What Happens When You Call Poison Control

[I want to start this post by saying that my twins are both healthy and, thankfully, did not get lead poisoning from the following incident.]

A couple of weeks ago, I literally caught one of my twins red-handed (or should I say lead-handed?) eating paint chips.  Her hand was covered in slobber and inside her chubby little fingers was a long sliver of white paint.  I took it from her and swept my pinky insider her mouth.  Then I tried to not to panic.

As with most parenting fails, I only left them alone for a few minutes in their play room when this all transpired.  We just painted the room a couple months ago, but the paint they were eating was off an old phone cord.  I think the girls had pulled the cord off the wall and I wasn’t sure what kind of paint was on it.  To make it worse, as I studied the phone cord, it seemed like a lot of paint was missing.  Have they been doing this every time I go to the bathroom or make myself a sandwich?

I promptly got on the Internet to check the year lead paint was banned, which only increased my worries.  Our house was built 8 years before lead paint was outlawed.

I decided to call Poison Control.  It was sort of hard not to cry while I gave the lady our information, even though she was extremely nice.  She said I probably don’t need to worryif this was a one-time incident.  (However, how can I really know they’ve never done this before?)  According to her, eating one lead paint chip will not result in lead poisoning.  Before I hung up, she said, “Thanks for calling.  This is exactly what we’re here for.”

Just to be sure, I ordered a lead test kit and decided to order one for our water while I was at it.  Two days later, the tests came in the mail.  The phone cord was definitely positive for lead paint.  My heart dropped into my butt.  It was hard to believe because over the previous two days as I waited for the test to come in, I had convinced myself that there was no way it would be lead paint.  I knew the test would just confirm this.  It was shocking when they didn’t.  (Thankfully, our water was negative for lead (as expected), so that was good news.)

I called our pediatrician and we took them in the next morning.  The doctor ran a quick lead level blood test.  Both tests came back well below the safe lead level.

What. A. Relief.

Sometimes I think parenting is going to destroy me.  I’ve always been a worrier but the anxiety I have for my own babies’ well being is sometimes overwhelming.  I’m going to have to actively resist being a helicopter mom.  I wish I was more of a “dirt is good for them” kind of mom, but I still wash their pacifiers when they fall on the floor, I still get nervous around other sick kids, I still jump to worst-case scenario when they sniffle.

As I type this, my Baby B is looking up at me and coughing – her first cough!  I can’t help but notice there’s no place in her baby book to record that….  I know she’ll get over it and apparently it’s good for her immune system (that still doesn’t make sense to me – they need to get sick so that they don’t get sick?)  I’ll try to keep this helicopter on the ground by remembering that it will build her immune system (probably?) and will (hopefully) help me chill out when she gets better.

Things Twin Moms Worry About

My girls have pretty blue eyes, which must be why each twin is so attracted to the other’s irises.  It goes like this: first the babies crawl and/or roll to each other; then, the eye gouging party begins!  It’s like they’ve found their favorite blue marble and they have to have it.  One of them quickly begins to cry (either the blinder because the blindee has closed her eyes; or the blindee because she’s being freaking blinded) so I separate them.  Then, we repeat!

File this under Things Twin Moms Worry About.  It goes before “What if they don’t make any friends besides each other?” but after “How am I going to get them both in the car when they are too big to carry but not big enough to walk?”  I am actually, seriously worried about my twins blinding each other. I can’t figure out how to keep them from poking their eyes out so I was thinking about making them wear safety goggles.  That’s not crazy, right?  I keep reminding myself that I’ve yet to meet twins who have blinded each other so I should probably chill out.  I guess, for now, I’ll just keep their fingernails short….

The Twins’ First Camping Trip

We took our 8-month olds camping last weekend.  I was nervous we’d forget something important and be miserable the whole time, but overall I think we did pretty well.  The twins had so much fun they didn’t even sleep!

We camped on the Chama River in a “primitive” campsite, which means we didn’t have electricity or running water.  In full disclosure, we cheated a little because my dad came and our good friends also met us there.  They were all willing to lend extra hands, which is probably the best thing to have with twins.  We also loaded our car to the brim with stuff so we weren’t roughing it that hard.

I learned a couple camping lessons that I thought I’d share…

Don’t forget the toys.  I brought several different toys and I was glad I did.  Babies get bored, even in the wilderness.

Bring a hammock!  My husband brought a couple of hammocks and the babies loved them.  Hammocks don’t take up much room in the car and it was a good spot to cuddle with the girls.

Try to recreate the baby’s sleeping environment.  This was a big mistake we made.  I figured if they were tired enough, they’d sleep however/wherever.  We just brought their crib mattresses and put them in between us in the tent.  I did bring their noise machine night-light but I wish I’d made their sleeping spots more like home.  I would watch them wake up, look around, get disoriented, and then cry.

Bring lots of everything.  There are obvious necessities like diapers and baby food, but I was glad I had extra baby blankets and clothes, too.  If you think you might want something while you’re camping, bring it (if you have room in your car).

Bring several baby chairs/seats/cribs/pens/jails.  We brought an outdoor playpen thing, but I wish we’d brought their Bumbos, too.  It would have been nice to have more options to set down the babies.  Besides their car seats and the playpen, we had to hold them.

This was the first of many outdoor adventures for the Gauss twins and I think it was a success.  It’s not really that much harder to camp with babies if you bring the right stuff (it just takes longer to pack).

Mentor Moms

One of the best surprises I’ve experienced since having babies has been making new mom friends, whom I lovingly refer to (in my head) as my “Mentor Moms.”  Mentor Moms are fellow women who you can laugh with, talk about your kids, exchange mom fail stories, trade baby items and advice, and talk about your kids some more. The best Mentor Moms are supportive, fun, and non-judgmental.  Mentor Moms are amazing and everyone should have at least one!

It’s extra helpful to have Mentor Moms who have children older than your own.  I was lucky to meet several moms with twins who are a couple months older than mine.  Just the other day I texted one of my favorite Mentor Moms to ask for some bottle feeding advice.  Some of my Mentor Moms live in different states, but have been some of my biggest supporters.  We trade stories, pictures, and advice via Facebook and text.  I love to watch their babies grow up on Facebook and I hope I don’t overload their newsfeeds too much (sorry I’m not sorry for all the pictures).

Another surprise was reconnecting with old friends over pregnancy and babies.  People I’d fallen out of touch with reached out to me and were a great source of encouragement during our time in the NICU and beyond.

And, of course, my own mom and my mother-in-law are the Queen Mentor Moms.  It really helps me chill out when my mom is like, “when you were a baby, they said it was dangerous NOT to give you peanut butter.  You lived.”  It’s hard to argue with that.

One of my cousins said motherhood feels like being in a club.  I definitely agree with her and feel honored to be a member.  I hope I can be a good Mentor Mom to all the mothers in my life, my pregnant friends, my friends who ache to become mothers, and my friends who do not wish to have kids.  You guys are all in my club.

Twin Myths

I’ll be the first to admit that I knew close to nothing about twins before hearing those fateful words “there’s two in there.”  I still probably don’t know as much as I should but I have uncovered some twin myths since becoming a MoM (Mother of Multiples).

  1. All twins love being together.  False!  Until very recently, my twins barely even acknowledged each other.  My girls were in separate sacs in utero, which means they were not hugging in the womb.  I essentially had two different pregnancies…at the same time.  They are starting to “twinteract” now, which is the BEST, and I hope they grow closer as they get older.
  2. We hold them both at the same time.  Nope.  When the girls were tiny, I thought picking up two babies was a skill I’d need to master.  I quickly decided it was too risky and I realized it would be easy to drop them.  I only hold both of them if I’m sitting down and someone else hands me one of them.
  3. We know they’re fraternal.  Actually, no.  Surprisingly, we can only know they’re fraternal with a DNA test.  My twins are most likely fraternal but there is a small chance they’re identical.  Sometimes they look a lot a like, and as a matter of fact, identical twins can look pretty different (or fraternal twins can look alike).  Since my twins have different degrees of plagiocephaly (misshapen heads) it could explain their differences.  When people ask if they’re identical, I just say no, but in reality, we don’t really know.  Weird, right?

I’m pretty sure my twins are going to teach me just as much as I’ll teach them…

An Actual Day in the Life of a Twin Mom

This is what our day was like yesterday.  Every day is not like this, some days we have appointments and many days we go on walks.  I also don’t make dinner every day and I’m lucky to have a lot of help from my husband and in-laws.  Here is what we actually did yesterday:

6:00 a.m.

  • Babies wake up!
  • Change diapers
  • Turn on GMA for the babies (they love Robin Roberts)
  • Babies watch the news while I make their bottles (and my coffee.  Obviously.)

6:45

  • Feed babies their bottles and cereal
  • Babies play, have tummy time, practice sitting, rolling, read books, cuddle
  • Start laundry, take out dirty diapers to trash, wash bottles, eat my breakfast

9:00

  • Babies take naps in separate rooms (the separate room thing is key during naptime) while I squeeze in a workout

9:40

  • M wakes up (my babies aren’t the best nappers) and I try for a while to get her to go back to sleep (in vain)
  • I give in, get M up, and cuddle with her for a few minutes

10:00

  • Wake up H in order to keep babies on the same schedule
  • Change diapers
  • Make bottles (and more coffee for me.  Duh.)

10:30

  • Feed babies their bottles

11:00

  • Babies play, have tummy time, practice sitting, rolling, read books, cuddle
  • More laundry!
  • Put roast in the Crock Pot
  • I make a couple phone calls while the babies are happy, eat lunch at some point

1:00 p.m.

  • Change diapers
  • Babies take naps in separate rooms
  • Watch one episode of Kimmy Schmidt before H wakes up

1:30

  • H is awake – I try for a while to get her to go back to sleep (it doesn’t work)

1:45

  • I get H out of her crib and we cuddle for a little while

2:00

  • I wake up M in order to keep the babies on the same schedule.
  • Feed the babies their bottles
  • Babies play, have tummy time, practice sitting, rolling, read books, cuddle

3:00

  • I turn on the babies’ favorite video (which is currently a Pilates workout DVD) while I take a shower

3:12

  • I’m back before the babies know I’m gone (it takes me approx. 12 minutes to shower and get dressed. I’m fancy like that.)

4:00

  • Change diapers
  • Find out H has pooped up to her shoulders so I decide to move up bath time
  • I put M in her crib and give H a bath
  • Then I put H down for a nap while I give M a bath
  • Throw in some baby laundry due to the recent poopy development

5:00

  • Wake up H so that she’ll sleep tonight (I don’t always have to wake them up so much, but some days – like this one – I have to)
  • Feed babies their bottles and some green beans
  • [Dad is usually home around 5:00 Heart]

5:45

  • Help make dinner for adults

5:47

  • I hear the babies laughing hysterically while I’m in the kitchen (and they’re in the living room) and I {unsuccessfully} attempt to get it on video.

5:55

  • I return to the kitchen to help with dinner (Babies start laughing again while I’m out of the room.  They already have inside jokes.)

6:15

  • Babies play, have tummy time, practice sitting, rolling, read books, cuddle

6:30

  • Babies watch one of their favorite shows, Wheel of Fortune

7:00

  • Change diapers
  • Put babies in PJ’s, kisses, kisses, kisses, and then put them to bed (they share a room but they don’t share a crib – people ask that a lot.)

7:30

  • Finish baby laundry
  • Wash bottles
  • Help clean up the kitchen
  • Pick up baby stuff so people can walk through the living room

8:30

  • Watch some TV
  • Decide I should write this day down…and it becomes this blog post…

9:30

  • Bedtime for me! Thumbs up

American Maternity Leave is a Joke

February 9th, 2015, was my first day at a great job that I couldn’t believe I’d landed.  I loved the company culture, had great benefits, a good boss, and I was excited for my future there.  Less than three weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.  Less than three weeks after that, I found out it was twins.  Less than six months after that, I no longer worked in that great job at the fun company.

I started researching my maternity leave options shortly after I found I’d require it.  My company had a relatively generous maternity leave policy (for this country).  I could go on short-term disability for 6 weeks and would get 100% of my salary during that time.  My company also had to abide by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  FMLA basically requires an employer (of a certain size – I believe 50 or more employees, but don’t quote me on that) to hold an employee’s job for 12 weeks while he or she takes leave (unpaid) to recover from an illness or to care for a sick family member.

However, I did not qualify for FMLA protection because I did not meet all the employee requirements, which meant that I could technically be fired for taking more than the time covered by short-term disability or vacation.  Luckily my bosses were not assholes and agreed I could take the full 12 weeks (although it would be partially unpaid) and they would hold my job for me.

Call me an entitled Millennial, but I do not consider FMLA to be “employee protection” at all.  I mean, every time I’ve been recruited for a job, the employer generally talks of hiring the very best of the best, of their employees being their biggest assets, of work-life balance, etc.  I show up on time and work hard every day.  I graduated with highest honors from college, I have an MBA, and a CPA license…but thanks for not firing me while I recover from giving birth. ‘Preciate it!

I refuse to believe that it’s a bad business decision to offer longer paid maternity leave.  There are so many things I’d like to say to the people who run companies in this country.  If they were all in one room, I’d ask them if they honestly believe that 12 weeks unpaid is the best they can do.  I’d tell them that my water broke in my office because I was trying to save all my vacation days for after the babies were born.  I’d ask if they seriously believe that someone can do their best work on 4 hours of interrupted sleep. I’d ask if I could bring my twins to work for the first year so I could choose to exclusively breastfeed (not pump – breastfeed).  I’d ask them if I get extra sick days when my 12-week old twins catch the Flu at daycare.  I’d ask them if they think I can be productive when I am crying at my desk from being forced to leave my infants before I’m ready.  I’d tell them that if they believe an employee would abuse a generous maternity leave policy, they should never have hired her because that employee lacks integrity.  I’d challenge them to stop discussing maternity leave in terms of unpaid weeks and to instead let the mother decide what is best, and I’d dare them to pay her for it.

I understand that babies go to day care all the time and turn out just fine.  I understand that other babies have a stay-at-home parent and turn out terribly.  I truly understand this.  However, I now understand how damaging it would have been for me to return to work before I was ready.  Twelve weeks would not have been enough time.  Personally, I think 6 months would have been more realistic for me.  For another woman, 6 weeks may be enough, but for another, 12 months would be right.  I think the loyalty an employer would receive in return for allowing a woman to determine the length of her own maternity leave (up to, say, 12 months) would pay dividends back to the company.  Besides employee loyalty, the positive PR for the company would also be valuable.

In my case, my husband accepted a great job in our hometown, so I quit my job and I am staying home with my twins indefinitely.  Truthfully, I can’t say that better maternity leave policies would have changed our ultimate decision, but they certainly would have made it a tougher choice.  Perhaps my husband wouldn’t have been applying in a different state if I could have taken longer paid leave.  It’s hard to say, but I know now that only 12 weeks at home with my babies would have broken my heart.

I didn’t understand a woman’s hard-wired need to physically be with her baby until I became a mom.  I wish I’d had more empathy for my coworkers who were pregnant or who were parents to young children before now.   I also didn’t understand what a joke unpaid leave is.  Taking more than a couple weeks unpaid is not a choice for most people; they are forced to return to work for the paycheck and the health insurance.  Paid leave not legally required, but it needs to happen anyway.  Yes, paternity leave should also be “a thing,” but for now, let’s at least take better care of our moms.  It’s time we started taking care of our mothers by allowing them really decide how to best take care of their babies.

Do You Sleep?

One of the top twin-related questions we get is whether we sleep at all.  The answer is evolving: not much at first, then it changed to yes, and now it has looped back to no again…  The first couple months are a blur, as any new parent would say, but once we found a couple tricks that worked for us, the babies started sleeping in longer stretches.  Now they are at a transition and are not going through it quietly.

Putting our babies in a straight jacket worked really well (lots of people like to call it a “swaddle,” but tomato, tomAto, right?). It may sound like an exaggeration, but swaddling changed our lives.  Pre-swaddle:  extremely sleep-deprived; post-swaddle: regular sleep-deprived.  I’ve only recently realized that we can’t swaddle the twins until they’re 18 years old (but think how much harder it would be for them to sneak out at night when they’re in high school!)  The girls are rolling over now so allegedly we are supposed to stop swaddling.  Sad  We have also started to transition them out of our room and into cribs in separate rooms.  They are doing okay, but some things are just more difficult when multiplied by two.  For example, plugging binkies for two babies at night can get pretty intense when they’re not right next to our bed.

When I Googled “how to stop swaddling” I found this awesome “triangle swaddle” method, which is supposed to be safer for babies who roll over.  This new swaddle, plus a binkie, seems to help our twins fall asleep.  For now, these tricks seem to work for our babies.

I’ve also been working hard during the day to get the twins on the same napping schedule.  I noticed I spend a lot of time brainstorming ways to get them to nap at the same time and then when they do, I’m like a deer in the headlights thinking, “holy crap, what should I do?! Um, um, um, ummmmmmm, I guess I’ll watch TV?”  Then when they wake up, I think of 10 other things that would have been better uses of my time besides catching up on crappy reality TV shows.

The main thing I’ve learned about helping twins learn to sleep (and, therefore, getting sleep as the parent) is that it’s a dynamic process.  Something that worked last week might not work this week.  We’ve learned to adapt and try different things until we find the next best thing (read: we’re flying by the seat of our pants).  I have a feeling we’ll be repeating this process many times over and before we know it, we’ll be waiting up for them on the couch to make sure they’re home by their curfew.

One House and a Couple of Helmets

Last week was a busy week for us.  We closed on our first house!  We also took the girls to the orthotist and found out they’ll both need special helmets to help correct their head shapes.

On Monday, we closed on a fixer-upper.  HGTV has brainwashed me into thinking this was a good idea.  One of my nieces asked me if the Property Brothers (who are also twins!) were going to come do the work for us.  I wish, my dear niece, oh I wish….

We are hoping to do a lot of the work before we move in, but we are also anxious to get into the house.  I’m noticing that we enjoy stressful things, like changing jobs, moving multiple times in one year, having multiple newborns, and renovating a house.  Good times.

A couple days after buying our house, we went to a follow-up appointment to see if the girls would require a helmet to correct their plagiocephaly (misshapen head).  It’s not really as scary as it sounds (and it’s different than the Zika Virus thing, in case you were wondering).  The way the twins were positioned in utero resulted in flat spots on their heads.  We attempted to correct it with positioning, but they have shown little-to-no improvement over the past couple months.  They will probably have to wear their little helmets 23 hours a day for a couple of months.

I’m also preparing myself to field lots of disguised “what’s wrong with your babies?” questions, the same way we handle the veiled “did you have IVF?” question.  I understand people are curious, so I don’t mind answering questions.  I would rather people ask than assume things.  And if they ask, they just might learn something, too.

So that’s the latest with our little twins.  They’ll be moving for the second time in their short lives and they got some new hats.  They’re also cuter than ever and growing up fast!

The Twins’ First Cold

At the end of December, the twins got their first cold.  I was new-mom-worried and I immediately new-mom-overreacted.  They didn’t have a fever, but I insisted we take them into the doctor, just in case.

After examining them, the pediatrician assured us it was probably just a cold, but that we needed to watch for fevers, coughs, and ear infections.  Since they were born prematurely, they are also at higher risk for RSV and pneumonia.  The NICU doctors did a good job of instilling paranoia in me when we were released back in October so my anxiety was still high even after taking them to the doctor.

When we got home, we cranked up the humidifiers (which are magic, by the way), used saline nose spray (the kind for babies), and we occasionally took them into a steamy bathroom with this nifty vapor bath stuff.  Obviously, I constantly felt their foreheads, overanalyzed rosy cheeks, checked their temperatures every diaper change, and listened intensely to every cough, sputter, sneeze, or whimper.

Luckily, they haven’t developed any worrisome symptoms and (fingers crossed) I think we are out of the woods on this one.  The only symptom they really ever had was super stuffy noses.  For all we know, it could have just been allergies.

Everyone assures me that it’s “good” for them to get sick and I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t keep them in a bubble forever.  My always-grounded husband has informed me that we cannot take them to the doctor every time they have a runny nose (me: are you sure?  I don’t think Dr. Nichols would mind….).  I’m already crazy about hand washing/hand sanitizing/interrogating visitors about their health status.  I also refuse to take them to crowded public places like grocery stores or churches at least until flu season is over.

So we’ve made it through the first cold of many.  It was kind of stressful but I’m glad to know they have some sort of immune system working in their tiny little bodies.  They’re going to be okay.