I first went into labor at 35 weeks and earned myself an overnight stay in the hospital, during which time my contractions stalled and I remained dilated at four centimeters. Two weeks and no progress later (although I did feel like the twins were going to fall out of me onto the floor of Babies “R” Us), I endured 12 more hours of horrid contractions. And although fully dilated, I could not push the babies out, so I ended up in C-section land. And while I’d read up on the procedure and its aftermath, some aspects surprised me anyway.
1. I forgot how to pee.
When we took the catheter out after the C-section, the nurses and I kind of thought I’d just…pee when I had to pee, like any fully functioning adult. Fast-forward six hours and my bladder—filled with the saline that was still being pumped into my body—was dangerously full, and I still had no sense of needing a bathroom visit. I had to have the catheter reinserted (ouch).
The next 24 hours were pee-watch, and the nurses woke me at regular intervals so that I could try to go. Mostly, this entailed them turning on the tap in the hopes that I’d be inspired by the sound of running water, and hovering outside the door at four in the morning while I tried to distract myself with Facebook. There’s still a part of me that wants to tell someone when I’ve peed and have them be really, really impressed by my efforts.
2. I absolutely could not get out of bed easily.
Trying to get up was more intense than I’d expected. I had to master this move where I rolled to the right, scooted my butt forward a bit, pushed up with my arms, and then kind of tumbled forward. If someone was helping me, it was essential that they not pull me up. I could barely walk, and it turns out that ab muscles do a helluvalot more than I gave them credit for.
3. I have never been so thirsty…
…and they wouldn’t let me have any water after the surgery. The thinking was that if I got sick or even coughed, I’d do serious damage to myself. But I was desperate. I finally talked a nurse into letting me have ice chips, and while my husband collapsed, exhausted, next to me, I lay there in the dark sucking on one ice chip after another—for hours. When I had run out, I would ask for more. I remember the moment I was finally allowed to have water as one of the happiest of my life.
4. The shakes were bad.
I knew to expect shaking after the babies were removed, but I had no idea that it would be so intense. My shaking began midway through the C-section and didn’t let up for hours. It was a full-body spasm. It was just me, my ice chips, and my vigorous shaking in the dark after the procedure.
5. They gave me so many different drugs I lost track.
I was a little out of it, but I do remember being told right before I was injected with each mystery substance. One on the left, one on the right, one under the tongue. Repeat. I’d doubt my memory of this if my husband hadn’t been there, clear-headed, witnessing the madness. It’s a good thing that I’d let go of my hopes for a drug-free birth hours before. I was already part of a research study on twins; maybe I was also part of one called “Let’s See What This Stuff Does.”
6. I had/have quite the potbelly!
Part of that is due to carrying big twin boys to term, but I was told that the size of my postpartum belly was also due to gas getting trapped inside my torso when the C-section was being performed. And this seems to be as common as the C-section skin overhang that comes from having part of your abdomen stitched up tight, creating a bit of a bulge above it. Somehow I didn’t realize that cutting through my stomach muscles for the C-section would lead to such difficulty tightening things up down there. I still look about three months pregnant (with twins), and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Thankfully, I only have to kill three people so far for asking if I am having “more babies,” and I found a sweet mom tankini.
7. I almost slept through it.
I am a light sleeper, y’all. I find it hard to sleep through gentle snoring, let alone someone taking apart my body and pulling people out of it. But I was so drowsy when we got into the operating room. It was possibly the brightest room I’ve ever been in, and I was just struggling to keep my eyes open. Granted, I’d been up for 48 hours by then and was medicated with the aforementioned I-can’t-remember-what, but I was surprised that during such intense moments, I just wanted to doze off. The urge was overwhelming.
8. The whole area remains numb.
I’ve been told this can last for a year or more. In the meantime, when I brush my hand against my pelvic area, it’s just strange not to feel the same sensations as I do in the rest of my body. For some reason, I spend a lot of time in front of a mirror, poking the area above my incision. I do this because it’s droopy like melting frosting (so much loose skin), but also because its numbness fascinates me.
9. It traumatized my husband.
He unfortunately got a peek behind the curtain when he was standing up to see the babies. There he saw things he can never un-see. I was hemorrhaging (which is common), and my uterus was pretty enormous due to my carrying two big twins. They actually took it out of my body to stop the bleeding. At least my husband didn’t faint; the docs had said they’d ignore him if he did.
10. My husband couldn’t be there in the beginning.
They had to get me all sorted out in the operating room before they allowed him in. During this time, because it was almost 11 p.m. the night before Valentine’s Day, I lay there half-numb, listening to the doctors, nurses, and techs chatter about their planned dates. I kept craning my neck to catch a glimpse of my husband walking in, but they had exiled him temporarily to husband purgatory, a closet-sized waiting room nearby.
If you’re likely to get a C-section (i.e., are American) or planning one—don’t fret too much. It’s really only bad for less than a week. You will re-learn to walk. You will get to cough and laugh without holding a pillow to your stomach (and that fake, less painful laugh you develop will only sorta stick). You’ll get a badass scar out of it, a fling with Vicodin, and a tummy the texture of Cool Whip. Oh, and a baby. You’ll get at least one baby.
P.S. Getting a C-section doesn’t save you from leaky bladder, folks. If 11 weren’t an awkward number, that’d be No. 11.