Twins After IVF, Cleft Palate, and Essential Baby Gear with Chris Titus – Podcast 127

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - October 22, 2020

Twins After IVF, Cleft Palate, and Essential Baby Gear with Chris Titus

Episode 127 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes

We continue our father of twins interview series with Chris Titus, father of boy/girl twins.

Listen as we explore his twin journey, including:

  • Dealing with sleep regression in infant twins
  • Helping an infant through acid reflux (identifying and treating it)
  • Deciding between bottle feeding and breastfeeding the twins
  • When one twin has cleft palate
  • Preparing yourself for a c-section or vaginal birth based on the twins’ positions
  • That moment when you realize the babies are coming
  • Why their vaginal birth still ended up in the operating room
  • When the babies come earlier than expected
  • Visiting one baby in the NICU when the other is at home
  • Dealing with time off of work for delivery and newborns
  • The long road to twins via IVF
  • Awesome baby gear that helped care for the twins
  • Why being actively engaged as a father and husband is essential with twins
  • Small things you can do to strengthen your marriage relationship

Transcript

Joe: Hey there and welcome to the 127th episode of The Dad’s Guide to Twins podcast. This is Joe Rawlinson. As always, you can find me on the web at twindadpodcast.com, where you’ll find much more information about having and raising twins, along with the show notes for this podcast episode and all previous podcast episodes. Today’s show is brought to you by my first book for father’s of twins, it’s called “Dad’s Guide to Twins”. You can learn more about that at twindadbook.com.

Today, we’re continuing our father of twins interview series. Today I’d like to welcome to the show Chris Titus, fellow father of boy-girl twins. Welcome to the show, Chris.

Chris: Thank you for having me.

Joe: Chris, tell us a little bit about your twins right now. How old are they and how are things going with them?

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Chris: Well, they are eleven weeks as of yesterday. They are typical almost three month old twins, are newborns. Sleep is not as consistent as I would like it to be but is getting progressively better. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got and I’m blessed to have my wife who helps me. She handles them during the day while I’m at work and does an amazing job with them. We’re doing the best we can with them. They’ve just reached the point where you can tell that they’re actually seeing you, recognizing you, and smiling. Everything like that. We’re just starting to get into that cool phase where it’s not just sleep, eat, go to the bathroom kind of a thing. They’re actually engaging with us a little bit more. It’s kind of fun now.

Joe: Yeah, that’s a wonderful milestone when they’re more than just those little eating and pooping machines. They’re your kids and interact with you. That starts to be a fun phase.

Chris: Yep.

(RELATED: Still looking for the right twin gear? See my Twin Baby Gear Essentials.)

Joe: How long are they sleeping at night?

Chris: Well, it varies. I think my daughter is, in the last couple days, has done a little bit of sleep regression and is not sleeping as well as she had been. At one point, she would eat, cluster feed between 6:00 and 8:00 at night. Then she would sleep for a good six, seven hours. Then my son, he has relatively bad acid reflux so getting him to sleep more than two or three hours at a time is a struggle. Depending on what time they fall asleep, 9:00, 10:00 at night, depending on the night, they usually get up around 1:00 and we feed them again and burp them, and all that fun stuff. They’ll usually go down for another couple of hours and then they’re up about 4:30 or 5:00 to do it all over again. We’re getting maybe three or four hour chunks of sleep, depending on the evening.

Joe: Yeah, three to four hours isn’t a lot but it’s better than you probably were getting when you first brought them home.

Chris: Oh yeah. At first it was … Oh man, it was not good. It was maybe an hour, hour and a half at best.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Joe: You mentioned one of your twins, I think you said your son has acid reflux. How did you find out that that was a problem? What have you been doing to help him manage that?

Chris: He was first born. We were feeding him and he would have some spit up but it seemed reasonably normal. We started noticing it seemed to be more than you would expect. Some people look at you and are like, “Oh, you’re a first time parent. You’re just over reacting.” We kept watching it and it seemed like the more he grew and the more we fed him, the more he would have these periods of time where it would just be like he would spit up what seemed like substantial amounts of formula.

We took him to the pediatrician for I think it was his one month or his two month appointment. We talked to him about it and told him what we had observed. We had the advantage of having two kids who were born at the same time and are being fed roughly the same stuff at the same time. We watched his spitting up compared to hers and we were like, “It’s just substantially more. It’s different.” Each baby’s going to be different but this is substantial enough that we were curious.

The pediatrician walked through all the different stuff to make sure it wasn’t a more significant medical issue like a pyloric stenosis or one of those that actually could be dangerous to them. We established that it’s just regular reflux. They were born a month premature so it’s possible that his esophageal close is just not strong enough yet. We started him, a couple weeks ago, on heartburn medicine to try to help. What he would spit up so frequently that it would start to hurt his throat. We could tell it was hurting his throat because his cry would get really hoarse, you don’t expect a baby to have a hoarse throat but you start to notice it. We started giving him the medicine and right now it’s finding that balance between the medicine is a liquid and he spits up liquids easily, so how do we get the medicine to stay in him long enough to do something.

We tried thickeners and thickeners didn’t work for him. They seemed to cause an excessive amount of gas. Within a day, he’s inconsolable and he’s crying non-stop. We gave that up and now it’s just medications to try to help lessen some of the discomfort. We just have to wait for him to get old enough and big enough to be able to, one, be on solids and two, have developed enough that he can keep fluids down a little bit easier. Also, be able to sit upright, which will hopefully help him with that.

Joe: You mentioned, in there, one of the advantages of having twins is that you can compare and contrast your two kids to see. As parents of twins, we can look at both of them, if they’re getting the same inputs, like you said, they’re basically eating the same thing and the results may be a little different. You mentioned feeding him formula. How did y’all decide between formula feeding or breastfeeding your babies?

Chris: The babies were born a month premature, unexpectedly. We were in the hospital and when they were born, my son was born first and then my daughter was born about eight minutes later. My daughter has a cleft palate. Basically, she, at first … Now, she might be able to. Now it’s gone so long it’s probably a little bit too late. At first, she couldn’t get the suction to do breastfeeding. We had to use a special bottle just to be able to feed her. They both had blood sugar issues whenever they were born. We had to get fluid into them to regulate that quickly, especially her with her special feeding needs.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

My wife tried to get everything up and running and she did her absolute best. Because of medical circumstances, it was really hard to … We wanted for them to both be breastfed. We had talked about that before they were born and we were going to do everything in our power to try to do it. Circumstances just did not allow for it. Now, because they were preemies, they wanted them on a more robust formula than you would normally start them on. Even if they were being breastfed, we probably would have had to supplement with formula just to try to make sure that they were getting enough calories, nutrients, and everything like that.

They’ve been on formula pretty much since they were born. The first couple weeks we tried to supplement with breast milk and get it all up and running. It’s just hard whenever you have new twins for her to find time to breastfeed, and pump, and do all that other stuff. She fought the good fight for over a month and she finally had to accept that this is just not God’s will for this particular thing. If He wanted it to happen, it would have worked out kind of thing.

Joe: That’s right. Good for you to see that need to change and doing what was going to work best for you and your family. That’s one thing that is a challenge as parents of twins is we have plans in our mind of how we think things should go. When the rubber meets the road, we sometimes have to make those changes. You mentioned that your son and daughter were born about a month early. Tell us about the birth experience.

Chris: Up until the week before they were born, they were both transverse, they were both breech. The week that we went to see the OB-GYN, the week before they were born, my son, who was the one who was lower down, had switched himself over to being head down like he was supposed to be. All of a sudden it was like, “You know what?” We had geared ourselves up, we didn’t want to have to do it but we were like, “We’re probably going to end up having a C-section.” At that point, the doctor was like, “You know what? He’s head down. We might be able to get him out, we might be able to turn her. We’ll see what we can do. We now, at least, have a chance that you might not need a C-section.” By the grace of God, they were both born vaginally.

It’s kind of funny, we were sitting there one night, watching TV. All of a sudden, she just knew that something was going down. We went to the hospital and got checked out. We found out her water had broke but she wasn’t in labor. We had to wait for medications to get all that up and running. We were sitting in a hospital room for an extended period of time until we were ready to go. Because they were twins and everything like that, and because of the potential that we might still have to have a C-section.

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

Instead of getting to have the birth in a lovely little labor and delivery room, we had to go into the OR and have the lovely little bright lights and all that fun stuff. A little bit more sterile and clinical than you necessarily imagine the birth of your children. The bottom line was they were born healthy and happy. Everybody was okay. It was definitely a shock. She had had no symptoms really so we were working under the assumption that we were going to get … The doctor had said a week before, “We’re going to get to probably thirty-seven, thirty-eight weeks. We might possibly have to induce, I don’t know.” She was showing no signs whatsoever. Then, one night, out of the blue, it hit her. It was like, “Okay, well, I guess they’re coming and they’re not going to wait anymore.”

Joe: How far along was that?

Chris: Thirty-five weeks and four days. Almost thirty-six weeks. We told ourselves we’d be happy if we got past thirty-two weeks. Although we wanted them to be in there a little bit longer, thirty-five weeks and four days was good enough.

Joe: That was great that they were able to rotate into place to be born vaginally. That’s wonderful. Did they have to spend extra time in the hospital or were they able to come home with mom?

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Chris: That evening, because of the blood sugar issue, they both were taken away for a little bit. I say taken away, they were rolled away, I could go see them. She could have gone and seen them except she was recovering. Our son was brought back to us once his blood sugar regulated, a couple hours after he was born. He got to spend the night in the room with us for the next couple of days until we were discharged. He came home with us.

Our daughter, because of the cleft palate, and the blood sugar issue, and the feeding issues, she spent ten days in the NICU. We would go and see her everyday. Have somebody watch my son and then go see her in the NICU. Thankfully, the hospital that they were delivered at is not even five minutes from our house.

Joe: That’s great. Did you have any indication that your daughter would have cleft palate before she was born? You just found out when she was born?

Chris: We found out right whenever she was born. She basically came out and the first words out of the OB’s mouth was, “She’s got a cleft.” We’d had no idea and he even said that, unless you had gone to a specialist who had a really, really high caliber ultrasound machine, we wouldn’t have been able to see it. It’s not a cleft lip, it’s just a cleft in the soft palate near the back of her mouth. Being able to see in there with an ultrasound machine, there was no guarantees. We had no idea until she was born.

Joe: Have you had to have any extra treatment for her?

Chris: We’ve had some. We’ve met with a specialist, a doctor, to get her evaluated. We met with him twice. Once to get evaluated and the second time, a month later, just to make sure she was gaining weight and developing the way he would like her to. She gets early childhood intervention just to make sure that between the feeding and the development, everything, that she’s okay. The reason she has the cleft is she has a little genetic duplication that makes her more prone to cleft but also makes her more prone, potentially, to some developmental delays. She sees an ECI therapist pretty much every week. A speech therapist comes out once a month.

We see a special doctor at about a year, he said. Somewhere between nine months to a year, depending on her development. She will have the surgery to close up the cleft. From there, it’ll just be teaching her to eat like normal. If she has any speech issues or needs any help with her teeth not coming in quite right because of the cleft, we’ll see dentists and other people. He says that, potentially, after a year old with surgery, should be relatively normal, happy little baby.

Joe: When you finally got them both home, did you have any family or friends help you out? Was it just you and your wife?

Chris: My mother came the second week that we were home. We came home on a Friday and my mom came … They had been down for the birth. Then she came back down from Oklahoma to Texas for a couple of days that next week to help us with my son and give us a chance to be able to go up and see my daughter at the NICU and everything. My daughter came home that next Friday, right about the time that, unfortunately, my mom had to leave. We’ve had a lot of … My in-laws live close enough that they come, they offer support. We have some friends that will come and watch the twins for a couple hours so that we can get out. We’ve had support. We haven’t had anybody that’s stayed for any extended period of time, but we have people who have helped us when we’ve absolutely needed it in the first couple of months.

Joe: How have you managed the work situation as far as time off goes? Were both you and your wife working before the babies were born?

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Chris: We were both working before the babies were born. She was a school teacher so, obviously, school teacher, summer birth, she had been off for a couple months, thankfully. Able to relax in the third trimester. We’ve been doing the Dave Ramsey get out of debt thing since 2010 so we’ve gotten far enough along to where our debts were low enough and our income was high enough that she’s discontinued being a teacher until they reach the age where they’re going to go to preschool. Then she’ll go back to being a teacher. She hasn’t worked since May or beginning of June.

My company actually, this year, implemented paternity leave of one week paid paternity leave. Right as we were getting pregnant. I got one week of paternity leave and then I took another two weeks of time off that I had saved up. Then I had to go back to work.

Joe: That’s still a pretty good arrangement. That sounds like you had some good time off there.

Chris: The company’s also really good. My job, actually, I get to work from home 100% of the time. Even when I’m working, I’m here. I just have to be in the office working while she’s taking care of the twins. I’m available if she needs me kind of a thing.

Joe: Good timing also with your wife getting time off for the summer. That worked out really well. The third trimester can be quite brutal for a mom with twins. Let’s rewind back to when you found out that you were having twins. What was that experience like for you?

Chris: In order to talk about that, I have to rewind a little bit farther back than that. Our journey started before that because we are an infertility couple, on my side. We’d actually been trying for roughly two and a half years and had had to go to doctors and had to do IVF. We had done three rounds of IVF before the twins were conceived. We had two chemical pregnancies and miscarriages before this, the other two times. Things had stuck but they just, unfortunately, had not developed. Although we were hopeful, we had reached that point where we didn’t want to get our hopes up too much because they had been dashed on the rocks.

With IVF, you go in and you see the doctor two weeks after they put the embryos in for the HCG blood test and everything like that. You find out you’re pregnant earlier, usually, than the average person does just because the average person you have to wait for the symptoms, the missed period and everything like that. It was funny because she went in for the bloodwork, she went into work, then they called me to let me know the results. They told me what her levels were. Her levels were roughly three times the level that they were expecting at that time.

If I remember correctly, I asked the nurse, “What does that mean?” She was like, “Well, it could either be that she just has a really high level and it’s just developing really well or it could be multiples.” I was like, “Huh, okay.” At the time I was like, “We’ll see what it is.” With IVF, you also go in for an ultrasound a little bit earlier than the average. We got like a six or seven week ultrasound. I have a little video on my phone, it’s a little short twenty or thirty second video. The doctor’s in there, he’s looking at it, he turned the screen away because doctors do that at first because they want to see what it is before … They don’t want you to look and be like, “Oh my gosh, there’s nothing there.” Then be like, “Yes, unfortunately there’s nothing there” or something like that. They want to be able to see it first and then talk you through it.

He turns the screen away and he’s looking at it. All of a sudden he goes, “How many do you think are in there?” “One.” We had put two embryos in so we knew there was potential for multiples, obviously, but we were so used to things not working, we were like, “One. Was one in there?” He’s like, “Actually, no, there’s two heartbeats in there.” We were like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” To go from nothing sticking to both of them sticking was a shock for us.

Joe: That’s great. It wasn’t a total surprise because it was in the realm of possibilities. That’s great that after that long journey of IVF you were able to have success here with your twins.

Chris: People always look at us and go, “Oh, you’re done now. You’ve got a boy and a girl.” I’m like, “No, we’re done for other reasons.” That does [inaudible 00:19:23].

Joe: Yeah, we’d get that too. We had two boys before our twins were born and then we had our twin girls. People said the same thing to us. Like, “Oh, you’ve got a perfect pair. Two boys, two girls.” It’s always funny how people will start doing your family planning for you just because you have twins, right?

Chris: Right. “Oh, you’ve got to be done.” No, not necessarily. Just because you would be done with this doesn’t mean that the rest of us are.

Joe: That’s right. What are some baby gear or supplies that you have found useful, so far, on the twin journey?

Chris: Absolutely the Pack ‘n Play is very important. We were given a nice Graco Pack ‘n Play where we were able to move it. Have a mesh thing that made it where we could put a mattress in there higher up so that we don’t have to bend all the way down to get into it. That’s been definitely helpful because that’s what we have them in our bedroom is a Pack ‘n Play with a mattress in it. They’re both able to fit in there.

The little Boppy things. Because of his acid reflux, every time he eats, my son has to stay reasonably elevated to try to help gravity keep the stuff down. Boppy has been good. One thing that our dental hygienist, who actually had twins through IVF, had told us about before, whenever we first were pregnant with twins, the twin double stroller. The tandem one where the car seat fits into it. That has been really helpful as they’ve finally gotten their shots and we can take them out. We took them to the park the other day and were able to push them around and get outside.

Those have been some of the gear that has been really important to us. That and finding a bottle that works for your baby. When you find one that actually handles the air well and they can feed well so they don’t get as colicky and everything. I think that was one of the most important things that nobody ever told me about. Make sure you find a good bottle, something that works for your baby.

Joe: That’s true. That’s a good point because sometimes, you have to do some trial and error to see what’s going to work with bottles or even sleep positions as you mentioned with your son who has acid reflux. A lot of being willing to try something different to see if it’s going to work better than what you have right now.

What’s one piece of advice you can share with your fellow fathers of twins as far as keeping their marriage strong throughout the pregnancy and the early few months of twins?

Chris: If I had to boil it all down, I would probably say the most important thing would be to be as engaged as you can be. If they’re like me, you’re not going to feel the connection to your babies that your wife does, initially. She carried them, she’s got the hormone, she’s got all of that stuff going on. You’re not going to necessarily feel the attachment and the connection. The number one thing I think that has helped is just being as engaged as possible. Being willing to get up in the middle of the night and handle both of the twins. The other night, my wife was sick and I basically took the entire nighttime shift and took care of the twins by myself so that she could get as much of a full night sleep as she could because she was sick and she takes care of them all during the day. You have to do what you have to do.

Finding those times to actually engage with your wife. It may only be for two to three minutes. It may just be going out and giving them a hug out in the kitchen while they’re making a bottle or something like that. Just something to actually reconnect with each other so that you remember that before these two little blessings came along, y’all were a married couple, and y’all loved each other, and y’all are going to get through this, it’s just not going to be fun for a little while.

Joe: Very well said. Be actively engaged as a husband, as a father, and it’ll pay out big dividends for your family. Thank you for sharing that.

Chris, as we wrap up today if listeners would like to get ahold of you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Chris: My email address is [email protected] That’s probably the easiest way to get ahold of me. I have access to it anywhere.

Joe: Thank you, Chris. We put a link to that in the show notes for listeners over at twindadpodcast.com. Chris, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, we really appreciate it.

Chris: Thank you for having me.

Joe: All right, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Chris Titus. You can read the transcript over at twindadpodcast.com. Once again, today’s show is brought to you by my first book for fathers of twins called “Dad’s Guide to Twins: How to Survive the Twin Pregnancy and Prepare for Your Twins”. You can find that book at twindadbook.com.

Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.

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Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

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