4 de jul. 2012

A retrospective analysis (the first year)

Now I understand why we always talk about the zero to three development stage. The change is enormous. They are no longer babies, they have started nursery school and their learning curve is very high. Truly fascinating. From the moment they are newborns there is always somebody who tells you "you'll see how much they have changed by the time they are 3, 6, 9 months old, or one year old, or when they turn two". There are always changes on the horizon (which sometimes come true and sometimes do not). Now I have really grasped the main ones.

That is why I have decided to stop for a moment and analyse what these three years have been like. It's one of those analyses which you can do thanks to retrospective and which show how selective our memory is. Surely, if I had reflected on this at that moment, the things that seemed vital to me when the girls were four months old would now seem a trifle.

0-12 months

For starters, fear. Fear to an unknown situation and twice over. I will cut to the chase: I think that people had frightened me so much that it was actually not as hard as people foresaw. Of course it was difficult. It isn't a piece of pie to get home with two newborns and your first. In spite of the fear and the zillion questions like "will I overcome this?", "what will I do if..?" "how should I react if...?", I think that we didn't get too uptight about all this, which was both a blessing and our salvation. We just let things happen and we faced them calmly, simply living the day-to-day. Naturally, it is fair to say, with all the help in the world, because my mother gave me a hand in the mornings and my parents-in-law in the afternoon. Help? Grandparents, uncles and aunties, siblings and nieces. On my side, the youngest niece is 23 years old, so they were agog over/thirsty for a baby.

There was a key fact that put us on the right track. My husband could stay home with us for a month and a half after they were born. I would have been snowed under if he had had to go back to work after 15 days. We were very lucky in this, although he spent a great deal of his paternity leave doing paperwork.

I went back to work after five and a half months. I was torn apart over this. On the one hand, I felt like it because I wanted to recover what had been my life and because there had been some hard moments, marked by anxiety, tears and nerves. On the other, I understood that nothing would ever be the same again. I missed the girls and I only wanted to go back home to be with them. When I started work again, my husband could stay home. He was in charge and took on the burden of the first baby foods and some exasperating moments because Estel simply wouldn't eat at all.

How would I define the year 2009? It was their "first" everything. Their first summer and holidays, their first swim in the sea, their first stay on the snow, their first baby foods, their first solid meal, from their first crawl to standing up, their first steps, their first teeth. And in September, their first day at the nursery school, the first inconsolable weepings because I left them there.

I look back and I have this feeling: It was hard, but I don't remember it anymore. I don't remember our sleepless nights, holding it up one day and the next. I know that my husband will absolutely disagree with what I am writing (in fact, I have also asked him to write this analysis too). Sneak peak: He remembers the lack of sleep as if it had been engraved with fire on him. I believe that it was so intense a learning process and gained such an impressive knowledge that I only recorded this in my memory.

9 de juny 2012

Having fun

At Cosmocaixa, in Barcelona. Today is daddy's birthday, so we had a lovely lunch out and a wonderful afternoon playing together. They had been at the museum with the school a couple of months ago. So they have really enjoyed being our 'teachers' today.

31 de maig 2012

Together - 2

"I am scared of the waves "
"Give me your hand"
"Hold me tight"
"Fear not, you're with me"

The conversation is real. Every line. Each season, the first day at the beach is like an adventure you do not know too well what can happen. Will they hate the sand this time or might they fear the water? Well, this year we had a fantastic first day on the beach and they had a wonderful time. "Give me your hand. Fear not, you're with me." They are three years old and they already know that together… they are stronger.

Together they can face anything. They walk together and learn to love, to cry, to fear, to be brave, to get angry, to understand that things can not always be here and now. I feel happy when I see them this way. They show me every day, that they have a very special relationship that I do not know how far I can understand. For many quarrels, jealousies and moments that are very angry ... I think above all they love each other very much.

1 de maig 2012

De Quervain's tenosynovitis

De Quervain's tenosynovitis. A painful irritation of the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. I had never heard of it. However, I quickly caught up.

Before becoming a mother, I had had some practice with my nieces. The eldest one was born when I was just 11. As a result, I was used to holding babies when the time came. I had always thought that it comes to a mother as a natural instinct. You fold your arm a bit. Then, you place the baby’s head on the elbow fold. Your hand, a bit bent as well, holds the baby’s bum and legs. So much for theory and practice.

Now, what reality is like. Two babies. The first who weighed almost three and a half kg. at birth and the second who weighed two and a half. (They’re twins, but in spite of this, they had an adequate birth weight). For some months, holding them in your arms, breastfeeding them and giving them bottles, rocking them to sleep or to calm their colic pains meant that I was constantly forcing my arm and hand.

The pain gradually appeared. I felt that some hand gestures were difficult and painful for me to make. The pain became more intense and more immobilising. And it was in my right hand. The one I use the most, my stronger hand. I went to the doctor’s and looking at my hand he pronounced the three unknown words: “De Quervain's tenosynovitis” . “It’s very common among first-time moms”.”Really?”-I wondered. “Another thing that nobody explains to you”. At first I wore a wristband. Right after, I started to have medical rehabilitation sessions. A good number of sessions and home exercises. Afterwards, it was when the doctor pronounced the words which I did not expect at all: “To fix this, you should get an operation”. “No- an operation is not in my plans, huh-I have enough work at home with the two little ones”. I decided to let time go by in order to see how my condition evolved and to -inevitably- look for opinions online . As always, there were opinions in favour of the operation and others totally against it. Thus, once again, as I did with many decisions during my pregnancy and during this upbringing period, I decided to let intuition be my guide.

The passing of time had an effect. When I didn’t carry the babies’ weight on my hands any longer, the pain went away. I could make all the gestures without any pain whatsoever. The problem is that only some things change. Goodbye, Quervain. Hello, backpain and neckpain!

2 d’abr. 2012

Big preparations for a short-lived walk

Going out with a double baby trolley for the first time was not easy at all. On top of this, it was December and it was cold. We had borrowed a trolley and it was one of those where one baby sits in front of the other one. The babies don’t sit next to each other. We’ll eventually get one of these, but not yet. Buying a double trolley also requires a Master’s Degree. The problem is that there are no classnotes or teachers, and the McLaren trend is also setting. And I certainly didn’t want to let them impose the new trend on me. Sales people try to target you to sell anything they can (and even more!).

At first, I didn’t have to buy a trolley because, as I have just said, my “twin fairy” lent me one. It was practical because it was narrow enough to fit on the pavement. It had a steering wheel (yeah, yeah, I’m not kidding), so it was very easy to maneuver, even with just one hand. However, of course it was long, very long, and it weighed a ton. In the lift, we had to “half-fold it up” to fit inside. Besides, it took up all the car boot space. Having all the logistics ahead of us (don’t think that we got the hang of this straightaway) and after spending half an hour deciding how to dress the girls, we went out onto the street. It was not easy for me because I still had the C-section stitches but I had the vital need to go out onto the street and breathe. I must have been locked at home for two or three days, in a spiral of sensations and new feelings, so I wanted to go outdoors. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to go far, because I couldn’t force myself too much, but going for a walk represented a small victory.

We go outside onto the streets. We get to the corner, on our way to the bakery. It starts to rain. Back up. We’re back in our doorway. Our first walk has lasted for exactly 3 and a half minutes.

After three rainy days, the sun comes out again. Today is the day. All ready. We’re a bit more used to the whole thing and we go out, the girls well wrapped up, and I try to take it easier. It’s our first and proud walk as a family. After a while, however, my husband looks nervous. Uncomfortable. “What’s the matter?”, I ask. And he worriedly replies: “Everybody is looking at us. Everybody turns around to look at the trolley and the girls.” It’s true. This will become constant from now on. I haven’t noticed. Perhaps during my pregnancy, especially in the last three months, I got used to having all eyes on that huge bump that got everywhere before I did.

12 de març 2012

Recovering small time periods (The surprising case of newfound time)

This post combines with the preceding one. You have to come up with new formulae.

The easiest way to go to the cinema is going to the night showing. They are sleeping and you leave them under your brother-in-law's care, who does you a huge favour. Now, you have to carefully choose the film. As you can only go to the cinema once every six months, at least the film has to be worth it (the last one I saw, The King's Speech, definitely was- an excellent film).

Sex. Trying to forget about tiredness, when they have a nap (it's always difficult for the two of them to fall asleep at the same time) or when they are fast asleep at night. A good alternative: that somebody takes them for a walk or to play for a while.

As for creams, hot baths and hair removal as well as hairdressing I haven't come up with a magical solution. A quick shower and that's it, noon getaways to have my legs done when I have been meaning to go for three weeks and total rapport with your partner when you tell him that you're going to get up at 7 o’clock on a Saturday to be the first one at the hairdresser's at eight o'clock to be done asap.

Weekend breaks can't be improvised right now. They require a certain amount of planning even though we are improving our timings and we're getting better at logistics thanks to experience. Practice makes perfect.

Having a relaxed chat with a friend over a cup of coffee means that we have organised a "little ones free day" (that is, that they both stay with their grandparents, grandma or cousins). Otherwise, the attempt gets frustrated with the girls running about and preventing you from talking about transcendental matters. In this section we could also add buying clothes for myself.

Dancing in a disco is something I'd better not talk about. I'm dying to go dancing but it's been like three years since I last did (except for when I dance in my living room, but it doesn't feel the same).

Having a relaxed breakfast? During the week, I wake up at 7 o’clock and I have to buy some take-away latte on my way to work because I haven't had time to have breakfast. Some weekends we have managed to, even though it's true that we should redefine the concept "calm". I'm content with having breakfast with a relative peace and quiet.

There's a moment during the invasion in which you come to think that you won't manage. You even think that you'll forget about all those things which you used to do and which you liked so much. However, fortunately, some time periods are gradually recovered. Doing so is vital for your own health, that of your partner and that of your family. Step by step, each of us gets their personal space back.

26 de febr. 2012

Do you remember it? Forget it! (The mysterious case of dwindling time)

Do you remember when you decided to go to the cinema on a mid-Sunday afternoon and then you would pick which film to see? Do you remember when you had sex whenever and wherever you wanted? Do you remember when a Tuesday afternoon was the best time to have a hot bath and put on all the creams and lotions that you found in your bathroom? Do you remember when a Friday at noon your partner would phone and tell you "prepare your weekend bag because we're going for a break?" Do you remember when a friend phoned and the most usual sentence was "let's meet in half an hour and go for a drink"? Do you remember what it was like to dance in a disco or in the town's festival until the small hours? Do you remember what it was like to wake up at 10 and dawdle in bed? Do you remember what it was like to go shopping with friends and spend hours visiting every shop's fitting rooms to find those trousers, shoes or blouse which you wanted? Do you remember when weekend breakfasts calmly span out? Do you remember when organising a dinner was not a difficult logistic operation? Do you remember how well epilated, tanned and fit you used to be? Do you remember what it was like to have time to do things? Do you remember when you kept up to date with your hairdresser's appointments and all your grey hair didn't show up underneath your headlights?

I've almost forgotten all these. The twin invasion began with a clear time robbery- MY time! You won't have time to do all these things. Not even to think about them. The twin invasion represents a new dimension of "tiredness". I'll go back to this later on. Right now, I urgently need to have my highlights done!

7 de febr. 2012

How the hell do you prepare a baby bottle?

Now that I reflect upon it, I can't understand how come I got to thinking that I did not even know how to prepare a baby bottle. For months I prepared up to 16 a day. Our motto was: "Prepare bottles, feed bottles, wash bottles". I had the terrible feeling that I did nothing else all day but go around showing my bare breasts and feeding them. And in only two days I understood the sentence that everybody told me: "You'll spend a fortune on milk".

When I got home I realised that those babies had to eat. In hospital, the support "bottles" were already prepared for you, but at home you have to prepare them yourself. When we were left alone and I became aware of this, I had an attack of powerlessness, anger and desperation. How did we have to boil the bottle? Which teat would they like the most? And which measurements of milk did we have to prepare? All this was something that I didn't understand and which I was obsessed by. Everyone told me: "You'll see, if she is still hungry she'll ask for more". But I was fascinated by this sort of "faith" that everyone had in my ability to notice these things. At that point, I could not see anything and I burst into tears because I didn't know how to prepare a bottle. Luckily, it was Jordi -my husband- who told me that it had no secrets for him and did it. 

2 girls. 8 bottles. 16 baby bottles a day. Yes, of course, they were small but 16 bottles a day is quite something. And the other big question- which milk to buy? We bought the same one which we were given in hospital (but note our total lack of knowledge about types of milk, which are better and why, etc.) I don't want to advertise the product for free, but the first 900-gramme Enfalac 1 tin cost almost 24 euros. Do you remember that it was 16 bottles a day? It can last up to 3 days. 31 days, divided by 3, it's 10.3 tins. 10 tins by 24... What???!!! 240 euros a month just on milk???

The twin invasion which multiplies your expenses by a thousand also makes your inventiveness and wit multiply by thousand. On the one hand, the peace and quiet of being at home and the fact of slowly taking control of the situation helped heaps in my breastfeeding and I combined breast milk with formula. When the time was come, I could not rely on other people's experiences, their tips or philosophies. I smoothly did whatever I came up with. On the other, the fact that helped us stop the increasing expense in milk tins was finding out about the twins' partners in their world conspiration. We learned how to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

26 de gen. 2012

For all WAHMs

A good friend has shared it on her wall on Facebook.
To all the WAHMs!

17 de gen. 2012

The rugby position and other obsessions

No mother, sister, auntie or girlfriend can prepare you for the moment in which you find yourself getting to know your newborn baby. Babies, in this case. Throughout my four day-stay in hospital, I made a mental list of a hundred things that could have been dealt with in the pre-natal classes and which were never touched upon- but which I then came to regard as vital. At that point, I couldn't get my head around trying to understand how the classes could have been so poorly organised.

I was coping with everything well enough for the first two days- it was an intensive course of getting to know and recognise my two daughters and their most essential needs. The basic one, the one that worried me the most, was feeding them. You might not believe it, but during my pregnancy I became obsessed with the "rugby position" to breastfeed twins. I looked up some information but luckily, I did not become hooked on the internet to search for more tips- I 'd have gone nuts and often, the articles were not too reliable. What I loved was a National Geographic documentary about a simulation of twins in the womb. Watching how they already interacted in the belly was so exciting- did the girls do the same?

I've lost track. Oh, yeah. Breastfeeding. In this regard, alongside many other aspects of the pregnancy and the upbringing of the kids, we were clear that we would go with the flow of what we were experiencing. Without getting ahead of ourselves. Without getting obsessed and leaving aside certain comments or suggestions. The only problem is that it's very easy to say but hard to do, right? It was complicated for many reasons. When we left the hospital I still did not have any breast milk. I couldn't bear to hear how the little ones cried because they were hungry. We complemented breast milk with formula. On my third day in hospital, I got really down because I was told that I was discharged and I did not picture myself at home AT ALL. Fortunately, a lovely nurse- who must have seen me in big trouble- called on an amazing midwife who helped us with breastfeeding a lot. Perhaps if I had had her from day one, things might have turned out differently.

But you can't go back and change the past. You act the way you do at a given moment and given the circumstances which surround you. What did I worry so much about? The girls were well (their sugar blood tests had been within the normal range, which worried us because I suffered gestational diabetes) but I panicked over the idea of going home. Hours before I was discharged, I already had an endless list of questions to ask. I took notes as if I was in a press conference- looking at things from a journalist's perspective. I was looking forward to going back home, but what would life be like with them, outside the hospital?

3 de gen. 2012

The roller coaster

Like a roller coaster. Up and down. Black and white. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think about this just released 2012. Life is so, I count on it. It’s just that we begin a year marked (globally) for uncertainty and irrationalities. Luckily, at a closest level, we will continue to go on in this amazing adventure of motherhood.

I wish 2012 brings hope, wisdom, light, and dreams. Above all, the smiles of children, which are what make each day meaningful. Have a good year and will be happy to continue to find you in this little-big space, this blogosphere.