My semi-planned c-section

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We’ve decided that it’s Birth Story Week, here on How Do You Do It?! A reader asked through our Features page to describe what a twin c-section and recovery is “really like,” and we decided that was a good enough excuse for all of us to tell our stories. We’ll do our best to be honest, since we’re all about telling it like it is. Pregnant ladies, enjoy! I know this is what I was always looking for in my waning weeks of pregnancy…

When I was about 34 weeks pregnant, my doctors and I decided that they wanted to deliver me right around 37 weeks. My daughter was measuring small, and was breech, and we all decided a planned c-section was the way to go. It was scheduled for 36w6d, but the kids decided they’d rather come a week earlier. I went into labor on my own at 35w6d, and delivered the next morning, 36 weeks on the nose. I wrote about the delivery, the NICU time, and my pospartum experience on my own blog, around the time that it actually happened. But I thought I could fill in some details with what it was “really” like.

First of all… real contractions? Not fun. Somehow even less fun when the monitor isn’t picking them up well and the nurses aren’t convinced you’re really in labor. Boo. Oh, and when there’s no phlebotomist on duty because it’s 2AM, and your bad-on-a-good-day veins are completely obscured by all of the fluid you’re retaining and it takes two nurses to get the IV? Good times. Anyways, I continued to dilate and they finally believed I was in labor and started to prep for the c-section. Even better than the IV… my hospital insists on placing the foley catheter before the spinal anesthesia. Right. That also took two tries and two nurses. Not much dignity left after that one.

If you’ve ever seen video of a c-section… it’s not a gentle procedure. They’re really not shy with all of the tugging and pushing. I found myself kind of grunting from all of the pressure and pulling. I was having a bit of pain very low in my pelvic bone, which I told the anesthesiologist, but he didn’t want to give me any more meds until the babies were out. It really wasn’t awful pain, though, so I could wait. It was only a couple of minutes until Daniel was born, followed very quickly by Rebecca. The doctor put a little extra happy juice through my IV, and I was snoring within about 30 seconds.

Daniel, though much larger, was working a little too hard on his breathing, so he immediately went to the NICU. Tiny Rebecca stayed with us, and came back on the stretcher with me to the recovery room. Beware, the photos you will insist that your husband take while you’re hopped up on medication. I mean, I suppose I’m glad the moment was captured, but good lord. That’s horrifying.

In recovery, they did encourage me to see if Rebecca would breastfeed, and she did a decent job for being so tiny. After a little bit, they wheeled me over to my postpartum room, with a stop in the NICU to see Daniel. Of course, he was in a warmer, and I was lying on a stretcher, so I only saw his feet. I would not see him for real until the next morning, nearly 24 hours later. While it was hard not to see him, lying in bed for a day wasn’t so bad. I could finally lie on my back, I no longer had a head crammed into my ribs, and I didn’t even have to get up to pee every 20 minutes. Despite the major surgery, I felt better than I had in ages. And that night, after they admitted Rebecca to the NICU because she was having a hard time maintaining her body temperature, I slept better than I had in months. Yes, that’s even with the nurses coming in to check on me.

After the morphine wore off, they started me on a cocktail of ibuprofen, percoset, and stool softeners. My advice? Take them. All of them. For some unknown reason, they rely on the crazy postpartum lady to ask for her own pain meds. Write down the next scheduled time if you have to, but stay on top of the pain meds for the first few days. After that, you can start to back down. It’s really hard (and somewhat painful) to start moving again after the surgery, and pain meds will help big time. And yes, take the stool softener, too. They want to make sure things are… moving again after the surgery, and that’s easier said than done.

Anyways, I actually didn’t mind being in the hospital. The food was actually pretty good, and I was well taken care of. It was hard to have to “go visit” my babies instead of having them in the room with me, and that also made the whole “new mom” thing even more surreal, because I didn’t feel like I was actually in charge of or primarily responsible for them. And I was really in no rush to leave the hospital, since neither of them was coming immediately home with me. That’s really hard. You feel guilty, scared, sort of relieved that you don’t have to take care of these fragile newborns who you don’t know what to do with, and then guilty again. And that was with two babies who were doing really quite well, who weren’t super-preemies, and who came home a few days later. The back & forth, even though the hospital was very close, was exhausting.

After we were all home, my recovery really wasn’t bad. By the time I left the hospital, I was mostly just taking the ibuprofen for pain, saving a percoset for bedtime when the pain of being up all day caught up with me, and I wouldn’t mind the fact that it made me a little woozy. One thing I did learn (the hard way) is the importance of keeping the incision clean, dry, and aired out. A rinse in the shower won’t do. A dab of hydrogen peroxide works well for extra cleanliness (and it didn’t sting), and the hairdryer on no heat helps dry it out after the shower. Because there was still plenty of extra flab/skin in the area, and because the incision is so low that your clothes will cover it (if not, those are some interesting postpartum wardrobe choices you’re making), you really have to try hard to take some time each day and lie down and give it some air. If not, as I discovered, the area can get a little yeast infection from all of the moisture, or it can get infected and require antibiotics. Or, if you’re me, both. Good times. Try remembering to take an antibiotic four times a day for 10 days when you’ve got two newborns…

In truth, much as I may try and as many drafts of this story as I’ve gone through, I don’t think there’s any way to explain to someone “what it’s really like,” if they haven’t been through it. And while there seems to always be more to say, more details to fill in… this entry is long enough already! No two stories are exactly the same, but I think that reading about the different possibilities can at least place the mental seed that lots of things (good, as well as bad) can happen, and knowing that they’ve happened to someone else might make it a little less surprising if it happens to you.

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