51 Weeks

Facebook has a tool that allows you to see posts you made on a certain day in the past, and it’s become part of my nightly ritual. Unless I’m absolutely soul-destroyingly exhausted (read: I have pneumonia or am on Percocet after delivering twins), I try to stay up until midnight to see what happened a year ago, two years ago, five years ago. Part of the fun comes in watching Sammy grow up through my memories, seeing my favorite old videos of him (the one where he laughs hysterically at a dancing doll, the one where he imitates Kyle using the phone, the one where he learns to say his name, the one where he eats my sunshine) and reading old updates on something cute he said or did.

Last night, as the clock flipped over to midnight, I looked at last year’s memories with a little more curiosity than usual, since last year, I was unknowingly a week out from giving birth. I only had two: an updated cover picture and a comment that our power was flickering. This was probably due to the weather, since I remember we had a lot of Nor’easters last winter (Wikipedia tells me that it was due to weather, so go me and my foggy memory!).

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But that’s surprisingly all. No comments about the babies or the pregnancy. No weekly update picture (I think that will show up tomorrow) with size approximations. Just power flickering and a cover picture. All quiet on the baby front.

Weird.

I don’t know what I would have or could have done differently, had I known I was just a week away from delivering. I suppose we could’ve set up the bassinets sooner, but it wouldn’t have made much difference, since the babies were in the NICU for two weeks anyway. Maybe I could’ve packed a hospital bag, but no, I was too pregnant to move almost.

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(this is the secret about being pregnant with multiples: the bigger you get, the harder it is to move)

(also I’m sure someone is going to show up and be like “I had quadruplets and ran a marathon the day before I delivered them” which is really good for you, Mackayla, but my hips still haven’t recovered)

Something I thought about recently that I never wrote about here was my own physical recovery from my C-section, and I feel kind of bad about that. I feel like so much of the internet’s stories about C-sections and recoveries from C-sections are horror stories; I know when I was trying to read up on C-section delivery to prepare for the twins, I kept coming across tales of hemorrhaging and hysterectomies and the like, which did not help my nervousness about the procedure, let me tell you.

So here’s the blurry remnants of what I remember despite the Percocet.

In the immediate aftermath of the surgery, I was fuzzy all over. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist, and the nurses were very interested in maintaining that particular status quo, at least in the immediate period after I delivered. I still had an IV giving me pain medications for the next 12 hours, if I’m remembering correctly, even after I moved from the delivery suite into my recovery suite (which was the same room I had when I delivered Sam, and that brought me to tears more than once). I also kept the booties on my feet–the ones they’d given me to prevent clots while I had my spinal block–for the next 12 hours, until they were confident the spinal block had worn off. And I’ll be honest: I was sad to lose them. They felt nice, like getting a nice calf massage but not from someone who’s like “this won’t hurt!” and then drives their knuckles into your bone so hard that you realize they’re going to hold you captive and force you to write a novel for them.

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For the intervening 12 hours, I mostly just sat and watched TV/played around on my phone. I couldn’t get out of bed, which was both frustrating and fine–I was tired, but I really wanted to see the twins and just move on my own.

Kyle brought me something to eat, but I don’t remember what it was, which is a note to myself that if I ever do this again, I’m going to have a very specific idea what I want for a victory dinner and Uber Eats it, and then send Kyle out to the atrium to await the driver. I don’t know if you can even use Uber Eats if you’re a hospital patient, but I do think it should be allowed for maternity patients.

(when I had Sam, my victory dinner was half a dozen donuts, which I ate while holding him, because I hadn’t eaten anything for about 24 hours at that point)

I remember I had the sweetest night nurse, and I think her name was Michelle. She came in when her shift began and introduced herself before explaining how the night would go. First, I would get some sleep. Then, around 4 a.m., she’d come in and get me ready to try walking again, since this was about 12 hours from when my surgery began. This is when she would remove my IVs, remove my beloved massage booties, and, with another nurse, help me walk to the bathroom so that I could pee without a catheter (which would also get removed at that time). And as a reward for that? I’d get to see my babies, finally.

So when 4 a.m. rolled around, I was MORE than ready to shuffle to the toilet. I queued up the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be” (you know, “Now I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more…”) for motivation, warned Kyle (who was asleep in a cot across the room and acknowledged me with a faint grunt), and got ready. Michelle and her assistant gently helped me to my feet, arms looped around my waist, and served as my crutches as I walked, not unlike a 90-year-old woman, to the toilet and, in a moment that my pelvic floor doesn’t realize has since ended, let loose.

The nurses praised me, gave me my first dose of painkillers (Percocet and ibuprofen), and helped me into a wheelchair. “Try and walk as much as possible while you’re here,” they said, “but don’t overdo it. If you’re hurting at all, stop.”

Which was the weird thing about my recovery, because it was kind of a utopian vision of what a C-section recovery can be. Because I didn’t have the babies in room with me, I got all the sleep I needed to heal quickly, even surprising the nurses attending me when I was wearing my maternity jeans two days after delivery (I mean. They have an elastic waist that’s glorious and that I still take advantage of at Thanksgiving). When I left the hospital, I got plenty of rest as well, so that by the time the babies came home, after two weeks, I was well on my way to recovered.

And, well. In the 51 weeks since, I’ve pretty much returned to something that slightly resembles a more tired version of normal (side note: a study came out recently saying that parents, on average, don’t reach a state of being well-rested until their youngest child is six years old, which is why when the opportunity arises for me to nap, I TAKE THE NAP). The only real indicator of my C-section is the scar on my bikini line, but that’s also mostly hidden underneath my other pregnancy souvenir, the massive flap of stretched out skin left over from how big my belly got.

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I had a couple of big takeaways, the first being that C-sections and C-section recovery aren’t as terrifying or difficult as I’d expected. Something that should be the first choice of everyone involved, regardless of circumstances? Definitely not. But a C-section that’s medically indicated isn’t something to fear, and the recovery, while not easy, isn’t as terrifying as I’d thought going in.

(which, mind, was based on my last surgery, where a bad reaction to anesthesia left me fucked up for a full week afterwards… compared to other people who’d had similar surgery and were back to work the next day)

Another was that everyone’s experience when it comes to birth is going to be different, and that my situation isn’t applicable to everyone. I’m not trying to contradict myself and say that “yeah, that last paragraph about C-sections not being scary? BULLSHIT THEY ARE SUPER SCARY!” because I don’t think the idea of having a C-section, when it’s medically indicated and performed by competent professionals, should frighten anyone. What I am saying, though, is that the speed and ease of my recovery owed a lot to my overall circumstances:

  • My babies spent two weeks in the NICU, so I had two weeks of not waking up at all hours to feed them.
  • When they did come home, Kyle and I took shifts overnight, because the babies were formula fed and didn’t require a boob whenever they got hungry.
  • I’d resigned from my job already by that point, and our survival as a family wasn’t contingent on me getting back to work, so I had time to stay home and recover.

Adding all that together, it makes sense that I was able to recover as quickly and completely as I was and that my story didn’t fall in line with the horror stories I’d expected. BUT, that said, I do think there are some universal things I’d want anyone else facing a C-section to know as well:

  • Do not put off walking unless you’re in excruciating pain. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be doing it on your own.
  • Rest as much as you can, and don’t overdo it. Listen to your body. If your body starts feeling bad when you do something, stop and rest.
  • Do not be a martyr about pain meds. Seriously. If you’re not comfortable taking certain meds while breastfeeding, ask for something else. If you try to be a martyr, it will hurt like hell and you’ll wake up yelping in pain at 4 a.m. begging your partner to get your meds and some water while your three-year-old sits at the foot of your bed innocently asking, “Mommy, what’s wrong?” and trying to climb into your lap, except you can’t straighten up because it hurts so much, so you just kind of pat him and lightly push him away, which likely scars him for life, but then you get your meds and ALL IS WELL AGAIN. (ahem)
  • Take a deep breath. Let it out. In with blue skies, out with grey skies. It’s okay to be scared, but know this: odds are, you’re gonna be okay.

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