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May 1 2012

Bris Tips (ha!) from a Mom Who’s Been There

By at 9:49 am

Uncanny resemblance, right?

Six years ago, when I was expecting my first child, my husband and I debated ritual circumcision. We finally concluded that we would do it for the sake of shalom bayit, for the peace of the family. Now our house is overrun with boys: I have a 6-year-old and 1-year-old twins. That’s a lot of brit milah.

A bris usually takes place in the morning because Jewish tradition declares that a mitzvah be performed early in the day. But each bris I planned had a slightly different flavor than the traditional. Both took place in the late afternoon to allow time for out-of-towners to arrive. One was held in Boston with tons of New York family and local Jewish friends. The other was held in Atlanta with a handful of out of town family members and many non-Jewish friends. Each time we chose a Reform, female, mohel with an MD.

Here’s some hands-on advice for the foggy, postpartum days when you’d rather take a nap but find yourself hosting a bris for a cast of thousands. Parents of twins, there is a special section for you. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 20 2012

Friday Night: Rituals That Aren’t So Hard to Keep

By at 3:18 pm
latte

Nothing like a ritual to wake you up.

Last Friday I paced in the kitchen of our tiny apartment, waiting for Avi and Maya to wake up from their nap. Generally, I’ll do anything to ensure that they keep sleeping (including but not limited to: blasting sound machines, forcing my husband to sit on the porch for the duration of their nap time because he makes too much noise walking around, and posting a sign on our front door, imploring delivery people and neighbors not to ring our bell). But on Fridays, we go for coffee when they wake from that a.m. nap, and I realized as I kept checking the clock on my cell phone and listening for sounds at their bedroom door, I really look forward to it. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2011

The Biblical Model of Raising Twins

By at 1:58 pm

twin baby girls in cribI’ve been comparing my twin girls a lot lately. Blame it on teething. One of our girls, Maya, woke up one morning with a little white tooth sprouting from her bottom gums. No warning. In fact, I’m pretty sure that she’s happier and more content with teeth than she was without. A week later, Avi, “traditionally” our calmer and quieter baby, started waking up every hour during the night, taking shorter naps, and being generally fussy all afternoon long. Sure enough, after a few days of this and not to be outdone by her sister, Avi sprouted two teeth (and continued to fuss, albeit with more drool).

I know I’m breaking some cardinal parenting rule when I say that Maya’s suddenly the easier baby–I know I shouldn’t compare them for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s bad for their self-esteem. But it’s basically impossible not to compare. In fact, I think comparing them is how I understand and get to know them better.

The biblical model of twins, Jacob and Esau, are described as polar opposites and never evolve from their prescribed roles. In the bible, Esau is described as hairy and a hunter, while Jacob is smooth-skinned and spiritual. Esau becomes the “servant” of Jacob, who becomes the leader of a great people. Esau trades his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2011

Batya the Sleep Coach: Getting the Twins to Sleep

By at 9:52 am

Why sleep when we can play with each other?

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen is taking questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to info@kveller.com

Dear Batya,

My husband and I have almost-10-month-old twins. They wake up repeatedly during the night. Often it’s easy to soothe them back to sleep. But sometimes one (or both) of them is just wide awake at 4am and it’s really hard to get them back to sleep. They start off the night around 8:30pm in their cribs. If someone wakes up before we are in bed, we rock him or her back to sleep and put them back in the crib. If they wake up after we are in bed, we just bring them into bed with us (we have a king size bed for this purpose). That used to solve the problem and they slept solidly the rest of the night. But more and more they are waking up even once they are in bed with us. I don’t know why and I don’t know how to get them back to sleep. We are not willing to let them cry (beyond a little kvetching), so that is off the table as a strategy.

Dear Ana,

Sounds like you have a tag team over there! It seems they are both waking so frequently at night due to the fact that they simply don’t know how to settle themselves to sleep. You can never spoil a baby, and all you can do is love them to pieces, but when push comes to shove they need to learn how to self-soothe in order for them to improve in their sleep habits.

You need to first ensure they’re not overtired by bedtime, and on a decent routine during the day that allows you to predict when their bodies are actually regulated to sleeping for the night.  Below is a sample schedule that may help you:

7:00 – Wake and Breast milk or Formula
9:00 – Breakfast
10:00 or 10:30 – Morning Nap (at least 1 hour)
11:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
1:00 – Lunch
2:00 or 2:30 – Early Afternoon Nap (at least 1 hour)
3:00 – Breast milk or Formula plus snack
5:00 – Dinner
6:15 – Begin bedtime routine, including Breast milk or Formula
7:00 –Bedtime (aim to have them both asleep by this time)

After ensuring their bodies are regulated, you can then move onto actually TEACHING them how to sleep. When working with multiples, it’s best if you can separate them so they don’t wake each other up. After a few weeks of their sleep improving, you can then move them back into the same room and allow them to get used to each other again.

Place each one in their crib/room at bedtime. Sit there with them for as long as it takes for them to fall asleep. They see you, hear you, and can even touch you to know that you’re there, but give them the secure, loving, but firm message that they need to learn to sleep on their own. Some protesting will be involved, but they will never feel alone or abandoned because you are right there with them! After 3-5 days, you can slowly become less involved in helping them fall asleep until you’re able to simply kiss and cuddle them, put them in their cribs, do your routine, and leave the room to let them drift off on their own.  It’ll probably take about 2 weeks of hard work…but it’ll be worth it!

Apr 21 2011

On Naming Twins

By at 2:10 pm

There’s been no shortage of talk about twins in the newspapers lately. “Twiblings” borne of three women and one man who pooled their genetic resources. Twin speech patterns examined. The bizarrely cruel ways people reacted to novelist Samantha Hunt’s twin pregnancy…the list goes on. I am transfixed. I am pregnant with twins, due in just a few days.

Gratefully, I haven’t had the negative experience Hunt describes (no one has told me it was my fault for having twins, as if having twins was something negative) and presumably, I’m several months away from considering speech patterns. Perhaps I should be thinking about the psychological nuances of twin-ship—but I hadn’t been until now. Instead, I’ve been obsessed with the challenge of naming our twins.

Maybe my husband and I have chosen to focus on naming because it’s an aspect of this situation we can actually control. As friends and family asked questions about how we’ll manage in our cramped apartment, whether I might breastfeed, if I will have a c-section and how we’ll navigate the religious aspects of our children’s births (a double bris? A double baby naming? One of each?), we remained undeterred in our task. Each night we climbed into bed and debated names. I was partial to Modern Hebrew names. Jon wrinkled his nose at such designations. He wanted to be sure our babies had names that Americans could easily pronounce, that wouldn’t sound “too Jewy” and for some reason, seemed vaguely presidential. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 13 2011

My Own Personal Exodus

By at 11:48 am

This year, my husband and I are skipping the seder.

My father, a rabbi, has been very understanding. “You’ll be hosting your very own exodus, at none other than Mount Sinai!” he exclaimed, referring to the pending birth of our babies (not a typo, we’re having twins) who will be delivered at the aptly named Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. (This was a very generous reaction from a man who takes tradition seriously; I’m certain that nothing short of the promise of two more grandchildren could have made our absence from the seder acceptable.)

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My doctors moved my due date, originally estimated for May 2, up two weeks. They say twins are better off outside the womb after 38 weeks. Our plans for a May baby who would arrive neatly with the end of the semester at the college where I teach, were thwarted by the fact that one baby was really two. Further complicating things, one of our babies remains stubbornly breech, its head lodged just below my diaphragm, its legs kicking my nether-regions endlessly. So, a mid-April C-section it is.

Perhaps in other cities scheduling a C-section during Passover week would be no big deal. But in New York City, when you are a patient at an obstetrics practice where the hallways are lined with Jewish Prayers for the Physician and thank you cards from patients whose children wear side curls and husbands wear black hats, this poses a logistical challenge. The doctors we liked best plan to be with their families for the first two days of the holiday, and a delivery scheduled for much beyond the Wednesday following the seders would put me too far along at 38.5 weeks. All signs pointed to a due date of mid-Passover.

We carefully considered our seder-ing options, because the idea of skipping out felt wrong. In this bizarre universe that is the tail-end of pregnancy, where nothing seems real and its all I can do to remind myself that the constant kicks I feel are actually caused by human babies inside my belly, I found it a risky proposition to write the holiday off entirely. I needed some sense of normalcy before everything became the opposite.

And, I love Passover. I love the smell of spring mixed with brisket in my parents’ kitchen, the gathering of relatives and friends, the compilation of corny songs my parents provide at the seder, the matzah ball soup, the chance to shake off winter, the rallying cry of next year in Jerusalem.

Still, sitting upright (because who really reclines?) at a lovely but long and constipating meal the night before I undergo abdominal surgery and then become a mother for the first time to two infants, simultaneously, didn’t seem like the best plan.

Here’s what we’ve decided: while there’s no chance of us cooking and preparing a seder for two, there are other, non-traditional things we can do in this week leading up to Passover that will help us mark the holiday.

This weekend, we spent an afternoon in the garden behind our apartment. We swept leaves, planted grass seeds and pruned the bushes. Then we moved indoors and cleaned out a closet. (I’ve found that my pregnancy nesting instinct coincides nicely with removing hametz [off-limits bread products] from our home.) Although not regular synagogue-goers, we’ve decided to try and attend a Shabbat service this weekend, and if I can muster the stamina, I will bake the one kosher-for-Passover item I know how to: chocolate chip mandel bread. We also plan to sit down together for a (take-out) meal on Monday and Tuesday nights and chat about our hopes for future Jewish holiday family rituals.

Maybe none of these activities has much to do with the conventional meaning of Passover, but this holiday is so special it has four other names—two of which seem particularly apropos of our Passover plans: Chag Ha’Aviv (Festival of Spring) and Zman Cheruteinu (the time of our freedom). We are indeed marking spring; there seems no better way to acknowledge the season of blooming flowers and warm weather than by bringing new life into the world. And this is also the time of our (last bits of) freedom—although perhaps short-lived—we plan to make the most of it somehow.

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