Before I had my first baby birth stories were some of my favorite accounts of motherhood to read because they helped me feel prepared. Aside from my first pregnancy being smack dab in the middle of COVID (delivered in July 2020) it was an uneventful pregnancy that ended with a vaginal delivery. My second pregnancy was a much different story, and there probably was not much that could’ve prepared me for the pregnancy I had and for my c-section experience. Before you read my c-section story and run away in horror – let me set the stage by saying that my pregnancy was extremely high risk and the problems I was experiencing in pregnancy did impact my birth. While most of my pregnancy and my birth was traumatic, it still is the road that led to my girls and I’m able to see the beauty in that.
I could probably write an entire series of blog posts about my pregnancy with the twins, but I’ll just summarize because the things that happened in my pregnancy played a role in needing a c-section. In September of last year, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I knew that carrying multiple babies meant I had a higher chance of needing a c-section, but I still hoped to have a vaginal delivery if possible. I later found out my babies were identical twins which carries more risks than fraternal twin pregnancies, so I was starting to embrace and accept the idea that I very well was going to be giving birth via c-section. At 20 weeks in my pregnancy my girls developed a very rare condition called Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. I had to have Selective Fetoscopic Laser Photocoagulation surgery at the Cincinnati Children’s Fetal Care Center. The rest of my pregnancy I was in and out of the hospital for weeks at a time for close monitoring. Because of all the issues I was experiencing and because we knew I would be delivering premature babies I basically was not given the option of a vaginal delivery, and at that point I just wanted the safest option anyways.
I was scheduled to have a c-section at 34 weeks, but my girls had other plans because my water broke 6 days early at 33+1. I wasn’t 100% sure if my water broke because I was induced with my son, so I didn’t know what it felt like to spontaneously go into labor. My husband was ready to get to the hospital, but I was already waiting for someone to come pick up a jogging stroller I sold on Facebook Marketplace, so we waited about 20 minutes after my water broke – my husband is still giving me a hard time about this over a month later. After the jogging stroller was out of my possession, we headed to the hospital. We got there at about 6:45PM right at shift change. Because I was a patient on the labor and delivery floor for many weeks all the nurses were familiar to me, and I was so happy to see some of my favorite day shift and night shift nurses. I ended up getting one of my favorite nurses and they put me in a recovery bed right away since they assumed I would be delivering that night. The resident came to check if my water did break, and he confirmed that I was indeed ruptured. My OB was not on call that night (though I’m convinced if I would have personally called him, he would’ve come in), but the doctor that was on call was the one I wanted if it was going to be anyone other than my OB. She popped in the room and told me that she was talking to my MFM doctor to see if he wanted to try to stop labor or if we should just go ahead and do the darn thing. Both babies had meconium-stained fluid, meaning that they were stressed out at some point. The decision was made that it was go time, and things went so fast from there. I had an IV started and my surgical site was prepped. They took me back to the OR and the anesthesiologists did my spinal tap – the process of getting the spinal felt no different than getting an epidural. They started putting the drapes up and at that point they were ready to start. I felt extremely nauseous the entire time, but the anesthesiologist kept putting alcohol wipes under my nose to smell and that oddly enough did help. My husband was brought back to the OR and within 2 minutes baby A (Addyson) was out and one minute later baby B (Harper) was also out. They were unable to show me Addyson, but they did open a window in the drape for a split second so I could see Harper. She was so tiny, and I was relieved to hear her crying. Both babies were taken to a separate room to be evaluated/treated by the NICU team and they were taken down to the NICU without us being able to see them before they left.
That was the most difficult part of my whole experience, even though I knew they would be going to the NICU if I would’ve made it to my 34-week scheduled c-section. Getting the babies out probably took less than 5 minutes and the rest of the time was just spent putting everything back together. I honestly don’t have any idea of how long that took, my husband said a little less than an hour. I just remember feeling the constant tugging, but my mind was on the girls hoping they were okay. I was brought back to the recovery room and had to spend 2 hours there before I would be able to go down to the NICU to see the girls. As the 2-hour mark approached my nurse called NICU and they told her that they weren’t ready for us to come down yet. They kept me in recovery a little longer and when NICU still was not ready for us they had to transfer me to postpartum where I ended up waiting another 6 hours before my husband and I were able to go see our girls.
After my c-section the hospital stay was 4 days, but they do offer an additional curtesy day if you are a NICU parent. I declined the extra day since we don’t live too far away, and I was anxious to be home with my toddler. The 4 days that I spent in the hospital for recovery was mostly spent in the NICU anyways. I went back to my room when I needed pain medication and when I needed to sleep for a little bit, but I was pumping so I really was only getting 2-3 hours of sleep at a time. The physical recovery from my c-section was so different from when I had my son. The first day I thought it was going to be such an easy recovery, but that’s because the Duramorph hadn’t worn off from the spinal yet. The second day I was in a lot of pain, and it honestly took about a week before I felt like that pain was manageable without medication. The swelling was also unreal – my legs and feet were like one combined unit, and it took almost 2 weeks for the swelling to go down. Compression socks and elevating your legs are going to be key to combatting the swelling – advice I wish I would’ve taken sooner.
If you’re recovering from a c-section or planning on having a c-section, just give yourself a lot of grace. It’s a major abdominal surgery and you are going to want to allow yourself to slow down and take any help you can get (easier said than done when you’ve just had a baby – or babies – and a lot easier said than done if you have other kids at home, I know).
Having a c-section was not in my plans when we decided on baby #2 (and surprise #3), but I’m thankful that it’s the birth that got my two beautiful baby girls here safely. Having a c-section is absolutely still giving birth, and it certainly was not the easy way out. All avenues that lead to motherhood are beautiful and should be celebrated.