My Twin C-section Experience: Part 3 (The First 2 Weeks Home)
Being a new twin mom is soooo glamorous. The secrets to our "natural glow" after a C-section are a-plenty. Sharp uterine contractions with every pumping/feeding session, bleeding possibly 9 months-worth of menstrual periods, soaking lactation pads, a muscle-less stomach, bloating like we're still 5 months pregnant, legs that need a good shaving but are still too far from reach, never-ending sleepless exhaustion, emotions that we didn’t know we had, and that nagging C-section pain with every movement...just to name a few! Oh yeah! And let’s go ahead and add two newborns on top of it all that both want to be fed every 1.5-2 hours, take turns crying for no apparent reason, and need their diapers changed around-the-clock! Oh, such fun! These were the cornerstones of my first 2 weeks at home with twins.
By now, you’ve probably read Part 1 and Part 2 of my Twin C-section experience where I discussed the surgery and the hospital stay. Per the request of all you mamas/mamas-to-be out there, I have put together Part 3, the details of my first 2 weeks recovering at home with twins. Since I could write a novel about my C-section recovery, I organized this post by all-encompassing problem areas, including help and visitors, physique/body, C-section scar, pain, mobility, baby duty, and sleep. Before I go on, though, let me warn you that the first 2 weeks were the hardest of all -- It gets better!
Help and Visitors
After carefully buckling the twins in their car seats for the first time and after my husband nervously drove 2 MPH, we finally made it home from the hospital. We had all of our parents meet us at our house to help with…well, everything. I’m just going to say it now: You will want help. My husband only got 2 weeks of paternity leave (which was better than nothing). But, we enlisted my parents and my in-laws to help during those initial few weeks – basically people I am close with that I felt most comfortable around, as I was in my most vulnerable state of my life. My mother stayed overnight quite a bit and my husband’s parents helped mostly during the daytime during those first 2 weeks. We were fortunate that both sides of our family lived within 15 minutes of us; there wasn’t one single day during that time that someone wasn’t over to assist us during that time. Like they say, it takes a village.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that you might want to limit the number of visitors (i.e. germs). I delivered in October at the very beginning of cough and flu season. For those family members I mentioned above that were in the trenches with us, I asked them to get their Flu and Tdap (aka pertussis) vaccines ahead of time. I only let a few close friends quickly stop by at first for this reason. And don’t even get me started on hand-washing – I was very proactive about this and kept hand sanitizer on the table next to the twins for anyone that walked through our door. We mainly relied on family to bring/cook food, help with dishes and laundry, to run errands for us, etc. It’s going to be tough. You will desperately want your quiet alone time with your twins, but -- because of your inability to easily move around and lack of sleep --you’ll want the help more.
Yep, you’re going to leave the hospital still looking pregnant. I lost a solid 20 pounds by the time I was discharged home, but I still had pretty intense bloating. Your uterus usually takes 6-8 weeks to contract back down to its normal size. That said, I continued to wear maternity clothes during my "4th trimester." During the first 2 weeks, though, I limited my wardrobe to comfy maternity clothes, like yoga pants and oversized cotton shirts. Comfort was a high priority when sleep couldn’t be. As I’ve mentioned in Part 2, I wore the abdominal binder every single day. This in combination with the C-panty helped me feel “put together” and slimmer faster. Given diastasis recti is essentially unavoidable with twins, you’ll want something to keep you feeling tight and secure.
Two unpleasant things will happen. First, your breasts are going to leak like crazy. You will want to purchase lactation pads to put in your nursing bras and you’ll want to change them several times a day. Despite wearing those, I sometimes still woke up from a "nap" completely drenched. Second, you’re going to bleed like you’re on the world’s heaviest period (aka lochia). This continues for about 6 weeks. You’ll want to have lots and LOTS of pads on hand (or even Depends diapers... yes, I said it)! And for the curious minds – I didn’t feel “like myself” physically until around 3 months.
When I came home, my incision site was covered in medical tape, called “steri-strips” (about 15 of them). It was otherwise open to air, as the gauze had already been taken off in the hospital. There was old dried blood on the strips, but that happens. The doctor said the steri-strips would fall off on their own in the first week and not to pull them off. Only one of mine fell off on its own. Most of the edges were lifting in that first week, but they were all hanging on pretty tightly in the middle. My first OB follow-up was 10 days after we were discharged home. At that visit, she basically just pulled off the steri-strips herself (like a band-aid).
Once the strips were off, I finally got a good look at my scar. I didn’t take any pictures of it, but it didn’t look bad at all. I was very pleased (and I still am). I think the most surprising thing of all was how small and low it really was! A pleasant surprise really. My scar measures around 4.5 inches and it's SO low that I can wear my low-rise underwear and you would never see it.
Another thing I noticed was that my incision site was numb all over. I didn’t feel anything when I pressed down around it. This was due to the surrounding nerves being damaged during the surgery, as expected. My sensation in the area returned fully by about 5 months.
As for incision site care before the steri-strips came off, I just let soapy water run over it in the shower. After the strips came off, I used my washcloth to gently clean with soapy water. I asked my OB if there was any special ointment I needed to put on the scar and she said no. So, I did not apply anything (and it really did heal nicely on it’s own). However, I have heard good things about Mederma (although you can’t start applying that to scars until 2 weeks after surgery).
This part was rough. Even though the skin around the incision was numb on the surface, the tissue under the surface was anything but numb. I mean, my muscles were cut apart – so of course I had pain! The doctor sent me home with a limited supply of Norco (which is Tylenol and hydrocodone together) to be taken every 4 hours as needed and told me to take high-dose ibuprofen 800 mg every 8 hours for the first couple of days. The combination of these two medications helped tremendously. I actually didn’t even need the Norco as much as they said I might. For the first 2 days at home, I took the Norco only 2-3 times per day, then daily for 2 days, then I was off completely. If your doctor prescribes you a narcotic pain med for home, just know that in combination with having surgery you’re more likely to become constipated. That said, my doctor also prescribed me a daily dose of Colace (stool softener) to keep me regular the first week. Given there were 3 meds, all with different frequencies, I "charted" on my iPhone in the Notes app each time I took a med to keep track (trust me, it’s not a bad idea when your brain is so fuzzy from not sleeping).
Now that we’ve covered abdominal pain – how about all the wrist and neck pain?! I bet you didn’t expect me to say that! I didn’t see it coming either when I gave birth. But, it’s so true! My wrists ached nonstop after birth those first few weeks. And the problem even has a name: “Baby Wrist.” It happens because of hormonal changes after birth coupled with repetitive use (aka picking up your twins). Not going to lie, my wrists even still hurt 6 months out. I have a brace and ibuprofen handy that seems to help. As for the neck pain – well, that’s just because I was holding the twins and looking down at the them during feeds in the same position over and over again at first. Basically, I was giving myself a really bad crick in my neck. This appeared about 2 days after being at home and magically went away after the first week.
It may have hurt, but I was able to stand and hold both babies for a picture only 3 days after my C-section. I think the only reason I was able to do this was because the nurses pushed me to get up and move only 12 hours after surgery. I continued that mindset at home. I moved as much as I could. Of course, though, for a large amount of time I was laying on the couch simply trying to recover with a baby or two next to me. At mealtime, my mom would bring me my food on a tray to eat on the couch. Whenever I wanted to stand up, someone would have to grab whichever baby I was holding while someone else slowly pulled me up by my arms. I couldn’t bend well for the first week. Even when I needed to change my pad or put on underwear/clothes the first week, I asked my husband to help. The worst part was getting in and out of bed. At the hospital, it was easier because there were handrails on the sides of the bed. Without those at home, I needed someone there. I basically had to sit on the bed and scoot back as far as I could using my hands, and then the other person would have to pick up my legs and swing them onto the bed carefully. By the end of the second week, I was more independent with all of this.
If you have stairs, you’ll want to avoid those. Consider staying on the first floor if your bedroom is upstairs. Our house is one story so luckily this wasn’t an issue for us. Also, you won’t be allowed to drive for the first 2 weeks until your doctor clears you.
Delegate anything you can!! Simply put: if you don’t delegate baby tasks, you will lose your mind. My twins ate every 1.5-2 hours in the first 2 weeks (essentially nonstop). I delegated bottle washing, diaper changes, baby baths, laundry, and feeds when I could. I didn’t feed the twins simultaneously alone until the babies were about 3 or 4 weeks old thanks to our army of helpers.
Don’t forget, you still have to pull yourself together for the twins’ appointments during those first two weeks. During the first week, our babies had 3 visits at the doctor for some monitoring of bilirubin levels (mild jaundice) and weight checks (as the babies had lost a tad more weight than we had hoped in the first few days). During the second week, the twins had 3 more doctor visits including my son's circumcision at the OB, their evaluation for tongue ties at the ENT, and their 2-week follow-up with the pediatrician. Oh, and we also drove an hour out to Fort Worth for newborn photos that week, too!
The most annoying thing people used to tell me was “sleep when the babies sleep.” And now, I fully understand it and it’s my turn to say it – SLEEP WHEN THE BABIES SLEEP! I effectively got zero sleep the first 2 weeks -- foggy headed, incoherent English, and never knew what time it was. Just know you likely won’t get more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep the first couple of weeks (your babies and your milk production likely won’t let you). Our twins started sleeping through the night (i.e. at least 7 hours straight without feeding) around 4 months. By 6 months, our twins were sleeping 11-12 hours straight at night. The sleep deprivation will pass!
Overall, recovering from my C-section and adapting to twins was my life's biggest challenge yet. While the hardest part was those first 2 weeks, everything eventually got easier as my life and body took on new "normals.” All we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can for it and strive to handle the curveballs with grace! :-)
P.S. If there is another related topic you would like for me to discuss, then drop a comment below!