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.

I thought your second labor was supposed to be faster than the first?

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In some ways, Tiffany and Clarissa’s birth stories are very similar. But there are also some ways that they were opposite. I went into labor with Clarissa about 10 pm two days before her due date. Tiffany’s started about 11pm on Thursday, two days before her due date. Both times, I didn’t realize it was labor immediately. With Clarissa, I realized I was having back spasms at regular intervals. With Tiffany it felt more like intense round ligament pain at regular intervals. I was honestly thrilled not to have back labor because I thought for sure that my labor would be faster and easier that way.

When I was pregnant with Clarissa, Tim and I took a class. The teacher said that warm baths were great for pain relief so I took several during my first labor. But really, the baths helped to stall my labor. I would get consistent contractions, take a bath, and the contractions would stop for a while. With Tiffany, I was determined not to stall my labor. I tried to relax and let the contractions come. I watched a lot of TV while waiting for the ac repair man.

As long as I was sitting or laying down, the contractions kept coming. If I started walking around or cleaning, the contractions slowed down. At about 3pm on Friday, my contractions were consistently 4-5 minutes apart. This was the only day that one of my aunts wasn’t available to watch Clarissa. I had another aunt to take her to but I had not packed Clarissa a bag because I really didn’t think I would need it that day. I called the ob, talked to my uncle and my neighbor, and then we frantically packed our bags for Clarissa and the hospital.

All of the running around stalled my labor again so after we dropped Clarissa and all of her things next door, I realized I had not had a contraction in about 30 minutes. So I sat down to rest a bit and the contractions started up again. It was Friday rush hour in DC, so we decided to go to the hospital anyway.

My contractions picked up in the car. They were between 3-4 minutes by the time we arrived at the hospital. But after we parked, got out our bags, and walked to labor and delivery, my labor slowed again. They monitored me in triage for about an hour. I was only dilated a centimeter. We had a choice. We could stay and try walking a bit to see if it would help, or we could leave and come back. It was after 730 pm at that point and we were starving so we decided to leave.

We kept Clarissa where she was and headed to Maggianos for one last dinner date. Of course my contractions picked up in the car, stopped for a bit while we walked into the restaurant, and then came back while we were eating. The food was wonderful, but I didn’t eat much of mine.

By the time we got home, it was after 11 and I was exhausted. I was going to try to go to bed without a shower but decided against it. After my shower I noticed thicker brown discharge on my underwear but didn’t think much of it because the nurse said that might happen since she checked my cervix.

At that point, I tried going to bed. My contractions were noticeably more intense and getting closer together. They had also moved to my back. By the time, Tim came to bed about 2, I was really struggling but determined to get some sleep. My goal was to make it to 6 am.

By 430, I decided that I needed to try a warm bath to see if that would help me relax. It didn’t help at all. But while drying off, I looked at the towel from my earlier shower and realized that my water had broken. Oops. (Something similar happened in my labor with Clarissa.) After the bath, I decided to start timing my contractions again. Four in a row were less than 3 minutes apart so I decided to wake up Tim and call the ob, even though it was only 530 am.

This time, walking around to get ready, my labor got more intense. We went from being sent home the night before to being worried we would not make it to the hospital in time. Thankfully at 6 am on a Saturday, there wasn’t much traffic.

We didn’t start in the parking garage this time. Tim put his four ways on near the entrance. I was barely through the door of the hospital when I had to stop for another contraction. There was a nursing instructor there with her students. She introduced herself and helped us get to labor and delivery. I had three contractions before we got there and she told the ladies at the desk, “We need a wheelchair!” That made the admission process easier. Plus I had already filled things out the night before so they didn’t need to explain much, I just had to sign again.

Triage didn’t take long this time. I was at 6 cm dilated and my water had broken so they didn’t wait for the doctor to admit me. She had already called them anyway. They wheeled me down the hall and I met my labor and delivery nurse who was just coming on shift. The nurses from the night before were leaving as I came in. Jeanine was wonderful! She put in my IV and the order for the epidural before my doctor even got there. She had a nursing student that day as well, so she was introduced. My doctor arrived a little before 8 to go over something I had to sign and then she left because her on call was over at 8 am.

Dr Rohn came in right before my epidural. The anesthesiologist was great. He explained everything before and while he was putting in the epidural. Then there is a button to press if you need more epidural. I don’t remember that with Clarissa. My epidural was good though. After about 10 minutes, I couldn’t feel anything and I could barely move my legs. I did throw up though.

With Clarissa, I got to 10 cm pretty quickly after my epidural, so we settled in and thought Tiffany would come pretty quickly. I took a nap. By 10 am, I was at 9 cm, but my cervix was still really high and my contractions were slowing down. We decided to start a pitocin drip to get me to the end. I didn’t protest the pitocin because I already had the epidural so I knew I would not really feel it.

We tried the peanut ball next. I had to lay on my side with the ball between my legs. It was supposed to open up my pelvis. I was able to sleep some, which was great because I really had not slept much the previous two nights. Two hours later, we switched sides. At this point, my epidural was becoming less effective so I pressed the button for more and started throwing up so they gave me something for the nausea. By this point, I was at 10 cm, but my cervix was still pretty high.

Tiffany had turned herself to be sunny side up like Clarissa was. My ob tried to rotate her both ways but she kept going back to that position. For whatever reason, that is my body’s default position for labor, even though Tiffany didn’t start labor that way.

Next we tried the princess position. The hospital bed was pretty cool. It sat me straight up and then lowered my legs. It was supposed to use gravity to lower the baby into the birth canal. An hour later, my cervix was still high. I pressed the epidural button and started throwing up again. Clearly my body does not like anesthesia, at least not on an empty stomach.

We even tried pushing through a couple of contractions to see if that would push her head lower.

By 5pm, Dr Rohn said there were two more things we could try to make my cervix do what it needed to do. The first was trendelenburg, which is where they lay you back and put your head lower than your feet.

During that time, my aunt who was watching Clarissa called because Clarissa missed us and wanted to come home. I tried to explaining that Tiffany wasn’t here yet and also tried to convince her to stay one more night and come home in the morning after Tiffany was born. She wasn’t having it. Tim and I decided to change our plans. Tim would go home with Clarissa after the birth and Tiffany and I would stay at the hospital.

Tim did a great job during my labor. He got the puke bucket every time, brought me water, and helped position me each time I could not move myself.

When Tim called my aunt back, my doctor came in to check me again. There was one more thing to try but if that didn’t work, we needed to do a caesarean section because Tiffany’s heart rate was all over the place. Tim and I had already discussed a c section and so I told the doctor we would just do that. This way, Clarissa could just come to the hospital, meet her sister, and still go to bed at a decent time. I was concerned about being by myself in the hospital for recovery but decided that I would just have to depend on the nurses at night when Tim and Clarissa went home.

The preparation for a c section really doesn’t take as long as you would think. We decided on the cesarean about 630 pm. Dr Rohn explained what she was going to do and asked if there was anyone I wanted to call to be in the operating room since Tim was not going to join me for that. The anesthesia nurse came in, introduced himself, and explained his role. The nurse shaved the site of the incision. Everyone put on scrubs and we headed to the operating room.

They put up a cloth screen and did their prep while the nurse gave me more anesthesia. I, of course, started throwing up again and shaking until they gave me more nausea medicine and a heated blanket. Once my body calmed down a bit, the doctor did the surgery pretty quickly.

Tiffany Grace was born at 7:15 pm on Saturday, September 21. She was 22.5 inches long and weighed 8 pounds 10.6 ounces.

I heard her cry and they showed her to me briefly before they took her to her corner of the room to do their thing. I was vaguely aware of them doing a lot of suction and things in between my throwing up, shaking, and falling asleep. I couldn’t see much from the angle I was laying, but when I asked if she was okay, they said yes.

They then wheeled Tiffany and I back to our labor room where Tim, Clarissa, two of my aunts, and my uncle were waiting. Everyone was able to see Tiffany and Clarissa touched her, but she was laying on me for some skin to skin. I was falling asleep and was so worried that Tiffany would fall off but the nurse assured me that she would not.

After the family left, my wonderful recovery nurse helped me nurse Tiffany. Then they moved us to our postpartum recovery room.

My next nurse was great too. I couldn’t really get out of bed, but I still had a cathedar so it wasn’t a problem. I could get Tiffany out of the basinett but I couldn’t put her back in. The nurses were great about coming when I pressed the call button so they would put her back and swaddle her for me.

On Sunday, they did some blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion because my iron was very low after my c section. After my transfusion, they took out my cathedar and I was able to start getting out of the bed.

Tim and Clarissa came to visit for the afternoon. I woke Tiffany up so that Clarissa could interact with her. But Tiffany was fussy so Clarissa wanted to leave.

Monday was a pretty chill day at the hospital and then Tuesday we went home. Clarissa has decided that she likes Tiffany now. She has tried calming her down when she cries and tries to make her laugh. She likes to hold her sometimes too.

My labor with Clarissa was about 51 hours. Tiffany was about 44 hours but ended in a c section. Tiffany was much bigger than Clarissa, so I think pushing would have been a problem anyway. If my ob with Clarissa had been as attentive as this ob, I probably would have had a c section the first time as well.

The nurses and staff at this hospital were way more friendly and attentive. So although I had a c section and I was by myself for the majority of my hospital recovery, I think this was a way better experience than my first labor and delivery.