Being pregnant with multiples, I assumed from the very start that I would be having a c-section rather than a vaginal birth. My pregnancy was high-risk and full of complications, and so I anticipated my delivery to be done in the most cautious manner. While my doctor assured me that a vaginal birth was a possibility, he explained how things can become much more complicated with twins. Some patients, he explained, could labor for hours – or days- and deliver baby A successfully, but then develop complications for baby B and end up having a c-section for just one baby. A labor and a c-section? No thanks!
In the end, we did what was safest for the babies – and that meant having a major surgery on my end. Here are a few things you can expect from a c-section with twins. Sometimes, knowing a little bit about the process and what to expect can calm your nerves and prepare you for the adventure ahead.
1. You’re probably going to be really, really scared, and that’s okay. Whenever my OB would check in with me and ask me if I had any questions, I would voice my anxieties and fears about the c-section. I told him how scared I was about having my stomach cut open. “There’s nothing I can do to take your fear away,” he said. “But know this: I perform this type of procedure all the time, and women literally have it done every day.” In other words, it’s incredibly common, and people (and their babies) make it out okay. This wasn’t terribly reassuring advice, but it was candid and honest. My doctor or anyone else wasn’t able to take my fear away, but talking about it made me feel a little better.
2. Emergency C-sections can be less stressful. Hear me out. I know that sounds strange; as an emergency c-section likely means that something is wrong. For me, however, my c-section was at the tail end of a very dramatic and long hospitalized bed rest. I spent nearly two months lying in bed waiting for news that things were dire enough to take the babies out. I spent nearly two months trying not to think about what the surgery would be like, and I spent nearly two months feeling slightly panicked that it could happen at any moment. When the doctor finally said that the babies needed to come out, I had less than two hours to freak out about it. For me, this was much better than knowing (and panicking) ahead of time. The less time I had to worry, the better.
3. The operating room isn’t exactly the warm and friendly birthing space that you imagine. The operating table was colder, smaller, and more sterile looking than I expected – but I guess these are good things. This space was meant to safely deliver my babies, and it did exactly that.
4. Nurses and doctors are heroic. Some nurses will take care of you like you are their own child. They will hold your hand, calm you down, and reassure you that everything is okay. They will explain what’s happening, take care of you, and even tuck you in with warm blankets. Doctors will perform your surgery swiftly and effortlessly, going through the motions like it’s no big deal; delivering two babies into this world within minutes. I now look at my doctor like he’s a superhero.
5. Your babies might each get their own medical team. Because my babies were born premature, they each had their own team of NICU doctors and nurses present at the delivery. They came into this world with an entourage, which is so fitting for twins. To this day, everywhere we go they are treated with the same mystique, wonder, and astonishment as rock stars. Typical twin life, always in the spotlight.
6. It will be over before you know it. Things move rapidly once you enter the operating room. I’m not going to lie, during the spinal block time seemed to stop for a bit; but once that kicked in, things moved at a shockingly fast pace. I wasn’t even aware that they started the procedure, and out came a screaming baby. After baby A is delivered, someone might get on top of you to push baby B closer to its exit. Once the baby is close enough for the doctor to grab, you’re in the clear. You just delivered two babies, and you can take a breath of relief. It’s all downhill from here.
7. You might get the shakes. During post-op recovery, it’s common for women to get uncontrollable shakes. Although it feels strange and uncomfortable, it’s simply your body’s reaction to the birth process- as well as medications that were in your spinal or epidural. Just ride it out – it will get better.
8. You might get super itchy. Hello, morphine. Although this medication provides you with sweet sweet pain relief, it also plagues you with the most incredible case of the itches that you will ever experience. Trust me on this one. I’ve had infected poison oak up and down both my legs, and this was worse. Far worse. Again, you just need to ride it out – it will get better.
9. Someone might come in to “massage” your fundus. Doesn’t a massage sound amazing right now? Don’t get too excited, what this really means is that a nurse will come in (probably waking you up from your exhausted slumber) to bear down on and knead your fundus like it’s a pile of pizza dough. Don’t know what your fundus is? Fundus is the medical term for the upper portion of the uterus.
10. Take the drugs. Take the pain killers exactly as your doctor and nurses recommend. One piece of helpful advice that a friend gave me was to “stay on top of the pain.” Don’t wait for the pain to arrive, just take your pain medications on schedule. When you’re able to sneeze without crying hysterically for 30 min, you’ll be happy you did.
11. NICU mamas heal faster. Or at least that’s what my nurses told me. When you’re recovering from a c-section, the only way to visit and bond with your babies is to get up and get moving. I had a pretty long trek from the post-partum ward to the NICU, and while that felt sort of inconvenient and far away from my babies; all that walking helped me to heal faster. The more you move, the quicker you heal.
12. There will be pain. Lots of it. But if you stay on top of your pain killers, get lots of rest, make yourself walk around a little bit each day, and stay positive, you will be totally fine. I’m not sure if it was the bliss of finally becoming a mother, the relief of having my bedrest and hospital stay over, or the sweet respite from the drugs, but despite the pain, I was exceptionally happy.
Each pregnancy and birthing process is unique, but for us twin mammas, we have so many things that tie us together. The struggles of high risk pregnancies, the c-section as an often necessary method of delivery, the NICU as an extended part of the whole experience, and the sudden and overwhelming onset of life with twins.
Things will get scary during (and after) the birth of your twins, but know this- it will get better and it will absolutely be worth every second. Once you lay eyes on those two beautiful creatures, you will forget all the hardships that led up to this moment. And you will be wonderfully thrust into this new role of parenthood (ready or not.)
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Rachel Brehm, mother to fraternal twin girls, spends her days feeding, cleaning, and playing with twin babies (rinse and repeat). In her spare time, Brehm writes for Twiniversity.com, and The Huffington Post, where she shares her experiences navigating pregnancy and postpartum with eating/body image issues, as well as her experiences raising twin girls…and all the “twin moments” that go along with it. Brehm also blogs regularly on eating disorder awareness and insurance denials for eating disorder treatment. Brehm writes for an Insurance Law Blog as well as an Eating Disorder Law Blog (rated as one of Top 25 Eating Disorder Blogs of 2012) focusing her writing on insurance advocacy, insurance coverage, body image, eating disorder recovery, and weight stigma. You can follow Rachel on Facebook and at her website. For more articles by Rachel on Twiniversity, click here.
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