Sunday, February 27, 2011

A pretty bow and tie

After months of not blogging, I doubt anyone comes here anymore. But, in case anyone still checks in, or gets updates automatically through an RSS feed or something, I thought I should at least put in a final entry - sort of a pretty bow and tie to our whole story and many blog posts! I hated to have a negative breast feeding post be the last one.

I stopped breastfeeding at 12 weeks. Ironically, the last couple of weeks of it I was working hard to try to increase my supply because I had decided I wanted to give it a better try. I took lots of herbs, pumped more often, and did everything I read...but nothing helped. I had been sick with various colds for weeks and it really just killed my supply. I finally had to let go of it all, but the day I quit was extremely hard. I cried the whole day, feeling I had let my baby down completely. I realize in retrospect that I just could never have managed to breastfeed all the time with two other kids to take care of. I'm not sure how anyone does that, but it would have all been too much for me. That said, I'm proud that I did it for three months - it was MUCH longer than I would have ever thought.

Alexa is an absolute joy. She is the kindest, sweetest imaginable soul. She almost never cries and smiles all the time. She was sleeping 12 hours at night by 9 weeks. Every day, every time I look at her, she melts me. I can't pick her up without kissing her HUGE cheeks, and she is so ticklish that it usually makes her laugh. She delights everyone she sees! When Bryan's parents have the twins, I take Alexa to the store with me. People are enamored by her wherever we go because they always see her smiling at them as they pass by and then back up to talk to her. She is a very, very kind little baby who seems to just love everyone.

Here is a little video I took of her many smiles. (Ignore my annoying baby talk voice! lol)

She really put on the weight after I stopped breastfeeding - she went from the 25th percentile in weight to the 80th by the next appointment! She eats 4 bottles of 10 ounces per day now, at 5.5 months. Just like Nathan at this age, she LOVES to eat. Her eyes roll into her head when she starts sucking. lol

Having Alexa has been a vastly different experience compared to the twins as babies. In retrospect I can see just how overwhelming having baby twins was. I didn't know at the time what to compare it to, but now I see! I could never focus too much on either Nathan or Kenna INDIVIDUALLY because I always had to take care of them both. The best analogy I can come up with is that with twins you are always looking "between" them and not focusing on one individually. Plus, I knew nothing about babies so everything was about me trying to figure out what to do. This time, I can actually focus on one baby and I know what I'm it's a totally different experience to just be able to enjoy these baby months in a different way.

Some updates now on the twins!

Kenna continues to be mommy's little smarty pants! As of this week, at 2 years and 2 months, she can read all upper case letters, identify 20 states on the map, count to 16, and identify all shapes and colors. Her memory is just incredible. I only started teaching them letters and states a month ago. I've been showing her how to sort of "read" the state names and she is already trying to sound things out. For example, she searches for Ohio and points out O, then hi, then O and says "O-hi-o". Same with "I - O - WA" and "U-TAH". So I just started teaching her the letter sounds this week because she now understands that letters have sounds and she can read by herself when she learns them. She is VERY independent, so anything that is something she can do "by herself" is hugely exciting for her. One of her most common phrases is "No, Kenna do it!" She is still an anxious little girl in many ways, but it's just something we'll have to keep working on. (After a thunder storm that happened one night, she would talk about the scary thunder daily for a while.) In any case, Kenna is a real sweetheart, very affectionate and full of joy.

Nathan is truly a boy's boy! He loves to run and jump up and down, up and down, up and down ... all the time! He has tons of energy and a sense of humor already. He doesn't take anything seriously - he just wants to laugh, run around, and enjoy being chased. While Kenna will be looking intently at something new to learn, Nathan will be hiding behind the curtains hoping to start a round of hide and seek. He has a certain joy about him that when he starts laughing sometimes he can't catch his breath! I do my best to encourage him to learn the things Kenna is learning, but it's a bit like strapping down a running tiger. :) Nonetheless, he is up to 10 letters, 11 states, all his colors and most of his shapes (the circle mystifies him!). Nathan reminds me not to take things too seriously. Sometimes when something has totally annoyed me he will say something that just cracks me up. He seems to know already when someone needs to smile. :)

Thinking back to when I started blogging, before our IVF cycle that resulted in Nathan and Kenna, it's hard to imagine how vastly different my life is today. I can't imagine life without all three of our kids. Each one was a miracle in his/her own way. The absolute heart wrenching pain that I had throughout all those failed IVFs is something I won't forget. I wish I could go back and save myself of that - tell my old self that it was all going to work out. Not only that it was going to work out that we had kids, but that we had the awesome opportunity to have twins, then I would have the opportunity to experience pregnancy and have Alexa too. It's an overwhelmingly wonderful end to our infertility journey. I sometimes feel guilty that it all worked out so perfectly - like something awful must be ahead because we can't get so lucky. I NEVER thought I would be the "lucky" one. But what I would say is this...

It certainly didn't all happen because of anything I did. I know it is only by the grace of God that, for some reason I will never know, we were blessed in this way. I never trusted in God that it would all work out; instead I spent my time being angry at God. I can't look back and proudly say that I put it all in God's hands. No, not at all. I did not deserve these blessings that came to us. I often wonder why God chose to be so gracious in spite of my lack of faith. I marvel that after we were given our precious Kenna and Nathan, God went even FURTHER to add Alexa to our lives when we didn't even try. It's almost like God was just smiling at it all, wanting to make sure we didn't miss the point that his grace is solely at his discretion. For that reason, Alexa's middle name is Grace. Without even thinking about it, I often find myself actually calling her Grace in special, quiet moments like bed time. I see her beautiful smile beaming up at me and can't help but see her as a direct embodiment of the lesson of grace in my life. And with that, I will leave you with pictures of all three of my amazing blessings:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My breastfeeding manifesto.

I will be blunt: I really, really, really dislike it.

I have spent at least 90% of my waking time since Alexa was born thinking about one of these things:

1. Dreading the next feed.
2. Wondering if breastmilk can really be so different than formula.
3. Going back and forth on whether I can commit to this for even one more day.
4. Deciding that anyone who enjoys this must be crazy. :) (I have lots of friends who enjoy it and are not crazy...I'm just saying that I'm having trouble seeing how that is possible. lol)
5. Thinking of a million different scenarios to make this work between pumping and breastfeeding rather than just breastfeeding.
6. Being oh so bitter that the world has sufficiently produced this "breast is best" thing to the point I'm terrified to stop because the guilt will be overwhelming.

As I've googled all kinds of things about breastfeeding I have come across message board posts that amaze me. People go to ENORMOUS lengths to breastfeed. I have no issues that make me hate it - my supply seems to be fine and Alexa latches and feeds fine - and I still don't like when I read about the things people do to make it work when it otherwise doesn't, I am just amazed. I have been searching for research studies that support the mania around breastfeeding and truth be told, I can't find the wealth of evidence that would match the enormous lengths people are going to to avoid formula. Yes, I believe that breastmilk is beneficial and sure it's probably better than formula. But is this something that really warrants people being miserable while trying to breastfeed for months on end? I just can't imagine.

Friends keep telling me to wait until 6 weeks to quit because it gets easier. I just hit 3 weeks and to think of doing this for another 3 weeks makes me want to roll around on the floor and pull my hair out. :) And then I think about what could change that much in 3 weeks from now that would make me feel differently. I know that babies eat more quickly and less frequently and those are two major issues for me right now. How on earth can I continue feeding a baby every 2 hours during the day for 30-40 minutes at a time when I have two older kids to take care of? It's not fair to them. I keep trying to imagine how I would feel if a feed took 10 minutes max and was only happening 4 times a day and twice at night (this is what the twins did on formula about 6 weeks). PERHAPS that would be manageable?! I just don't know. And I really don't know if I can make it to 6 weeks to find out.

Here is why I don't like breastfeeding:

--Alexa is completely dependent on me for food. I have to pump or breastfeed around the clock. I just can't stand not having the freedom to be away if needed. I feel so tied down by breastfeeding because anytime I would want to go somewhere with the twins I have to think about when her next feed is and how I can breastfeed. With formula, you pack a bottle. I know people say breastfeeding is easier because there are no bottles to clean and pack, but OMG I would clean a million bottles a day to avoid having to sit still all day long while I have a baby sucking on my breast for an ambiguous amount of time and for an ambiguous amount of milk.
--It takes way too long per session. 30-40 minutes. I know some babies speed up but not all. I know people who are still doing this at 6 months for that long! Seriously, can't even fathom that.
--It is way too often. She wants to feed every two hours and sometimes more. At night it's exciting when she goes 3 hours. :( :( :(
--The sensation of breastfeeding is something I find to be...I don't know the word...just not enjoyable. It doesn't hurt anymore, but it's definitely not relaxing or anything. I stare at the clock the whole time. It's NOT a bonding experience. I'm so excited when I pump and give her the bottle because it's so relaxing, she looks up into my eyes rather than straight at my breast, and I can just enjoy her and snuggle. When I breastfeed I feel like an animal. :( It seems gross to me.
--I have no idea how much she is getting to eat so there is no way to regulate it right now. With formula, I could pour exact amounts and regulate her eating and sleeping.
--The feeling of full breasts. I thought that was temporary but now I'm learning that you always have the sensation of milk filling up when it's time to feed again. I just find that to be bothersome. I can't even sleep on my side at night. Not to mention the fact that you leak so much you have to wear breast pads. It's uncomfortable and annoying.

I considered exclusively pumping but after a lot of research and trying to pump and feed even a couple of times in a row I realize that it's not a "time saver". It would be just as hard if not more so because you basically have to replace each breastfeeding session with a pumping session. That doesn't help when Nathan and Kenna are anxiously awaiting time with me.

So here I am. If I stop breastfeeding, tons of guilt for pulling away something that is really good for Alexa. If I keep breastfeeding, continued frustration and the impossibility of taking care of 3 kids under 2 at the same time (I have a lot of help right now because of my c section lifting restrictions but at 6 weeks I'll be back to my regular schedule with all of them again). If I exclusively pump, the only thing I gain is not having to breastfeed directly, and it would take even more time. Combined breastfeeding and pumping doesn't help much because I still have the issues of not enough time during the day to do it! Where does this leave me?

After three weeks of processing this I think I have decided on another option - pumping and formula combined. I think at this point, given all the issues above (and MOST importantly I should say I'm concerned about how much breastfeeding time takes away from Nathan and Kenna during the day), I have decided I'm OK with aiming for Alexa to have half breastmilk and half formula. That way she still gets the benefits, I won't feel guilty for pulling the plug, and I can feed bottles during the daytime hours, which is the big concern. Taking an average of 30 ounces a day that she'll be eating in the next 5 months or so, that means I want to pump 15 ounces. Right now I can pump 3 or 4 ounces every 2 or 3 hours. I'm hoping that if I pump 4 times per day I won't lose so much supply that I can't meet the 15 ounces. I can easily pump at 6:30 am (before the kids get up), 12:30 pm (when the kids go to nap), 6:30 pm (when the kids are down for the night) and 9 pm (when I go to bed). This seems to solve all the problems, as long as supply doesn't tank too much.

The question that remains is when to start this. I know if I cut back too soon it could be risky with the supply being too fragile. I know if I don't cut back soon enough I will lose more precious time with Alexa being distracted by not wanting to breastfeed. I know that I have exactly 3 more weeks of the extra help with Nathan and Kenna that allows me to continue breastfeeding so often and long and I need to get this squared away by the time that ends. Right now I just want to make it to one month (one more week) because that was my minimum goal to begin with. After that I think it will be day by day. I would love to get to 6 weeks to have the opportunity to see if it does get better, and maybe going day by day I'll get there. But no matter how much better it gets, breastfeeding just will never be something I enjoy doing. Hopefully with the plan of half formula/half breastmilk I can feel like I'm doing the best possible given our situation.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Introducing Alexa Grace!

We just got home yesterday so this is my first chance to post...Alexa Grace was born on September 14 at 10:11 am via c-section. :) She weighed 6 pounds 8 ounces, was 20 inches long, and has quite a bit of very dark hair! (Nathan and Kenna both have/had very light hair!)

I'm totally and completely head over heels in love with her. :)

I haven't even pulled pictures off my camera yet so I will have to post later with the pics and birth story. In the meantime, my c-section recovery is going pretty horribly. The first couple of days actually weren't so bad and then everything got worse. I didn't expect that. I pretty much am dealing with every single thing that "may" happen after a c section with the exception of incision infection: My body is completely swollen, I have a horrible back ache that makes it unbearable to walk without heavy pain meds, my stomach feels like it will fall out unless I wear some kind of brace, it has hurt terribly to urinate ever since they took the catheter out and I have extremely painful breast engorgement.

I've been trying to breastfeed but it's overwhelmingly painful despite the fact that probably 15 nurses and lactation consultants have assured me I'm doing it right. Right now I've resorted to just pumping for a while and I'll decide later if I want to try to feed directly. I am producing a ton of milk so I definitely don't want to just throw in the towel without giving it to her. But I started dreading every feeding because of the pain so I decided it's just not worth it to put myself through that in the midst of everything.

I will post more later but right now am just not up to much. I still am glad that I chose the c section because in the chance that an induction would have led to this and recovery would have been even worse, I couldn't have survived it!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time change...

My doctor just called and she was able to get the c section moved to 9:30 tomorrow instead of 5:30. I guess no one wants a 5:30 c section because you have to wait all day and be hungry! I was a little surprised at first because at this point any change is going to throw me off but I think it's good...I won't have all that time to sit and obsess. We have to be there at 7:30. Ahhhhhhh!

My last full day pregnant today. It's hard to believe that after all this, the baby will be here tomorrow. I'm desperately trying to be calm and brave today. But it is 7 am and the anxiousness is already starting to set in. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Bryan and I were talking over dinner last night about how this is one of the few pretty major surgeries in the world where you are actually awake for it. That is creepy.

I've read so much that I think I pretty much know what to expect at this point. It's not that type of unknown that scares's the unknown of MY reaction to it all. As I tossed and turned last night I was thinking about that; the fact that most of my fear at this point is fear of my own thoughts and behaviors tomorrow! Basicaly, WILL I PANIC DURING THE C SECTION?! (Leading to them having to knock me out and I'll miss the birth?) That should make it seem very easy to say, "well then, I'm in control! I can CHOOSE to not be anxious!" And believe me, I am trying to "make that choice" today. The fact that I'm not running around like a total crazy person is a testament to the fact that I have somehow successfully supressed natural anxiety. :)

Tomorrow the kids leave for Bryan's parents' house around 9:30 am and we don't leave for the hospital until 2. Those 4.5 hours will be the longest of my life. But at least the peak of this mountain is tomorrow and even with a difficult recovery from a c section, everything is leading downhill from there.

Sometime this week I hope to be able to post an announcement before I get home from the hospital. I look forward to being at that point. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pictures - 21 Months

(There is an update post below this one.)

First, here is the official "40 weeks pregnant" picture (well, technically 39 weeks and 6 days...yesterday at the beach). Is there a baby or a balloon under my shirt?

This is how N and K feel when mommy spends too long shopping at Costco.

Learning to hold hands for the first time - K, N and friend Elisabeth.

Nathan and Kenna Update - 21 Months

First, look over at my ticker - today is my due date! When you get a due date when you are first pregnant, I think most people assume the baby will come BY that date. Sort of an expiration date like on a loaf of bread. :) Unfortunately I'm still baking! So postponing my c section a week in the hope of labor didn't lead to the hopeful outcome BUT it was a really good thing because 1) it gave me time to feel better about the decision and 2) it gave me time to recover a bit from my cold. I'm still sick and will still have lingering cold symptoms on Tuesday but it will not be anything like it would have been last Tuesday. So I'm very grateful for that.

In the meantime, it's time for a 21 month old update. The twins turned 21 months last week. I mentioned this in the past, but I've really noticed that babies/toddlers really seem to go through major developmental spurts every three months. I have found that again to be true at this point - the difference between 18 months and 21 months is huge, and I've seen most of that change just in the last 2 or 3 weeks.


Nathan has totally and suddenly come into his own verbally in the last month. It's like a language explosion for him! I realized last month that whenever I ask them a question, it's always answered by Kenna and then we move on. "Do you guys want milk now?" "Yes" (Kenna) "OK, let's have milk then." I always chalked up Nathan's lack of responses in those areas to the fact that he was just slower to talk than his sister and Kenna LOVES to talk. But then I started realizing that he has no incentive to communicate responses because Kenna does it all for "them". Not only did this mean that he rarely answered a question directed at the two of them, it also formed a bad habit in that even when something was asked of him specifically he didn't really pay attention and just stayed focused on whatever he was doing. I immediately tried something new after realizing this and started always requiring an answer from Nathan. In cases where it was a question to both of them, after Kenna answered I said, "And Nathan, (repeat question)?" At first I had to really get him to look at me so he would realize I was requiring an answer. But literally after a couple of days he started answering questions on his own, no prompting, even when Kenna did too. And more importantly, he quickly became more aware and responsive when I was talking to him. It has been like night and day. He started using tons of new words, points out things wherever we go, tells me about things we read in books, etc. I don't know how much of this is due to the fact it was "just his time" but it sure did coincide with my change in "requiring" his communication. It was probably some of both. But I have felt really bad about not realizing it sooner...I feel like it's one of my worst parenting failures. :(

So the big news for Nathan is this communication explosion. I love hearing him talk and finally hearing so much about what goes on in his head! He has started to put two words together too, at the same time as Kenna. I assumed he would follow her development curve with all this language stuff and do that later, but he has started putting words together at exactly the same time. They have this little fall book about finding a pumpkin and he asks for it by name "pumpkin book!". They LOVE this book. On each page you look for the pumpkin but it isn't there until the end. So you keep asking the question and the answer is "nooooooo..." Nathan is gleeful about saying "nooooooo" and throughout the day I can ask him silly questions with that as the answer and he replies through sweet little laughs "noooooo". I love that!

Nathan seems to really have a sense of humor developing. He says things and then just starts laughing. One "joke" he likes to make is about enchiladas. He and Kenna both LOVE enchiladas when we go out to eat. They call them "ladas". They associate them with one particular place we go often and know immediately that's what they'll have (and can hardly wait). But when we go to other places, after we get them in high chairs, Nathan will say "ladas! Rice!" and laugh heartily, knowing we aren't at that place he knows! It's so funny to see him "make a joke". He also says it at breakfast sometimes and thinks it is so funny while we are eating oatmeal. "Ladas!"

Other random things Nathan enjoys right now:
--Emptying out boxes and sitting in them
--Climbing up playground equipment in order to go down big slides
--"Sharing" the foods he doesn't like as much with Kenna (he likes to pick out broccoli pieces and hand them to Kenna, saying "share!")
--The play box of kitchen utensils (plastic toys, not real ones!) - he gets it out first things every day
--Sleeping with TWO stuffed used to be his one favorite stuffed animal but it was getting so dirty that grammy and papa ordered a replacement one for when we needed it. After that he started needing to sleep with BOTH of them after seeing they weren't one and the same. :)
--Climbing on anything and everything
--Putting things away...if it's out of place, it MUST be put back
--Immediately saying "hug" when he falls
--His "papa" (Bryan's dad)...when the doorbell rings, he shouts, "papa!" every time. Randomly throughout the day he will start talking about papa. Sometimes while driving he says "papa". The other day was the first time he said he loved someone unprompted and he said "I love papa".


Just like with Nathan, Kenna has had a language explosion in the last couple of weeks...beyond what has already been a really incredible vocabulary. Every day she says new things that take me by surprise and she is getting really good at putting words together. She says things like "get it", "sit down", "lie down", "Nathan sad", "mommy sick" (while I have had a cold), "daddy working", etc. I think full sentences are just around the corner!

Kenna's French is also coming along really well. She knows about 15 animals in French, several body parts, several foods and many day to day words. She seems to really enjoy saying words in both languages and appears to grasp that there are two ways to say anything. She'll point at milk and say "lait! milk!" for example. Or in word books with animals, she will go through and point at them in English then tell me each one's word in French. She asks for her French books in French (i.e., by French title)! Bryan's dad commented the other day that he doesn't hear her/them say French words and was wondering if I was still talking to them in French. It's funny - I think she realizes that I'm the one who speaks this "other" way that she is learning and only uses the words with me. I never see her using the words with Bryan or anyone else. And I've observed that she uses some Spanish words with our nanny (she comes one day a week and speaks some Spanish to them, but not 100%)...though she never says anything in Spanish to me. I actually saw one day that our nanny was fully asking some questions in Spanish to Kenna and she responded with a Spanish word! I had no idea she was learning so much Spanish! I'm so fascinated by all of this - that she doesn't mix languages and knows who speaks what. It's really cool. Nathan understands some of the basic French instructions I give and a few basic words but doesn't show any interest like Kenna. It's clear that interest level impacts learning hugely at this point (any point I suppose). For him to learn, I would need to be much more fluent so that it's part of his every day life. With Kenna, she loves to memorize and use books, so that's perfect for my level of French to help her (I have a pretty huge vocabulary and basic conversational skills, but to just seamlessly incorporate it all day long wouldn't be possible).

One big developmental change for both of them lately is that they have learned their shapes and can easily put the shapes into shape sorters (lids with the shape hole cut out). A month ago they would get so frustrated with it and scream. Now they know what the shapes are called and can identify which hole they go into on first try usually. It seemed to happen over night!

Kenna is trying to figure out numbers. Anytime there is more than one of something, it's two. If there are lots of ducks at the park, there are "two ducks!" But I can't get her to understand there is a word for when there is only one of something. Both she and Nathan will carry two of something around and say "two (whatevers)". A good technique for calming Kenna has been to tell her we are counting to ten for her to get self control and if she has not calmed down she'll go to time out. She tries to count along when we get to 6...she says, "6, 8, 10"! Bryan says she just prefers to show us that she knows even numbers already. :)

I would be remiss to not mention that Kenna has been EXTREMELY difficult in the last two weeks. Like we have never seen before. Like a poster child for the "Terrible Twos". I sort of assume that a lot of kids get like this at some point but this was SUDDEN and we can't figure out what triggered it. I'm working on different discipline techniques to see what is going to be best to manage this. It's been better for a couple of days so I'm hopeful. Before that, she had started to throw things ALL THE TIME, she was hitting at her toys and Nathan, screaming any time you said no, and all kinds of other lovely behaviors. Not a good time to push mommy to the breaking point when mommy is 39 weeks pregnant with a cold. I'm quickly seeing that she thrives off seeing that she made you angry, even when she is the one receiving punishment. I have *completely* reeled that in for the last couple of days by never looking angry and just swiftly putting her in time amount or holding her hands down. It seems to be working well (the lack of visible anger combined with very swift discipline - NO warnings - she is asked once to do whatever and if she does it again, immediate discipline). I can't believe a tiny child would be enjoying the power from seeing that she made someone very angry, but I'm starting to see that was the case here that augmented a bad snowball of behavior. So we're both working on it. :)

Despite this, she is still a very affectionate little girl and every night at bed time must give each of us and Nathan multiple kisses. She gets very upset if Nathan is already in his crib and she hasn't had enough kisses! "Kiss! Kiss!" We have been trying to teach them to say "I love you" for a while, and they are getting better at pronouncing it/repeating it. But yesterday I said "I love you" to Kenna and she turned around while climbing stairs and said (unprompted) "love you!" :)