Tag Archives: Twin

My Hospital Postpartum Experience

This is a continuation of my previous post called My Hospital Birthing Experience. For the whole story of the birth of my twins, I recommend reading the previous post first.

Healthcare Hooligans

To Swaddle or Not

SwaddleAfter the delivery, while Jenn and I were recovering, nurse Ratched came in to show us how to swaddle our babies and explained that it would help them to sleep. We visited with family and then after a short time were taken to the maternity ward where we were told that they don’t swaddle at that hospital. Exhausted, we explained that we had just been shown how to swaddle by another nurse and that we were now going to get some sleep. Our new maternity ward nurse awkwardly grumbled something about nurse Ratched and left.

Breast Feeding Nazis

The hospital that we delivered our children at has a “breastfeeding friendly” policy, which in retrospect seems like a poor name for their policy. Jenn and I had always been fully on board with breastfeeding our kids and needed no convincing. Every nurse that walked in was astounded to find her tandem nursing both kids within hours of their birth. However, they were hungry hungry kiddos. Jenn’s milk production wasn’t what it needed to be for two mouths, and so I started making visits to the nursing station to get some formula to help supplement Jenn’s milk. Each time I went I was given what amounted to a stern talking to about how we shouldn’t be using formula, and that you need to increase the demand for milk for the production to go up. Yes, sure, but you see we have two and they are hungry, so give us the formula.

After visiting with the lactation consultant and our original “cool” OB/GYN and explaining how long Jenn was breast feeding every day and how the kids didn’t seem to be getting enough, they 100% agreed with us that the kids needed more, and they told the nurses to lay off and give us formula when we asked. Relieved at the conversation with the “professionals” Jenn and I spent some time enjoying our new family members, which meant that I waited too long and went to get formula from the nurses after a shift change and apparently they left no notes, so again we were given the runaround when asking for formula. They even suggested that we shouldn’t be asking for formula because, since they were giving us such small amounts, they had to throw away most of the bottle of formula they were giving us after a short period of time. Really??? Hey I have an idea, how about you give us a whole bottle?

Jenn was an absolute hero when it came to breastfeeding our kids, and put in a ridiculous amount of time and effort to get her milk production up. The result of the hospital policy, however, was to make me feel like 1) an ignorant parent 2) an incompetent parent and 3) a beggar any time that I asked for formula. What’s worse than that was Jenn was made to feel inadequate as a mother. Ironically, when we finally went home with our kids we found some orange coloured crystals in our son’s diaper and so we called the nurse’s hotline and learned that was a sign that he was dehydrated. Hmmm, how would that happen, oh yeah by not being given the formula he needed in the hospital.

Parting Parental Competency Check

We were only in the hospital for 3 days, but honestly I was so frustrated by the experience that on the final day I was ready to bolt out of there. Hold on though, before you go there is one last hoop for you to jump through. Brought to you by the health care professionals that brought you:

  1. Assisted delivery without discussing the course of action to take in the event of a breech delivery
  2. Breech delivery
  3. Swaddling contradictions
  4. Implied parental incompetence which resulted in #5
  5. Withholding formula to the point of dehydration

So, as our parting gift, we had to demonstrate that we knew how to properly buckle our kids into a car seat. I actually think this is a good idea, but the irony of being evaluated on my ability to perform this task by these people was really frustrating to me.

Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy my birth or postpartum experiences, but I felt significantly better and comfortable in my role as a parent once we got home. I would absolutely love to hear stories from others about how they feel about their birth (dads included) so feel free to make use of the comment section below.

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My Hospital Birthing Experience

On a Monday in early May of 2011 we got the call in the early afternoon that it was time to come to the hospital to have labour induced. Everything seemed so civilized and orderly. We would arrive at the hospital in the early afternoon, induce labour and then after a few days, go home with our new family. Driving to the hospital was like going to the airport for some kind of trip, bags packed and feeling excited. Oh, it was a “trip” alright.

Induction Hormone Injected, Catcher’s Mitt On

Partly because everything seemed so “civil and orderly” as a result of having labour induced and planned out, and partly because of our fast food culture, after the induction hormone had been injected I think I expected a pretty quick delivery to unfold. Don’t get me wrong, we were parents by 9:06 am the next morning which, now I understand, is still actually quite quick, but I didn’t know that when the hormone was first given. So, long story short (and entirely skipping the drama that my wife experienced), we played the waiting game overnight.

We had an amazing nurse with us all night long, and Jenn’s OB/GYN was working overnight. That was great for us, since we had a good relationship with the Dr. and overnight we had grown quite comfortable with the nurse. It was the opinion of our OB/GYN that we could plan for a natural birth because both the twins were head down as we went into this whole process, so things were looking good.

For a little context for those who have never had multiples, if both fetuses are head down when the first child is born, then there is a risk that subsequent fetuses may shift their position and end up becoming breeched births (feet first and not the way they should ideally come out). If this happened, it was the opinion of our OB that it would be safest to deliver the second baby via C-section, as breech births are more of a risk to the fetus. Understandably, this was my wife’s least favourite option because it meant that after delivering, she would be recovering from a natural birth and a C-section.

Back to the story, at 7:00 am, still pregnant, it was shift change at the hospital. Good-bye nice nurse and cool OB/GYN, hello nurse Ratched and unknown OB/GYN. Jenn had been working hard for a while already by this point, but there was no significant change in the progress of the birth, and by 8:30ish, the new Dr. is telling us that it is decision time. Will it be a C-section or an assisted birth using forceps? Without going into the details of the conversation, it was obvious that the new Dr. thought that a C-section was the wrong choice and the assisted birth was the right choice. We were feeling exhausted and had never discussed the details of an assisted birth with our OB. After asking some questions as to why the Dr. thought the assisted birth was the better option, it became apparent that we were annoying her, and so we decided to go with the assisted birth. There was, however, no discussion as to what would happen if the second baby shifted and it came out breech.

The Assisted Birth

A-birth While the hospital staff were prepping themselves and Jenn, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go for the 15 minutes that I was in the “holding tank”. Finally I was let in and things got underway fairly quickly. My son came first, and although they used forceps, the process seemed fairly quick and routine. I was overwhelmed at the sight of my son, who was now an actual little person, not just an idea. Seeing him make his first uncoordinated jerky movements and then hearing his first cry took me on a mental roller coaster ride into the future, imagining some of the life events that were ahead of him and us. It was a truly emotional and eye-opening experience. I had a comfortable intellectualized notion of how I was becoming a father, and seeing my son in front of me forced a new and daunting reality upon me. I was both excited and making the realization that I wasn’t aware how real all of this was.

After my son was born, and before my wife could really even see him, he was taken to another part of the room and they started the work of delivering my daughter. Nothing was said by the medical staff to us about what was happening, but after a minute or so it became apparent to me that my daughter was now in a breech position. The mood had gotten more tense and to make things worse my wife had started throwing up again. Not being able to roll over, Jenn was concerned with choking, and at the same time the OB, in a very urgent tone, started saying that Jenn really had to push now. I remember looking at Jenn and saying with a tone that, from me, meant this was now very serious “you have to push now!” Jenn fully understood how serious I was, but she was in a bout of nausea and she replied “I’m trying!” I felt horrible for Jenn and very powerless and frantic about the situation.

B-O2Four minutes after my son, my daughter was born but the sight was very different. Instead of a healthy bright red crying infant, my daughter was bluish/purple, silent and motionless. Time slowed, it felt like my breath was sucked from my lungs, and for a second time I made the realization that I wasn’t aware how real all of this was. Again, they whisked my second child away to another part of the room and my attention went back to Jenn, who wasn’t aware of everything that I had just seen. I tried to help her through her nausea and simultaneously figure out what was happening with my daughter, and then Jenn asked “how are they?” I put on my best game face and told her they were both fine, then nurse Ratched and I caught one another’s eyes and I could tell that she wasn’t sure either. I told Jenn that I was going to go and take a look at them and that I’d be right back. When I arrived they had just covered my daughter’s mouth with an oxygen mask and she was starting to breath. It was truly amazing to see her colour change from purple to red after only a few breaths. As stressful as it was, it seems this is not uncommon and it was not a big deal for the hospital staff. Our new daughter was evaluated and found to be totally healthy and normal despite her awkward entrance into the world!

Dealing With the Challenges That Twins Present

If I could sum up the most valuable bit of information that I could for parents who are expecting or have already had twins or multiples in a single sentence it would be this. Get your kids on the same sleeping and eating schedule! There we go, that’s easy enough right? A simple, grammatically correct, ten word sentence which contains a clear message. Looks like this parenting gig is going to be smooth sailing. Don’t be ridiculous, it’s not going to be easy at all. In fact, not only is parenting in general not that easy, but following my simple and grammatically correct nugget of wisdom is, itself, going to be harder than it sounds.

The Difficulties With Infants

I remember not really understanding why parenting was going to be so difficult before our twins came along. I heard that infants need about 15 to 16 hours of sleep a day. Before having kids, on a good night I usually slept 7 to 8 hours, so assuming I slept my maximum and my kids slept their minimum, that would leave me with a glorious 7 hours per day of “me” time. What I didn’t realize was that for infants to sleep and eat, it requires a lot of participation from the parents.

The Food Factor

Feeding
Tandem Feeding, Papa Style (my milk production was way down)

Assuming you are breast feeding, the amount of time that it can take to feed your infants can vary quite a bit based on milk production and how well your newborn has taken to feeding. For that reason it makes it difficult to talk specifics regarding the amount of time people spend feeding, but I have heard people talk about spending as little as about 3 hours per day to as many as 6 hours per day. The reason is that, initially, your infant will need to eat about every 2 to 3 hours (day and night) and each time it can take anywhere from about 20 to 45 minutes. In short, feeding your new bundle of sleep deprivation is going to be a very large time sink.

The point here, as it relates to twins, is pretty easy to glean. If you are feeding your twins one at a time, then you will end up spending roughly double the time doing so, and that could be anywhere from about 6 to 12 hours per day. This is a situation that will significantly eat into any “me” time that you thought you were going to get, and therefore, tandem feeding is really something that you should try to establish. It will also set the stage for meals as your twins get older, which will still be a time consuming and attention intensive task. So, anything you can do to coordinate feedings will help you to free up a little more of your precious time.

As I mentioned, my advice may be harder to implement than you realize and these are some of the reasons. It requires a fair bit of coordination and planning to tandem feed your twins. Breast feeding pillows and a helper are great tools to alleviate some of the awkwardness of getting your twins to successfully feed at the same time. The pillows help provide a platform to make it easier on mom’s arms, and the helper can bring the babies one at a time to allow mom to get comfortable and position them correctly one at a time. Getting a single baby to latch to it’s mother’s breast can be tricky enough, but with twins, you may only have one hand available to do any repositioning, but practice will help.

The Sleep Factor

Nap
Naptime

Surely, you may think to yourself, if I can’t catch a break while the little ones are eating, then at least I should be able to take some time for myself when they are napping or sleeping. Well, I can’t speak for every infant on the block, but for us that was patently false. When our kids were infants, initially they would generally fall asleep only if someone was holding them and bouncing, feeding them or if they were in a moving stroller. It would take about 45 minutes of lulling to get our kids to fall asleep, and there were 3 naps per day, plus bedtime, so there goes another 3 hours of your day and this doesn’t even count the two times in the middle of the night that you put them back to sleep after feeding. To be fair though, it didn’t take as much time to get them back to sleep during the night, but could still take 15 minutes each time.

Finally, the last major time sink relating to sleep has to do with their naps. As mentioned earlier, napping required pretty intensive parent participation. After having spent 45 minutes bouncing with them in our arms or walking them in the stroller it was really not worth the gamble of putting them down in their crib because that would likely result in them being roused from their sleep, so not only have you spent about 3 hours getting them to fall asleep during the day, but now you were also committed to walking them in the stroller, or holding them while they sleep which would take up 4.5 to 6 more hours of your day. On the plus side, when bouncing them to sleep and then letting them sleep on your chest, at least you can catch a nap yourself, of course the downside to this is that you are really only catching up on your sleep, and therefore this is not really that precious “me” time that you long for.

With twins, it should be fairly clear that if you don’t get your kids on the same food and sleep schedule, you are going to be run ragged and be out of time to do all of the other things that need to get done during your day. I give my wife, Jenn, full credit for really establishing the nap routine because she was the one that was almost always out with the stroller for long walks during nap time rain or shine. The great thing in our case was that we had met a really great group of new parents through a local parent group and the moms in that group organized a walking group that would meet up for stroller walks and this provided a bit of a social aspect to the napping process.

Sleep, The “Battle” Worth Winning

Early on during our pregnancy, my wife and I decided sleep was a “battle” that we really wanted to win. The fact that we were having twins made sleep quite important for us, and we knew there would be added challenges since we were having two kids at once. We joined a local twin group, and as a bonus there was a guest speaker giving a talk on children’s sleep. The speaker was Wendy Hall, PhD, RN who has done a great deal of research and work on sleep issues for infants and toddlers. We have seen her two times and have followed her suggestions and had a great deal of success in doing so.

I have found a YouTube video of Wendy giving a talk very similar to the ones that we sat in on and thought it was worth sharing. The problem is that the video is 1:10 minutes long and I know that finding that kind of time can be pretty tricky. In this post I have created a breakdown of the topics covered in the video with timestamped links to points in the video where she covers major topics, to try to make it easier to find information on the issues you are most concerned with. If you can find the time, I highly recommend watching the whole video. Let me know what you think of the points made by Wendy and if you have any ideas to contribute to the topic of sleep.

Entire Video

Why is Sleep Necessary?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 2:14 – 3:57)

  • Sleep is essential for developing brains and bodies
  • Increasing rates of children’s emotional and behavioural problems are linked to sleep problems
  • Children with ADHD have higher incidences of sleep problems and shorter sleep duration
  • Sleep loss is implicated in childhood accidents
  • Children have paradoxical reactions to inadequate sleep
  • Children who are over-tired will find it difficult to relax, struggle against going to sleep and have more disrupted sleep during the night

What is Sleep About?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 3:57 – 9:45)

  • Based on circadian and homeostatic (sleep pressure) processes
  • Circadian rhythm incorporates cues from the environment to regulate timing
  • Sleep pressure is relieved by daytime  naps and nighttime sleep
  • Sleep cycles (time 5:50 – 9:45) Important

What Does Sleep Look Like in Children?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 9:45 – 20:11)

What Are Sleep Promoting Strategies?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 20:11 – 24:36)

Sleep Problems and How They Can Be Managed?

Click here to see this portion of the video (time 24:36 – 41:55)

What Are Some Effects of Sleep Problems?

Discussion

Surprise, We’re Having Twins! Part 1

The Story of Getting the News

10-week-ultrasound
10 Week Ultrasound

In November of 2010 Jenn, my wife, had her first ultrasound planned. It was at about ten weeks in to her pregnancy, which is earlier than normal, but we were going to a clinic that we’d never been to and they wanted to date the fetus. Because Jenn would be getting another ultrasound done at 20 weeks, and since it was a tricky day for me to get off work, we agreed that Jenn would go alone to the first ultrasound and I’d join her for the 20 week ultrasound.

After I was finished at work, I went to pick Jenn up from her work. When she got in the car, I saw the large manila envelope in her hand. I remember asking “Are those the ultrasound pictures?” and commenting about how exciting it was to have the pictures. The first thing out of Jenn’s mouth was “Oh, you don’t know the half of it”. -Pause- click, click, click. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Is it twins?” Jenn tries to distract me, I ask two more times, and again she tries to distract me. The Third time finally Jenn says “Yes, we are having twins.”

Before I go on, let me set the stage a little. It was getting dark, and it was raining, I had been at work all day and was fairly tired and just found out that my wife and I were having twins. My first thought when I got the news was “I really should not be driving right now”. I found a place to pull over and park, and my memory is a little fuzzy on the details at this point. I don’t remember when I first looked at the ultrasound pictures, but it was either in the car or in the restaurant that we decided to eat at.

My mind was racing with thoughts, but paralyzed by the magnitude of the news. The pregnancy was planned, but twins were obviously not. This presented a lot of questions that now needed to be addressed. How are we going to afford the added expense? What will happen with childcare? How can both of us maintain our career path with twins coming? The questions went on, but there was also the realization that we were going to have two kids that would almost always be around for each other while they are growing up. They had a built in teammate in life and that was a pretty special thing. Jenn and I had planned on having two children eventually, so this was quite an efficient way of getting things done, but the news still added a fair bit of stress to the situation.

Some Thoughts

People had told me that so much happens once your child is born and you are so short on sleep that you don’t really remember a lot about the experience. The point to be taken from this was to enjoy and remember as much as you can of the early stage of your kids lives. I took this to heart, but thought that I had an ace up my sleeve because I knew that we were always planning on having two kids, so by the second time around I’d have a better understanding of what to expect, so I might be able to get more out of the experience.

Twins didn’t afford me the opportunity to have my second crack at the whole experience of watching my newborn come into the world. At the time this felt like an opportunity lost, but I’m two years along the fatherhood path and now I feel like I have a few thoughts on the topic. 1) I found out that infants really didn’t interest me in the way that they seem to interest others, so honestly I think I would have been worried about having to go through that phase again rather than relishing the idea of getting to do it again. 2) This point ties in with the first point, but l really enjoy my sleep, and generally speaking my kids sleep pretty well now, and I am happy not having to give that up. 3) Even if I did have one child at a time, by the time the second one came along I think the added difficulty of having a toddler running around at the same time would have prevented me from getting any more out of the infant experience than I did the first time around.

The upshot of all this is that I worried about this too much. People were right, the first 3 to 6 months were a haze, but I do remember some great moments with my little ones. Roll with it, you will remember what you remember. Over thinking it may just ruin some of the experience.

Happy Father’s Day!

Twin Difficulty Rating: The 1.6 Factor

1.6-factor
Keep smiling, they can sense fear.

If you or your partner has been diagnosed with twins, then you should probably read this before you lose your shit. First off, remain calm, I’ve got some good news, but don’t get too comfortable, you are having two kids at once! You will be happy to know that having twins is a fully treatable condition and, even better, it has been my experience that having twins is only about 1.6 times more difficult than having a single baby. Of course the bad news is that a multiple of 1.6 still makes it an extra 0.6 times harder than having a single child.

How to Successfully Treat Your Twin “Condition”

Try to prepare yourself mentally. This is a bit of a farce because as much as you think you are prepared for kids (unless you’ve already had one) you are not really ready until it happens. If you are having twins, there is the added “holy shit” factor of feeling way out of your element. Having said that, try to prepare anyways, at least you’ll hear some useful things along the way, even if you don’t know what any of it really means. Do some research on sleep. Try to organize your house a little so that you have some idea of where things are going to go. Put some thought into how you are going to schedule your days after D-day (birth day). Look for twin groups in your area to find other panic stricken parents to share your fears and strategies. I guess you could also try to find a prenatal class that is for parents of multiples, but I think the quality of prenatal classes can be hit and miss. We missed, but on the up side, we met another group of parents to be that we have become friends with.

Another side of mental preparation is to be honest with yourself. A lot of people talk about the “beauty of birth”, the “journey” of pregnancy and other flowery terms to describe what is a pretty traumatic experience for a woman’s body. If that’s how you see pregnancy, then more power to you, but that seemed like an overly simplistic way of seeing pregnancy and that language put me off. I think you will be much better off if you can be honest about the fact that you are not going to like some things about becoming and being a parent. For example, I did not like the first 3 months of being Papa. I didn’t hate it either, but infants really just aren’t my thing. The point is to be honest with yourself and your partner, and don’t feel pressured by everyone to make it sound like having children has turned you into the hippy that you are not.

The 1.6 Factor

  • The good

There are built in efficiencies with twins. If your going to clean a load of puke catcher blankets for one kid, then that means you’re already going to gather the laundry  and head to the washing machine anyways, so why not just do double the amount in one trip? Well guess what, you won the lottery and that is what your life is going to be like with twins, but at least you are doing it more efficiently by raising two kids at once! If your pureeing some food, then puree twice the amount and save on having to clean the kitchen twice. The work involved isn’t quite double what it would be if you were only raising one child, you get the point, right? Having said that, I wouldn’t want triplets!

Another benefit that we stumbled upon pretty early was that once our kids were about 6 or 7 months old, somewhat paradoxically we started getting more spare time during the day than our singleton parent friends because once our kids were sitting up and crawling, they would “play” with each other. Our singleton parent friends found that they could really only ever leave their kids alone for 15 to 20 minutes, whereas we routinely got away with leaving them to play for up to 45 minutes at a time.

  • The Bad

Your plan has just been derailed. You had a concept (even though it was probably wildly inaccurate) of what was going to happen, and now it is about 1.6 times more inconvenient than you were planning. Screw you very much “miracle of birth”.

Oh yeah, and how the hell am I going to afford this? That is another concern, but don’t worry, there is a whole other post in the making for how to plan for the money that this will cost. Even though there are some pretty good money saving strategies, it is still going to cost more.

In summary: If you chose to end your former life by having kids, then you may as well have twins because it is slightly more efficient than pumping them out one at a time. What are your thoughts?