Olivia writes about her Caesarean section experience with Twins:
Just over five years ago my twin boy and girl were born via C-section. For most of my pregnancy of 36 weeks I had maintained that I wanted to deliver naturally, only faltering on the odd occasion when I panicked at the thought of delivering what my obstetrician kept referring to as ‘very big babies’. I thought a section would be the easier option even though I knew the recovery could be slow. My obstetrician didn’t discuss a birth plan and I never asked for one. I knew with twins there was a 50% chance of needing a section and no matter how determined I was, it would depend entirely on how the babies were, that they would come first and that was fine with me.
At 26 weeks, I got back pains as the muscles in my back were under increasing pressure. I would come home on my lunch break and go straight to bed, returning to again when I got from work later that day. My husband would return from work to find me asleep in bed. If we had guests visiting after a while I’d have to excuse myself and go to bed early. And so I left work earlier than planned due to sheer exhaustion and felt bad about it at the time. My Dr had instructed me to do no housework and rest as much as possible.
At this stage I looked like I was 9 months pregnant and ready to go at any stage. Up until this time I had been practising pregnancy yoga, swimming, lots of breathing exercises and walking – I wanted to maintain my fitness in order to improve my chances of a natural delivery. I thought the bump would stop growing but it went on getting bigger and bigger. I became embarrassed to go out in public as people would stop to comment on how massive I was and how they felt sorry for me. This wasn’t a problem for much longer as so much fluid built up on my legs that I couldn’t stand or walk for very long. Driving wasn’t an option either as my bump was hitting the steering wheel in order for my feet to reach the pedals. Swimming had become very unpleasant as the last time I struggled to pull myself up out of the water, so I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy at home.
Towards the end of the pregnancy I had gained a whopping 24 kg. Just getting up and down the stairs was becoming a huge challenge as I often felt my left knee about to give way under the weight. Sleeping became very frustrating and became more like a series of naps. I could only sleep for 1-2 hours followed by 20 minutes of trying get to comfortable and I also had to go to the loo several times a night, the pressure on my bladder was so great.
In the 35th week of my pregnancy, my work colleagues came to visit me at home on their lunch-break. I had moved from my normal position on the sofa, with legs elevated on a pile of cushions in an attempt to control the oedema, to join them at the kitchen table. I remember showing them my swollen ankles. The fluid was pooling before my very eyes.
When my husband arrived home on his lunch-break a few minutes later he insisted on driving me straight to our GP. My blood pressure was up and after a quick phone call to my obstetrician, I was sent to see him straight away along with my hospital bag. I was in shock but very excited that soon the babies would be out! For the previous week I was regularly in tears and I just wanted it to be over. I couldn’t feel my fingertips as the oedema in my wrists was causing carpel tunnel and I was suffering from constipation due to the extra iron I was taking. I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror and I was miserable. We waited an hour to see my obstetrician and I remember being very hot in the waiting room, I was huffing and puffing and asked for a window to be opened. I could feel the other patients’ eyes on me. They asked when I was due and I answered ‘right now probably’. Looking back I appreciate the efforts of an older lady to take my mind off things by asking for my help with a crossword. I never do crosswords and she seemed to let me guess all the answers.
My obstetrician ran a few tests and asked me how I felt and I was in bad form so I think I responded ‘like crap’. He said I needed to be induced soon as I had developed pre-eclampsia and there was a danger to the babies. After several phone calls to the hospital he booked the only slot available – 9 am, three days later! I was frustrated that I had to return home and endure another uncomfortable car journey but at least the end was in sight and I would get to meet the babies soon. And of course for the next few nights I couldn’t sleep well at all. I was nervous about being induced and wanted to go ‘by myself’.
So three days later at 9.30 am, my obstetrician administered the first prostaglandin which brought on contractions and severe back pains, but not enough to get labour going. At around 2.30pm, the second dose was administered which again brought contractions and back pain but labour wasn’t progressing quickly enough. The babies were monitored closely all day and were doing fine. The nurses said they might induce me the next day and try again.
At this stage I was so exhausted, the idea of going through another induction the following day filled me with dread. I also fretted over my worst- case scenario that I’d deliver one baby naturally and then the second would be delivered via C-section. I began to imagine and think more positively about the possibility of a section. The decision was made for me when it was discovered that there was protein in my urine and was developing full-blown eclampsia which posed a danger to me and the babies. My obstetrician said they’d make a preliminary booking for a section and I remember beaming. He went off to tend to his other patients and I remember telling my lovely mid-wife that I’d be delighted with a section. I just wanted it to be over.
They finally gave me a wheelchair as I couldn’t walk at this stage. I remember worrying about the spinal anaesthetic and this was actually incredibly easy and painless. I remember my mid-wife stood in front of me and we held on to each other as I lent forwards as far as I could. They asked me to curve my spine like a prawn – sort of impossible with two babies in your tummy! I felt the anaesthetist numb the area with a few pricks and then there was a very still silence while he put in the spinal and I didn’t feel a thing. It was crucial that I shouldn’t move or flinch so I practised my deep breathing from pregnancy yoga and it really did the trick – I felt incredibly relaxed and safe, and knowing that the babies would be out and safe very soon was wonderful.
My mid-wife was so supportive, she distracted me by talking to the babies when I was trying to conserve my energy. I remember being wheeled into the massive operating theatre. My obstetrician did a quick introduction of the staff – I did a quick count – 12 in total! I felt safe, surrounded by a huge medical team lead by my experienced obstetrician whom I’d grown to trust and got to know throughout my pregnancy. The relief from the spinal epidural was immediate and wonderful, my back was no longer in agony and I couldn’t feel a thing. I was smiling ear-to-ear and looking up at my husband on my left who looked nervous, excited and a little lost.
My obstetrician explained as he painted iodine onto my stomach and when he was going to begin the surgery. Of course I couldn’t see a thing over the green curtain. It seemed like only a few minutes passed. The obstetrician asked for different instruments, they talked quietly and then just before 9pm a nurse announced ‘It’s a girl’. I said ‘It’s Eva’. I saw her face for half a second before they whisked her to the side to do all the things they do with new babies, and more I guess, as she was 4 weeks premature. Only two minutes after Eva was born Dylan was out and I saw his face for a second before he was rushed off – he had a little fluid in his lungs which needed to be cleared and so he was kept in an incubator for 10 hours. A few minutes later Eva was returned and wrapped up in my husband’s arms, sitting next to me. I’ll never forget how she looked straight at me. So small and perfect and she wasn’t crying anymore. While I was being stitched up my husband and Eva were sent to another room to wait, giving my husband a chance to bond with her. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I drifted in and out of sleep and things became a little blurry. The nursing staff were monitoring me and I could overhear them chatting but it still felt like a dream.
Early the next morning, Dylan and I were reunited. I had missed him and not being with him in her first hours. Apparently he had cried a lot during the night, but I soon made up for it and within minutes found out how he liked to be held – propped up high on my shoulder. My obstetrician commented that it was no wonder I was under pressure which such fine, big babies – 7lbs and 7 lbs, 3 ozs! Later in the day, the feeling started to return to my legs and I managed, with some difficulty to get in and out of bed by myself. For the next few days my mum (an amazing and wonderful retired nurse and mid-wife) along with a few of the mid-wives helped me to establish breastfeeding and gave me great positive encouragement. Without my mum’s support on those first few days, I’m not convinced I would have succeeded at breastfeeding. The babies did well and we had no feeding issues considering they were 4 weeks premature.
All the excess fluid was gone by day 5 and my clothes were hanging from my hips. Although my stomach was still distended I was surprised by how little pain I experienced after the surgery, which was managed well with paracetamol IV and pethidine to bring home. My blood pressure took about a week to return to normal and so I was kept in for 5 nights to keep a close eye on my blood pressure and to make sure I had established breastfeeding.
Throughout most of my pregnancy I had wanted a natural delivery, however I knew I couldn’t plan my delivery given the possible complications with twin pregnancies. For me it worked out perfectly well. A caesarean was the quickest and safest option for all of us. The actual surgery and recovery were painless unless I tried to bend down too often. For a while I couldn’t pick things up from the floor. I was very slow at walking for weeks afterwards. What I wasn’t prepared for at all was the feeling of sheer exhaustion. I’ll never forget it. My obstetrician told me to take as easy as possible and questioned what support I had in place as I was recovering from major surgery but would be going home to work rather than rest.
I remember my first trip to the supermarket, courtesy of my father, 4 weeks post-partum. I had to ask him to walk more slowly. I began iron supplements shortly after the birth as instructed by my public health nurse and noticed an improvement. The wound healed quickly and just felt a little tingly if I touched it. It took a long time for my stomach to return to normal and I did still look pregnant for months afterwards. I wasn’t very self-conscious of how my stomach looked and figured everyone knew I’d given birth to twins so I didn’t bother with exercises for a very long time. The scar is also very low and so nobody can see it at all.
If I were ever to have more children, I wouldn’t feel apprehensive about the prospect of another C-section. The recovery is slow so I needed extra support for a few weeks and obviously I couldn’t drive for 6 weeks afterwards
Well I think I’ve covered everything and if you’ve made it this far – thank you for reading my guest post for C-Section mums! A great new resource for mummies who have had or may require a C-section.