Dear Nora and Maya,
As I sit here typing this, you are playing in front of me in the large gated play-area we created for you in between our living room and dining room (affectionately known as "the baby pit"). Believe it or not, when I was pregnant with you both, stroking my belly and feeling both your kicks, this is what I envisioned for us - you both strong and healthy, playing happily in our new house. Now, you play independently or together, these days very interested in putting toys into a container and taking them out. You babble away, to me, to each other, to yourselves.
As with your brothers' blog entries, I did not intend to let a whole year pass without an update about your development, but here we are. That's okay - we'll use it as an opportunity to marvel over all the things you've learned, and to showcase your monthly photos that we took of you both, next to the pink stuffed monkey from Geema as a point of comparison. In all of these photos, Maya is always on the left, and Nora is on the right (except for the first photo, taken at one week, where we had you reversed - sorry about that!).
Nora and Maya, not all of your future updates will be joint ones, as you are your own individuals, but it seems nearly impossible to write about your first year of life without discussing you together, while still keeping in mind that you are each unique and wonderful beings on your own.
Nora and Maya, you came into this world a week earlier than my scheduled c-section date, but you waited until you were 37 weeks old, a very healthy and admirable age for twins. We were so grateful for that. When I was pregnant with you both, I tried hard not to complain about any physical pain I was in, as I did not want you to come any earlier than necessary. At 37 weeks, I believe Maya, who was always the flipper-flopper in my belly up until those last days, gave Nora a shove and said "let's go meet our family!", breaking Nora's water, but leaving her own intact. I am so grateful for being granted the gift of experiencing a twin pregnancy - I think that's a whole other blog post of its own!
From the moment they let us hold you in the hospital, it just seemed natural that there were two of you. It definitely helped that we had been through two hospital experiences before this, but you blessed us as happy, easy babies from the start. The hospital staff would marvel that we were so relaxed with the two of you, and looking back, I guess we were. I had hoped I would be able to breastfeed you both. When I initially found out I was carrying twins, the OB nurse at my doctor's office told me not to worry too much about breastfeeding, that I could supplement with formula. I think she told me this as a way to be reassuring. When I had had some time to adjust to the news of being pregnant with twins, I read something saying I shouldn't assume I COULDN'T exclusively breastfeed with twins. Then I found a picture in a pregnancy magazine of a woman tandem nursing twins, and I hung it on our refrigerator for the duration of my pregnancy. You both took to tandem nursing from the start, and I am so proud that we are still going to this day. From your newborn days, you loved to nurse together on my twin nursing pillow, heads touching, breathing together. Another worry I had when I was pregnant was that I wouldn't be able to have that sleepy, snuggly newborn baby naptime with two babies at once, but again, you made this happen, too. After you fell asleep nursing, I could tuck each one of you up against my chest, and you took many naps this way, breathing in and out.
We were able to go home from the hospital all together after the normal four-night stay, with no NICU time, again another blessing. Your first month went by in much of a blur, the way your brothers' first months did. You had your first sponge baths, your umbilical stumps fell off, you had your first real baths. You nursed every 2-3 hours around the clock, sometimes cluster feeding. You liked to sleep in your velcro swaddle blankets, just like your brothers. You both loved being held and snuggled, and you loved being together. However, you could not sleep in the same playpen, because since the day we tried it in the hospital bassinet, you tried to nurse on each other, suckling away.
We had so many helpers - Grams, Geema, and Auntie Lissa split up those first two weeks and stayed with us, a huge help and the source of such happy memories. Grams and Geema continue to be loving visitors and are both such wonderful supports to our family. Auntie Kara has been coming over at least once a week since you were born, a gift that we can never repay. Auntie Carolyn and Auntie Tanya were faithful visitors, and we were so blessed to have the Suffield Academy community to support us and to provide us with meals three times a week (!) for two months. Countless other friends and family members helped out as well.
We all crammed into our old house on Day Avenue, the boys sleeping upstairs in their bedrooms with whichever other adult was staying over taking over our bedroom, and Jason and I downstairs on the couches while you both slept in your playpens nearby. Auntie Jenn and Uncle Chuck helped us turn the playroom into your bedroom the weekend before you arrived, and without their help, we might never have had things together enough for your arrival. Our friend Liz was helping us take care of the boys, and we all got used to life as a family of six!
When you turned one-month-old, we were still living at Day Avenue, but knew we would be moving in about two weeks. At that point, it was clear our family was bursting out of our sweet house at the seams, and we like to say we moved just in time to always have happy memories of our first house. The weekend before we moved, in typical Healy all-or-nothing fashion, we took you to your first restaurant - Friendly's - for a gathering of the Wethersfield chickies, as Sarah and Max were home from England. The next day, we went to a going away party for cousin Jason at Aunt Michele and Uncle Bill's house. You took it all in stride! You made our move so easy by being so easy-going. With lots of help from Geema, Grams, and Auntie Kara, we survived packers and movers and made our way to our beautiful new house on Academy Drive, the perfect size for our new family.
You started going to sleep in your playpens, which we set up in our bedroom, from about 8pm to midnight, which was perfect, because you gave Daddy and me time to unpack like crazy! We were so excited to be in our new home that we stayed up until the wee hours getting the house set up, because who needed to sleep, really?
You both started smiling, holding your heads up more and more, and participating in tummy time. You were able to roll from your back to your side, but not all the way over. You started making sweet cooing noises. Like your brothers before you, you began pooping only every few days, a common trait during these early months for breastfed babies. However, you were likely to do what we called the "poop and rack," especially Nora - make a huge deposit and then fall immediately asleep, leaving us to wonder if we should let you sleep or change you, not an easy task with two babies on your lap.
You slept on us, in your bouncers, swings, Beco carriers, and playpens. When I was pregnant, we thought our lives were going to be totally unmanageable with twins and two older brothers. We didn't know if it would take the two of us just to take care of the two of you. We were pleasantly surprised that our lives were manageable, though of course chaotic! I figured out ways to get you both safely to the couch to be able to nurse you, and to get up with both of you from the couch (after I was recovered from my c-section). I was able to take care of both of you by myself, which meant that Jason could take care of the boys. So while of course it was easier to have a third adult around, we were happy to discover we could care for all four of you on our own.
By the time you turned two-months-old on July 13, we were fairly well settled in our new home. We had found a comfortable summer rhythm. You were both still nursing exclusively, every two to three hours. I have so many memories of you asleep in front of me on my nursing pillow, heads together, and I began to take photos of you this way with my iPad. Liz came to help us each weekday morning. You would both nap in your swings in the mornings, and I would take turns having "special time" with Seth and Evan while Liz watched you in your swings and played with the other brother. We continued to have so many visitors, who you charmed all the time. You liked going for walks in your double stroller - we got many compliments about the snap and go double stroller we had, where you were facing in to each other, so we could see you both and you could see each other. Sometimes we carried you in the Beco baby carriers, too, and you liked to snuggle against us.
We started to notice your vision improving, and you began tracking us and objects with your eyes. You startled at loud noises, but were used to a constant low hum from living with your brothers.
Maya, July 16 was a big day for you - you laughed for the first time, and rolled from tummy to back for the first time. We were at your two month check-up with Dr. Hoberman, and she asked us if you could roll that way, and when we said we weren't sure (insert embarrassed parents of four kids who hadn't been giving tummy time often enough), she placed you on your tummy and you flipped right over!!
Nora, during this month, you started trying to sit up when lying on the nursing pillow, as well as got better at rolling halfway over from your back, but you still couldn't flip either way fully on your own. You started sucking your thumb during this month, too, and would do this to self-soothe.
In general, people commented that you, Maya, would fall asleep more easily on your own, while Nora, you needed a bit more cuddling. Nora, you were also the one who would get more easily overwhelmed if passed from person to person at a big event. However, despite these small personality differences, your sweet temperaments were really very similar. You both used your pacifiers to help you sleep (pacis), purple for Nora and pink for Maya. We tried to keep this color scheme going in general, at least dressing Nora in the darker colors and Maya in the lighter colors, a trend we started in the hospital. Thought we didn't often dress you in the exact same outfit (sometimes we did, and it was fun every once in a while), we dressed you in similarly themed and layered outfits so you weren't warmer or colder than the other.
Babies, by the time you turned three-months-old, you were starting to get a little more interactive with each other and with us. You both started batting at your toys a little, and you even started trying to grab your toys. You were both laughing by this point, especially when being tickled by Daddy! Your eye tracking improved during this month, and on August 27, you really looked at each other for the first time! We wondered what you were thinking! You started making more babbles and vocalizations. You also started holding hands when nursing, which was just about the cutest thing we had ever seen.
Maya, when you laid on your toy mat toy on your back, you could get yourself up to midline, and then roll over to your tummy except your arm kept getting caught underneath your body. You also began doing sit-ups while in your bouncer. Another big discovery is that you could suck on your middle finger if your paci wasn't handy!
Nora, on August 18, you finally succeeded in rolling from your tummy to your back! You didn't want Maya to be ahead of you for too long!
We took you out to your first restaurant on August 17, a brunch date up in Belchertown where we met Seth and Grams after a sleepover. You did a good job, not minding being there as long as we were holding you!
You had a big day on August 24 when we welcomed you into Congregation Beth Ahm with your naming ceremony! You were surrounded by many family and friends as we welcomed you into our family and our religious traditions. Nora Leilani, we gave you the beautiful Hebrew name Leora Chana, and Maya Waileia, we chose the lovely name Aviva Leah for you.
You did continue to have your "witching hour" as I called it. When Jason was putting the boys to bed and I was nursing you, you would both just cry and cry, and all I could do was sit with you both on the couch and try to soothe you. I remember both boys as babies having this witching hour as well, but it was harder with two upset babies at once. However, you were so good-natured otherwise, it was hard to fault you for having one major cranky time each day.
You also had some milestones in the sleep department. You were still exclusively nursing during the day every 3 hours or so, and on August 18, you both took your first naps upstairs in your cribs in your nursery instead of downstairs in the swings or playpens. Of course, you still loved falling asleep on Mommy after nursing, and I wasn't ready to give it up just yet! On August 22, we started putting you down at night in your cribs instead of the playpens in our bedroom. Once we packed them up, our bedroom sure looked empty (spacious!). By the beginning of September, you sometimes gave us 6-8 hours of sleep at night in your cribs before needing a feeding, either from 10pm-5am or from 9pm-3am. Of course, there were just as many nights when you were up more often. Like they say, just when you think you've figured something out with babies, you are on to something new!
By the time you turned four-months-old, little ones, the students were back to school at Suffield Academy, Seth had started kindergarten, and Evan was back to daycare in the mornings. We settled into our routines at home during the day. You both still loved to nurse and nap on mommy in the morning time. You both were sucking on your fingers to fall asleep, as well as using your pacis. Sometimes when I put you together in the same playpen downstairs to "play" together, you would fall asleep on your backs together, heads and bodies touching. I would tiptoe around, peeking in at you two cuties as you slept together. Sometimes I put you down for naps upstairs in your cribs, and you would start off awake and successfully fall asleep.
You also really began to notice each other this month. When I would put you in your bouncers facing each other, you would really look into each other's eyes. You would also roll onto your sides from your backs to gaze at each other.
Nora, you started "talking" even more on 9/12, adding more syllables to your vocalizations. You were so close to being able to roll from your back to your front, but you weren't quite there yet. You could get your feet up in the air, though when you were on your back.
Maya, not only did you master rolling from your back to your front, you started barrel rolling, turning over and over from back to front. You had discovered a new trick! You also began to add some syllables to your vocabulary.
Your little personalities still remained pretty fairly similar, and you were so good natured. I took you along to all of Seth's Saturday morning soccer games, and you were content to hang out in your stroller, snoozing in the autumn air as I walked you back and forth across the fields.
By this point, we were starting to get used to the fact that we had adorable twins, but we forgot that when we went out, it was quite a novelty to people we encountered. A quick trip to CVS was not always so quick when people discovered who was in the stroller!
By the time you turned five-months-old, you were becoming even more interactive with us, each other, and the world around you. You were pretty consistently holding hands while nursing, comforting to you and to me. You were also consistently doing sit-ups in your bouncers, so for safety's sake, we decided it was time to put away the bouncers and the swings and get out the little BebePod seats and exersaucers. This was a bittersweet time for us, because while we are confident that our family is now complete, it was the first time we had not packed these items away to save for another baby. But it also felt good to pass the items onto families that needed them, and to see our babies meeting their developmental milestones.
Nora, you finally succeeded in rolling from your back to your tummy on 10/16! Soon after you started flipping onto your tummy to sleep even when we put you down on your back. Maya, you could roll to your tummy but you still didn't do it to sleep. However, we decided since you could both flip, it was time to pack away the swaddles, and get out the sleep sacks, the same ones worn twice before by your brothers. You handled this transition well.
Maya, you continued to practice your barrel rolling. You also started talking in a high-pitched voice, compared to Nora's lower-pitched voice.
You both decided to give up your "witching hour," which I greatly appreciated. Much more relaxing for you to nurse and sweetly fall asleep on me than to cry so sadly. On 10/23, you slept for 9 hours, from 8:30-5:30. However, this seemed to be an exception, not a rule. You still got up a couple times in the night to nurse, and we always woke the other one up if only one of you woke, to keep you on the same schedule.
You were grabbing your toys, and also discovering your feet! You had your first Halloween, and Nora you made a sweet zebra, while Maya made a very cute owl. On 11/11, we observed your wrestling each other for the first time!!
At the beginning of November, we gave you your first solid food - baby oatmeal! You seemed to like it, and it was what was to be the beginning of your beautiful relationship with solid food! By this point, you had experienced several colds just from being around your brothers so much, but you handled them all well. I can't remember all the details anymore!
By the time you turned six-months-old, I was convinced you were determined to meet all of your motor milestones months before your brothers did, just to keep me on my toes.
Nora, by mid-November, you were up on your knees scooching forward. You were also rolling around on the changing table, making diaper changing much more difficult for us. You were also barrel rolling all over, just like your sister. You were also beginning to pull your sister's hair! By the end of November, you were rocking back and forth on your hands and knees or hands and toes, even showing a couple signs that you might crawl soon! You were vocalizing more and more, with a distinguishable "da da."
Maya, you decided you didn't want to move in the same direction as your sister, so you began to scooch backwards. You were still barrel rolling all over and vocalizing, though nothing really distinguishable yet. You seemed to have two bottom teeth buds peeking through, though later we would find out these weren't teeth buds, but a little "pearl," a harmless mineral deposit that would go away.
You were both continuing to nurse exclusively, but you also loved all the solid food we were introducing. During this month we gave you apples, bananas, pears, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, multigrain cereal, brown rice, apricots, and your first meat - turkey. You loved it all!
We celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our new house, and it coincided with Chanukah this year, so we had an exciting Thanksgivukah together. We usually dressed you in similar but not identical outfits, as you were becoming harder and harder to tell apart! Thank goodness for your two freckles, Nora, on your tummy and your right cheek. You loved interacting with your brothers and your family, and your sweet dispositions continued to develop. We couldn't imagine our lives without you.