Motivation and Unexpected Inspiration…

36 Weeks Pregnant Singleton vs Twins (1)

During the post-partum journey, it is a struggle to find any “normalcy.” Hormones are raging little wars in your mind making things that would typically be commonplace in your day, something to be reckoned with. Breast feeding tricks your corpulent body into thinking it’s still pregnant holding onto every minuscule fat cell in case your baby needs it. Stretched hips, stretched skin, stretched abdominals all aching with the recent gestation of human life. Human life that grew inside my body, in this case, two human lives. While I bask in the fortuitous blessing of twin sons, my heart skipping every other beat with each giggle and smile, I can’t help but to cringe when I notice my husband glancing at my voluminous profile when I walk in the room. Pushing the oversized stroller in the first couple of months made me feel like my body was “covered.” Having given birth to twins 7 months ago Saturday I often hear, “You have an excuse – you just had twins!” While the very statement is true, I can’t help but understand it implies “You’re fat my dear, but it’s okay. Look what you just went through.” Everything changes when you have a baby and there are days when I am so overwhelmed with joy that my heart actually aches with happiness and I am in a constant state of AWE. Complete and total AWE. It’s with great vexation that I say I spend the other 50% of my days thinking about the horrific state my outward appearance is in. Is that fair? No way. My body just internally ran 6 plus marathons for 10 months. I just went through one of the hardest to endure physical moments of my life. And with a smallish frame at the height of 5′ 2′ my body was surprisingly capacious! My husband towards the end would lament that my tummy looked like a torpedo, (sexy, right??) Still, I managed to nourish both of my sons at the breast for the first 6 months of their lives and to care for them night (I emphasize all night long) and day, making them and their two year old sister my priority number one. I suffered minor hip displasia and severe diastasis recti as a result of excessive intra-abdominal pressure or “loading.” Both of which make exercising and typical running regimens a new found obstacle. Any sundress I attempt to don proudly emphasizes my new “pooch” that resembles a 5 month pregnancy, held high as though I am carrying a girl, right under my boobs. While I smile with pride and presumed blithe going about my day, I can’t help but feel solicitous about my appearance. What I endured was worth every single moment of pain and discomfort. It was worth all of the sleepless nights (then and now). But must I look so FLUFFY???

Now as I move forward and try to find motivation through helpful Websites, challenge groups, blogs by women in the same situation, I am finding solace in “this is what it is.” There is an insurmountable barrage of get skinny fast gimmicks, promises to “lose the baby weight once and for all” with celebrities at the forefront sporting amazingly fit three-month post-pregnancy bodies in bikinis I wouldn’t have worn pre-pregnancy. I hung a photo on my fridge pre-pregancy that made me feel good for about a week. I changed the photo on my iPhone to the same photo so I could be tortured with every glance and I watch everything Hollywood with a discerning eye. I am on a journey, that is for sure. Not to get my pre-pregnancy body back, but to begin diminishing this giant waistline I now have. I am in a downswing currently with body image driving my desire and it’s not what I want. I need to focus on long term results that of being a healthy, fit mama to these three bambinos. I know my determination and hard, tire less work will undoubtedly pay off. I need to take a moment to relish and pay tribute to what this magnificent body of mine just went through. In a matter of two years, I brought three human lives into this world. And I am not advocating for a superfluous outpouring of comments from my followers, I simply wanted to provide insight into my daily fight so you can know you’re not alone, in whatever your journey is at this moment. I also have decided today, I am going to use this photo of me 36 weeks pregnant with my daughter and 36 weeks pregnant with my twin sons as MOTIVATION and INSPIRATION to reach my fitness and health goals, rather than a photo of Beyonce’s amazing unjustifiably perfect post-pregnancy body. Because if I could go through that, then I can go through anything. Including finding that smaller me inside this hard-to-recognize body. Stand tall and fight the good fight. With fortuitous vigor I didn’t even know my body and mind had, I was met with accomplishing something I never knew I wanted and that was carrying twins without any bed rest or any physical problems, full-term, at “advanced maternal age.” Temporary pain, forever the gain. No truer words have been put to the test for me right now.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – Abraham Lincoln

Are you feeling this way? Do you have something to share? I would love to hear from you as always.

Put yourself to the test today and find the beauty within the fight you’re fighting – be it to be a better you, to help someone out, to be there for someone that needs you or to put a stamp on something you believe in. Today is a gift and tomorrow is just a promise. Live with high hopes and dreams. I have to remind myself of this at times (sometimes twice daily). Love to you all!

XO ~ Stephanie

A Couple of Tutus Makes a SWEET Visit Even Sweeter!

Ludlam.6.2015-0119-3Two years ago when Mattelyn was born, I, along with tons of other mom and dads-to-be, went out and purchased a DSLR camera to “capture” those important, special, fleeting moments with a newborn baby. And, like so many other mommy’s and daddy’s, I increasingly began to take horrible photos that I was frustrated with. I spent some time researching “why is my photo blurry,” “why is my photo so dark?” As my photos improved, my creative light began to shine. I really began thinking about every time I took a photo. I look at professional’s photos and feel INSPIRED. I connect with their vision and then see my own. I definitely haven’t found “my look” yet but I’m working towards it. And here I am, two years later, actually shooting in manual (never thought that day would come) and I am getting more confident in the shots I am getting as they’re increasingly “closer to what I envisioned.” With that, I have shared my photos intermittently through Instagram and Facebook and have received some very gracious (and rewarding) compliments/comments. As apprehensive as I am, I have now begun “officially” calling this a hobby because I upgraded my camera (still not a full-frame yet) to a Canon 70D (mainly for the high-definition video it takes), and purchased a new professional lens, (yes, only one! But it’s a start…). I have yet to take a real camera shooting course or an editing course, but between nap times, many late nights and the rare moments to myself, I have managed to teach myself a few things. I have dabbled in some online work and I believe I can now finally say I am okay with most of my photos.

(I wish I was the type of person that just EXUDED confidence in everything I do and had full-on ability to just OWN my work without hesitation, but alas, that isn’t me! So I am my biggest critic to date).

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That said, we were just blessed to have my sister-in-law and her beautiful family visit us from West Palm Beach, Florida. Not only are they a GORGEOUS little group of people, but she was “willing” to allow me to practice my first “mini-shoot” on location to capture some moments with her beautiful family and to hopefully get a family portrait for them. I am FINALLY happy with these photos after I shot them – I downloaded and am used to taking 200 photos to get TWO that I REALLY LIKE. This time, however, I was careful when shooting and thought about the sunlight and the time of day. Although I still struggle because I have a two year old crying and holding onto me the whole time no matter what, I still feel I got what I set out for. And my sis-in-law, (isn’t she to die for gorgeous??? In person, too!), was gracious enough to agree she loved them and would let me finally share something I believe in.

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So in short, I want to share my first attempt at a family other than my own and a mini-shoot. As a hobbyist, I can finally say I now know what I would like to be doing in my professional life (if I didn’t have three babies)! 😉 Shooting family and friends!!! Providing them with what I see when I look at them. Which is all the beauty in the world! This is now my passion and I hope to improve greatly. Who knows, someday maybe I will get the nerve and time to start something??? Until then, here’s a slide show of some of my favorite shots. The little 2 year old spunky brunette is my daughter Mattelyn and the 4 year old cutie pie is my niece Chayse and the 2 year old handsome man is my nephew Ryder.


I still have A LOT of work, but I am happy with where I’ve come in two years and I wanted to share with any of you that may be on this same journey – maybe we can exchange ideas!!! Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. And, I need more practice!

XO ~ Stephanie

First Day Home Alone with All Three of my Babes….

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How can I be so nervous for this day? I guess it’s because I am wildly outnumbered and these babes are ALL MINE. I’ve had help since day one from my mom and my mother-in-law. Here I am today though – all by myself. I guess it’s liberating and it’s definitely time for me to GET TO IT; rip that bandaid OFF! Stop worrying about it and just live this life my husband and I have created! Although this wasn’t all in our plans, we are making it WORK. My clients have changed and my outlook on life sure is rosier! Everything is different and some of my friends have disappeared temporarily! I take it all in stride and I welcome summer with open arms and I just wanted to share my morning jaunt to the backyard with Mattelyn (my two year old daughter). We watered flowers for the 17 minutes I allowed us to be outside while the boys took their usual 50 minute morning nap. I decided to separate them this morning and keep Maxton upstairs and Carson downstairs.

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We moved in here last July so I haven’t seen the flowers that bloom in the backyard in the spring. This has been fun to witness! There is a ton I plan to change and do, but for now, I am enjoying what the previous owner planted! My mom and I planted a “Salsa Garden” for Mattelyn this year. Tomatoes, jalapenos, green onions and cilantro. I can’t have a large garden because I don’t have time!

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All of these were shot with my Canon 70D with my Sigma 35 lens 100ISO @ f/1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 SS varying between 160-350 (they are all a bit overexposed because I preset my camera settings due to moving quickly and I didn’t check my shots).

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Here’s to a REALLY good day (I HOPE!!!)

How was your first day home alone with your new babies? What was the most challenging? Any hints for me?

XO ~ Stephanie

Sometimes I Wish I Were More Like My Husband…

Four month old twins, Maxton and Carson.

Tonight we put the twins in their own cribs in their own nursery. It’s only down the hall from us and I have a monitor on each of them that scans both their nursery and their sister’s nursery. But they aren’t right here next to me in our room. I already miss them and my heart hurts.  💔😓

This is where they slept in our room next to my side of the bed.

Mattelyn was five months old when we put her in her own crib in her room. These guys are four months old and at their four month wellness check on Friday, our pediatrician said they not only can be in their own room but it would be a perfect time to make the move – they are more than ready. (He said most twins are out of mom and dad’s room by 6 weeks). They will sleep better, will be more comfortable and will likely sleep through the night. Which means longer REM and deep sleep, which encourages brain growth and development (when they have uninterrupted sleep. Not to mention, they no longer have to listen to their dada snore!)

Maxton our oldest twin, 13lbs 9oz

Carson our youngest twin, 14lbs 6oz

Mattelyn slept the first night in her nursery for 9 hours. When I think about how far we have come with them in the past four months, I am thrilled and also so very sad. There is something about this being my last babies I will ever have the privilege to have in my room so close I can touch them that has me an overly emotional wreck. I love them so much and can’t believe they are already at this point. It occurs to me parenthood is filled with this love/hate, happy/sad feeling in everyday situations as they grow (which is daily). We treat them like the babies they are but with the underlying goal of raising amazing adults. They need their independence and desire their own space. But it’s so hard to let them go to the next step. It takes everything inside me to not be selfish right now! Sometimes I just wish I were more like my nonchalant husband. He just accepts the facts and moves on so matter of fact. He always says we have to do what is best for them and he is right. And I on the other hand, worry and stress and overthink. I sit and reminisce about when they were staying in the hospital first born. I recall watching them being wheeled out of my room to the nursery and I sat crying on the side of my bed with my mom.    The first of many of those moments to come. After ten months of them being right next to your heart inside you, it’s difficult to let them leave your side. I can’t help it. I am so proud of them and their stupendous growth. I love them and everything they have overcome from apnea monitors to rolling over on their bellies. They are  our little miracles and beyond amazing.  

As I lay in bed staring at the monitor, waiting for it to switch from Mattelyn, to Maxton, to Carson and then back to Mattelyn, I think about when we brought them home and they slept in the same travel size pack and play in the room I stayed in downstairs:

The nursery was a room we didn’t go into because they weren’t ready and the time I would be putting them to sleep in there seemed to be so far away. But it’s not – it’s here. So here is my prayer tonight for my babes. As I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord their souls to keep. Guard and keep them through the night and wake them with your morning light. Amen. 

Potty Training: A Message to My Daughter

 

 Oh my sweet baby girl,

The craziness has abound.

The past four months are a blur, 

You’ve got one foot on the ground.

Arms still wrapped tight,

Around your night-night

The release is near,

But you can’t let go.

Still holding on as the baby,

Yet already such a little lady.

Can’t turn back now,

You’re quite the quick learner.

Can’t throw in the towel,

A natural born leader.

You’ve figured it out,

A smart one with a pout.

To give in means we win,

So you wait with a grin. 

It’s all up to you now,

We know you know how.

Mommy’s so proud of you,

My sweet little angel.

You’re ready for flight.

Take the leap for I’ve got you, 

For the rest of your life.

It’s okay right now,

We’ll figure it out.

Keep being you,

Charming, stubborn and sweet.

Time soon will tell,

And when it does,

You’ll feel quite the surprise, 

To this I am wise.

I love you, Mattelyn.

Mommy’s waiting.

XO ~ mama  

Clients These Days…

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WOW. Two of my clients I like to say are “persnickety,” to say the least. I have had one client for only four months. They are your typical client – demanding, irrational, time-consuming, costly, fussy and driven by an insatiable desire to GROW. In order to take their growth to the next level, we really concentrated on HOW we would collectively achieve this from the get-go. Through careful and strategic planning, we looked at environmental cues and geographic locales to predict the right spot to facilitate their growth. Then we eliminated anything that would stand in the way of positive growth, such as antiquated procedures or allowing them (the client) to take the lead. With access to many sources online and through third-party blogs and groups, our research was as thorough and on-point as it could be. We knew we had all of the tools and know-how necessary to achieve greatness. Our case studies were tried and true and as real as can be; we had firsthand access to thousands of examples. We made sure we had all parties involved on the same page sharing the same POV, (point of view). Once the strategic plan was in place, and we had client sign off, it was time to implement for a year that would allow exponential growth; potentially three times the size they are today.

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After only four months, they still can’t communicate well. Every single day is met with a laundry list of wants and demands, all of which can’t be articulated, but we have to figure it out immediately or we hear about it. (And one of them can be VERY over the top when it comes to letting us know their level of discontent, screaming and turning red in the face, sometimes twice a day). On top of that, they haven’t been able to stick to the plan AT ALL. Negotiating with them is IMPOSSIBLE and just like with any and all clients, they always get their way. (After all, a client is always right).

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In the past few weeks, we have had to *tweak* our creative direction when it came to remaining truly inspired and on track. They are hard to please and demand a particular level of involvement with every aspect of their growth. They have thrown all of our research out the window as though they don’t care at all about what’s worked well in the past. It’s exhausting 24 hour work and they seem to care only when it’s convenient for them. They sleep on the job all the time, they come and go as they please. They complain about EVERYTHING. And it’s as though they expect an impeccable job on our part when they can’t even follow the schedule and refuse to maintain any sort of routine that might allow us to achieve our goals sooner. Regardless of their inability to communicate, we still seem to be making progress. One day at a time.

Stuffed.AnimalsMy children have proven to be my most difficult clients I’ve ever had, making this the most difficult job I’ve ever had. Without naming names of any of the large, multi-million dollar clients I have served in my years as an Advertising Account Executive, they are very similar. They can’t articulate what is wrong and I am constantly guessing what they want and whether I’m doing something right. It’s a very crazy situation to be in! One that we all as parents have been in or are currently in. I find it interesting how this really puts things into perspective. Every decision I made before impacted a business. Every decision I make now impacts a LIFE. I went to a four year college and received a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications with a double minor in Advertising and Marketing in order to do my job as an Advertising Executive. I had on the job training, internships and externships before I even landed my first job. I began as a junior account person and worked my way up over the years. I needed an impressive resume and someone had to deem me a fit for the positions I was hired for. With parenting, one day I had a newborn and had about 10 months to plan for everything I needed to know, and no one was there to ask me if I had done that or not. No one interviewed me to make sure I was up to the challenge, no one made sure I knew what I was doing or checked to make sure three people that know me well agreed I should be given this job. No one asked me to do research so I knew how to do this new job or to speak to other mothers in a similar position so I had firsthand knowledge. There are no required classes on “the basics,” there are no prerequisites. Then, I was promoted to a parent of three children all under the age of two within a year. WOW. I have such an appreciation now for the hard work my mom and dad did having my brother and I in their early 20s. No way could I have done that (or wanted to. I was far too immature and SELFISH. And selfish is not something you can be to raise children). I have such an appreciation for all of my friends and family that choose parenthood. God bless you all and enjoy this hard but extremely rewarding job we’ve been given. I find it difficult to imagine or to think about all of the ill-equipped people raising babies, (or people blessed with babies that don’t want them), because it’s such a difficult thing to do – emotionally, physically, psychologically, socially, etc. Keep doing what your doing and trusting your God-given instincts. And always remember what your momma taught you. After all, she is your first teacher in life and the one you gained all knowledge rightfully so from.

mybrownbaercubSo with an eye blinded by the purest and most true unconditional love there is, and with a fierce confidence, I take my open heart, best intentions, all of my hopes and dreams, life lessons, basic intuition, street smarts, book knowledge and the ability to be the best that I can be for my children, with me everyday to raise my babies. I would love to know how you feel! Please drop a comment and please follow my blog! I am so close to 1,000 followers that share in so much of the same things I do in this life.

XO ~ Stephanie

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(Don’t) Cry Over Spilled Milk…

Bottles - color-coded for different ounces and times of day for different baby.

Bottles – color-coded for different ounces and times of day for different baby.

Breast feeding is FREE. It’s free if you don’t consider mom’s time spent doing it valuable. I spend 30 minutes four to five times in a 24 hour period pumping for milk to nourish my twin boys. That’s well over 2.5 hours just pumping. And that doesn’t include washing bottles and the bottle systems  – two of each, eight times a day – (in fragrance-free, 100% natural, organic, baby-safe dish detergent with tiny, hard-to-keep-track-of, annoying nipple and bottle brushes). And then there is the preparation of the formula for supplementing what I am short that day. It also doesn’t include “getting ready” to breast feed and all of the paraphernalia that goes along with it.
But it’s SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.
Bottle Mess

Buy the plastic “drying grass” for bottles and bottle systems – way better than the towel!

I find it fascinating that I can produce the *PERFECT* food for my tiny newborn twin boys. Perfect because it is the easiest food for their “new” digestive systems to digest. It’s known to reduce a baby’s risk of developing allergiesasthmaeczema, ear infections, obesitydiabetes, heart disease, sudden infant death and diminished intelligence, as well as protecting mothers from breast cancer. It actually helps boost intelligence in children later in life. So why wouldn’t I at least give it my best shot to provide at least SOME of this goodness to my twin boys? I breast fed my daughter  for 11 months until she weaned herself. I am not one of those moms that beats myself up over exclusively breastfeeding. I simply DO WHAT I CAN DO. And I am living with that. I can’t produce like a cow. I have to supplement with some amount of formula daily. And I work my butt off to get all that I can get! Some women are blessed with an endless supply of milk and can pump and pump and freeze and store their milk. Some women could feed a litter of babies with such amazing ability to produce milk. And that’s just it – all women are different when it comes to breast feeding. It doesn’t matter the size of your boobs, either. It is much like having an innate talent to play the piano or the drums – some women are talented at producing milk. I don’t believe breast feeding is the “end all, be all” that some doctors and the media, lactation groups and mommy blogs want you to believe it is. “Breast is best” for babies whose mamas believe it to be best. Many women choose not to breast feed for a multitude of reasons and every reason is a perfect reason because it is UP TO EACH MOM INDIVIDUALLY and is NO ONE ELSE’S BUSINESS. It is the mom’s ultimate decision to breast feed or not and her decision SHOULD BE 100% RESPECTED. It also shouldn’t be something anyone has to defend. It’s your decision and that’s the final word. It doesn’t mean you love your baby any more or less that you do or don’t breast feed.
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Carson is white and Maxton is blue. Color coded helped me and whoever was assisting me with nighttime feedings. They weren’t always the same weight so they would sometimes drink different amounts – 2oz vs. 2.5oz, for example.

I pump around 40 – 70 ounces a day. In the beginning, it was such a daunting task to be faced with – one that I fought to accomplish and STILL after three months have to fight for daily and nightly. Not to mention when I stayed in the hospital for four days after my c-section and the babies needed to eat every two hours all day and all night, I asked that they be brought to me to at least make sure they latched on before EVERY FEEDING. BOTH OF THEM. And then I would pump for a half hour. Even though I would only get less than a tablespoon of colostrum. The reason I did this was two-fold: I wanted to make sure my body knew what it was in for. Producing milk for two couldn’t be taken lightly, I felt. And I really wanted to be able to nurse them tandem at home to save time and for bonding. So to generate milk supply and ensure they would latch.
The Udder Cover nursing cover-up

The Udder Cover nursing cover-up

Their suckling wasn’t strong enough to nourish them before they would get tired because they were only 37 weeks and very tiny. So we gave them formula for the hospital stay until my milk came in. Once they were big enough to nurse, it was too much work on my part to get them to latch again. I spent a week working on nursing with them and I realized I just didn’t have time because I was exhausted from no sleep and a GRUELING feeding schedule and had to spend my time and calories producing the milk; not worrying that they wouldn’t latch on and nurse every single time. So I pumped and bottle fed them and still do to this day. I never accomplish producing exactly what I need for the entire day so I supplement with formula about 25% formula per bottle to 75% breast milk. Somedays it is 50-50. Other days it’s 80% – 20%. But never under 50% breast milk. And they have each received one all formula bottle once since they have been home.
Colostrum in the hospital Day Two

Colostrum in the hospital Day Two

When someone adds into the “benefits of breast feeding” that it is “FREE,” I just cringe. It is the biggest sacrifice. It is a time suck. And it is a pain in the ass. Not to mention, the guilt and constant beating yourself up over it.
Do you know how much water you have to drink to produce 70 ounces of breast milk in a day? If you are like me, I promise you every ounce of anything I drink or eat goes to milk production. So much so that I rarely go to the bathroom; I am constipated and never pee. I have headaches all the time and I feel so incredibly parched, it’s not even jokingly amusing. Drinking water to stave off contractions when I was pregnant with the twins was overwhelming. I got up to 140 ounces a day. I still do that now PLUS everything else I drink (and add in a few more ounces of water on top of that). And my own thirst is never quenched. I am now to the point that I don’t want water anymore, but I have to drink it. And I have always loved water. It gives the babies a tummy ache, terrible gas and fussiness if I have garlic or onion, anything spicy, ice cream, yogurt, milk shakes or a glass of milk. I will plan not to go somewhere because I have to pump. I will forgo going out to dinner because I don’t want to miss the opportunity to pump for the babies’ meal. I limit my caffeine intake. I never get Starbucks and if I do, I don’t get what I really want. The aching of my breasts when I am walking around and full, sucks. Especially when Matt decides to hug me extra hard or a baby cries or Mattelyn decides to kick me while I’m changing her diaper and I haven’t pumped or I need to pump – all reasons my boobs hurt. (Also when two wet spots inconveniently show up on my shirt because my milk let down). I can’t run or jog comfortably – (I’m not supposed to at this point anyway but in another month or so I plan to). EVERYTHING I do affects my milk supply. If I get stressed out (hmmm, that’s way too easy), if I get really upset over something (I’m post-partum and hormonal!), if I miss a meal or a snack, if I fail to pump at the 4 hour mark, if I shower or use a hot pad, if the babies schedule is off at all or if my two-year-old’s schedule is off, if I don’t get a good night sleep (laughable!!), if we have company or if I am out and I fail to pump as often as I should. (The only bathrooms that have mother’s rooms decent enough to sit in for 30 minutes are Nordstrom’s, Von Maur and the BMW dealership. If you’re at Target, Kohls or Macys, or at a restaurant, chances are, you need to just pump in your car. Public restrooms are disgusting and always smell like someone just used the public bathroom to let go of everything they didn’t want to do at home! It is sad to breastfeed your daughter in a hot mess of a bathroom like I have had to do. Pumping is the same. There are no electrical outlets available even if you bring your pump with you. And lets face it – no matter breastfeeding or pumping – you’re going to get funny looks. It’s sad but true). And let’s not forget that I also miss out on the occasional social hour cocktail! And the itchiness and pain of just pumping, in general! And finding the half hour to do it. That half hour AFTER I have fed the babies at midnight and I have to stay up an hour later to pump and then make bottles. Or the half hour I want desperately to go back to bed in the early morning after that feeding but before Mattelyn wakes up – I never can because I have to pump. And I always have to have someone watching Mattelyn and the babies while I pump so one of the babies isn’t hurt while I am held captive, hooked up to the machine. And all the apparatuses that go along with the pump that always need cleaning. And we can’t forget the “udder cover” and the cone-like attachments which make it impossible to just “answer the knock at the front door” appropriately. I also suffer with losing baby weight when I breast feed. I have an extra 15-20 pounds that linger because I want to make milk for my babies. I hear over and over again, “She is breast feeding and the baby weight is just MELTING AWAY…” Not so with me! Sure, I am expending 700 calories A DAY producing milk for two. But I am also eating to do so. It again depends on the woman. Everyone is different. I actually gained weight breastfeeding my daughter. For what ever reason, my body still thinks I am pregnant and holds onto the weight while I breast feed.
The list goes on and on.
Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold

So basically, for the next 6 months at least, I will miss going out to dinner, going shopping, I’ll say no to ice cream and yogurt, skip chips and salsa and my favorite enchiladas, forgo any and all cocktail hours, most social gatherings outside of my house, walk around with an extra 15-20 pounds of baby weight, leak on my shirts, drink 5 gallons of water a day, stay up too late, get up too early, my boobs will ache, I won’t get to run or jog, I’ll look haggard. And at one in the morning after pumping so that I have enough milk produced to not have to supplement with formula that morning, I will spill ALL that I did and sacrificed for on the kitchen counter and on the floor with one tip of the bottle from an overly tired, overwhelmed mom of 93 day old twins. And that won’t happen just once. (So far it’s happened three times).
But in the end, it’s providing my babies with what I know to be the best I can provide. This is temporary, too. My chance to feed my babies from my own breast is such a small amount of time in life and I cherish this gift I’ve been given and the privilege it is to have this option and opportunity. And, it is still fascinating to me that I can nourish my babies with my own body! What a miracle! It makes me feel at one with nature and with the whole “we’re all connected” idea.
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Almost three months old! Carson and Maxton showing their ever growing personalities.

So, go ahead and cry over spilled milk. It’s spilled liquid gold. And if you consider for a moment sopping it up with a paper towel and squeezing it into a bottle, we’ll all know and understand why. And the next time someone says breastfeeding is free, well, it depends on who is doing the pumping or nursing, I would say…
Spilled Liquid Gold.

Spilled Liquid Gold.

XO ~ Stephanie

The Jealous Older Sibling, The Terrible Twos and My Sweet Baby Girl….

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Mattelyn 22 months and Maxton 2 months

Bringing the twin boys home sent my 22 month old daughter’s life into a total tizzy. I wondered and worried like all mamas about bringing a new baby home from the hospital. And then I worried more about bringing two home when we found out at the second ultra sound we would be bringing home TWINS. I actually cried when we found out, worried for my little girl. You see, she was my everything and I was HERS and hers alone. I would rock my baby girl to sleep every night and we would talk about our day and sing songs. We made breakfast together and we planted flowers and went on long walks. We played and swam and colored. We danced and danced and ran outside and danced some more. I am blessed to stay at home with her and I know it! I took this PRIVILEGE to heart and worked my hardest to make sure I was doing the best job at the most important job of my life. And now I was faced with bringing in another baby and sharing my Mattelyn time with him or her and I couldn’t imagine how she was going to react. It scared me and made me feel guilt like I had never experienced. It actually would make me panic and feel like I could be sick. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I would sit and rock her with my huge tummy and major pregnancy hormones raging with tears just streaming down my face as I pictured new babies and my inability to care for them all at once. I would try not to let her see my sadness but it was real.

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Mattelyn and me 19 weeks pregnant with the twins

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My darling Mattelyn. My heart!!!!

I am not telling you anything you don’t already know or haven’t felt but I wanted to share with you what I lost sight of and it almost makes me sick that I didn’t notice.

I was a little insane with worry about my daughter’s well-being before I had the babies. I had my maternity photo shoot with my daughter and made the focus on her and the beauty of our relationship before the boys arrived. I wanted to be sure she knew that she made me the mommy I am today and made it possible for us to bring her brothers into this world for her. I made her a book of our photos that she can look at forever and wrote her a letter telling her exactly how I feel so she would always know how important that time of my life with her was. I want her to know she is my first born and my only little girl. I treasure her little companionship and I will love her to the moon and back for always and forever.

This is my maternity photo shoot with my daughter Mattelyn when she was 17 months old and I was 22 weeks pregnant. I wanted to celebrate the time I had with her one-on-one and the fact that she is who made me a mommy, while also celebrating the twin pregnancy.

This is my maternity photo shoot with my daughter Mattelyn when she was 17 months old and I was 22 weeks pregnant. I wanted to celebrate the time I had with her one-on-one and the fact that she is who made me a mommy, while also celebrating the twin pregnancy.

Lighthouse Beach, Evanston, IL ~  Just outside of Chicago. Liz Franco Photography, Chicago Fine Art Portrait Photographer. Toddler and Maternity dresses by Abby Bella Couture.

Lighthouse Beach, Evanston, IL ~ Just outside of Chicago. Liz Franco Photography, Chicago Fine Art Portrait Photographer. Toddler and Maternity dresses by Abby Bella Couture.

The look is undeniable when your baby recognizes that the new babies are there to stay. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to prepare you and what you imagine it will feel like is not even close to how terrible it really feels. Witnessing her little face when she realized, “This is real; they were ours and they’re not going anywhere,” is forever burned in my mind, heart and soul. They feel replaced. They feel left out. Their little perfect worlds are TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. And now they have to share you. What do you do??? How can you reason with a toddler who can’t even talk to let her know you are giving her a lifetime best friend? That it is extremely important and they will be in each other’s lives longer than any other person?

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Learning how to incorporate morning play in short increments.

I read books and blogs about how she was going to feel and tactics that can help prepare me to help make the transition smoother and what to do in the hospital and in the household upon returning home with the babies. Give her a gift in the hospital from you and your husband, bring a bag of activities that she can play with that are special for the hospital only, give her a gift (to give to the twins) from her, give her baby dolls that will be “her babies” so she can mimic mommy, be lenient with rules, etc. Show her “Big Sister” t-shirts to wear proudly. Read the books written for toddlers that are about bringing a new baby into the home from their perspective. Let her play in “brothers’ nursery” and allow her to lay down in her brothers’ cribs. Don’t make big changes for your toddler when you bring the babies home, such as trying to potty train or ending the use of a bottle or stop being rocked at nap time. We did it all – and MORE. There wasn’t anything we DIDN’T do. For the first two weeks we were home with the babies, both sets of grandparents were here – talk about every child’s dream situation!

And honestly at first, I thought I had dodged a bullet with her. Mattelyn didn’t have a terrible reaction like I was told she would, with the exception of a few mean looks and not wanting to go with me but rather grandma – and when isn’t that all normal behavior anyway? We all held our breath as she walked into the hospital room where I stayed for four days after my c-section. I was warned she would be angry, wouldn’t want to look at me, wouldn’t want to hug or kiss me. And she didn’t do that – she almost ran to me and sat on the bed next to me and looked at her gifts. She sat on my lap and allowed me to hold her. She was just fine. For about four weeks.

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Our household has been complete chaos since bringing home the twins – not one part of the old routine is in place other than eating, but Mattelyn has had plenty of love and family around.

There is always a grandma here taking care of her (lucky girl) and we have had visitors every week and on weekends, grandpas come. She has been the center of everyone’s attention.

The big change I noticed began a couple weeks ago, a month after bringing them home. After she finally realized, “These babies are here to stay,” it was a difficult moment and I saw it in her eyes. Everything “clicked” and she saw RED. Her anger was out of control. She is 22 months old and the “terrible-twos” have definitely kicked in. She throws books, bites, hits, smacks, pulls hair, kicks HARD and has full-blown temper tantrums multiple times daily. She will do ANYTHING for attention now, including jumping off of the staircase landing to the floor and jumping on and climbing on all the furniture. Scariest of all, she tries to open hand smack the babies every chance she gets. They are so tiny and I mean hitting with the force of a seven-year-old boy on a playground pissed that someone just took his toy truck. No kidding. She pulls their pacifiers out of their mouths while they’re sleeping. She pushes their swings extra hard and tries to climb on the swings or tip them over.

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There have been so many close calls, I have to keep such a close eye on her AT ALL TIMES. She cannot be left alone EVER. Open-hand slapping with all her might is just the tip of the iceberg. She’s an ace at book flinging – hard board books fly through the air with the same force as a runner kicking off sweaty tennis shoes. Everything has become a weapon and toys and sippy cups full of apple juice are like grenades. I *wince* when she gets up in the morning and comes running, screaming, with wild, crazy eyes, like a rabid dog, into the living room where I am either pumping and holding the babies or where they are swinging. She also has been kicking and hitting our dog Mikki who is her best friend, (which was one of the early signs for me – she is going to hit the boys). Lately she has come to despise to despise the boys and me. If I walk into the kitchen when she’s in her high chair eating lunch or breakfast carrying a baby, she flings all of her food on the floor. She has begun role playing and has made two of her dolls “her twins.” She pats them like she’s burping them, she pretend feeds them, sings to them, carries them around, pretends to give them medicine, she even lays on the floor and coos and pats their heads and swings them. She lays them down to sleep. She also slaps them, throws them, steps on their heads, pulls their hair, throws them during temper tantrums, whacks their heads against the floor and the wall, pokes their eyes out, shakes them with a rage of fury while giggling hysterically, and gets downright angry with them, babbling baby talk – but real mean.

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She has also become the queen of sweet deception, walking up to me while I am holding a baby, placing her little hand on his arm and looking right at me making sweet faces and takes her other hand and plants one right on his face and runs away LAUGHING. My heart goes into my stomach as I realize I HAVE A REAL PROBLEM. She is PISSED OFF! And, she is really going to end up hurting the boys if I don’t somehow gain control. I feel so sorry for her as she has no other way to tell me she is angry and JEALOUS. She is hurt and slapping a baby gets an immediate reaction from me and everyone surrounding her.I don’t want her upset and going through this everyday. It’s exhausting to me and to her.

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I immediately went back to my books and Websites and blogs to read about how to deal with a biter. I read about toddlers that take out their frustrations on the new babies at home. I learned what to say when she threw books at the babies and what to do when she hurls her sippy cups into their cribs. I read from the “Toddler Whisperer” for sound advice on punishment that is effective and read about how to comfort the hurt feelings of a toddler. I solicited advice from family and friends, blogs and books, Websites and magazines. We began time outs, face-to-face talking at her level, removing her from a situation and flat out yelling (yes, that occurred when we were just afraid she was about to seriously hurt the baby!)

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been SO BUSY and SO CONSUMED by the babies, getting them on a schedule, paying attention to breast feeding and pumping, trying to stay awake, that I realized I was over looking the root of the problem and reacting to the symptoms.

She wants me. She wants her mommy. Not all day long, but as a reminder that she’s still mine and important beyond belief to me.

My sister-in-laws were the first I approached about her behavior and they both said to begin the day with something that we’ve always done that she is used to and will accept as our time. My toddler can’t talk yet to tell me she’s angry at me. She can just REACT and expect attention from us.

Every morning I have been going to get my darling when she awakes and starts babbling in her crib. I greet her first and she still does all the same things typical two year olds do like kicking when I try to dress her or change her pants. But she’s also adorably sweet and kisses her stuffed animals and wonderfully inquisitive about life outside her window and loves to skim her latest favorite book to read. I get a quick kiss and hug in first thing, too. We then go downstairs to say hi to Grandma (and the babies) and then I fix her breakfast. It’s a little more work on my part and on the part of my mom to be able to break away for that amount of time in the morning with pumping, bottle cleaning and making and then feedings. But we plan for it. We work around it (and get less sleep!) because of it.

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The temper tantrums are cut in HALF. The terrible book throwing has STOPPED and the screaming fits and all of the craziness when she is about to get angry has calmed WAY DOWN. She still wants to try to smack the babies but now, when we are tandem feeding, she will sit next to me or Grandma and read books and watch TV without all of the need for negative attention. And she is role playing in the nicer way much more often now. She also wants to touch her brothers and sit with them. She wants to take a picture here and there with them and I am getting smacked, bitten and hair pulled a lot less often. This didn’t change everything but it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD for my daughter. I haven’t needed to punish her or use any of the tactics I read about. Crazy, right? It was all in the approach to the whole problem. Looking at the cause instead of how to deal with her reactions (the symptoms) was so important and key.

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I can’t say I blame my baby girl. Man did it take me the hard way to learn!!! And I just thought if I could share with you, maybe you would recognize it sooner than I did and incorporate something first thing in the morning that is part of their regular routine to make your toddler understand how much you still love them, are always there for them and still remain a huge part of their life even if there are other babies now. Because in the end, it is really quite wonderful to know that she just needed ME. Her mommy. ((Tears))

It’s made all the difference in the world!

XO ~ Stephanie

It’s Survival. Simply, SURVIVAL.

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My sons. My twin sons. It still doesn’t “roll off my tongue.” It seems surreal and just as every single mother of twins told me before they were born, it’s true – we are in survival mode and time is flying by. And I’m not sitting in my rocking chair, watching them quietly nurse while listening to the lullaby channel on Pandora, imagining what they will look like when they’re older and daydreaming where they’ll go to college. I’m not watching them during tummy time with my camera, carefully placing cute toys around them for a picture perfect shot. I don’t gather adorable outfits in the morning to dress and undress them just for fun because they are only tiny newborns ONCE. And I haven’t put them in their cribs to see how tiny they look in such big, masculine wood beds. I don’t get to video during their baths and basque in the wonderful baby lotion moments of cooing and smiles after bath time. Once they’re asleep, I’m not making phone calls to friends and family, doing dishes and laundry or vacuuming the family room or play area. I’m not even playing dress up with my almost two year old toddler. I’m not fixing my daughter lunches and snacks or going to the park to play. I am not showering or sewing or taking online photography courses or freelancing. I’m not fixing healthy dinners for my tired, commuting husband, taking photos of him lovingly holding our babies. I’m not working out or taking long walks with my newborns so they get fresh air like I did every single day for my daughter. Nope. I am pumping, pumping MORE and pumping again, 24 hours a day, making bottles, washing bottles, drinking water, eating anything I have a chance to eat, changing poopy blowout diapers, getting spit-up on, and I mean REALLY spit-up on, rocking a baby, passing him off to my mom, rocking another baby, swaddling, putting into a swing. Falling asleep while overnight feeding, or during Sesame Street in the morning. They cry – all the time, someone is crying. I pick one up, give him gas relief drops, feed him his bottle, change his diaper, get peed on, change his clothes, re-swaddle him, block my toddler daughter’s karate punch to my son’s tiny back, turn to catch her just-hurled baby board book that is headed for the other twin’s face. I tell her sweet, little, overly-concerned and angry face that we shouldn’t throw books or hit babies but let her know I understand how she feels and why she is reacting the way she is and tell her I love her and try to give her a much needed hug. She pulls my hair and open hand smacks my face as hard as she can. She kicks me and runs off to hug my mom instead of me. When it’s time for bed and my husband has bathed my daughter, my mom has rocked and fed a baby, I have pumped and rocked and fed a baby, my daughter goes down for the night and my husband kisses me goodnight and tells me he feels guilty to tell me goodnight when he knows I won’t sleep. It’s dark and I finish making their nighttime bottles and realize I will be up with the coyotes’ howls during the night, with my husband’s alarm clock in the morning and will hear the cries in the middle of the night from my daughter who needs her mommy but I am on the pump or stuck downstairs feeding a baby. Life with twins sure is different. I feel blessed I had my daughter as a singleton first to know what it’s really like to have a newborn. Because this truly is survival right now. And every picture I manage to snap is a reminder of a moment in time I wish I could’ve enjoyed individually with each of them a little longer but couldn’t. I am sure in the blink of an eye they’ll be graduating high school and this blur will be the pictures I have snapped. And I will be happy with that and will look at each picture happily remembering the craziness during this time in our lives.
XO ~ Stephanie

The twins, seven weeks old (gestationally, 4 weeks old), Maxton William and Carson Armin with their 22-month old big sister Mattelyn Lovae.

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We Almost Lost Him…

We Almost Lost Him

Mattelyn and Twins Christmas 201412

Many people make the comment that I’m a good mother. I try to be. I try with all my might to be. I want nothing but the best and the most for my babies. Isn’t that what all parents want for their children? When I started this blog, the main purpose was to pass on information that other new moms like me might be struggling with finding answers to. Not because I had THE answer or the RIGHT answer, but because everything I had searched for, read or come across wasn’t what worked for me, and if I could pass along something that DID work for me, then why not share so someone else may garner the same results? I also enjoy writing and journaling – and this was a way to share my love of babies, children, being creative, photography, gardening, small home repairs, recipes and everyday learnings. I am not an outright advocate of anything particular except for making choices in your life that make you happy and thinking of other people and their happiness and well-being. I also like keeping a record of things and journaling my feelings at a moment in time. Often this is done through my photos but with the onset of social media, with Facebook and Blogging, Instagram, Etsy, Flikr, etc., it appears I’m not the only one that feels this way! I like capturing what my life is like. It may not be of interest to others, but to me, it’s everything. And I like to print my blog and have it so my children can read it when they get older if they so wish. I know I would have LOVED to read about my mom’s life when I was little; to know her wishes and dreams for me. I don’t have but a few hundred followers but of those followers, each have friends and family with pregnant mom-to-be’s. And if this can reach each of my followers and they tell each of their friends, then I will have told at least a few hundred people and maybe, just maybe, this could help save another baby’s life.

Maxton William

Maxton William

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Maxton William 7 Weeks

Maxton William 7 Weeks


I digress but needed to give background t o the TRUE reason for this post today. Not because I’m an expert or because I think I know all. But for the following reasons. I have meant to write this since the day I saved one of the twins life. This was by far, BY FAR, the SCARIEST moment of my life – – and I have had scary moments! I was in a roll over accident where the car flipped three times and friends of mine were thrown from it when I was 16 years old. I have had a panic attack that sent me to the hospital. I climbed the highest church steep in Europe in January with snow and ice covered cobble stone stairs, holding on for dear life to a railing that was loose and looked as old as the church itself, just to witness the Danube from afar. I have stood in front of a large conference and given talks, been on live TV, I have been in pageants in my swimsuit, I have been down a drag strip on the floor board of a genuine race car, run until I passed out because I couldn’t breathe on the side of a road, been so sick I was hospitalized, battled anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia, I’ve been date raped, I’ve been through 14 hours of natural child birth, had two epidurals and given birth via c-section twice and once to twins. None of that may sound scary to you, but to me, those were up there as some of my scariest moments. But NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING compares to the level of SCARED or PARALYZED I felt that night.

Going home from the hospital.

Going home from the hospital.

When the twins were born, they were 37 weeks and one day exactly. They were and are considered FULL-TERM in all medical fields. I thought we were in the clear with beautiful healthy twin boys that delivered with no problems via c-section, with APGAR tests each of 9 and no need for the NIC-U at all. All was well. In the hospital, we were given the basic guidance you’re given for a newborn. Difference was, I had two 5lb newborns – and one was close enough to 4lbs upon leaving that we had to have a car seat test performed with him in it for 90 minutes while his breathing was watched carefully. That’s it. Nothing different.

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The truth is, at 37 weeks, they are considered late-term premature. They have little things that I was unaware of that are referred to as “a manifestation of prematurity,” (boy if I had a hundred dollars for each time I heard that these past few months I’d have a good start to their college funds).

Things like premature tear ducts that get mucus covered and their eyes seal shut. Tiny, smaller than a straw, sized esophagus’s that prematurely spasm and close up on them while eating or coughing or with hiccups. There is a long list that I plan to share eventually as well – things that ANYONE with a premature baby should know but aren’t necessarily told. But at 37 weeks, they aren’t considered premature because they’re twins. Following me here???

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At 7pm on a Saturday evening in December, about a week before Christmas, when the twins were barely three weeks old, my mom and I had just finished feeding the boys and they were laid in their crib, next to each other, on their backs, in a swaddle – all compliant with doctor’s orders and everything you’re told upon having a newborn in 2014. We have a monitor, a Samsung monitor, hung directly above their heads above their crib. Some might think overkill, but we want to be able to see them while they sleep. It had been about 7 minutes since we laid them down and walked to the kitchen. Mind you, the room is only ten feet away, the doors were open, it was me, my parents, my 22-month-old daughter and my husband getting ready to eat dinner. I hadn’t eaten dinner with anyone since I went to the hospital December 4th. I was going to get my plate of food and go back to their room. Upon turning around, I noticed Twin A madly moving his head back and forth. I thought for a moment that I was seeing something that wasn’t there BECAUSE THERE WAS NO SOUND. I told my husband it looked like he was in trouble. He ran back to the room and swept him up and yelled he’s choking. He handed him to me, blue in the face, not even gasping, eyes rolled back in his head, spit up all over his face. He was choking on his own spit up. He had been fighting and couldn’t fight anymore. I flipped him over in my arms, patted his back, I flipped him back over and proceeded to do the baby Heimlich then when that didn’t work I tried to give him mouth-to-mouth. Nothing was working. I was crying, screaming “He is DYING PEOPLE, HELP ME, DO SOMETHING!!!!” My husband was calling 911. My mom grabbed the nose aspirator that they were given in the hospital and my dad tore off the wrapper and I stuck it down his throat after several attempts to put my finger down his throat. I was scared I was hurting him but feared he was dead anyway. I pumped it twice and he coughed. HE COUGHED. I cried even harder and watched him try to breathe. He was beside himself but BREATHING. Then the paramedics arrived.

TERRIBLE STORY. TRUE STORY. I am sitting here typing this, reliving his tiny little body in my hands and I was panicked to do ANYTHING. He was dying and there was nothing I could do. He was blue, eyes rolled back in his head and unresponsive. How was I going to live with myself? How could I have been entrusted with beautiful healthy twin boys by God and allowed him to die in my hands by doing what I was told by putting him on his back?

I want to pass along to everyone:

  1. The Samsung Monitor turns ON from a black screen when there is SOUND or MOTION in the room. Although we couldn’t hear anything, because Maxton was choking, we saw the monitor blink on and I saw him moving his head violently.

    Samsung Video Baby Monitor

    Samsung Video Baby Monitor

  2. A 37-week old twin IS STILL PREMATURE. His esophagus was too small and when he spit up, his esophagus spasmed and when he tried to get a breath, he began choking. A newborn PERIOD needs 24 hour watch and care. A premature newborn needs EXTRA watching in the very beginning. Even being fed too much could have lead to his spit up and ultimately his choking.
  3. Put your baby on his or her back. My biggest question was still, “Why on his back? Look what just happened!!!!” And over and over again we were told on their back is still the safest.
  4. After almost two minutes, he began to breathe. I can’t imagine (because I’ve TORTURED myself with it) what would have happened if we didn’t have that monitor on them, if I had just walked away for FIVE MINUTES and he laid there choking to death, literally, next to his brother and I couldn’t have done anything and all I had done was EVERYTHING I WAS TOLD TO DO, including feeding him the amount I was feeding him – straight from the hospital nurses mouths.
  5. We didn’t put them in a separate room from the living room from that point on. Wherever I was for the rest of the month, they were RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I don’t think I slept with an eye closed from that point on.
  6. They were put on apnea monitors after this episode and another scary episode the day before with Carson in his carseat on the way to a doctor’s appointment. This is a WHOLE DIFFERENT POST I plan to write. I think an apnea monitor no matter how premature the baby is is NECESSARY. Because even if they are breathing just fine on their own, there are MANISFESTATIONS OF PREMATURITY that play into your baby’s life.

    Apnea Monitors

    Apnea Monitors

  7. As a mother or a father, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Do whatever it takes and know you did what you could. In a moment like that, I thought I was freaking out and losing it but I pulled through AND SAVED HIS LIFE. Trust yourself and never, ever doubt your instincts or ability.

I have wanted to get this posted for SO LONG now and tried to find the time to write it at least one hundred times. If this can help save a life, I am forever grateful.

XO ~ Stephanie