April 24, 2014

21 Weeks!

We had our first visit to hospital this past weekend followed by a fantastic visit with Dr. M. The girls are each a pound right now and looking beautifully healthy. I'm feeling ok, have been battling headaches here and there, my back is starting to ache all the time and I'm definitely starting to feel the extra 20 lbs. I thought I was in preterm labor due to a few changes in my symptoms last Friday.  I won't bore you with the details but in the end it turned out I was just feeling kicks (not contractions) and needed to rest more. It was a good experience although I did feel kind of silly! But then today we got to see some amazing pics of our baby girls!

April 21, 2014

FIAO 3.1 - Even though we ain't got money...

It's a good thing C and I love each other so much because in a few weeks we will be down to one very modest income and savings between the two of us. My boss and I have decided to cut me back to an "as-needed" basis on May 16th (I will sub if needed until the babies come) and the plan is to grin and bear it until the twins are old enough/I feel sane enough for me to start watching children in our home. This chapter in FIAO is about how we made this decision and later I will let you know how it's going. I will share what works for us and what hurts us as well as any tips I learn along the way. I already know that it is not going to be easy as we both have personal debt, I have student loan debt, plus our cars and household expenses. We are living pretty bare bones as it is and I have cut my spending down and been saving the surplus. I have completed budget plans and we will need to rely on our savings and the (already offered) help of family for a few months until some of our debt is paid off. It's going to be really hard at first but thankfully I am gifted with a versatile skill (people will always need childcare) and a great support system.

As far as why on earth anyone would make this decision upon finding out they're expecting twins, well there were a few considerations for us.  We knew pretty much the minute we found out about the twins that I would stay home with them. Due to the nature of home daycare my boss cannot give me free or reduced childcare and still pay me enough to work there. So if I went back with the girls I would essentially be paying my boss back a huge chunk of my paycheck in order to watch my own kids.  That's not happening.  I could just go get another job but I could never, ever, pay someone else to watch my kids when all I've ever done is watch other people's kids. That just seems unnatural and as hard as it will be I know this is the right choice.

As for when to leave, that was not as easy to decide.  Ultimately it came down to preventing problems before they arise and taking care of myself. I also did not want to wait until, God forbid, something bad happened and then H was left to find someone without me. I need to be giving myself the best care possible and to be honest working in child care is miserable right now. I can't pick any of the kids up anymore, I'm exhausted after half an hour of playtime and my aches, pains and heartburn are making even the most fun activities hard to get through. I haven't changed a bad diaper in months because of the nausea and I am so germ-phobic that I'm avoiding all accidents, blow-outs and nose-faucets. Essentially I am being paid (very well for home daycare I might add) just to sit there and watch.  It's no fun for me, no fun for my kids and certainly more difficult on my assistant and boss.

So in the end I've decided to leave not only before anything bad happens (e.g. bed rest, preterm labor, TTTS) but also before I become completely useless at work.  Just this past week I was up the entire night with a killer headache. I took the morning off to catch up on sleep and just as I was going to get up the headache came back along with a bad nosebleed. I called my OB who said it was just hormones,  dry nasal tissue and increased blood volume. I was fine but there was no way I was going to work feeling that way.  I don't get sick or vacation time so when I need to take time I am losing income anyway.  At least if I'm unemployed we will qualify for WIC and other benefits while we need them. I am not a mooch and I do not condone or plan on utilizing social services any longer than absolutely necessary. We are the people for whom programs like that were invented. As soon as I am able I will be taking in children and in the future I hope to open a preschool program or something for homeschooling families.

I know that we are so incredibly lucky to have the support we have and that we could not provide for our girls the life they deserve without it. We did not plan well and we are learning as we go but I believe that love, support and a strong home are what make children the happiest and the healthiest they can be. And we've got that and more. Like I said...

Even though we ain't got money,
I'm so in love with you, honey,
And everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning, when I rise,
You bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.

April 16, 2014

20 Weeks!

So we've hit the official half-way point (at least of typical pregnancies)!! It's a little different for us as I will not be going past week 36 due to the risks of identicals. I hit the halfway point around week 15 but it felt odd celebrating it so I'm doing it now! Only fifteen more weeks until we get to meet our girls and we are so excited! I've started cleaning up some of the hand-me-down gear we've received and created a "girls" box for all the books, trinkets, decor and other items I've saved over the years for the nursery plus the gifts we're receiving now. We are so lucky in that we have a 2.5 year old niece, J, whose mom, my sister K, is more than willing to donate baby clothes, toys and gear that's been just taking up space. It's kinda funny, K was the ONLY person who knew from the beginning that we would have twin girls so she's even more happy now that she can get rid of all her stuff! It's a good thing she had a girl too because we've already gotten a rock and play, a tub, 2 play mats and a bouncy seat (thank you to a daycare mom and H!) that are neutral but tend toward boy colors. It's so weird to have baby gear in the house and the cats don't know what to make of it all!

I am feeling so great. I know the second trimester is the easiest but I have had such an easy pregnancy it's hard to believe it's almost over. I do have more aches in my lower back and belly, the heartburn is starting to flare up with a vengeance and I can't keep my eyes open past 10pm but other than that all is going so well!

I am feeling flutters and pokes here and there but nothing like the full-force kicks a lot of mamas get by this point. Funny though just as I started writing that I felt some little taps!

My scale is not very reliable but I going by last weeks appt. I think I have gained 18-20 lbs. total since December 26th.

I am still able to fit in all of my tops but have been wearing maternity jeans and capris for a few weeks now. Thanks to a few great finds on eBay and at a local consignment store I've spent less than $100 and have over 10 pairs of pants/capris/shorts, 10 maternity and nursing tops and even a dress I wore to two weddings last month.

I have an ultrasound next Thursday with Dr. M.  It should be a quick one he said, just a check of fluids and size. If all goes well the girls should be close to a pound each!

We're trying out a new recipe tonight and it smells absolutely wonderful. We got a huuuuge eggplant from the store this week and instead of taking forever to bread it and making eggplant parm like we usually do we're trying Rachael Ray's No-Noodle Lasagna. Haven't tried it yet but I can already tell it's going to be pure awesomeness.

So tonight I will be eating a late lasagna (it's almost 9!) and spending some QT with C rather than researching/buying/fbing til bed like last night. We're halfway through season 2 of GoT and our kitties have been super snuggly tonight too!


April 15, 2014

FIAO 2.1 - Diapering the Twins

Even BTT I knew I wanted to cloth diaper. In the last few years we have made a lot of changes in our lives including our diet and environmental impact. We strive to eat as clean and healthily as possible by meal planning, examining ingredients and buying organic when we can. We also abide by the 80/20 rule and don't deny ourselves what we want or need as long as we have made good, healthy choices for the most part. C loves his steak and beer and I love my cheez-its and wine (when I'm not pregnant of course)! We have changed the way we use all of the "things" we have and how we consume products. We use all-natural and, when we can, homemade cleaning supplies and toiletries. In short we have worked to become more aware of how what we eat, do, wear and buy affects our lives, our budget and the world at large. We feel better and we believe we are better for it.

As convenient as many baby products may be, they can be incredibly wasteful and expensive.  It's so amazing how these staples of childhood can draw dramatic lines in the parenting community. It starts with breast vs. formula feeding, then making your own vs. buying baby food and of course cloth diapering vs. disposables.  I can honestly say five years ago I was definitely in the convenience camp. The thought of breast feeding made me anxious, making my own baby food sounded exhausting and don't even get me started on how I felt about cloth diapers? ICK!!!  Then, when we began this journey to living better and I started to hear about how cloth diapering was easy, budget friendly and, dare I say it, fun! I learned about "fluff" and how many mamas love to collect these adorable accessories for their babies' bums.  Upon seeing the year by year breakdown offered by FuzziBunz I was completely convinced. Not to mention I have been a professional diaper changer (child care provider) for 13 years, I have seen (and smelled) it all! An extra minute or two rinsing a diaper before tossing it in the wash did not seem worth the cost to me.  This rang even more true when we found out about the twins.  C was a little harder to convince until he realized that the idea of spending nearly $5000 a year on GARBAGE that just further pollutes the planet is insane and directly violates our new, greener, way of life. So our decision to cloth diaper was made.

THEN came the hard part! Which cloth diapers do we choose!?! These aren't the days of your mama's white cloth, safety pins and rubber pants. People always seem surprised when I tell them that nowadays there are nearly half a dozen types, all made by many different brands with loads of style options. I really had no idea what I was getting into. But after doing hours of research I think I finally have a good handle on how it all works and I'm ready to start choosing what we use for our girls. I will create my own cloth diaper 101 post soon but for now there are so many amazing posts out there that I recommend everyone check those out for more info. Like all our other decisions I came up with a list of my personal considerations and learned as much as I could about the different products.  I made the decision and will update in the future with the results!

Cloth Diaper Considerations:

Ease of use - Since I can change a disposable diaper in less than 1 minute and I will be staying home with the girls I am pretty flexible about how long it takes to change a diaper and I'm not worried about the wet-storage/laundry factor. This was mainly a factor for us because we will be doing twice the work and need twice as many diapers. I think All-in-Ones are fantastically convenient but I'm pretty confident I can master pre-folds and pockets with all those adorable covers, even with twins.

Initial cost - I want to start stocking up before the babies are here but when I started doing research I saw that one All-In-One (AIO) can cost at least $20. While I understand this is a one-time cost that could last 3 years, I also want to make sure we DON'T receive disposables at the shower and I could not see family or friends (some of whom are already questioning our choice) dropping that on a single diaper.  I feel like despite being less convenient I would rather ask people to give us a bunch of pre-folds and some covers and then purchase whatever else we want ourselves as we go along. This also won't force our family and friends to delve into the confusing world of cloth!

Real-Mom opinions - This was the most time-consuming aspect of my research. Due to the fact that there are so many choices I was having a hard time getting actual user recommendations on the websites where they would be purchased. I found that the best sources of knowledge were my local cloth-diaper swap group on facebook and the wealth of natural-mama blogs and YouTube videos that are out there (see links above). I no longer trust store websites when it comes to things like this. I want details!

The Unknown Factor A.K.A. every baby is different! - At the end of the day there is absolutely no way of knowing what will actually work for your family until your babies are here. Because of this I have added at least three different brands of pre-folds, covers, pockets and AIOs to my registries in sizes NB to 6 months. I made sure to register for them at every store as well since I have not heard great things about online-only cloth diaper registries. The plan is to test them out as we go and then stock up on the ones that work best and sell or swap the ones that we don't like. One thing I like about pre-folds is that if they don't work great as diapers they make excellent burp cloths and rags so it's not a total loss if I don't like using them.

Side note: Since our girls will be born at 35 weeks I am aware that I will probably need to use disposable preemie diapers. I have yet to find a cloth diaper that gets good reviews and is budget-friendly enough for the short period of time the girls will be wearing them. I just say that this goes along with our 80/20 lifestyle!

I will update after the shower with the results of my registry items and again after the girls are here!

20 Weeks tomorrow! Although I haven't grown too much I think I am ready start taking weekly bump update pics!


April 13, 2014

Identical Twins are Terrifying..

Yes, even while they're still in utero!  In the month BTT (before the twins) but after the PPT (positive pregnancy test)  I longed for the 12 week mark to just get here so I could breathe again. As far as I knew there was something magical about that week that meant you no longer had to freak out over every little pain, abnormal feeling or complete lack of symptoms. It was also when we could finally tell people our BIG news of course. But then at our 9 week ultrasound we found out that our twins were special! They are what's called Monochorionic-Diamniotic (Mo-Di) Twins. This means a few things:
  1. They are in separate amniotic sacs but they share a single placenta
  2. They are identical. Yes we're sure. No they cannot still be a boy AND a girl!
  3. They came from a single egg that split some time between day 2 and day 7 (if they split earlier they would be Di-Di with separate everything and if they split between days 8 and 14 they would be mono-mono sharing both sac and placenta. Any later than that and they would be conjoined).
  4. I will be induced and most likely have a c-section, or at the very least deliver in a level 1 hospital operating room, and it will be during my 35th week.
The first terrifying thing? The labor and delivery scenario is literally the opposite of what I planned BTT. We were waffling between a relaxing home water birth with two lovely midwives and a doula or a suite at the local birthing center where I would have an all-natural water birth by a midwife and a doula. And then at our first appointment with Dr. M, around 10 weeks, we were told that due to them being Mo-Di we could no longer see our midwives for care. I was so sad at first but I knew we would do what was best for the babies. Then he went on to explain all the risks with an identical twin pregnancy and once again I was feeling the anxiety of those weeks before our first ultrasound.  He talked about a scary thing called Twin-to-Twin-Transfusion Syndrome, he detailed my increased risk of placenta previa due to the anterior placenta and then he dropped the 35 week delivery at a major hospital bomb. I was totally thrown for a loop. I went from feeling fairly confident that I was out of the woods, that nothing bad was going to happen, to knowing I'd be holding my breath until the babies are in my arms. I know every single pregnancy has risks but I had no idea how much scarier it could be with two. Nonetheless here we are at 19.4 weeks, both babies have strong heartbeats and are weighing in at 10.8 and 11.3 oz. with no signs of TTTS or any other problems.  I will go more in to detail about my diet, exercise and more later as I do think these things have to do with the health of the babies and how well I feel!  I am trying to be less terrified and just enjoy the fact that I've had a wonderful pregnancy. Even at their worst my symptoms and ailments seem like child's play compared to what I've read about and witnessed first hand. I just keep reminding myself that in a few short months they will be here and that any worry or stress will not change a thing!

We are having lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with C's family tomorrow. It's the first time we've seen them since finding out I'm pregnant so we're very excited to see everyone.  It's crazy to think that I was pregnant last time we saw each other (at Christmas!) but no one knew yet and now I'm huge! 


April 12, 2014

FIAO 1.2 - Transporting the Twins

We finally decided on a stroller and car seat combo! We even went to Babies R Us last weekend and tried it all out!

Ultimately the decision came down to three things:

1) Ease of use - We really wanted a side-by-side stroller from the start. I know it may be difficult to fit through door ways and the kids might fight with each other but that happens no matter what right? I have pushed both types of doubles over long periods of time and have always found the side-by-side to be easier on walks, in the mall, at family gatherings, etc. It doesn't have to be perfect it just has to fit both of my kids from birth. We always knew we really wanted a light-weight car seat that is easy to carry and fits in my car.

2) Cost over time - The stroller had to be less than $300 and compatible with infant seats (ultimately we decided to just get two of these for ultimate ease of transport of the twins in the early months, especially in the winter when they'll be 4-9 months old). The snap-n-go option is great but can only be realistically used until the babies are around a year at most and then we would be responsible for buying a real stroller ourselves as well as convertible car seats soon too. Not worth it.

3) Good (enough) online ratings and reviews - I've learned that reading online reviews for baby gear is precarious territory. First, all those "sanctimommies" out there seem to think nothing is good enough (and if it is it costs about a bajillion dollars) and then there are others who are nowhere near helpful in their reviews (seriously though  "my baby loves it" is not an informative review for a car seat)! As a result I now look for only a few specific things when shopping online for baby stuff: is it ridiculously expensive? did it kill anyone? is it a pain in the ass to use? will I regret buying it? If the answer is no to all of these then it's going on my list!

So here are our winning choices!

Stroller: Graco FastAction Fold Duo Click Connect Travel System

This stroller is cute, easy to push and fold and is the cheapest/only side-by-side that accepts car seats that I've found!  It is about double the cost of what we wanted to spend on a stroller but the specs and reviews have us thinking we will get at least 3 if not 4 years out of it. We took it for a spin around the aisles at BRU last weekend and I really liked the way it handles and turns. It felt comfortable to push and although I can't imagine pushing two babies or kids with one hand, I don't consider that a deal-breaker. I'm not planning on grocery shopping with it often and if I really need to use one hand for something I probably shouldn't be pushing my kids in a large stroller at the same time right?

Car Seats: Graco SnugRide Click Connect 30

We chose these mainly because they are lightweight (7.5 lbs) and are compatible with the stroller. They are a different color and neither the stroller nor the car seats are "girl" colors but that was honestly the least of my concerns. These car seats are currently $10 off at BRU so that's where we registered for them but even if they go to full price before the shower they will be just as much at Walmart. Having tried out the 35 and feeling like it might be a little too cumbersome to manage I'm hoping the 30 is at least a little easier to carry. Even if it's not though I won't go any lower as I am hoping to get at least 18 months if not 2 years out of these seats assuming our girls aren't extremely fast growers!

I am so happy this decision has finally been made and we can cross it off our list!


April 9, 2014

April 5, 2014

FIAO 1.1 - Transporting the Twins

This is the first post of Figuring It All Out (FIAO), what I hope will be  a series of posts chronicling our journeys into the depths of parenthood and cover everything from the multitude of car seat choices to the down and dirty aspects of cloth diapering with the unique aspect of doing it all with identical twins. Read more in the About section!

With my natural anxiety and tendency to over think things I had a feeling I'd be a little stressed often in preparation for our twins. Surprisingly enough although I know I should probably be worried more about the money, the space, the loss of sleep, etc., the one thing that has consumed many of my nights and far too many brain cells for the past three months is none other than car seats and stroller combos. Here I sit, another Friday night gone and all I've done is ponder my half-completed registry and research these things that 4 months ago I knew very little about. Car seats and friggin strollers!

You see, BTT (Before The Twins) the plan was to register for a convertible car seat and use my sister's 2-year-old Safety 1st car seats and stroller. That's still an kind of an option but the more I read about re-using car seats the less I liked that idea of relying solely on hers so I started doing some research. I seriously had no idea about how many price points, combinations and options were out there for twins and I did not think it would lead to hours of fruitless nights looking up choice after choice, making lists of pros and cons and ultimately getting to the point where I was too tired to choose. It's getting ridiculous and I know I need to choose soon so I've been inspired to start blogging about our new life with a series of posts called Figuring It All Out. (Again, you can read more in the about section!)

Here are the considerations that I encounter every night that I embark on this journey towards infant mobility:

- Infant vs. Convertible - This was a no-brainer BTT. Now it's my one main worry - don't I need a convenient way to physically move two babies from anywhere to anywhere? Or can I plan on just wearing one and carry the other? Do I get a travel system that matches the car seats (at upwards of $450 for the combo but will last 3+ years) or the Double Snap N Go that's on every twin "must-have" list out there but is realistically only going to be used for 1.5 years (and of course which only seems to take the most expensive car seats)? Just when I thought I'd settled tonight brought out a whole new option - should we skip the carriers altogether and buy a stroller that lays flat? SERIOUSLY???

- Price vs. Length of Time Used - It's no secret we aren't exactly financially stable but we have wonderful, generous family and friends helping us along the way. That doesn't mean we want to register for two $190 infant car seats and/or two $150 convertible seats plus a $230 double stroller, no matter what the combination we ultimately decide. Infant seats can be cheaper than convertibles but I hate the fact that you might only end up getting a year out of them. Then again, are convertibles, which are more expensive but last longer, ever a good option for preemies which our twins will probably be? Buying used or recycling my sister's isn't an option any more so I'm going to throw together a break-down of cost for all my options and choose the most affordable one. Or  maybe I'll just do my best to keep the girls inside me until they're 13 when can just walk and sit in the car?

- Transportability and The 2:1 Ratio - I'm 5'3", 130 lbs and despite lifting 20-50 lbs worth of children daily for 13 years, I'm not that strong at all. The thought of lugging around two 20-30 lb. infant carriers seriously stresses me out. But damn am I going to be pissed when those babies are finally sleeping and I have to actually remove them from the car seat to get them inside (I know, babies shouldn't sleep in car seats. I also know every mom on the planet does it and I will too). Then there's the fact that C will be going back to work and I will not so there will be a lot of time it's just me and the girls. We are considering selling my car for to help with the money so having a good, long-lasting stroller is important to me. If we do end up with car seats in my car I would need to be able to transport them without too much of a to-do by myself.

Here's a breakdown of options I've found so far plus the time they last and ballpark cost: 
- 2 infant car seats (1-2 years max) and convertible stroller/travel system (3-4 years max) - $350-$700
- 2 infant car seats and the Baby Trend Double Snap N Go stroller (1-2 years max) - $280-$400
- 2 convertible car seats and a convertible stroller that lays flat (3-4 years max) - $450-?
- 1 infant seat, 1 convertible seat and a convertible stroller (3-4 years max) then buy another convertible seat in 1-2 years - $450-?

For some reason the newest option is seeming like a great idea right now. I can wear the baby that is in the convertible seat or find a stroller that has a back seat that lays down flat and lay her down when in the stroller while the other rides in the seat. Then when they're out of infant seat I only need to purchase one convertible seat and we still have the stroller for another year or so hopefully.

Oh wait, this just reminded me of yet another consideration: tandem vs. side-by-side. Because, you know, they'll fight with each other if they're side-by-side but they'll kick each other in the head if they're tandem.

Screw it. They're just going to have to come out walking or we're never leaving the house!

Stay tuned for updates on our choices!