January 5, 2016

Oh goody, another thing to feel guilty about! Or not.

I was scrolling through facebook earlier and saw an adorable picture posted in one of my twin groups of a Dad feeding his baby boys. They were probably a month or two old and he had them laying in front of him on a boppy pillow, holding the bottles in one hand and his phone in the other. It made me laugh because it was so familiar. It was exactly how we spent the first months of our girls' lives - every 2-3 hours of every day. Aside from the fact that when it was me I was attached to a pump as well.

Like always I had to read the comments, although I knew they'd all say something along the lines of "So cute" or "Good job" or "That's how we did it!" But then this chick comes in and, very politely I must say, gives this peachy bit of advice:

"I know they eat often but if you plan on holding them at least half of their feedings, they will be brighter, appreciate touch more and not rely on one another as much as they rely on you. Not only that but it lowers your blood pressure and it bonds you. Instead of being exhausting, it becomes a happy place and you begin to not want to put them down."

My initial reaction: 

Eff my life. Did I not freaking hold them enough? Oh my god, no, I didn't. Jesus eff I've ruined them. No wonder they don't want to snuggle and love me all the time. And yet they looooove each other. And they are a little slow, aren't they? I mean not walking until 15 months, even for twins, isn't that late? Would I call them bright? Can I even know that yet? And omg I really was stressed out during feedings a lot, wasn't I? That's it, they felt that and now they hate me because of it. 

If only I had tried harder to hold them and feed them, at least half the time. It's all my fault. 

Thankfully, I'm a Gemini and I am finally learning to let things go so I quickly realized that this "advice" was absurd and obnoxious and actually quite rude. But I had to say something.

First of all, my kids are fine. The OP's kids will be fine. Of course they will be. Because we did the best we could and, for me, that meant my babies were not held for the majority of their feedings. 

Maybe that's a shocker for you, but if you had any idea you probably wouldn't advise me otherwise. Even if you did catch me on a good day, which this post clearly did not. 

First things first, "one up-both up" (wherein you actively wake the other baby to eat when one wakes up) was never actually an option for us. As in, they didn't give us a choice. They wanted to eat at the same time or else.  It took 72 hours for their nice 1/2-hour staggered NICU schedule to wear off and then if one was up and eating the other was too, otherwise she was screaming.  Since I was usually alone and figured out in the first few days that it was awkward and terrifying as hell to criss-cross babies and bottles, I opted for the safer, easier route of pillows 95% of the time.

Also, I pumped. Religiously. Every 2-3 hours for 12 weeks because it was important to me that they have breast milk. And because formula for two is freaking expensive. It was by far easiest for me to pump while they ate on their pillows and just hold them to burp (thank GOD for my hands-free pumping system - it's probably the reason I survived.) Of course there were times when I held them while I pumped but this, as you can imagine, was not an optimal situation for anyone and not one I would actually choose, no matter what the benefit.

Worse yet, when they finally latched, I used my nursing pillow for every daytime feed until they were about a year old. At night I rotated between them in my bed for months until they got down to one feed a night, for which we used the pillow because why the hell not? Boobs out, baby on either side of me, pillow on my lap, usually phone or food in my hand or catching a few zzz's (not really but I would prop pillows on either side of my legs just in case.) It was easier than positioning them on me and trying to keep them latched and I was hands free, something you very rarely are when you're a twin mom.

Sure, there were nights when we would hold them for the bedtime bottle and I would pump after they went to bed. But so many times CJ was cleaning or making dinner or I was grocery shopping or taking a much needed break. Again, it was just easier this way. Boppies, bibs, bottles, and in half an hour it was cuddles and love, and lots of it, I swear. 

The thing is, I know in my heart that even if we didn't try to hold them a few nights a week it wouldn't have mattered. Because we did what worked for our family, depending on the day, hour and even minute. Otherwise we would have lost our minds.

Not to mention, I co-slept for almost 6 months and was up every hour nursing one after the other thanks to a nightmare 4 month sleep regression. And after 4 months of pumping around the clock, I nursed on demand from the days they latched and I continue to breastfeed at 17 months old. I don't think I should feel guilty for whatever I did or didn't do when they were newborns when I was just trying to survive. And I know several hundred (probably even thousand) twin parents who would say the exact same thing. 

So why am I writing this if I don't actually feel guilty? Because I just feel like the last thing we need to be doing is commenting on how other people make it work, especially when we've been there ourselves. 

Even if there is some magical benefit to the act of holding while feeding, does this mom really need to hear about it right  this second? It's a personal choice and not one that is intentionally inflicting harm so it probably doesn't need to be mentioned, am I right?  

Aside from it not working for us, I, and so many other twin parents, made the choice for sanity's sake. Like all the other decisions we made pre-kids that went right out the window when that tech said there's two. I sure as hell never pictured myself not holding my kids when they ate but life had other plans for us. And really, does this commenter honestly think the OP doesn't know it's good to hold a baby when they eat? 

Come on.

I liken it to all those choices we make every day that could-maybe-possibly-at-some-point-in-the-future impact our kids but that has little to no measurable difference at the time. Like formula or breast, shots or none, co-sleeping or cribs or conventional or organic food. If you feel some type of way about it, say it to your friends, don't post it on facebook as a well-meaning bit of advice to another mom, especially one that you know is in the trenches.

This mom who commented, she meant well, I know, or least I hope she did. Or mayyybe she's one of those mythical sanctimommies who so many claim do not exist. Yeah, I'll go there. I don't think she is, really, but I can't help but shake my head and ask what the hell her point even was, if not to "educate" and, no matter how nicely, pass judgement on a completely innocuous and necessary thing.  Babies are being fed, who gives a damn how it's happening? It's not enough we shame people for what they feed but now we're gonna tell them HOW to do it too? Or else their kids won't be as bright? Really?

As a twin mom herself maybe she should have run that comment through her head a few more times and she might have decided it was not in the best taste to tell a bunch of survivalists that their best could be better.

Maybe I'm too sensitive, because it's something I've genuinely wondered about. I know about the benefits of touch and the importance of establishing that connection. I wondered all on my own if I hurt them, long before reading this. Like when it took forever for them to smile or the fact that they still hate snuggling, save for a few 10 second hugs here and there. Did I do that to them? Could I have changed it?

Is it not enough that I kept them, and myself, alive and thriving through one of the most terrifying times of my own life?  Or that I, through 4 months of pumping and 13+ months of nursing,  have constantly sacrificed my own comfort, sleep and sanity, just trying to keep them happy, healthy and secure? 

Nah, I refuse to let her get to me. It is enough. It's more than enough.

As for the notion that feedings would have been less "exhausting" or that I wouldn't want to put them down, I thought she might be on to something at first. I know how much I love nursing for the physical and emotional benefits (for all of us) and I wondered if we really missed out on that in those early months. That is until I remembered the fact that bottle feeding two babies is a pain in the freaking ass, especially when they want to eat and burp and poop at the same time.

And you want to talk exhausting? I know for a fact that it's damn near impossible to actually hold and bottle feed two itsy bitsy rag dolls and feel anywhere near relaxed. My stress level was through the roof worrying about dropping and burping and all that crap. So I guess maybe if you always have a partner around but neither one of you has jobs or ever sleeps then your kids will be awesomer (I'm sorry, I mean "brighter") because you can feed and hold them at the same time? Hmmm... for some reason I doubt that!

The bottom line is we all do what we have to do. Some might say that what ultimately worked for us wasn't the best thing we could have done. The same argument could be made (and is regularly) of my choices to feed them food rather than purees, to keep them rear facing as long as possible or to homeschool them. So instead of letting it get to me I'll just add this one to my long list of other people's opinions that I don't give a crap about.  But I just had to say something. If not to her then to the great abyss of the internet.

Again, I'm likely reading way too far into it but I needed to get it out and, shocker, I haven't written a blog in forever and I feel better now!  

Happy New Year!


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