It is so much better.
The night before
After what felt like the world's longest pregnancy capped off by a short but depressing hospital stay where I was put on bed rest for high blood pressure, the C-section date was bumped up one week. I thought I would be totally ready to get those babies out of there, but the night before their birth — and especially the morning of — I was seized with fear.
What if I couldn't do this — manage twin newborns and a 3-year-old? What if the babies were colicky or fussy or sick or wouldn't sleep at night? What if the worst in Evan came out at once and our world was ruled by three screaming children? What if I got postpartum depression again and spent my days and nights in tears? What if I couldn't love my children enough?
I tried to keep these thoughts at bay, but I still hardly slept a wink the night before my scheduled C-section. Couple that with the fact that the babies were going nuts the night before, kicking and wrestling and rolling, and it was a restless night. So when the nurse came in at 5:30 a.m., I was practically already out the door. Aaron joined us shortly thereafter while they monitored the babies and prepped me for surgery. Neither of us said much, partly because of the early hour but more likely because we both had the same anxieties. Nevertheless, it was time to go.
I waddled on down to the operating room (quite a victory for an about-to-burst mother of twins), where we were joined by our large medical team: the anesthesiologist, my OBGYN, several nurses, a surgical assistant, two pediatricians, and NICU staff. Ready or not, the time had come.
When I had my C-section for Evan, I was so ready. I had been in labor for 36 hours and he was stuck every which way, so we were overjoyed to be finally done and get him born. This time, I had way too much time to think about the surgery beforehand. I was pretty nervous, which may or may not have contributed to the unpleasant experience of throwing up while strapped to the operating table — not once, not twice, but four times. And twice more in recovery. Not a pleasant start to the proceedings. But once the surgery was actually underway, things got much better.
Up first was Baby A, Beth. My doctor told us she was about to be born but stopped with a laugh, saying Beth was helping deliver herself: Apparently she had reached out and grabbed onto one of the surgical tools and was pulling quite fiercely. At 7:07 a.m. weighing 4 lbs. 10 oz., Elizabeth Lindsay was born. Next up was Baby B, Sadie, who had turned during the night (again) and came out feet first. At 7:08 a.m. weighting 4 lbs. 14 oz., Sadie May was born.
Most moms of multiples say it takes weeks if not months for twins to realize there's another baby there and to acknowledge their sibling, but Beth and Sadie found each other right away.
And they have been like that since. While they're too young to understand anything that's actually going on, when lying side by side they always find each other.
We often find them in their cribs just like this, heads turned toward one another, foreheads and even cheeks touching.
This is how sweet our girls have been since day one, and now almost 2 weeks later, not much has changed.
Nothing bothers them, other than being hungry or naked and cold. And even then, they calm down right away. They need no help falling asleep or staying asleep, and they're incredibly mellow pretty much 24/7. My theory is that they have been kicked, shoved, and pushed around in the womb for their entire existence, so they're just used to being harassed. Couple this with the fact that they always have another little body nearby to comfort them, and they never get so carried away that a little cuddle doesn't calm them down in a snap.
Probably the best thing of all is that they sleep at night. Aaron and I have been keeping them up with us after Evan goes to bed, giving them awake time and a feeding just before we go to bed around 11. Other than the first night home, where they fussed from about 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., they have only woken up to eat once in the night. Yes, once. So they eat around 11 p.m., 3 or 4 a.m., and 8 or 9 a.m. Oh yeah, we've hit the new baby jackpot.
Some of you may be saying, "Yeah, they're mellow because they're newborns, and sleeping is all they do." Not so, my friends. Our first newborn did NOT sleep. He didn't do anything but scream since the day he was born, so we know what a drastic difference this is. In fact, the most surprising thing of all is the fact that these two newborns are 50 times easier than Evan not just as a baby, but still now as a 3-year-old. Other than the time it takes to feed and change two babies, they are a piece of cake. I am actually enjoying this stage that I've spent years dreading!
It doesn't hurt that the twins are as healthy as they come; poor little Evan had a rough start. It took us months until we figured out that he had acid reflux, a dairy intolerance, and a kinked neck and spine from a traumatic labor, so I don't blame him for being pissed at the start.
But despite being born at just 36 weeks gestation, the girls are remarkably healthy. The NICU staff was standing by, but everyone was shocked that the twins didn't need a single thing at birth. They had no breathing problems, no feeding issues, no jaundice, nothing. Other than being tiny, you would never know they were born an entire month earlier than most single babies.
In this picture, Beth is one week old. Had I still been pregnant they'd be at 37 weeks gestation. This shows you just how tiny they really are, chicken legs and all!
But other than being skinny minnies, they are absolutely perfect. What a rare and immense blessing!
In the end, I think this mellowness really just has to do with temperament. Evan has always been an all-or-nothing kid. When he's happy, he is HaPpY!!!!! When he's not, look out. So far, it seems like these girls don't go to the same extremes — not even close. Time will tell, as they grow out of the newborn phase and start to be their own people. But my hope is that right now while they are so easy, we'll get them on a good schedule and teach them good habits so that by the time the newborn spell wears off they'll be trained, for lack of a better word, and happy.
Turns out I didn't need to be nervous for the surgery at all. It was no walk in the park, but the aftermath wasn't nearly as bad as after my first C-section, which was preceded by 36 hours of labor. I have been reading a bunch of blogs about recovery after a twin birth, trying to prepare myself for whatever madness may lie ahead. But once again, I got the best-case scenarios and seemed to recover in a flash.
Well, it's not like I was dancing around the hospital room. I had a lot of pain and I could only walk slowly, inch by inch, but I was up the next day. The funny thing is, recovering from a C-section pretty much felt exactly like being extremely pregnant with twins, so I was already used to that. The main difference: Every day got better, not worse.
This is me just one or two days after delivery. Not too shabby, eh?
Other than pain from the incision, the worst side effect was the swelling, which was partially from pregnancy and partially from IV fluid. Luckily, while on bed rest I got rid of most of it and probably the rest by the time I got home.
Down to this a week after delivery:
Also, I don't think the incision pain would have been so bad on its own, but I got a terrible cough while in the hospital. Every time I had to cough, it felt like my incision was being torn open again. That sucked, but even then the pain was manageable. By the time we left the hospital three days later I didn't need pain pills. I could walk almost at a normal speed, though in short distances only. A week after the birth we even made a little family trip to the mall. I couldn't go far, but it's a far cry from post-surgery with Evan, where I could still barely hobble a month later.
The other amazing thing — that thing which all mothers-to-be are so anxious about — is that just 2 weeks after delivery, my belly is miraculously almost back to normal size and I am only about 10 lbs. above my pre-baby weight.
Remember this, just a week before delivery?
Bam, three weeks later.
Whenever someone tells me I look good I've been joking that all I had to do was have major surgery to remove two humans from my body. Easy peasy!
Of course it wasn't so easy, but it is astounding to me how long ago my pregnancy feels. I never thought I'd say this in a million years, never ever ever, but ... I almost miss it. Almost. Yes, it sucked, but it was also miraculous. What an incredible thing, to grow not just one baby but two! To have them here now, so healthy and strong, makes me feel pretty amazing. I can't believe I did that! All on my own, I not only survived but I kicked twin pregnancy's butt!
And to bounce back so quickly almost makes me feel even more amazing, but strangely it feels sad that reminders of such a long and arduous task would vanish just like that. It must be how Olympians feel after the Olympics are suddenly over. This also must be why Mother Nature is letting me keep a stomach full of stretch marks. She couldn't let me feel too hot to trot or forget that monumental accomplishment so soon.
All in all, this quick return to normalcy has done wonders for my moods, which I was very concerned about beforehand. I got terrible postpartum depression with Evan, almost immediately and for many months. I was prepared for that, but again I was pleasantly surprised at the reality.
When we got home I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I had missed being there with my family. I was only gone a week, but that feels like a month when you have a small child. I missed the daily routine with Evan, and I know he really missed me. When I stopped to think about that I really got depressed. I felt cheated out of not only the week, but by the fact that our routine was forever changed from that day on. I was lucky to have bonded with the girls already and I loved them dearly, but depression knows no logic. I was dreading the months ahead of trying to give enough attention to all three children, fumbling my way through each day and robbing my son of the happy, content life we had thus far led. It hit me hard.
But then I had an epiphany. I thought back to each time I had a meltdown over big changes, when life charged ahead and I felt cheated of the past and unprepared for the future. At those times I felt safe and loved the place I was at, but looking back, I would never, EVER want to revisit them. My life has just gotten better and better exponentially, rocky roads notwithstanding. And though I knew a rough road may lie ahead, I also knew that whatever was beyond it would be wonderfully, gloriously fulfilling.
Since then I've had a small handful of brief weepy moments, but blessedly I've been completely content — even blissfully happy at times. These children, all three of them, are just so incredible. It is hard for me to be so in demand and so crazy busy, but the amount of love here is also truly amazing. They need me, and while that feels so draining at times, I keep telling myself that this is why I was put here on this earth: to give when I am needed, even beyond what I think I have to offer. I'm going to have to remind myself of this over and over and over throughout the years, I know. But it's worth remembering.