The T-W-I-N-S Method for Thriving with Multiples + $100 OFF Package

Because twins are not easy, and YES, two is so much more than one

by Krystle Gard

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My twins are almost four, and I am constantly thinking that I should write something about having twins. But when I stop and think back on those early days, I can barely remember anything. I was so sleep deprived that I ended up with postpartum depression when my twins were eight months old. So, I don't have any flowery words about the wonders of twins. What I do have is practical advice, that I like to call the T-W-I-N-S Method, that will help you thrive during the first year, so you can enjoy all of the many sweet moments amidst the chaos.

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As hard it can be to admit we need help...admit you need help! We often feel we have to do it all ourselves - I certainly did. But we don’t have to. I wish a friend would have recommended a postpartum doula, or a family member who doesn't live close by would have bought me a gift certificate for some postpartum doula hours. It would have been life changing. Partners are wonderful and are priceless. And at some point you both need sleep and support. Imagine for a second… a wonderful, kind woman comes to your door. She sends you off for a nap, engages your older child (if you have one) in something fun while she washes, dries, and folds a load of laundry. She feeds the babies and preps some food for dinner. Then, with her help, you set a new record for getting everyone out of the house in under 36.8 minutes. Every twin mom, whether their twins are their first babies or not, deserves that kind of support.

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Looking back, this could have really changed how that first year went. I decided at some point I was going to follow the advice and “never wake a sleeping baby.” With my babies on opposite waking schedules, this meant I woke every two hours to feed one of the babies for 11 months, which really translates as For. Ever. This is where I lost all my sleep. Take it from me: Dream Feed* the twin that doesn’t wake up. It will save your sanity.

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You are going to hear the same things over and over: “Are they twins?” “Are they identical?” “Wow, you must have your hands full.” Or my favorite: “I don’t know how you do it.” If you get bothered every time you hear one of these comments, you will be stressed all.the.time. Accept that you will hear at least one of these each time you go out - and just let it go.

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To save time and give yourself more freedom, try to feed your twins at the same time. This may seem impossible, but practice makes perfect. There are a couple of great nursing pillow options** and several positions to accomplish this. Hiring a lactation consult is a fantastic way to get the help, support and knowledge you’ll need to feel comfortable nursing both at one time. A postpartum doula can help with bottle feeding, and she’ll come armed with a ton of pro tips and ideas to make it as easy and streamlined as possible. With some practice, you’ll be able to feed like a champ, even in public.

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Sleep deprivation is no joke. We don’t realize how bad it is when we are in it, and it can compromise relationships with our partners, older children, other family members and friends. Getting one or two nights a week of good sleep, or 4-5 consecutive hours of sleep in each 24-hour period, is absolutely necessary. Having a friend or family member come to help with feedings and baby care for an overnight once or twice a week in the early weeks can be a lifesaver. If you don’t have friends or family able or willing to help out some nights, look for outside support -  hiring a postpartum doula will give you the freedom to get a good night’s sleep while trusting your babies are in good hands. Plus a postpartum doula can also do some light housework and meal prep!

Twins are amazing and so adorable. My boys are now starting to call each other their “best friend,” which makes my heart melt into a happy puddle of mama-love. Twins are such a blessing - and when you have the support you need in those first few months, you can create some of the best memories of your life.

*Dream feeding refers to feeding your babies while they are sleeping, such that you can sleep more, too. You can dream feed just before you go to bed, or throughout the night if they wake up on different schedules. Read tips here and here to learn more.

**Krystle’s favorite nursing pillow for twins is the Twin Z Pillow. The My Brest Friend for Twins is also popular.

Krystle Gard is a postpartum doula with Bridgetown Baby in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t writing or supporting other families during their 4th trimester, she is hopefully outdoors somewhere beautiful with her three young boys (including 3 year-old twins) and husband.

 

This Mother’s Day, Give Yourself the Gift of Support

For those families who need it the most, we are offering our Multiples Package at a $100 discount for the month of May - $1,190 (Regular rate $1,290)

The Multiples Package includes two 9-hour nighttime shift and three 4-hour daytime shift for two or more babies born within six months of each other.

Multiple babies are without a doubt, overwhelming and exhausting. They also give more smiles and snuggles as they grow. It may not always feel like it, but a family is very lucky to have multiple babies. A postpartum doula helps a family feel lucky. First and foremost, she helps the family sleep, which makes everything else better. 

A postpartum doula will do everything she normally does; support the mother’s recovery, provide healthy cooking, laundry and light housekeeping, plus teach valuable skills that will make it easier to feed, bathe and wear two babies. A postpartum doula can teach the parent/s, grandparents, and other caregivers. It’s a Party/It Takes a Village: The Multiples Package is an invaluable gift for every family expecting multiple babies, but especially those without extended family close by.

6 Tips for Bringing Home Baby Number Two

by Krystle Gard

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When you bring your first baby home time stops. Your whole life is now all about them. You feed on demand, sleep when you can, and stare at that sweet baby for hours. Life is relatively simple. And by ‘simple,’ I mean you have one sweet baby to care for. Enter baby number two and everything shifts. Now you need to navigate how to feed two mouths and manage two separate nap times, and where does sleep fit in? Here are five tips to help smooth the transition to a multi-child household!

1. Special Time

One of the biggest issues is that your oldest now has to share so much of you with their new sibling. So make a plan to create special time just for you and your oldest. This could even be a book and snuggle time - aka nap time for both of you.

2. Who’s a Big Helper?

Find ways to have your older child help out. They can be your super-awesome-water-bottle-filler while you’re feeding the new baby. Or they can be your fresh-wipe-hander while you’re changing diapers. Finding little tasks they can do will make them feel important - and invested in the care of their new sibling. It could be as simple as turning on the lights, to bigger things like making mom a snack or, for older children, doing the laundry.

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3. Baby Has to Wait, Too

This is my favorite. So many times we make our oldest wait because we have to be with the baby for some reason or another. So find moments where you can create a “waiting time” for baby. For example, while baby is waiting peacefully somewhere, you can say to the baby, “Sarah, you need to wait while I put on big brother’s shoes…” This evens things out, and lets our older child know we’re prioritizing them, too.

4. New and Exciting

New babies inevitably bring new stuff. So have a few small new and exciting items for your oldest. Some parents make a basket of new toys and books for the older child to use during baby’s feeding times, so they get something fun while you are with the new baby. Pro tip: make these activities as autonomous as possible;they may need your help with Legos, but board books, blocks, magnets, water coloring books, etc. they can proudly do on their own.

5. Send in the Support Team

Find family members, friends, or hire a postpartum doula to help create space for you and the new baby and you and your older child. These support people can watch your oldest and play and engage with them while you have some one-on-one time with new baby, say in the bath. And at the same visit, the support person can take the baby so you can have some quality, on the ground one-on-one time with your oldest.

6. Make Space for Your Needs, Too

You can’t pour from an empty cup, and adding a new baby to the mix may take you down to the dregs of time, energy and enthusiasm. Making space to take care of your needs, and connect with your partner, is good for everyone - including your older child, who will still be counting on you as a playmate and patient caregiver. Here, too, having support from family, friends or a postpartum doula can help you fill your cup, so you can enjoy time playing with and caring for both of your children.

Siblings are such an amazing treat. Some older siblings may love the idea of a new baby, and the difficult part might be getting alone time with baby. And some older siblings may dread the new baby and have hostility towards them. Either way, adding to your family will multiply both joy and create new pressures. Putting in place some of the solutions above can help you balance the needs of everyone in your household - yourself included!

Krystle Gard is a postpartum doula with Bridgetown Baby in Portland, Oregon. When she isn’t writing or supporting other families during their 4th trimester, she is hopefully outdoors somewhere beautiful with her three young boys (including 3 year-old twins) and husband.

Saranna’s Story, Part 2: From Loss to a Legacy of Connection

by Brita Johnson

Photo courtesy of Saranna W.

Photo courtesy of Saranna W.

In the spring of 2012, Saranna and her husband Frank were expecting their first child, with a sense of anticipation at building the family they’d dreamed of. Their happy emotions spiraled into deep grief, as the pregnancy ended at 19 weeks with the loss of their son, Spencer. (Read the first part of her story here.) The passage through the seasons of private grief that followed felt long, but Saranna was determined to try again as soon as they were given the green light

Although conception had been complicated with their first pregnancy, they were delighted that Saranna got pregnant more easily this time - though Saranna remembers that the giddiness she felt was intertwined with fear of losing another baby. With a cerclage at 14 weeks to address the cervical insufficiency that had prematurely ended her first pregnancy, this second pregnancy was otherwise healthy and uneventful - until a nasty virus intervened during Saranna’s third trimester.

Due to complications of the virus, baby Neha was born five weeks early - though they’d planned to have a cesarean birth, the birth experience became chaotic, with concerns both about the virus and about Neha’s heart. Out of the chaos of emergency cesarean, though, “came this little person,” says Saranna says. “It was the first time I’d seen a biological person of mine, so [I just wondered] at her and [looked] at the ways she looked like me.”

She was able to wonder at the sight, but she wasn’t yet able to hold her baby. Neha was taken for some medical tests, and Saranna was moved from the operating theatre to a recovery room. Marked by her experience of having lost her first baby, her anxiety mounted as the separation went on. Finally Saranna’s birth doula advocated for the family, saying, “Saranna needs to hold her baby - the baby needs to be held.” When she was finally able to hold Neha, Saranna felt a tangible sense of reassurance - this *was* her baby, and the baby was healthy.

Saranna says she and Frank experienced a comedy of errors in the early experiences of newborn care: “Frank had never changed a diaper, and I had to stay prone due to the surgery discomfort - and the books we’d read hadn’t talked about meconium! We had quite a scare til we learned what it was!”

For Saranna, bonding with Neah really started after the first 24 hours, as a massive dose of antibiotics began to vanquish her virus symptoms and she was able to use her body to be active and interactive with her baby. “She was so little - I was so scared I was going to break her,” Saranna says, a feeling common to many new parents but intensified by the trauma and loss she’d experienced in birthing Spencer.

Coming home from the hospital, Saranna and Frank experienced a week of chaos as they settled into their new reality, and then another week of digging out from under that chaos. Neha had severe reflux, and navigating the medical system to find the right solution added another couple of weeks of disequilibrium. Meanwhile, conflict escalated with Saranna’s family, resulting in a decisive separation from her parents.

“It took a while to get into a rhythm, but once we did, we did well,” Saranna says. And soon they felt ready to add to their family again. The experience of having had a healthy baby was redemptive, and there was more a sense of possibility as they tried again to get pregnant. The process, Saranna says, was “more fun this time.” When she became pregnant again, there was still some fear born of loss, but in some ways, the path felt well-trodden - she got set-up with the high-risk team again, and while there were some early moments of concern, those soon resolved. Her 3rd pregnancy was her least eventful.

The birth of baby Mira was redemptive in some ways as well - the team of female doctors and nurses listened intently, respected her priorities (especially getting to hold Mira right away), and validated the ways in which her previous birth experiences had been damaging to her. Mira was hearty, and they were able to leave the hospital without NICU intervention - to their intense gratitude. Saranna was relieved to get home to Neha, who’d been with a patchwork of care providers during the hospital stay.

This time, their homecoming - and the experience of settling into life with a new baby - was eased by postpartum doula support. The birth doula who’d supported Saranna and Frank in both girls’ deliveries had referred them to Bridgetown Baby, and they’d met with Merriah and Emily during Saranna’s pregnancy to plan for the postpartum period.

Recalling what their relationship with Bridgetown Baby meant to them, Saranna highlights both the physical and emotional support that the doulas offered: “It was just me and Frank making the ship go forward, without family help. The doulas helped to keep balls in the air and handle household and newborn care details that might otherwise have slipped through the cracks.” It was also helpful, Saranna says, to have her experiences as a mom to three babies - missing the one-on-one time she’d had with Neha before Mira’s birth, and keenly feeling Spencer’s loss - normalized and validated: “The doulas really provided a listening ear, and this helped me to open up about my grief and process some of the difficult family dynamics. This was so reassuring.”

From a rough start in life, through the pain of losing her son, Saranna has emerged with a clear sense of the legacy she and Frank are building for their children. “We envision our kids as adults around this table, sharing memories of their parents with their own kids. We’re building a legacy of connection.” And that connection is obvious in the calm, deliberate and loving interactions between Saranna, Frank and their rambunctious girls.

When asked what’s allowed them to build this solid, loving, family universe despite loss, grief and broken family ties, Saranna says, “I was empowered - by the difficult experiences I had, my own determination, and the doula support I received - to show the girls, ‘you can do it, you can have it, but you’ve gotta work for it. Even if people try to box you in with their expectations, you have to say ‘my mom said I could do it’ and then do it.’”

If you are seeking support as you navigate the grief of pregnancy loss or the loss of an infant, we invite you to start with a short list of resources on our blog. If you’re embarking on pregnancy, and wish to seek out information to help you plan for and support a healthy pregnancy, please contact us for resources from our extensive list of local referrals.

Saranna's Story, Part 1: Pregnancy Loss - Will There Be Joy Again?

by Brita Johnson

Photo credit: Brita Johnson

Photo credit: Brita Johnson

For Saranna, family was something that didn’t come easily. At 8 weeks old, she made the long journey from an orphanage in Calcutta to an adoptive family in Oregon. Once here, she worked to overcome serious medical conditions, while contending with difficult dynamics within her adoptive family that would leave her estranged from her parents as an adult. When she and her husband Frank married in 2007, they were eager to start a family. “It was like the puzzle pieces were all in place, and we could start to make our dreams of having a family of our own come true,” says Saranna.

As hopeful as the prospect of building their family was, this hopefulness was tempered by the challenges they encountered in becoming pregnant. It took support from members of their church community to puzzle through the maze of the medical system, then a panoply of medical and alternative interventions, to finally get pregnant in the early spring of 2012.

As Saranna and Frank celebrated the joy and anticipation of her pregnancy, Saranna was also careful to follow her doctor’s guidance to a T, with special attention to managing the impacts that the pregnancy had on her ongoing medical conditions. It took a few months, Saranna says, to get back to “her normal.” And then, when she did, things went quietly sideways.

In week 19 of her pregnancy, things started to feel “off.” She shook it off, convincing herself that it could be anything, that it certainly wasn’t something serious. “I didn’t listen to my intuition,” she now says. On a late Friday afternoon, as she headed out on a round of errands to stock the nursery, her water broke.

She and Frank rushed to the hospital, where she would learn, in the words of the attending doctor, “you’re perfectly healthy...but your pregnancy isn’t.” There was no way to save the tiny being inside of her. In a swirl of shock, grief, medical decisions to be made, and hospital paperwork, she spent a sleepless night trying to come to terms with the procedure scheduled for the next morning that would end her pregnancy.

“I felt these mama instincts to ‘keep my baby safe, here in this bed,’” Saranna says, describing the irrational desire she felt for time to stand still, for the night not to end. The early hours of the morning brought a peace and a readiness to let her baby go. When the procedure had been done, she could finally learn whether the baby had been a boy or a girl; the magnitude of the loss sunk in when Frank said, “it was a little boy.” Their son, Spencer.

Bundled out of the hospital, without ceremony, she and Frank were sent home to grieve and figure out how to go forward. The next day was Father’s Day, and the seasons that followed were seasons of numbness for Saranna. She put her grief on hold, going through the motions of daily life, marriage, community, taking care of everyone but herself.

“Grief is a lonely place,” Saranna says, looking back on that time as a season of missed connections. She and Frank grieved their loss separately; she didn’t have a relationship with her parents that provided warmth and support; and her grief isolated her from the church community that had been a pillar of strength for them.

As she sought to understand the medical explanation for what had happened, Saranna also sought out local resources to support her grieving process, but, she says, “the support groups I found didn’t feel welcoming to me, as a person of color with an obvious disability.” She spent hours combing the internet for articles and stories that would validate her experience. She found some small rituals that helped her to cope. The warmth and loyalty of their dog, Mocha, was a sanity-saver and a source of comfort.

Despite the emotional numbness she felt, and perhaps based on an inborn determination that comes from surviving her own hard beginnings, Saranna was eager to try for another pregnancy as soon as she was medically cleared to do so. There wasn’t really a question of emotional readiness for her: “I wanted a different outcome and the only way to have a different outcome is to do it again,” she says, “I just got back on that horse.”

When she and Frank did get the go ahead to try for another pregnancy, she got pregnant right away, to everyone’s delight and to her own disbelief. She laughs a little now, remembering the doctor who said, “if you get five positive pregnancy tests, I think you’re pregnant.”

There’s no such thing as a simple happy ending, and though sweetly humorous, the anecdote above is also revelatory of the complexity of pregnancy, and parenting, after loss: fear of losing her second baby rimmed her emotional experience of the pregnancy; not a day goes by that she doesn’t miss the son she never knew; some of the cloud of numbness she felt in 2012 has only recently started to lift.

But you only have to meet Saranna to sense the joy that she finds in her growing family. In the second installation of Saranna’s story, Bridgetown Baby joins the team that has supported Saranna and Frank through the challenge and redemption of continuing to build their family - read more on Bridgetown Baby’s blog, coming soon.

October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. We stand with the families, in our Bridgetown Baby community and around the world, who have lost a child - and we want you to know that you are not alone. If you are seeking support as you navigate this particular grief, we invite you to start with a short list of resources, on our blog.

Tully and Postpartum Care- A Doula's Perspective

The postpartum doula world was a buzz when previews were released for Diablo Cody’s newest film, Tully. Having loved Juno, also written by Cody, for its realistic slice-of-life depiction of a supported teen pregnancy, we had high expectations that Tully would show how postpartum doulas aide the transition into parenthood. 

The movie opens with actress Charlize Theron, playing a very pregnant Marlo, lumbering down the hall to wake her son. You can feel the exhaustion of the third trimester as Marlo sets into motion the cascading responsibilities of the day. Quickly you are introduced to the struggles that she has been through, from caring for a ‘quirky’ son to struggling with a previous perinatal mood disorder. In an attempt to stave off a resurgence of Marlo’s ‘hard time,’ her brother Craig, played by Mark Duplass, offers to pay for a night nanny. Taken aback with mild offense and slight trepidation, Marlo reluctantly takes down a number to call “in case [she changes] her mind”.

After the baby is born, the movie goes on to portray the early postpartum period in a way that may feel all too real to recent parents: a repetitive whirring of never-ending, circular tasks done on little sleep, minimal energy, and dwindling patience. Director Jason Reitman catches shots that make us as parents laugh, gasp, and nod empathetically. After weeks of feeling alone, empty, and exhausted, Marlo decides to take Craig up on his offer. Enter Tully, a twenty-something night nanny played by actress Mackenzie Davis. Early on in their working relationship, Tully reiterates to Marlo that she is ‘[there] to take care of [Marlo]’. Feeling both apprehensive and relieved, Marlo welcomes Tully into her home, accepting the kind of helpful support that a postpartum doula might typically provide - support with breastfeeding, emotional processing, baby care, and household tasks.

Marlo’s journey with Tully takes some unconventional turns as Tully steps out of the role of a postpartum doula (imagine a wine-fueled hot tub conversation and sexual fantasy, adolescent makeup parties, and a night of bar-hopping together in the big city). Much to our dismay, the film’s end reveals Tully to be a delusion-- a symptom of postpartum psychosis. A psychosis that went unnoticed by Marlo’s husband and family.

Yikes! And let's pause for a reality check. While this movie demonstrates a real issue that affects a very small portion of the population (statistics tell us that .001% of childbearing women will develop postpartum psychosis), there is a larger - and quite serious - story to tell. Postpartum psychosis, though rare, is an extremely concerning ailment that requires immediate medical support: among the women who develop postpartum psychosis, approximately 5% will commit suicide; there is a 4% infanticide rate associated with the illness. And while postpartum psychosis is uncommon, other perinatal mood disorders are more prevalent:

  • 80% of postpartum parents experience the baby blues-- feelings of sadness, stress, and/or difficulty bonding with baby;

  • 14% of women suffer from postpartum depression;

  • 4-10% of new mothers experience postpartum anxiety/panic disorder; and

  • 3-5% of childbearing women are affected by postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder.

Any of these perinatal mood disorders (which can affect partners, as well, though at different rates of prevalence) can make the postpartum period more challenging - and less magical - than families often expect it to be. A perinatal mood disorder can interrupt bonding between parent and child, which can have impacts over the longer term. The statistics - and the story of "Tully" - demonstrate the importance of awareness surrounding perinatal mood disorders, their symptoms, and where families can go for help.

Perhaps the most important message of "Tully" is that every family deserves support in the postpartum period, a period that encompasses all pregnancy outcomes including miscarriage, abortion, and fetal/infant loss. If you are struggling with your perinatal experience, or even if you are simply preparing yourself and your family for a new addition, you don’t have to go it alone - I encourage you to explore (and use) the resource list that follows.

Camilla Rae is a Bridgetown Baby Postpartum Doula and INNATE Postpartum Care- Certified Provider. With loving compassion, Camilla enjoys caring for the expanding family, sharing baby rearing wisdom, and holding space for the transition into parenthood. When she isn’t caring for her clients, she can be found snuggling her 4 month-old, Maverick, volunteering at the Moreland Farmers Market, traveling the world, and homesteading.

*Statistics are provided by the CDC and Baby Blues Connection.
 

Postpartum Resources

Crisis Lines

Emergency: 911

Multnomah County Crisis Line: 503.988.4888

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255

National Hopeline Network, Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 1.800.442.4673.

Community Information and Referral Services: 211

Portland Area Mental Health Crisis Line: 800.716.9769

 

Perinatal Mood Disorder Support

Doula Support

ABC Doula :: 503.752.1691 :: abcdoula.com

Birthingway College of Midwifery :: 503.760.3131 :: birthingway.edu

Birthing Stone :: 503.718.7574 :: birthingstone.com

Bridgetown Baby :: 503.970.9554 :: bridgetownbaby.com

Doula Love :: 503.766.3495 :: portlanddoulalove.com

Doula Match :: A website to help you find birth and/or postpartum doulas in your area. :: doulamatch.net

Doula My Soul. :: 360.545.3356 :: doulamysoul.com

It’s a Belly :: 503.493.7390 :: itsabelly.com

Kindred Mother Care :: Sejal Fichadia :: kindredmothercare.com

Groups

Baby Blues Connection :: Baby Blues Connection is a parent-to-parent support service based in Portland. :: 800.557.8375

Brief Encounters :: A safe place for parents whose babies have died before, during, or after birth. Brief Encounters provides nonsectarian group meetings for bereaved families. :: 503. 699.8006 :: http://briefencounters.org

Postpartum Support International :: Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth. :: 1.800.944.4773 :: http://www.postpartum.net

Providers

The Postpartum Stress Center :: The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC, is a premier treatment and professional training center for prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety.

WellPDX :: WellPDX is a collective of Portland metro area acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and naturopathic doctors.

Camilla Rae is a Postpartum Doula and INNATE Postpartum Care-Certified Provider at Bridgetown Baby. This article first ran in NW Kids Magazine July 2018. http://www.nwkidsmagazine.com/2018/06/july-2018/