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'Oh look! Twins!"
Steering a double stroller through the semi-paved sidewalks of Jerusalem is hazardous enough, but after being a very hugely pregnant freak of nature a mere seven months ago, one would think I would be used to the comments of strangers.
"What are they?" interested bystanders ask, gazing upon pink-capped Kinneret and blue-capped Yaron. "Ah, a girl and a boy? That's perfect! Are they identical?"
Putting aside the biological impossibility of having girl/boy identical twins, our set couldn't be more different. In fact, I would say they are a rare breed of oppositional twins.
(There is a family precedent: My husband and his brother are also oppositional twins; they, too, look nothing alike and their temperaments couldn't be more dissimilar. But somehow, both my sister-in-law and I are convinced we each got the good one.)
For the first three months, Yaron cried almost non-stop as he dealt with horrible gastric pains, and for these three months, we called Kinneret "Angela." While her twin was wailing away, she silently discovered the mysteries of life: the existence of hands, the ability to smile, her friendly mobile. Although born 2.5 kilo, she outweighed her 3.1-kilo brother within the first month.
And then it all flipped.
Yaron got over his colic and Kinneret started screaming non-stop (we eventually figured out she wasn't napping enough and doesn't like loud noises, or crowds, or strangers...). She also decided to start maintaining her girlish figure and began eating much less frequently.
Currently, Kinneret has lustrous brown eyes and a sprinkle of dark hair. She is very petite, hesitant to use her charming smile, but can burst out with a belly laugh at two-year-old Ya'ir's antics. She tends to be much more vocal than Yaron - from cheerful babble to multi-decible screams, thankfully sometimes only audible to our four-legged neighbors.
Yaron is a jolly butterball and though they are the same length, he outweighs his sister by almost a kilo and a half. He has a mass of translucent straw-like hair, blue eyes and a quick smile. Ya'ir is his hero, too, and Yaron relaxedly chuckles along with Kinneret to Ya'ir's purposeful attempts at cracking them up.
She prefers to be on her back; he will only sleep on his stomach. She rolls over; he is beginning to crawl. He takes a bottle and she will not.
A baby who refuses a bottle? Huh? But everyone knows that babies drink from bottles; that is the very nature of being a baby, right?
I started back to my day job at the Post as Up Front editor May 1. After a flurry of excitement and angst devoted to finding a nanny, it was time to get them used to not having their Moomie cow around and drinking from a bottle. With Yaron, this wasn't a problem, but Kinneret made like a banshee and screamed.
I decided that life would be a lot easier if the twins ate primarily solids while I'm away and continued nursing once I came home. Yaron ate, or at least tried, everything we put before him, but Kinneret... see above.
In theory, by six months, babies are usually physiologically ready to spoon feed. Here in Israel, the Well-Baby Clinic recommends starting solids after half a year, according to the baby's doctor's directives.
The clock was ticking. After getting a variety of conflicting advice from the doctor, the nurses at the Well-Baby Clinic, lactation consultants and grandmothers from all walks of life, I was getting desperate. Force, cajoling and coercion were not working. Already small for her age, would she purposefully starve herself?
For the first couple of weeks after I returned to work, I took pity on the nanny and returned home in the middle of the day to feed the twins. But it was, forgive the pun, eating up my work day, and I have to pick up Ya'ir from his daycare by four.
"It's a battle of wills," said the nurse. "She may be small, but she's stubborn." After three or four days, said the nurse, Kinneret will either adjust to me not being around during the day and start eating, or make up for it at night.
Honorary president of the Israel Childbirth Education Center Wendy Blumfield took another approach and asked me how I feel about letting Kinneret scream. Taken aback, not used to thinking about my emotional response too much with three young kids to take care of, I mumbled something about tough love, the global view, the long-term. In her soothing everything-will-be-alright voice, she suggested, among other things, forgetting about bottles and moving on to a cup.
Later, another nurse told a story of twins where one ate fruit and the other ate vegetables and ne'er the twain shall meet; and a grandmother told me how she would feed her grandbabies bottles while standing up.
Slowly, slowly, the pieces fell into place.
So of course Kinneret now loves cottage cheese while her brother gags on it. And certainly, she loves to drink water from a glass as her twin sips from a baby bottle. Yaron will only eat sweet foods (basically, if it doesn't have banana, it's not food); she prefers savory.
Twins, you know.
And now, as I sit for half an hour everyday at work, listening to the calming hum of my Medela double pump while sitting in a private room, shutting out the world and visiting my Zen place, I realize that even if the twins no longer rely purely on me, I still need my milk break.
The writer is an overwhelmed, underslept mother of three in diapers.