Monday, June 2, 2008

The Bewitching Hour and Bonding Time

First, I want to note an article I really liked. This is one of the most honest articles about mothering I've seen in a while. It's not all that googly stuff - 'oh, being a mother is the GREATEST thing ever' crud - and it's not an article that tells you 10 ways to play more effectively with your child thus making you think, once again, you're failing as a parent. It just honestly states that "the diaper years" are tough on mothers. Here's the link (I hope CNN keeps the link working for a while):

And back to my circus, I had another challenging WFH day today. Poor Claire got very little attention, which of course is the norm when I'm doing my job from home and taking care of the twins. I was hoping to have her play with the new water & sand table while I worked on the laptop, but we had some thunderstorms this morning and that dashed my hopes for a good portion of the day. She finally got outside late this afternoon and the water table held her attention for all of 15 minutes. Lovely. That was $50 well spent.

The twins had a cute day earlier today but I knew we were headed for trouble when they both wouldn't nap well this afternoon. So that meant once the bewitching hour hit - that troublesome downhill slide from 5pm onwards (when most working parents have the luck of getting home) - we would be in for it. And sure enough, I was right. Molly couldn't make it through dinner without crying and rubbing food in her eyes. Lily went so ballistic upon the sight of Kyle (she loves her daddy, and more on that in a minute) that I demanded the child go back to her bed so she would not ruin a nice dinner we had pulled together of grilled pork tenderloin (my favorite), roasted lemon potatoes, and broccoli. So she cried our entire dinner but at least the noise was far away rather than right in our ears. Sometimes, this is the only way that order and sanity is maintained in our household. A baby crying in a bed can sometimes be the right thing to do. Trust me.

On top of all this, Claire decided to go into full 3-year-old brat mode right after dinner (somehow she was really tired even after her boring day with me). I think she lost a star for the day, but I need to confirm with Kyle once we finally have a discussion tonight. She was asleep in minutes which is rare for her. That means we had all three kids meltdown on us at dinnertime ... ahhhhhhh, what joy we experienced tonight!

Now for the Lily and daddy explanation. Our situation, and how we handled the twins, ended up a bit unique, and with 20/20 hindsight I'm not sure I'd repeat exactly as we handled it. I'll tell our birth story later, but the short version is that Molly came home straight from the hospital and Lily was in the NICU for 15 days. She was a sick baby, and yes, I blame this on myself for my birth choices. Nevertheless, what the NICU did was make Lily a very difficult child to breastfeed - you NICU moms will understand the challenges I'm talking about. She didn't nipple a feed for a week of her life, and then when she did, she had the worst sore throat thanks to the breathing tube she had for a week or more, so she was a very unhappy feeder. She also lost a tremendous amount of weight so she was a frantic eater. She'd go ballistic over being hungry (still does), but then get tired and fall asleep eating after just a couple ounces. Then she'd want to eat again in 30 minutes. Then again in 45. Then again in 30. Then in an hour. It was a BATTLE to feed this child and I worked very hard to breastfeed her. But I just couldn't keep up. My body did not produce what these two babies needed - don't forget I had Molly feeding on a perfect 3-hour schedule too - especially given the weight Lily was trying to gain back. So I starting supplementing with formula and after about 8-9 weeks I realized one day I hadn't breastfed her for two days. And it made my life easier and she seemed more satisfied so I ended up with one formula twin and another solely breastfed twin.

In the midst of this feeding struggle, Kyle and I were trying to sleep with both girls in the master bedroom (both in bouncy seats due to reflux) and what all twin parents know is that just as soon as you get one baby fed and changed and back asleep the other wakes up. Twin parents literally get just a couple hours of (broken) sleep all night long. Kyle and I were crazy tired. Screaming at each other, frustrated, angry, and throwing pillows in the wee hours. Not so good. So we quickly devised a man-on-man approach once Lily was fully bottle fed - Kyle went in one room with Lily and took care of her at night, and I kept Molly the breastfed baby with me for obvious reasons. When he was home from work, he was also always on duty to feed, change, and play with Lily, whereas I was doing the same with Molly. This was good for me, as it allowed me some breathing room, but what it also did was to teach Lily that daddy is the nurturer and not mommy. And I'm OK with this somewhat, except the child goes into full meltdown to this day when she sees him because she prefers him so much over me. She gets his full attention and love, whereas with me she's usually sharing it with two other siblings so I don't think she sees me as taking care of her needs as well. This makes me sad. So in retrospect, we should have forced ourselves to "trade babies" more often when the feeding thing wasn't occurring so that Lily bonded with me and Molly bonded with daddy. The legacy here is that Lily and I still have some bonding catch up to do.

So if there are any pregnant twin moms reading this, I'll recommend sharing baby duty with daddy (especially in the middle of the night), but do a better job than we did of trading babies, even if you're breastfeeding only one of the twins for whatever reason. Separate rooms is a must if you plan to get any sleep.

And with all of my baby feeding experience now, I definitely have some opinions on breastfeeding and formula feeding ... not the usual health stuff (though it does help with mom's weight loss for sure), but with bonding. I breastfed Claire for a full year. Molly now gets a supplemental bottle of formula about once a day to relieve me of feeding duty and she just started this at about six months of age - about two months ago. Lily of course is 100% formula. My strong opinion is this: breastfeeding does help with baby bonding. It really does. All those brain chemicals that are released at feeding time to help bond you to baby really are doing something. So poor Lily and I have that catch up bonding to do because of this too.

And before anyone thinks 'my, that's strange, one is breastfed and the other is bottle fed', let me assure you that those double feedings I hate ... and I'm talking here about the early infant stage, when they can't hold their own bottles ... get MUCH easier when one is bottle fed. We were the masters of propping up a bottle (with blankets) in the bouncy seat to feed Lily while I breastfed Molly at the same time. The only tough time was when Lily needed to burp and she'd scream until I got to her. This system was my savior for the double feedings. I highly recommend it to parents of multiples.

Tomorrow is an office day for me! The new nanny will be here with the kids tomorrow and I get some peace and quiet again at the office. And Newsweek time over lunch. Nice. Looking forward to it. Need it. Now I need to sign off to pre-make bottles for the nanny. This is when I feel like the Discovery Channel should be filming me for a show about multiples (how many bottles a day? how many diapers?). I hate the preparation for leaving the kids, but the time away is invaluable to my sanity. Even if it's a darned job I'm going to.

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