babies, developmental delay, first time mom, identical boys, military life, pregnancy, SAHM, twin pregnancy, twins

Our Journey with Speech and Occupational Therapy

I wanted to put that image I found because I realize how true it is after having kids. The boys were born early, as are many twins, but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem….for the most part it wasn’t. They didn’t have any major complications, had a fairly short NICU stay (2&3 weeks) and they were healthy. I was hopeful things would be good, they’d catch up on the growth curve and wouldn’t have any major delays. Of course as a mother you want your children to be perfect and as long as they were healthy they were, but I started noticing some things that made me question if I was overreacting or there was something there. Here is the journey we’ve been on for the past 4 years.

The beginning

When I first noticed something was wrong

Since the boys were babies they were pretty quiet. Everyone used to comment on how “well-behaved” they were. Really, they’re babies, how can they be well behaved at this age? I flew with them around 4 months old and everyone on the plane was so delighted at how quiet they were. Ok I get it, having babies on an airplane can suck sometimes with them being babies and all (crying, screaming, hours of just hearing annoying babies). I was so worried as it was traveling with twins, I was so paranoid they’d be THOSE babies on the plane screaming, crying…it just gave me anxiety thinking about it. Luckily they were fine, they were perfect angels and everyone else noticed and commented on down the aisle on the wait out. I was like “Hell yeah, I got me some great babies! *high-five*)

 

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First California tri

When we’d go out to restaurants we got the same thing. In th beginning I used to think wow, I lucked out! Quiet babies. Well behaved babies…but after a while it started to worry me. Around 6 months of age I started noticing how quiet they were and it seemed like it was too good to be true. I knew other moms with babies around the boys’ age and they weren’t doing anything like them in the “talking” department.

By 6 months of age babies should be babbling, they should be loud and they should be making their presence known.

Speech Sound Development for a 6-Month-Old:

At 6 months of age, children should be exploring their vocal systems.  They should begin playing with sounds and making noises.  According to the Liguisystems Guide to Communication Milestones, a 6-month old should do some of the following things:
  • Plays with voice and mouth by squealing, growling, yelling, and blowing raspberries
  • Produces vocalizations that vary weekly and daily
  • Produces a variety of vowel-sounds
  • Begins doing some experimenting with putting a consonant and vowel together, like “buh” or “gah”

But they weren’t doing a majority of those things.

 

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6 months old

 

Naturally, I ask Dr. Google things and start to worry, eventually I calm myself down and chalk it up to being premature. I asked my husband what he thought but since we were first time parents, we both were like “They were early, we have some time.” I brought it up to their Pediatrician and she said if they’re not doing more things by X months, we may have to look into options but let’s give them some time since they were premature.

Ok, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s wait. I’ll enjoy these quiet babies for a little while longer. Don’t panic, don’t panic.

Things weren’t getting any better

So as the months go by the boys were hitting some physical milestones, which made me feel better. I figured they were more focused on the physical aspects of growing vs verbal/communication so I wasn’t too worried. But they turned 9 months, so the worried mama came back. Since I was still friends with those moms, as moms tend to do, I did the good ole comparing my kid vs their kid. I would read all these things their kids were doing/saying and how their kid was communicating with them.

What? Our kid is supposed to communicate with us by now?

We were doing our part, we were talking to them, if they wanted something we’d say the words….we thought we were doing everything right. This was our first time but we didn’t talk to them like babies, no baby talk or anything like that, we talked to them like a normal person. I researched things and they said that’s what your supposed to do. Great. So, why aren’t they talking?! By this age they were getting into their little fits and boy were those fun to deal with. I just assumed they were regular tantrums but then they started tapping their heads on their crib for fun, well, really anywhere for fun. They’d do it sometimes until they’d nod off to sleep in their bed. Something just didn’t feel right about it all. It just felt like I needed to do something, almost 1 year olds should be saying more words besides just blowing raspberries and yelling.

We saw the pediatrician again and after their visit she basically tells us “They should be saying X amount of words by now and communicating with you. If you’d like, I can refer them to a speech pathologist.” That was such a hard thing to hear, that your kid may potentially have a delay and need help.

I don’t mean to sound high and mighty or come off like “How can MY kid need help?!” It was just such a punch in the gut feeling, it felt as if I failed. My first gig as a mother and I can’t get my kids to talk. What did I do? Where did we go wrong? I must be doing this wrong, or that, or……just going around and round the guilt carousel. I know it wasn’t the end of the world, but to me, it felt like it at that moment. I was so scared there was something else wrong with them.

Getting them help

The pediatrician put the referral in and after 2 weeks we were being seen at Early Intervention in Virginia, there it was called the Infant & Toddler Connection. We had one meeting with paperwork and then scheduled eval appointments. (as far as I know, all states have this program, if the child qualifies it’s free.)

We had their hearing checked to rule out any other problems along with their vision. I brought them in the room, one by one and they went through a series of questions for myself, asked the boys and played games to asses them. When you go to these things, even if your only concern is speech, they cover all bases and check everything to see if there are other things going on you might have missed. During their assessment I mentioned that they didn’t talk, they hardly babbled and if they did make sounds it was just two “ba” and “da”. They also had this weird thing where they liked to tap their head on things, their crib, the couches, the walls and floor. Nothing hard but I did mention it during our first meeting.

After that initial assessment they said that the boys were delayed. Speech they noticed they were at about a 4 month delay and were behind in other areas but nothing too severely. So, with those findings a speech therapist and an occupational therapist was sent to our house to do a more thorough screening. She needed to make her own assessment of what level they were at and the OT came to watch them from afar as they crawled and played. After looking at the boys I heard the words I was dreading:

Your boys have a pretty significant speech delay.

I thought hearing that kind of statement from the Dr was enough to prepare me but hearing it from ones who specialize in the field, it hit me hard in the feels. I started to choke up and cry a little.  It was just a feeling of defeat. I felt like I failed my children, my first time being a mom and I caused my kids to have a speech delay. Not just a regular one, a pretty significant one! Their receptive language was very behind as well as their cognitive, if I remember correctly she said they were more on the level of a 6 month old. When I say they were quiet, weren’t talking or communicating, I wasn’t kidding. Two words, “ba” and “da”.  As far as the head banging thing the OT said that it’s relatively normal for their age, and for boys but just to keep an eye on it and if they start hurting themselves, they may need to be seen.

Starting therapy

Some might be thinking these and I’ve also had people telling me:

“Some kids take longer to talk”

“My kid didn’t talk until __ and he/she’s fine”

“They’ll talk eventually”

“They were premature, they’ll catch up”

“Some kids don’t want to talk until they want to”

“Every kid talks eventually. Then you’ll want them to shut up!”

While that’s all true, being a first time mom I didn’t know what lies beyond their age and to me, I just wanted my kids to be normal. Again, they were TOO quiet and I knew if I didn’t try to help them now, I may have bigger problems later on. I’m also one of those people who over think things and sometimes my imagination can run wild with worst case scenarios. I figured what can the sessions hurt? I don’t know what I’m doing and they’ll know how to help.

Doing therapy sessions with 10 month old twin boys was a bit of a spectacle at first  . We tried doing them at the same time but then they quickly realized how fun it was to have two people chase them besides just mommy all the time. After the first few tries I decided it’d just be better to split their time up. That way they get one on one time with her and sh doesn’t have to chase/worry about the other one. While she was downstairs with Liam, I’d be in another room with Evan keeping him busy for 30 min. After a while I quiet enjoyed that time. It was really the only chance I got to get one on one time with the boys and it felt like they enjoyed it too. Having twins is hard on a mom, splitting your attention between the two and each one wants your undivided attention.

Some may be thinking “What? Speech therapy with a baby?!” It’s odd to hear, I mean yeah, they’re babies. Truth is you can’t really do too much with a baby so it was mainly play. She’d read some books, make sounds, play games, sing songs….just regular, everyday stuff. It all seemed like nothing special but I watched her and she gave me tips/tricks to try with them. Those  next few months I learned so much. I realized how important doing little things with your babies helps develop their speech. So many light bulbs went off during that time.

The middle

Ongoing therapy

As months went by and they got older, her approach would change and she’d note their progress. During these few months their behaviors changed. Their tantrums became more violent, their head banging became harder and it turned into a way to vent their frustrations. The boys had been in therapy for a few months now but hadn’t made much progress IMO. The therapist reassured me they were changing and pointed some things out but I just couldn’t see it. (Now I reflect and can remember the changes that were made but couldn’t at the time) I took them to an ENT (ear nose and throat doctor)  to ask about their lip ties effecting their speech. They had class IV lip ties but he said because they were still eating and gaining weight fine, it shouldn’t cause any problems. They just had some slow progress, progress nonetheless but it was still slow. These months were hard on me because of their behavior and tantrums. Once their head banging started getting worse we had the OT come back to look at them. She gave us some tricks to use and they seemed to work. Around this time the boys decided that they wanted to be mouth stuffers as well. They have always been big eaters but we had some gagging issues because they’d shove so much food in their mouths! I only gave them a couple of pieces at a time to help prevent it but they were angry when they didn’t have a constant flow of food. They never did choke, thank goodness, but would gag from all the food they’d shove in their mouths. They’d eat it all, but it was still a sight to see. Everyone used to comment on how much they ate. This kids were putting away a Denny’s Jr Slam within a few minutes!

It wasn’t only food either, these kids shoved EVERYTHING in their mouths! They were around 14 months and they were still shoving everything they could find into their mouths. Luckily they never swallowed anything but they’d just mouth everything. Seriously, I’m not joking when I say they’d shove everything in their mouths! (Picture petrified dog poop found in the backyard) It was such a hard time and it only continued from then on.. heck at 4 yrs old they still sometimes do it! (not the poop though ;))

I had the ST talk to the OT and she ended up giving me tricks to try with for their mouth stuffing, but she still said everything I mentioned fell into the norm for kids their age. WHAT?!

She WAS the expert after all and since they weren’t causing any harm to themselves, it wasn’t really an issue. Yet.

We continued with their therapy until we moved. By the time we finished up in Virginia they were starting to sign a bit and were saying a couple of words but it still wasn’t where we wanted them to be. They were 18 months when we left and still at the speech level of a 12-14 month old.

When we moved here to NC we transferred services. The boys were still eligible until the age of 3 so we saw Early Intervention here in NC. We took the boys in to be evaluated and I mentioned the mouth stuffing, head thing and all that jazz again. This time we had a separate eval for the boys with the OT and they were put into services. She noticed they had decreased muscle tone, she would work with them on mouth stuffing and spacial awareness to see if that’d help with other things. Each one had therapy twice a week for 30 minutes and OT once a week for one hour here at home. The schedule wasn’t too bad but with my daughter in the mix of things, it was starting to become a juggling act taking everyone out constantly.

Now, I’m lightly glazing over their tantrums and head banging because it was such a hard thing to go through but now I realize it was due to their speech. When I mention head banging, I mean they were starting to REALLY go at it with their tantrums. They went from tapping, to banging to slamming their heads on things. What I thought may just be a boy thing quickly went to an “Oh shit, wtf is going on with them?” thing.

We’re talking about head banging tantrums with blood dripping out of their noses. I lost count over how many times I’d go into their room to get them to stop hitting their heads, only to see them get up with blood soaked onto their clothes and into the carpet, as if it were nothing. On top of them still not really talking, they were now doing this to me.

During the next few months to a year the boys started to make a big change. I’m not sure if it was the age but they were now almost 3. They seemed to connect with their speech therapist and started to make progress! With that speech progress came improvement with their tantrums and other things. With their OT they were staring to do more physical things. Before they wouldn’t jump from certain heights, wouldn’t do any upper body movements, just normal things 2 year olds would do when they play. Now they were jumping off of ledges, doing spins, hanging from bars and lots of fun preschooler things. They were more confident in how their bodies moved, which has gotten them in some trouble heh but they were just happier. They were able to keep up with kids on the playground because of all the things she was working with them  on.

The end

After the boys turned 3 they were transferred from Early Intervention to the state. They qualified for a free pre-k program at the local school and were receiving speech there on top of seeing their regular therapists. This was both exciting and nerve wrecking for myself. The schedule of doing it all was one thing but I was worried about them still not talking and being in a school setting! Those first few drop offs tugged at my heart-strings but after that, I realized how great it was for them. During this time they made leaps and bounds of improvement. They were receiving speech once a week during school on top of the private therapies and it seemed to be making a difference.

As they started talking more their behavior started to improve. They stopped head banging, throwing wild tantrums and just make my life less miserable. I didn’t have to walk out of places with two kids thrown over my shoulder, I didn’t have to get the stares from strangers after Evan slammed his head into the wall repeatedly after he got mad at me, no more dealing with chimpanzee like children because of being non verbal and just throwing wild tantrums. They were talking now. THEY WERE TALKING! I think the first time they said a sentence to me, I cried. It took 3 years for my kids to actually talk to me and everything became worth it. The horrible guilt I felt, the anxiety I went through, the hours of crying, feeling inadequate and just feeling like a failure were all going away.

Because they were non verbal for so long, they really did develop that twin language I heard so much about. They still use some of it and they’ve become nick names for each other now. When they were first trying to say words, they’d call each other “atta” instead of brother because I’d always refer to the other one as brother. I hear them yelling at each other down the hall and they still call “ATTA!” but then usually one will correct the other and say “I’m not atta, i’m Liam! Don’t call me atta.” It’s crazy to hear that. I still love to hear them talk to me. It drives me nuts sometimes and yeah, it gets annoying (I remember what people used to tell me!) but I still love that they talk to me. I still look at Dan and say “I still can’t believe their having conversations with us.” When he came back from deployment he was blown away at how much they had changed during those 9 months. He left when they were just barely saying words and came home to them telling him stories. Those memories of the past 3 years still are very vivid in my head and even though they drive me nuts with some things, I still love to hear them talk to me.

They’re 4 now , 5 in August and they’ll continue speech at school and privately until we move.

Their speech therapist Laura said to me the other day, which I still can’t believe.

“You know, if they keep this up then they’ll transition out before you guys move.”

I get all sorts of emotions when I remember her say that but it’s still so weird to think about them not being in speech. As far as OT is concerned we’ll see how they do over the next couple of months but I think they’ll be ok from what their therapist tells me.

The future

Since the boys will be 5 this year and can technically start Kindergarten, I’m having an internal debate on what to do. If they are transitioned out that’d be great but I still need to have our IEP meeting with the school to see what her recommendation is for speech. If they are good I think I might keep them in pre-k for one more year. Even though their speech is leaps and bounds where it used to be, I still feel they need the social aspect of another year. The speech delay has prevented them from socializing, that I know. They’re still not like other kids when it comes to their social interaction but that’s a discussion I’ll have to have with Dan.

This whole speech and occupational experience has been a learning experience, for everyone. When I had twins I didn’t think we’d go down this path, but I’m glad we had the resources to be able to get help. Heck, these programs have been apart of our lives for 4+ years now and I’m so thankful I went with my gut. I remember while at a speech session for the boys I picked up a magazine and read an article similar to this. I told you guys about my internal guilt and that article right there just made me feel 1000 times better that morning.

My thoughts on this whole journey

I now know going through this experience the struggles of speech delayed moms. The boys aren’t autistic but I do have  cousin who is high functioning and I often remembered my cousin’s struggles with his speech and getting him diagnosed. I remember her going through the steps to get him help the help he needed and now I’ve had to go through a similar process for the boys. Having a child who can’t communicate with you properly is hard on everyone. I felt bad because they couldn’t communicate with us but I wanted to push them to try as well. There were countless hours of screaming, yelling, crying, frustrations and bad moods on both sides. It was such an exhausting time, especially that age from 2-3, that was the hardest year by far with everything going on. Since I’ve had the other two I’m really seeing how true that article is. Claire was full term and Jacob was as well. Claire has NO problems with speech, I was worried for  little bit when the boys were still learning but she didn’t have any issues. Jacob is still young and but he’s definitely more vocal than the boys were at his age. I’m more confident that theirs is a prematurity thing. Liam has an easier time with annunciation than Evan does, Evan still has a bit more trouble with his annunciation but they are coming along.

PLEASE if you think your child might have a delay, even if everyone is telling you to brush it off or giving reasons as to why not to worry, just go talk to someone. Talk to your Pediatrician. Get the evaluation through Early Intervention if your team of people suspects something or through the school district!

What’s it going to hurt? The evaluations are FREE! There is nothing better than a worried mama’s mind put at ease.

Please if you have any other useful information to add comment below to help anyone else out!

 

Resources:

ASHA- typical speech and language development

ASHA- speech pathology

What you need to know about speech therapy

KidsHealth- Occupational therapy

ASHA- early intervention resource links

U.S. Dept of Education- Early intervention Program

Center for Parent Information and Resources- Transition from early childhood services

Center for Parent Information and Resources- How to get services in your area

 

 

 

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cook, food, kitchen, military life, recruiting duty, SAHM, Uncategorized

Pictures and tacos

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My almost 8 month handsome boys!

Last Friday we had their “6 month” (we did them late due to her schedule, but they are almost 8 months now) done! I’m so excited/anxious to see how they turned out, I hope they turned out ok. It was sunny, which was great, but it got colder towards sunset and then it was a bit windy. I had the cutest outfits for them to wear and was sort of bummed it was chilly/windy out so I didn’t get to put their shoes on because I didn’t want to make them more miserable. They were fine in the beginning but started getting cranky when their noses were red and runny, plus, they were cold. We had to take a couple breaks to keep them warm so everything was a bit rushed, I didn’t want to chance them getting sick since they haven’t been yet. This is the same photographer that we’ve been using and she is great. She is seriously sweet and we are going with her “baby’s first year” package she has so we did a maternity, newborn, 6 months and will do their 1 year later on. I’m so excited to put together a little collage with all the pictures we’ve gotten. If you’re in the northern Virginia area check her out! Her name is Marian Lozano and she does wonderful work, I love that she does simple photos and captures people wonderfully.

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One of the outfits for picture day

Gosh, I can’t believe they’ll be 8 months old already, the time has gone by at an ok pace but it’s really been a blur. I can hardly remember my pregnancy or the first 6 months really and that’s something to say because when I usually say things like that, i’m drunk ;). Overall they’ve been great an now that my BC pills are regulating my hormones now, I can really enjoy them which is fantastic.

So, speaking of feeling better, i’ve realized that I haven’t really cooked lately, which is odd because I love to cook and i’ve been wanting Mexican food. So while we shopped at a new supermarket, Food Lion (new to us since we’re new to the area) I saw some pork and decided that we haven’t had carnitas for a while. I picked up the ingredients: boston butt, cilantro, corn tortillas, jalapenos and we headed home. They’ve been kinda fussy the past couple of days so it was really a 2 day process to make. I cooked the carnitas on Monday night and put everything together today for dinner. I’ll post the recipe below on what I did with the carnitas. I went a little out for this because I didn’t like the flavor of the tortillas, they tasted a bit sweet and it just didn’t taste right to me. Now, i’ve been wanting to make corn tortillas for a while but usually forget or get lazy so this was a perfect opportunity to do it! So all in all, for dinner tonight it’s carnita tacos with homemade salsa roja and corn tortillas, oh, and also some flan since I haven’t had that for a while either. I gotta say too, that fresh corn tortillas make ALL the difference and now, will never go back to store bought corn tortillas! I also think next time, to get a prettier red color, i’ll toast a guajillo chile to add more umph to the redness.

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Carnitas braised in milk

3 1/2-4lb boston butt or pork shoulder

1 ceylon cinnamon stick (not as strong a flavor as regular) or cinnamon stick broken into small pieces

3 garlic whole garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 white onion cut into chunks

1/4 cup orange juice or juice of 1 orange

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

2 tbsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2-1 tsp mexican oregano (1/2 if using regular oregano)

1 cup milk

1/2 cup water

  1. Cut the pork into big chunks and place into a bowl. Add all spices to the meat and toss to coat evenly. Brown pork in a pot and place into a large dish into one even layer.
  2. Place garlic, cinnamon and onion into the cracks of the meat.
  3. Pour liquids over meat.
  4. Drizzle a little oil over the tops of the meat that stick above the liquid to avoid drying it out then cover dish with foil.
  5. Place into a 350 degree oven and cook for 3-4 hours until tender then shred meat.
  6. Strain liquid and skim off the fat. Place 1/2 of the juice back into the dish, pour shredded meat into it and toss.
  7. Place into fridge overnight so the flavors can meld.
  8. Turn broiler on and place under until meat is heated through.
  9. When you’re ready to serve meat place a little bit of oil in a pan then fry meat until crispy, enjoy!

 

Salsa roja- Makes only a little, just enough for the tacos

3 roma tomatoes cut into chunks (I used 4 canned whole tomatoes)

3 garlic cloves

1 heaping handful of chile de arbol, remove stems

oil

1 tsp kosher salt

  1. Place about 1 tbsp of oil into a pan and fry garlic and chiles. Make sure to open a window or turn your vent on!!! Fry until golden and add to blender.
  2. Add in chopped tomatoes and fry for about 2 minutes, then add in 1/4 cup water and let boil for about 2 minutes.
  3. Place everything into blender, add water or if you’re using canned then add some of the juice until everything is combined. Add more salt if needed.
babies, first time mom, identical boys, multiples pregnancy, SAHM, twins

Twins? You must feel so lucky!

I’ve been wanting to do a post on this for a while now and feel like it’s about the right time now that I’ve gotten some experience under my belt. I get that statement a lot and I always feel really awkward when people say it, especially as a first time mom, mainly because in a way, I don’t feel so lucky. Let me give you a little background on what’s been going on.

Obviously these are my first babies, like i’ve said previously, but i’ve been battling some issues since their birth, mainly PPD. I had read that women who are pregnant with multiples, tend to experience a higher rate of PPD but since I was feeling “ok”, aside from the normal feelings of the NICU experience and stress, I brushed them off as normal feelings. Well, it had finally reached the point where a lot of those feelings weren’t going away. Yes, having twins is stressful and yes, doing it mainly alone is as well but I always have had that “suck it up” attitude and have depended heavily on that to get me through the rough times.These feelings have lingered and I came to the conclusion I have, at least, mild PPD with a mix of anxiety and stress. My symptoms are the always sad, secluding myself from others, avoiding family and friends, feeling helpless, not feeling connected, not feeling like their mother, crying a lot, feeling like i’m playing a babysitting role, resenting them and having some scary thoughts. By scary thoughts, I mean wanting to shove a pillow over their faces to stop them from crying, those kinds and yes, very scary! While I know I would never do anything to physically harm my babies, I did find myself handling them a little rougher than normal (nothing like shaken baby or hitting) but just not holding them gently as I was doing before. So, I finally figured out what was going on and decided to see my Dr about it, this was last week.

I went to see her and as the nurse brought me into the room and asked me what I was here for, I immediately burst into tears. She gave me some tissues and I finally admitted it to a stranger, “I think I have PPD” and continued with the crying. She sympathized because she had gone through the same thing and said “I’m glad you came in, it’s hard to admit you need help.”. She asked me a series of questions and the Dr came in to talk to me more. Through more tears and telling her what I was feeling, she immediately had me talk to the nurse practitioner that specializes in mental health. I talked to her for about an hour just venting and going over my symptoms more in detail and she recommended some medication and to talk to a psychiatrist to evaluate me more.

So that’s what i’ve been doing for the past week or so, besides being involved in the process of moving. I wanted to bring up the PPD because it’s something that is known about, talked about and you’ve heard about other mom’s having it but it’s something you never really want to admit you might have or think that it’ll happen to you. I’m here to say ladies, mom’s, husbands with wives having similar problems, friends of moms and so forth, if you’re not feeling “normal” and just not yourself, do yourself a favor and see your Dr about the symptoms you’re having. What’s the worst that can happen, your Dr says your feeling normal stress and to try some relaxing techniques! The psychiatrist and nurse I talked to said a lot of the things I was telling them were normal, yes, even the shoving a pillow over their faces!! I was a bit shocked at their feedback but at the same time felt a whole lot better knowing I wasn’t just crazy and what I’ve been feeling is legitimate.

So, explaining that brings me to what I was going to talk about. When I was talking to the psychiatrist I mentioned that I feel a lot of guilt/anger/jealousy/resentment towards other mom’s when they tell me this because I don’t feel lucky! No, I wouldn’t change anything in the world for my boys, I love them, but I ENVY mom’s with one baby. Seriously. I say that because as rewarding as it is to have double the smiles and giggles everyday, it’s not only stressful but it leaves you with a sense of guilt. I can’t focus all my time on one baby, I constantly have to split my time between the two and as a first time mom, I feel guilty about that. When I got pregnant, I imagined a world with only one baby that I could shower with love, take care of, smother with hugs and kisses and just solely focus on them to help with their development and so forth, but I can’t. That’s where the guilt/resentment/jealousy comes in towards moms with only one baby. I really wanted to have one, then another year or so later have another but i’ll never get to have that now. Yes, I did get to knock out two babies at once but most days I can’t help to feel like i’m failing them, it’s probably the PPD talking, but I do. But as I feel those things I do feel lucky in a sense that i’m not totally obsessed with them, meaning freaking out about them constantly because I can’t give them my undevided attention. I hear/read about mom’s freaking out over the little things with their babies, granted most of them are first time moms and this is where I understand the experience comes in with moms of more than one, but i’m thankful i’m not like that! I really, don’t freak out about them that much, I don’t worry constantly about them because there are two so I can’t focus solely on that one specific item, make sense? In a way, I already feel like a seasoned mom and I know that feeling will only strengthen with time but I do yearn for that feeling in a way, of the first time mom. Maybe it’s due to my laid back personality but I tend to laugh when I read about moms worrying about small things.

So, do I feel lucky? In a way yes and no. I feel lucky that I have two healthy babies, despite being born early and that they’ll always have each other but not lucky that there are two to constantly deal with at the same time. So, I say to your mom’s of only one, I envy you! Yes I do, you only get to worry about one baby and get to snuggle with it constantly, but while you’re snuggling there peacefully with your babe, I get to worry about why Evan has Liam’s head in his mouth or worry about the dog licking their face when one throws up on the other.

marine corps, military life, recruiting duty, SAHM

The military side of my life- surviving recruiting duty

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I haven’t done a post about the military side of our life so here it goes. We got married on February 12, 2012 so I don’t have too much experience as a Marine wife yet, but I do have a lot of experience with the duty we’re on now, which is recruiting duty. This post will mainly explain what this duty entails and might help anyone who has stumbled upon this for informational purposes.

Not sure how many of you reading this have dated a military man, married one or are in the military yourself but this duty is, how would I put this…….Shitty.

That’s it, it’s just plain shitty! Do you remember going to your school on career day, seeing the guys in their uniforms, walking around or having a booth set up with the military branch they’re representing? Well, that’s what my husband is doing now. They become a salesman and their pitch is selling the Marine Corps. Yup, your husband or wife is now a salesman! The market is vast, the territory is sometimes large and you can sell to any income bracket. If your husband or wife has a silver tongue, is charismatic and enjoys a challenge then this is their duty!  It involves lots of high school kids, college kids and most of all, parents. Someone may say,  “It should be easy because of the economy!” “1351605039.jpgWho doesn’t want free college?” “Graduate high school and go sign up!”  Well, that’s where it’s tricky. Since the cut backs and downsizing the military, getting in is more strict than ever. In the past people were flocking to join, it was a lot easier to get in but there are so many restrictions now. More thorough screenings and requirements that it makes it harder to get in now. Granted, you can still get in but you just have to meet all those requirements….a lot more people get turned away than you think. I’ve heard of many young kids wanting to join only to be turned away because they didn’t score high enough on the ASVAB or just weren’t qualified medically, plus the many other reasons. In certain states and areas there are many that want to join but just sadly, can’t answer the simplest of questions on the test so they’re turned away because the education minimum wasn’t met.

We started this duty on June 1st, 2011 are over halfway through! We’ll be done next June and I cannot wait to have my husband back to myself, he feels like a ghost in this house.

Why do I say this duty is shitty? Well, the hours, the hours that he spends away from us is just insane. I will see him for a total of about 2 hours a day, at night, after they’re in bed, Monday through Friday. On the weekends I see him, hopefully after 2pm on Saturday but usually not until after 5. If he doesn’t have to drive or go to an event (makes appearances at random locations to help set up a table) then we get to see him all day Sunday. Awesome right? So, let that just be a little schedule for those who are about to start recruiting duty. Usually, they get the weekends off, unless it’s their turn to drive their guys to MEPS on Sundays but they’re usually home by 3. Unless they haven’t made mission, then they get to work Saturday too. My husband falls into both those categories and has been on the 6-7 days a week the whole time we’ve started.

I will say, your recruiting duty experience will depend heavily on a few factors:

  1. Where he/she is recruiting out of– The area will really determine how hard of a time they have. Some areas are easier than others and we are in a hard to recruit area.
  2. Their boss– If their boss is an ass, works them all the time and is lazy or, just an ass, then that’ll mean long hours and them being ridden hard like the cheap $2 an hour burro you would rent down in TJ.
  3. If they make mission– If they’re scrambling around to put in guys at the last minute, that usually means all hands on deck, even if they’ve put in their people for the month.
  4. The kind of RS they’re with– Some RS’s will grant holidays off and usually that will be on down the RSSs but, #2 or #3 will override that.
  5. The other recruiters in the office– If they get stuck with lazy recruiters, then they’ll be picking up the slack and that usually means, your guy is stuck late, again. Also refer to #3.

This duty has a lot of stressors in it. Not only are they constantly working to put write up contracts, they are just always working towards the next month. #1 can really make the whole experience stressful in itself. There are stations out there that are known for being real shitty because they can’t get any quality people in. The areas can be great or a living hell. Scraping at the bottom of the barrel is hard enough but it’s worse when you have to find quality scraps down there to write up. Going in the opposite direction is if you get a good area they think they’re too good for the military and the parents/community have the same mindset. Then there’s also the ones who know someone who’s dad or uncle or whatever is up the chain and you have to get them in. So it can go all sorts of ways depending on the area you’re in. To expand on #4 there are well known RS’s out there, some people gravitate towards certain districts to get into the RS they want. Dan wanted a certain district to go to a certain RS. There are ways you can up your chances of getting where you want to go while in school by making phone calls and getting your name in there. You’re sent to where your needed, pretty much based on that Marine’s background and where he’d fit best at. If there’s an opening at a station you want to go to, make those phone calls and talk to the SNOIC and the CO, play your cards right and they’ll put your name in to get you there.

With all that said, it’s hard on the recruiters and their families with this duty and will no doubt, test things at times. Before we started, I told him that no matter what stress he had at work, he needed to leave it there and we wouldn’t have any problems. For the most part that has worked out and we haven’t any problems. Taking care of the kids alone is hard but it’s one of those things you just learn to deal with on this duty. It is what it is and you just need to push through those rough times and focus on the end. Luckily for us they’re still babies so they don’t really notice it and this is going to sound bad but, they don’t even really miss him because he hasn’t been around much. Tough to hear, I know, but it’s the truth. This job takes them away from family and can be rough on older kids who are aware of what’s going on so just brace yourself for that. On top of you missing your husband, your kids will too and may have a hard time coping. He hasn’t taken any time off since we’ve started because if he does, he’ll be behind and it’ll put more stress on him, just thinking of taking leave stresses him out. Heck, when the boys were born he was on his phone working because his boss was blowing it up asking all sorts of questions!  This duty has changed my happy, sweet, caring, funny, polite, helpful Dan into a bitter, cranky, lazy Dan. Being alone sucks, especially when your husband is right there, but you can’t see him, spend time with him or enjoy him to much because you can see the stress of the duty weigh him down . We’ve had our challenges, but I like to think we’re doing pretty darn good.

*Edit 2/21/13- I found this link and thought she did a way better job than I could have to describe this duty!

*Edit 2/23/13- Someone was asking about the different wording and terms in a group and I came upon this list. Just for those curious about the lingo you’re going to hear all about!

Besides the shitty part of it all, yes, you can get through it and that’s what we’re doing. I’ll share some of my own tips/thoughts on how to survive. You’ll both need to get on the same page but it can be done and you can get through it.

  • Enjoy what time you have with him/her– Sometimes they may be tired and just don’t want to do anything. Sometimes it can be frustrating that they just want to stay home but soak that up. Snuggle together, enjoy the quiet, get the kids in on it. Plan activities you can do at home together, anything just to enjoy time with your spouse.
  • Quality time/romance– The little time you have together is precious so make the most of it. Get a date in, re-kindle that flame, talk about things besides recruiting, anything to get that quality time in together. I will say though, for most, their sex life tends to go downhill because of the stress!
  • Be empathetic– As I’ve explained in this post, this duty can be very hard on them. It’s a constant 12+ hour a day job and they might be cranky because a kid changed his mind, might have to go to a last minute event, or has to cancel plans with you because he has to drive a kid up to MEPs late.
  • Find time for yourself– Yes, you might not see them a lot but that doesn’t mean that should stop you from doing what you want to. Face it, you’re going to be spending a lot of time alone so if you can find something that occupies your time then go for it. Keeping busy is better than sitting there, watching the clock, upset that he’ll miss dinner/cancel plans again because of work.
  • Sometimes they won’t talk– You know, some days he used to come home and just be silent. I used to think I did something wrong….all sorts of thoughts went through my mind but after talking to him I calmed down. They talk all day long on the phone, in person, argue with another recruiter, talking to strangers……it gets to them. Just resting their voice box is what they want.
  • Have stuff for them to do– As military wives, you’ll have to do a lot of stuff on your own sometimes but that doesn’t mean they can just sit around and do nothing. Give them weekly jobs! For instance, he knows to take out the trash every Monday/Thursday and take the dog out in the morning. Being understanding of the duty is key but hey, that doesn’t allow them a free pass on helping around the house!
  • Visit if you can– Some wives I know will go to the office to visit their husbands. Ask him tell you his schedule for the day and sneak in a lunch/early dinner if you can, even bring the kids if that’s ok. Get in that time to see him when he has a moment to spare.
  • Help out when you can– Like I said, this duty is very demanding but help out where you can. I’ve made breakfast sandwiches for him to take every morning that sit in the freezer, or I will sometimes pack up his lunch/dinner, buy him snacks and have him keep them at the office or buy him a pack of red bull. They practically live out of their office and govy so having things nearby cuts time from getting food or things somewhere else.
  • Get to know other wives in the office– Ask him if the other recruiters are married and make friends! I’ve met the wives at his old office and talk to one of them, the other I don’t have her info but i’ve hung out with them at the balls and they’re both great. If they lived closer I’d do play dates or just hang out.
  • Find an online group if you can– I actually met two other ladies off of a FB group from our RS. It was great because at my first ball, I met up with them and now we talk often.
  • Socialize at the balls– The recruiting balls are based on each RS so you’ll meet all the recruiters and their wives/husbands there. Each table is based on each RSS so you’ll get a chance to meet everyone there.
  • Talk to your FRO– There are usually retreats and activities going on that the FRO will know about so go to some of those! I’ve been to a L.I.N.K.S class while on this duty and met some other wives there.
  • If you can, work some– If you can’t find something to occupy your time working full or part time is great. Seriously. I say that because you’ll be spending lots of time by yourself and working, even if its not full time, will help you get to know other people and the area. Plus, a little extra money is great if it goes towards your budget or just your own spending account ;). I’ve made some friends from the job I used to have, I had to quit because of the boys.
  • Get involved locally– Can’t work or have kids? Finding local mom groups or volunteering in the community is great. It helps keep you busy and you may make some friends! Also, it can’t hurt to pass your husband’s business card to someone whose interested ;).
  • There is opportunity for advancement on this duty– You can get meritoriously promoted, lots pick up by becoming an 8412 and many choose to run their own station. Dan took over as the SNOIC of a station because he wanted to have a leg up come promotion boards.

Those are the main ones I think of when it comes to getting through this duty. Dan just recently became SNOIC of his own station so we’ll see how the hours go from here, they should get better, right? lol. If you have any other suggestions, go ahead and comment with them!

*BTW the hours don’t really change! He got his weekends back so that was a bonus! He didn’t work as late, unless they were behind on mission, but he just ended up dealing more with the higher ups.

 

Out of all the memes I’ve come across for recruiting duty, this is my favorite!

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*2/11/17- WOW so I didn’t think that this would be the most viewed post! I’m glad that this has been a source of some insight for people. I know when we started this duty there was hardly any information out there. Sure there was the technical stuff but no real insight to the experience . This has been viewed lots of times so I really do hope it’s been helpful to those out there. I just had a conversation with a MGySgt last night about the whole recruiting experience. There really is that classic, silent head nod given to other Marines when they see the recruiting ribbon. He was a drill instructor before and then did another b billet as a recruiter and he even said “I’d rather do  DI again than do another round of recruiting.”