Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters


Nursing twins

What the Ronald McDonald House Means to our Family

I’ve tried on at least three different occasions to write about the Ronald McDonald House and what it means to our family– specifically the one in Chattanooga across from Erlanger Hospital – and each time, words  have failed me. I’m trying one more time…

The birth of our twins was a chaotic, emotionally-fueled time in our lives. Our boys were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and we found our heads full to overflowing with medical details and our hearts bruised to bursting with love and fear for our boys. We spent the vast majority of our waking hours swimming in an exhausted state through the dim and beeping expanse of the NICU. There were scrubbing stations and hand sanitizers and security procedures and crib after crib of sick babies to navigate just to reach our own babes. And then once there, there were machines and syringes and tubes and wires to navigate before we could ever hold them. And holding them was our life raft. Holding them calmed the seas of frustration and fear and soothed us all.

But if holding the boys was our life raft, the Ronald McDonald House was our rescue ship. Because on the fourth day, I was discharged from the hospital – and the boys were not. And we were going to be separated – and I really didn’t think I could weather that emotional storm.

But then the house named after the clown that sponsors the largest fast food chain in the entirety of the universe opened its doors to us. Seems crazy when you think about it that way. But I’m telling you right now, it is far from a joke. It is the real deal. It is the best of what humanity can do for its own.

The Ronald McDonald House is the place where parents of children hospitalized and far from home are given shelter and support and a place to eat and sleep and cry and pray and struggle through the days and weeks and sometimes months of helpless and hopeless feelings without having to feel homeless too.

It is a sanctuary. There are warm beds and warm dinners and warm showers. And there is privacy. Privacy to pray or cry or both – in a small chapel or a serenity garden or on a soft, comfortable mattress in the quiet, comfortable guest rooms.

And there are supplies — toiletries and snacks and various and sundry necessities that help families get through the toughest of times when they don’t have the time to think about such things, much less shop for them. It is all available and there for the parents.

And all for the whopping cost of $10 a day — if your family can afford it. But absolutely no family is ever turned away. Ever. The RMH philosophy is that sick children need their parents and no parent should worry about daily needs if a child’s health is at stake. They also know and understand that young patients have far better medical outcomes if their parents are near. I, for one, agree for a couple of reasons.

Beyond the obvious — that we wanted desperately to be close to our babies — we also needed to be close. Because a mega-majorly important part of our boys’ treatment plan was breast milk — that thick, nutrient-and-calorie-and-immunity-rich mama medicine was just what the doctor ordered. And being just down the hill from the hospital (we’ll talk about that hill in a minute), made it so much easier to keep my milk supply in fresh and steady supply —  as opposed to being shuttled over an hour away in an ice-packed cooler from back home in Georgia. So in the cozy comfort of our private guest room — complete with an extra queen bed for my mom and Mike’s parents (who provided endless hours of assistance and support), I pumped and Mike delivered (up that aforementioned hill) – like clockwork every three-and-a-half hours every night for almost a full week. Until Parker was discharged at nine days old.

But back to that infamous hill; that doozy of a mother of a hill; that steeply slanted, sidewalk-striped gauntlet-of- medieval-proportions hill. It was torturous to say the least. But Mike navigated it like a knight in shining Under Armor — or a milk man — a gallant, modern-day milk man. He toted bag after bag of freshly-pumped breast milk up that hill. He even pushed the milk maker up the hill in a wheelchair on more than one occasion (since I’d had a c-section and wasn’t supposed to climb anything). Good thing he pushed linemen around in college because I was definitely a heavy load – a heavy, post-partum-post-twins kind of load.

And speaking of heavy loads, everything about that time in our lives was heavy. Our hearts, our hurdles, our hospital bills… but the Ronald McDonald House lightened our burdens on so many levels, and we can never repay the kindnesses heaped upon us while there.

But we try. It has become our charity of choice. We’ve written checks, we’ve sprinkled change in drive thru boxes, and we’ve ordered the annual Ronald McDonald House Christmas ornament with our boys’ names inscribed. Every single year. I want to give more. To do more. I wish there were one closer to us.

Mostly, I would love to help cook warm meals for families  — because that was perhaps the most comforting of all the blessings RMH bestowed upon us: those hearty, healthy meals. I recall tuna noodle casseroles and giant pots of southern green beans, big, baked lasagnas and fresh garden salads. Meals were prepared nightly by sorority houses and church groups, fraternity brothers and book clubs. Those meals were nourishment not only to our bodies, but our boys’ bodies, as well. Generous, kindhearted strangers cooked up the very best suppers that helped me cook up the very best sustenance for my newborn twins. I can never thank any of them enough.

The Ronald McDonald charities really do provide boundless blessings for families of sick children all over the world. They certainly kept us afloat during that most precious and precarious time in our lives. I cannot say enough positive things about them. Please consider throwing a little change their way in the drive thru of your local McDonald’s. Or volunteering at one of their local chapters. Or ordering one of their lovely ornaments. Or writing a big check. Please.

Families of sick children everywhere thank you.

NICU Memories and Musings: a hellish ride in the holiest of holies

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit – a clinical cocoon of a womb for babies born too soon or too hard. For some families, it is a beautiful place. A site of unmatched miracles and grace. For others, it is a heartbreaking place. A place of pain and unconscionable loss. For all, it is a place that houses love and fear and absolute out of control situations and emotions. It is a place both holy and hellish, where innocence is taken to either heal or to die.  It is a hellish ride through the holiest of holies.

The first time I entered the NICU to see my twin boys, I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. Didn’t know what I’d see. Had no idea how I’d feel once I did see them. Suffice it to say, the experience was overwhelming. I vomited. Partly from the anesthesia after-effects, but largely due to the emotions that surged through me. A storm surge of terror coupled with love. My boys were so tiny, so fragile. There were tubes and monitors and beeping machines everywhere.

After that initial chaos, I calmed down. I collected myself. It was then I registered my surroundings. Everything was hushed and dimly lit and deceptively serene, considering the delicate nature of the patients and their varied conditions. But definitely hushed and dimly lit.

It felt like a church. But holier.

Holier because it was full to bursting with innocence. Six rooms, called pods, full to bursting with pure, unblemished innocence.  Innocence in birthday suits, tanning under lights, innocence bundled up to the eyeballs like cotton-swaddled ninjas, Innocence helmeted in CPAP masks and Velcro. Innocence with solitary, glowing pulse ox ruby slippers – and parents promising “There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…so let’s get there.”

Now we were unbelievably fortunate. Our boys were born at 34 weeks 5 days.  Preemies, yes. With battles, yes. But their battles were a far-cry from the wars that were being waged around them by their 24, 25, 26 week counterparts. Preemies crippled and broken and fragile and fierce.

Preemies fight hard. Famously so. They never cease to amaze the doctors and nurses and their parents. They are bony and brittle, but Lord have mercy, how they fight. They have butterfly wings for skin; they are thin and veined; there is tape pulling at their newness and needles piercing their perfection. Their surface is marred to save their soul.  And goodness, how that soul fights.

Saving innocent souls. So not like church, after all.

But then, like church, the NICU is full to bursting with prayer. Prayer of all kinds. Prayer, well-practiced and well-formed, or haltingly hesitant. Prayer, desperately flung like a Hail Mary, last ditch effort to bargain for what feels like the impossible. But with God and love and miracles made all-the-more-routine through modern medicine, those Hail Mary’s are caught more than they’re dropped. All types of prayer form on the lips of preemie parents. We were no exception. We prayed, often. For our sons and for all of those preemies around them.

There are miracles in the NICU every day. More than one a day, 365 days a year. Against seemingly insurmountable odds. These smallest of warriors fight. They are so much stronger than their parents. The parents crack. We cry, we rant, we bargain and beg and rage and plead and cave. But these wee ones… they fight. Hard. And often – quite often – most often – 98-percent-of-the-time often — they win. So there are many, many, many miracles in the NICU.

And there is communion in the NICU. Hunger and thirst satisfied on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level. Flesh made perfect through the transformative powers of maternal biochemistry. Doctors and nurses encourage preemie moms to breastfeed — because in the NICU, breast milk is not just nutrition; it is medicine. With this most perfect food comes antibodies, anti-inflammatories, and other nutrients (like fatty acids, digestible proteins and stem cells) that can help power these infants through the gauntlet of bacteria and viruses that lay in wait. A mother’s body responds to any hostile environment around her infant, and adjusts her milk accordingly.

Breastfeeding my boys helped transform not just them, but me.The roller coaster of hormones and emotions that always comes with the postpartum experience was a hundred times harder and rougher with the NICU included in the mix.  I was an absolute mess. I was stressed and depressed and fatigued. But the skin-to-skin bonding I felt through nursing helped ease my anxiety and exhaustion. Nursing my boys calmed my core and centered my soul solely on them: the smell of their skin, the tickle of their breath, the warmth of their weight. Their most perfect food was my most perfect therapy.

And Mike got in on the skin-to-skin communion, too, through kangaroo care. Watching him wrap his wide, warm arms around our tiny guys, seeing them snuggled safe against his chest, I saw him change. I saw  his hard edges soften; his tough-guy exterior melt away. He was instantly putty in their pouty-lipped presence.

The NICU is a hellish place. It is hard and draining and demanding. It left Mike and me feeling defeated 90% of the time our boys were there. It was a place that tested our endurance and our strength — and fortunate for our family, we were only there for 6 days for one boy and 9 days for the second. What we went through was nothing compared to what some preemies and their parents go through. NICUs are hellish places full of unfathomable hurdles. But 98% of the time, they become miraculous places full of undeniable grace.

But what NICUs are most full of is babies — very, very special babies. Babies who fight like the dickens for their chance at life. This month, the March of Dimes campaign reminds our family of that distant battle we once waged and prompts us to give what we can to help current and future little ones — and the medical professionals who look after them– bring that miracle percentage up to 100%.If you can, won’t you please consider giving, too?nicuboys




The Velveteen Woman: Aren’t I Real Enough Already?

I’m a Velveteen Woman on an authentic journey to become Real.( If you know the story — Oh, my gosh, it makes me cry!!! Like Ugly Cry, complete with quivering lip and all sorts of snot cry!!! — then you know what I mean. And if you don’t — go read it. Like yesterday.) Anyways… I’m a Velveteen Woman on a journey to become Real. And some days I just feel way too torn and tattered to keep going. No, let me clarify. Some WEEKS I just feel way too torn and tattered — and just plain broken– to keep going.  And this past week has been that sort of week.

I feel like I’ve been steamrolled by the planet. My bones are weary and my mind is pressed flat. Why, you ask?

Well, maybe it’s because I’m fifty. And the mother of four children — two of whom are twins… boys… who are toddlers. Add to that two girls who are twenty something and on their own authentic journeys to become Real (and I feel every knock and nick that they get along the way — maybe even more-so. Because when your baby hurts, you hurt, no matter how old they get). Then there’s the fact that I’m an English teacher drowning in essays, and that I’m a football widow in the tenth week of football season –and we’re still gunning for another six (Good Lord willing…) Oh, and don’t forget the piece de resistance — my State Health Benefit Plan decided to drop kick our boys’ coverage this week.

So this week, my journey has rubbed off a lot of my edges and stolen some of my shine. Let’s start with the fact that I’m fifty. I am nowhere near as bright and shiny as I was thirty years ago. Back then I had glossy hair and firm skin and stuffing in most of the right places. I had muscles and stamina for days. There was lightning harnessed to my giddy-up. I could run 5Ks, host block parties, create four-course dinners and chop an acre of firewood and still snap, crackle and pop at the end of the day. Now, I’m lucky to have snap, crackle and pop at the breakfast table — unless it’s a chorus from my joints and a bowl of Rice Krispies.

And being the mother of four has done some work on my lovely lady lumps. I wouldn’t go so far as the Bob Segar song and claim my “points were way up firm and high” back then, but they definitely weren’t stretched and deflated to the point of flapping in a brisk wind if they aren’t strapped in properly.  Four babies and four years of breastfeeding takes its toll on your breasteses.


And so do three pregnancies – especially one with twins.  My skin is puckered and striped and dimpled.  I’ve been pulled and torn and redistributed.  And stitched back together. My belly bears a nice, six-inch seam where the good doctors scooped out two darling little melon balls in my first and only C-section at age forty-seven. At that age, the elastin in the skin isn’t quite what it once was. Needless to say, my stuffing has fallen and nestled into soft, comfy pooches in inconvenient and unattractive places. Add to that, my saggy hindquarters, and I’m just a soft, comfy lap of lady lumps.


Along with my belly seam, I also bear a dog-legged scar across my right paw, which I earned, of all things, by doing laundry. Two-and-a-half-year-old twins come with not just double the laundry –because, as my friend once said, “one is one and two is ten” – but with exponentially multiplying mountains of laundry. Every day brings ground-in clay and spattered curry, skid marks and grass stains, ripped seams and snotted sleeves… Last December, while putting away the endless backlog of socks and underwear I broke my distal radius. As I stepped to the side to pull open a drawer, Tate at my side, my ankle slid out of joint – yet another weakness from my years of service on this earth – and I had to make a quick choice: sacrifice my wrist or sacrifice my youngest. Since Tate is a relatively important component of our family unit and my right hand is my dominant and most-used portion of my body, it was quite the quandary.  In the split second decision, Tate won and my wrist lost. Badly. Between fracture and surgery, it was a five-month loss. If I’d chosen Tate, I bet he would’ve bounced back in two, tops.


So my body has often been sacrificed upon the alter of motherhood.  But it’s not been simply limited to my body. My mind has paid a tremendous price, too.  I’m not nearly as quick-witted as I once was. It’s a spongey mass of mire, sucking and slurping and slowing me down. I think the majority of decay occurred during the sixteen months of sleeplessness that Mike and I endured after the boys’ birth. Regardless, my electrodes just don’t fire as fast as they once did. Perhaps the biggest impact has been on my teaching load. I feel like I still do a decent job of instructing my students – of leading them through the mazes of symbolism and themes, interpretations and analyses. Where I’ve taken the hardest hits is the grading. Piles of essays grow even faster than my mountains of laundry. My desk looks like the Manhattan skyline. This week, alone, Hamlet and Ophelia have taken up residence in a couple of high-rise stacks already occupied by the Lady of Shallot and a serial killer named Arnold Friend. My gorged and glutted in-box creates strange bedfellows, indeed.


But if my teacher’s inbox is a sprawling, metropolis of gangly skyscrapers, my personal email is an un-weeded garden, where things rank and gross in nature secretly sprout. It is here that the emails regarding our insurance travesty sat like poisonous mushrooms multiplying in the darkness. You see, like Hamlet, my wit’s diseased, and I don’t have good sense enough to regularly monitor my g-mail.

But then again, who would think an insurance company would just drop babies midyear for no clear reason? And send letters about their intentions to old addresses? And not email your work address, where you get all other correspondence, to let you know? And not telephone you at all to inform you you’re under the gun? Apparently, it happens. We were audited. Someone somewhere pointed a mean, nasty middle finger at our family, and BANG.

The State Health Benefit Plan gave us four months to comply with the audit’s demands (so incredibly generous, no?). Unfortunately, for the entire four months we remained blissfully ignorant, thinking we were following the rules of the universe and enjoying our life, liberties and pursuits of happiness. All the while, our insurance providers were tunneling under our best-laid precautions preparing to blow them to smithereens. Two-and-a-half year old twins with no health insurance at the very cusp of cold weather and The Creepy Crud?  FML.

Now the boys seem to have taken the news of no insurance in stride, maintaining their status quo of textbook twin toddlers, boisterously brawling and loving in equal measure. They’ve wrangled over bar stools, bloodied their kneecaps, chanted nursery rhymes, fought for control of the cayenne pepper, had meltdowns over melting ice, locked themselves in our van along with my keys, chunked dried apricots at the cat, giggled contagiously in the tub, and hugged one another to the point of unquenchable rage. And that was just yesterday.

Upon the news, Mike continued on the way that he always does, leaping tall buildings and intercepting all the wicked slings and arrows that outrageous fortune has lobbed our way — including the discovery he unearthed yesterday while working his magic and getting our boys back on an insurance policy: Mike himself has had no insurance since October 1st! Yep. Big, fat middle finger pointed our way. But the point is, my man mountain is way-beyond-textbook husband and father. He stands strong in the storm. Every time. I don’t know what I would do without him. He picks up my stuffing. He tucks it back in. He shoulders my shortcomings and he shelters my babes — all four of them. It’s fitting that he’s a Purple Hurricane coach. He knows the ins and outs of life’s storms and he weathers them with grace.

And he is the calm in the storm of my crazy because, Lord, have I been a textbook basket case this week. I’ve been falling apart at my already weakened seams – so much so that I’m shedding hair and tears and sleep and health and sanity until I’m as limp and floppy as the Velveteen Rabbit.

And according to the Skin Horse in the classic tale, “It takes a long time to become real… it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

So, I think this week finally did it. I think I’m finally Real. Maybe a long time is fifty years. I know I don’t break too easily – only one bone so far (knock on wood). Most of my hair has been loved off and my joints are definitely loose and my appearance is shabby – especially if you catch me on the weekends where I choose to never get out of my pjs unless I am absolutely forced to do so. Now my eyes haven’t dropped out yet, but they’re most definitely drooping… And I’m pretty certain this week knocked off any sharp edges I still managed to have left.

So, yeah, I feel like I should finally be Real… But I know it’s never that simple.  Because I am on an authentic journey. And it’s never over until it’s over. But as I’ve said in past blogs, I can do this hard thing.

Because what keeps me going is that I KNOW I’m truly loved. By five of the most amazing humans this world has ever cradled: Caitlin, Bethany, Parker, Tate, and Mike. I don’t deserve their love, but I am so eternally grateful for it.  And they make me FEEL Real — whether I’m actually there or not. (And I’m sure I’m not.) And I’m loved by the Creator of our Universe. I am snuggled and sheltered, and sometimes weathered and wizened — all in the name wisdom and growth. I have been blessed in so many ways and with so many wonderful experiences.  And those experiences sometimes knock me about a bit. But they just add to the love.

So all of you struggling women out there doing the hard thing and getting your edges knocked off and your stuffing pulled out. Keep on keeping on. You’re exhausted. I know. I get it. But we’re all Velveteen Women on our authentic journey to become Real. And the closer we get to Real, the harder it gets and the more knocked-about we feel. But we can do this hard thing. And we are getting there. Every nick, chip, and bruise along the way, we are getting there. We can do this hard thing.



Nitwits! Boppies! Ointment! Tweak!


Breastfeeding. Just typing the word makes me feel all warm and cozy and capable. To have my arms cradling a sweet little one while it draws milk from my body, to feel the letdown – which is such a crazy term because it is NOT a letdown at all – is quite simply the greatest maternal high in the world. I can’t even put into words the feelings the word evokes. God gifted me with two mammarian green thumbs, and I have been fortunate enough to use them for not one, not two, but FOUR little ones.

So today, I devote my musings to the nursing of twins. Some people will tell you it is impossible. Still others, when they learn you’re doing it, will tell you you’re crazy, or heroic, or unbelievable. I’m here to tell you that you are none of those things. You’re just doing what you’re doing for the good of your tiny twosome. And I’m also here to tell you it can be done. Don’t listen to the naysayers. DO listen to the cheerleaders. Gobble up the kudos and the accolades – to carry you through the tough times — because there are plenty of those. But keep on giving it a go. It is so, SO worth it.

Now nursing twins is a bit more of a challenge, it’s true. I thought I used lanolin cream on my nipples for just one!!! I should’ve bought stock in the stuff. (And I highly recommend roughing those milk makers up early – wet washcloths and heavy tweaking as early as you can. You are in TRAINING mama!) Which brings me to the football hold that you’ll need to master if you feed them at the same time, which I highly recommend — otherwise, you are a 24-hour diner for cranky customers with the mega-munchies. (As it is, it’s STILL feels like that sometimes…) For tandem feedings, clutch those little suckers (see what I did there?) so that their noses face your underarms, their legs wrap ‘round your back. The football hold felt odd at first. I was used to babies being able to stare up at me with their sweet little milk-glazed eyes while they nursed. With the boys, I could still see their tiny faces – just not as easily – and I often had to be content with rubbing their fuzzy bird-heads instead. But what better way for a football coach’s wife to feed her mini linebackers?

Just like in football — where pads are a prerequisite — nursing twins requires additional gear: an ample, sturdy pad called a twin boppy. Now there was no such thing as boppies when the girls were babies, and I had absolutely no idea what one even WAS going into my final pregnancy. (I still don’t know why it’s called a boppy — it sounds violent and Flintstonian to me, like something Bam Bam would carry around) But I do know I couldn’t have nursed my boys without it. It saved my back, shoulders and neck from traditional football mayhem. A twin boppy is truly not like the other, singleton varieties. It is firm, flat-surfaced and fits squarely around you, latching at the side to provide the babies their own solid latching surface. We got ours from Baby’s R Us, and while it didn’t have all the latest giraffe or chevron patterns or come in poetic colors like teaberry or silver mist or pink pebble (‘twas a plain pale green), the functionality is what matters most.

Deciding to nurse and finding the right boppy is the easy part. But I’m also here to tell you the dirty truth. (And there are lots of dirty little truths to reveal.) It’s not all soft lighting and rocking chair dreams. There’s a whole lot of shit-storms (breastfed babies have WAY MORE dirty diapers than formula fed ones – and they are mustard yellow and climb up baby backs like alien life-forms almost every single day), spilled milk to cry over (that old adage is bullshit) and clogged ducts (I sported a clogged duct that turned my right breast into a cauliflower wedge for days. I packed cabbage leaves in my bra, expressed milk in a hot shower, and even nursed the boys upside down — nothing worked until, miraculously on the morning of the third day, I rose and it had vanished. I had harrowed hell), and don’t EVEN get me started on going without caffeine and hard liquor for nearly two years…

No, nursing twins is not easy. Now with the girls, nursing was fairly trouble free (self-imposed prohibition, aside). My milk supply was abundant — to quote my grandma, “I could’ve squirted a stream clear across the room and blinded a man.” When letdown hit, I would darn near choke the girls. They would sputter and mew amidst a milk facial nearly every morning. And I never, ever had to use a supplement. The boys were another story, though. Getting enough milk to feed them wasn’t the problem — but getting enough milk for storage through pumping was another story entirely. Nursing one, you can hook up the other udder to the pump and BOOM, you’ve got six to eight ounces. Not so, when there are two. For a while I tried pumping after the boys were finished nursing, but I just wasn’t getting enough to sustain them for very long once I went back to work. So I began reserving one feeding session a day for formula so I could pump and store. Besides, because the boys were in the NICU for about a week, we were required to give them supplemental formula in the beginning to insure they were getting a certain amount of food in their tiny little systems. So we chose the bedtime feeding, and Mike or my mom or visiting sister or kind-hearted friend (or any other kind, charitable soul who took pity on us in those early days) scored the sweet pleasure of feeding them and tucking them tight into their swaddles, truly one of the most magical of moments.

10301495_10203583767627316_7331122009769522744_nNow part of what makes breastfeeding so wonderful is the convenience, along with cost-efficiency. Heating bottles of formula is hard enough when you have one wee bairn, but it is downright torturous when you have two, colicky, howling lads on your hands. And buying double the amount of formula can put a family living on teacher salaries in the poorhouse. Thankfully, we didn’t have to supplement with a lot. Still, it was enough that when Mike and I discovered the Baby Brezza within that first month, we were more than over-the-moon happy; we were game-winning-Hail-Mary-touchdown happy. Simply put, the Baby Brezza is like a baby Keurig machine that mixes the formula with water and fills the bottle to the appropriate amount at the perfect temperature in seconds. It is a mechanical wonder cow worth every single, solitary, exorbitant cent. (It ain’t cheap, let me tell you. Put it on your shower registry. Like now.)

Oh, and since breastfed babes are far less likely to sleep through the night (breast milk breaks down in their systems faster and they get hungrier sooner), we strategically chose bedtime for formula time. We were playing our odds, hoping for a few more precious minutes of shut-eye. Unfortunately, I think the boys saw our hope and raised it, then watched it come crashing down like a house of cards as they jumped up and down on it for good measure — to the tune of sixteen months of sleepless nights. Now sixteen months with no sleep sounds bad enough, but quantify by stating that sometimes they were up seven times a night (times two, mind you), with us only getting fifteen to twenty minute snatches of sleep at a time, which all equates to Mike and I being up twelve to fourteen times a night for months and months and months… the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. And by greater, I mean mammoth and brutal. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Now I’m not saying that they would’ve slept better on formula. I have no idea. I will say that nursing them when they woke up that many times a night was by far so much easier and less time consuming than preparing a blasted bottle every single time. I am saying that. Absolutely. So that’s something…

But perhaps the biggest of hurdles we ran into while breastfeeding twins had to do with Parker’s milk protein allergy. Poor little Bear just couldn’t process dairy. It caused him horrible belly cramps and constipation. Before we figured out what was wrong, there were long and torturous nights when we thought for sure that our baby had a kink in his colon or a hole in his intestines, he was so inconsolable and so contorted. Once we discovered the truth, we could only use Nutramigen formula as a supplement– which costs even more than traditional formulas – and I could no longer have any dairy at all. Now that might sound innocuous, but let me tell you, it was pure devilry, the things I had to give up. (I had thought coffee and vodka were tough!) Not only was milk now off limits, but all kinds of favorite foods: blue cheese, Greek yogurt, vanilla milkshakes, classic pepperoni pizza, mozzarella-slathered lasagna, cookies chock full of chips, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, fresh-baked banana bread… Lets’ face it, the baked goods hit me the hardest. Cheesy foods were difficult, mind you, but my sweet tooth is legendary. It’s insatiable. I bake – I learned early so I could soothe the savage bicuspid. I have a red velvet brownie recipe that could achieve world peace. I make chocolate chip scones that could bring the Brits back to their sensibilities and reverse the Brexit vote. I thought I was a goner when I learned I had to give up my sweets. The only thing that got me through that dietary drought is Oreos. Oreos! Milk’s best friend! (oh, isn’t it ironic???) Oreos are dairy free — completely and utterly. They are also my choke collar for a savage sweet tooth that hates to be denied (because me and a hangry sweet tooth are truly a force to be reckoned with).

11229825_10206173595651398_2595925631929835405_nSo what makes nursing twins worth it, particularly in the wake of food allergies and strict dietary restrictions, football holds and sleepless nights? What makes having the equivalent of four little parasites hanging off my teats (as my physicist/farmer father would say) for the cumulative sum of four years worth it? When I try to rationalize it, at least for the boys and the twenty three months that I nursed them, I tell myself that I was giving them as much of me as I possibly could for as long as I possibly could because the girls will always have twenty seven years and twenty four more years’ time with me than the boys will. I was trying to make up just a little of that quantity with quality.

I also tell myself I nursed for the medical reasons we all have read about: how our bodies produce the perfect infant nutrition; how nursing reduces a mother’s risk of breast cancer and female babies’ risks later in life; how it’s easily digestible and comes in a ready package; how it boosts infant immune systems resulting in less sick days for parents and babies, etc. The list goes on and on. You can look up the research yourself. And I’ll even admit right here in black and white that I’ve squirted breast milk in all four of my children’s eyes and ears to help combat pink eye and ear infections. – with success, mind you. And while I think all of these are part of it, it still doesn’t truly explain why breastfeeding twins and singletons for so many years of my life made it worth it. Ultimately it’s the connection that is made. And that connection is impossible to understand, much less verbalize. There is some sort of emotional and physiological cocktail created, a narcotic that hooks a mother to her child in the strongest of bonds for all of eternity. The connection is emotional, physical, and spiritual. Those babies are flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood, consuming the God-given milk and honey of my temple. It is like no other communion in the universe. It is the holiest thing I’ve ever done.

So yes, while breastfeeding twins is hard, it is not impossible. Still, it is a pretty exclusive club. If you think about it, only one-half of the population can nurse a child (and while I feel sad that father’s can’t, I must also admit that I’m selfishly happy that God made us the ovens and gave us the food trucks). Of that half, only a small portion have twins, (although the number is growing rapidly, thanks to IVF, etc). And an even smaller portion of those twin mothers actually breastfeed. So it’s an exclusive club, but we’re accepting new members every day. Come on, join the N.I.TW.I.T.S.: Nursing Infant TWins Into Toddler Stage. (So, maybe it’s not the best acronym, but I kinda like it… If it’s good enough for Professor Dumbledore after sorting first years into their respective houses (Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!), it’s good enough for us (with a slight adulteration):  Nitwits! Boppies! Ointment! Tweak!


Blog at

Up ↑