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Archive for August, 2008

Splish Splash

The babies took their first bath TOGETHER today. It sure was an adventure for Eema and Abba. I don’t know if we’ll ever be quite the same again, and I certainly don’t know if we’ll repeat the experiment again. The babies sure had fun, though. Abby was very calm through the entire bath, though didn’t love that Sam and Ellie kept crawling all over her. Sam and Ellie, though, were quite squirmy and curious through the entire experiment: I couldn’t keep Sam from drinking the water, and Ellie was determined to explore every inch of the bathtub. Abby just stared at her siblings in utter disbelief at their urge to explore.

Sam was so excited to be able to explore with abandon. He’s so used to being confined to the baby bathtub that this was great fun for him (even if it was hair-raising for Eema!)

Ellie kept that duck in her mouth for the entire bath time! I had to wrench it from her when bathtime was over!

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Teamwork

A lot of people ask me how I manage to do it all, and the truth of the matter is, I don’t.  A lot of things have fallen by the wayside.  I’m not *quite* the neatfreak I’d like to be anymore.  I’m not *quite* as attentive to J’s activities as I’d like to be anymore.  I’m not *quite* as awake as I’d like to be anymore.  I do my best, but my best isn’t *quite* as good as it used to be. And that’s okay.  My standards aren’t any lower, but my ability to reach those standards isn’t always there.  And that’s okay, because this isn’t forever.  Each day I get a little more of me back, and some days are better than others.  It’s probably going to be like this for a long time.  I still get a heck of a lot more accomplished every day than I think most people dream of.  In addition to being a full time mom to four children (and do not believe for one second that just because I’m a working mom means I’m not a full time mom – do you know how much of my day is spent coordinating appointments and fitting in therapy for the babies or for J or calling teachers or scrambling over to the school for a program between meetings or running to a doctor’s appointment for a sick baby or thinking of my angels in a spare moment?  Believe me, I’m a full time mom!), I’m also a full time employee, a blogger, a wife,  I am a board member at my synagogue and I am the programming chair for my local parents of multiples club, and I volunteer for the NICU programming committee at my former NICU, the March of Dimes Family Support Program and Preemiestoday.org. 

So how do I get it all done?  Well, we’ve already established that I don’t sleep much.  But the rest of it is good, old fashioned, teamwork.   I truly have the greatest husband in the universe and I really need to tell you about him, because he’s really something special. 

When I was pregnant on bed rest, Seth made sure I had water, snacks, my laptop, remote controls, my monitors, and everything I needed for the day before he took J off to school and headed off to work.  He called throughout the day to make sure I was doing all right and to monitor my progress.  If I had any appointments, he would check in to see how they went.  When I went into the hospital, he picked up J from school every evening, got him home and fed dinner, put him to bed, got him a babysitter, and then came to visit me before heading home to bed himself only to turn around and start all over the next day.   He was awesome.  He took very good care of me.  After I delivered the babies, I insisted that he spend the first night at home with J so that J wouldn’t feel displaced, but I had such a hellacious night that he spent the next night at the hospital with me, scrunched up on the little couch in my room.    Needless to say, he was amazing while the babies were in the NICU, but it was after they came home that he really began to shine.

Seth and I never really spent a lot of time planning how we were going to handle feeding and caring for the babies, particularly overnight.  We knew we weren’t going to have round-the-clock help.  We knew we weren’t going to hire a night-nurse, as many parents of multiples (particularly higher order multiples) do, but we hadn’t even discussed how we were going to divide up responsibility between ourselves once the babies came home.  We simply didn’t know what to expect or what the babies’ needs were going to be.  I did know that my ultimate goal was to be breastfeeding all three of them, so the bulk of the responsibility was going to be on me regardless, but clearly I was going to need some help.   We didn’t know ahead of time what the babies would be capable of coming out of the NICU.  As it turned out, within a couple weeks of coming out of the NICU, Sam and Ellie were fully able to breastfeed but Abby was never able to make the transition; she had simply been born too small.   This made for an easy division of responsibility, though it was always unspoken. 

From the first night home from the hospital, we woke the babies up every three hours.  I would feed Sam and Ellie while Seth fed Abby.  We’d change their diapers, and then put them back to sleep, I would pump, Seth would snooze, I’d stumble back into bed, close my eyes for … oh… 20 minutes and the alarm would go back off.  Lather, rinse, repeat until morning when Seth would have to get up and get J ready for school and go to work.   Never once did I hear Seth complain about getting up all night, despite the fact that he was also having to get up and go to work all day.  Never once.   Though I always had it in my head that I would eventually take over night feeding all together, that never actually happened.  Seth always got up every night.  When the babies got older and didn’t have to be woken up every three hours, he fed Abby every time she needed to be fed (she was the last to sleep through the night) and if Sam woke up, he would always get up and bring him to me so that I wouldn’t have to get up (Ellie slept through the night very early on, and was impossible to feed in the middle of the night even when she was supposed to be eating every three hours).

Until these babies came into our lives, I never realized how well Seth and I work as a team.  We never talk about it, but our lives are just pieced together seamlessly… effortlessly… in a way that makes our world keep moving.  For example, the babies came home I was washing my hands so much more often than I used to and I ran out of soap in the dispenser in our bathroom.  I scratched my head for a minute and realized I had absolutely no idea where we keep the soap to fill the dispensers.  It’s not so much that it’s "Seth’s Job" to fill the dispensers, it’s just that in six years of marriage there’s always been this magical "soap fairy" that has gone around filling soap dispensers and it had never occurred to me that this was a job that had to be done by an actual person.  I decided to look under the sink, and lo and behold, there was a very large container of soap which I used to fill the soap dispenser.  Turns out, there’s one in each bathroom.  My soap fairy had not let me down.  I had never realized that this was something Seth had always taken care of for me, and I called him that day to thank him for being my soap fairy for six years.  The first thing he did was apologize for not having filled it before I needed him to. 

Since those early, bleary days, Seth and I have continued to support each other in a myriad of ways.  Some nights I get home and it’s all I can do to feed the babies put them in their cribs and pass out.  On those nights, Seth feeds J, plays with him, gives him a bath, reads him stories, sends him to bed, and cleans up.  Other nights we’re up together working on a plan for J’s various therapy appointments, medication changes, school projects etc.  Some nights Seth’s out for the night, some nights I’m out at meetings.  He never complains if I ask him to stay home with the four children.  He plays with all four of them as if it is the most fun and exciting thing in the universe I could ask him to do; in fact, I never have to ask him to play with the children, he plays with them because he loves to. 

When I stand in the kitchen cooking, he’s right behind me doing the dishes.  When I put in a load of laundry, he’s right behind me putting it in the dryer and folding it (I hate folding laundry).  When I’m changing a baby, he’s changing the next one.  When I feed Sam and Ellie, he’s feeding Abby.  When I give the babies dinner, he’s getting their PJ’s ready.  When it’s time to put them in cribs for bedtime, he’s there to give them smooches and help carry them down to their cribs.  If I have a migraine, Seth’s right there with pain medicine.  If I mention vaguely that I needed something at the store, it’s there for me even if I barely remembered that I asked for it.  If I’m feeling a bit down, even if I hadn’t really noticed it, he brings me flowers on his way home from work.  When I can’t figure out how to manage between work and appointments and doctors and therapies and parenting and school and one more thing comes up and I can’t make it happen, Seth rearranges his work schedule without complaint and without being asked and he makes it happen.

I’ve never asked Seth to do these things.  He just does them because, well, he rocks.  Admittedly, I’ve made it clear that I probably couldn’t pick up the slack on much more without quitting my job.  But he hasn’t asked me to, either.  And he hasn’t suggested that I should stop volunteering for the shul, or the multiples club, or the NICU or any of those other things.  He hasn’t told me I should start saying no to things, because he knows that I just don’t have that ability and it wouldn’t make me happy.  Instead, he silently finds ways to make my life easier and he steps in wherever he can. 

I never, ever have to feel like I’m doing this on my own.  We make a great team.

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Shell Shocked

People keep telling me that I look shell shocked.  Tired.  Sick.  Run down.

Maybe I should take the hint.

Thing is, I can’t seem to shake it, either.  I have even skipped my 11pm pumping the past couple nights in order to get more sleep (bad mommy, I know) because I just can’t take it anymore.  I’m so tired.  So unbelievably tired.  It just can’t be normal, can it?  I just had my thyroid checked and it was normal, so that’s not the problem; I just wish I could shake it. 

In other news, my BABY started kindergarten today.  Can you believe it?  He had a bit of a rough start when I took him down for early drop off.  He was clingy and scared and didn’t want me to leave, so I told him I would stay until it was time to move to his regular classroom.  When it was time to move to his regular classroom, I took him down and I started to well up, but he just bounced right in.  WHAT?  Really?  Hello?  Now I’m having a moment, can’t you be a little traumatized with me?  Just a little?  *sniff*

Meanwhile, the kids are sick, sort of.  Ellie had a stomach bug, but she’s over it.  Then Sam seemed to get it, but not nearly as bad as Ellie.  Now Abby seemed fine, but I think she might be coming down with it.  Why couldn’t they get it concurrently instead of consecutively?  J has a "reactive airway" which is essentially asthma, but with a triggering event, in this case probably a viral infection that we didn’t notice.  Poor kid.  Now he’s got two different inhalers and thankfully is being a real trooper about taking them.

But I’m tired.  So very tired, with no real excuse for it, because, you know?  My kids sleep through the night.  But it could be the persistent migraines that won’t quit the past couple of weeks.  Or it could be the nighttime pumping and the early morning wake ups.  Or it could be that I’m just doing too much and not making up for it enough in the sleeping hours.  I’m not sure. 

I just know that I’m tired.

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Yesterday we did something extraordinary: Seth and I loaded J and the triplets into the car along with a metric ton of baby gear: diaper bag, stroller, portable high chair, etc. Plus, picnic supplies. Okay, so none of THAT is extraodinary, but the reason we were doing all of that was because I’ve been planning a Picnic In the Park for Triplet Families since May. This takes a lot of planning, you know, since getting ONE triplet family committed to doing anything is incredibly difficult… but twenty of them? Well, we were pretty darned sure it couldn’t be done.

But the proof is in the picture, isn’t it? In the end, we had 12 triplet families who were able to join us in the park, with triplets ranging from ages 3 months to 5 1/2 years old and siblings ranging from (I think?) 2 years to 14 years old. We had 12 sets of triplets (including one partial whose siblings couldn’t make it due to illness), 1 set of twins, 5 singletons and not nearly enough adults! Quite an accomplishment!

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I had met a few of these parents before – I’ve spoken of Jessica (who has triplets AND twins) often.  There was also a friend who had identical triplet girls back in May who delivered at the hospital Seth works at  – Seth had met them, but I have only spoken on the phone with them and emailed back and forth, so it was nice to finally meet them in person and see their beautiful girls.

We got some toys from a triplet mom whose boys have outgrown them, but which are perfect for our little monsters.  We got to meet some new moms and greet some parents who have been cheering me on since the early days of my pregnancy.  It was really unbelievable. 

One mother whispered to me on her way out at the end of the day, "Is
this ever going to get easier?"  Yes, yes it is.  But I feel unfair
saying that, because I’ve honestly never thought it was all that
difficult.  I’ve had my days, my moments, but it was never as difficult
as I expected it would be.  I expected it to be impossible, and we’ve
had such easy babies that I’ve been pleasantly surprised each step of
the way.  Obviously, some days are better than others, but for the most
part, it’s always been far easier than we ever thought it would be.
Maybe we just had very low expectations. 🙂 

At the risk of singing my own praises, I heard from three separate women, "Karen, you’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it all.  I mean, we’ve all got triplets, but still, I don’t know how you do it."  That makes me feel great.  I mean, I’m not doing anything more extraordinary than any of those other women, but it still feels good to hear.  🙂

It was a lot of work to make it happen, and not without some snafus – in the morning when I went to pick up the sandwich platters I’d ordered I was greeted with "What sandwich platters?" (they found the order slip that they’d misplaced and made the order up for me with a 10% discount) and then when we arrived at the picnic site, we found another family setting up a birthday party in the pavilion that I’d reserved. When I presented my permit, we discovered that we both had legitimate permits and the park ranger discovered that they had accidentally double-booked the pavilion. Ironically, the other party was a set of twins’ first birthday party. Hah. The only thing we could do was split the pavilion down the center and share the tables between us. We were really over capacity, which is unfortunate, but we made do and I think everyone had a good time despite the crowded quarters.

It was so fun to meet everyone in person – people whose blogs I’ve been reading or whose emails I’ve been reading, but who I now can picture in my mind.  I’ll probably miss someone by listing them, but thanks again to Jessica, Cherie, Debbie, Erin, Kelly, Kelli, Dorinda, Joyce, Ivette, Connie, and Jeannie (and all the spouses!).  I’m sorry that Kristin, Kelley and Amanda weren’t able to make it in the end, though they’d all planned to be there.   Next time!  (I hope I didn’t leave anyone out!)   

All in all, it was a truly amazing experience and I’m excited at the prospect of doing this again sometime … just not too soon!

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Holy Mooing, Batman!

My babies are 11 months old and I have pumped 11,500+ ounces of milk.

That’s 90 gallons of milk. 

Ninety.

That’s not counting any of the milk they’ve actually gotten direct from the tap. 

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11 months

Eleven months ago today, my babies were born. *sniff* They’re hardly babies anymore, they’re little people now, growing up too fast. I don’t understand why some parents are so eager to get to each new milestone – to me, moving to the next milestone means the passage of time, and I want to savor each moment with these beautiful babies – not just move on to the next milestone without even noticing the last one. They are really extraordinary now –

Sam was the last to smile, but he is so smiley now – his face just lights up when he sees Seth or me walk in the room, and he’s super snuggly. He is a very good crawler and though he was the last to sit properly, he has no problems with that now. He stands, he cruises a little bit and a few times he’s even stood up and then let go of whatever he’s holding onto and stood unassisted for a few seconds. He’s definitely thinking hard about walking, even if he’s not there yet. I think he’ll be there in another 4-6 weeks. Scary! He eats everything in sight and is usually the first of the trio to finish his meals. I haven’t found anything he doesn’t like to eat yet. He still has six teeth and love sto show off his chompers. He’s babbling, but not as much as Ellie, who’s my real talker. He’s the most aggressive of the babies and is most likely to be stealing toys away from the other at any given point in time.

Ellie is unbelievably friendly. Her smile lights up an entire room. we joke that she’s actually our cruise director because she’ll smile at everyone and everything. She laughs and smiles so easily and has such an infectious little giggle. She’s amazing. She has lots of neat ways of babbling, including a really high pitched "dadadadadah!" that she repeats over and over. She is by far the most verbal of the bunch with the most clear syllables of the bunch. She loves to eat, which is crazy considering her failure to thrive history, but we love it. She was the last to learn to crawl, but has finally mastered it, and is also a standing champ, and very bouncy. She now has five teeth, but two of hers are brand new, so they’re harder to see than Sam’s and Abby’s. She’s the most laid-back of the three and doesn’t mind being crawled all over by Sam and Abby. She seems willing to put up with quite a lot of "abuse" from her siblings.

Abby is the most reserved of the bunch. She was, in some ways, definitely not meant to be a triplet. She definitely prefers to have her own space, and doesn’t like to have the other babies touching her or in her space at all. She gets truly offended if they take her toys (Sam does this a lot) or look at her funny. Poor baby. She doesn’t like sudden noises, doesn’t like to be left alone, prefers to be held up away from the hustle and bustle of the baby pit. She’s crafty, though, and if she wants attention, sometimes she’ll crawl over to another baby, grab at their toy and then cry as if they were the ones who took it from her so that she gets attention. She’s my pickiest eater, and also my most delicate eater. She is my least verbal baby, but she will imitate you if you make clicking sounds or raspberries. She also will shake her head no when she doesn’t want to eat anymore, and she means it, so although she’s the least verbal in terms of baby-babble, she’s actually the most communicative in terms of actual useful communication.  Abby has six teeth and when she gives you her precious smile, which she doles out very carefully, you can admire them in all their glory.

They all love their baths, they all love to be snuggled, they all still love their exersaucers (though less than they used to), they all love the cats (though the cats love the babies less than the babies love the cats), they all adore the J-man (and the J-man adores them).

J is the best big brother in the universe. He adores the babies and loves that they’re starting to get interactive enough for him to play with a little bit. He is eager to hold them and pick them up and play with them. It’s hard to believe that he is almost five years old and starting kindergarten next week. How exciting. Time really flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s just that time really flies when you’re this sleep deprived…

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New School

We’re changing the J-man’s school this fall, did I tell you that?  I lose track, you know.  It’s a weird situation, because in our county (and even the private schools follow the county rules), to start kindergarten, you must turn 5 by September 1st.  J turns 5 September 16th; therefore, he does not qualify for kindergarten this year.  This is probably for the best, considering that he is behind in pre-reading skills, has the AD/HD thing going for him, and frankly, he’s a boy.  He could use the extra year before being pushed ahead.  So we expected he would spend an extra year in four-year-old preschool this year and that was great. That’s what most kids in his predicament do.  We love his current school and we love the teacher he would have next year, and it was all good things. 

And then we started seeing this developmental pediatrician.  He’s been a miracle worker so far, you know, and hasn’t led us astray yet, so we certainly can’t complain.  And one of the things that he recommended was that we consider moving the J-man this coming fall into a "transitional kindergarten" program nearby.  The particular program that he was recommending is very good with working with children with special needs and especially children with J’s profile.  They are actually better in terms of my commute (slightly).  They have an amazing facility, a fantastic teacher, and have been working with our developmental pediatrician for ten years, so they already have a system established to handle the J-man’s special needs.  It’s perfect, right?

It’s still not easy, you know?  It was a very difficult decision to make.  Just as we’d decided to make the change, we found out who J’s teacher would be at his old school next year and that made it a heart-wrenching choice to make, because she would be AMAZING with J – and a known commodity.  Changing schools also means it will be the fourth school in four years.  On the other hand, changing schools has never bothered J before, so why should it now?  Change really bothers ME, but it’s never seemed to bother HIM. 

After weeks of deliberation, we finally decided that we have this developmental pediatrician on our team for a reason:  he is an expert.  He is here to guide us, to inform us, to teach us, and to help us.  He has not led us astray yet.  He has given us incredible referrals so far.  He is accessible.  He is sensitive to our needs.  He has never marginalized our emotions or our experiences.  But he has also been there himself, as a parent and as a professional.  So the best thing we can do is trust in him.  Not blindly, of course, but trust is important.

And so, we are changing schools.  And when I told his old school we weren’t coming back – well, they didn’t take the news well, let’s just put it that way.    I know we’re making the right decision, at least I hope we are, but I’m still broken up about it.  But J?  The J-man is NOT.  "When am I starting at my new school?  Do I get to go there today?" he asks me every morning.  He is so excited, he can hardly wait.   

My little tiny boy?  That baby boy that came to us at just 13 months old?  Golly – he’s starting KINDERGARTEN next week.   *sniff*  Can you believe it?

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