Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10-29-11, When this Barge is Rockin'...

Carrie and Melina came home from the hospital at 5 lbs. 14 oz. (4 oz. down) and 4 lbs. 12 oz. (2 oz. down), largely due to competent and caring support from the UK Hospital Lactation staff. Giving birth to multiples meant that I wasn't just first on everyone's list: I had pager numbers! Everyone was amazed how well they were nursing for being so small. As you can see, I barely needed a pillow to prop them up; I could practically tuck them into my t-shirt! Melina, especially, still enjoyed skin-to-skin Mommy time to make sure she kept an even body temperature.

While in the hospital, I supported the decision to feed them formula to keep their weights up since they were premature by normal standards. A half-pound drop in birth weight, perfectly normal for a full-term baby, could have sent them straight to the NICU. On the second day in the hospital, they took a few meals of 5 ml. through a cannula syringe. By evening they were nursing for 20 minutes at a time and getting a 5 ml. formula chaser afterwards.

At home, feeding the twins became what my Dad called a "high tech small-scale dairy operation", thanks to a Symphony hospital-grade pump. I'm not sure why they called it a "symphony" other than it's a nice name and calls to mind a pleasant noise. Of course, when you plug it in and put it on yourself it makes the noise you get in any milking shed. Giving suck gets you in touch with your inner mammal, but it takes a milking machine to really make you feel like a heifer. I think a better name for a pump would be The Milk-O-Matic 2000. The best part about having a pump is you can use it to estimate how many ounces you're producing daily and brag about it to friends and family. While I'd never top the gallons-a-day production of a Guernsey, within the first two weeks I was putting goats everywhere to shame.

I hadn't really pumped with Devon, preferring the natural approach and not having work or other distractions to keep me away for hours at a time. The twins, however, needed to take some pumped milk. Premature babies can have problems getting enough to eat because their little mouths have underdeveloped muscles. When they're tired of sucking, they stop whether they've had enough or not. With pumping, they could have all the milk they could drink "on tap" with an extra few ml. afterward to increase their stomach capacity and add crucial ounces to their weights.

I look back on Carrie and Melina's first month of life and mostly remember being busy with the upcoming move, but just feeding two babies was pretty daunting as well. Newborns need to eat 8-12 times a day, or at least every three hours. That means I was nursing, giving supplement, and pumping constantly, sometimes only to finish a feeding cycle and then do it all over again. If one twin was having trouble maintaining a latch, on the next feeding I'd give the other twin a whole pumped meal so I could concentrate on nursing the twin who was having difficulties.

As with all babies, it was never obvious how much Carrie and Melina had eaten and so it was hard to know how much to supplement them. Since they were born by c-section, they didn't get the mucus squeezed out of their systems and had a few more upset tummy issues. Carrie's problem was hiccups, which would rattle her tiny body and cause her milk meal to slosh around her tiny tummy like a shaken up can of soda. Melina was a champion projectile spitter, able to produce a foot-long arc of regurgitated food that could miss me completely and douse the person next to me.

Even when they ate well, I was amazed at the unladylike sounds that would emanate from my sweet little girls. I remember Devon finishing a feeding, curling up on my shoulder, closing his eyes, and emitting a soft-as-a-sigh little uurp like he was trying to whisper something in my ear. The twins' deafening burps would be more at home in a fraternity's beer drinking contest.

You'd think that nights would be the hardest part, but amazingly I found I could nurse two babies twice as efficiently as one. Devon was a sipper in his early months, enjoying an hour-long feeding twice or three times every night. The twins didn't have the luxury of enjoying both sides, so I could complete a feeding and have everyone burped and back in bed in a half hour! I measure the quality of my sleep in REM cycles, or the number of hour-and-a-half increments I stay asleep each night. Carrie and Melina usually only woke up once, so by their second week of life I could get 4 or 5 REM cycles if I worked in a nap in the afternoon.

This was assuming they both woke up. If not, I had to nurse one baby, supplement the other baby with pumped milk, pump, preserve the fresh milk, get everybody back to bed and put the pump away so Devon wouldn't get up in the morning and think the Symphony was a $1600 toddler toy. This two-hour midnight marathon really did me in, and I'm thankful that it didn't happen often.

The tricky thing about supplementing was that it couldn't come from a bottle, which made them gassy and interfered with their sucking practice. My trusted technique was to stick a finger in a baby's mouth, nail-side down like they showed me in the hospital. Then, when the sucking reflex engaged I would slip the cannula in beside my finger and let the milk trickle out. The cannula syringe doesn't have a needle, but the plastic end is still too pointy to stick in a baby's mouth by itself.

Grammy had the twins and a vial of milk when I went to my two-week checkup.

Grandpa got this picture of Carrie holding Grammy's finger as she delivered the good stuff. We came to call the technique Baby Bird, after the way the twins would stretch their necks out to receive a fast trickle of milk. It was quite a parlor trick for visitors, too, who could wash their hands and experience a newborn vigorously sucking on their finger as I pipetted milk in alongside, a sensation that reverberates all the way to the bottoms of your feet. Then I'd jump up and say "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go milk myself," grab my pump dishes from the cookie pan by the sink, and head to the back bedroom for some privacy. Public nursing is pretty well accepted nowadays, but I don't think public pumping will ever catch on.

About two weeks into nursing, I found I couldn't support twelve pounds of baby on my remaining tummy pooch and a Boppy. Enter My Brest Friend.

The Twins Deluxe Nursing Pillow had arrived by special order when I was still pregnant. It made quite a stir with Devon, who enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with Grandpa through the hole in the middle.

As with many household items, Devon seemed to consider it made just for his entertainment. Poor kid. I probably don't buy him enough toys. I was less enthusiastic about the bigger pillow at first, eyeing the picture of a rail-thin woman excitedly yet discreetly tandem nursing twins on the bag with skepticism. For one thing, it's huge. Here it is compared to the more traditional Boppy. There was no question of bringing it to the hospital with us. It wouldn't just have filled my suitcase. It was bigger than my suitcase.

I think it's funny when women say "breastfeeding" like it's a sacred word, trilling the r's reverently like they are just looking for an excuse to say "breast" a lot. For me, "nursing" does the job just fine. This pillow didn't just trot out the word, it didn't even have the decency to spell it correctly. It went for the cutesy-wootsey pun on Best Friend, as if it wasn't obvious enough. The non-practicing English teacher in me was seriously offended by this pillow. Brest is a city in Belarus, I believe. Every time I looked at it, I thought about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, one of the sophomore history class random details that pop into my head at odd times.

Well, like the Russians and the Central Powers, the pillow and I needed each other and soon came to an uneasy truce. Craig helped facilitate the accord by renaming the pillow.

"That thing is huge! It looks like a Party Barge!" he exclaimed as I curled it around myself and fastened the strap in back. Indeed, it turned me into a portable flotilla of pleasant beverages, so the name stuck. More often, it's just The Barge. True to its manufacturer's name, it is pretty indispensable if you're going to give tandem twin nursing a serious try, but in order to really be my friend it would have to change diapers and hold up one end of a conversation.

The twins were five weeks old when we left Lexington for Florida. The Milk-O-Matic went back to the rental store, and the twins turned into marathon nursers as they adjusted to the lack of supplement. It was difficult at first, but by the time we were done with the move I thought they had transitioned well enough to go pumpless (or, to borrow a term from the MTV generation, "unplugged").

I still tandem nurse them most of the time, which requires concentration, muscle control, posture reminiscent of typing on a keyboard, and privacy. I don't disapprove of public nursing, but if I waltzed into Panera with The Barge and reached for the twins I'm sure a crowd of curious onlookers would form and the management would ask if they could sell tickets. Usually nursing exposes much less skin than you see at the beach, but tandem pretty much requires full-frontal and is too complicated to cover.

At home, I often get both twins situated, achieve a tricky double-latch, and then sigh and realize that I really have to go to the bathroom and can't do anything about it for twenty minutes. Craig has learned to support me by saying the phrase that makes my heart sing: "What can I get you?" So often I've just become immobile and I realize I want my bedroom slippers, my ipod, or a large glass of half orange juice and half water (my substitute for the soda craving I haven't been able to shake months after delivery).

Here's Carrie on the barge, Melina discarded on the side, and me wild-eyed on too little sleep. Those bat-wings look a little wild, too. One of these days I need to address the arm flab issue (either that or, as my brother's girlfriend likes to say, "If you can't tone it, tan it!"). You'd think just handling the twins would be enough strength training to give me upper arms like Michelle Obama. I can make it all the way back to the pack-and-play by supporting the barge with my arms and keeping it level around my waist as I walk. Sometimes I've changed and bedded two babies, gotten Devon out of his crib, and am making his oatmeal when I look down and notice the barge swinging on my hips like a forgotten hula hoop.

I still have the Boppy for lazy afternoons when Devon is napping well and I have the luxury of nursing on demand. Most days "nursing on demand" for twins usually means "I demand that you nurse because your sister is hungry and if you don't eat now you'll be ready in a half hour and I'll have to listen to you cry while getting Devon ready for his nap." Thankfully, identicals are supposed to be attuned to each others' schedules, so most of the time they are both getting ready to eat at the same time. It's almost intimidating to put them on The Barge and have two babies tossing their heads from side to side and sucking loudly and desperately on their fingers inches away from my face. If I can't get ready fast enough, Carrie will latch onto any part of Melina that gets close enough, usually her head or her elbow. I have to put a burp cloth between them to keep one from jerking and giving the other a concussion.

Before having kids, breastfeeding appealed to me because it sounded easy. Spending hours cuddled up in the recliner with a warm little baby next to me and Lost reruns on TV was preferable to scooping formula powder into a bottle and heating the water to a backdrop of hungry cries. There are no dishes to wash and no hundreds to shell out for canisters of formula. Best of all, it suctions the fat out of the post-preggo muffin top faster than lipo!

With the twins, I made a conscious decision to do what I think is best for them even if it's still difficult, expensive, and exhausting. Just lactating can be an odd experience, like when the checker at the grocery store gives me a worried expression and I look down to see that one boob has overcome the hook on my nursing bra and is flying at half mast. Nursing twins adds a bit more strangeness. Sometimes I would get up at night to quiet a fussy baby, giving in and delivering a ten-minute "bonus boob" snack so she could fall back asleep. When I returned to bed, Craig would ask who was fussing and I'd realize that I had no idea which one I'd just been spending time with.

There was a beautiful moment about ten weeks in when I realized the bizarre and complicated relationship had become manageable and almost routine. Right now I am also enjoying that golden and magical week when the twins are sleeping through the night consistently for the very first time. They need me just a bit less, maybe even enough so that I can grab a minute sometime and redo the polish on my jagged toenails. There have also been many rewarding milestones along the way, like when I weigh the twins and exclaim to myself "Wow, I made another five pounds of baby last month!"

10-19-2011, Nursing School Dropout

It's 8:30 a.m. and I just finished eating breakfast with both hands! I've put off cleaning the kitchen and am sitting in the living room with a cup of coffee (half milk) enjoying a moment so delicious it's almost fictional: I have three kids and they've ALL slept in.

Carrie is snoozing away in the cradle swing and Melina is still in the pack-and-play where she spent the night just outside our room. I feel a little like going and getting one of them, just to have that warm, sweet baby softness next to me. Sadly, if I did the quiet would be lost: she'd wake up, stretch so hard her butt almost taps the back of her head, and then make enthusiastic porky noises while bobbing her head up and down my arm.

I envy others sometimes for the length of time they're able to hold my twins. My aunt's visit last week was marked by long stretches of blissed out quiet as the twins reveled in the attention. Even Craig can sit with a newspaper and a twin and enjoy a lengthy cuddle. Not me. It kind of hurt me until I started looking at it from their perspective:

Why go to a restaurant if you're not going to sit down and order a meal?

At ten weeks old Carrie and Melina are still exclusively breastfed. Below is my favorite picture of us: the twins just shy of four weeks old and snoozing after an afternoon snack. Everything down to the Zen Mother expression on my face makes nursing twins look easy.

Before the birth I checked out stacks of books about breastfeeding, hoping for a few chapters of strategies for multiples. I was disappointed to find in each a paragraph at most. Just think: the whole sum of human collective knowledge about how to feed the children of 3 out of every 100 births for the first year of life in a paragraph! Books on twins didn't help much either. References to nursing ran more like one sentence: If you try to breastfeed, you will stop after what you will always look back on as the worst six weeks of your life!!!

I had wonderful memories of nursing Devon, who stopped at 10 1/2 months because... well... I was pregnant again. I knew I wanted to do the same for Carrie and Melina, but it was going to be harder. I committed to trying to make it work for as long as possible, and to not feeling guilty if I needed extra help or had to supplement with formula. Even now I don't consider myself an expert, but if breastfeeding one baby earns you a BA in nursing, twins is definitely more like a PhD.

Not that breastfeeding didn't have a rocky start. In the hospital, I was almost not allowed to breastfeed. I always thought it was a parental right, not a privilege. Apparently, at UK Hospital it's kind of like those cleaning their plates being the only ones who get dessert.

Months earlier, I had decided to decline routine prenatal HIV and Hepatitis testing. I didn't care if the CDC recommended it. If my extremely boring life thus far had not afforded me any possible exposure risk, I couldn't see the point of spending hundreds of dollars on tests that would just come back negative (or worse, a costly and confusing false positive, like an estimated 5 out of every 1000). My doctor and pediatrician said that though my decision was unorthodox, it wouldn't be a problem.

Fast forward to recovery, where I was dumped unceremoniously after the c-section and left in great pain. My husband was taken from my side by a pediatric resident and told that Carrie and Melina were at risk because of my "unestablished disease status" and would be kept away from me and not allowed to breastfeed until they had tested me.

So, all pretense of making me comfortable or letting me meet my babies for the first time was put off in favor of drawing two vials of blood to rush to the lab for tests I couldn't possibly fail. One problem: I'm a difficult blood draw even when I haven't lost significant blood volume to an emergency surgery. Four nurses paraded through my room and stuck both arms in various places without being able to find a vein. I was too dehydrated. I watched the minutes tick by, knowing that the twins would get formula in the baby nursery against my wishes if they couldn't be brought to me in the first two hours. For irony, I stared at the poster hung at the foot of my hospital bed.

I think it's a pretty sad commentary on our society that I was deprived of a patient's right to refuse treatment and my babies were literally held hostage so I would get the tests done. I am again grateful to have had a gifted mother-baby nurse, who finally had the idea of getting a NICU IV, a device that can literally suck the blood out of a very small vein. This they did for twenty minutes, mining a tiny vein in my arm and creating a bruise the size of an apricot. Away went the vials, and suddenly everyone got cooperative. I was now "allowed" to nurse my babies.

(Translation: Mama, you've got the only two I need!)

Christi the Perky Lactation Specialist popped into the room. "Hi! Congratulations on your beautiful twins! I was wondering when you'd like to get started with feeding your babies for the first time! The sooner the better!"

"Well," I shot back, "it's kind of a sore subject. For the past hour I've been staring at a smiley face made out of crayoned blue boobies that is supposed to make me feel happy about nursing, while my babies get formula in the nursery because I'm supposedly a danger to them." As I explained the past hour, I really let the angry Mommy in me come out to play. I'd had enough!

Poor Christi disappeared, and a few minutes later the babies were wheeled into my room in a train of hospital bassinets and the torrent of protective hormones eased up just a bit. Melina, especially, needed me because she was just shy of the 5 lb. threshold and had a hard time regulating her body temperature. She camped out in my hospital gown and immediately her temperature stabilized.

When she went back to the bassinet, she cuddled up next to her sister instead of sleeping alone. I don't think we used the second bassinet again, stepping around it awkwardly and always returning the girls to their accustomed places. Just like when they were inside of me, we always put Carrie on the right and Melina on the left.

Christi returned later, finding me much more amenable to a discussion about nursing two babies at once. Born at 37 1/2 weeks (considered late term for mono-di twins), Carrie and Melina were still premature by normal standards. We could face challenges with their sucking and swallowing reflexes, or find it hard to maintain a latch because their mouths were just so tiny. To demonstrate, Christi popped her finger in Melina's mouth, nail-side down to check the latch. Still fast asleep, Melina untucked her chin and started sucking like she'd just been given Coke through a straw. That was a really good sign.

The other challenge was going to be milk supply. Although I had successfully nursed one baby before, I was worried about producing enough milk for two. I was told that the best way to increase my Prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, was to nurse tandem.

If you're wondering what that looks like, think of the scene with Ginnifer Goodwin where someone happens in on her nursing two rather old children at work in the movie Away We Go. I saw that movie after Devon was born, and I remember thinking: "Wow, that looks weird! I'd never, ever do that!" Well, it's amazing how being a mom shifts your perspective. If nursing tandem was best for the girls, I thought I'd try it. After all, I didn't have triplets. At least the math worked out.

I started singing softly to Carrie and Melina, who were brought to my bed:

It's time to nurse, nurse, it's getting worse,
It's time to suck, suck, and you're in luck!
You don't wanna watch no Scooby Doo-by,
You just want to nurse on a...

I'm sure you can tell where that rhyme was going. It bothered me that all my children's CD's had songs about eating and not about nursing, so Craig and I wrote our own nursing song to sing to our first child. Yes, it's embarassingly silly. We don't care. If I can sing "Oh, Where is my Hairbrush" along with Bob and Larry, I can sing about my babies nursing.

You don't wanna do no Cube of Rubix,
You just want to have your nursing boob fix,
It's time to nurse, nurse, NURSE!

Well, one child is awake now, and it tends to have a domino effect. I'll write more about the subject next week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October 10, 2011, How Else Could Two Months' Salary Last Forever?

I had a tough week last week. It’s the reason this blog post is so late. Even writing about it was hard. I’d write a paragraph, stare at it for a few minutes, and then press backspace, watching the cursor eat everything on the page so I could start fresh.

It all goes back to Amber the student anesthesiologist. She placed my epidural in August when I was in labor, shortly before things unraveled and I ended up in the operating room with an emergency c-section. Problem was, she couldn’t find where to put the needle, and moving it around in my back caused fork-in-the-electrical-socket jolts to radiate through the right side of my body.

In the OR, when the doctors saw me close my eyes, I wasn’t “finding my happy place” as they assumed. I was going into shock. The mother/baby nurse who came to wheel me to my room after recovery was the first to believe me when I said that I was in pain. The epidural had been botched, as I suspected, and was only taking the sharpest little edge off my sensations.

Until I reached my room and was effectively medicated for the first time that day, I managed the pain by clenching my teeth so hard I felt one break. This Wednesday it needed a root canal. It wasn’t how I imagined spending my week (or the year of Kentucky Public Schools retirement I had decided to cash out, either). Once again I find myself in pain and trying to stay off medication for the sake of the twins. It’s not fun. I knew that UK is a teaching hospital, and things like that happen at teaching hospitals. I suppose every anesthesiologist has to botch a few easy procedures on their way to becoming a competent doctor. I just wish it hadn’t been mine.

Thankfully, the location of the crack meant that only a fourth of the tooth was bad, and the long term prognosis is hopeful. I should be able to keep it another thirty years. After what I'm going through, I hope so.

Amber the student anesthesiologist, I hope you have a long and fruitful career in which you place many effective epidurals and relieve much pain. It wouldn’t make my experience worth it, but here’s what does:

Carrie and Melina are thriving ten weeks after their birth. Sometimes I remind myself that it very nearly wasn't that way. I'm thankful that my surgeon was the kind of uberqualified individual that heads a program at a research hospital.

This wasn't really our first family trip to the beach. It's more like what happens when I want a family beach photo to include with the twins' baby announcements, scheduled to go out (better late than never) this week. Thankfully, my aunt and uncle were there to hold the camera and help carry the kids down the boardwalk.

Devon was more impressed with the sand than the water. We took turns carrying him nearer and nearer the waves so he could get his feet wet. The waves at Wabasso Beach are very unpredictable, and so his first wading experience included him getting snatched up to outrun an unexpected wave, and then accidentally dropped on his tummy in the sand. A warm Atlantic wave rushed right up to him, surprising him and soaking his clothes. It'll be an interesting memory to tell him about when he gets older.

Devon also had his first haircut. This took three people: one to hold the camera, one to distract Devon by feeding him blueberries (his favorite food: he calls them his "balls") and one to cut the straggly curls that were building up along his collar.

Devon was too excited about the camera shoot to turn around and let us see the back, but here it is.

Speaking of excited, Devon is finally getting to the point where I can let him interact with the girls a bit. I would never have let him sit by them while I held a camera up until now, but when the girls turned two months old and Devon eighteen months, I needed a picture of all three of my children. Melina looks a little overwhelmed by big brother's energy, doesn't she?

She looks much happier here. Yes, we have SMILES!!!

Smiles in the jungle swing.

Smiles on the changing table. Carrie this time. Can you still tell them apart? It's getting harder!

Who is this? Yep, it's still Carrie.

It's easier when they are side-by-side. I have the edge because I usually dress them, so if I remember what outfits I put them in I can tell very easily.

Devon has learned how to kiss.

He has two very available subjects on which to bestow his affection. It's very photogenic. Up until now, a request for a kiss has been met with a giant wet lick that starts at your chin and stops at eyebrow level.

I'm so glad he's happy to be their big brother.

Just like I'm happy to be their mom. I know some women tell their kids in great detail the pain they endured bringing them into the world, especially when the kids aren't acting their best. When those moments come, I hope I have the strength to clench my teeth again and just let the moment pass. I don't mean to sound trite, but the pain really is worth it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

10-1-2011, Mom's Day Out

Sometimes I wonder what it's like to have two kids.

People say that adjusting to the second child is a bigger deal than adjusting to the first. Suddenly, when you're alone with the kids you have to choose which one needs your attention more. Occasionally, that means attending to the needs of one while the other one is crying and calling your name.

Ditto with going from one to three kids in two minutes, only more so. Remember the old-fashioned arcade game Whac-a-mole? You stand holding a padded mallet in front of a horizontal board full of holes. When you put in a token, little furry animatronic creatures start popping out of the holes at random intervals, and your job is to whack them on the head with the mallet as fast as you can. It tests your agility, strength, and reaction time.

A difficult day of parenting three very small children is a bit like playing Whac-a-mole. The hours fly by as you run from one child to another, taking care of their immediate needs and averting a small crisis only to have one rise up to take its place. I had just one such day this week. The twins spent the middle of the day Tag-Teaming-- what I call it when they are both fussy and as soon as I am holding one calm baby the other one starts wailing and I have to put the quiet baby down. This time they had it down to a science. It got so automatic that I caught myself walking over to Carrie's swing as soon as I tight-swaddled Melina because I knew she would start crying in fifteen more seconds. And she did.

A few minutes earlier I had opened up the Diaper Genie to empty it and found a red plastic ball, a pacifier, and a bulb nasal aspirator in the bag mixed in with thirty stinky diapers. Apparently, Devon had discovered the fun little cup on top and the lever to pull to make things disappear. This was not his only transgression of the day. He experimented with throwing things out of The Pen and then whining to see if I would fetch them. I gave it ten minutes, then calmly explained to him that Weeble (or Tractor or Farm Puzzle) was going into Toy Time Out because he was not being played with correctly and Devon would have to wait until after nap to play with it again. This, of course, devastated Devon, adding his occasional wail to the din the twins were making.

When I'm holding crying Carrie and Devon is crying in the high chair next to me, I call out "Come on, Melina, let's make it unanimous!" I hate listening to all my children cry at once, but it happens. I try to take it in stride.

Or, better yet, I decide on an outing. As soon as I go for Devon's shoes, he starts in on a deep, throaty chuckle of excitement as he realizes we're going somewhere. Then he "helps" me get the twins ready to go.

I buckle all three into the middle seat of the van, and back out of the garage. One block later, something magical happens. The van is quiet. None of my children are upset. Many people say they enjoy a respite from the demands of parenting small children by running errands by themselves. For me, it's enough of a treat just to leave the house. I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say that I won the parenting lottery by giving birth to three children that are perfectly behaved in public.

I enjoy the stares of others in the parking lot when I grab a cart and start pulling babies out of the car like a magician spooling silk scarves out of a sleeve. Then the comments start:

"You've got your hands full!"

"You got a wide-load sign for that cart?"

"You're a real woman, girl, you know that?"

"Are ALL those kids yours?"

"Where you gonna put the groceries?"

All three kids seem to revel in the attention, but especially Devon the Original Social Baby. I fix my Zen Mother Smile on my face: one part Mona Lisa and two parts Virgin Mary. Then I sashay up the aisle as the twins sleep so soundly they look like dolls and Devon points sweetly and beams at things.

I can feel people staring at me, and it's okay. I have to admit I get a little frisson of sadistic pleasure every time we pass a tantrumming child being pushed along by a harried-looking mother. Take notes, lady: I rock the Mom thing.

I knew from the first twins sonogram that their birth would mark the end of anonymity. I was right. People come out of the aisles to tell us about their twins, their daughter who has twins, or the eight sets of twins that run in their families and made them think that they would have twins. I've discussed my c-section among the frozen foods and told a stocker I wasn't on Clomid while waiting for the sweet potato fries to be unpacked.

It's amazing what some people will ask total strangers. I'm inundated with questions about my past and present birth control options and whether the girls were "planned." Really? Is any child ever planned? You can't just order a baby like you order a pizza. Lots of people want to know if twins run in our family. No, I say, they're identical, giving a mini biology lesson about the genetic factors that make fraternal twins not being necessary for my twins. Sometimes I get back, "Oh, so they're not the kind you get when you have sex twice in the same day!"


Then I have to give another little biology lesson. Even that little nugget can lift my spirits when I'm having a hard day. When you have twins, the world is your support group. People marvel at the good job you're doing. They compliment your parenting skills, your genetics, or the fact that you've managed to lose even so much as a pound after having them. It's hard to buy a gallon of milk in less than an hour and a half.

The sweetest people are the ones who say "Oh, look at your beautiful family. How fortunate you are!" I am. And as I load the groceries and kids back into the van, I'm glad to reflect on that again.