My Twin C-section Experience: Part 2 (The Hospital Stay)
I was lying in the hospital bed, and all I could do was take deep breaths and concentrate on one thing…….NOT LAUGHING. As I watched my husband hysterically run back and forth with frustration between our crying twin newborns, all I wanted to do was get popcorn and laugh at what I saw at the foot of my bed. If I laughed, though, my incision site would quickly remind me why I shouldn’t. My incision pain was significant whenever I moved, and I couldn’t get out of bed to help. All I could do was lay there and watch my husband that first night (which was hard because I’m usually a “do it myself” kind of girl). He learned how to become a twin dad really fast. And none of it was funny to him.
We were in the hospital for 3 nights, from Tuesday evening through Friday morning. To be completely honest, the entire first 2 weeks were harder for me than the actual surgery. If you read Part 1 of my Twin C-section experience, I’ll pick up right where I left off -- rolling out of the O.R. with both twins snuggled on my chest.
As soon as I settled into the recovery room after surgery on Tuesday evening, the post-anesthesia nurse helped me feed the babies colostrum (the antibody-rich form of breastmilk that comes in immediately after giving birth before the regular milk). After that first feed, the entire family came back into the recovery room to meet the twins. Meanwhile, the staff checked my vital signs frequently and checked my incision site to ensure there was no post-op hemorrhaging. During that recovery room stay, two scary things stuck out to me:
1) I couldn't feel or move my legs and it freaked me out.
I knew they would be numb because of the spinal block from surgery, but still….I had never felt that before. I was more concerned about not being able to feel or move my legs than I was in the actual surgery itself. I kept looking at my legs and telling my brain to move them, but they didn't. Don’t freak out – this is NORMAL! Your sensation will return 2-3 hours later. Despite knowing that, I still had my husband touch my feet just to make sure they were warm. :-)
2) I had uncontrollable, full-body shivers right after delivering.
This is also normal. It’s thought to be due to hormonal shifts and possibly cold IV fluids. They gave me warm blankets to help with this and it resolved by the time I was up in my hospital room. We stayed in the recovery room for about 2 hours total before we then rolled up to the maternity unit where I stayed for 3 nights.
The First Night (Tuesday)
Given our twins were full-term and had no health issues, our hospital’s policy allowed for them to stay in my room with me. To speak to the first paragraph above – the nurses were great, but they definitely were more “hands off” than we expected when it came to the twins. Our hospital staff seemed to leave the majority of the baby care to the parents. Every hospital is different, though. Your experience may not be the same. Since my husband didn't take any classes about newborn care beforehand, we asked the nurses to teach him the basics (like changing a diaper).
I vividly remember how happy I felt that first night. I’ll never forget sitting in the bed with both babies in my arms and just bursting into tears of joy. I just couldn’t get over the fact that I created, carried, and birthed these perfect little humans!
Then, only 12 short hours after surgery, the nurses came in (at around 5AM) to put an abdominal binder on me and to get me up to walk for the first time. They only made me take a few steps, but it was extremely tough. That was the first time I really felt intense pain. In all honesty, as I stood, it felt like my stomach was completely ripping apart inside and outside (Thank goodness for the binder! Otherwise, I'm sure it would have been worse). I had to sit back down a couple of times before I could tolerate standing completely. Shortly after that walk, the nurses took out my urinary catheter (aka foley) so that I could use the bathroom normally. After the nurses helped me to the bathroom the first 2 times, I was then on my own (even though I didn’t feel ready – so I enlisted my husband to be my potty break partner). I stayed hunched over every time I got up (and continued to do so for the first week) to avoid the ripping feeling. I HIGHLY recommend taking your pain medications regularly for the first 2-3 days to more easily become mobile again and to recover faster. I found that staying ahead of the pain was best.
While we are talking about pain and shorter recovery times - there are two things I will SWEAR by that I believe helped me with post-op pain, healing, and slimming down faster:
1) 3-Panel Abdominal binder
The hospital provided one, but I definitely recommend having a second one (because you’ll want to wear these every single day (no exaggeration) from the day you deliver until 5-6 weeks postpartum. That's what I did! After surgery, you feel like all of your organs are hanging out and the only thing holding them together is a piece of skin (not muscle). The binder made me feel sturdy and supported, as if I had abdominal muscles to help me get up and move. It has 3 panels that allow you to bend and move but still remain compressed. That's why I wore it nonstop. You WILL want this. You can purchase one from Amazon for $15.59 here.
I wore these ALL of the time for the first SEVERAL months. This special C-section underwear has a built in compression system that helps you feel less bloated, skinnier, supported, and also has a silicon strip inside at the level of the incision site that helps your scar heal faster. Once I got home, I always wore these under my abdominal binder. It made me feel somewhat normal again. I purchased a black and tan pair for myself (I mean, who wants to be doing laundry right after surgery?) While you’re still in the hospital they have special maternity underwear you use that helps with all of the heavy menstrual-like bleeding. However, I absolutely recommend buying at least 2 pairs of the C-Panties for when you're home. Oh, and the bleeding usually continues for the first 6 weeks postpartum, so you just have to add a maternity pad inside. You can purchase the C-panty for $40 (worth the splurge) from Target here.
The Next 3 Days Until Discharge (Wednesday-Friday)
On Wednesday, the day after the surgery, I was able to have my first meal. My husband still helped me with almost everything: from changing the twins’ diapers… to answering baby cries… to kneeling down next to me as I carefully tried to sit down on the toilet… to helping me change my pads from all the bleeding that happens “down under” after giving birth (believe me, my husband and I got super close during this time – no boundaries – and he was a total trooper). Many people came in to see me and the babies that day (such as nurses, the OB-GYN, the pediatrician, lab draw, the lactation consultant, family, etc.). It was a whirlwind of faces. I also got out of the room for the first time that evening and walked around the maternity unit (still looking like a hunchback, of course). My husband and I were absolutely drained. Given both our exhaustion and lack of sleep, that night we sent the twins to the nursery for 2 hours so my husband and I could desperately try and sleep. While I cried as I saw them roll away, I knew I needed rest in order to heal.
By Thursday, I continued to rely on my husband a great deal. He helped me take my first shower (which was such a nerve-wracking experience). I still felt weak, shaky, and still couldn't stand up straight. Lifting my arms above my head to wash my hair wasn’t easy. Above all, I was really nervous about messing up my incision site. The doctor reassured me that since they had just taken off the bandage that morning, the steri-strips across my incision were fine to get wet (they just advised me not to completely submerge it in water). The babies were doing great, but neither were breastfeeding well. The lactation consultant came again to assist. She taught me more about the breast pump and how to express colostrum. By the end of that third day, my milk came in, making it easier to pump/express for the babies. The doctors came in and asked if I wanted to go home that day - and I quickly said “No way!” I’m all about pushing myself, but I knew I was not physically ready to care for the twins at home yet since I could barely take care of myself. We stayed one more night as I continued to heal and gain strength.
On Friday, the doctors came in again and asked me if I wanted to be discharged. This time I said “Yes, please!” I was finally ready. I woke up that morning feeling the best I had yet. I took a shower (by myself - woo hoo!) and even had energy to do my hair and make-up. I was only taking pain meds maybe 3 times per day (versus every 4-6 hours the previous 2 days). After the pediatrician did one final check of the babies and my OB-GYN did her one last check on me, we were released to go home. A staff member pushed me in a wheelchair downstairs to the exit as I carried both twins in my arms. So cliché, but I loved it!!
C-sections are NOT full of roses and rainbows. After the most challenging few days we had ever experienced, our departure was a happy one. And for the first 2 weeks of recovering at home? Well... that’s where things get the most interesting of all.
Read Part 3 to hear about the first 2 weeks at home.