The C-Section Low Down

I’ve Given Birth Twice But Have No Idea What Labor Feels Like (But I Can Tell You a Thing or Two about C-Sections)


The Beginning

Early on in my twin pregnancy, my OB pulled me into his office and started talking about the risks of vaginal delivery with twins and the benefits of a C-Section, when I interrupted him. “Are you trying to talk me into a C-Section?” I asked, “Because if you are, you can stop right now. I’m sold.” Over the years, many of my friends have given birth, and many of them have had emergency C-sections after trying to give birth vaginally...and those friends just had one baby at a time. I read stories about twin mamas who give birth vaginally to one baby, only to cause the other to go into distress and cause an emergency C-section, and I imagined how horrible it must be to recover from both a vaginal delivery AND a C-Section. Thank you, no. Furthermore, I never really had a romantic notion of having a perfect vaginal delivery. I always found vaginal births to be rather grim, to be honest. I’d probably be one of those moms who had horrible gas and pooped on the table, followed by a bad tear in the vajayjay. A planned C-Section sounded so civilized and like a far better alternative. Had my doctor not brought it up, it was high on my list of things to discuss, and so he stopped his sales pitch and instead, booked a date.

The purpose of this blog is not to justify my decision or to convince you to have a C-section. The purpose is to inform. Many of you will have a C-section - planned or not - and might be wondering what it’s like. I’m writing this for you. I want to help you to know what to expect, so that if this is your birth experience, you’ll be armed with knowledge. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and sometimes, it’s best to know what you’re in for. You make the call as to which you prefer and either stop reading now or keep on going. I’m not going to hold back, just so you know.

The Delivery

Now then, as I mentioned, my doctor set the date for my delivery early on in my pregnancy. I was to give birth at 7am on November 27, 2012, which was 38.5 weeks into my pregnancy. Some women might take that as just a suggestion, but being the good German that I am, I took it as an order. I never thought for one instant that it would be any other date, and my little babies must have felt the same way because they gave me no trouble about it. I know that it’s very common for twin mamas to go into labor early, and everyone else around me was constantly worried that this would happen for me, but I never even felt the slightest contraction or anything.

On November 27, 2012, we woke up at 5:30am, took my packed bag and me to the hospital, calmly checked in and had ourselves a couple of boys a few hours later. Other than IVF and a dental implant, I’ve never had surgery. For whatever reason, I’ve never considered either of those things to be surgery, so I like to say I’d never had surgery before my C-Section. Anyway, I was nervous because I “felt” like I never had surgery before and the idea of getting anesthesia shot into my spine was unsettling. It made me feel nauseous and afraid, and I cried when I got the shot, though it didn’t hurt. My husband wasn’t in the room and I really wanted him there. I was scared and alone.

I was not alone for long though. When you’re having twins, it’s kind of a big deal to doctors, so all the doctors-in-training like to be there to see it. We had a pretty full house. My OB is a salty, experienced fellow and everyone at the hospital exuded confidence with him presiding. “Oh, it’s Dr. G? You’ll have your babies in no time! He works fast.” He waltzed in all jokes and good cheer. He was telling me how amazed he always is by the epidural, in that I would still feel pressure, but I’d feel no pain. He pushed on my stomach to demonstrate, “Did you feel that?”  I assured him that I did. Then he did it again. “Did you feel that?” he asked. I did not. “Good. That was your incision.” Say what now?

He then proceeded to walk the junior doctor through the procedure. I felt a lot of tugging and felt like my body was being rocked from side to side. It didn’t hurt at all – I just knew they were pulling at something, like having a tooth pulled. My doctor chided the intern, “Come on! You have to really put some muscle into it. Don’t be such a (censored).” And a few minutes later, at 7:49 am, Tommy was born. My husband was describing him to me and it felt like forever before the nurses flashed him in front of my face, but it must’ve only been about 20 seconds after he was out, because JoJo was born just 1 minute later. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I’m assuming it was from happiness, but honestly, I was a bit hazy.

The Aftermath

After that, I have to say that I don’t really remember much of the next few hours. I remember the first time I had skin-on-skin contact with the boys, but I don’t think I had them for long. The next thing I remember is my stepdaughter coming to see the babies, which must’ve been around 2:00 or so. I wasn’t very hungry and was a bit nauseous. I remember watching my husband and Isabel hold the boys, and I remember thinking how sweet it was, but I really don’t remember much else. That is my least favorite part of the C-section: the mental fog.

The Recovery

The next morning, this horrible nurse suggested that I try to stand up. She wasn’t actually horrible – she was kind – but I thought her idea of me standing up was horrible. I told her I didn’t think I would be able to, but she insisted. For the record – I was right. I couldn’t get up on my own, but she helped me and she got me into the shower and for that, I will forever be grateful. The shower was a good idea, and of course, so was the moving around. She gave me a bunch of instructions on self-care and then someone else brought the babies in and I was left to my own devices.

First of all, newborns are really, really small. Nevertheless, I didn’t know how I was supposed to walk over and pick them up when I couldn’t really maneuver myself around. I called my husband in a panic and told him to come to the hospital ASAP. I relied on him a lot those first few days, maybe more than I ever have.

Here was another surprise: you still bleed massively when you have a C-Section, and not from the incision. For some stupid reason, I never really thought about it. I just figured since there was no trauma down below, there would be no bleeding. I know, I know – that is probably one of the dumber things you’ve ever heard. But just in case there’s another idiot out there, I’m here to tell you: expect it. You will bleed and leak fluids from your vagina just like everyone else. There is no avoiding it. The good news is: you won’t have to sit on ice packs. Yay! That always seemed like such a bummer to me.

You will also pass a lot of gas, and nurses will congratulate you for it. Gross, I know. I’m not a big farter (I don’t even like to write the word “fart”), and I certainly don’t go around slapping high fives when I make one, so I was a bit mortified when the nurses asked me in front of my husband and whoever else was around whether I’d passed gas. I just gave a subtle nod and shot them a look that said, “this is not a matter for public discussion.” Anyway, they all seemed quite pleased that I was farting away in my little hospital bed. Pro tip: they get even more excited if you make a poop!

Although standing and moving slowly got easier, I was never so happy to be in the hospital for four days. The nurses took care of the babies at night so that I could rest, and I had people there to help me take care of myself and manage my pain, and to show me how to feed them and bathe them.  At the end of the stay, my pain was much more tolerable – I barely needed the Percocet and mostly just took Motrin. I was smart enough to pack a going home outfit that had no waistband so that my incision was not aggravated and I suggest you do the same. A muumuu is a solid choice.

I was still pretty hunched over when I headed home. I’m not sure how long it took me to stand fully upright, but I’m going to guess a month. I think my husband was growing concerned that he was going to be married to a hunchback for the rest of his life, because he kept reminding me to stand up straight. Those belly support things that people wear to shrink their postpartum bellies are actually helpful for supporting your back too, though you don’t want to rely on them. You have to do the work yourself to strengthen your core again. It sucks, and it’s more than a little disappointing that 30+ years of doing sit-ups and planks really didn’t seem to count for much. I had to stop exercising kind of early on with the twins, but you’d think that my previous diligence would have held up a bit, you know?  But when I got the ok to exercise again, it was like starting at Ground Zero.


The Breastmilk Situation

As for breastfeeding, I found it to be a challenge. No one really mentions that sometimes when you have a C-Section, it takes a little longer for your milk to come in. Quite the opposite actually. The nurses and lactation consultants made me feel like there was a problem or I was doing something wrong. No one said, “a C-Section is a trauma, and sometimes after a trauma, the body needs a little extra time to get going.” That would have been reassuring. The other thing is, I had a planned C-Section, meaning I never went into labor. My body didn’t receive any signals that this was happening and it wasn’t on a natural schedule, so it had to scramble to adjust. I gave up breastfeeding my twins after I tried and failed to produce measurable milk within the first 10 days. With my singleton, I felt determined to try again, even though I had the same milkless problem that I had with the twins. I googled the shit out of the situation, and I finally found an article or two that mentioned that milk can be slow to come in after C-sections. I drank that awful tea you drink to stimulate lactation until my face got swollen.  I pumped and pumped and still nothing was coming. I was about to give up again, when one day in the shower, I just started meditating instead. I breathed deeply and relaxed, and repeated the mantra to trust in my body – it knows what to do. Low and behold, later that day, my milk started to come in. I’m going to say it was about 7-8 days after Bobby was born, so he was mainly formula fed for the first week. Though doctors and nurses may not mention it, I’ll bet if you ask a midwife, many of them will tell you that yes, it might take a bit longer for your milk to come in after you have a C-section, so don’t panic.

The Second Time

So, I mentioned I had a singleton after my twins. Because of my previous C-Section, his birth was also a planned C-Section, and he also arrived precisely as scheduled. I sometimes wonder how long those boys planned on staying in there had we not so rudely extracted them. Would I have had the longest gestation on record? We’ll never know.

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Everything about the second time around was easier. When it came time to get the epidural, I didn’t cry. I took a deep breath and felt at peace. I was very calm and even joked around with my doctors during the procedure. They told me that this was one of the most chill births they could remember. My recovery from my second C-section was far, far easier than my first as well. No nurse came in to help me stand up the first day – I just did it myself. It hurt, but I was surprised that I was able to do it all by myself. I was not hunched over very long, and really, I think I felt about 90% better in a week. Maybe it’s because it was just one baby this time, or maybe it’s because I was able to exercise the entire pregnancy whereas with the twins, I had to stop early on. Or maybe it’s because I’d already been through it before and my body was used to it. Who knows? Who cares? It was better.


The hardest part for me was that I was not allowed to pick up the twins for a couple of weeks, because they were too heavy and there is a risk your incision will tear open. They were only three and they wanted to be picked up and babied and it was hard to tell them that I couldn’t lift them. Instead, I would sit down and let them climb into my lap. It was not quite the same, but it did the trick. I’m going to say that within ten days or so, I was picking them up again, so it wasn’t forever.

The Scar

Now about the scar. I hear so many women worry about what the scar will look like and I hear others complaining about their scars and feeling ugly. I have to be honest here: I give zero fucks about my scar. Not one. It’s not because I’m one of those people who is just so comfortable with my mom bod – believe me, I have a lot of complaints about the state of my belly skin and the fact that I look permanently 4 months pregnant. It’s just that the scar seems like nothing. No one ever sees it except my husband, my doctors and me. If my husband or doctors have any issues with it, they certainly haven’t mentioned them to me. I actually kind of like it. It’s like a little secret tattoo that reminds me of the birth of my boys.

The End

So that’s it: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You may or may not agree with my choice, but I have three healthy boys and I survived childbirth twice and that is all that matters to me. I doubt many of my decisions as a mother, but this is not one of them. Regardless of what type of birth you have, vaginal or C-section, natural or medicated, I wish you and your babies all the best, and I hope that this information has been helpful in some way.