Well, it’s pretty much impossible for me to sum up accurately the degree to which my life today differs to my life pre-twins! There is so much I’ve wanted to write about here, but – as you can probably imagine – I’m not really blessed with much spare time at the moment. However, I did want to tell you my birth story, so if you ever talk to somebody who uses the phrase “too posh to push” in relation to c-sections you can tell them about my birth and see if it sounds like much fun.
We reported to the hospital, as requested, at 6.30 in the morning on the 16th. We’d been told the day before that we were second on the list of planned c-sections, although we could get bumped for an emergency. We met the number one couple on the list as we parked our cars, and we soon found that an emergency had indeed pushed our c-sections back a bit. So we had some time chilling out in what was to be my home for the next six days.
The biggest challenge early in the day was coping with not being allowed to drink anything – from midnight I’d only been allowed a few sips of water, and from 6 am I wasn’t allowed anything at all. This was awful because I had spent the last few months of my pregnancy gripped by an insatiable thirst, making my inability to have a sip of water feel like torture.
We were allocated a lovely midwife called Claire, and she started asking me what turned out to be an exhaustive list of questions (that were asked of me again by virtually every person I met that day). And then I was hooked up to two foetal monitors – one per baby. Although I didn’t feel a thing at the time, Claire checked the monitor feedback after a while and noted that I was having regular contractions. EEK! Imagine if I’d just gone into labour? I’m so glad that it didn’t happen like that.
Eventually I was wheeled down to the pre-op section and lay there for what seemed like a very long time. It was a very weird feeling, knowing that I was about to become a mother (and also undergo major surgery). The monotony of waiting was broken by two things: more people asking me all the same questions as Claire had asked me; and a really whingey and annoying woman in the next cubicle. I don’t know what was wrong with her, but she didn’t half go on.
The anaesthetist came along for a chat, and fitted my drip. And then, before you knew it, I was getting wheeled on my merry way to the surgical theatre. This is where the day hit a bit of a speed bump.
I know several people who have had planned c-sections (usually because they were having twins), and they’ve all had overwhelming positive comments about their experiences. I’d certainly felt confident that it would be a calm experience, and had even been led to believe that I might even find myself cracking the occasion joke with the staff while our children were plucked from my womb. While I knew that abdominal surgery would never be a totally cruisy experience, I did have reason to believe that it wouldn’t be scary, painful or traumatic.
Sadly, my c-section was scary, painful and traumatic. The problems started when the anaesthetist had difficulties with my epidural. I had to sit on the side of the bed and bend forward, to provide spaces between my vertebrae and give him somewhere to inject. He said to me that, if he got close to a nerve, I’d feel a little zingy electric shock type feeling, and that I should let him know if that happened. So he started, and I had major nerve pain: it obviously wasn’t quite right (to put it mildly). Tristan was sent to sit in the corner of the room, and Abir, our obstetrician, took my hand as the anaesthetist had another go. The same thing happened: serious pain for me. I was starting to wonder whether I was going to end up being put under general anaesthetic, which would have sucked – Tristan would have been sent from the room for the operation. However, I was already finding life fairly unpleasant and was starting to think that they should do whatever they needed to do in order to proceed, as long as it didn’t hurt quite so much.
In the end the anaesthetist fitted an epidural tap, and we were apparently OK to proceed. But it turns out that this type of epidural takes a wee while to kick in… which meant that I was still feeling everything when the catheter was fitted. I wouldn’t recommend this for fun times.
To further check my numbness the staff kept using some weird freezing spray on my skin, with the rationale that, when I couldn’t feel it, they were OK to proceed. I didn’t feel the incision. I’d been told a c-section can involve weird rummaging sensations, like your stomach is a handbag and somebody is hunting for their car keys. I was told by Abir that I might feel a pulling sensation, but it wouldn’t hurt. It really hurt a great deal – my theory is that my epidural hadn’t fully kicked in. There’s no way that what I experienced was normal for a c-section, or else nobody would EVER have them. And then I was struggling to breathe, and spent the rest of the operation under an oxygen mask.
Anyway, eventually Joseph was plucked from me. I was far too spaced out and messed up to really appreciate the enormity of the moment, but Tristan was there to appreciate it all. And a minute later Harriet was also released from captivity – she was held up in front of me looking like Munch’s ‘The Scream’; all melodramatic hands clutching at her face.
Tristan accompanied the babies to the side of the room to be weighed, checked, and generally given a once-over, and eventually he was able to bring them back to me, lolling around, looking and feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. We hung out together for a few minutes and then Tristan accompanied the babies to the post-op recovery room while Abir finished sewing me up.
When I reached post-op Tristan was already stripped to the waist and in the middle of some quality skin-on-skin time with one of the babies. I followed suit with the other one (I think he had Joe and I had Hattie). I managed to get my baby to latch on straight away, which was awesome – I’d done a fair bit of research into successful techniques, and it really paid off. Soon I had both babies latched on and lay in the post-op room tandem feeding, still wearing an oxygen mask (which would be swapped for a nasal oxygen thingy after a while – I came out of surgery with a completely blocked nose, and somebody was swiftly despatched to my room to fetch my nasal spray.
To be honest, the rest of the day is a bit hazy. I fed the babies whenever they were awake, I lay around immobile while people discussed my blood loss and other delightful topics, I hung out with Tristan and Mum while they did all the running around after the babies, and I announced the babies’ safe arrival to the world. Later in the day my catheter was removed, although the drip and epidural tap stayed in place for another day or so.
Mostly, though, I just looked at them and marvelled at how tiny and perfect they are, and how lucky we were to have them.