What my c section taught me about rest (and asking for help)

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The first month or two of Clarissa’s life, I was pretty miserable. She would pretty much only sleep if someone was holding her, which was fun during the day but frustrating at night. Most nights about 3 AM I would question why I became a mom. I remember several mornings, Tim would wake up for work about 6 AM and walk by me in the nursing chair and I would say, “I have not slept yet!”

Then, magically at two months old, Clarissa learned the difference between night and day. By that I mean that she started sleeping consistently from 2 – 7 AM. Once I started sleeping, I was so glad to be a mom.

Some days in the first few weeks, I was really tired and sore so I spent most of the day on the couch watching Netflix with Clarissa and Josie. Other days I felt pretty good so I would vacuum and clean the house. I always overdid it so the following day was usually a couch day to recover.

Going into the end of Tiffany’s pregnancy, I planned to relax more. Tim was planning to be home for two weeks and then Mom was planning to stay with us for a week as well. I wanted to relax and heal the first two weeks and then hopefully do some fun things with Mom before I was home alone with two kids and getting used to our new normal.

I was really tired and sore towards the end of my pregnancy with Tiffany. My belly was huge so if I did a lot of walking, I really felt it and I also had some carpal tunnel. I was still cooking and doing laundry. But Clarissa and I were definitely watching a lot of movies and I was trying to give myself grace for not keeping the house super clean.

After about 44 hours of labor, Tiffany was born by cesarean section. That was not really on our radar. The original plan was for Tim to be in the hospital with me for our entire stay. That didn’t end up being what was best for Clarissa so they left shortly after Tiffany was born. They did not even get to hold her the night she was born.

Since I was on my own that first night, I really had to rely on the nurses to help me. I could get Tiffany out of the basinet when she cried but I couldn’t get her back in to the basinet. But the nurses were great so I would call them and they would swaddle her and put her back in the basinet for me.

The next morning, they did the usual blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion. Apparently I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and my iron count was at transfusion level. There was talk of a second transfusion, but we ultimately decided on iron pills instead.

The first two weeks that Tiffany was home, Tim was off of work. He entertained Clarissa and did the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I basically camped out in our bedroom with the baby and watched TV all day. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned my recovery, but a c section and stairs don’t mix. I went downstairs a couple of times per day to eat, but Tim carried Tiffany up and down the stairs for me.

My mom came for two weeks when Tim went back to work. She took care of the cooking and cleaning so I could continue to recover. She was available to drive to Tiffany’s appointments and to Co op so the girls and I were able to get out of the house some. But I didn’t last very long on my feet anyway.

Four weeks was the first time I was home alone with both Tiffany and Clarissa during the day. I was still really sore and was taking the stairs more so we ended up having a lot of movie afternoons and book snuggles on my bed. Tim took the laundry up and down the stairs for me after work. I started making dinner again. But that was about it for the next two weeks. My pain level actually got worse because I was doing more.

I didn’t start driving again until after Tiffany was 6 weeks old. I did reach a point a few days after the six week mark that I started to feel much better. I went from taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to once or twice per day.

Clarissa and I didn’t start school again until the six week mark either. It took a few days to find a groove with Tiffany. Eventually I learned to wear her while Clarissa and I did school.

Tiffany is two months old now and we are still trying to find our new normal. Thankfully she is a great sleeper. But I do spend several hours per day nursing. So between nursing, trying to give Clarissa attention, and school, I am back to mostly doing cooking, dishes, and laundry like I was before she was born. Thankfully I can drive now, but we wait for the weekend to run most of the errands with Tim.

If I had delivered Tiffany vaginally, I think I would have felt the need to keep up with the housework. I would have asked Tim to help, but not to the extent that I did. The pain level from a c section in addition to my anemia from the blood loss, left me unable to do many things so I had to ask for help. And I learned that people usually want to help you, they just don’t know how so you need to ask.

I am also learning to have grace for myself (and my family) for needing to rest. Sleep and down time are important. I am still only about 10 weeks out from major abdominal surgery so my body is still healing. It will take a while to be completely pain free and have the stamina to be active all day like I could before.

Happy Third Trimester to me!

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Today marks the beginning of the third trimester in Tiffany’s pregnancy. In some ways, I am so ready to meet her. And in other ways, I am glad she has a few months before she joins us. I think I would feel more ready if our furniture from Korea was in our current house. Soon enough. With about twelve weeks to go, the house will be ready in plenty of time for her arrival.

At Clarissa’s twenty week ultrasound, they had a few concerns. There was a small hole in her heart and she had a “bright bowel.” They had concerns about things like Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis. This was terrifying for a first time mom, but the blessing in it was that they sent me to EVMS (the local medical school) for further testing and ultrasounds. I got to see extra clear pictures of Clarissa at 22 weeks and 28 weeks and then another set at 35 weeks. By 22 weeks, the heart in her heart had closed and by 28 weeks her bowels were fine. She just wasn’t “ready” at the earlier ultrasound times.

With Tiffany, the ultrasound schedule has been completely different. While we were in Korea, they did an ultrasound at every appointment. We have been looking at things like her brain, spine, and liver since the beginning. We left Korea at about 20 weeks so they didn’t get to my anatomy scan before we left. My only ultrasound at my American doctor was at 24 weeks and I had to ask for that since I missed the 20 week anatomy scan that most people get. Her ultrasound showed that everything was fine, so that was the only ultrasound my ob plans to do this pregnancy.

On the one hand, I was glad for this. Tiffany is healthy. There are no concerns. On the other hand, I was sad. I got to see clear pictures of Clarissa’s face all the time. And we still had not really seen a great picture of Tiffany’s face. We decided that we would go to a special place that specializes in 4d elective ultrasounds. We went to InfantSeeHD in Fairfax.

Maria, our ultrasound tech was wonderful! She was super excited to see our baby. She had me move around in different positions so that we could see more. Tiffany had one of her feet in her face pretty much the entire time, but Maria was able to move around so that we could see her whole face anyway. She also said that Tiffany already has a full head of hair. We also got to watch Tiffany practice sucking on the placenta.

I’m not going to lie. There was a little bit of sticker shock when we saw the price for the ultrasound packages. Because there were concerns with Clarissa, insurance paid for all of her extra ultrasounds so I had no concept about how much these things normally cost. But we did get a full video recording of the thirty minute session and 84 still images on a jump drive.

Then, I wanted to celebrate. So we decided to check out Happy Tart, a gluten free bakery, in Falls Church. We parked in the garage for Pearson Square and it was really easy to find. The prices were reasonable for gluten free treats. Cookies and macaroons were $1.75. Cupcakes were $4.50 each. They also had bags of English muffins and drinks for sale. Clarissa loved her cookie. Tim and I thought the cupcakes were delicious. We will definitely be back!

Then we finished our evening with dinner in Shirlington. Since it was my choice, I chose Guapo’s for a Mexican dinner. I pretty much always love my Mexican food. The impressive part was that Tim enjoyed his dinner too.

How my second pregnancy compares to my first

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With six years between pregnancies, sometimes it’s interesting to me to think about the things that are different and the things that are the same.

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I was 29 when I was pregnant with Clarissa. We got pregnant very quickly once we started trying. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like I started showing. Most of my friends who were pregnant about that time were losing weight during their first trimester but I gained 8 pounds. I didn’t get that sick as long as I kept eating, which is why I gained weight in the beginning when everyone else was losing. I was so concerned that I was going to be huge by the time it was over, but I was fine. I only gained about 35 pounds total.

At 35, it took a few months longer to get pregnant with Tiffany. I feel like I started showing before I even knew I was pregnant (and I found out at 3 weeks!). I think I gained 12 pounds during the first trimester? But I weighed more before I got pregnant this time so I felt like I was way bigger. I was more sick in the beginning and I had to avoid certain foods or I would get sick. But in general, I had to eat every couple of hours. At 25 weeks, I have already gained 30 pounds so I anticipate that I will gain more than 35 pounds this pregnancy.

I am more relaxed this pregnancy.  Well, we did move to a different continent, so maybe peaceful is a better word. With Clarissa, I had several friends who had miscarried and I was so worried that I was going to lose her. That is why God told me early on that she would be “a little girl with great faith.” And even then, I was worried when things weren’t perfect on the ultrasounds.

With Tiffany, I had ultrasounds every appointment in Korea. That probably helped me to know that she was fine. I didn’t really have a word for her other than the day we found out we were pregnant God told me that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life.” So when we found out we were having a girl, I really didn’t have any ideas for names right away.

I switched obs during both pregnancies. With Clarissa, I didn’t care for several doctors in the group that I was going to see. I wasn’t concerned at first because I really thought that we would move to Korea at that time. But when it became clear that wasn’t happening right away, I switched doctors. We did do a natural child birth class where the teacher talked about all of the natural things to do and talked about how bad epidurals were. I wasn’t really prepared for my 54 hours of back labor and really felt defeated that I got an epidural at like hour 45.

The reason I switched obs this round is that we moved from South Korea to Northern Virginia. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to switch obs. First of all, prenatal care is different in Korea than it is in America so my records were “incomplete” because they did different tests. And then there was the fact that some of my records aren’t in English. So it was difficult to find an ob to accept my records. Eventually they did when I went in person to explain my records.

They eventually were like, “Oh are you State Department?”

“No, but my husband works for the government.”

“So the government sent you to Korea for four years?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then you’re fine.”

So basically, if we had been missionaries, English teachers, or just expats returning from Korea, they wouldn’t have accepted an otherwise healthy patient with insurance?!

I did get to do an anatomy scan at my 24 week appointment with the new ob since I hadn’t had the official anatomy scan. They confirmed that Tiffany is definitely a girl and everything looks great. And then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to do genetic testing to make sure that everything was fine because ultrasounds don’t catch anything. I was like, “as long as insurance covers it, you can do blood work. But I’m not paying for anything out of pocket.” So the blood work people call and tell me how much it will cost if insurance doesn’t pay for testing but can’t tell me if my insurance will pay anything, even though they know what my deductible and copay could be…I declined the testing and they were surprised. With Clarissa I would have paid the ridiculous price just to have peace of mind. But this round, I am not worried about the baby. She’s fine. And even if she isn’t for some reason, she’s still our baby.

I am not dreading the labor and delivery process, per say, but I don’t know that I am looking forward to it either. If I have back labor again, I will not hesitate to get an epidural this round. I may get one anyway and not feel like a failure. Clarissa was healthy with an epidural. God has given us medical technology so there is no shame in using it.

Along the same lines, I tried to do everything naturally with Clarissa. I didn’t even take over the counter medications unless I absolutely had to. I tried to do neti pots and things like that instead of taking decongestants. This round, if it is on an approved list of medications, I take it without feeling bad about it. Especially when we were in Korea and I was getting headaches from the bad air.

I am interested to see how different Tiffany’s personality is than Clarissa’s. Clarissa is a mix of me and Tim, but more Tim than me. Tiffany is definitely really active in the womb like Clarissa was. But she is in a different position so I am hopeful that I won’t have back labor this round. I am also interested to see how this 6 year age gap plays out in their relationship. And what it will be like to be a mom of two. But I look forward to the challenge and know that God will guide Tim and I as we raise these beautiful girls.

It’s a good thing Clarissa had a change of heart…

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Until the end of last week, Clarissa was pretty adamant that she wanted a little brother. I was confused because she spent the past three years asking for a little sister. She finally told me why.

She doesn’t want to share her toys. An only child for five years gets used to having her own things. Clarissa assumed that if she had a baby sister, she would grow up to want to play with all of her toys. But a little brother would ignore her girly toys and play with his own. When I explained that a little brother would want to play with her toys too, she was very confused.

On Monday, the realtor asked Clarissa if she wanted a brother or a sister. She responded “both” and kissed my tummy.

We had an ultrasound on Tuesday. The doctor asked if we wanted to know the gender of the baby and we all said “Yes!” The translator said, “It’s probably a girl.” Clarissa was very upset, but not for the reason that you think. She said, “But is it a boy or a girl? Why don’t they know for sure?”

I guess Tim will name all of our children. The name Clarissa was his idea and it took a few days to grow on me. This time it did not take as long.

As we were walking out of the hospital, he said, “What do you think about Tiffany?” Tiffany means manifestation of God. Upon further research, Tiffany is a translation of the word epiphany and is often given to girls born on January 6. We actually found out that we were pregnant on January 6.

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By the time we arrived at dinner, the three of us agreed that her name is Tiffany Grace so “manifestation of God and grace.” This is the perfect name for her. If we got pregnant when we first started trying, she would be due in June which would be either very difficult or not possible with our PCS (moving) date. This way, our furniture that will take at least 3 months to arrive to our new house should arrive in August. We will have plenty of time to get our new home set up and comfortable before Tiffany comes in mid September. We didn’t know the timing of any of this, but God knew. And it also fits with the word that God gave me in the beginning of the pregnancy that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Tim also had a vision a while ago that this child would be in ministry.

We of course followed dinner with a trip to the px to find some cute little girl clothes. We each had a different favorite, so we bought them all.

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I think that the reason that we could not tell the gender at the last ultrasound was that four weeks ago Clarissa was adamantly against having a baby sister. Now Clarissa is very excited about her baby sister. I think it helps that she has a name now too.

Relieving pregnancy ailments naturally

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I’m a planner by nature so before we started trying to have a baby, I read a book called Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception. It really made me want to focus on doing things as naturally as possible, especially during pregnancy while my baby is developing. But also in the days while we were trying to conceive because I could become pregnant before I make these changes in my lifestyle.

When you go to your first prenatal appointment, your doctor or midwife will probably give you a list of medicines that are approved for pregnancy. That is a helpful list. I would encourage you to think about why you are having symptoms before you take anything because there might be a more natural thing you can do to relieve your symptoms. By all means, if the natural approach doesn’t work, try something on the approved list. It is better for your baby for you to be okay, than to suffer just to be natural.

Headaches
Sometimes headaches are caused by hormones. But sometimes it is something you can control like dehydration, low blood sugar, or fatigue. Drink a glass of water. Have a snack like fruit, nuts, or yogurt. Take a nap.

Back pain
As your belly grows, your back may be sore due to the extra weight. I greatly benefited from visiting a chiropractor. This kept my spine in alignment during my pregnancy. In the beginning of your pregnancy, you can also stretch by laying on your back and pulling your knees to your chest. After the first trimester, this is not recommended. The stretches I mention in the hip pain section also helped my lower back to feel better.

Hip pain
Your hips and joints get looser during pregnancy. I am a side sleeper. I found that sleeping with a pillow between my legs helped my hips to stay in alignment and alleviated a lot of the pain. Another thing you can do is to stretch in the morning. Sit in a butterfly position a few times for 15 seconds each. You can also sit with your legs in front of you and reach for your toes. Sitting with your legs shoulder width apart or wider and reaching for your toes can be helpful too.

Nausea
Some women are sick all day. I found that if I ate small meals every hour and half to two hours, I wasn’t feeling sick. It doesn’t have be a big meal, more like a snack. I would have a scrambled egg when I woke up. An hour or so later, I would have some fruit. Later I would eat some gluten free pretzels or yogurt. Protein was very helpful for me.

Allergies or sinus issues
The list from my doctor said that I could have sudafed or benadryl. If I was getting a sinus headache, I would try a sinus rinse first. Often times, I would use the Neti Pot and my congestion and headache would leave. Sometimes I waited too long and then I would need to take a sudafed.

Not being able to sleep at night
I tried to stop drinking water an hour or two before bed so I would not have to use the restroom as much at night. I also realized that if I was more active during the day, like taking the dog on a 20 minute walk, I would sleep better as well. Also make sure that you are comfortable temperature wise. You may need to adjust the thermostat or your pajamas while you are pregnant.

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Choosing a doctor

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When we got pregnant, my husband had been applying for jobs in South Korea. I found out I was being laid off about a week before I knew I was pregnant. We (and some well meaning friends) thought that we would be leaving soon, so I didn’t really put much thought into which doctor I would see.

I had been going to someone I liked for my annual, so I just made an appointment with her. I really like her. The problem is that she is a nurse practitioner, so she doesn’t deliver babies. There are six doctors in the practice who do and so I would just meet with them and whoever was on call the day I went into labor would deliver my baby.

As the weeks went on, Tim still didn’t get a job overseas. By the time I was 26 weeks and needed to take my glucose test, I had met five of the six doctors and only liked two of them. Then I had a really bad experience during my glucose test. I felt like the doctor wasn’t listening and was actually ignoring me. When I talked to the office manager, same thing. I looked at my mom and said, “If we still live here for the next baby, I am going to get another doctor.” She looked at me and said, “You can change now.”

I had not thought of that. So, at 26 weeks, I did what I should have done in the first place. I started researching my options. I emailed my friends who had recently had babies and asked about their doctors. After filling out paperwork to change doctors and trying to find a doctor who would take me this late in my pregnancy, I met my new doctor at 29 weeks.

I don’t say all of that to complain or to scare you. I just want to encourage you, that it’s okay to take your time to find a doctor. Think about what is important to you. Then talk to your friends or look on websites to see which doctor would be a good fit for you. Then, meet them. If you don’t like your doctor, just go to a new one.

Things I would look for in a doctor:

1. Location. Do you want to deliver at home, in a hospital, or  a birth center? Find a doctor or midwife who delivers there.

2. Personality. Do you get along well with this person?

3. Office Staff. The first place I went to, the ladies in the office were really rude. They didn’t answer any of my questions and if I called, made me feel like I was an inconvenience (and I am not at all high maintenance).

4. Schedule. At the end of your pregnancy, you will be seeing the doctor once a week. Do they have office hours that accommodate your schedule? If you are working, taking off every week might not work for you. How does the on-call rotation work? At my new doctor, because of the schedule, every other weekend there was a possibility that my baby would be delivered by a doctor I had never met. Are you okay with that?

The other thing you might want to look into is the place you will be delivering. I liked the new doctors that I chose. The person that ended up delivering my baby was someone I had only met once, who wasn’t in the practice. And for the three days that I was in the hospital, I probably saw her a total of two hours. The nurses were the ones who mostly delivered the baby and took care of me afterwards. Honestly, I did not have a good experience at the hospital. I think for my next baby, I’m going to ask my friends about the nurses and the hospital experience.

Pregnancy Tips

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Congratulations on becoming a mom! Whether you expected to become pregnant now or not, congratulations! God has chosen you to be the mom for this baby. No one else will be able to love or care for this child the way that you can.

Being a mom is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it is also probably the best thing ever. There is nothing like watching your baby sleep or cuddling for hours.

There are a ton of websites, articles, and books about being pregnant. I wrote a post about my favorite pregnancy books. You can read as much or as little as you want.

I have a few of my own pregnancy tips for you.

1. Don’t worry about what all of your other pregnant friends are doing.

I was pregnant at the same time as several other people from church. They were all on kid two, three, or four. It was my first baby, so I didn’t know what to expect. As long as I kept eating, I didn’t get sick. They were all sick and not eating. Naturally, I gained ten pounds in the first trimester and freaked out because they had all lost weight. I thought for sure that I would gain 100 pounds with my baby. But I didn’t. I just ate when I was hungry and ate what I was craving. I did really well.

2. Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Sleep when you are tired.

3. Get good prenatal care. Thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act, most insurance companies cover prenatal care. You and your baby will be healthier if you do.

4. Take a prenatal vitamin. That being said…

5. Eat what you are craving. Your body knows what it needs. In the beginning, I wanted a lot of chocolate. I realized that if I had a banana everyday, I didn’t crave the chocolate. My body needed the magnesium or potassium or something.

6. Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be much. I just walked my dog each day. 15 minute walk. That was it. But it helped me to have a little more energy in the afternoon. I also slept better and didn’t get as stiff.

7. Set up a support system. You are going to need help when baby arrives, in more ways than you know. Join a mom’s group at your church or through the recreation center in your area. Talk to friends who are already moms.

8. Drink plenty of water. Some recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces. I know you already need to use the bathroom a lot, but trust me on this. You will have more energy and it will prevent dehydration as well as constipation.