One month ago, our lives completely changed (again). We welcomed our brand new baby boy, Gregory, coming in at 9lbs 3oz (just like his sister). I’m still learning how to wear this new skin as a mom of two. I barely figured out how to get the previous one to fit and now I’m wearing something entirely new. Despite absolute exhaustion and utter chaos that is life with a toddler and newborn, we are surviving. And while nothing can really prepare you for welcoming a new baby, there are a few perks to being around the block for the second time. A big one is knowing how to better survive your second C-Section. Here is Gregory’s Birth Story along with tips to help you survive your own C-Section.
Busy mom or mom-to-be and need tips? Skip ahead to “10 Things I’ve Learned as a C-Section Mom.”
Interest in seeing baby photos only? Skip on over to the photo section of this post!
Abby’s C-Section (First) Vs. Gregory’s (Second)
Leading up to delivery
First Pregnancy – March 2017
Because Abby is stubborn by nature and follows her own drum, she decided to make her appearance late. In addition, she was measuring 2 weeks larger. Being overdue with a large baby showing zero signs of labor, we scheduled a C-section as we neared 42 weeks. I spent the days leading up to delivery absolutely terrified, I barely slept and worried constantly. Was I rushing my baby girl? Did she need more time to develop? Would I survive major surgery?
In between the worries and fears, I’d remember another “important” item to put into my already over-stuffed hospital bag. It’s incredible how the human mind works, or at least how mine works, when you’re entering the unknown. I had zero idea what to expect – despite doing a hospital tour, despite researching for hours about packing tips, and despite even having a sister who delivers babies for a living!
Second Pregnancy – March 2019
Once again, Gregory was showing zero signs of actually wanting to come out, and measuring larger than his sister. While my doctor was open to a vaginal birth, I only had until my due date. We scheduled my repeat C-Section just 3 days before his due date. And while I had fears about the surgery, mostly recovery remembering to the last time, I was more overcome by fears for my first born. Would she understand that mommy wouldn’t be able to pick her up? How would she react to seeing mommy hooked up to an IV and stuck in a hospital bed? Would she understand that mommy and daddy still love her?
I spent the days leading up to Gregory’s arrival, attempting to prepare my two year old daughter for this life-altering change. And leading up to this, she couldn’t care one ounce. She wanted to play with her toys, read a book, and dance to crazy music. And despite pointing to my belly and saying “baby” she could in no way imagine what was about to happen. If I could go back, I would have thrown out the playbook and simply spent more time playing with her.
First C-Section: March 8, 2017 – Midnight
It was right around midnight that the pain had reached the point that speaking through it was impossible. We had five and a half hours before we needed to leave for the hospital for surgery prep. All I wanted was one last night of sleep before we introduced a newborn into our lives, but the world had different plans. I tried every possible position to sleep through the pain. I felt the contractions getting stronger and coming faster. Finally, we called the doctor and decided to head to the hospital hours before the surgery.
I barely remember arriving at the hospital and talking to admitting, terrified about the next steps. And the journey to delivery is still a blur. My mind raced. Are we ready? Will she be okay? But, I still remember that car ride that brought us there. The pain each time a contraction came on. The terror knowing labor was upon us. The overwhelming anxiousness that we would be meeting our baby girl soon! And the worried, yet strong smile from John as he drove, holding my hand.
A few hours later, my water broke. A few more hours, I was pushing. And in between the pain, there was a sense of relief knowing that I hadn’t scheduled the surgery too early. This was the day she was meant to come. She was ready. And I was ready to push her out. But, once again, she had other plans. Despite my best efforts and my strong will, Abby was unable to arrive the “proper way” as I’ve had people tell me. As I was wheeled into the operating room, I felt defeated, alone and beyond exhausted. I remember crying and apologizing for my inability to deliver my baby.
In between contractions, they prepped me. Tears overcame me. As my limbs became immobile, I kept thinking about how I was failing at this mother-thing already. An eternity passed before John was allowed into the room. And I kept falling in and out of sleep from exhaustion. And being wrapped in so much self-doubt, I didn’t even hear her first cry. I can’t even remember what she looked like the first time I saw her. And as they took her out of the operating room, it would be another few hours before I even got to see her again.
Second C-Section: March 29, 2019 – Midnight
A few hours before, we had said our goodnights and goodbyes to Abby (and our pup), leaving them both at my parents’ house for the next few days. We reminded her of the sleepover she would be having at “Mama and Papa’s” but that she would see us soon. I remember the multiple kisses I gave her forehead, wishing to hold onto this moment for a just a minute longer. The last night she would ever be an only child.
As midnight approached, we rushed around our empty house to ensure each hospital bag was packed – my own, John’s, and Abby’s hospital entertainment bag. I found myself stuffing as much as possible into Abby’s bag, and completely ignoring my own. What does a two-year old need to be occupied in a hospital room? How can we best distract her from the constant attention her brother would be getting? But as we packed, we spoke about the baby boy we would be meeting in just a few hours. Would he have hair? Would he have a little yet wide nose like his sister? What would his first cry sound like? I barely slept that night in anticipation. In just a few hours, this little boy who had been spending months using my bladder as a punching bag would be in the world.
It was still pitch black out as we drove to the hospital at 6 am. It’s crazy to think how different this felt. I grabbed for John’s hand most of the way, with tear-filled joyous eyes, exclaiming “We’re going to meet him soon!” The admitting process was smooth, and we spent most of the pre-surgery hours joking with the nurses. Three other delivery rooms were already occupied by women in labor (all first-time moms, I would later find out). It was hard to admit that I’d never be able to experience delivery without recovering from major surgery. Based on my previous experience, I wouldn’t get to hold my baby right away. I would barely see him until hours later. Silently, I wished them good luck in their own journeys as the nurses started checking my vitals to prepare for my own.
I was in the operating room just a few hours later. The biggest improvement from last experience, besides not being completely drained from lack of sleep and laboring for hours, was the anesthesiologist. She talked me through everything I may feel this time around, as last time I could barely keep my eyes open so had no energy to fully experience what a C-section might entail. She spoke openly about her past births, her three children, and distracted me from what may be happening to my insides. John sat beside me as we waited anxiously. It felt like an eternity between my doctor’s “He’s almost here, Lisa” and the moment he cried the most powerful and beautiful cry I have ever heard.
I took a deep breath, begging John to rush over to snap a photo and show it to me. And then, the most amazing moment happened. The nurses handed him over to John, and laid him near my face. I couldn’t move my arms or legs. I couldn’t hold my new baby. And with every minute passing, I felt the intense pressure as my organs were being put back in place and any minute, I thought I might vomit from the intensity. But it didn’t matter. I could smell his sweet hair, kiss that warm cheek, and see his beautiful eyes staring back at me. And he was my baby boy.
For the remainder of the surgery, he was there, staring back at me. And as I entered my post-operation room, he was there again, in his daddy’s arms. And as I began to regain movement in my arms, they put him on my chest and helped me hold him. I will always remember the feeling of kissing his forehead, and the sweet smell of his peach fuzz hair. Even now, I tear up knowing I was given these moments that I was far too exhausted to take part in last time.
People will judge you for your decision
Despite what people may say (and some will say it), a C-Section is not an “easy way out.” Being able to schedule your birth does have it’s benefits (ensuring your doctor will be there, having child care set up for your older child, not enduring painful labor, etc.) but it is major surgery. And people will tell you that you aren’t a real mom. Screw other people. You are a superhero! Anyone who rids the world of that much crap must be a superhero!
Advocate for yourself
You can have the skin-to-skin experience you’ve seen on television or heard about from your friends who delivered vaginally. You can have your baby in your post-op room. But you have to advocate that you want this (and that you select a hospital that allows this). And you have to be prepared that you’ll need help to support your new baby. But it is possible. Speak up. You got this!
Do not look up!
During the procedure, do not (and I repeat DO NOT) look at the light above you, unless you want to see a mirror image of the surgeons cutting you open. I made the mistake of glancing that way. It’s best to keep your eyes on your partner.
Spend the days leading up to your C-section enjoying the last of your pregnancy. If it’s not your first child, take time to enjoy your other children. Spend time with your partner. Yes, recovery will be hard. Yes, you may have some negative side-effects to the anesthesia, but keep in mind that at the end, you’ll have your baby.
Take time for you
Take the day off the day before and do things for you! If you’re working, take the day off. If you are a stay at home mom, get a babysitter. Take advantage of knowing your delivery date. Utilize the day before to do things for you. Get your hair done. Get a pedicure. Read a book in peace. Take yourself out for lunch. Treat yourself to a movie. Whatever will make you happy – do it!
Aim for the early surgery
Schedule your surgery for first thing in the morning. Depending on your doctor and hospital, you may not be permitted to eat or drink anything for 8 hours leading up to the surgery. And as a pregnant woman, it is much easier to withstand from eating or drinking, if you are sleeping.
Talk to your anesthesiologist
Tell your anesthesiologist EVERYTHING you are feeling. Do not try to “tough it out.” If you’re feeling nauseous, say something. If you’re feeling cold, say something. Feeling pain? Want to just talk about your baby? Say something! By the end of my surgery I was wrapped in about 10 heating blankets and being pumped full of anti-vomit medication, all while asking my anesthesiologist if she thought my baby looked like me. Talking made the procedure feel more human. I felt more apart of it. Talk! It’s okay!
Be wary of early visitors
Ask visitors to refrain from coming until you are a few hours out of surgery, if not for an entire day. With my first, I was out of surgery by 9 am, out of post-op by 11 am, and visitors arrived before noon. Between exhaustion from laboring all night and the effects of the pain medication, I honestly have no idea who actually visited that first day. All I remember is wanting to hold my baby and sleep. Neither happened. The second time around, we asked that no one show up until 3pm or later. That gave us almost 4 hours (after post-op) to simply enjoy Gregory (and for me to get some very important food).
Get out of bed as soon as you are medically allowed.
It WILL hurt. You may cry. You may wish to stop trying to stand. Push through that. And trust me, each time you stand it will be less painful than the last. But it will take time.
And that leads us to the most important one –
Recovery will hurt
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It is extremely painful. Simple tasks, like sitting, standing, even laying down may hurt. It will be painful for a little while, but then it will get better. You may feel lost or discouraged or downright saddened by the fact that you need to lean on people to help you do the easiest tasks. Let your body recover. Forgive yourself for not being able to do things right away. Breathe. It will get better!
And most importantly, remember that you rock! You got this!
Thank you Valerie Lazzari Photography for this incredible images!