NICU Schedules, Moving with Newborns, and Why Staggered Feeding Worked with Christos Xidias – Podcast 132

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - October 22, 2020

NICU Schedules, Moving with Newborns, and Why Staggered Feeding Worked with Christos Xidias - Podcast 132

Episode 132 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes

We continue our father of twins interview series with Christos Xidias, father of fraternal twin boys.

Listen as we explore his twin journey, including:

  • Joys of when your twins start smiling and interacting with you
  • What it means when your twins are a di/di pregnancy
  • When one twin’s placenta works better than the others
  • Outcome of mom dilating early and needing a cerclage
  • Impacts of bed rest on mom’s work and lifestyle
  • Juggling work and caring for a spouse on bed rest
  • The surreal experience of watching your twins be born via c-section
  • How they got familiar with the hospital and staff before delivery
  • Complications the babies encountered in the NICU
  • When one twin stays in the NICU 2 months and the other just one month
  • Typical daily routine when the babies were in the NICU
  • Surprise news of sagittal craniosynostosis
  • Moving right after the twins were born
  • How it feels when you finally get both babies home from the hospital
  • When a miscommunication between doctors and parents almost lead to a premature discharge from the NICU
  • Typical routine and schedule with newborns at home
  • How staggering feeding the babies worked great for overnight care

Have a question for Christos? Email Christos here

Transcript

Joe: 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 and transcript for this podcast episode. Today’s show is brought to you by my first book for father’s of twins, Dad’s Guide to Twins. You can get a free audiobook version of my first book at freetwinbook.com. Once again, that’s freetwinbook.com.

Today we are continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow father of twins, Christos Xidias. Today I’d like to welcome to the show, Christos Xidias, father of fraternal twin boys. Welcome to the show Christos.

Christos: Hey, Joe. Thanks for the welcome.

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Joe: Let’s start right now. How old are your boys right now, and what’s one of the most exciting things about this age?

Christos: Sure, so my boys are 14 weeks right now, 14 1/2 weeks. The most exciting thing that they’ve been doing in the last week or so is smiling, and making eye contact, and kind of following us around the room, for better or worse. They spot us out of the corner of their eyes and they start crying or making noises for us to approach closer, or if we leave a room they’ll squeal and squawk. Yeah, that’s really great to see them engaging with us, rather than just staring off into the distance.

Joe: Yeah, that is a fun milestone when you can interact with them, and they aren’t just feeding/sleeping machines, right? You have some more interaction. That’s a fun stage. Let’s rewind back to when you found out that you were having twins. What was that experience like for you and your wife?

(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)

Christos: Sure. Well, it was just a couple weeks into the new year actually, around mid-January we found out Emily was pregnant. She did a home pregnancy test, and it came out positive, so we went for our first ultrasound at the beginning of February excepting to find out that we had a baby. We went to the doctor’s office; she got set up for the ultrasound, and we were told, “Oh, I see one, and right behind it we see number two. And we have two heartbeats.” We were completely floored. It felt like the oxygen got sucked from the room. It was so much of a surprise and just an unbelievable moment to find out that we were having twins.

Joe: Yeah, that’s a good description; the oxygen was sucked out of the room. That’s kind of the feeling I had too when we found out. You said your boys are fraternal twins, is that right? So, is there any family history of twins or was this the first for you guys?

Christos: No. They were di/di twins, so they each had their own sacs and set up. It was pretty much like they were neighbors; they weren’t really roommates. They knew of each other’s existence, but they didn’t have to share resources. So we found out that they were twin, but we found out they were di/di and they were basically in two separate sacs, didn’t share resources, they … One was anterior and one posterior, and through the pregnancy, we found out that one of the placentas was working a little bit better for baby A and baby B’s was not working as great. Baby B ended up, at the end, being a little bit smaller, a little scrappier. He had head sparing because he was a little bit undernourished because of the not great working placenta. There were a couple complications there, but the benefit was that they had separate resources through the placenta, so there weren’t any other issues that come with having mo/mo or mo/di babies, as they’re called.

Joe: Yeah, di/di babies is a pretty good set up, right? Like you said, they have their own little life support systems, and they don’t really interfere with each other much, which is good. Were there any other health issues, during the pregnancy, for the babies or for mom?

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Christos: Mid-way through May we went for just our bi-weekly doppler appointments and cervical length check-ups. We found out that my wife was actually one centimeter dilated, like way, way early. We got consulted with a few of the high-risk doctors, here at NYU, and we ended up having to do what’s called a cerclage, which is kind of like a purse string around the end of the uterus to help keep the babies in.

For the most part, the doctors were telling us that in typical experiences with petite women and di/di twins it doesn’t really do much, but in our case it actually extended the pregnancy, paired with light bedrest and doing as much as I could to help my wife not have to stress out over the summer. Keeping her feet elevated, keeping her just around the neighborhood with light walks. We actually managed to go until August 1st, which was phenomenal, from May 24th when she had the cerclage put in. In our case, rare as it may be, it actually worked out really well.

Joe: That’s great. What did light bedrest look like for your case?

Christos: Yes, so my wife works for a fashion company here in New York, an international fashion company, and they actually have pretty flexible work from home rules. She ended up working from home for a majority of her third trimester. She pretty much worked from home, stayed in the apartment. The doctors at NYU are fairly progressive, so they didn’t suggest complete bedrest where you’re just locked in bed all day, for fear of blood clots and other cardiovascular issues that could occur from that.

(RELATED: Check out the Dad's Guide to Twins Youtube channel for additional helpful twin tips and tricks videos.)

What they suggested is light bedrest. She would go for daily walks with me. We would go walk around our neighborhood. She could go to the store. She could walk around, but she couldn’t lift anything, she couldn’t bend down, she couldn’t do any kind of physical activity really. Towards the end of it, she was very hesitant to even get into vehicles. Just because it was so far along and she’s pretty petite, she’s like five feet tall, the doctors just really wanted to make sure that we kept the babies in and that she was healthy and that the babies would be healthy.

Joe: Did you adjust your work schedule at all to accommodate?

Christos: Absolutely. I have a really, very, very understanding team at the tech startup that I work at in New York. They were very accommodating, very supportive. I worked from home on days that I had to either take my wife to the doctor or just be there to help with something around the apartment. We had pretty open work from home rule, so unlimited time off, but it wasn’t really even that; it was just they know that I’m accountable for the projects that we run on the design team. They were very understanding with the twins coming. My boss actually has four children. He was very understanding of instantly becoming a parent of multiples. Super supportive. I’m very, very happy and appreciative that they actually were that understanding of the situation.

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Joe: Oh yeah, that makes it a lot easier, because you already have enough stuff to worry about as an expectant father, but to have understanding work and bosses is even more than you can hope for in some cases. That’s great. After making it through the pregnancy, when did the babies arrive and was that a surprise, expected? How did that go down?

Christos: Full-term would have been September 20th. You know twins usually come around 37 weeks, so they had us around the first week of September. The babies actually came on August 1st. There was a complete. I woke up in the middle of the morning at like 4 or 4:30 in the morning, hearing my wife quietly call my name from the bathroom near the bedroom. I got out of bed; she was concerned and in the bathroom that she was getting light cramps. She had a little bit of panic in her voice, so we called up the hospital, and by the time I got dressed she got dressed, and we were at the hospital within about half an hour. Live, very close to the NICU, to the delivery room.

We ended up just getting all of our go bags and our towels, anything that I could think of that could help her in case her water breaks, and we headed to the hospital. By 9:44 and 9:45 babies Alexander and Lucas were born.

Joe: That’s pretty fast.

Christos: Yeah, because by the time we got there it was like five o’clock. There weren’t really any other deliveries that early in the morning. They were saying that they would deliver later in the day, but because of the situation and by the time seven o’clock rolled around, we’d been there for two hours, my wife was experiencing some pretty serious contractions. The doctors just called it. They said, “Hey, you know, we were planning this whole time for a scheduled c-section. Today is go time, and we’re going to do the c-section this morning.” They actually bumped her up to like a nine o’clock delivery time. By the time they got her set up with the epidural and all this stuff it was 9:44 when Alexander came out.

(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)

Joe: Excellent, so what was your experience as a father in the operating room, and during the c-section?

Christos: Oh, it’s completely surreal Joe. It’s so surreal. Well, initially when they’re doing the epidural and the prep, you’re just waiting in the hallway and you don’t know what to expect. You see people coming and going, you know, anesthesiologist, doctors, specialists, various types going into the … what was the operating room, because it wasn’t like a typical delivery room. You’re just sitting there, and you have all these thoughts flying through your head; twins are coming, am I ready? I can tell you from the beginning; you are not ready. It’s so surreal, and it’s really amazing.

Then when I went into the operating room they had a plastic curtain and a blue, opaque curtain up between where my wife was and where they’re preparing to do the procedure. I was on the side, where my wife was, and after the first baby they lowered the curtain and just a minute later, for they second baby, they were supposed to raise the curtain, but they dropped the curtain all the way, and I got a complete lay of the land view. It was so ridiculous. I have never been a fan of like ER or any kind of operating room stuff. I tend to be a little squeamish, but it was really fascinating and really cool, and I actually didn’t pass out. So that’s a good thing. I was expecting to probably pass out during the delivery, but it worked out pretty well.

Joe: That’s good. Yes, it is a very surreal experience. All of our children have been born via c-section, and that feeling when you’re waiting in the hallway, and people are coming and going. It’s just like, did they forget me? Am I still out here just waiting?

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Christos: I waited like a solid 20 minutes. It was crazy. I was just like what’s going on in there? I was excepting to hear some kind of like scream. Because from what we’ve read is that epidurals hurt going in, but because she had already had it with the cerclage, because they had to do an epidural for that, I was mentally prepared. That was another benefit of having the cerclage, for better or worse, the silver-lining of going there for the cerclage was that we knew the hospital, we knew the staff, we knew the … like the hospital pretty well. We didn’t do any guided tour or anything because [Emily 00:11:46] couldn’t walk very well towards the end of the pregnancy. We were scared of having her on her feet.

But because she had been there, we had been pretty much in the same operating area for that procedure. When we were there for the delivery, it kind of felt like we were in our second home because we had already spent one day there and we knew everybody by then. It was actually pretty cool. A lot of people tell you that it’s scary or intimidating, but if you have a good hospital nearby and you’re there and your wife needs to go for one of these procedures go with her. Be there as much as you can because it’ll help you during the delivery time because you’ll be familiar with the environment.

Joe: That’s absolutely true. That’s a great tip. The more you can be involved, as a dad, through the pregnancy you can get to know the doctors and staff and the facilities, the more comfortable that day’s going to be when the babies arrive. Since your boys were born early, what complications, if any, did they have at birth? Were you able to see them right away or are they kind of whisked away to be taken care of?

Christos: Well, I mean everything happened so quickly on the delivery day. We got there, within three hours she was getting ready for delivery. An hour later we had the boys born, and within minutes of them being born, like they cleaned up the babies, they swaddled them, and they put the little hats on them. They handed baby A to me and then I took photos with my wife, who was in good spirits. Then they handed baby B to me, and I’m just completely floored by holding these little two and a half pound babies just minutes after they were born. It was really amazing.

After those first initial, five or 10 minutes after delivery, Emily, my wife, still had to be … The procedure had to be completed, so they actually took the babies up to the NICU and then I went up about half and hour later when I got the green light that they were set up with all their monitors. I was very fortunate in that the boys were a good size and they were about 15 inches long, on average, and about just under three pounds each. They weren’t too small, but they weren’t too big. They were retracting a bit, breathing very heavily, so they … Actually, they weren’t intubated at all, but they were put on CPAP, which is kind of like a nose oxygen mask, and then they were given nasal cannulas after the first week.

Each of the babies couldn’t be more different. Alexander, baby A … Alexander’s nice and convenient. It starts with A, so it’s easy to remember. Yeah, baby A was a little bit bigger, but he was a little slower to eat on his own. That was one of his complications. Baby B, Lucas, is anemic, so they had to do a blood transfusion while he was in there. All in all baby A spent about two months in the hospital, even though he was bigger because he couldn’t eat on his own. They kept him there longer to work with the team there that specializes in feeding so that they can ensure that he would eat well when he came home. Now you can’t stop him from eating, but then he was having a few issues.

Baby B actually came home after just a month, not even a month, of being in the NICU. Regardless, there was two months going back and forth to the NICU every day after work. We’re pretty exhaustive, but I didn’t start my paternity leave for work until they were actually home, until baby A was home, or until the first baby came home after a month, just so that I could preserve it and just spent time with them at the NICU. You know did skin-to-skin. We sang to them. We spoke with them. We had a few close family members come visit them, but that was pretty much the extent of their complications.

Later on, just to kind of jump ahead into more recent times, we found out that Lucas has sagittal craniosynostosis, which is your skull has different facets and between them, the gap is called a suture, and if the gap’s fused prematurely it restricts brain growth and skull growth. The only way to correct that from causing any kind of brain issues, brain complications down the line, is to do a procedure. We are aiming to do that in January or February 2017. Yeah, that was another shock. After we got the boys home and we were all happy and excited for the holidays to come, we found out just a few weeks later that one of our boys had to have this procedure done in the near future. We’re not out of the woods yet, Joe, but we’re excited, the boys are doing well. They’re eating. They’re not really that anemic anymore, they’re a little anemic, but they’re doing well.

Joe: That’s great to hear that they’re doing well. What was your typical work day like while they were in the NICU?

Christos: Not only did we end up having twin boys, this summer, we also ended up having to buy a car because we were moving to the suburbs at the end of the summer. Two days before our first son came home we ended up moving to the suburbs because New York City is insanely expensive for anything more than a small apartment, and two boys don’t fit in a small apartment; so we had to move.

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The first month that we had Lucas home we were still very close to the hospital, so I would go to work, and at the end of the work day I would swing by the hospital and my wife would have been there from … Since she was on disability from the time that the boys were born, she basically spent just about every day for the first two weeks that they were born at the NICU and then after that she would go and come, after she recovered from the c-section. After my work day, I would go to the NICU and hang out there until about 11 or 12 o’clock, relieve her, and be there for when they did the nighttime rounds. Because every 12 hours the shift changes.

She would be there for the morning, for the morning rounds, and I would be there in the evening for the evening rounds, just so that we can keep track of progress for the babies, which nurses would be taking care of them at night, and just so that we could really feel like we’re there for them. You know it’s hard to feel connected with them when they’re in their little isolation units, and you’re at work, and your mind is with the babies. It just made it really nice to be able to spend the evenings with them and do skin-to-skin. Just be there for them.

Later on, when we got Lucas home and we had moved, that was crazy because I would either work from home during the day or go home, get my wife and the baby, and drive down to the hospital about 45 minutes in reverse rush-hour traffic, every day for a month. That was pretty involved and very, very exhausting because we wouldn’t get back home until midnight, have to feed the baby and then put him down; and then find time for a shower or a nap before the next feeding. Then do it all over again the next day. My wife, at the time, didn’t have her driver’s license, so I was the primary driver and I had to run around like a mad man. It was the small price to pay for all the things that she went through for the babies. Like you said before, you got to be supportive.

Joe: Yeah, that’s true. Twins require a lot of both mom and dad to make things work successfully. What was it like in those moments when you were able your second son home and you had both boys together in the home at the same time?

Christos: It was such a relief. One thing that I can say, having lived through it, is you really have to be an advocate for the babies. Alexander, baby A, was supposed to be released about two weeks earlier than he was. We found out through errors and miscommunication that they were actually using a proprietary nipple in the hospital that we wouldn’t have been able to buy. I think it’s something like 25 or 30 cents per nipple if you want to buy it out in like … outside of the hospital.

He was eating fine from that, but because he was [bradying 00:20:14] and [desatting 00:20:15] whenever he would use the regular nipple that is sold everywhere. Bradying is a drop in heart rate, and then desatting is a drop in blood oxygen level. Alexander did that a lot for the first six, seven weeks that he was alive. That also led to him being in there for two months. Because he was having these issues with breathing and heart rate, we were really, really conscious of how he was eating and we didn’t want him to come home before he was ready. They wanted him to come home around mid-September.

We went to go feed him; we brought a couple of our bottles that they’d been using with Lucas, because you know we’re not made of money. We’re not going to go around buying $1000 worth of nipples every year because it’s just not realistic. The doctors wanted to release him. We spoke with the resident doctor and we appealed to him that like, “Hey, this isn’t necessarily going to work for us.” It turned out that it was just a miscommunication and they did more hands-on feeding with him over the next week and a half. Then he was finally released towards the end of September.

He was almost discharged prematurely and he wasn’t really ready for it, and that’s not any fault of any doctor or any nurse it’s just … It was a matter of the resources that they were using. They kept him a little longer and when they finally were both home, that was when we could finally relax. Because we got back those four hours that we would spend at the NICU. You know I would just spend the whole time in the lounge with the first baby, and my wife would be in there with the second baby, and then we would alternate. Having to feed your kids on the road is very, very, very hard at that young age because they’re so little, they spit up, you need to feed them every like two and a half hours. You go through diapers like crazy. It’s a big, big show.

Joe: It is a big show, yeah. It’s hard enough to take care of twins when you’re at home and you have all your stuff. Yeah, when you’re on the road and a different place, it makes it a lot more complicated.

Christos: Totally. More recently, since Lucas got diagnosed with the craniosynostosis, we’ve been going to a different hospital that’s closer to our new apartment. But because our pediatrician advised us to not take the baby that doesn’t need to go into the hospital into the hospital, I’ve actually been sitting in the car with the baby, which is kind of like our fourth bedroom. Feeding the baby, cleaning, changing the baby in the car.

We have a little SUV, so for better or worse he doesn’t have to go into the hospital, but he has to deal with me in the truck. It’s comedy. It’s pure comedy. I Facetime my family while I’m doing it, and they’re just like, “I can’t believe that this is what you have to do.” I was like, “Well, I can’t leave them at home, you know.” We don’t have a babysitter figured out yet, so we’re still pretty new at this. We’re kind of just learning on the fly.

Joe: Yeah, you got to do what you got to do. I like how you call your car your fourth bedroom. Whatever’s going to serve the needs of you in the moment, that’s what you’re going to use as a parent.

Christos: Yeah.

Joe: Now your boys are about 14 weeks old you said. What kind of sleep are they getting at night and how far between feedings are they going?

Christos: Yeah, I mean they’ve made a lot of progress in the last, I would say, two or three weeks. Initially, I mean for October, the first month that we actually had them both home they were pretty easy to wake up. I mean the NICU trained them to be like completely tolerant of light and noise. They’re very bright and noisy environments at the NICU. That was a good thing for us because I could vacuum near the kids and they don’t even wake up, so that’s awesome. Dishwasher doesn’t matter. There could be a jackhammer outside; they don’t care. They sleep through a lot of loud noise, but they wake up just about two, two and a half hours to eat.

When we first got them home, and I was home on that first week of paternity leave, we would feed the babies at the same time and then have two hours free to do whatever we needed to do. But for that first hour both me and my wife would be completely occupied by a baby. More recently what we’ve been doing is we’ve been staggering the feeds, which actually has been working out a lot better. We read not great things about staggering, but what it allows us to do is … You’re, basically, you’re just feeding one baby, putting it down to sleep, and then feeding the next baby.

It’s great at nighttime because one person can do two feeds at a time, like two feed sessions back to back and the other one can be sleeping for five or six hours straight. That is amazing. Like the second we discovered this breakthrough, it completely changed our life and our … Just our energy levels. We were a lot more energetic. Sleeping one hour at a time, five times overnight, and sleeping two four-hour sessions every night is much, much better. Now that I’ve gotten back to work I’m sleeping about three and a half hours a night, but it’s amazing what you find that you could tolerate when you have to.

Joe: That’s right. Yeah, it’s amazing how much you miss sleep, right, when you don’t have it.

Christos: I can’t think of anything that I want more than just like seven hours of sleep straight. I just want sleep. It’s never going to happen.

Joe: It will eventually. Right now, I mean doing your four hour or five-hour stretch, if you guys are staggering feeds, then that’s a pretty good deal for right now.

Christos: Yeah, yeah. It’s not bad.

Joe: Now that you’ve gone through some of these experience as a father of twins, what’s one thing that you wish you had known before they were born?

Christos: I wish that I had known how much of an impact they would have on my personally earlier, so I could kind of prepare for that. From the moment that these guys were born, like they handed them to me, literally a minute, or maybe like three minutes after they were born; and I just got super attached to them. I don’t know if I was ready for that or not. I kind of figured like, oh, you know, they’re just babies. You eventually get to know them. I think when you have twins, both parents, it’s all hands on deck and you get really attached to them really quickly. It’s really, really amazing. I kind of wish … It was almost intimidating before, and I was a little anxious to become a twin dad, but I think it’s amazing now.

I have friends that recently had singleton babies and the father may not be as involved as I am with my boys. I don’t think that I would ever want that. I think having twins you have to be involved, but it’s … I mean it’s a ton of work. It’s really amazing to see them day to day and to be there overnight for their feeds. It’s a drain on all aspects of the rest of your life; social life there is none. Going out, having a quiet dinner, non-existent unless the kids are actually sleeping when you’re eating. If I would have known how cool it could be to have twins, I probably would have gotten a lot more excited a lot earlier than. I’ve been a nervous wreck about like, “How are we going to manage with savings? How are we going to manage with living situation.” All those kind of things.

Joe: Having twins is an amazing especially. You’re right. There’s lots of things to work on, lots of things to worry about, but you get that chance, like you mentioned, as a father to participate where if you just have one baby your wife my take care of a lot of that and you may miss out on that. Whereas with twins, you’re kind of forced to be there and engaged, and that creates that bond with your kids much more quickly.

Christos, as we wrap up today if listeners would like to get a hold of you, how can they reach out to contact you?

Christos: Sure, so you could actually just email me at [email protected] or visit Christos.pro and click the email me button. It’s right at the top. I’m happy to field any question regarding our experience. If you see something that we chatted about, whether it was the cerclage or the craniosynostosis or anemia or anything like that, NICU. I’m really happy to connect and provide any guidance or input that I can.

Joe: Well, Christos, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. We really appreciate it.

Christos: Yeah, thank you. I wish you all the best.

Joe: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Christos today, and his journey and the ups and downs and surprises that they experienced along the way to bringing their twin boys home after early birth and NICU time and everything in between.

Again, you can find the full transcript of this interview over at twindadpodcast.com, where I’ll also link up to the website and contact information that Christos shared in the show today. Again, today’s show is brought to you by my book, Dad’s Guide to Twins: How to Survive the Pregnancy and Prepare for Your Twins. You can get a free audiobook version of that book at freetwinbook.com. Once again, that’s freetwinbook.com. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it and I’ll see you next time.

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Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
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