Medium and Happy

Rahul and Leila have come a long way since their birth at 31 weeks gestation. At 18 months they have caught up with other children their age physically, emotionally and developmentally.

Leila recently jumped from the 5th to the 10th percentile in weight, and Rahul is steady at the 10th. In height they are both at the 50th percentile. All in all, according to the charts (which might be slightly different that the US standard ones?), they are light weight children of average height. Not that it means much anymore. Last month I met a five month old baby who weighed as much as Leila. At their NICU there was a baby born at 24 weeks, much tinier than them. Now however, when I see them play amongst toddlers their own age, they merge right in, size-wise as well as ability-wise.

Since they were born a couple of months early it was normal, even necessary to closely monitor their weight gain. Thankfully we have had no serious problems since they left the NICU. They are both running, playing, and talking a lot. They are full of energy.

It’s time for me to let go of the obsessive monitoring. They need a break from being scrutinized and compared. They inevitably get a lot of it just for being twins. They don’t need any more, and especially not from me. In the big picture a little delay here or there is not a big deal. I have noticed that they are eating a little more than before, sleeping a little bit better, and enjoying each other.

I have found that comparing healthy babies growth and development is useless, and even silly. We all do it though. It’s natural. Parents often compare how soon their babies sit up, crawl, start sprouting teeth, walk, and talk in relation to others. Discussing these things with other mums and dads is important, especially for first time parents. It is necessary to follow-up on certain milestone achievements. If a real problem is caught soon enough it could be addressed more effectively.

There is a wide range of normal. I can see that just by having two babies. Leila crawled by 7 months, Rahul started after 9. They both had issues with digestion in the NICU. They digest differently. R has a strong reflux, Leila a poor appetite. Now L eats all the time and R eats only when he can feed himself! They both got their first teeth around the same time. According to Dr. Sear’s “The Baby Book”, when teeth come out is a genetic trait. Speech seems to be a big “issue”, and especially when there is more than one language spoken. We have 3 languages around us, and so far they are both saying words in all.

My brother didn’t speak until he was 2. My grandmother forced my parents to see doctors about this. Neither did he eat. What a catastrophe. My parents were easy-going enough to let him be. When he was ready he spoke and when he was hungry he ate. Now he talks a lot, and eats a lot. He is a professional sportsman, and a big guy. My brother-in-law spoke “late”, but apparently when he did it was in full grammatically correct sentences!

When asked, I usually responded to questions about my children’s age, weight, birth order etc. And then I asked similar questions back. Sometimes I even initiated such dialogues. I knew it was silly, but I needed to hear that Leila and Rahul are smaller than others to validate their experience of early birth, as well as mine being their primary care-giver. It has not been easy with their tiny milk feeds. After birth they wouldn’t drink more than 1 to 3 ml of milk at a time. By 1 year R could take 120ml. But because of his reflux he had to stop and burp every 30 ml. Each feed was drink, burp, drink, burp… Leila woke up every 2 to 3 hours to drink at night, and still does. Most babies around us sleep through the night and eat comfortably. I couldn’t help comparing.

I was listening to a studio talk by Richard Freeman, an inspiring senior Ashtanga teacher the other day. I am paraphrasing what I understood from it. He said as soon as we realise that our Asana posture is medium, that it could look better, and it could also look worse, there is a release. The pressure dissolves and the breathing starts. It is no longer about having the perfect posture. It is more intrinsic and personal. That’s when the suffering stops and the practice can deepen.

The same goes for size. As soon as we can acknowledge that we are medium, that we could be taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, there is a release. We can move on and think about other things. I once told a close friend that her son was tall. “No” she responded, “he is average height.” Her honesty struck me.

Rahul and Leila are changing all the time, as I am. When I am around them I want to be actually present. I want to encourage them to have fun, and to laugh. They have enough time to follow curriculae and perform in the future. We can all stack 4 blocks and order rings according to size. It makes no difference to me if they can do it now, or in a few months. They are full of love and energy and that is what really matters. I want them to be Medium and Happy.

Me…start a blog?

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.
Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites can’t be accessed in China.
After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.
A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.
So went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.
The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.
I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.
I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.
One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.
Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all of four of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.
Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me. a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.
There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy ( http://hdydi.com/2008/03/02/one-baby-envy/ ). Others complained about the silly questions (  http://multiples.about.com/od/familyissues/tp/aatpquestions.htm) they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.
Sometimes the comments were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.
I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny babies in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.
I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.
But, we were together again, the four of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R ‘s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.
A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.
Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly me stays up to blog.
In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post ( http://hdydi.com/2008/04/05/product-review-double-strollers/) that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.
There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.
So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water, some of time at least.
So now I have the occasion to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.
These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.
The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course.
It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter, “When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.”