Monday, September 26, 2011

Savoring each moment

Twins are a challenge to raise. I love them dearly (goes without saying), but I have to admit that I have been obsessively wondering: When does this get easier? When does raising newborn twins, while also trying to somehow take care of myself, a house, and the rest of life, get easier?

I take this question very seriously. I refuse to just give in and be a blithering, tired mom for the next however many years. So I decided to search for the answer.

I started a few months ago (while I was still pregnant) by reading parenting books in search for clear directions on parenting success – and even more so, parenting twins sanely. I read (and am still reading) the oracle of parenting: “What to Expect the First Year,” as well as other books like “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” by Marc Weissbluth (sleep is a big deal for newborns and their parents) and “Having Twins,” by Elizabeth Noble, among many more. But alas, even those incredibly popular books gave lots of options and choices without one real true definitive path to sane twin parenting.

I have implemented many of the suggestions, the ones that make sense, and yet, I am still completely and absolutely worn out. And actually, I just read last night in "Having Twins" that things will only get tougher once the kids are eating solids and moving. Solids are tough because it's more work and messy. Moving is tough because they just move in different directions and not know yet that certain things are dangerous. That obviously did not make me feel better.

So I turned to friends and relatives, especially other parents of twins. I received many different answers to the “When does it get easier” question. Some told me that it gets easier when children reach three or four years old when they are less physically dependent, but then the same people told me that at that age, the physical stress turns to emotional stuff. Some say it all gets easier when you start sleeping through the night when children reach two or three years old. Some say when they’re 18 and leave the house for college. While others say when they get married and then it becomes someone else’s problem.

So basically we're talking anywhere from three to eighteen to twenty plus years from today. And I don't think I'll last that long!

I was feeding the twins (at the same time) when the answer hit me: I wasn’t asking the right question. What I should be asking is: How do I make this moment easier?
I keep trying to rush past all of this, and amazingly enough, it’s one of the most fulfilling and joyful times of my life. I’m trying to jump eighteen years ahead instead of simply savoring the moment I’m in.

The twins are growing and developing each day. And this is it. This is my chance to experience what it’s like to be raising these amazing four and a half month old babies. Life is transient. And soon they’ll be five months old, and I won’t be able to go back again to this day. So, I’d better savor it. I’d better live for the moment.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting over “oh poor baby”

Worried sick. That’s what I’ve been. Picking him up at every whimper to coddle him. He needs extra loving care. He is traumatized by everything that’s happened to him. Oh, poor baby.

Those are definitely the thoughts and language that I’ve been using when talking about Ethan since he stopped growing in utero at 26 weeks and was born very, very, very small. And then spent three and a half months in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit).

He’s doing great now. He’s been home for three weeks and thriving. Yet, I have definitely had those “oh poor baby” thoughts despite all of this. Despite the doctors telling me that he looks great. Despite the dramatic improvement in how our son interacts with us and his sister.

I came to realize that the “oh poor baby” mentality is not fair to him, or his sister for that matter, this weekend when he was crying hysterically.

Well not to confuse everybody, but the "ah ha" moment actually started because of Aria. (I'll get back to Ethan's freak-out session in a minute.) She's been really fussy lately. Rebelling, perhaps? And I was wondering what's going on with her. Is it normal baby stuff like gas, hunger of tiredness? Or is she wondering why she's not the sole center of attention anymore? So I asked Lior, "Am I treating them differently?"

I realized that I was. When Aria is fussy and needs to be held, I say to myself, "Oh she needs a swaddle and a pacifier. I'll pick her up and hold her." When Ethan cries, I frantically wonder "Oh my God, what's wrong with him? I don't know what to do. Is he okay? What do I do? What do I do?"

And in that moment when I was freaking out because Ethan was freaking out (and Aria was burying herself in her swaddle to drown out the noise), I realized that I wasn't helping him by freaking out and imposing on him the "oh poor baby" mentality. "He needs to be treated differently."

It dawned on me that I am really not helping him (or myself) emotionally either. I'm the mom. He is four months old. He needs me, just as she does, to take control of the situation and figure out how to help him. And not to freak out, because then they will freak out. A cough is just a cough. A sneeze is just a sneeze. A vomit is just a vomit. And a cry is just a cry. Just as I treat Aria when she's upset. Like a normal baby. That's all.

With that moment of clarity, I reached for a pacifier and a swaddle, and I picked him up. And I realized that I am judging him unfairly - and unjustly for that matter. Babies are incredibly attuned to the energy we send them. I see this unfold every single day. The babies read my energy and respond in turn. And my own insecure thoughts, and even worse, the "oh poor baby" ones, can hinder his ability to thrive. To become self-sufficient. To grow and develop.

And it's not fair to Aria either. She's been telling me this for weeks now.

I realized that I needed to process everything that had happened with the pregnancy, the birth, and the post-partum period, accept it, and let it go. I believe I’m there now, and I am already seeing changes - big changes - over the weekend and this morning.

Here’s how I am doing it: First, I became aware and mindful that I was projecting judgmental thoughts and feelings. I didn’t blame myself or feel bad about it. I simply became aware and set an intention to change it, to turn it around. Next, I meditated on changing my thought patterns. I consciously became aware of my thoughts while feeding both Aria and Ethan. And I mindfully focused on non-judgment. I kept repeating the words: “Non-judgment, non-judgment, non-judgment.” And I automatically, you could even say intuitively, became present. I began focusing on my breath and on how grateful I am. I felt this incredibly healing, positive energy come over me. And I exhaled. It was great. A moment to savor. They were both eating vigorously, and they both looked content.

And then suddenly, with my mind clear of clutter, I began to notice a change in him. He was growing before my eyes, smiling, eating more, crying less. I saw that he is thriving. He could very well have been doing this all along, but I finally saw my son – as he is – for the first time. A healthy, thriving baby.

I am going to continue practicing presence and gratitude with both Ethan and Aria, especially while feeding them. And I will continue to be mindful of not judging them. Accepting them for who they are.

And I’m starting to realize that my children are teaching me incredibly valuable lessons that are helping me grow in my relationship with myself and with others. Perhaps if I begin to perceive myself with non-judgment, I will thrive more and more. I will see myself for who I really am and live my authentic self more naturally. And perhaps by practicing non-judgment with myself, it will be easier to practice non-judgment with others, and then those relationships will flourish and people will have the space to feel like they can be truly authentic with me.

I'd say that that’s a pretty good goal. Be with myself and others in non-judgment, with presence. I have a feeling that this isn't the last of the lessons that Ethan and Aria will teach me over the years. But I'm savoring this one for now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How I’m adjusting to being a mom of twins

I totally freaked out last week. It was my first week alone with Ethan and Aria, who are now four months old. I was curled up on the couch this past Wednesday afternoon much like a newborn baby, whining to a friend on the phone, crying hysterically, and wondering if I’ll ever, ever, ever feel better – make that sane – again.

I am finding a lot of joy in having children, but it’s totally normal to say that raising twins is physically exhausting and emotionally trying. It’s a tall order for just about anyone, and needless to say that having Type 1 diabetes adds a whole other component. On top of taking care of them – which is a pretty big job – I also need to keep the house together, have some semblance of a career, and let’s not forget that I also need to take care of myself.

I’m finding it challenging to make the basics happen: taking a shower, eating, checking my sugars, exercising, sleeping, and going to doctors/filling prescriptions. My days have been starting at 4 or 4:30 am and ending at around 10 to 10:30 pm. And it’s pretty much non-stop. When they rest, I run around and try to get things done before one of them wakes up.

Then there’s the taking care of them part. I have been experimenting with feeding them at the same time, but that can sometimes go really, really bad really, really fast. Hysterical cries, formula all over the place (and vomit on the family room couches), neither child really getting my full attention (which I felt guilty about and was part of the couch hysterics). On top of that, I had to take them to two doctors’ appointments this past week – of course carrying two infant car seats in the pouring rain to and from the car way too many times for my liking. Each of them vomited for two days in a row on different days. And somewhere in there, they vomited on me too. Needless to say, lots of laundry has been done.

I’m not the only one adjusting here of course. The whole family is, and that adds to it all. Aria had to get used to having a brother and not as much of our attention (still working on that one, but getting much better than it was). And of course Ethan was adjusting to being in a totally new environment and routine, not knowing what to expect, and feeling at home and comfortable. Our remedy has been to fill them with a lot of love and consistency. It seems to be working, and they seem to be adjusting nicely so far.

What I realized as I thought about today's blog topic is that the Wednesday curled up on the couch freak-out was a wake-up call. I need to get my act together. I am the boss of this house, at least when Lior's not home. I need to be in control. I need to stay balanced and keep a calm mind. I need to stay present and not make matters worse with my griping. I need to love myself and be confident in what I’m doing. I have no other choice. I need to take care of myself or else who will?

And that’s when things started turning.

During those crazy moments when Ethan, Aria, and I are on edge, I had an epiphany that I should sing songs, which seems to put a smile on everyone’s face at any given moment despite my being a really lousy singer. I have learned to make shorter to-do lists, and I have also learned to let a lot go (a clean and orderly house being one of the more challenging things to let go of, but super hard to get done). I am also streamlining – I found an endocrinologist closer to home and have my first appointment booked. Lior and I have established a bedtime routine that seems to be working really well. Lior and I also spent the first week that Ethan was home organizing and figuring out who would be in charge of what and how we would prioritize stuff to do at home. So that makes things much better.

I have been mindful of savoring the amazing moments - the cuddling, the smiles and coos, and watching them grow and learn. The other day when I was singing songs – to calm the room – Aria started singing with me in her own way. She was smiling and kicking her legs in her chair. Ethan used to cry when we changed his diaper, and now he smiles from ear to ear and calmly waits while I take care of whatever I need to do. How amazing is that?

Also, I'm learning that it’s okay if babies cry. It’s loud, causes stress, and breaks my heart, but it’s still okay if they cry until I can get to them. Yes, I can go take a shower, and if one of them cries, well, they’ll wait for me to get out to take care of whatever is bothering them. Of course, once one starts crying, the other one sometimes does as well, and then it takes me quite some time to calm them down. I suppose this will help them build character. But still, my point is that I can go take a shower whether or not they cry while I'm away.

“Me time” has taken on new meaning. It’s composed of a few hours a week, rather than most of the time. And what that has forced me to do is think really carefully about what I want to spend that “me” time doing. I want to spend that time exercising, spending time with family and friends, writing, reading, and pampering (like getting a haircut or a pedicure).

I have learned to savor the “me time” moments in a whole new way. Lior and I watched a movie together last night! It was only interrupted once, and we watched it together until the end. And I actually took a walk by myself yesterday for thirty minutes, and it was so peaceful. I have learned to appreciate things I used to take for granted in a whole new way.

This whole experience is a real life lesson. Actually it’s all of life’s lessons rolled into one super intense immersion course in accepting what life hands us and making the best of it. And in this case, that means learning the lesson.