I still can’t believe the girls are here, outside of my body, after what felt like an eternity of a pregnancy. The last post I published was our announcement of the news last summer: how we found out, how I was feeling after the first trimester and going into the second, etc. To be honest, I had no idea that would be the last public update until now. Needless to say this pregnancy, as grateful as I am to have experienced it and for the girls to arrive healthy, was beyond tough on an emotional and mental level. I plan to go into more detail about everything that happened soon (the post is being drafted.) But for now, let’s focus on the happy news of welcoming the girls to the blog!
Meet The Girls
So I’ve had the girls’ names saved in a hidden note on my phone for 11 years. I found them both in a generational book that was passed down to my mom when she was pregnant with me. Apparently all the girls in the family were named out of it, sort of like a fun tradition. There are two volumes of this book and both are loaded with names front & back, so you can pretty much expect to find just about anything in there. I kept a list of the ones I liked the most on my phone, occasionally looking at it for fun over the years and making edits / eliminations. There are several that stood the test of time – Emerson & Hazel being in the top 5.
Emerson “Sunny” Rose
When Thomas and I began discussing our future kids’ names casually (eventually seriously), I told him I definitely wanted to name a daughter Emerson should we be blessed to have a girl. I’ve always loved the name, but I had full intention on nicknaming her Sunny regardless. As someone with an uncommon masculine name, most of my childhood was filled with anxiety of having it mispronounced by adults or teased by older kids due to its uniqueness. I love my name now, but it took me until college to embrace it fully. I didn’t want Sunny to have that same problem or insecurity – kids can be mean and adults can be careless with a child’s emotions. As she gets older, she can decide for herself if she prefers to be called by her full name or nickname; or maybe she’ll want to change her name entirely haha! Her middle name Rose is after my late Grandmother, my dad’s mom.
So far, Sunny is our opinionated lady. She has a scream so high pitched whenever she’s hungry or needs to be changed; we lovingly refer to it as her Peacock call – it sounds very much the same as the animal. Her favorite thing to do is be cuddled or held, which I low key love unless it’s in the middle of the night and her sister is also asking for my attention to feed her. She has little stork bites on her eyelids (the red marks) which I read means that she was kissed by an Angel before entering the world. Hoping it was from her namesake.
Now I feel a bit bad that we had the name Emerson/Sunny picked out the moment we learned we were having a girl, and that it took until we were in the recovery room to name Hazel. I guess when it came down to it, there were 3 names we really liked for her but kept changing our mind about them weekly. We called her Twin B or silly abbreviations of a sampling of names we were considering for her until we got our top two nailed down. Ultimately, we hoped she’d “let us know” what her name is when we met her and thankfully she did. Without a doubt, she’s a Hazel. And I truly couldn’t love the name more – it’s so perfect for her. And funny enough, the name is also on Thomas’s mom’s side of the family; double whammy there. Her middle name Frances is after Thomas’s late Grandmother, his dad’s mom.
Hazel is our very chill, go-with-the-flow gal. Not much bothers her unless she’s hungry or needs to be changed. A no-nonsense, independent queen. She can happily lie by herself in the bassinet or crib without fussing, and has learned to soothe herself to sleep at times already. Definitely more patient than her sister, for now. Mom here is very grateful she’s easy-going as of now during these early weeks.
The Birth Story
Finding out we were pregnant with twins at 8 weeks put me in the “high risk” category by default. This meant double the ultrasounds and monitoring, which wasn’t all too bad in the beginning. I got to see the girls a lot more, as every appointment guaranteed a visual of them instead of just the simple handheld doppler heartbeat confirmation. Starting at 16 weeks, I began going to both my OBGYN and Maternal-Fetal Medicine every four weeks until I hit the 32 week mark. Then it became bi-weekly until 35 weeks, then every week until my scheduled C-Section at 36 weeks 6 days, one day short of 37 weeks.
Physically, I was doing very well until I hit 33 weeks. The doctors at MFM began to notice that girls were not growing at the same rate they had been up until that point, measuring a bit smaller than where they should be compared to the week(s) beforehand. This is also known as Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and can be common with twins/multiples. Basically, the placenta begins to deplete in functionality – sort of like maxing out a battery. It slowly decreases the amount of nutrients for the infant, therefore slowing down the infant’s growth. In these circumstances, timely delivery becomes essential for the well-being of all involved (babies & mother.) So that’s when the doctors at MFM made the call to have me deliver at 37 weeks instead of 38, which is typical for a di/di twin pregnancy like I had.
By week 35, I became increasingly anxious about the twins’ fetal kick counts and found one day that Sunny (Twin A) wasn’t moving as much as she had before. You become very aware of your baby’s movements during this time, basically because your doctor reminds you to track them at every appointment during the third trimester. So naturally, I got nervous and called my doctor. I was told to head to the hospital where I’d be delivering to get a Non-Stress Test (NST) in the Labor & Delivery ward. A NST is a fetal monitor that tracks the baby’s heartbeat (or beats) as well as monitors your contractions. I went in with the intention of confirming that both girls were fine and I was just making myself stressed. Thankfully, the girls were indeed fine but my blood pressure was on the higher side, first time it’s increased all pregnancy, and they diagnosed it as mild Gestational Hypertension. The NST monitor was also picking up on prodromal contractions, despite me not feeling them much as I thought any sort of contraction would feel like. After a urine test, they found trace amounts of protein. This was my first indication that I was headed towards the Preeclamptic route.
Despite being able to go home after that first NST, I ended up back at L&D 3 times for more monitoring as my blood pressure continued to rise at each doctor’s appointment I had during weeks 35 and 36. This is when my c-section was scheduled for Friday, Jan 27th where I’d be 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant. It was important for me to have my own OBGYN perform the surgery, as he did my endometriosis and ovarian cyst surgeries years before. Since we couldn’t schedule a weekend surgery, it had to be that Friday. This also meant the girls would be considered premature, as it was before 37 weeks with a potential chance of some NICU time. But ultimately, getting them out was the safest decision given the IUGR and my Preeclamptic symptoms. And much to our gratitude, the girls were strong & healthy – no NICU time was needed.
C-Section & What To Expect
I was given the choice of doing a natural birth or c-section from the start. Without a doubt, I knew I wanted the latter. It was something I mentally prepared to have my entire pregnancy, especially given the nature of twin positioning and how often the girls rolled around & flipped inside me. I didn’t want to add any more stress to my situation; I couldn’t imagine going through the labor pains of attempting a vaginal birth, possibly be successful with one twin but then having to get the other cut out – which can definitely happen when delivering twins. Then I’d be recovering from two deliveries essentially, on top of taking care of two newborns at once. Plus, the fact my OBGYN had done a “similar” uterine/reproductive surgery 3 times on me before gave me confidence that it would be a smooth operation and straightforward recovery – and luckily/thankfully, it was.
Leading up to delivery day, I did my due diligence to prepare myself on what to expect by talking to friends who also experienced it, as well as listened to a great podcast called Mommy Labor Nurse with episodes specifically about C-Sections. This gave me a lot of peace going into it, despite it being a major 7-layer deep abdominal surgery that you’re 100% awake for lol.
So here’s my opportunity to be that friend to you if you’re reading this while anticipating a future c-section, whether it be scheduled or end up resulting in one during labor. Pregnancy & labor is an unpredictable journey from beginning to end, feeling prepared however you can makes all the difference.
Like most surgeries, you’re not allowed to eat or drink several hours beforehand. Because mine was scheduled for 3pm, I didn’t have anything (not even water) since 11pm the night before. They also don’t let you eat until 6 hours after the surgery as well. So make sure you eat a BIG meal and guzzle tons of water the night before to hold you over.
However, I didn’t end up going into the OR until 6pm due to emergency surgeries getting priority, so I wouldn’t expect your scheduled time to actually happen on that provided hour. Bring some reading material or headphones to help pass the time while you wait. You might want to get noise-cancelling ones if the sound of other women in labor/throwing up/screaming might be unsettling to you while waiting. In my circumstance, we were only separated by a curtain in our hospital’s L&D Triage. You can hear EVERYTHING going on. If that’s potentially triggering for you, best come prepared to ignore it with distractions that work for you.
When you arrive, regardless of going into natural labor or scheduled induction/surgery, they’ll hook you up to an IV that will remain in your wrist/arm for the duration of your hospital stay. For me, this was 4 days, 3 nights long. Because I was so dehydrated from lack of water, finding a vein was a bit uncomfortable so I ended up with it on the backside of my arm instead of the wrist. They place the IV in your wrist or there in your arm purposely because you want to be able to hold your baby comfortably – the typical elbow location would be utterly painful.
For a scheduled C-section, you don’t get induced with Pitocin like you do for a vaginal birth. The only medication I was hooked up to in the L&D Triage was an antibiotic to prevent potential infection during the surgery, as well as a Zofran for the nausea that comes along with it. Do not be afraid to ask for the Zofran if they don’t offer it to you because that antibiotic is strong on the body, especially because you haven’t been able to eat or drink all day. Labor can also trigger nausea/vomiting – the body’s way to expel prior to pushing the baby out. So if that’s something you’d like to try to avoid, I’m sure you can ask for medicine to make it less miserable as you await delivery or an epidural.
We didn’t bring too many of our packed items into Triage with us – just the essentials that Thomas could easily carry to the recovery room and then the postpartum room. I made sure I had cozy grip socks on, which I wore during the surgery and several hours following. Once we were in our postpartum room, Thomas went back out to the car to get the rest of our stuff. I’ll be sure to cover what we each packed in an upcoming post.
Thomas was escorted to the recovery room first while I went into the operating room to be prepped for surgery. Not going to lie, walking into the operating room in a hospital gown & hairnet while attached to an IV was a bit daunting. Everything looks crazy sterile and there are about 6 people in the room scrubbed up, ready to administer medication or perform the actual surgery. They’ll have you sit on the table with the back of your gown open as the Anesthesiologist asks for your height/weight to administer the proper dose of medication to completely numb your body from the ribs down. The tiniest needle goes into your back, and this is the part where I got very anxious. I asked the nurse standing in front of me if I could rest my hands on her shoulders as the needle was inserted, which helped a ton in terms of keeping my balance and focusing on my breathing. It doesn’t hurt at all, yet the idea of something going into your spine isn’t the most pleasant. Just know it goes by quick.
Once that’s done, they quickly lay you flat on your back and assemble the sheet in front of your face to block the surgery view. This is where I began to feel anxious. It’s a strange feeling to be on your back while super pregnant, and the nausea can creep back steadily from that as well as from the additional medication the Anesthesiologist feeds through your IV. At times I felt like I was about to faint or that an elephant was sitting on my chest, which I told them and it was quickly fixed. Once I was comfortable, I felt much better – somewhat calm in a way. That’s when Thomas was led into the room and sat on a stool right next to my head. He gave me such reassurance and positive affirmations the whole time, a true gem of a partner through and through.
Then I realized my entire body was numb – I couldn’t move my toes which I found so strange, but also TG because that meant the medicine was working haha. I didn’t even realize they had begun the surgery until the doctor said they were close to meeting the first baby. You truly don’t feel anything other than pressure when they maneuver the baby downwards towards the incision to be evicted from your body. Once they lifted Sunny out, I felt an immediate relief like a weight being removed. By the time they lifted Hazel, I felt my whole stomach deflate in the most delightful way.
Sunny was out in 18 minutes, Hazel 3 minutes afterward. Both girls were taken across the hall for a quick NICU check to make sure they were ok to be returned back to us. Thankfully they were in perfect-appearing health, wrapped up and returned to me/Thomas to hold as the doctors began stitching all 7 layers of my abdomen back up. Thomas was later taken to the recovery room with the girls to get vitals while they finished working on me for another 40 minutes. The sewing you back up part is the longest portion of the surgery. Then they’ll transfer you to a new bed (you’re literally dead weight at this point) and wheel you to recovery to be reunited with your baby and partner.
You’ll spend about an hour in the recovery room before getting wheeled to your postpartum room, where you’ll spend the next several days until discharge. In recovery, I got my vitals checked (blood pressure was still high) and got to do skin-to-skin with the girls. I also got to chew on ice chips, but still felt hella nauseous. I wanted to attempt breastfeeding, so they had two lactation consultants come to the room to help get the babies to latch. However, it didn’t prove to be a successful there or later on during other attempts. That’s when I decided pumping would be the better option for me/us. No one made me feel pressured or guilted for choosing to pump at my own discretion while opting to feed the girls formula in the interim. A fed baby is a happy baby, and I’m so glad the nurses at our hospital believed in that too.
The next few days/nights in the hospital felt like jail. Not being able to leave the room, let alone walk around comfortably, was frustrating but clearly necessary due to the nature of the surgery. I wasn’t in a lot of physical pain until night two, when all the medication from the surgery wore off and I felt ALL OF IT. Pain from the incision, the gas they pump into you now radiated up to my shoulders, dizzy and nauseous – you name it. Luckily, the nurses were able to get me the heavy duty stuff (half an oxy) and I felt a lot better within a few moments. By the next morning, I was back to a stable place and didn’t need any additional hard painkiller medication until the next night – which I asked for in anticipation of having a similar painful night. If anything, ask for it if you feel like you’ll be in for a hellish night. It’s better to get ahead of the pain than struggle through it like I tried to do before waving the white flag.
We took advantage of sending the girls to the nursery all 3 nights so we could catch up on some sleep – you’ll definitely need all the hours you can get with recovery and you’re definitely not going to get much of it once you return home. However, the nurses will still wake you up every 2-3 hours to give you tylenol & toradol (low-key pain meds) and occasionally to check your vitals. But at least you can fall back asleep right afterward. I will say that by the time we left, I didn’t find myself needing any of the over-the-counter pain medication they suggested for me to take. I probably took some once we got home (and a lot of GasX for a few days) but that’s it. I felt overall pretty good, just exhausted from the experience.
Left: last bump pic at 36 Weeks 5 days | Right: 2 days postpartum
The Days / Weeks Following
Think of it this way: the hardest recovery days are behind you once you get home. Every day gets better and better. I still looked very swollen and bloated the first week, but I was shocked to see how much of it went down in a matter of days after the one week mark. By week 3, I had dropped 30 lbs naturally. What might have helped contribute to that decrease was taking advantage of walking whenever I could and within reason. It took me until week 2 to feel like I got my full stride back. Definitely do not pick up anything heavier than your baby, it’s not worth stretching the incision whatsoever – I accidentally did that, OUCH.
3 week postpartum progression
Getting out of bed might still be a struggle and you’ll find yourself still propping up on pillows, but at least you can sleep on your back now! I found that my bladder felt strained for a few days, which makes sense given it was kicked and sat upon by an infant (or two) for several months. The area around and above your incision will feel numb for a while, since several nerves were cut during surgery and have to mend themselves over time. Mine is still very numb but I was told it will in fact return to normal eventually. I also found my body was prone to experiencing strong shakes for a few days whenever I laid flat in the nursery recliner or our bed – sort of like an intense shivering as if you’re naked in the arctic tundra. That thankfully has since gone away but it happened for at least the first 3 nights after we were home.
I had my two week post-op appointment that gave me the OK to drive (you’re not supposed to after surgery for 2-4 weeks) and allowed me to carry up to 15 lbs of weight – aka both babies or one baby in a car seat. However, I still can’t workout or lift heavier things until my 6 week post-op visit. Needless to say, I feel super great and recovering very well. The beginning was tough but each day felt easier to get around.