different than one I would have made.  In my own family, my mother’s slavish devotion to her constantly breaking down Jaguar wagon and countless expenditures on rebuilding it make me cringe, but keeping that car, and pouring money into its upkeep, are her choices, too.  The way I began to understand others’ choices was, oddly enough, through cars.  My car, a Honda Fit, has consistently earned top honors in comparison tests for compact cars in numerous automotive publications, in both point-to-point contests as well as anecdotal reviews.  My car is objectively the best, based on actual research.  Yet not everyone who needs a compact car drives a Honda Fit.  It’s not only because it costs more than a comparable Toyota Yaris, or a Nissan Versa, nor it is because they were somewhat hard to come by when I was in the market for one.  It might be because they like the way the other cars look, or drive, or the pretty Toyota blue the Yaris comes in.  Maybe they hate the awesome functionality of a hatch, and wanted the ugly sedan version instead.  Regardless of the research that shows (I might say proves) my car is superior (even superlative), the other cars are made, and purchased, and driven, because people make different choices.

Despite all my research to find the best baby products, to learn the best methods for calming and feeding and caring for my offspring, there still remain others who don’t agree.  Beyond the individual variability of babies themselves, parents do make different choices, whether it’s about cloth vs. disposable diapering, baby-led solids vs. baby food purees, cosleeping vs. AAP guidelines, or even which stroller to buy.  And as long as it works for them, who am I to judge?  I used to feel rather smug when a choice I had made was working well for me, as if I had truly made the right choice, and if only others would emulate me, they, too, could feel awesome and superior.

Then, my children stopped going down to bed so easily, started taking an hour-and-a-half to fall asleep, and it turned out maybe it was just a developmental stage, or pure chance, not some awesome parenting trick I had discovered.

Back at the church basement daycare center, the children continued to color in their worksheets.  Yet another child noticed the graphite gray of the worksheet my student was coloring in.  She began the all-too-familiar chorus, “Teacher, he using a pencil!”  My heart sang as I heard the object of my earlier correction turn to the girl and tell her, “He made a different choice.”

Lest I judge my fellow humans too harshly, I try to remember that they, too make different choices. 

Thirty minutes.  That’s all I have been granted in my demanding schedule by my new bosses to write a blog.  That’s all they’ll give me for myself, and they never cease to remind me that I’m writing on company time.  In fact, I have one of them yoked around my neck as a constant reminder, and the other one on speakerphone listening in, threatening to disrupt me at any moment.

These babies rule my life.  In retribution for letting them (us) sleep in 3- and 4-hour chunks last night, I have to kind of make up by feeding them every two hours during the day.  I need to squeeze in at least 8 feedings a day.  So, for this 24-hour period, that’s 2am, 5am, 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, and I’m gearing up to do 2:30pm, 4:30pm, 6:30pm, and 9pm.  See that extra 30 minutes that crept in there?  Merely wiggle room because you can’t “schedule” 8-week-old babies.  They typically spend 30 minutes at the tit, plus 10 minutes on either end with diaper changes, because L. won’t eat if she’s shit herself, and E. almost always poops while he’s eating.  Yes, curious onlookers, they have quite distinct personalities.

It’s insane.  And just when I though I couldn’t take it anymore, they started sleeping reliably at night.  We’ve had more good nights, nights where they’ll sleep 3-4 hour stretches without interruptions every 10 minutes for a dropped binky, an escaped swaddle, a dirty diaper, or a need to be held.  Sure, there are still bad nights, nights with serial diaper changes, little L. screaming at the top of her lungs as she soils a 4th straight Pamper, nights where little E. pees through 3 consecutive sleep sacks and decides he wants his binky as soon as my head hits the pillow, despite his earlier rejections of the pacifier.  But there are more good nights.  And more days where I’m able to remember what day of the week it is, what diapers.com necessity we’re out of, and even finish a whole load of laundry.  Just kidding.  We’re a mess around here.  Even more so because Mr. Apron went back to work today.

He brought them to me for the 5am feeding, after which the three of us dropped back off to sleep.  Then I had to manage feeding two babies, two dogs, and myself, in order of importance and demand.  I finally shoveled down most of a bowl of Special K to the soundtrack of dogs panting and babies screaming, but I took care of myself.  E. was needier this morning, so I wore him in my Baby K’tan sling while bumbling around folding week-old laundry and putting away dishes.  This afternoon, L. wants my undivided attention, so she’s strapped to my chest.  It seems she’ll be here until the 2:30pm feeding at least.

Also just when we thought our only job was to keep the munchkins alive until they became able to function in their own bodies (hold heads up, stop shitting 12 times a day [each], use hands to grasp objects, find thumbs to suck, if desired), they started rewarding us with smiles.  Real smiles.  I have a feeling this is how it will go.  The children will test us with whatever phase they’re in – formerly, the disaffected needy newborn phase – until our breaking point, at which time they will coyly shift into a new stage of development, with all the rewards and mayhem that will bring.

My new bosses are demanding, but at least they know how to build some incentives into the work.


Which means, of course, that I have been through the childbirth experience and emerged on the other side.

The babies are definitely the coolest things to have come out of my vagina.

Which means yes, I delivered twins vaginally, which earned me quite the kudos in the hospital and quite the looks from people who think it is their business to ask such things.

I was induced Wednesday night, and given Cervadil, which was supposed to “soften” my cervix (finish effacing and thinning it) in preparation for the actual induction the next day.  The nurse said everyone reacts to the Cervadil differently, which is a nice thing to say when I lasted about an hour before intense contractions started piling up ever 45 seconds.  There was no time to use our well-rehearsed breathing exercises as contractions became more intense.  They started at a 10, and just kept going.  I was not supposed to walk around, as the babies were on a monitor, but only walking around gave me any measure of relief.  Due to hospital policy, I was stuck in bed, however.

An hour later, anesthesiology was giving me the epidural I had been undecided and open-minded about.  The effects were amazing and almost instantaneous.  I turned from a shaking, screaming banshee who was breaking into cold sweats, into a rational human being who played Skip-Bo with her husband.

My daughter decided she wanted to come out before I was fully dilated, so she started descending and sitting, basically, (well, head-standing) on my coccyx, for several hours.  So even though I had good “coverage” with the epidural, and was numb, she exerted incredible pressure on my ass every time I had a contraction.

Those contractions?  Never got more than 5 minutes apart and were usually 2-3 minutes.

For 22 hours.

Anesthesia, who was MIA by this point, wouldn’t be able to relieve “pressure”, only pain, so my only option once I hit a contraction was a nurse’s suggestion to apply my own counter-pressure.  This meant that my birth partner (see: husband) pushed and held a frozen diaper (standard hospital equipment on the L&D floor) against my coccyx for every contraction.  Things became glamorous.

My doctor, who was in the hospital on Thursday, had to leave by “5 or 6”, but I was dilating so slowly (several hours from 2-3cm, several more from 3-4cm), that we were on the clock, praying she’d be able to be there to deliver the babies.

Five and six pm both passed, and all that was left were contractions through my ass.  They tell you you might poop during childbirth, but they don’t tell you you feel like you have to poop for 22 hours.

I was able to wedge a frozen diaper in such a position that we could watch Jeopardy!, when nurse Laura said she thought she saw signs of “earlies” on the fetal monitor, which signifies something significant.  At any rate, the OB who had just come on checked me, and by 8pm, I was being wheeled into the OR.

Since I was having twins, and each baby gets a “team”, a regulary L&D room is just too small for the delivery.  All twin deliveries happen in the OR.  I was excited to finally be doing something, excited to relieve the gotta-poop feeling, excited to get to be an active participant in the birth.  I was transfered to the OR table, and immediately cowed by the 3  enormous lights above me.  Fourteen people at least shouting at me, different directions, different instructions.  I screamed while I was pushing, ’cause it fucking hurt.  That elicited many refrains of, “Don’t scream” as I was kind of wasting energy and breath that could be used for pushing.  So I started crying, “I’m sorry,” which only made them admonish me not to be sorry.

Once again, the breathing exercises were out the window as I couldn’t focus with everyone screaming at me and the lights glaring.  I couldn’t hear the 10-second counts, and I felt like the heads I was trying to pass were bowling balls.

After what felt like forever but was more like 43 minutes, my daughter was born.  I was delirious with sleep-deprivation from the night before (and past several weeks), as well as the pain meds they were pushing.  I heard her cry, and I said, “Baby!” as if it had just now occurred to me that pregnancy usually yields live, screaming babies.  They said push if I felt I had to push.  I still felt like I had to poop, not push, but had already delivered one child that way, so I started pushing again.  Fourteen minutes later, little brother was born.  In all the hysteria, I didn’t realize he wasn’t doing so well at birth.  In some part because I pushed him out so quickly, he didn’t get all the squeezing benefits of being compressed in the birth canal, which can help to initiate breathing.  I caught a glimpse of him, and he was completely white.  I thought he was covered in vernix, the white, waxy substance that protects fetuses from amniotic fluid, but he was white because he wasn’t breathing.  I only found this out later, as my husband finally revealed, thanks to my insecurities about their health.

“Are they really fine?” I begged.  “Are they really perfect?” I was in disbelief, I was frantically worried someone was keeping something from me.  E. had only received a 1 on his initial APGAR.  He wasn’t breathing on his own.  His color was terrible.  As they say to assuage mothers, “Many babies need some help.”  Truthfully, he did only need a little help — they suctioned him, gave him a few breaths with a BVM, and soon he was screaming, too.  Now, at 18 days old, he often won’t stop.

My biggest triumph at this point is having carried twins to 38.5 weeks, and having had such a thoroughly uncomplicated pregnancy that I was able to deliver two healthy babies vaginally.

My biggest disappointment was in losing control, losing track of my birth plan, being unable to follow through with my first parenting decisions.

Because L. was jaundiced, it was essential she clear out the bilirubin from her system, and she ended up taking formula from a bottle.

Because E. lost too much of his birth weight (when you’re 5lb5oz, it’s more of a concern than if you’re 8lbs), we were supplementing him with formula.

Because of the madness in the OR, and E.’s low one-minute APGAR, I didn’t get to hold either child until we were all in recovery.  And Mr. Apron didn’t cut either cord.

Because I ran out of time, I didn’t get to bank/donate their cord blood.

Because breastfeeding was so hard, both babies lost weight and the pediatrician told us it was medically necessary to supplement with formula.

Because my parents don’t listen, they bought us diapers in the wrong size, sizes which will fit them when they are big enough to be in cloth diapers, which is our intention once they are out of the newborn-shit-every-twenty-minutes phase.

Because the babies screamed their heads off the first two nights and wouldn’t sleep, we began using pacifiers almost immediately.

Because I was too tired and emotionally distraught to be patient enough to breastfeed at the 12am, 3am, and 6am feedings, and we felt the pediatrician’s mandate breathing down our necks, we began bottle-feeding overnight, while I pump.

We weren’t going to bottle-feed for several weeks.  We weren’t going to use pacifiers.  We weren’t going to use formula at all.  He was going to cut the cords.  Baby A was supposed to be on me until I started pushing with Baby B.  My OB was supposed to deliver my babies.  We were going to donate the cord blood.  And none of it happened.  Every feeding where the babies wouldn’t latch on, and I held out a hungry child to my husband, who would give a bottle of the hated formula to an eagerly awaiting little mouth, I felt rejected.  I felt I couldn’t provide what I knew was the best food for my babies.  I felt the pediatrician was using the words “medically necessary” as a way to derail my first parents decisions.

Mr. Apron keeps telling me that that stuff is all minor, that I need to sort through my priorities, and look at the bigger picture.  The bigger picture always is the healthy babies, always is their welfare and well-being.  But as the items in my birth plan kept getting ignored, steam-rollered, or altered as a result of “medically necessary”, I felt helpless.  I felt ignored.  I felt like my intentions were worthless.  The induction went poorly and my contractions put me in agony?  Big deal.  The babies were healthy.  The nurses pushed meds and interventions on me so I’d be a happier patient?  Big deal.  The babies were healthy.  I had to supplement with formula and risk nipple confusion and interference with breast-feeding?  Big deal.  L.’s bilirubin numbers were dropping, and E. was putting on weight.  The pediatrician recommended Vitamin D drops because breastmilk is “incomplete”?  Big deal.  Vitamins are insurance against deficiencies.

I didn’t feel supported in my decisions as a mother.  I watched all my intentions slip away until I was left with sore nipples, a sink full of Enfamil bottles, a calendar full of doctor’s appointments, and mandates from a pediatrician who I hadn’t even met, as he was on vacation.

And those post-partum hormones coursing through my body didn’t help.

However, we’re all on the mend.  The loopiness from the Oxycodone has worn off.  The babies are back above birth weight, so we were given “permission” to drop the formula supplements.  I’m pumping during night feedings to spare myself some sanity, and I can usually make enough for Mr. Apron to feed them breast milk.  The babies are healthy, for real.  And while I do not fare so well when they soil three diapers in a row, while I’m changing them, or they pee out the back of their really cute outfits, or they break out of their swaddle for the sixteenth time, or one wakes up screaming just as we’ve put the other one down, we are, on the whole, doing okay.

I made it from pregnancy to motherhood, and our little family of two (plus the two dogs) has made room for two more very important members.

Who are probably ready for their 6pm feeding.  As I am little more than a milk factory at present, I must conclude this post.  I hope for many more naps as peaceful as this one, that I may blog some more.

Here are my munchkins:

Sometimes I think I can’t remember the Depression, can’t remember watching myself sink into the couch, too upset to move, full of self-loathing, apathy, and passive disinterest.

And then, it all comes back.  It’s only an hour and a half that Mr. Apron is gone – including travel time – but if I’m not glued to one screen (TV), I’m glued to another (computer, iPad), and still immobilized enough that the feelings from the Depression come rushing back.  Sometimes I can “bootstrap” myself out of it by running through a mental list of all the things I allegedly want to do.  I of course reject doing 99% of them, but by latching onto the smallest, least cumbersome chore, I am sometimes able to gather enough momentum to pull myself off the literal or figurative couch.  However, I think my list of tasks is too long tonight, or I’m so overwhelmed in general, that I’m just going to bask in the deluge of being stuck.

The babies are coming, the babies are coming.  I’m at 33 weeks gestation.  At 30 weeks, they weighed in at over 3 lbs each, and I’m estimating that by my next ultrasound this Friday, they’ll be at 4 lbs.  I’m still terrified of pre-term labor.  I had a scare around 27 weeks, where the ultrasound showed my cervix might be getting ready for labor.  Thankfully, I wasn’t showing any other signs, and clearly, I haven’t had the babies yet, but it still shocked me into a hyper aware state, much like how Mr. Apron behaved for about a week after he was pulled over, driving past the corner where he was caught in a speed trap.  After a while, the caution and sensitivity fade, and life returns to normal.

Unless you’re having twins.  They’re coming, pre-term or not.  At the outside, if I go full-term, I only have 7 weeks left.  And if I make it “full-term” for twins, which is only 37 weeks, I have less than a month.  I speak as if I’m facing a terminal illness instead of the birth of my children.  Still, I’m not ready.  I doubt that 4, or even 7 weeks would ever be enough time to prepare, mentally.  Sure, the cribs have been ordered, and the car seats lie in wait.  The stroller is in the basement, optimistic that we’ll ever set foot outside our house again once the babies are born.  I’m mourning the end of our life as a couple, of our life as adult-focused people.  I’m not even talking about so-called adult activities, like drinking, staying out until all hours, and beer pong.  I’m talking about our adult activities, like snuggling in the bed together, watching Antiques Roadshow together, botching home improvement projects together, and evening crafting/computer time together.  Our together time.  I know we’ll make time for these things that are important to us.  I know babysitters (aka in-laws) exist for a reason, and they will provide respite care so we can go out for an evening.  But I’m still scared.  And I know that despite our best efforts (and even successes!) at retaining the essence of who we are, who we were, before children, it can never be the same.

I’m scared I won’t be ready.  I never can be.  I’m excited to meet my babies.  I narcissistically can’t wait to see how they look like us.  I can’t wait for their new baby smells.

I know I won’t be able to have my pity parties anymore either.  There just won’t be a 90-minute block of time for me to be stuck.  There will be diapers and feedings, and burping and entertaining, and soothing and swaddling.  I’m scared.  I’m scared I’ll get stuck even though it will look different than it does now.  I want to enjoy my babies whether their father is home with us, or gone for an hour or a day.  I want to be the awesome mom I know in my heart of hearts I can be.  And I can’t let the Depression get in the way.

“Because your son married a hippie,” is what I wanted to say.

What I actually did was backtrack and talk about how rational and realistic I am, how we’d never go “full-cloth”, how we’d definitely use disposables for travel, day care, or overnight.  How we’re aware of the potential drawbacks of having a week’s worth of urine-soaked diapers waiting for a laundry service, or having to wash them all ourselves.

What I did was mumble something about long-term cost savings and try to share my excitement that these are no longer the previous generation’s cloth diapers.  About how easy the new cloth diapering systems can be, and about the environmental impact of disposables.

I had committed the serious error of answering the initial question, which had been, “So have you guys decided what you’re doing about diapers?”  Mr. Apron swears I should have stuck with my original answer (“We’re still considering the options.”) and left it at that.  But I had also elaborated, mistaking their question for interest, the way one does in a conversation.

When I tried to talk about the two-in-one systems I’ve become interested in, or the laundry services that are springing up, all I heard in return were horror stories about my nephew’s diaper blow-outs, and wrinkled noses at the concept of a week’s worth of soiled diapers sitting in our home.  There was much talk of their concerns of poop containment – or of failure to do so – ironically all examples of how disposables fail.  Though I would think this would be evidence that diapering is messy business no matter what type of diaper the kid wears, it all seemed to just be ammunition for them to, if not exactly attack me, then at least dampen my excitement.

Later, as Mr. Apron and I discussed the ill-fated conversation, he explained my mistake.  I had assumed a question meant they were interested and wanted to know more, and would listen to me tell them things they did not know.  This is a pattern one would assume happens often enough, as I have had different life experiences, and my mother- and sister-in law are a bit sheltered at least.  On the contrary, it was a vehicle for them to prod.  Apparently, the way to answer their questions is politely and curtly, to get the interrogation over as soon as possible with as little angst as possible.

“So, have you researched the safety of the car seats/strollers/cribs/mittens you’re considering?”

“Of course we have.” (a blatant lie)

“And none of these cribs are drop-side, right?”

“Of course not.  We would never buy a used one, and they don’t even sell drop-side anymore.”

“How did your new car [already purchased] do on crash tests?”

“Great!” (better than a Pinto)

“Will your sister be stopping by as she drives from Pittsburgh to St. Louis?”

“No.” (as St. Louis is west of Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia is east, and decidedly not on the way)

“Did you walk over to the house tonight?” (a half-mile)

“No, we unicycled.”  (my new strategy for partially answering this inane question, which crops up at every single visit, as if our trekking in whatever condition – pregnant or not, impending rain or not – is a major adventure.)

The bigger picture, of course, is that I do not need their approval.  I’m going to make many choices with my own children that are different than the choices they made with theirs, and with their other grandchild.  Together, Mr. Apron and I will decide whether to feed them breast milk or formula, whether or not to boil the bottles, whether or not to use pacifiers, which types of child gates to install, what weather/clothing is suitable for outings, and what type of diaper to use.  When it comes down to it, aside from their providing occasional respite care babysitting, we’ll be the ones changing diapers (blow-outs or not), we’ll be the ones paying for formula/breast milk storage bags, we’ll be the ones dealing with the runny noses (which may or may not have been prevented by boiling the bottles), and we’ll be the ones raising the kids.

Unlike their other daughter (the mother of my nephew), whose only child-rearing decision has been to have a medically unnecessary elective C-section, we are walking into parenthood with a clue.  We’re not turning to Mr. Apron’s parents to provide 2.5 days/week of child care, free.  We’re not asking them to take our infant seats to the state police to be properly installed.  We’re not assuming they’re just going to make our child-rearing decisions because we don’t know anything about babies, and never wanted them in the first place.

I’m not under any (Teen Mom’s) Farrah-like delusions that we’re going to be the best parents ever, never make mistakes, and always know exactly what to do.  I don’t for a minute believe we’ll make it through the first six weeks of infant twins without massive amounts of support from both our families.  But I do believe we can make our own decisions about them when it comes to what’s important to us.  We’re not leading them into traffic, bathing them in lead paint dust, or sticking beer in their bottles.

I just wish I could assert myself better and more often, especially when my beliefs/decisions are questioned.  Or else learn to recognize all interrogative statements as such, and not as merely questions meant to show interest or start a pleasant conversation.

Apparently, having coffee at my in-laws’ is more like Guantanamo Bay than I first realized.

As I was out walking our puppy Molly, a few months ago, a neighbor who was, I’m sure, only trying to be helpful, saw me being dragged down the path, saw my furrowed brow, saw me struggling, and made an unsolicited comment.  She asked if I watched “The Dog Whisperer.” I managed a grimace of acknowledgement and continued our walk-drag.  Perhaps I found this especially unnerving because I had back at the house the business card of a dog trainer I was totally intending to call.  I so was.  I dislike the implication that my dog is so severe she needs the miraculous musings of an Oprah minion.  For the record, I immediately disregard any/all advice given by Oprah’s minions, including Dr. Phil with his condescension and his “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”s, Dr. Oz, with his scrubs and his wine-cork jaw exercises, and Cesar Milan, with his…well, I don’t know.  I’ve never watched him.  We don’t get that channel.  But I do know that I don’t appreciate someone else’s assumption that if I can’t handle my 28lb dog and/or she isn’t obedient enough to walk on a leash, it’s time to bring in Oprah’s minion. 

Molly is essentially developmentally delayed.  She had, to our knowledge, no structure, no obedience, and no expectations in her first 8 months of life.  No house-breaking, either, from the look of it.  It’s not just a delayed puppy hood – it’s dealing with the repercussions of an extended period of laissez-faire puppy hood.  She has her issues, but is basically a sweet puppy.  Much as I imagine people get pretty huffy when others judge their parenting skills in public, I was not happy with our neighbor’s assessment.

As I sat at lunch today with my coworkers, the topic turned to corporal punishment of children, or, as the proponents would call it, “spanking”.  Just a little tap.  Just enough to scare him.  And then they used the “I turned out okay” argument and I bristled.  Then they used the “Well, you can’t reason with a small child” argument.  Then they stated the futility of negotiations when a kid is running into traffic.  As one who has learned her basic child discipline beliefs from a Quaker school, I sat there mute, stunned into silence.  I couldn’t even begin to launch into the logical fallacies they were using.  False dichotomy between spanking and treatises, the idea that “fear” of the parents equals respect, the idea that the child even understands what the spank means, the complete absence of logical consequences. 

For my coworker who blessedly does not yet have children, this meant a parallel into doggie discipline.  She described in horror how at the vet she saw a dog owner “spank” his dog.  Okay, I thought, at least she’s properly horrified.  But then she launched into a detailed description of how she disciplines her dog when it barks at other dogs by “tapping” it on the nose.  As for when the dog “defies” her by pooping on the rug “right in front of me,”  she shoves its nose in the shit to “shame” it, and the poor beast responds by running away and avoiding her for the rest of the day.  I wonder why.  Could it be she is not repentant but upset that her human shoved her nose in her own shit, and dogs instinctively shit away from places they sleep?  Or put their noses, for that matter. 

She gave the dog a toy, a dolly to carry around.  When the dog ripped its head off, she said, “no,” and took the doll away.  Unspoken in my mind was, “Well, she’s a 2 year old dog.  What does she have to chew on?  What do you expect her to do with a doll?  Play house?”

I had no polite responses for this woman, who was in the “I was spanked and I turned out okay” camp.  All I could do was talk about my own positive experience with our puppy, who now walks on a leash without yanking my arm out of its socket thanks not to Cesar Milan, but to a real dog trainer, not some Oprah-proclaimed miracle worker.  She didn’t get nose-to-nose with our puppy and figure out her puppyhood trauma.  She spent 2 hours training her with 3 basic commands so Molly will now walk gently (“Gentle”), stop when we ask her to (“Wait”), and turn around (“Come About” – she’s apparently a boat).  Molly usually listens to us, and sometimes even watches to see where we are leading.  Not because we choked her (my coworker also has a choke collar for her ill-fated pooch), yelled at her, spanked her, or tapped her nose, but because we sought real and professional help, and used methods that didn’t give Molly any credit. 

Molly was too stupid to know that pulling on the leash isn’t getting her “there” any faster (wherever “there”) is.  We didn’t waste time trying to teach her that, or expend energy trying to scare her into a fearful compliance.  When she has accidents, we blame ourselves, because we usually have forgotten to take her out in time.  We have to meet her where she is.  She is currently on a 3-hour timer for walks, when we’re home.  We can’t one day expect her to make it 5 hours, without giving her the tools for success, nor can we punish her for having an accident when we failed her.  We especially can’t punish her by rubbing her nose in it or by smacking her on her nose, anymore than we can punish her by taking away her food and water.  My coworker gives her dog too much credit, ascribes too many intentions on the dog’s part, and as a result, she sees her dog as willful, naughty, and disobedient.  In fact, she’s given her nothing to obey.  Here’s a toy, but wait! you can’t chew it.  I’ll punish you for shitting in the hallway, but not go out of my way to help you have success in house-breaking.  And I’m going to send you confusing messages by going against your very instincts (chewing toys, keeping herself away from her poop, defending her people by growling). 

I don’t want to be like my neighbor and make assumptions about how someone else “parents” her dog.  What is clear to me, however, as my coworker describes her own childhood and her dog-rearing ideas, is that her “I turned out okay” assertion was far from a simple truth.