So you’re having multiples…congratulations!
Get excited, because we’re going to detail the real postpartum experience, written from our very own experiences. It’s very long and meaty, so I apologize in advance. Here we go…
Vaginal Delivery vs. C-Section
Before we begin, it’s important to note that just because you’re carrying multiples doesn’t necessarily mean you will need to have a c-section. There are different factors involved in determining how you’ll deliver, namely the positioning of Baby A (the baby closest to the cervix).
Baby A (but not necessarily Baby B) must be head-down (“vertex”) in order to birth twins vaginally. That said, it’s always possible that even if Baby A is delivered vaginally, Baby B may need to be delivered via c-section (your doctor can explain more about this).
Statistically, about 55% of twin moms deliver them vaginally, 40% have C-sections (for both babies) — and 5% of you lucky dogs get to do both. We call this the double whammy – ha!
Bottom line: you may deliver both babies vaginally, both via C-section, or one vaginally and the other via c-section. Definitely discuss any concerns, questions, and birthing plan wishes with your doctor. And remember that you can only control so much!
Postpartum Experience: The First Hours After Delivery
If Baby A is in good shape, they will probably hand him/her over immediately. Having a slippery, bloody, slimy baby plopped on your belly is like no other experience in the world; it’s a special moment that will seem totally surreal. Meanwhile, your partner will be asked to do the honors (cut the cord). Talk to your OB in advance if you wish to delay the clamping of the cords.
But wait… pushing for Baby B now begins and you get to do it all over again, woohoo!
Once both babies are delivered and you are all getting to know each other, a few things will happen — and you may not even notice ANY of it. You will deliver the placenta(s) and all of the other *gook*, usually within 20 minutes or so. You may get an extra dose of pit (pitocin) if the placenta(s) is/are being stubborn.
Your OB will also stitch up your perineum (if required) and otherwise tend to your undercarriage. If you have an epidural, you will continue to be oblivious to any of this, which is beyond faaaaaaabulous (yay drugs!).
This is a great time to inquire as to… the condition of things down thar. Ask your OB about the severity of any tearing or hemorrhoids, as they usually don’t like to ruin your moment with such… things.
If you had an epidural, now is when they shut it off. They will also remove your catheter fairly soon. The bottom half of your body will still be numb for anywhere from 1-3 hours. Yeah, it’s pretty strange. If you gave birth without anesthesia, you will be more alert and won’t experience this numbness.
Right after birth (for about 45 minutes), your babies will be very alert and ready for their inaugural snacks. Take advantage of this time to nurse your babies before they succumb to the post-delivery hangover.
Nursing during this time will release oxytocin, which also helps to expel the placenta and contract the uterus.
Note: Read Lowdown on Latching which will tell you how to properly get your babies latched on—very important!! Let the nurses help you as well.
This heavy dose of oxytocin will also make you feel extremely and suddenly… sleeeeeepy. I remember fighting just to keep my eyes open. Hand the babies over to daddy and/or grandma if you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open.
Putting the FUN in Fundus!
In the first hour or so, the L&D nurses will likely massage your “fundus”, which is the top of your uterus. This is just an external belly massage that helps ensure your uterus is clamping down (as it should) to slow the bleeding and break up any clots. This can be a little painful if you’re not expecting it (let me revise that statement: it kinda sucks, everyone agrees). So just…. FYI.
During this time, you may also receive pitocin through an IV, an injection in your leg, or a suppository if the bleeding is heavier than they would like. From there, nurses will be checkin’ up on that fundus every 2-3 hours or so. They do this to prevent bleeding complications, so be a sport about it.
About half of you will end up having a C-section, whether you volunteered for it or your babies just weren’t cooperating. Everyone’s C-section experience is very different, but here are a few stories from readers and from Twiniversity so you know what to expect.
I (Marissa) delivered both my twins via C-section. My “section” was planned, and truth-be-told, I found this to be nice. After having an emergency c-section (somewhat traumatic) with my first, it was nice walking into the operating room on my own terms… and about 15 minutes later, my babies arrived!
I was too excited/(terrified?) about meeting my new babies to even really think about the fact that two doctors were cutting through my abdomen and moving all my organs around.
What IS important to remember, however, is that a c-section is a major abdominal surgery that takes approximately 6-8 weeks to fully recover from.
The first few days (okay…the first full week) will definitely be…umm…uncomfortable; you will need help getting in and out of bed, getting in and out of the shower, getting dressed, and—yes—even lowering and lifting yourself to and from le toilette. So just take it easy, accept all the help (from nurses, friends, family, etc.) that’s offered, and know that in time your body will heal.
If you know for certain you’re going to be having a C-section (or you just want to be prepared in case), check out our piece about What to Wear after a C-Section (trust me, you’ll want to have comfy clothes on-hand that don’t irritate your incision!).
At the end of the day, just remember there are pros and cons to a vaginal delivery and a c-section. Due to the tricky nature of birthing multiples, you should mentally prepare yourself for a c-section even if you are determined to deliver vaginally.
Remember that either way you deliver: everything will be okay.
Ok, back to business:
Also in that first hour or so? FOOD. You will be the hungriest mother-effer this side of the Mississippi (whichever side you happen to be on). Here is where you get to order a dry turkey sandwich from the hospital menu and like it. You won’t even care that the food is awful because at this point, you’d be stoked about eating prison food.
Note: if you had a c-section, the food will likely have to wait until much later (I’m SO SORRY about that! I know…it sucks). But…on the plus side…you’ll get ice chips! Delicious ice chips!!!! MMMMmmm.
Okay. I know that’s not nearly as exciting as food, but it is what it is. And really, after a big surgery, the last thing you really want to do is eat anyway…so just…enjoy your delicious ice chips.
A couple of hours after a vaginal delivery, you will likely be wheeled from the OR/L&D to a recovery room, unless your hospital has rooms where they do both. If you had an epidural, you still might not be able to feel your cold, lifeless, meat-like legs, so they may wheel you on a gurney or a wheelchair to your recovery room – weeeeee!
The recovery suite is where you, your partner, and your babies will spend the next two nights (vaginal delivery) or four nights (c-section delivery), unless there are complications, in which case you may stay longer.
After a few hours go by…and the painkillers are wearing off…you’re gonna be all: OWW! What is this contraction-like sensation? You thought you were done – mwaaaa! Those are called afterpains and they are no joke (for me, at least—some people don’t even notice them).
Essentially, your uterus is contracting down (which is good), but it hurts. They are usually triggered by nursing. They should be gone by the third day or so, but in the meantime you’ll probably want to manage this pain, and any pain that is occurring from your delivery.
Once in the recovery room, they will proceed to remove your IV (if you had one). You may have some tenderness in your hand or arm from the IV, but it’s no biggie. Now you’re cordless!
After you sober up a bit, the nurses will offer you Vicodin (every four hours) and Ibuprofen (every six hours) to treat your pain (yes, both are safe for breastfeeding). They may also give you a stool softener twice a day (very important!). Do yourself a favor and stay ahead of the pain!
Be prepared to see blood and lots of it. Your bathroom floor *might* look like the murder scene from Psycho. You will feel sorry for the poor dude who has to clean up after you. Sorry, janitors. I hope you get paid a LOT.
You will also be outfitted with the finest mesh underwear that healthcare has to offer. But wait, there’s more! Call right now and they’ll throw in two gigantic maxi pads and a huge ice pack for your crotch. If you delivered vaginally, this ice pack will become your very best friend over the next two days; use it religiously.
MOMs who delivery vaginally: you should also know that you will have no bladder control whatsoever. No siree. Did I mention the giant maxi pads? Verrrry handy. Getting up to pee right after you had your babies REALLY sucks. Not gonna lie. Bonus for MOMs who deliver via C-section: your bladder will be largely unaffected! Woohoo.
Okay, enough about you.
When each baby arrives, they will weigh him and clean him off. They will apply all sorts of ID bands and even a lojack thingy on his umbilical cord or ankle. Your babies will likely receive a shot of Vitamin K (to help with clotting) and their first Hep B shots. They will also get a heel prick, which they will use to detect diseases, such as PKU.
If you didn’t already receive them during pregnancy, you will likely be offered some shots as well while you’re in the hospital, including Tdap [a booster for tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough)] and whatever else is hip at the moment.
Your pediatrician will keep a very close eye on your babies during the first week. They may (depending on whether or not they have privileges there) attend to your babies in the hospital right after birth and every day that you’re all in the hospital. They want to be extra sure that they are successfully eating and regaining the weight lost at birth. If your babies lose more than 10% of their birth weight, they will pay extra close attention to this situation (although this happens a LOT, so don’t be alarmed).
After leaving the hospital, you can expect to go to the pediatrician at least once the first week, even if just for a weight check. This is why it is so convenient to have a pedi who is CLOSE to you. The last thing you will feel like doing is schlepping your one-week-old babies across town when you are postpartum.
Note: if you have a baby (or babies) who need to spend time in the NICU, here’s what you can expect.
The First Day & Night
Hopefully at this point, you can catch some zzzzs, although just know that it is really difficult to sleep in the hospital. Like… at all. People are coming into your room around the freaking clock. So many people! What do they all want?? Don’t be afraid to use your “Do Not Disturb” sign, although everyone ignores it anyway.
The nurses will come in to check your blood pressure and take your temperature, like… every three minutes. Okay, maybe not every three minutes but REALLY, really often. They will wake your ass up in the middle of the night to take your damn blood pressure, so be prepared.
You will have the option of keeping babies in your room (called rooming-in) or sending them to the nursery. They encourage rooming-in because they hate you and don’t want you to sleep (haha, just kidding) (sort of). Rooming-in is encouraged so you can bond and nurse and get to know each other during those first two days.
Don’t agonize too much about this decision. If you’re well rested and want to keep your babies with you at all times, great, but there is no shame in sending them to the nursery so you all can get some shut-eye. You’d be surprised how hard it is to sleep with snarveling, grumbling newborns in your room. So snarvely.
Hopefully, your partner can get a roll away cot or a pull out sofa and you can all be together as a family. Do yourself a favor and don’t be up and down changing diapers and whatnot – let your partner or the nursing staff take care of this. YOUR job is to rest. The hard work has yet to begin…
Your pain will be at its peak on the second day of your postpartum experience, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Keep taking your painkillers, but do get up and walk around if you’re up for it. Your OB will come visit you again to check on things down below deck (or your C-section incision site).
Day two is when you really want to focus on nursing (if you are nursing). Again, please refer to our post on latching. Getting a good start with breastfeeding starts here. Take advantage of the free help you can get in the hospital. It will pay dividends.
DO NOT worry about tandem-nursing your duo right now. Just nurse one at a time, and get the hang of that first. I didn’t even attempt to tandem-nurse for at least a month (until I knew my babies were each breastfeeding successfully, and we all had the whole “nursing thing” down). Read here for more tips on breastfeeding twins.
Remember, if you can’t nurse directly from the breast, be sure to take advantage of the hospital-grade pump to get your supply going and get that colostrum for your babies! Your breast milk is specifically designed for your babies’ needs.
The second night after birth is when things get a little hairy… your precious little babies have now realized they are out of the womb and aren’t really happy about this situation. I clearly remember a text a friend sent me on the second day:
“Second night = crazy night”
You won’t read about this in any books, but most moms report this phenomenon (here is a great guide for surviving the second night). Don’t be afraid, this is totally normal; there is nothing wrong with your babies. Or you. Or your milk.
You will be exhausted and in pain, but sleep as much as you can because those of you that delivered vaginally are probably going home tomorrow (NOOOOoooooo!).
(Reading between the lines: the second night kinda sucks, sister. Sorry bout that.)
On day 3 (or 4 or 5…), eat a good breakfast before you pack up your bags. Hopefully, you brought cute outfits to bring the babies home in. For you, bring some maternity clothes to wear home, as your belly will still be about six months pregnant at this time (sorry, gals, no skinny jeans yet). If you had a c-section, again, we highly recommend you read this.
Many hospitals require the babies be strapped into their infant seats before discharging you. If you need extra time with your car seats, have a family member bring them up before you leave. This way, you can take as much time as you need to ensure that the babies are properly secured, since it will be your first time. Bring the manual too!
Leaving the hospital is an emotional moment. Hopefully, you had an amazing experience and are hugging the nurses goodbye. If you are renting a breast pump from the hospital, have your partner pick it up before you check out because it takes a long time to fill out all that paperwork, blah, blah, blah. You’re not going to be in the mood to dilly dally around.
The Car Ride Home
Boy, I am getting really granular here, no? The car ride home can be nerve-wracking. Please, please bring pacifiers with you to use – even if only on this one special occasion. Crying newborns will not make for a good homecoming. If possible you may want to ride in the back seat with your babies so you can keep an eye on things.
Sitting in the car will only remind you how bad your lady parts or C-section incision hurts. Remind your partner to avoid bumps (ahem) at all costs. I actually held a pillow over my C-section incision to protect it from said bumps. Remember that things are raw right now, but each day will get easier.
The First Week Home
The first week home from the hospital is pretty tough. ESPECIALLY with multiples, wooo.
There, I said it.
If anyone tells you differently, they are lying or just don’t have a very good memory.
The reason I say this is not to scare you, but to give you some realistic expectations. If you know that you are expecting Hurricanes [enter the babies’ names here] to make landfall as Category 4’s, you can prepare yourself accordingly. Remember: It’s only a week or so. After the first several days, things get better. I promise.
For thousands of generations (except for the last one or two), women lived in tribal societies where mothering skills were passed along in tightly-knit communities. Newborn babies would have been cared for by grandmothers, aunts, cousins, siblings, etc. A new mom would not be alone to figure things out on her own. Especially a new twin mom! You can’t be expected to *know* what to do, you must learn these things. To be honest, it requires a bit of hand-holding.
During this first week (or two) of your postpartum experience, it is so important to have loved ones at your house to help you. Your partner is great, but let’s face it, he/she is as clueless as you. I highly recommend a mother, MIL, a sister, or a good friend – preferably someone who has been through this before (bonus points if they have experience with twins!).
Unless all of the aforementioned people drive you nuts, don’t go it alone. I know a lot of FTMs who insisted on flying solo so they could figure everything out for themselves and bond with their babies. This may sound like a great idea on paper, but it’s not. You are way too tired, achey, and hormonal. Not to mention, caring for two newborns is an all-the-time, around-the-clock, never-ending job! (Yes, it gets easier, but I’m not gonna lie…it’s a LOT of work!) Take all the help you can get.
— from Brooke Shields in Down Came the Rain
“Chris and I had planned to spend a week alone at home with the baby, just the three of us, before having our families come for a visit. We had wanted uninterrupted time to bond as a family. We chose not to have a baby nurse, either, because not only did we not want a stranger in our home, but we figured we could handle it ourselves until our relatives came to stay. We couldn’t have been more wrong. We were anything but peaceful, and because we were alone, we were overwhelmed.”
Having said this, be careful not to have your whole extended family invade your house all at the same time. Space out your visitors so they don’t overwhelm you; this is not the time for a huge family reunion chez vous. You’ll want some alone time sprinkled in there as well.
Your body is recovering from one of the most traumatic physical experiences in life. Even if you had a picture-perfect delivery, your body will still be dealing with the fact that it squeezed two things the size of watermelons out something the size of a lemon. This coincides with other ill-timed events, like sleep deprivation, hormonal craziness, physical pain, and the stress and anxiety of caring for completely helpless little monkeys. You’ll get through it, but you should be emotionally prepared and set your expectations accordingly.
** Here’s what you need in your postpartum recovery kit.
After you deliver, your hormones are going haywire. Prepare to be on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, courtesy of estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and oxytocin. After delivery, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop sharply, reaching pre-pregnancy levels by the fifth postpartum day.
This sudden droppage will make you feel REALLY out of sorts.
Your hormones also do a number on your body temperature. Around Day Four, you will be FREEZING cold. So cold you don’t know how you will ever feel warm again. Then you will wake up sweating and peeling your clothes off. Then you will be cold again. Nobody knows why. You may also have a complete loss of appetite. Don’t worry, it’s all normal.
You can expect that you will be on a rollercoaster ride of elation, sadness, and a little anxiety. You will burst into tears at the drop of a hat (tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? Who really knows). This is normal. Just ride the wave and know that it will take you back to shore.
According to Dr. Alan Greene:
“Most new mothers (perhaps as many as 90%) will have periods of weepiness, mood swings, anxiety, unhappiness, and regret. Usually this lasts for a few days or less and is quickly forgotten.” Read more here.
*As with everything with multiples, your risk of suffering from Postpartum Depression is higher. This is different – much more severe and prolonged – than the aforementioned “Baby Blues”. In fact, be aware that Postpartum Depression can come on any time during the first year postpartum. Please, please let your doctor know if you aren’t feeling any better after a few weeks. There is no shame in getting help. If you had high blood pressure, you wouldn’t think twice about seeing your doctor and taking medicine; this is no different. Be kind to yourself – your body just went through quite the ordeal. (Read Marissa’s story about battling Postpartum Depression here).
Ok! That was a TON of info! If you are still reading, I thank you for getting through it.
Don’t worry, it’s ALL GOOD. You’re GONNA HAVE THE BABIES!!! (Cue: I got a feelin’ (WOOOO-hooooo) that tonight’s gonna be a good night…)