Thursday 28 January 2010

A fortnight of fotos

The last fourteen days or so have felt pretty busy. I'm keeping up with taking my project 31 photos, but haven't posted them for ages because I keep getting snowed under by the constant need to do... stuff. Lately I've been making a really huge effort to keep the house cleaner and tidier - I'm here a lot, and it seems that the cleaner the house is, the calmer I feel. And it's addictive. When it comes to cleaning, it seems that I have only two settings: 'zero', and 'hero'. While we were in the middle of the bone-crushing horror of waiting, I was definitely functioning at zero. Whereas now:
14 January

or something approximating that, anyway. I was very inspired by this post , which linked to this site, which is basically a crazy lady who leads what can only be described as an internet cleaning cult (she describes dusting as 'blessing your home', which freaks me out a little) but dangit, her weekly cleaning programme is fabulous and I'm addicted. A week in, and I hardly even had to clean up when the babies and I had a long awaited visitor:
16 January
they were very happy to see her, honestly, they were just a bit tired by this point.

(By the way - for those of you counting - 15 January's picture does exist, but has been censored by J as being too naked for the interwebs. And I'm sure he's right. But a crying shame - it was CUTE. And then he did the same to 17 January. Nevermind).

18 January saw us having a very tiring day:

at the hospital. We begged for, and were given, an appointment with a specialist paediatrician to do a general check on the babies' health. I know all babies have a paediatrician in the States, but that is not the case here and our GP took some convincing. But when we eventually did get to see a paed, he was truly fabulous, and was the first person to actually sit down and listen to the babies' history and then actually think about what the health implications might be. It. Was. Amazing. Not so amazing was the fact that he sent baby L off for an immediate X ray of her hips, and has now referred us to the hip clinic because he's a bit worried about her range of motion. Obviously if there's a problem we'd rather know as early as possible. And it doesn't seem to be anything major. But 'I think I should refer her on' are words that no parent really wants to hear.

The busyness continued with our official 3 month social work review on the same day. (Needing that X ray means we only just squeaked home in time with two INSANELY tired babies, which is a whole 'nother story). That wasn't exactly fun, but we seemed to get through it okay. The next day, I had to go to a weaning information session at our local clinic, which was not all that useful (are things like that EVER useful?) and afterwards I bit the bullet, went straight to the local supermarket and bought my first packet of baby rice.

It was our first outing in our new side-by-side double pushchair:

19 January
and I have to say, I was absolutely NOT prepared for the difference in the attention we would get - until then, I had been taking them out in one pushchair and a sling. Probably not helped by the fact that the babies' warm outfits are little bear suits and they do look undeniably gorgeous. But I was followed around the supermarket by an audible wave of sighs and whispers about the cuteness. I have never experienced anything like it. I think I unintentionally spread a lot of happiness that day.

What did not spread happiness was the introduction of the baby rice. Notice anything different in my standard 'two babies on a changing mat' photo?
20 January
My two little messy-mouths were not at ALL impressed.

Please, mummy, don't make me taste that again. Look how cute I am. Would you want to make this little face unhappy?
21 January

Well yes, it seems you would. You can torture us as much as you like, but we still have each other. (I came back from washing my hands to find them in this tragic pose)
22 January

I gave them a day off the evil solids for their six month birthday:

which they were pretty happy about. As was I, because it also gave me a break from the horror of cleaning up their new vesuvius-style poos for a day or two. (And seriously. SIX MONTHS? Where has the time gone? And then I remember - oh yeah, we haven't actually had them all that time. So I guess that's okay. Sort of. But SIX MONTHS? Already?)

I took so many pictures of them in their 'january' outfits that I could pretty much hear the camera shrieking in protest. So I declared this week to be kitchen macro week:
24 January 25 January
26 January
27 January
which was fine, but when I was reduced to photographing my dinner on Wednesday night (in my defense, another crazy busy day) I thought it might be time to switch gear again.

I've decided that the last weekday of every month is going to be 'sort out the clothes' day, where I jettison anything that they don't fit anymore. I knew that this month, I was going to have to say goodbye to my favourite outfit of baby I's. It's stripy and velour and incredibly cuddly, and it's baby gap but I got in on ebay for 99p. So yeah, I love everything about it. It was far too big for him when we brought him home, but now it only just skims his knees and is increasingly difficult to button. But oh, it's so adorable. Saying goodbye to this outfit feels like officially saying goodbye to the tiny boy that we brought home.
28 January
See? You can see most of his legs.
And that brings us to today. We have to go back to the hospital for follow-up blood tests, and I'm wondering where on a baby you can draw a significant amount of blood. I guess I'll know by this evening. I think I'd rather not.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Mother's Milk

I've always been very, very pro breastfeeding. It's just so obviously such a good idea. Baby cows eat cow milk. Baby monkeys eat monkey milk. Even baby dolphins eat dolphin milk. It seems like a bit of a no-brainer that baby humans should eat human milk. This is something I have never questioned. Occasionally, newspapers here run 'freak show' stories about women who are still breastfeeding their children at a much-older-than-normal age. When these stories were discussed, I was always the person saying 'more power to her!' rather than making grossed out shuddery noises. I was never in any doubt that breastfeeding was a Good Thing.

And then we decided to adopt.

When me made this decision, it felt like a big deal to me that this meant I wouldn't be able to breastfeed my baby*. I mean, how was I going to bond with the baby if I didn't get to experience this?For a while during the waiting, this was one of the things that could send me from zero to sobbing in about 10 seconds flat. But, onward and upward. Formula it would have to be. And when we got our referral I had so, so many questions about the best way to feed our babies. For example - what is the real difference between 'newborn' formula and 'hungry baby' formula? Would 'hungry baby' be better for malnourished babies - does it have extra calories? And what about 'follow on' milk? Is that the same as newborn, with added iron and vitamin D, or pretty much powdered cows milk in a fancy tin? How are the brands different? How do I know what teats to choose? Then later, after they were home, why does my child's poo smell like cat poo on one brand of formula, but not on another?**

So I asked my health professionals, and they were incredibly vague. Everyone seemed to think that someone else should know about bottle feeding, but it certainly wasn't them. I looked on the side of the formula packets. Information there? 'Breastfeeding is best for babies'. Which it is, of course, but what the? This is all the information you're going to give me? A health warning? I'm just trying to feed my children, I'm not starting them smoking.

So I did what any sensible girl would do, and googled. Put 'Formula Feeding Information' into Google, and the first link that comes up is the formula feeding information page at 'Ask Dr Sears'. This pleased me - he's a man who knows his onions, right? Well. Here's a snippet of what Dr Sears has to say:

One of our concerns is that even though formula-fed infants appear to grow normally, are they really thriving? Thriving means more than just getting bigger. It means developing to the child's fullest physical, emotional, and intellectual potential. We just don't know about all the long-term effects of tampering with Mother Nature.

Really, really staggeringly unhelpful. Because unless he wants to drive over to my house and donate some of his own breastmilk to me, formula is what these babies are going to be getting. And I was already unhappy about it - I don't need a lecture about it - I need to know how to do it the best I can, and that doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

I have, in the end, become rather tired of the moral posturing of the breast-is-best brigade, and nobody is more surprised about that than me. I'll spare you any more links, but the Sears page turned out to be typical of the information I found online about feeding with formula. It seems that a quick summary is always 'So, you want to know about how to feed with formula? Well, lady, here's why you shouldn't'. It began to seem like I might as well type 'information about feeding with inferior, nutrionless, baby junk food that I have chosen because I am selfish and a bad mother and want my breasts to stay perky' because that was pretty much all I could find.

I was already sad about not being able to breastfeed, and this kind of 'information' really wasn't helping.

And then something amazing happened. In a matter of weeks my babies went from this:
27 October
to this:
18 January
because of me, and this:
and I'm finally starting to let go of the assumptions I had about feeding. I am in no way anti breastfeeding, and I never would be. And I would never, ever encourage formula feeding as some kind of easy option - nutrition aside, all that sterilising and boiling is a total pain. But now, I am anti breastfeeding-as-a-moral-imperative. I am anti the idea that breastfeeding is the only way to have a happy baby, or be a worthwhile mother, and that bottle feeding is some kind of tragedy that must be avoided at all costs.

I was carrying around so much guilt about not being able to give my children this good thing. But I'm realising that just because one thing is Good, doesn't mean the other thing is Bad. I used to assume that feeding from a bottle would somehow be automatically less than breastfeeding, but now I just don't feel that way at all. I know I haven't ever breastfed, and apparently the hormones can be terrific, but I no longer feel like I'm missing something primal. Apparently, it's a wonderful feeling to know that you are the only person who can provide the nutrition that your baby needs. Well, I'm not the only person who can provide food for my babies, but most times I'm the only person who does*, and that feels pretty wonderful too. When I was grieving about losing the breastfeeding experience, I never realised that they would do that face-reachy thing with bottles, too, that she would grunt adorably or that he would love to run his fingers through my hair while he sucked. And I don't feel like I'm missing out at all.

I know that breastfeeding is nutritionally superior to formula milk, but no longer think it is somehow morally superior. I have come to believe that whether breast feeding or bottle feeding, it should be less about the adjective and more about the verb. I would have hoped that Dr Sears would have celebrated with me that my babies are thriving rather than... well, you read the extract.

I never would have thought it, but I've come to be absolutely content that my babies are fed with formula. It's not perfect, but like so many other things in my life, it's good enough, and that's good enough for me. Finally, I am happy to say that I am a mother. And drink up babies, because this is my milk.

*And yes, I know that adoptive breastfeeding is technically possible, but after researching (because I was pretty keen to do it) it became clear that women who have never previously lactated should not expect to produce significant quantities of milk. So it might be a nice experience, but it probably isn't actually going to be what feeds the baby. So we decided no.

**The answer to that last one is that she was on a high-fat formula and her pancreas couldn't handle it. Thanks to my Dad for explaining that one.

Except when J happens to be around at feeding time, and oh mercy me when they are twins involved I am SO glad I can hand one baby and a bottle to a man.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

After about four weeks off (remnants of annual leave + paternity leave), J has had to return to work. It didn't feel like we were on holiday while he was off - I got used to having him around and two adults caring for two babies felt about right.

Ha, ha, ha. Because now he has gone back, and needless to say, I am already absolutely fried. Not helping is the fact that we have the deepest snow I've ever seen in the 9 years I've been in the Northern Hemisphere, and I can't leave the house because two babies is one too many to fit in my sling, I can't use the pram, and now isn't the right time to take the car out with the babies for the first time. I am getting bored, people. Very, very bored.

Anyway, enough moaning, more of the wordlessness.

09 January

10 January

12 January

13 January

I took a picture on the 11th, but it's part of a series which needs a separate post.

I'm going to try to restrict posting these to Wednesdays from now on - I promise this isn't about to turn into a photoblog. But doing this has really made me regret that I didn't take more photos in the first few weeks we had the babies with us. And yes, I know that I was having a total meltdown, but I still wish I had more of them looking really tiny. And it made me realise that often, it's only with hindsight that you think 'oh, if I had done xxxxx every day / week / month that would have created so many nice memories'.

So anyway, I'm wondering - those of you who are ahead of me in this game, what have you done in terms of memory-making that you have been really glad you did? And those whose babies are yet to come, have you got any fabulous plans that I can steal? I've ordered some stickers from here that I plan to use for a 2010 January to December 'watch us grow' series, which should be fun (and will take care of 12 of my 365 shots, if I continue this madness). But I would love more ideas. Save me from my snowy boredom!

(By the way, thank you so much to those who delurked, as well as those I've already grown to know and love over the last year or so. I've now got some new blogs to follow!)

(Okay, this turned out to be quite a wordy wednesday).

Friday 8 January 2010

Go on, you know you want to

So, three different blogs I've been reading have announced that this week is International Blog Delurking week. Actually - four! Just found another one. (Gotta say - I'm really wondering - who decides these things? I mean, if I decided that it was international 'send money to Claudia' week, would that work?)

Anyway, I feel a bit shy about this but I've decided to join in. I've got statcounter (there's a little button at the bottom right) so I know that people read this from all kinds of crazy places. And hey, you all know a lot about me by now. And I know nothing about most of you. My own fault, for writing a blog I guess, but I'd love you to say hi. Who are you and where are you from? How did you find me? Are you my social worker? (Please say no).

It won't hurt at all. I promise.

And I've done my homework - here are the next set of pictures. I'm already finding doing this every day more of a challenge than I expected. In a good way, I think. I wouldn't have any of these photos from the last four days if I hadn't decided to do this, and already it's hard to believe that it was really THAT SNOWY earlier in the week.

05 January

06 January
I swear, my head isn't really this big. I think the lesson here is don't take self-portraits with a compact camera.

07 January
best coffee in town. Also shiniest bar.

08 January
Can I have a price check on a disgruntled baby, please?
(By the way, it turned out that the checkout assistant you see here is a twin! She liked our babies. Her twin lives in another country and she misses her a lot. It was a nice conversation).

Monday 4 January 2010

Project 31

Okay, so inspired by Rana, I've decided to have a mini-crack at Project 365. The idea is that you take a photo every day. Fortunately, on 01 January, by the time I read her post and thought of doing it, I just so happened to have already taken some shots that day. This was fortunate, because the babies were already in bed and I am glad I didn't have to explain to J why I just HAD to get them up at 11pm to pose.
01 January

At the moment, I'm not going to commit myself to a whole year, because a whole year just seems too much to think about. Also, I'm in denial that this year will ever end. See these babies?

02 January
They are just that at the moment - babies. I can't believe how much I love having babies to love. And I keep on torturing myself by thinking about how quickly they are growing up. Already, they are just changing, changing, changing. They have fat rolls now!

03 January
and adorable personalities and I just don't want them to change. I know I'm a walking cliche, but I want them to stay this way forever. They are giggly and squidgy and a lot of work, but they are absolutely perfect. I was going through clothes they have grown out of and I kept wanting to cry because I know that they will never be that small again. And trying to figure out what to do with their baby clothes tears me up inside. Will I ever need these again? Will we adopt more? Or maybe pursue some way of making some homegrown babies? Is this it for me and dribbly, cuddly, roly-poly bundles? I find myself thinking about this all the time, and the bags of outgrown clothes aren't really helping me to feel peaceful about it. Should I keep them, or give them away? J says give them away now, because if it is hard to do at the moment, it would be a lot harder in five years time if we never need them. I think he might be right, but I don't know. What do you think?

(No, really, I'm asking for advice!)

But back to the project.

04 January

At the moment, Im' just going to sign myself up for a mini version I'm calling project 31, and try to take a picture every day in January. I won't be posting them every day, but I will try to post them every few days. If it starts to take over this blog, I might move it to another one, but for now I'm going to post them here as I go. Anybody else want to join in??

************edited to say*************
I posted too early with the photos. Have now replaced 01 and 04 January. Hope that's allowed. And no, I don't think you need a theme or anything so join in!