Tuesday, September 22, 2009

4 Months - Is it possible the trenches are getting less muddy?

All those well-wishers might actually be right
You know how everyone always says "it will get easier" and no matter how much you want to believe them you don't really feel it? That is, until it starts to get a little easier, which maybe it has. Life is still crazy, but we sleep for slightly longer stretches (and would more if Ian hadn't responded to sleep training with a giant infant "screw you" (suddenly deciding to wake a midnight after weeks of sleeping until 3am). Also, now that they have shown themselves ready for some more consistent nap scheduling, the babies are more fun to be around when they are awake.  

We see this all the time

Earlier this month my mother came to visit for two weeks to help me deal with the transition from having Chris around all the time to being with the kids without him. I learned that the problem is not so much being alone with the babies (though this is a challenge as at 3 months they were not yet sleep trained and thus not napping on their own) but being with the babies and Ada. Even when there is a second adult in the mix this is hard, and when I am with her and the babies I often end up in tears. This is fantastic for all parties concerned. Can't really respond to Ada's "Mama, why are you sad?" with "because you are driving me up a wall, kid."

Also earlier this month Ada got sick, which meant the babies got sick and finally I got sick. Chris managed to dodge the illness, but I licked his pillow and all the coffee mugs, so we'll see what happens. We also traveled to San Francisco for our friends' wedding. While I can now say that traveling with twin infants is possible and maybe even worthwhile, it is certainly not easy. People were very nice about the babies, from the flight attendant who (without me asking her to) reseated my cross-aisle neighbor so that Chris could sit by me, to the car rental woman who took one look at our babies and upgraded us to a bigger car. Or maybe she was looking at our pile of bags and crap. For a two day trip we had two checked bags, a breast pump, a double stroller (plus two car seats), a diaper bag and a purse. As crazy as it sounds for such a short trip, the stroller was totally worth bringing. We stayed in the Mission, where parking is iffy and strolling the carseats to the car and back was way better than shlepping them by hand. And speaking of nice, our brother-in-law Anthony gave up his apartment to us and camped out at a neighbor's while we were in town, which was especially kind given how busy he was that weekend. (He catered the night-before the wedding party.)

Mira, almost 4 months

I got carried away
While my mother was here I hired a mother's helper, to deal with the fact that I have two arms and one (tired) back, which is not enough body to carry around two 15 pound babies. I put an ad on Craigslist that got me a ton of responses, from a 13 year old girl to women with masters degrees and decades of infant care experience. (If I needed evidence of the impact of our crappy economy, I got it in the education level of some applicants.) Also, after we saw a woman wearing one while we were out to lunch, my mom got me a great new sling. This brings our baby conveyances up to 6 carriers and 4 strollers. (Chris has a sling and a baby bjorn and I have 2 slings, a borrowed moby wrap and an ergo carrier.)  This new one is a maya-wrap type made by an outfit in Los Angeles that makes their slings with great fabrics. Mine is a black and cream bamboo print with red on the reverse. Mira is sleeping in it as I type.

I can see you, and I know what you do (with apologies to Devo)
And where's Ian? Lying on a play mat, holding on to one toy while kicking another with his feet. Earlier this month the babies figured out that they could use those things at the end of their arms to grab and hit things, and wow was that a fun revelation for them. My mom, on seeing Ian do this: "I think he's very talented." No doubt.

Ian and Mira also finally started to really notice one another. Or rather, Ian finally started to notice Mira, and she responded by looking at him again. For a while at about 3 months, Mira was interested in Ian, who was oblivious to the attention. After repeated failed attempts to get his attention, Mira noticed she was getting nowhere with Ian and stopped trying to catch his eye. A couple of weeks later they both simultaneously turned to one another and liked what they saw. Much cooing and giggling ensued. The rest of us are highly amused by this and now place them face to face whenever we can. I found some used bumbo seats and sit them facing one another in them. Hey, it is adorable and if it buys us 5 uninterrupted minutes to eat breakfast, all the better.

Ian is Hilarious to Mira
Ian's hand-chewing is hilarious to Mira...

Ahhh, I've heard that one before
...that is, until she realizes he is a one-note

I spent the past month crossing the days off in anticipation of reaching Ian and Mira's 4 month mark. Then on Friday I realized we could just as well start sleep training them now instead of waiting for their actual anniversary date. We trained Ada with the "extinction" method (put the drowsy baby in bed and walk away, letting her cry for 45 minutes or until she gives up and goes to sleep). This worked well for her, and we "chose" this method in response to her having cried for HOURS in our arms. There is nothing like being inches from a writhing, screaming baby for extended periods to make sleep training seem like the easy choice. With Ian and Mira, we did not have the motivation of ceaseless crying. Wanting the babies to be able to soothe themselves, we have been using a less intense version of sleep training. Get the baby calm and droopy, place her in bed and then leave after snuggling and patting and all that. If the baby cries, wait five minutes before returning and doing whatever you have to calm her (including picking her up, rocking her, shushing, etc). Then put the once-again droopy baby back in bed. Now wait 10 minutes before responding to her cries. Then 15. The first night Mira fell asleep during the 10 minute round, Ian during the 15 minute. By the third night neither baby cried at all when put in bed. They just mootched around a bit and went to sleep. No doubt they are just setting us up for a fall. I hear twins like to conspire like that.

The boys

One important note on sleep training is that any success we are having is thanks to Chris. He is so much better at saying "hey, let's try this" without getting locked into what we have been doing and what could happen and and and. Before trying anything new I have to wring my hands and discuss options and fret a lot. I'm not saying I'm a failure as a parent, but Chris is so much better at this kind of parental problem solving than I am. It almost makes up for his tendency to leave his dirty socks around the house.

Thankfully, No
The other day Mira and I were at our local play space/swap group when I ran into a woman I'd met there before. She cooed at Mira and noted that the last time she'd seen me I had been pregnant. I said something like, well, I was pretty big, since I was carrying two. She looked at Mira and then looked stricken.

"Did the other one not make it?" she asked.

"No, he's with his father," I said, to her visible relief.

My first thought was that her question was an odd (and very Portland-y overly intimate) thing to say, but Chris reminded me of someone he knows who did suffer the loss of one of his twins. I think I have blocked out the memory of this man and his wife, both because it is scary to think about such things happening, but also because thinking of them reminds me that I was at one time jealous of them.
During one of our failed rounds of IVF we ran into this couple at the clinic. When Chris later told me that the wife was pregnant with twins, I felt sorry for myself, knowing we'd been going through the same thing at the same time. Now I wonder whether the woman might think of us and feel that same sadness. From my current vantage point, her loss seems immeasurably harder than mine, but thinking that does nothing for either of us.

I am not sure what I want to say about this. Maybe I'd better just go kiss my babies.

** * ** * ** * **

Overall, this month was a series of moments in which I was despondent followed by elated followed by despondent... Karen has reminded me that any moment is just that, and that I can expect a happy feeling to be followed by a hard one, and vice versa. Knowing this does not make those hard moments much easier to bear, but neither does it much dampen the good moments either.


  1. So very glad to hear things are getting easier for you. It seemed to get easier for us not at a time milestone but at a sleep milestone. Something about more rest really helps with the attitude.

    Plus really is there anything cuter than when twins start to "see" each other? Despite years of wonderful memories, one of top 3 favorite moments with my boys was hearing Alex laugh for the very first time at something Nate did. Still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it!

  2. They look great, and I'm glad you're on an upswing on the roller coaster.

    Before trying anything new I have to wring my hands and discuss options and fret a lot.

    AHAHAHA I think this is why we work in policy. I am the same way.


  3. I have to say with my youngest 4months was my favorite time during the first year. He was so happy and learning things right and left. He would get so excited with nothing more then a smile from mama. Now he gets excited over a new Xbox game!
    Where did the time go?

  4. Hey Nora I forgot to add....Happy New Year!

  5. I'm still waiting for things to get easier...at least the collic is gone for me. Your babies are too cute!

  6. What beautiful children. I hope to see them soon. I have a PASSPORT so in theory we could. I was just thinking about it today and will ask Clara about November. And, I might bring little Nora because hopefully that would give a bit for you and for her.

    But.. I'll test out the passport on Hawaii first!

    I'm so proud to know a mother like you and grateful to the universe for your family. Take care everyone.

    Hope you had a happy holiday.

  7. Whoa - if you actually wrote all of that post in one sitting, I will be in awe of you! I was cracking up when I read that part about the babies noticing each other :)

  8. Great post - I wish I wrote a few more like this one. Maybe I'll get my act together ;)

    Isn't it fun when they start noticing each other and doing stuff. I'm enjoying them so much more now instead of being wrapped up in the just getting by phase.

    Love the bumbo photos! :)

  9. I totally get the crying when dealing with the oldest (5 yo) and baby 7 month old. It is so hard trying to be accomodating to the oldest, while also keeping in minds the limitations of the youngest. You can't make everyone happy...which is one of the hardest concepts of being a parent of two or more kids. Sounds like things are on the upswing! Love reading your blog : )

  10. I have lots to say, but tests to grade, so for now, a question: Could Ian look more like Chris? We'll have to wait until his eyebrows grow in. :)

  11. Penny - there are days I would deny that things have gotten any easier. It varies.

    Mo-Wo - visit, visit, visit!

    Laura - the monthly posts aren't one sitting deals. I start thinking about them a week or so before I want to put one up, which means I then have to edit if a developmental milestone changes again between writing and posting.

  12. Here's to having a great partner. I also fret, weigh options, anticipate outcomes - so much that sometimes it seems ridiculously hard to take action.

  13. Good luck with the sleep training :) That's pretty much how we did it too. (Our twins are 12 now and sleep through the night beautifully ;)
    When they were 4 mos, we took them to Hawaii, from Ptld, to visit the grandparents. Traveling with tiny twins is not easy! Sounds like you did great.