As a parent, most of us worry about everything… everything. For me this started with pregnancy. We had a bumpy start to this journey. In 2011 my husband Drew and I suffered the devastating loss of a miscarriage, making me very apprehensive about trying to get pregnant again. After taking some time to grieve we decided to try again and were successful.
Having suffered the miscarriage, I quickly became a pin cushion for lab technicians. I went for weekly HCG testing and found that my hormone levels were rising at an alarming rate. I was sent for my first ultrasound at week five to make sure the pregnancy was viable. This is when we found out that we were having twins. SURPRISE!!
The first two trimesters of this pregnancy were so easy, and I quickly became one of those women who LOVED being pregnant. I did not have any morning sickness, no swelling, no tiredness…. Nothing. I was finally able to relax and enjoy the whole experience. I had daydreams of meeting my babies and what it would be like to have everything go perfectly. Key word here is PERFECTLY. I read everything I could get my hands on about vaginal birth and breast feeding. I was determined that I would prepare enough, that I would be able to get through all of it with no complications. We took two different birthing classes. The first class was at the hospital which was pretty general. It led us through a vaginal birth, breathing techniques, birthing positions and how to bathe and change your baby. There was a 10 minute section on C-sections and what the procedure entailed. Our second birthing class was geared more towards birthing twins, however it again focused on vaginal birth and how to breastfeed twins.
PERFECT…. I knew everything I needed to know.
At week 32 of my pregnancy, I met with my OB for a regularly scheduled appointment. For weeks she had been assuring me that most babies “turn”, and things should go according to plan. This visit was different. Both babies were still breech. This is when I learned, that at this point in my pregnancy a vaginal birth was not going to be possible for me. I was scheduled for a C-section for week 38. I felt deflated and scared. This is not what I envisioned and definitely not what I had prepared for. I started having anxiety about surgery and about what recovery would be like while caring for newborn twins. I pictured my mom’s c-section scars and worried about what changes this would mean for my body. MY body that had already changed so much with a twin pregnancy.
For the next two weeks my husband was amazing. He calmed me down everyday and assured me that even though this was not the PERFCT birth story I had planned for my babies, it was going to be our family’s story and that’s what made it perfect for US. We found that having a scheduled date for the arrival of our girls made us more relaxed in planning for our growing family. We made plans for the care of our family pet while we were in hospital, pre-registered at the birthing ward and even got to plan our last date night BC (before children).
Enter week 34.
I started having some issues. The palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet started getting increasingly itchy. We are not talking regular itchy… we are talking itchy to the point of bleeding from scratching so much. This resulted in numerous bottles of moisturizer and filling up the bathtub with ice and water and dunking my hands and feet to stop the itching.
Luckily I was seeing my OB at week 36. Two weeks of this itching and I was done…. DONE! I told her about the itching and she got very concerned. She told me that I most likely had Obstetric Cholestasis. Which is a liver disorder which causes a build up of bile salts in the blood. Very calmly, she told me that I was to go directly to the hospital where they would run what they call a liver function test and a bile acid test.
At the hospital they completed the bloodwork, a non-stress test and gave me a prescription for the itching. They sent me on my way and told me that my OB would follow up with me when she got the results and warned me that these babies may have to come out sooner than later. My OB called me back that day and confirmed the diagnosis. She had concerns, one being that this diagnosis can cause still birth and that she was rescheduling my c-section as soon as possible. She called me back the following day and told me that she had rescheduled for the following day at 1:00pm. I was anxious. I was scared. My anxiety only grew when she called me back two hours later to let me know that she was able to get it bumped up even sooner to 8:00am. This is when I fully understood the importance of getting my babies out NOW.
The next day at 5:00am and we were at the hospital and being prepped. Four failed attempts at an IV line and I was terrified… the surgery had not even started and I was in pain. What if the entire procedure was this painful? I will save you the anticipation, this was actually one of the most painful parts of the entire day. I was put in a rolling bed and wheeled down to the surgical room. The big surgical room. There were fourteen people moving about not including me and I felt overwhelmed. My team included a surgeon, my OB, and anesthesiologist, nurses, NICU nurses, and respiratory specialists. They started the anesthesia and got me in position. They started their work and shortly after Drew was escorted in. Things moved very quickly and I do not remember a whole lot as I was medicated fairly well.
Drew recounted the experience to me after. They had already started when he entered the room and he was very surprised to see what he did. Luckily he is not squeamish at all and just thought that the entire experience was incredibly interesting. He said he was told he could move about as long as he did not touch anything blue.
I remember a select few things:
I felt nauseated for a moment. I mentioned this and the anesthesiologist did something and it went away.
I heard my OB saying here is baby A and two minutes later saying here is baby B before each baby was whisked away to their separate corners.
I felt empty, I felt as though my abdomen was light (I wonder why!). I made the comment to Drew and to this day he reminds me of how medicated I was and that this statement was apparently hilarious.
I remember Drew being escorted out to recovery with one of the babies and the other being sent to the NICU.
That is all.
After spending a few hours in recovery I was brought back to the surgical ward to my room. Feeling slowly started coming back to my legs. A very strange feeling. I was told that I would not be able to go to the NICU to check on my baby until they removed the catheter and that could only be removed after 12 hours. It could not come soon enough. At the 12 hour mark I pushed the call button furiously until someone came to assist. I wanted to see my baby. They took out the catheter, assisted me into a wheelchair and I was wheeled down to the NICU to check on my baby.
My time in the hospital was the LONGEST three days of my life. I was woken up every two hours to attempt to feed/pump, and in between those visits I was woken up to have blood taken, be given medications, check IV and be given updates on the NICU progress. I was not prepared for this and felt exhausted. I was ready to go home.
Recovery went smoothly for me and being at home, I was able to get more rest than at the hospital. I put up my feet when I could and rested when I was able. Drew was only given one week off when we came home with one of our daughters, Adley, and our other daughter, Olivia, came home four weeks later once released from the NICU. My days were filled with trips to the NICU, pumping and taking care of Adley, trying to keep up with sleep, feeding myself, the occasional shower and laundry. A few things that really surprised me was the bleeding after surgery, as I was not told about this still happening with a c-section birth. The other major surprise were my feet! I looked down at them a few days after surgery and they were twice the size as they normally are. I was told by my sister (a nurse) that this is from all the fluids put into you from the IV, that it was completely normal and would go away eventually.
Having a fairly high pain tolerance I was able to get through recovery with some regular strength Tylenol and did not have to take any of the stronger drugs that were prescribed to me. Day by day, I was less sore and maybe pushed myself a little harder than I should have. I did end up getting a small infection which cleared up pretty quickly with some anti-biotics. The best after effect of the surgery… as soon as the surgery was over the itching stopped from the liver disorder. It was like magic.
As I healed, I noticed my scar was minimal compared to my mother’s scar from her c-section in the early 80’s. I was quite impressed. No stiches to come out as my OB kindly used dissolvable stiches and a few months later I even noticed some sensation coming back in the “scar area”. I was starting to get MY body back from pregnancy and from surgery. With the exception of a small pulling sensation that lasted for almost a year and a very small scar, there was very little evidence on my body that it had gone through so much.
Reflecting back on the experience, there are a lot of things that I took away from it. Sometimes C-sections are necessary. In my case having a C-section saved the lives of my babies, and I would not have changed one thing about our story. The way that your babies are born does not determine what kind of people they will become, whether they will be healthy, smart or rich or even what kind of a mother you are. Every birth is precious and the birth method only determines your history as a family and what you have been through together. A C-section was part of my family’s story and it was PERFECT for us.