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Bringing Up Babies

6: Your postpartum recovery

Any multiple pregnancy means a greater load on your maternal system than when you're carrying one baby. Accordingly, your ability to bounce back from a vaginal, c-section, or combo delivery may take longer than you'd like. Here's a recovery road map from a veteran nurse practitioner, Carolyn McKay, who works in a high-risk obstetrical practice in Stamford, Connecticut:

Talk to your doctor about a birth plan. Consider: Half of all twin deliveries are c-section. C-section recovery means limitations on lifting your babies, driving, and climbing stairs. Prepare for the possibility that you may have a cesarian and line up immediate postbirth help. Someone needs to be around those first few weeks because you won't be yourself. Cathleen experienced the combo platter—Baby A was a vaginal delivery and Baby B was an emergency C-section. Thankfully, predelivery discussions laid the groundwork for such a possibility, so shock was not added to the list of things to recover from.

Manage your expectations. Ease your postpartum recovery process by cutting yourself some slack. Your uterus might take a while to shrink back to size, and your jeans might stay folded neatly in the closet for a while, but you will get there. Don't add the pressure of self-criticism to the mix.

Pay attention to lingering problems. The strain of carrying twins can have lasting effects on your body. If you are still chronically fatigued by your postpartum checkup, make sure you discuss the possibility of anemia with your doctor. If you're experiencing urinary incontinence six months after delivery, visit a specialist for evaluation.

Take heart. It's so difficult to give individual time to each infant. Truly, you are full of love for these little babes, but your body—and your psyche—are exhausted from the twin pregnancy and birth. This sense of doubting your ability as a mother, as well as hormonal fluctuations, can contribute to baby blues. If the rest of your body doesn't catch up to the enthusiasm in your heart and you have symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, confusion and chronic crying, get professional help.