Babyshit blues and greens

We are one week and two days into the Epic Shitfest of 2017, the endless party where the twins have produced a wet, loose, greenish poop for _every_single_diaper_change since last Wednesday, all day and all night.

We’ve googled furiously and flipped through all of our baby books to try to understand what might be happening or “when to worry” — so far it seems like we are still in that endless horizon of bizarre things that can safely come and go in the life in an infant. Which is to say, we are not alarmed yet, just really really tired of cleaning up shit and fairly certain there is a thin layer of this watery goodness coating every surface of our house, certainly the entire bathroom and all of the clothes that we have worn in the past week. Also the inside of our noses, because no matter how far I travel from the babies, the smell of their poop stays with me.

I woke up at 5am today to find myself in bed with Rowan. She immediately started squirming uncomfortably, but because it was early and because the house was quiet — presumably Darry was still asleep somewhere with Mairead — I got up and tried to rock her back down for a bit longer. It was hopeless. She was hellbent on waking up so she could fill her diaper with another enormous crap. There was an impressive spillover on this one and pretty soon the back of her onesie was filled with shit too, and I knew it was  time to give up on more sleep and bring her downstairs for a change and maybe some breastmilk.

Just as I got to the living room, where Darry was sleeping on the couch with Mairead, Serafina started moaning for me to come get her. I handed Rowan to Darry, which woke up Mairead, and went back upstairs. I told Serafina it was too early to wake up (she whined but obliged to sleep more) and then returned to the living room. Then Darry went upstairs alone to try to get a little rest and I moved into the playroom with the babies to clean up another round of diapers and start the day with the birds once again.

The twins wear cloth diapers, just like Serafina did. That fact is rather irrelevant when you’re in the midst of a shitfest, except that we’ve had to do more frequent rounds of our diaper laundry. Just as we avoid disposable diapers, we also avoid disposable wipes. So most of the cleanup during Shitfest, and indeed all of the time when the babies poop, has taken place in the bathroom sink.

Thankfully these babies are very flexible and don’t mind when we fold their legs up, turn on the taps, and awkwardly dip their ass and vulva under the running water and slough off the stubborn chunks of poop with our bare hands. Meanwhile they’re reaching out for whatever they can grab: toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, hair clips. Some of these items have been casualties of Shitfest, getting tossed under the tap by a baby at the precise moment that poop is being washed down the drain. Some of these items have been quietly rinsed off and returned to their spot on the edge of the sink like nothing ever happened.

This past week the babies have also had some severe diaper rash, a delightful side effect of so much diarrhea, and we’ve had to bring in the big guns (desitin, another thing we generally avoid). But you don’t want to put desitin on until a baby’s bottom is completely dry, so I let Rowie air dry in the playroom, butt-naked, and decided it was a good time for me to download some new audio books.

I was browsing the titles available under a general “buddhism” search, because now seems like a good time for me to explore a spiritual practice, when Rowan squatted and released another puddle of poop directly on the playroom floor. I grabbed a towel and mopped it up seconds before Mairead crawled up to the puddle for a little exploration. I have lost track of the number of times this has happened in the last week while one or both of the babies has been air drying, diaper free, in an effort to resolve this rash.

An hour later, I’d cleaned up three baby shits, tidied the mess I made while cleaning those up. Serafina woke up at 6am, I called Darry down to take care of the babies while I tended to her and soon we were all making breakfast.

I went to open the sliding door in our kitchen to breathe in some fresher air and stepped in something wet on my way. I didn’t think of it until Darry stepped in the same something wet a few minutes later and wondered out loud what it could be. What was it Darry had said when I handed a baby to her first thing this morning? Oh yeah, that she had just heard the cat puking somewhere. Guess we found it.

 

Secretly healthy homemade gummies

IMG_7047

When Serafina was first exploring solids, we were fanatical about making everything ourselves, procuring only the purest, priciest ingredients and carefully exposing her palette to a broad range of subtle flavor differences. Of course.

The twins’ first foods were primarily from (organic) jars, and though they have rapidly graduated to table food — whole slices of pizza, why not? — they’re getting far more processed (“healthy”) snack food geared towards infants and toddlers and so is Serafina. We are eating those words we once uttered about how a pouch would never touch our child’s lips.

It is a serious job to keep up with the food needs of our family as part of everything else, and we are plagued by the guilt of seeing our kids eat stuff out of plastic, primary-colored wrappers. These homemade gummies were born of that guilt.

I bought everything I needed to make these from Amazon and used mostly fruit and veggies we already had in the fridge. If you google homemade gummies, you’ll find a bunch of starting points. I riffed off this recipe for our first try.

Here are the ingredients we used in ours:

  • 7 strawberries
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful of cherries and grapes (we had some left in the fridge)
  • 1/2 medium sized beet
  • A glug of grape juice (which we also had in the fridge)
  • Raw honey
  • Grass-fed gelatin. (The packaging on this prescribes a few tablespoons a day, dissolved in water or juice, as joint support.)
  • Cod liver oil, this is the particular brand we have right now
  • Kid safe elderberry syrup

    The goal here was to achieve a rich red color and make 1 1/2 cups of juice.img_7046.jpg

And here’s how we made the gummies:

  1. Cut fruit and veggies. Serafina was especially useful during this portion.
  2. Juice them all. Serafina was moderately useful here — she wanted to drop everything in our juicer very methodically — one grape at a time.
  3. Measure the juice to make sure we had the right amount. Pour it into a medium pan and add 4 tablespoons of gelatin. We let it dissolve for a few minutes. When it appeared to have “bloomed,” I put it on medium heat and mixed it well to fully dissolve the gelatin.
  4. Once dissolved (really just a minute or two), I turned off the heat and added 3 tablespoons of honey, a 1/4 teaspoon of cod liver oil and a 1/4 teaspoon of elderberry syrup and stirred again.
  5. We used a dropper to put the liquid in the molds and refrigerated them for an hour or more. This was Serafina’s favorite part.

*note this amount of juice, filled all 4 of the molds that came in this package.

We could have made them sweeter. After the initial bite, the earthiness of the beet really came through. But it didn’t seem to deter Serafina. She ate half of them today without complaint. She did seem to prefer the smaller bites of the bear mold; the other shapes are pretty big by comparison. We’re going to make green gummies next time, sneaking in kale and spinach.

 

 

Lying about lying down: Something about sleep

I am trying to write something about sleep, but holy crap am I tired.

The thing about baby sleep is that it’s a nightmare. And everybody experiences it differently, but also exactly the same, and almost everyone lies about it — as it is happening, in retrospect and even projecting into the future about how they will wrangle a yet-unborn child. They lie to you, they lie to everyone they know and they lie to themselves.

For example:

“We just put them down in the cribs awake and they went out without making a sound.”

“We hit the jackpot. She only ever cried when she was teething. She was sleeping through the night pretty much right away.”

“We did some gentle sleep training. He didn’t ever really cry, just fussed a little for a couple of nights.”

“We used the Ferber method. It really wasn’t that bad. Just a night of crying and then a few minutes and then nothing.”

We know that everyone lies about baby sleep because, for some reason, we have been incapable of lying about it. We suffered through 10 long months (give or take) of extreme torture from Serafina very publicly and we are now on month 8 (though honestly, only 4 of those have been brutal) with our twins and everyone that knows us knows this.

If you really start to scrutinize the stories other parents are telling you about their perfectly sleeping children, the holes will become more apparent. If you spend time with those families — time that corresponds with when their children are napping or going to bed — you will gather tangible evidence that what they mean when they say “she never cries” is a very different thing than how you interpret that statement.

For example, you will hear that “never crying” baby shriek for a solid 20 minutes like she’s being eaten alive when she is put down for a nap while her parent calmly makes a sandwich and settles in for a chat with you.

For our part, we start most of our days before 5am. Sometimes we start them, like I started this one, at 3am. We get out of bed a lot in the night, taking turns trying to rock a baby back down, removing a crying baby from the room where another one is sleeping or, back when we only had one child, escaping to the couch for a couple of “off” hours. We are often ripped out of sleep by the sound of crying or a sleep-talking (sleep-shouting) toddler. Sometimes that happens at the precise moment that we have finally, after a long day of caring for 3 children and working full-time, dropped off into our first stretch of “rest” for the night — and that there is the very worst of all. And we know we could have it so much worse.

We do some combination of bed-sharing and crib sleeping with the babies, just like we did with Serafina until she was about 15 months. We have no regrets, especially about the bedsharing. It is wonderful, sweet, cozy and heaven for reconnecting with your babies as a working parent.

We’ve also done our share of sleep training. We can make ourselves feel better about it by qualifying it was “light” or “gentle,” but the fact is, there has been crying. Cumulatively, among our three babies, there has been more crying than we would prefer — which, of course, is none at all. But we have come to understand that around four months, all babies will stop sleeping “like babies” and shit gets real. They have lost the involuntary sleep that defines the newborn period and, instead, have to be taught to fall asleep and then to stay asleep.

There are a million ways to go about this, as one broad Google search will reveal, and small fortunes have been made in preaching some of these methods, but what we believe is that you must go about it, one way or another.
You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, oh no, you gotta go through it. But this is one of the things people will lie about too.

These are not lies people tell with malice, I think. But maybe as an exercise in assuaging their guilt or fear that they’ve done something, or that there’s something wrong with their child. Or perhaps it truly is a reflection of how we are all functioning in our own unique interpretation of reality, with our individual tolerance level for the pain of sleep deprivation and the sound of our baby’s cries.

As survivors of Serafina’s reign of terror, we know these things will work themselves out. Sometimes that makes it easier to manage what happens during the long, hazy nights we’re having with the twins, but we have no illusions that this is going to be easy or a thing that passes without some work.

To the dangerously exhausted mother of a 5-month-old, sputtering miseries about the way her son won’t stay asleep for more than 30 minutes to the child-free friend she just bumped into in line at the coffee shop: we hear you, we recognize you and we salute you. Thank you for keeping it real even if no one seems to care or understand.