Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On lotteries and life

Seemed an appropriate title, given that today, thanks to a great contact found on Twitter, we had a free photo shoot with a lovely local photographer.  Its just one of the amazing experiences I have gleaned from this little microblogging site, and I cannot understate the role it had in my life in 2010.

And what a year it was. All one has to do is read my blog this past year to know that this was hands down the most eventful, monumental, exceptional years of my life, and one that rocked the foundation upon which the prior 37 years had been based.

But it's all good, people, it's ALL GOOD.

Because, as painful and heartbreaking as the year was, it was also the most beautiful, and it culminated in the arrival of our delicioius twin girls, Alexandra and Hailey. Life at its most incredible, and most fragile, was illustrated to us.  Life at its most resilient and death-defying, was also illustrated.  And through it all, we have a new and healthy family. 

This year also crystalized for me my awareness of the incredible community of family and friends we have backing and supporting us as we tackle life's unique challenges.  What can be said about this support except that we are very, very fortunate people.  As far as I am concerned, we have won the global lottery where we are and with what we have.  It's not overstated or sentimental; it is fact.

And so...while I don't have a lot of time to summarize what has happened, I can flash back to this time, and know that moving forward it will make me appreciate the incredible moments that are already stacking up.

My only wish is that others have such experiences.  Happy New Year everyone...may it be wondrous, new, and ground-breaking, as ours will be.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The first Noel

What can you say when all your dreams come true, and then you celebrate on your favourite day of the year?  Just...awesome. 

Yes, this year's Christmas was amazing.  Certainly I got some great gifts and we ate well (take a look at my hubby's white chocolate creme brulee made from scratch - it is seriously better than any I have had in restaurants...), but the real element of sparkle came from having two healthy, cute and very very special little girls in our life now.  That, and spending the entire day with Grandma and Grandpa was an extra special bonus, as they are normally down in Arizona this time of year.  (We won't discuss the fact that they are leaving soon to head down to where the sun shines every single's going to be so hard for all of us, and Skype will be our friend so that the connection is still there).

Yes, we have an amazing community of support around us, and are so lucky.  So very lucky.

Here are a couple shots of the girls in their various Christmas-themed outfits.  It takes your breath away to see them sometimes, they are so cute.  (Photos don't do them justice - they take after their Mama in that respect - MUCH better in person!)...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Alluring, Intriguing, Diverse

Am I boring you?

I honestly don't know if I will talk about anything other than Motherhood and my twin girls ever again.  I feel like there is nothing else to talk about (and honestly, in my little world right now, there honestly isn't anything else), but that I MUST be driving everyone batty.  I mean, just look at the onslaught of photos I have been posting here.  Interesting to quickly look at, but kinda one-dimentional, no?

Just randomly thinking about when, if ever, I will be interesting again, and have something else to say. 

Until's gonna be posts about breastfeeding, poopy diapers, and two special angels who are the nucleus of my life right now.  Hope you are okay with that...

Monday, December 13, 2010

All about Alex - a.k.a. The Nipple Ninja

In all the hubub about Hailey and her stint in CHEO (almost seems like a dream, that first month, already), I have always had it in my head that I want to write a great blog post about our 'first born', Miss Alexandra.  After all, for the first days after birth, she was an extension of me - in my arms, on my boob or within eyeshot at all times.  She, while keeping me somewhat sleepless, was what kept me sane in those first days, and even now, she may have a strong personality and provide plenty of challenge, but she is strong (over 8 1/2 pounds already) and sweet and, um, a voracious eater.

Yes, my friends, Alex is cute as all hell, but feeding her has, from the beginning, kept this new Mom on her toes (or curling her toes, more precisely).  Very early on we dubbed her the Nipple Ninja, and boy does she earn that moniker.

The first 72
Let's go back in time shall we?  You have by now all read my account of the intense abdominal gas pains I suffered after the c-section?  No?  Well, it's a great read my friends - very elegant time of my life, let me tell you!

What that post didn't cover off is the first forays into breastfeeding.  What I have learned about breastfeeding, folks, could fill many pages.  All babies are different, of course, but you can expect I will write some sage words eventually about the entire experience with tips for new moms and especially moms of twins. But until then, let's discuss Alex on the boob (I'm sure later in life, she will love to know I wrote this).

Alex, from the start, knew how to suck.  Anything.  Hard.  Even today, she attacks anything that comes close to her mouth with the fervour of a water-deprived man lost in the desert.  She doesn't wait with an open mouth, close, and then sets her sights on the target and the minute there is contact, she's off and running.  That mouth continues to suck long after items are taken away. And if you stick your finger in her mouth, you may have a burst blood vessel or it may turn purple. 

So what did this do to my virgin nipples?  Tore them wide open my friends.  Like shards of glass being raked across the underside of the tender vessels, it took only one day for Alex to draw blood from one nipple and seriously risk the health of the other, even with all the nurses and lactation consultants' assistance.  It was quite the introduction to breastfeeding, and I laugh at the thought of the books upon books I read in preparation for breastfeeding.  Thought I had a good handle on things. HA.

Today, it's still comical to put her up to my boobs.  It's a bit of a dance we do, Mommy waiting to see the mouth start to open, and Alex ready to pounce and begin the fight for milk immediately.  Quite funny to see how I have to shove her into place and mash her into the boob all in the name of self-protection.  But.  She has no trouble eating.

Some shots of Alex from that time:

Chaotic environments do not breed happy babies
So yes, the first three days in the hospital were a nightmarish dream, but we got through it together, and although my milk didn't come in for four days and my little one was starving (it's insane to realize how biologically this all works - this is normal???), I was using a nipple shield and pumping like the dickens to try make things happen.  Then, we (three of us) went home.  And by home, I mean mostly CHEO. Actually, upon discharge, we went over there instead of home.  A sign of things to come.

Alex was a trooper.  For a full month she was carted back and forth between CHEO and my parents' place, loaded into her car seat, sleeping in her stroller bassinette, dragged over to The General for jaundice testing (yup - dealt with that too). We definitely got our money's worth out of our City Select stroller, which never missed a day with us. Good thing that babies don't see that far in front of their faces - what a dull, boring start to her life, those visually uninspiring hospital rooms!

How did this all affect her?  Well, for one, Mommy was exhausted and stressed, there was no real schedule to speak of, and I truly believe she was missing her sister.  She seemed to be very unhappy unless in the arms of one of either Mommy, Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, and many a day ended up in the arms of the NICU nursing staff as I was trying to spend time with Hailey, and needed a break from her demands. 

In that first two weeks, Alex, who started very sweetly, became at times inconsolable, staying up sometimes for 8 or more hours in a stretch, screaming for something, but we didn't know what.  Turns out the stress, exhaustion and rough start meant that slowly my milk was decreasing.  My little girl was getting hungrier and hungrier. 

Let me tell you everyone, it's a very bad feeling indeed to know that you have been starving your child.  The stress and the guilt is immense, and you feel so damn powerless to control any of it. 

Thus, we were forced to supplement with formula.  Hard not to see this as a failure, but I'm hard on myself sometimes... What happened next was yet another hiccup/learning in this crazy road.  We started OVER feeding her!  As aforementioned, Miss Alex loves to eat.  Anything. And doesn't seem to stop when she's full.  So then, we had yet another inconsolable baby with gas and stomach pains from overeating!  Thank god we figured that out and then scaled back.  Now, we have discovered what is a normal amount for her size and try to hold her to that as much as possible, although it is still a crapshoot when you don't know how much milk you have in your breast, then supplement.  But it seems to be working...mostly!

Moving out of the hospital and into Grandma and Grandpa's house, and shots of our times at CHEO all together:

Chapter Four
And so here we are today, on December 11, a little over 5 weeks since the babies were born, and we have finally moved home.  We did extensive renovations on our home, a new leather sectional and new shutter blinds were delivered and installed while we were living elsewhere, and we have our babies home with us. 

Alex is cosily ensconced in her new crib in the nursery, and has slept VERY well since we got home - a sign that she knows the bruhaha is done?  Time will tell, but she looks lovely tucked up in there, dim lighting keeping her company and her proud parents resting comfortably downstairs on the new leather sofa.  Sister Hailey is sleeping softly in her crib in our bedroom (the two girls are on very different feeding schedules and methods with very different sleeping habits at the moment, so we figured this would work best for now - we'll see moving forward what we want to do).

So Mommies - what have your experiences been with breastfeeding?  What personalities did your little ones have at first, and did those personalities continue to develop along the same vein, or did they change over time?  Just curious...

Monday, December 6, 2010

What's the word on the beach, you ask?

Oh, how I miss my blog!  As I sit here at my parents' dining room table, I have one baby not sleeping and starting to fuss in her playpen, another being fed with dual effort of Dad and Grandpa, and Grandma trying to get dinner going.  What am I doing?  Well, I am trying to cluster-pump to try get ahead of the game, as each 3 hour period, I try to fit in feeds to little Alex, as well as pump enough for Hailey's feeds.  I have been playing catch-up ever since they used all my frozen stores at CHEO for her overnight feeds.  It's stressful, since I absolutely HAVE to pump a minimum of a certain amount each 3 hours, and the stress has sometimes limited my supply (not to mention lack of sleep, lack of food and not always hydrating enough).

I will say this about that...breastfeeding is by far the hardest thing I have ever done.  Bar none.  It's worth it, but boy...with twins, it's a crazy, crazy never-ending job.

On Friday, December 3, exactly one month after the twins' birth, Hailey was released from the CHEO hospital. It was a long day, as the night before was a bad night for babies in the Ottawa area, and what was a relatively calm NICU became over-booked with new admissions.  This meant that morning 'rounds', where all the amazing medical staff (dieticians, resperatory technicians, nurses, pediatricians, neonatologists, etc.) review each case and discuss the treatment plans for the next 24 hours took an incredibly long time.  It also meant that the pediatrician who had to go through our Hailey's files for her release could not get to it until late in the day.  It was a long, chaotic day.  In fact...a long chaotic month, which I do believe has heavily affected Alex. More on Alex to come.

So yes.  Hailey was released, and by all accounts her recovery was remarkable.  The previous post that outlined her surgery reveals how extensive the abdominal reconfiguration was, and the fact that our only challenge in the end was to get her to gain weight through feeds is incredible.  One of these days I will chart the timeline and put it down to see the whole picture, but it is all testament to the incredible work of Hailey herself, but the incredible CHEO staff.  On our departure, we left behind a big gift basket filled with sweets and chocolates to make their shifts a bit better over the next few days, but nothing can truly compensate for what they did to save my little one's life.  Such an incredible team of selfless and loving people I have never met.  What they do is so hard, yet it makes such a massive difference.

Now, for the first time ever, we are back at Grandma and Grandpa's house, and I haven't had to go ANYWHERE for the last two days.  It feels GREAT to just be here, in the moment.  Later this week we begin the move back to our home in Kanata and by the weekend, we will finally be in our home.  It will still be really hard, but it will be normal.  Gawd I love the sound of that. 

And who knows?  Maybe I will be able to blog once in a blue moon, if all the stars align and I have a free moment.

Thanks to everyone for all their support, love, prayers and congratulations.  What a ride!

Here are a few shots from our last day:

New socks for both Hailey and for Alex (outfits came later, but ultimately, Hailey ended up in a fresh sleeper.  There was, uh, an incident, let's call it, with Grandpa on the scale which we were using as a change table...) Can you tell who is who?

Dylan the dragon and some friends all packed up and ready to go.

Grandma in the isolation room (our 'hotel' room over the final three days where this Mom was trying to ensure Hailey got enough nourishment to grow and gain weight in order to go home).

Mommy holding Hailey just before her release.

Hailey loaded into her car seat for her first trip out of the hospital - the air is good there, but fresh is best!!!

Daddy ready to roll with both his little girls. 

What all parents of CHEO babies pray for...

And when we got home, Mommy gave Hailey her first bath, then wrapped her in her duckie blanket.  The heart melts...