This is a real birth story. I wanted to keep it appropriate, but true to our experience. I know I would have appreciated reading something like this before our c-section, so I wanted to be as vulnerable as appropriate. Be prepared for a few pictures with blood. Also, keep in mind that no two birth stories are the same. Everyone’s experiences are different.
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Small Surprises Add Up
Some things just cannot be predicted. Twin boys were never a thought our minds. I didn’t think it was possible, nor had I ever wished for twins. (Too much work I always thought.) I’d even joked with the ultrasound nurse that there was no chance of us having twins. When she simply stated “There’s two.” I thought she was playing a mean joke on me. Only she sounded serious. Nope. Not a joke.
But as time went on, I realized what a beautiful blessing our boys would be. And still are. I spent a few weeks thinking I did not sign up for this. But now, even on the crazy hard days I think, how did we get so lucky?
I knew twin pregnancies and births were often premature and marked by complications. But after Rebekah’s fantastic and empowering pregnancy and natural homebirth experience, I was determined to replicate it as much as possible. However, I reluctantly agreed that we should do a hospital birth. The hospital wouldn’t allow a midwife to deliver twins. I guess the chances of c-sections were too high. But our OB, the little we saw of her anyway, was totally on our team. She leveled with us about protocol, but also supported us and pulled strings to get us approved for the low intervention birthing rooms.
She was a busy, in-and-out woman. We rarely saw her for a full 5 minutes. I thought on numerous occasions that she must have a lot of caffeine pulsing through her veins. But OBs have a lot of patients. She was a great doctor, and we always felt heard and supported. Still, I missed the extra time and wholistic care of a midwife. Around the third trimester we decided to hire a doula.
Hiring a doula, though I wouldn’t end up needing her for the births, was the best decision I could have made. After a rough first trimester with tons of morning sickness and fatigue, and now a lot of emotions and fears rising to the surface, I needed someone to offer encouragement, advice, and to help connect me to other twin moms. Kim, our doula, was amazing. She helped me work through a lot of my baggage and gave invaluable nutrition advice. I believe everyone deserves the support of a doula.
A Defeat to My Determination
Almost the whole pregnancy I stubbornly believed that we would do a completely natural birth. I was determined. And you don’t want to mess with me when I am determined to do something. It is both a character strength and flaw.
I read books, I did positive visualizations of a natural birth in a hospital setting, and I constructed our perfect birth plan. When the ultrasounds showed the boys both transverse well into the second trimester, I didn’t bat an eye. Then, when Daniel turned breech, I told myself he would still turn head down. Our OB wasn’t worried. Babies turn all the time. Right?
Wrong. After a certain point, weekly ultrasounds were required with twins. And slowly, this new reality started to swell within me. Daniel wasn’t turning. I fought to stay hopeful. I drug in the ironing board from the garage and did all the uncomfortable tilts and exercises. I even visited a special chiropractor at 36 weeks. She was my last bet. And I knew it was a long shot.
Fortunately, our kind doula had talked to me about beginning to mentally prepare for a c-section and all outcomes (even a NICU stay). I read and reread the chapter on c-sections in Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation (super on sale through Amazon right now) and prepared to make the best of it.
I grieved for a few weeks what wouldn’t be: that amazing, empowering experience I had with Rebekah. An experience that made me feel like I could conquer the world. Which I know sounds dumb when all that ultimately matters is that our boys are born healthy. But it was a hurdle for me. I had never been hospitalized or had even minor surgery. Unless you count an ingrown toenail. Hospitals do not make me feel safe. I don’t know why. I wish it were different. Many prayers, tears, and gnashing of teeth later, I had accepted that we would have a c-section, AND it would not be the end of the world.
Sure enough, when we went in at 38 weeks, everything still looked good, but Daniel didn’t do the practice breathing on the ultrasound. That really wasn’t a red flag. He had done it every other time, but our OB thought it was best to be extra safe. She asked us how we felt about coming in for a c-section the next day.
The Big Day
That Monday after our appointment we frantically ran around town completing last-minute errands. We made sure family would be in town to watch Rebekah. Still, it felt surreal, like I was embarking on a new quest–equal parts excited and scared. I don’t know how I managed to sleep. When I did wake up early, I just got up and wrote this honest and vulnerable post.
Honestly, the worst part of the pre-surgery was not being able to eat or drink anything. I like breakfast and food in general. And after they got us checked in and washed me down and hooked me up, they kept moving back the time of the surgery. I hear this happens a lot.
I was nervous sweating like crazy and felt more and more restless with each hour that passed. All of our nurses were great, with the exception of the older one who prepped me. I tried to voice my nerves, and I swear she all but rolled her eyes! To be fair, I probably annoyed her. She had to have both babies hooked up to the monitors wrapped around my belly. And when she would leave the room I would shift a bit onto my side. It had been uncomfortable to lie on my back since about 16 weeks. I was annoyed and rebelling just a bit. The nurse would come back in and adjust things, over and over. Poor woman. #SorryNotSorry
Finally it was time. The anesthesiologist came in to go over things with me and get my signature. He had kind eyes and seemed understanding. Though when I requested that Mitch come with me for the spinal, he looked at the nurse who shook her head– once again making me feel like she was not on my team.
They wheeled me off, leaving Mitch to change into his gown and coverings. Weeks later I found a sweet message he recorded for me on my phone right before they called him in. He also found time to scrawl sweet notes to our boys in their journals. He’s a keeper. 🙂
The room was about what I expected: sterile and cold. And there were a couple nurses bustling about now. Both of the anesthesiologists were very kind men. In fact, they did more to comfort me and reassure me than any of the nurses. Which I didn’t expect out of men. But I’m glad they were there. The spinal was not near as scary as I imagined. And other than feeling cold, nervous sweats, I was okay.
While they finished prep, I just kept babbling like an idiot. I couldn’t help it and wanted Mitch. Finally, our OB entered in her usual flurry. I tried to ask if we were still doing the delayed cord clamping, and she said yes. They finally allowed Mitch in. I could tell he was so excited and in “go mode”. They told us he could hook up his phone to Bluetooth to play music, which was a treat we were not expecting. One of the nurses also held my phone so she could capture pictures for us. I hadn’t thought that out and was so thankful she offered!
In a matter of minutes, with no pain, just light pressure, Daniel emerged. I could hear Mitch’s happy, tear-filled exclamations. And though I tried to crane my neck, I didn’t catch a glimpse. They whisked him off to check him over. Those minutes felt like an eternity! Fortunately both boys were perfect tens, they just cleaned them up a bit.
Three minutes later, Joseph emerged quite cross with the world. They both had been wedged inside me, but Joseph tried to come out jack-knifed. Typical Joseph!
Mitch went back to help clean up the boys and trim the cords. Those few minutes are my longest minutes to date. Finally, they brought both boys to me. There was a nurse on one side with Joseph, Mitch on the other with Daniel. Daniel instinctively started nursing like a champ. And Joseph tried a bit, but he just wanted to cuddle into me for safety. My arms felt semi-useless with the IV and whatnot, but I wrapped them around them the best I could. I was so happy we still got that skin-to-skin connection.
I just kept whispering to both of them how loved they were, that they were safe, loved, and home. At that moment, it couldn’t have mattered less to me how our boys entered the world. They were here.
Recovery is No Joke
I prepared myself mentally for the surgery. Not the recovery. I knew I wouldn’t be able to lift, but beyond that I was quite naive. They wheeled me and the boys to another room with Mitch. At that point I was too smitten in love to notice anything going on around me. Though I was THIRSTY and practically begging for water. They said I could maybe have some ice chips.
Then it was time to go to our room. I remember them wheeling the boys and I by the waiting room where I saw my parents, Mitch’s mom and stepdad, and Rebekah. Though I was excited to see them, all I could think about were my boys and ice chips. I downed those ice chips faster than they suggested. That was the first real moment I realized that recovery would not be easy.
After downing the ice chips and talking them into bringing me water, I threw up. But I was so thirsty I kept trying the recommended “small sips”. And I kept throwing it all back up. For a short time water was what I wanted most in the world, but it was not kind to me.
I was still hooked up to an IV, so they gave me fluids there. And they hooked up these weird pulsing things to my legs to help prevent blood clots. It was awkward, but they did their best to keep me comfortable.
After settling in, we welcomed in family. Rebekah came in and timidly marched over to me with a small present she bought me with grandma. We tried to not have my arms full of boys so I could hold her. I still had one of the boys in my arms though. Mitch lifted her up, and I cuddled her in close with my other arm as I introduced her to her brothers. We also gave her a small gift “from her brothers”. (More on this book later–it is an absolute favorite!) Holding my little family close together was a perfect moment.
I feel like I could write pages about our recovery at the hospital. The care was great; however, it annoyed me having nurses and various people in and out all day and night. The food was surprisingly good. But it would just arrive and then a visitor, or nurse, or lactation consultant would pop in. I don’t think I ever ate the food hot. Oh, and it took me a good 16 hours to be able to be able to eat after the surgery.
Daniel and Joseph were great sleepers. They didn’t cry with their circumcisions (though they wanted to sleep a lot after), and they didn’t cry with their baths. They nursed great from the beginning. I had brought my giant twin nursing pillow with us. And it was invaluable. The first night nurse was amazing at helping position the boys for me. She was so encouraging saying “Mama you are rocking this! Look at you tandem feeding on night one!” We LOVED her.
Once I could walk–hunched over because my abdomen was so tender–the only place I attempted was the bathroom. And only because if I didn’t pee soon, I would have to have an in-and-out catheter. No thanks! And I had to pee. Bad. But not a drip would come. The nurses tried every trick under the sun with me–warm running water, spitz bath, some weird sneeze thing. They even gave me a couple extra hours to try. No luck. Apparently this happens to a lot of women post c-section.
Getting a catheter was the most painful “procedure” I had done. They had to try a couple times because I was so swollen. But once it was in, it was okay. And it didn’t hurt to remove. The nurses and Mitch were in awe of the urine coming out of me. (TMI I know . . .) They expected to fill one pan. Instead they filled three. I had like a two liter of urine in my bladder. The most the nurses had ever seen. They kept saying, “You must have been so uncomfortable!” Um. Yeah.
After that, peeing was hunky dory. But I soon learned why so many people were encouraging me to take the pain meds they offer. I was thankful for the meds. And I can say I am not ashamed of that. Taking them allowed me to feel better and take care of my boys. I continued to take them after returning home because the pain and tenderness stuck around a lot longer than I expected. Of course, my expectations were to be back to normal in two days–ha! But I did a lower dose and quit completely after four days or so. So it was around a week total that I took the medicine.
Fighting the Other Ghost
For me, the most stressful part of recovery was not physical, but emotional. On night two a lactation consultant we had never met–with a strong accent I could barely understand–came into the room at like 4 AM. Mitch was in an astoundingly deep sleep. (Poor man, was never a deep sleeper before children. Now he sleeps like a bear. Probably because he subconsciously never knows when the next opportunity to sleep will be). She started talking about the boys’ weights and how the pediatrician wanted us to supplement. She said I could use the hospital pump and they also had formula, something about tubes, etc. I was slapping Mitch at this point saying “Wake up!” I felt blindsided. Hadn’t nursing been going great?!
I was so confused and emotional. After talking through it with our pediatrician, she said it was because Daniel and Joseph were at almost 10% weight loss. And if they hit that, we couldn’t leave the hospital. I think the circumcision so quick after birth was a mistake. Both boys were so sleepy afterwards and didn’t want to wake to nurse for a few hours.
Nurses helped us with the formula. We would put it in a syringe with tubing that taped to my breast. Mitch would help slowly squeeze it into the corner of their mouths while they nursed. This way, nothing hurt their latch or desire to nurse. And they still got mostly breastmilk.
All the nurses said that twins always have to do this for a bit, some for months. I guess that having twins, plus a c-section, means supplementing for a bit. It ended up taking a full week for my milk to fully come in. (Once it did, the boys started to gain weight right away. The doctors let us stop supplementing at two weeks.)
The supplementing sparked a lot of emotions and self-doubt in me. I remember startling one nurse because I started crying–like full on ugly cry. It was out of nowhere. Both her and Mitch were like “What is it? What’s wrong?” All I could say was that with the pain of the surgery making it hard to move at all and the difficultly of those stupid syringes, was “I just want to be able to take care of my babies.”
For the record, Mitch was and is a constant support when it comes to breastfeeding. He always encouraged me and didn’t let me lose hope. Things improved a lot once we were home. We still had to take the boys into lactation for frequent weight checks those first two weeks. But we were home. There were no people popping in on us constantly. It was peaceful.
Things I Wish I’d Known
I wish I would have known about the comfort and support of a wrap. For a bit afterwards, I felt like everything was tender and “falling out”. Wrapping helped hold everything together and give me extra support when standing and moving about. I tried something like a girdle, but it was hard to get on and off. What the hospital gave me required help to put on and was awkward. After the fact, I heard that a good ‘ole ACE bandage works well. Also, having something like a Rock ‘n Play (our boys love this one that plugs in and rocks them and it is currently on sale) that doesn’t require bending over the edge of a crib helps manage pain as well.
I had failed to think about how tender my incision would be. Even wearing sweatpants or underwear seemed to rub against it. The elastic hit right where it was. Buying these cheap granny panties off Amazon were a life saver for six weeks postpartum. Worth it.
Finally, I learned to keep a close eye on the incision. It is common for infections to arise, even if you do everything right. A couple weeks after the boys were born, the corner of my incision started to look red and angry. And it was more tender than the rest. It almost looked as if it wasn’t all the way closed. Eek! We decided to go in and visit triage to have it looked over. They poked and prodded it with pointy sticks (Yes, ow!), and said that I needed to take some antibiotics. It was a surface infection, but if it spread outside the doted lines they drew on me, they would need to reopen the incision, clean things out, and stitch me back up. That sounded plumb awful: painful, and frustrating since it would take me back to square one of recovery.
In retrospect, I am so thankful for our network of friends and family that supported us the first couple weeks postpartum. With me barely mobile, Mitch would have easily become out-manned. But friends and family helped with food, holding babies, and taking Rebekah out and about to have fun and run off energy.
As I finish this story, I hold sweet Daniel on my lap. His dark hair filling out and his tummy and legs chubby with baby rolls. Life is good: Messy, crazy, and beautiful.