I’ll admit it – I was one of those women who googled birthing videos. I watched videos of every type of delivery possible and would cringe and cock my head to the side in confusion. Friends and family members would tell me their delivery stories, some joyous and some completely horrifying. I wanted to be mentally prepared for whatever the outcome may be and whatever type of delivery I may be faced with.
However, I soon realized watching videos, listening to stories, and reading articles would not fully prepare me for delivery.
Being pregnant with twins put me in a unique situation from the start. The thought of naturally giving birth to twins terrified me, but going the c-section route terrified me just as much. I feared if I tried going the “typical” route that one twin would be delivered while the other would turn breech and I’d need a cesarean after all. This was something many twin moms and doctors had told me was a possibility. The thought of delivering my babies both ways sickened me.
At the beginning of my third trimester, “Baby A” was breech and stubbornly stayed that way for the rest of my pregnancy. Since that was the case, having a c-section was the safest route to take. As my scheduled c-section date grew closer, I became more and more nervous, as you’d expect of any new mom. I started realizing that a c-section was a serious surgery and that thought made me incredibly nervous.
However, knowing I’d finally be able to meet my little girls made the nerves, the cringe-worthy videos, and the painful pregnancy all worth it.
21 Before: “I’m Still Giving Birth”
When some people think of cesarean sections, they do not think of birth. They strictly think of a surgical procedure. Just because labor or the act of pushing is not involved doesn’t mean Mom isn’t experiencing similar emotional and physical difficulties. Both forms of delivery are stressful and both forms of delivery equally make you a mother.
People joke and say, “Well, you’re not really giving birth” or “The doctors are actually delivering the baby” when it comes to discussing c-sections. I’d heard these kinds of comments numerous times during my pregnancy and even though it was said in a sarcastic, laughable light, it got old. Fast.
I am someone who can roll my eyes and laugh when I hear these comments, but some people may become offended. It’s important to keep that in mind.
20 During: “This Is Legitimate Surgery”
It had been a long, long time since I was last in an operating room. When I was on that metal table waiting for my body to go numb, I was terrified. The lights were bright, the voices of everyone around me echoed, and the atmosphere was very sterile. When you think of bringing your baby, or babies, into the world, you often don’t picture an operating room to be where it all happens.
A cesarean section is an incredibly serious abdominal surgery. This is something many people forget about when they think of c-sections as “the easy way out” – something else I read and heard too often. During the procedure, a sheet was up around my neck so I could not view what was going on, but I could hear the buzzing of medical tools and smell, well, pretty unpleasant scents. Even with medication, I was still very in-tune with everything going on around me in that operating room.
19 After: “I No Longer Have Abs”
I had heard that c-section recovery was tough. However, I didn’t expect my ab strength to disappear (and when I say disappear, I mean completely vanish). I couldn’t get out of the hospital bed without mechanically making the back of the bed straighten fully. When I returned home, I had to sleep at an incline because any movement from a flat back was painful and used ab muscles I no longer had. Even when sleeping at an incline, my boyfriend had to push me to a fully seated position – something I found to be embarrassing and painful.
Being someone who was rather active before pregnancy, I had hoped to jump back into action once the six-week mark hit. When six weeks hit, I still couldn’t even lift my feet off the floor when lying flat on my back. It took a lot of patience, stretching, and work activating my pelvic floor before I was able to gain back even a small amount of the strength I had before pregnancy.
18 Before: “I Hope The Scar Isn’t Too Bad”
I think any mom going into a c-section is curious about the scar. The fact that a baby, or babies in my case, would be taken out in this way must mean the mark will be major. Since I had watched too many videos, seen photographs of c-section scars, and been shown some scars in person, I knew it wouldn’t be as bad as I pictured it.
However, like any surgery, you just never knew what would happen.
Therefore, my brain started buzzing like it always did. I knew I would be overly careful when it came to caring for the incision, but I was nervous about the healing process. Would it become infected? What kinds of stitches or tape would be used? Would my stomach hang over the scar?
17 During: “It’s Taking A While To Stitch Me Up”
Once the babies had been delivered and I was finally able to see their beautiful faces, they were taken away to the nursery and I stayed put in the operating room. Minutes passed and I realized that it was taking a lot longer to stitch me up than it took to deliver the girls in the first place. In a way, I was thankful because it meant the medical team was being very careful to make sure everything was done properly. However, I was also very anxious to get to recovery so I could hold my babies for the first time.
16 After: “What Do I Do With The Steri-Strips And Bandages?”
Since a c-section is a very intense surgery, that means the healing process is just as intense. I knew recovery would be tough and wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. As a childhood cancer survivor, I had gone through a handful of surgeries early on in my life. However, I hadn’t had many serious surgeries since my childhood and facing the pains that came with recovery wasn’t easy.
There were bandages covering my incision that needed to be changed a couple times a day during hospital recovery time. Before I left for home, the bandage was taken off and I was told to change the steri-strips protecting my incision every other day or so. I was surprised I didn’t have to put any ointment on the incision or clean it a special way. However, I did obsess about changing the strips and making sure there was never any pressure on the incision.
15 Before: “I want the Catheter out”
Since I hadn’t had a serious surgery in years, I hadn’t experienced the wonder that is needing a catheter – and, yes, that is sarcasm. When the nurse had come in and explained why a catheter would be needed, I immediately hoped it could be taken out the next morning. I didn’t want to have to deal with the discomfort of a catheter along with everything else going on, even if it was simply “part of the procedure.”
Discomfort was an understatement.
It was just my luck that the nurse needed to re-do the catheter twice before it had successfully started working. This also happened when they tried finding a vein in my hand for the IV – and that was just as bad. I tried to convince myself that even though I hated the feeling of the catheter, at least I wasn’t in labor or having contractions.
14 During: “I Can Hear And Smell Everything”
I realized that doctors and nurses truly do casually talk to each other during surgery like they do on The Good Doctor and Grey’s Anatomy. Even though it made for a much calmer atmosphere than if the doctors were uptight, I still found it odd. However, I appreciated their kindhearted jokes and their relaxed demeanor.
I didn’t appreciate the smells. The operating room smelled of sanitizer and sterilized tools and, well, body parts. That may be a graphic thought, but being it was an operating room, that specific smell was also in the mix. However, even with an odd assortment of scents that probably led to some of my nausea, my main focus was on hearing those little cries.
13 After: “I Feel Bad For These Nurses”
No matter the delivery method, there’s just as much postpartum “clean up” that needs to be done. Massive pads (that are pretty much diapers) need to be worn and changed often. More times than not due to pain or discomfort, the nurses are the ones to change your pads, clean you up, and walk you places during that initial recovery period.
Since I could not move easily because my abs had literally been chopped, the nurses had to physically shift me, change me, clean me, and check my incision on an hourly basis at first. I absolutely hated this and stubbornly tried to do a lot on my own, making the nurses either nervous or check on me more often. Most of my medical professionals were wonderful and extremely helpful. However, I was tried doing a lot on my own without guidance – and I’m sure that drove them insane.
12 Before: “I Am So Hungry”
You are told not to eat or drink anything before a c-section and, for me, this started the night before the procedure due to the timeframe. Therefore, waking up the day of surgery anxious, uncomfortable, and “hangry” was not a great combination. My appetite had barely been there during my pregnancy and, of course, my hunger was incredibly present going into my delivery day. I wanted to eat everything in sight and, of course, our apartment had already been stacked with meals and snacks for when we returned. Even though my mindset was very much on getting those girlies out, the rest of my focus was on that big, juicy sub (with extra deli meat) I was ready to tackle after delivery.
11 During: “I Am Pretty Nauseous”
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states, “Nausea and vomiting are common and distressing symptoms, which can occur during the procedure if the woman is awake and they can also occur after the procedure. A wide range of medications are commonly used either to reduce the chance of symptoms occurring or given as a treatment if symptoms do occur.”
Since nausea was luckily not something I experienced a lot of during my pregnancy, I didn’t expect to feel nauseous when the doctors asked me I felt that way during the c-section. When laying on the operating table, they asked me a couple times if I felt that way and the answer had been “no” – until it hit me. They then started pumping some stronger meds into my system that luckily helped.
10 After: “Give Me Back My Ginger Ale”
Even months after my c-section, ice cubes still make me a little angry and I’ve found myself craving ginger ale. When I had been in recovery, I was told I could only have ice chips or ginger ale. Since I was incredibly thirsty and hungry, I asked for ginger ale and started drinking it – probably faster than I should have since they had specifically told me to “take small sips.”
I wasn’t halfway through the very small can of ginger ale before a couple nurses came in and noticed I needed additional medical support. They took away my ginger ale and told me I was strictly on a diet of ice chips for the remainder of the night. Even with doctors quickly rushing to my side without clarifying exactly why I needed the additional medical support, all I could think about was that ginger ale.
9 Before: “Where Is My Boyfriend?”
My boyfriend was asked to leave the room when the medical team started preparing me for the c-section. I was then rolled down to the operating room and transferred to the operating bed. The doctor asked if I could feel anything and when I said I could feel some pressure, the IV was adjusted. A moment later, the same question was asked and when I responded the same way, I was told the team had already started the procedure.
Immediately I panicked and shouted, “Where’s my boyfriend?” What if the babies came out and he wasn’t there? I needed him sitting next to me. He’d be furious if he missed a second of the procedure. A million thoughts started running through my head and within a minute, he walked in the door and sat down beside me.
8 During: “I Can’t Believe He’s Really Watching This”
From the moment we knew a c-section was the delivery route we were going to take, my boyfriend said he would watch the procedure if he could. After a few minutes had passed and my nausea had subsided, the doctor asked him if he felt stable enough to stand and look over the sheet hanging between us and the surgical team. Immediately, my boyfriend got to his feet.
To this day, I wish I could have seen what he saw. He describes it as being quite graphic with a lot of serious pushing and pulling. However, he got to witness the doctors pull breech “Baby A” out followed by “Baby B” who came sliding out within the same minute. He never once felt sick or dizzy. He only felt complete love for his babies when he witnessed their grand debut.
7 After: “My Boyfriend Gets To See the Girls First”
Once the girls were officially delivered, they were cleaned up and weights and vitals were taken. I was told they both had a lot of dark hair, great coloring, and great weights and they told my boyfriend he could go over and see them. Immediately he made his way to the “hot pads” where they had brought them on the other side of the operating room.
As he got to meet them while I got stitched up, no one ever held them quickly over the separator so I could see them. I could hear the girls and hear my boyfriend talking to them, but I had yet to officially see or meet them and I couldn’t do a thing about it. Once they had been cleaned up, the doctors did carry them over so I could officially meet my girls. However, those long minutes I spent waiting were filled with jealousy and impatience.
6 Before: “Will I Feel Anything?”
I knew that “typical” births could often be very painful – especially if they were unmedicated and natural. I admired those who were able to walk away from a natural birth without negative comments, even if it did hurt in every way possible. Even though I knew a c-section was supposed to be a very organized medical procedure, I still worried about being able to feel anything. Real medical tools were being used in an operating room and I would be wide awake for it all. Things went wrong with surgeries and deliveries every so often and I feared I’d fall into that statistic.
5 During: “There’s Definitely Pressure”
The word “pressure” was used over-and-over when I was in the operating room. The ongoing question was, “Do you feel any pressure?” My answer was always yes because, well, there definitely was some. It felt as if hand-weights were being rolled all over my body and, I guess, that was better than feeling pain.
Since there was a sheet separating me from the surgery taking place, I couldn’t see anything that was going on. However, I was able to tell the nurse next to me if I did feel any pain or pressure and they would let the team know and increase my medication. Only once did I really need that to happen and, luckily, they made the appropriate adjustments.
4 After: “I’m Not Numb Anymore”
It wasn’t long after I returned to recovery when the numbing sensation dissipated. I felt sore everywhere – as if someone really had dropped hand-weights on my stomach. A nurse handed me my ginger ale, took it away from me (yes, I am still upset about that), and a team of doctors raced to my side without telling me why.
I later learned I had experienced severe blood clots. Even though the team had been doing what they could to quickly relieve me, the numbing feeling was gone. My babies had been brought to the nursery, my boyfriend had been asked to leave the room, and doctors were painfully pushing and pressing on me without telling me why. Luckily, the hemorrhaging stopped, but this memory is one that will always stick.
Along with my ginger ale being taken away.
3 Before: “Will I Hear My Babies Cry?”
Many twins are born at premature weights with lungs that aren’t fully developed. If those lungs aren’t fully functioning, the baby cannot make that first cry many moms hope to hear.
I knew my girls were at pretty safe weights going into my c-section, but that still didn’t mean I would hear those cries I desperately hoped to hear. I was afraid maybe their lungs weren’t as developed as I’d been told and maybe one would cry, but the other wouldn’t. My mind was buzzing with every possible scenario and to say I was nervous was an understatement.
2 During: “Holy Moly, My Babies Are Crying”
When I heard “Baby A” cry, my boyfriend and I looked at each other and the tears started falling. I didn’t think I’d get extremely emotional during delivery, but when “Baby B” chimed in with her sister and their cries filled the room, it was emotional. Those little cries meant the transition from pregnancy to parenthood was officially taking place. It also meant that their little lungs were strong enough to hold their own – allowing my fears to be calmed. The reality of the situation hit us once our little girls started crying and we were both so relieved, so excited, and so terrified for what lay before us.
1 After: “Okay, What Do I Do Now?”
You may be someone who has taken parenting classes and read every book on the shelf. You may be able to change a dirty diaper in under a minute and breastfeeding might be something you’ve always been excited about. Maybe you’ve been mentally preparing for years and believe you really would make the “Perfect Mom.”
Well, I’m sorry, but there is no such thing as the “Perfect Mom” and even if you think you’re fully prepared, you’re probably not.
While knowledge and experience are nice to have, it does not 100% prepare you for your own pregnancy or adventure into parenthood. When those babies were set in front of me, my mind was a blank canvas. I was starting from scratch, just like my girls were. My boyfriend and I had to make big decisions and even though we’d had many parenting discussions, it now was time to move forward with them – ready or not.
References: U.S. National Library of Medicine, This one mom's experience.