How to Find a Babysitter in Eleven Not Entirely Pain-Free Steps

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So you need a babysitter. Maybe the babies came home yesterday, or maybe, like me, it’s been five and a half months and you’ve only ever left them once when your mother was in town. However long this day has been in arriving, the time has come. Sometimes, living in Brooklyn, things can be somewhat complicated. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting yourself out of the house. Or at least, this is how it worked for me:

Step 1: Ask other local parents for babysitter recommendations. Here is what they will say: “There’s a website called Sittercity, I heard.” “Oh my mother always babysits for us.” “I had a friend who is under-employed. We asked her to babysit once.” “My sister helps us.” “Sittercity.” “I heard Sittercity.” Turns out most people in Brooklyn either hire full-time or part-time nannies, or else they have family nearby. Unlucky you.

Step 2: Post to your local twins list serv. “Looking for an occasional babysitter for date nights and keeping sane!” Get no response. Finally get one response: “Try Sittercity.”

Step 3: Post again on another list serv. Get the names of three sitters.

Step 4: Call the sitters. Two are elderly ladies from Trinidad who have been babysitting for upwards of twenty years. They are professional babysitters, because, as D says, “In New York everyone is a career everything. That’s why we have to get out of here.” The third babysitter is a bouncy, high-voiced twenty-something aspiring actor who makes you feel ancient.

Step 5: Meet the sitters. Hand them your babies. Try to judge based on how they hold them whether they love your babies as much as you do. They will inevitably fail this test. Make conversation anyway. Look deep into their eyes and try to judge their deepest character.

Step 6: After they leave, call the references. Ask intelligent questions like, “So…she likes babies, do you think?” and “Um, is she responsible?” Get laughed at by incredulous, wealthy Park Slope twin moms who have had multiple baby nurses night and day from day 1. “Wait, they’re FIVE MONTHS OLD and you’re only hiring help NOW?!?! OH MY GOD. Wow. Wow.” And in response to your questions: “Yes she’s fine. We had a nannycam and watched her for the first month.” Also, “Yeah, she’s great. She’s a real sister-sister. We used her for three years.” Feel very uncomfortable with the whole conversation.

Step 7: Call the babysitter you think seems most okay. Bite the bullet: “I’d love if you could babysit next Wednesday.” “I’m sorry,” she says. “There are too many steps up to your apartment. Let me know if you want my daughter to babysit instead.” Back to square one…

Step 8: Call a local organization, the member-owned, progressive Beyond Care Babysitting Coop. Confirm a sitter for Wednesday.

Step 9: Have nightmares about babies starving, about milk rotting in the fridge, about your milk production drying up, about people who seem okay but are actually evil.

Step 10: The day of. The doorbell rings. Here is a woman at your door. She is short and round. She is kind. She is experienced and extensively trained, probably more qualified to care for babies than you are. She gets down on the floor with the babies and patiently listens to you tell her how to change a diaper, how to warm milk in a bottle.

Step 11: Walk out the door. Everything is fine. It is normal to be nervous. You can do it. And, you are a good mother.

This little piggy went to market…this little piggy is cute.

This little piggy went to market...this little piggy is cute.

These babies have adorable feet. Actually, they have many adorable attributes: feet, cheeks, noses, bellies, bottoms. They are great big bundles of adorable. And that’s not to mention the cheerful voices, or their smell of baby shampoo and milk, which of course you can’t sketch.

“They are so amazingly cute,” D said to me yesterday.
“Yeah.” I agreed. “But then again, how do we know? Maybe they’re actually just fat and drooly and not cute at all.” D laughed, and we looked at each other for a minute.
In any case, they’re the most beautiful babies we’ve ever seen, though I’ll admit we’ve got stars in our eyes.

NICU Graduates Unite!

IMG_1245This weekend we attended a reunion party for graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, organized by Maimonides Hospital. There were balloons, free book giveaways from the Brooklyn Public Library, face painting for the older kids, ice cream, a slide show of pictures of the the babies then and now, food, and raffles. But the best part was seeing the nurses again. It’s been five months, but seeing them took me back to that sad, bright room full of tiny babies, that frantic, exhausted feeling of wonder and pain we felt watching our babies sleep through the thick plastic of incubators.

When we first walked in, at the greeting table was a short-haired, round-faced nurse who I recognized instantly. She exclaimed loudly and ooed and awed over the babies and how big they’ve grown. I remember sitting with her in the NICU annex, after the babies had moved into open cribs. At that point we knew they would probably be discharged in a matter of days. I had learned how to take their armpit temperature with the thermometer I’d wheel over to the crib; I’d learned how to change their tiny, preemie size diapers. I remember asking her what type of thermometer to get. I was so stressed about the babies coming home, about everything, though I didn’t realize it myself. She had a very brusque, sarcastic way of answering and seemed to find my nervousness funny. I was so grateful for any advice.

Then D saw a lanky, long-haired woman in a maroon sweatshirt. She had on small wire-rim glasses and was standing in a circle of doctors. “That’s the neonatologist I talked to when you were in surgery after the C-section,” he said. “She was the first person I talked to.” I had never seen her. I had been unconscious at that point. I realized what different experiences we’d had in those initial days, though we’d lived it together.

“Cheeks, cheeks, everywhere cheeks!” she exclaimed when we said hello, admiring the babies.

We spoke to the lactation consultant who’d wheeled a breast pump up to my hospital bed while I was still groggy from meds, showing me how to assemble and clean the parts. Later, when I brought my sister and father to visit the hospital she had helped me set up a video monitor so they could see the babies. For the camera, she put both the babies in my arms. It was the first time I held them both at once. I felt so rich.

“They look great!” she said. “You don’t have to say the adjusted age; you can tell people their actual age.”

As we made our way around the room, the nurses all asked, “What was the babies’ last name in the hospital?” They were known there by my last name, though their last name now is their father’s. Hospitals retain their own maternal culture separate from society.

My time in the hospital, the babies’ time in the NICU, was really like a trip to another country. A stay in a foreign land, where you don’t understand the language, you don’t know what rituals are being performed most of the time. But we brought the babies back with us from this foreign land. They made it home.

The Exponentially Increasing Value of My Time

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I remember a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t factor my time into the value of things. A ticket to Shakespeare in the Park was “free” even though it meant waiting in line for four hours. A shirt from Daffy’s was a steal even though it meant a walk across town to the store and then searching through racks trying on clothes in unpredictable sizing until finally hours later emerging with a pair of designer mark-down pants.

Now that the time I have available to complete tasks has been reduced to precious few ticking-by minutes per day, I find myself prioritizing tasks based on the value of my time. Case in point:

I am an illustrator. I love drawing my babies. This morning it occurred to me that painting portraits of babies might be a nice way to make a little extra money at the holidays and get some illustration work. I am a member of a few local parent list servs, and on the spur of the moment I composed an email advertising watercolor portraits of babies or pets.

At first, in my mind, the text read: “Free! Limited time only! Send me a picture of your baby or pet and I’ll send you a 5 x 7 watercolor and a digital file to print onto cards, etc.”

Free advertising, I thought. Then after about a millisecond I reconsidered. Free? Really? But it will take TIME to do the portraits. I’ll say $10, I thought. Then as I was looking at that $10 next to the flashing cursor I thought, wait a minute, it will realistically take me at least an hour to do a portrait, and I am a perfectionist no matter what people pay. I deleted the 10 and put $20. Then I looked at the $20 and thought, that won’t even really cover my materials. $50. Then I looked at the $50 and thought, this is going to take all of my available time. I have about one hour each day, if I’m lucky, in which to complete tasks; is painting baby portraits going to take priority over applying to new jobs, cleaning (so I don’t feel bad about my life), eating, sleeping, maintaining contact with family and friends, hiring a babysitter, finding freelance writing work, paying bills, writing this blog? $60. $80 $100… And then I just deleted the whole thing.

Will I ever return to that place where time feels bountiful? Maybe when I retire. Right now I am like a time-hoarding miser. This morning one twin refused to fall asleep for her morning nap. She cried and cried. I was so resentful. Go to sleep! I said out loud to myself, grabbing my hair. This is my time! This is my only time! I am a stressy mess.

Last week I talked to my sister on the phone about the list of things to do keeping me from falling asleep at night. Her recommendation, “Start with the babysitter, that’s most important.” I think she’s probably right. One thing at a time. I will get through this.

Winter Stoop Scene – Ellie and Mattie Quick Sketch

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This is a sketch of the babies at the bottom of our stoop, waiting for me to put their car seats on the stroller.

Today we broke out the winter jackets for the first time. I was a bit dismayed to find that even though they are eighteen month size, they are a bit tight across the chest. The arms are extremely long, though. I wonder if that’s the way babies grow, becoming thinner and longer? We will see. I have such beautiful roly poly babies.

I Love Raspberries – The Spitty Kind

My baby can make a new sound. One twin has started making raspberries. She definitely seems to have discovered her tongue. She sticks it out very deliberately, so it can feel the breeze. And now she closes her lips around it and blows spit all over the place. I have to say it’s pretty cute. I’m pretty proud.

She is pleased with herself, too, making little farty sounds. I’ve started making raspberries at her now, and she startles every time. Intake of breath, widening of saucer eyes. The world is constantly surprising.

Five Important Baby Things I Forgot to Pack

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This weekend the babies took their first trip out of town. Very exciting. They did well, didn’t seem disoriented, slept well. Packing, though, was a challenge. The car was stuffed to the gills with two adults, two babies, suitcase, double stroller, playmat, two carseats, this that and the other. And still there were five things I forgot. Maybe I will be organized and put together a checklist of baby things to pack for next time. Or maybe I’ll just write down these five things: 

1. Lots of plastic bags

Where do you put diapers when you’re at someone else’s house? They don’t have a Diaper Genie or Diaper Dekor (I love the names of diaper pails, so comedy, but that’s a subject for another post…). You need lots of plastic bags so you can take them to the trash outside. 

2. Stain remover

The babies pooped on my friend’s pillows. Not the best guest behavior, which leads me to number three… 

3. My Breast Friend Double Nursing Pillow

I thought the pillow was just too gigantic to bring, even though I use it seven times a day every day. I thought I could just substitute a pile of regular bed pillows (see item 2 above). Turns out bed pillows are cumbersome and you need a lot of them to support two twins in an upright position, and there’s crying and repositioning involved and you’ll probably just end up nursing them individually instead of together, which is a pain. (And they might get pooped on.)

4. Two moby wraps

I only packed one. In fairness, I thought D was going to bring the other up with him when he came (we went up separately). Still, there is nothing that is more of a pain than a double stroller. We want to take rustic walks in parks, and go to stores, and make our time away from home feel as much like a vacation as possible.

5. Two play mats

Again, I only brought one. Why am I only bringing one of these things? I have two babies! And they are big. They don’t fit in one moby, they don’t fit in one crib, they don’t fit on one mat. I will get it next time I swear.

And just as a note, we went through a pack of 31 diapers. In two days. And almost a whole pack of wipes.

But we did it. We got out of town. We moved ourselves and the babies to a new place for a couple days, levitated the house, and it was lovely. 

Baby Bath Mystery Solved

Okay so maybe everyone else already knew this. I don’t know why I didn’t just do this before.

I couldn’t figure out why my babies hated the bath. At first, when they were teeny little things, we were giving sponge baths. We slowly started adding more water to the tub. Then we tried warmer water, washing their hair first, putting a towel under them. Nothing helped. They became breathless with frantic red screaming. We rushed to give faster and faster baths, resigning ourselves to this horrible ordeal twice a week. 

Well it looks like the problem was simple: I just needed to add more water to the tub. Instead of a small amount of water in the bottom of the baby tub, I just filled it up and dipped them right in. The tub is tilted up so that their heads remain above water.

You wouldn’t think it would take me five months to figure this out. My excuse is that they were preemies and I was extra worried about the water being too hot or too cold, etc. I think I was inspired by a fellow blogger, who blogged a picture of himself in the tub with his baby. I can’t find the picture now, but the baby was in the regular tub, happy as a clam, floating on her back from the looks of it.

Chubby, not grubby, that’s our new motto. What a joy, washing a happy baby in a little baby tub on the dining room table. Ellie actually laughed when we took her out of the water. Hallelujah. 

 

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You can read my post about horrible bath time here: 

https://spacemonkeytwins.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/bath-time-torture/