I have realized in the last few weeks that one of the biggest challenges of having twins is feeding them. They seem to eat all the time, around the clock, especially during a growth spurt when wearing a bra seems useless.
I am fortunate that I didn’t have any challenges nursing my son three years ago and I am not having any serious issues with my girls now. My girls latched within an hour of their births and my milk came in on the third day (in spite of my C-section which can delay milk production). I do pump more than I would like, but that is mostly for efficiency. To nurse them would take longer and I feel I would have no time to do anything else (you know, trivial stuff like showering and eating).
My girls arrived five weeks early and combined they weighed less than my son when he was born. They lacked the lovely fat that makes babies look cute and plump; instead, they had skinny little chicken legs and their skin hung off them like pantyhose several sizes too big. That made regulating their body temperature a challenge, so for the couple days in the hospital before my milk emerged, we decided to give them formula.
The first 24 hours the girls were both in the NICU in accordance with hospital policy for all babies born before 36 weeks. Every two hours or so they would wheel me to the NICU to nurse them with whatever colostrum I could produce. After the first 24 hours the larger twin moved to my room and the smaller one stayed in the NICU, which greatly complicated nursing. I would nurse one in my room and then get wheeled to the NICU to nurse my other daughter. I was in pain from the surgery, exhausted, swollen with fluids, and battling high blood pressure. My doctor came in and told me to slow down a bit. But I knew that the more the girls suckled, the sooner my milk would come in. So I kept at it in spite of the risks to my own health.
My milk came in fast and furious. At first the babies could eat for only 20 seconds at a time before falling asleep at my breast. Those were the days! On day five we left the hospital with healthy, petite, baby girls (3 lb 15 oz and 4 lb 5 oz), and I knew I had my work cut out for me. Since then I have nursed and pumped and nursed and pumped in a non-stop cycle that has pushed my body and my sanity to their limits. And now here I am, several weeks since their birthday, and I am sure they have just about doubled their weight. They have puffy cheeks and rolls on their thighs…finally, places to pinch! I may have as much self-doubt as the next person, but this much I know: I am feeding my daughters well.
A few weeks ago we bought some formula to have on hand, just in case, as I was getting perilously close to not producing enough milk to meet the demand. I hesitated… if the temptation were there, would we start using formula because it was easier? Faster? More convenient? I have long complained to my husband that he is too impatient (said the pot to the kettle), to the point where he makes bad decisions because he simply cannot wait a minute or 10.
Well, two days ago, the girls were shrieking because one bottle simply was not enough to quench their thirst. I had just pumped and was left dry momentarily, and my husband did not have the patience to wait at least another hour for me to pump again. As I went to fetch two emergency bottles I had stashed away in the back of the fridge, I caught him red-handed trying to make them a bottle of formula. I could not believe my eyes. I had thought my husband and I were on the same page regarding feeding the girls. Apparently, I thought wrong. I don’t know if I can properly express how much this pained me, on so many levels:
1) It undermined my commitment to nurse the girls.
2) My husband was being sneaky.
3) He was not supporting my breast feeding in the way I needed him to.
4) It felt like he doubted my ability to nourish my daughters.
I tried to explain this to my vegan husband in a way he could relate to. We agreed to raise our children as vegetarians until they are old enough to make the decision for themselves. This is sometimes inconvenient for me but never, ever, would I give our son meat or chicken because it made my life easier. That would disrespect my husband, violate an agreement we made, and be generally deceitful. But this is exactly what he did to me, and I felt betrayed. I felt like he did not trust my ability to feed the girls, and now I doubted his commitment to breast milk. I was more than just upset; I was heartbroken.
My husband told me that he only did it to help me get my milk supply ahead of the demand. He knew how much I was struggling to keep up and wanted me to build up a stash of milk so I wouldn’t stress out as much. He knew that I would never agree to supplement with formula unless it was an emergency, so he felt that he had to do it behind my back. Of course I want to understand where he is coming from. Of course I want to forgive him. But I am finding it difficult. While his intentions were good, he did not support my nursing the girls the way I want and need to be supported.
It is unimaginably hard to nurse twins–physically and emotionally–and I need his empathy and encouragement to do it. I need him to tell me I am doing a good job and that he’s proud of me because the girls can’t tell me themselves. Simply put, I want my husband on my team and using the same playbook. I have to fight through exhaustion and sore nipples and being pulled a million different directions by three children, so I need him working with me, in sync with my needs and ready to defer to my motherly instinct. And I have no idea how to help him understand this.
Are there any dads out there with words of wisdom for my husband? (Or any moms with words of wisdom for me?)