Thursday, April 28, 2016

Twin two month update

I can't believe we are coming up on it being two months since the babies were born. Of course when you consider that they should have been born on April 8th, I like to think we have been lucky to have them in our lives for one extra month. 

This is just an FYI for people who haven't had experience with preemies before (like me pre-baby): parents will talk about adjusted ages which means counting from when the baby should have been born. For example, my girls are two months old, but one month adjusted (since they were born at 34 weeks). You make this adjustment to be more realistic for when they will hit different milestones. Vera and Laura very may well reach developmental milestones later than a baby born on time, although in reality it is all relative since there tend to be such big windows for when babies roll over, talk, crawl, walk etc.

This last month since Laura came home has been a whirlwind of bottles and diapers. The girls are still eating every three hours which means lots of waking up in the middle of the night. Jose and I have been splitting the feedings from midnight to six am. The best advice I got from the NICU was to maintain the schedule they had established and to feed both girls at the same time. This means that when one eats at 300am, then the other gets up and eats too. There is no feeding on demand. Otherwise you can end up constantly feeding since they might get hungry at different times. So far it has been working really well, although I am looking forward to the day when I get more than three or four hours of sleep at a time.

Exhausted cuddles
We have also had lots and lots of appointments with different doctors. We meet with our pediatrician for wellness checks. We have taken the girls to a neurologist to see if they will need any kind of early intervention. They have gotten ultrasounds on their brains and hips. Soon they will have their two month vaccinations. Unfortunately Laura will be undergoing surgery next week which though isn't too serious is still a bummer for such a small baby. In good news, both girls have basically doubled their birth weights!

Meeting Marta at the hospital

All three girls
The year 2016 has been and will be a very fertile year. We have lots of friends and family who are welcoming babies this year. Most recently was Jose's cousin who had a baby girl. One of our first outings with the twins was to go meet their new cousin at the hospital and later at his cousin's apartment. I am sure they will have lots of fun playing together in the future! 

Laura with her bisabuela Maria
Laura and Vera have also met their three Spanish great grandparents. Jose has a large extended family and we have been introducing the girls to them gradually. Now that they are a bit bigger and stronger we feel comfortable having people over to our apartment and taking them out and about more. We even had a big gathering with Jose's Dad's side of the family a few weekends ago. All his aunts, uncles and cousins were there and the babies behaved themselves quite well. We will be doing the same with his mom's side soon as well.

The girls also just recently received their American passports. There was a lot of paperwork to do to make sure that Laura and Vera were registered in both the U.S. and Spain. I am happy to say that their birth certificates and passports didn't take long to arrive and I feel relieved. They are now officially dual citizens!

Jose has recently gone back to work after his long paternity leave which means that I am home alone during the day with the girls. It has been a bit of an adjustment and you can expect a post soon which explains what we do every day together. So far I am enjoying being a mom even though it can be stressful at times (especially when both babies are crying at once). In general the babies are good. So let's hope they stay that way (for my sanity)!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Newborn photo shoot with Debora Bretones

I have never really been that into photos but since the arrival of my girls I have been taking a lot more. Ever since the morning after they were born when I still hadn't really seen them for more than a minute in the operating room and I made Jose take a lot of pictures of them in the NICU to bring back up to me where I was still recuperating from my C section, I have been documenting and sharing with my family and friends how they are growing and changing. Since those first days they have gotten so much bigger and look stronger, healthier. I like looking back and seeing how far they have come. They change so much, so quickly.

When Fathers' Day arrived here in Spain I decided I wanted to do a professional photo shoot with the babies before they got too big and had thought to surprise Jose with it. However with Laura in the hospital and then my parents' visit our time was limited. I still pursued the idea after my folks had left and we luckily were penciled in for a session with a highly recommended local newborn photographer last Sunday. Her name is Debora Bretones and she was amazing!! (If interested you can find her on Facebook by searching her name).

Usually newborn pictures are taken before the babies are a few weeks old because they are calmer and easier to manage (being that they sleep most of the time). I explained our situation and Debora was very accomodating, asking that we have patience since our babies were seven weeks old and had been out in the world longer than most babies she works with.

My first impression was that her studio was beautiful. We arrived at a typical office building but when we entered into a bright and airy room I was impressed. The studio was kept at a very warm temperature throughout the shoot so that the babies were comfortable. I was sweating. Debora also had  a white noise machine playing in the background, all tricks of the trade I guess. She had several different backgrounds and backdrop set-ups for taking pictures of the girls and her props were a work of art in and of themselves.

It takes a special person to be a newborn photographer. You need to know how to manage a baby, make them comfortable, mold them into your vision. You need patience and a magic touch. This photographer had a tattoo on her arm that said "baby whisperer" and it was true. Laura and Vera behaved quite well (from what we were told), especially considering how old they are. Debora was able to pose them in some adorable ways. It was awesome to see her work.

We were allowed to take as many pictures as we wanted with our cell phones so we did but I can't wait to see the professional, edited final product. I especially liked that in the photos you can appreciate just how different Vera and Laura are since they are side by side. 

I don't want to share too many of the poses until they are finished which will understandably take a while. The picture above was one of my favorites. It took a while to accomplish the feat of getting both girls relaxed and sitting this way but they were champs and finally cooperated. I obviously am biased and think my babies are gorgeous. But seriously, look at those faces!! All in all, the photo shoot experience was great. If anyone in the Seville area is looking for a baby/child photographer I would highly recommend Debora Bretones.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

End of the 30 before 30 list

My birthday is this Friday, April 8th. I will be turning 30, whaaattt??? Where did the time go? I feel like I just turned 21 yesterday. Some people know this but other may not: I started a list of 30 things I wanted to do before this birthday back in 2013. I have posted below the original list as well as all 6 updates that I wrote about over the last few years. I adjusted my original list a few times in order to keep up with how my life was changing and the goals I wanted to accomplish. I am a bit surprised myself but my last update was over a year ago. 

Update 6
Update 5
Update 4
Update 3
Update 2
Update 1
Original list

Here is how the 30 before 30 list was left as of my latest update in February of 2015:

1. Go on another cruise. We have been throwing around the idea of going on a cruise with my parents when the girls are a bit older. I think we would have a blast!
2. Learn to cook Indian food.
3. Start a family (read: have a baby). Trying to accomplish this goal basically made it impossible to complete a lot of other things on this list. Just getting pregnant was quite a feat for me and an expensive endeavour. It took us several years and when we found out I was pregnant with twins we decided I should take it easy (I was on modified bed rest for a while). We didn't travel much this past year and didn't even go home to Michigan over the summer. My actual due date (40 weeks) was right on my birthday April 8th. The girls decided to arrive over a month early so this goal was accomplished!!

4. Find a job in which I am happy with what I do, feel accomplished and appreciated. This school year I did not work which ended up being a blessing in disguise. I was able to have a relatively easy and enjoyable pregnancy. I was able to rest and be off my feet (which is basically impossible to do as a teacher). I did miss working and all of my students but am hopeful that next year I will be back.
5. Visit Morocco.
6. Spend Christmas in Michigan. Maybe this year, depending on whether we go to Michigan this summer or not.
7. Walk at least a part of the Camino de Santiago.
8. Drive comfortably here in Spain.
9. Go to (and enjoy) a soccer game.
10. Find a list of books every person should read, and read them. Should children's books count??
11. Visit Ireland. 
12. Cook a Thanksgiving dinner solo.  
13. Keep a plant alive for more than a few months.
14. Save up and buy a new car.   

15. See the new Pope.
16. Grow my hair long enough to cut it and donate it in my niece's name.
17. Throw a fabulous baby shower for one of my good friends here in Spain who recently found out she is pregnant after struggling.
18. Go to a concert.
19. Grow my blog. Actually since getting pregnant I have seen a lot more people reading and commenting on my blog so I will count this one as goal achieved! Thanks everyone who says such sweet things and who follow my blog.
20. Learn how to cook some Spanish dishes and post about them here on the blog at the request of some readers. I have been cooking quite a bit more (at least before the babies arrived) but haven't been very good about blogging in general and creating posts about food has been low on my list unfortunately.
21. Restart my Italian classes.
22. Visit Gibraltar.
23. Have my family here to visit.
24. Get an English teaching certificate
25. Take a Spanish wine tasting course. 

26. Finish our apartment and all its little nitpicky projects
27. See more of Turkey. 

28. Create saving goals and stick to them. We have been pretty good about this and will continue into the future, especially with having doubled the size of our family.
29. Be blonde. Alas I never had the guts to dye my hair blonde. Maybe someday...
30. Learn how to drive a scooter

Basically I put this list on hold over the last year with trying to get pregnant, stay pregnant and have our girls. I can't say that I am disappointed in not finishing all of my goals and I certainly had fun crossing off the ones that I did. I think I did a lot over the past few years. I got to travel quite a bit, learned new things and accomplished most of what I set out to do. The best thing (and hardest) by far has been our twins. I wouldn't trade them for the world. 

I actually am excited to start a new list of things I would like to do with them. They have changed my life so much in such a short time. To think that just a year ago I wouldn't have guessed that I would be here sitting on my couch with these two precious girls sleeping next to me. I can't wait to see what the future will bring. Here's to another wonderful 30 years!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Twins: One month update

Our babies turned a month old today! What??!!! It's still hard to believe that they have been with us for that long especially when you consider that they should have been born only last week.  Since our last update with their birth story we had Vera at home by herself for two and a half weeks while her sister stayed in the hospital until she was consistently eating out of her bottle. We were making daily trips to the NICU to visit Laura which was complicated since we also had another newborn at home. Those twoish weeks were some of the most frustrating and stressful of my life. 

Laura in the NICU with feeding tube
We couldn't bring Laura home until she was able to complete almost all of her bottles consistently. When she didn't she was fed through her feeding tube so she wasn't losing weight or becoming malnourished. It was difficult as a parent to see our little baby hooked up to monitors and with a tube in her nose. The nurses kept reassuring us that one day things would click with Laura and that she would start eating. There was nothing for us to do except be patient. We would go to the NICU each day hoping that that would be the day but for a while she just seemed tired. It was heartbreaking. We weren't able to be there for all the visiting hours because Jose went back to work and I was at home with her sister Vera. There were days when I only saw her for an hour at a time. Believe me that it's not how you want to spend the first weeks of your newborn's life. 

Vera enjoying being an only child for a while

We had taken Vera home after a week at the hospital. She has always been a good eater and put on weight quickly. Now she is a little chunker. I think she enjoyed all of the attention and the few weeks we had just her at home were a good adjustment period for Jose and I. We started adapting to a baby's schedule with feedings every three hours, waking up at night, changing diapers, baths, etc. The one positive I can think of with having your twins in the hospital is that you learn a lot. We weren't clueless before having the babies but we learned a ton from the nurses in the NICU and have since maintained the schedule the girls were put on. Bringing home only one baby first also helped us adapt before being thrown in with two. We have been lucky in the sense that we have step by step gotten used to having our girls at home and have had a lot of support.

The girls' stroller
About a week and a half ago Laura started to eat much better and we were pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call saying we could finally bring her home. It was just in time for my parents to arrive from the U.S. (they flew in the next day). We were very happy to be able to start living together as a little family with both girls. Going to the hospital to pick her up was one of the best days. We brought Vera and they got to be together again. I am not sure if they liked it much but we did.

Jose with both girls
First family selfie
Getting ready to go home!
We have had Laura at home with us now for almost two weeks. We are of course exhausted but happy. My parents have been here visiting for a while and have been a big help. Both girls are eating well and gaining weight. We have had lots of follow up doctor appointments and it seems like everything is going well even considering how early they were born. In the end Vera spent 7 days in the NICU and Laura spent 20 days. They are both healthy and adorable.

Since several people have asked I figured I would also mention that the girls look NOTHING alike. Laura's hair is thicker and darker and her eyes are more blue (for the moment, I think they will probably change). Vera has lighter colored hair and less of it. Her eyes are darker and she is much chubbier and more round in general. They have different shaped noses and ears. Laura has long eyelashes and distinct eyebrows. Her sister's are much lighter. Laura tends to be more expressive with her face and both girls have been involuntarily smiling (I melt). Their baby personalities are different, too. They only thing that is similar is their big feet and lips. I think they are equally adorable and appreciate that they are different. 

Not sleeping momma
Since bringing the girls home we have been cautious about having people over to the apartment and taking them out in public. Because they were in the hospital they don't have great immune systems yet. We are excited in the next month to introduce them to more people as they get bigger and stronger. I appreciate everyone who has been understanding and respectful of our situation and hope they continue to do so.