Are you catching up on the birth story?

You can read it all here:

Part 1 – Where we find out we’re going to have the babies via emergency C-section

Part 2– The actual surgery, itself

And if all you really care about are the pictures (who can blame you?), check these out:

Pictures – The first few days

Pictures – The first week

Without further adieu, let’s get started with Brooke and Bailey’s Birth Story, Part 3:  Recovery

*Warning:  I’ve said it before, but I should reiterate here….I’m going to give you all the info just as it happened, and this can get quite graphic – definitely in the “TMI” category. If you don’t want to hear about the recovery and all that it entails, just click on the links above to see some pictures and skip this post! : )

Brief review:  I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome (which, apparently, is very serious…up to a 25% maternal MORTALITY rate, though I didn’t know it at the time. – source) and underwent an emergency Caesarian-Section

Immediately after surgery, I was wheeled into the recovery room. I spent the next 90 minutes being monitored constantly. I was hooked to an ECG machine….complete with the sticky pads all over my chest.

Additionally, I was hooked to an IV through my hand, I had a blood pressure  monitor on my arm, a heart rate monitor on my finger, and a catheter in my lady parts (and taped to my leg). Literally every 10 minutes during this 90-minute period, they checked all of my vitals in addition to listening to my heart rate with a stethoscope (no idea why, since I was hooked to an ECG), kneading my fundus (top part of uterus….this was absolutely excruciating!!!!!), asking me a series of questions (Is your vision blurry, do you feel nauseous, do you have pain in your stomach, do you have a headache? – these relate to HELLP syndrome) and checking me for bleeding from my incision AND from my vagina. In fact, I had no idea how involved the vagina was in a caesarian section! That fun little fact caught me off-guard. I also had to have my blood drawn for labs – though this only happened every 4 hours (not every 10 minutes like the other vitals – even though it felt like it – and I looked like a human pin-cushion by the end of my hospital stay.)

Through my IV I was receiving fluids as well as medicine. Specifically, I was being given magnesium as an anti-seizure medicine. Common side-effects of magnesium include feeling sick (thankfully I didn’t have this) and feeling extremely hot and flushed (I did have this….I thought I was going to have a heat-stroke when the room was actually only 60 degrees). This first 90 minutes was a complete blur.

After the immediate recovery, I was transferred to the “Mom and Baby” suite of rooms. Luckily, the doctors took mercy on me and allowed me to be wheeled through the NICU to see the babies briefly before being taken to my room. This was quite the ordeal that required a whole team of nurses because I was being wheeled on my hospital bed along with all of the various machines I was attached to. I was completely immobile on my own.

Chris and I were allowed to look (not touch and certainly not hold) first Bailey and then Brooke for about 10 minutes each. Remember that my Mom had hopped a flight to Tucson when I was checked into the hospital? It was while we were in the NICU that she arrived at the hospital – having landed in Tucson and taken a cab directly to the airport.

After far too short of a time period, the 3 of us (Chris, my mom, and I) were escorted to our new room. From here, my constant monitoring continued. The every-ten-minutes was reduced to every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours, then reduced to once per hour for the entire duration of Tuesday. Remember that the girls were born at 9:55 and 9:56pm, respectively. Given this time-frame, you can see that we were literally awake all.night.long. With all the constant monitoring (and the torturous fundus “massaging”-that-actually-felt-like-being-repeatedly-stabbed), there was not a wink of sleep between the 3 of us (Chris, my mom, and me).

But Tuesday was tortuous for more than one reason. Not only did I have to endure the constant monitoring and being hooked to every machine known to mankind…I also was not allowed back to the NICU for the entire day. I had no idea at the time just how ill I had been and the fact that the doctors were really quite worried I would suffer some pretty serious health effects (you know – like liver failure, kidney failure, or worse…). All I knew is that I wanted to get to the NICU and was told that if things “looked better” then I’d be allowed in on Wednesday morning.

I’m so glad Chris and my Mom were both around. They both 100% stepped up to the plate. Not only was I completely cared for, they were both quite vigilant about having one person stay with me while another would go to the NICU to spend time with the babies. I got to see lots of pictures they had been taking and absolutely loved the priceless photos and stories. One of my favorites is when Chris went to change Bailey’s diaper for the first time. As soon as he got the wet diaper off and started wiping her bottom, she decided to poop projectile-style all over the place. I guess it was quite the ordeal! : )

By Wednesday morning I was almost completely delirious. Though both my Mom and Chris had managed to get at least a few short hours of shut-eye on Tuesday night, I couldn’t sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. Some of this was from pain (I’ve never had surgery, stitches, or even broken a bone before – so this was by far the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life), some of it was from the constant monitoring, and some of it was just the stress and foreign environment. Looking back, I thought I was lucid, but I was really quite “out-of-it” still on Wednesday.

Finally, though, I had my catheter removed, the magnesium taken away, the ECG removed, and only had to endure a much reduced monitoring-schedule, including having my heart listened to with a stethoscope, having my blood pressure taken, and my heart rate monitored evert 4 hours (but having all the equipment removed after being monitored, rather than having it permanently attached to me), and having a fundus “massage” and incision/vaginal bleeding check & blood draw twice per day.

I was over-the-moon with excitement when I finally got to go see the girls, though I was a little delirious from lack of sleep. I was still wearing a hospital gown, hadn’t showered since Sunday night, hadn’t slept since Sunday night (and – remember from Part 1 that I woke up at 4:30am due to pain), and hadn’t walked since Monday before surgery – aside from 4 steps to go to the bathroom when the catheter was removed first thing in Wednesday morning.

I was worried how I’d feel about the babies. We’d had literally no bonding time and I hadn’t been allowed to even touch them yet. I’d read a lot of stories about how Mom’s with c-sections are at a greater risk of feeling detached from their children and potentially suffering postpartum depression. But I have to say that although a lot of the “Mom” stuff did NOT come naturally to me (e.g., how do I change a diaper on this tiny person with so many wires attached to them!?!), one thing that absolutely came naturally was the rush of love I felt for them. These were MY babies!!!

Another thing I felt was a huge rush of love for Chris. He seemed like a complete natural! Maybe it was from that extra day he got to spend with the babies while I was tethered to my hospital bed, but he far surpassed my wildest imagination of what I thought he’d be capable of with these babies. He was the one teaching ME what to do. This was 100% unexpected, but somehow I found it incredibly sexy. Looking at pictures of him in the NICU that first day with our babies and seeing the genuine smile and look of excitement in his eyes made my heart skip a beat. I’m sure this is some adaptive response to help parents feel more connected and allow them to care for their new offspring (sorry to get sciency – remember I study evolutionary psychology, lol), but all of the emotions were just incredible.

I cried a lot on Wednesday. I’d been told to expect this and that the huge surge of hormones raging through my body was totally normal, but would make me a little nutty. I’m glad, though, that my tears were really tears of joy. I just looked at those little girls and felt so much love that it brought tears to my eyes. It also made my heart hurt because I was already thinking about the day I’d have to be discharged from the hospital and go home – leaving them there in the NICU.

Slowly, I started to recover. I took my first shower on Wednesday afternoon (with much help from my Mom – Heaven bless that woman!). I got dressed for the first time (aside from in a hospital gown) on Thursday. I walked for the first time on Thursday (even though it was just down the hall and back), and on Friday afternoon I was discharged from the hospital, armed with a whole slew of prescriptions for the pain as well as for other HELLP-related symptoms.

I am sooooo thankful for the love and attentiveness I’ve received from Chris and my Mom. They have literally been waiting on me hand-and-foot. I try to look at the “silver lining” of the babies being in the NICU. They’re receiving round-the-clock expert care while I’m able to fully recover at home. Even with my rigorous schedule, I feel like it pales in comparison to what it would be like to have the twins at home right now – with my attention split between each of them as well as caring for myself. It would be impossible! My Mom would have to move in for a month to help! Even if it were just a single baby – how on Earth do Mom’s care for a newborn infant while they are recovering from major surgery?! I move at about the speed of molasses, so I just don’t see how you could get everything done!?!

However, each day I feel a bit better and a bit stronger. Yesterday I repotted a couple of plants and rearranged the girls’ clothes by size and style. These were tasks that I’d been wanting to do for weeks toward the end of my pregnancy, but didn’t have the energy or strength to do. So I’m already doing better than I was during the last couple weeks of pregnancy.

At this point I’m certainly not back to normal. I’m not allowed to drive yet and I can’t even lift anything over about 10 lbs. I still move slowly and get tired easily. Walking from the car in the parking lot into the NICU is quite the “exercise” for me right now. But I’m gaining strength. I’m out of the woods for most of the HELLP-related problems (though I do go in for an office appointment on Monday to check my vitals and have another blood draw to check my various counts). But at this point I’m really not worried about myself. My concern is full-on focused on those little babies. They’re doing well, but I’m just counting down the days until they are able to come home!!! I can’t wait until we’re a complete family and settled into home!