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My first baby was an unplanned c-section and my second baby was an unplanned VBAC birth (vaginal birth after cesarean). The best laid birth plans, right?
With my first baby, I was actually a little relieved when the doctor said my labor was not progressing and strongly recommended a c-section. The thought of a baby somehow making his way out of my vagina had always seemed impossible, so I gladly agreed to the c-section.
And luckily my c-section went well and the recovery was smooth as silk.
Choosing Between a Repeat C Section and VBAC
So when choosing between a c section and VBAC during my second pregnancy, I opted for a repeat cesarean. My OB advised that since I was not planning on having anymore children, a repeat c section was the safer route for both me and baby.
As Cleveland Clinic explains, a strained labor can potentially cause your uterus to rupture at the site of your previous cesarean incision. This can cause serious problems for both mom and baby. And I’m no risk taker, so I took my google research and my OB’s advice and scheduled a c section for 39 weeks into my pregnancy.
Interestingly though, whenever I had a prenatal appointment with OBs other than my assigned OB, they always questioned why I was not trying for a VBAC birth. In fact, they seemed very pro VBAC, given I had no health issues that would contraindicate a vaginal delivery.
In support of their position, the CDC states that VBAC births have been increasing since 2016 for women in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, Cleveland Clinic sites studies showing that VBAC birth success rates are between 60 and 80%.
So, given the varying opinions and facts and statistics to weigh, I often questioned whether I was doing the right thing by opting for a repeat cesarean.
An Unexpected VBAC Birth
As it turns out though, I did not end up having a choice in the matter.
In the wee hours of the morning, coincidentally just a few hours before my scheduled c-section, I went into labor. And things progressed quite quickly.
My first contraction hit me at 2:31 am. Then another at 2:40, and another at 2:47. And then they started coming fast and furious every 4 minutes or so. I was at the hospital by 3:30am, and by the time I had finished signing admission papers, I could barely walk.
My water broke 10 minutes later and after a nurse checked my cervix, she exclaimed, “There’s nothing left!”.
I started spontaneously pushing as the nurse quickly wheeled me to a birthing room. I was making all sorts of squealing and screaming noises by this time, and I was feeling quite bewildered.
What about my c-section? And where was my epidural per my birth plan? Everyone just kept saying that baby was on her way and there wasn’t time.
I was in no way mentally prepared for a VBAC.
But after 20 minutes or so of hellish pushing, my beautiful baby girl emerged. Exactly 11 minutes before I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital for my c-section.
Postpartum Recovery After VBAC Birth
At first, I was pleasantly surprised that I was not in a great amount of pain after delivery. My doctor had stitched up a second degree tear and I was laying with my baby in my arms, feeling incredibly relieved.
Once everything quieted down though, I started to feel a strong ache in my tailbone. Everything felt tender and swollen. I wasn’t particularly alarmed though, and assumed that in a couple of hours the pain would ease up as my body rested.
Long story short, it was a long and arduous postpartum recovery. I felt extremely delicate, achey and sore for weeks. I often questioned how I would have been feeling if I had ended up having a c section.
Most of the time, I really wished I had ended up with a c section to avoid the pitfalls that come with a strained vaginal delivery… hemorrhoids, postpartum anal fissures, and all the other aches and pains.
But, in the end, all that really matters is that my baby arrived in this world healthy and happy.
I am still healing and things still don’t feel quite right in my body; but, in retrospect I see the strength and beauty of the female body. The major upheaval we go through on all levels in order to bring a child into the world.
The key word here is “retrospect”, because that first month and a half or so postpartum, I was definitely not using the world beauty to describe my VBAC birth experience.
Despite the fact that my unplanned VBAC birth was somewhat terrifying though, I love that I will get to tell my daughter her birth story one day. About how she came into this world on her own terms. How she was so excited to greet the world that she entered in the most unexpected way. What a way to start a life. My beautiful baby girl.
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Considerations – When Should Family Visit Newborn Baby?
1. Know Thyself
2. Protecting Immature Newborn Immune Systems
3. Establishing Breastfeeding
4. Processing Postpartum Emotions
Establishing Boundaries with Newborn Visitors
1. Give Yourself Permission to Have Boundaries
2. Practice Clear and Kind Communication Around Boundaries
There are a lot of different opinions when it comes to the question, “When should family visit a newborn baby?”. These opinions range from quite conservative (no visitors until baby has received 3 month immunizations) to quite liberal (everyone is welcome in the birthing room and for an extended stay in the home).
And it’s not just new parents that have these opinions. Eager family and friends have their own opinions, which may or may not jive with new parents’ opinions. And this is why it can become a tricky situation to navigate.
Considerations – When Should Family Visit Newborn Baby?
‘Different Strokes for Different Folks’
Deciding when is appropriate to have visitors and house guests with your newborn is not a one size fits all situation. And trust me, I really tried to google the singular “right” universal answer to this question.
The thing is – is that we all have different relationships with our family members, different personalities and needs. And that is perfectly ok!
So deciding when is a good time for you and your family to have newborn visitors requires some self-reflection and some thoughtful communication skills with visitors.
The following are some considerations to keep in mind when making your decision.
1. Know Thyself
The first place to start when determining how you want newborn visits with friends and family to go, is to look within.
For example, I am the classic introvert and I prefer to make the initial transition (at least the first couple of weeks) into life with a newborn without houseguests or many visitors.
It is nothing personal to friends and family, I simply need time to recover from delivery and to process such a big change. I know that if I don’t have adequate time and space to do those things, I will get overwhelmed. And that is not a good place for me to be, or really for anyone in my immediate vicinity.
So, you can ask yourself some questions to gauge how you handle transitions and what you need during those times.
- Am I an introvert or an extrovert?
Introverts usually regroup and recharge by spending time alone, often in the privacy of their own homes. And there truly is a need to regroup and recharge after months of being pregnant and delivery. Not to mention adjusting to life with a newborn.
Extroverts on the other hand, thrive off of the energy of others, and may enjoy having lots of people around to talk to as a way to process the transition into parenthood.
- Am I comfortable with extended friends and family bearing witness to any of my physical challenges during recovery?
Postpartum recovery can be a doozy. Think bloody diapers, boobs hanging out while learning to breastfeed, post c-section farts, random bouts of crying. Call me modest, but I do not particularly want many witnesses to this display of events.
- Will hosting distract from newborn bonding time?
Those initial days with a newborn are such an important time for parents and siblings to bond with their new family member. We can set the tone for a slow and quiet love to settle in, without the pressures of hosting.
I know that my friends and family would absolutely not care if I left dirty dishes and clothes strewn about, but knowing myself, I know would feel the self induced need to clean and prep. At least for the first couple of weeks, I want to be focused on my newborn, not on the appearance of my home.
Having friends and family around can also obviously be wonderful and supportive for many new parents. Friends and family can help with older kids in the house as they offer their love and support, and if willing they can also help with chores etc.
But, these may not be the primary needs and wants for all parents, so read on for some additional considerations. Your baby and loved ones will have their whole lives ahead of them to get to know each other, so postponing that meet and greet for a period of time is not the end of the world.
2. Protecting Immature Newborn Immune Systems
No matter whether you want a full house or not after your newborn arrives, there are some practical health considerations to keep in mind.
Newborns are vulnerable to various infections and illnesses, and Romper shares advice from medical doctors on this topic. They explain that infections like sepsis, meningitis and pertussis can be spread to unvaccinated newborns and can be very serious . They also recommend that everyone who comes to see a newborn have a recent TDaP and Covid vaccination.
Romper also explains that a number of important vaccines happen at 2 months old (hepatitis B vaccine is the only vaccine given right after birth), so many doctors recommend waiting until after this to have visitors and houseguests.
I don’t know that waiting 2 months is realistic for many families, but it is a good timeline to keep in mind before exposing a newborn to hoards of people.
In my opinion, it is more realistic to simply be cautious and explain to people that there are certain guidelines you have in place when it comes to any visits before baby is 2 or 3 months old.
For me, this means I will ask visitors to honor the following visitor guidelines for those first few months of baby’s life;
- No kissing newborn baby on the face
- Delay a visit if anyone has any symptoms of illness or recent exposures
- Have up to date Tdap and covid vaccinations
- Use hand sanitizer or wash hands before holding baby
This may seem overkill to some, but I would rather seem overkill than deal with a sick newborn. And since I spent the second half of my pregnancy sick with various flus and colds myself, I’d really rather not recover from my c-section and pregnancy while also battling a bug!
3. Giving Yourself Time to Establish Breastfeeding
Another consideration when it comes to a timeline to have houseguests, is if you are planning to breastfeed. Those first couple of weeks can be crucial to establish a good latch and routine around feeds with a newborn.
Before having my first baby, I had no idea how challenging and time consuming learning to breastfeed would be. I thought it was just some innate process that my baby and I would naturally and easily slide right into. Not the case. You can read more about this in my post on Painful Breastfeeding as a New Mom.
Newborns spend a lot of time at the boob if exclusively breastfeeding. And even if you are also pumping, that just means you are spending a lot of time hooked up to a pump in addition to breastfeeding.
So be prepared to feel like you are a 24/7 “breastaurant” as my friend refers to it. And operating that 24/7 breastaurant can truly consume all of your time and effort in those early days.
Additionally, friends and family may want you to let them feed baby with a bottle. While this could be a nice little break for you, it could also interfere with establishing a comfortable breastfeeding routine and relationship with baby. If you feel like you have to pump and produce a bottle, you may be missing out on a crucial opportunity to work on positioning and figuring out how to get a good latch.
You may also feel like it’s awkward to whisk baby away from everyone to go feed in private if that is your preference (most visitors just want to cuddle and hold newborns for as long as possible). I was never very skilled at breastfeeding discreetly, so unless I wanted to flash everyone, breastfeeding publicly never felt comfortable for me personally. I don’t mind those who do breastfeed publicly, it was just never for me.
4. Processing Postpartum Emotions
Having a newborn is a wild ride! And especially if your birthing plan doesn’t go as expected, you may be trying to process a ton of new emotions.
With my first child, we unexpectedly spent 5 days in the hospital. This was after my water broke and I ended up having an unplanned c-section. And as already mentioned, breastfeeding was extremely painful for me initially. My son also had to spend multiple days under the bilirubin lights in the hospital, and even though it wasn’t a big deal, it felt like a huge deal at the time. Add all these feelings to a state of exhaustion and sleep deprivation, and it was just a lot.
Additionally, I think that feelings of anxiety around keeping a newborn safe in those early days are quite common among new parents. Adding visitors and/or complicated family dynamics to the mix could be enough to send a vulnerable postpartum parent spiraling. And this isn’t good for anyone – not for you, not for baby, not for your partner, and not for family or friends.
Establishing Boundaries around Visits with a Newborn
1. Give Yourself Permission to Have Boundaries
The first step in boundary work after recognizing why you need them, is giving yourself permission to establish them with others (and permission to adjust them if needed). I constantly have to remind myself that my needs are just as important as other people’s needs.
This is not selfish or cruel. It is honoring my humaneness and vulnerabilities. And when I understand what it means to honor myself, I can do the same with others. When someone expresses their own boundaries, I do not take this personally. I can recognize that we are all different and have different needs.
So in the case of having a newborn, there can certainly be a lot that a new parent needs! For moms, we have been growing a human for the greater part of the past year. And if that experience was not particularly pleasant, that alone can create a huge need for some time to regroup mentally, emotionally and physically (for those who experienced awful Morning Sickness, you know what I’m saying). And of course moms may need some time to recover from labor and delivery as well.
Dads are also likely feeling the toll of the past 9 months, as many take on additional tasks while their partners are pregnant. And they are also adjusting to having a newborn.
So claiming some time for yourself and immediate family in the postpartum period is 110% okay.
And if you need some justification outside of the simple fact that your needs matter, here are some additional thoughts around establishing boundaries;
- Boundaries make us happier and nicer people. When we feel that others have crossed our boundaries, we get angry and resentful.
And nobody wants to be spending precious energy on feeling angry or resentful when sleep deprived and adjusting to life with a newborn. Houseguests and visitors will probably have a better time during a visit too if you are not harboring these feelings because they will feel welcome and relaxed if you are welcoming and feeling relaxed.
- Also know that even if you establish a certain timeline prior to the arrival of your newborn, give yourself permission to change that timeline if things have not gone according to plan.
For example, your recovery may be slower and more challenging than you anticipated, and you may feel you need a little more time to adjust to postpartum life. Or perhaps your newborn has to spend some time in the NICU and you aren’t able to bring him or her home as soon as you thought. Maybe this pushes your timeline for visitors back, so that you can have sufficient time to bond at home before having houseguests.
Bringing a human into the world is a big deal, so hopefully friends and family will be understanding. And if they are not, you really have no control over their responses. Their reactions belong to them. Just as you are allowed to have your feelings, they are allowed to have theirs.
2. Practice Clear and Kind Communication around Boundaries with Newborn Visitors
While not everyone may honor your stated boundaries, most people do if they clearly understand what you are communicating. So know what your boundaries are around visits, and let them be known.
And let them be known in a thoughtful and kind way. You don’t have to explain every reason in regards to why you have a certain boundary, but your tone and delivery can make a big difference in how a boundary statement is received. Make the boundary about you and your needs, rather than trying to explain why the boundary is about someone else.
Because boundaries are really all about us and clarifying what we need to maintain our mental and physical health. For example, “I need time to establish breastfeeding”, rather than, “I can’t establish breastfeeding comfortably if you (visitors) are in my space and watching me”.
You can also come up with a blanket statement you share with everyone that helps friends and family know that your boundary is nothing personal to them. For example, “we aren’t having any visitors or houseguests for a couple of weeks after bringing baby home, so that we can adjust to a new routine”.
The Beauty of Becoming a Parent
When you bring a baby into the world, your life will never be the same again.
The world shifts. You change.
And with this change comes a need to protect and honor your boundaries so you can be the best parent you can be.
Of course we care and love our family members and friends who we want to be a part of our children’s lives. No question there, but, we are the ones who will be there day in and day out, night in and night out with our babies. So we make the choices that are going to support ourselves and our little ones. And we can do this while still appreciating our family and friends by communicating our needs openly, clearly and kindly.
My second pregnancy was brutal in terms of morning sickness. Or should I say 24/7 sickness.
Why it’s called “morning sickness” makes no sense to me. In fact, I often felt the worst in the evenings and in the middle of the nights.
In the movies, the woman who runs to the bathroom to vomit once at the start of the day is not at all a realistic depiction of morning sickness. At least not in my case, or for many other women. But, who wants to watch a sad movie of a sick, grungy, depleted woman moping about all day and night for months on end? It would just be a really bad movie.
Help! When Does Morning Sickness End?
Throughout my first trimester and a good chunk of my second, I struggled to get through the days. I felt like I was always just waiting for the day to pass, so that there was some hope that the next would be better.
I googled “when does morning sickness end” at least a hundred times, hoping there was some concrete answer and definitive end in sight.
And some days, I would feel better and think, “Thank god, I’m finally turning a corner!”. But then wham, I’d be knocked back down the next day and could barely stand to be in my body.
My Morning Sickness Timeline
In my case (keep in mind everyone is different), morning sickness started at 6 weeks pregnant.
It got progressively worse between 8 and 10 weeks, and then I had a few days of relief. Unfortunately, it came back with a vengeance at 11 weeks.
And from 11-17 weeks, it was off and on and ranged from slightly horrible to down right debilitating.
Thankfully it started to ease up at 17 weeks pregnant. I was functional most days, while just operating at lower speeds and with lots of breaks.
Finally, at 20 weeks pregnant, my morning sickness dissipated! I still did not feel fantastic by any means (a whole other set of symptoms kicked in once that bump started growing), but life felt more manageable.
What Does Morning Sickness Feel Like?
Morning sickness symptoms are enough to drive a person mad! In my case, I experienced the following;
- digestive issues (alternating diarrhea and constipation)
- extreme exhaustion
- body aches
- brain fog
- general feelings of misery
- frequent need to pee
Even listing these symptoms, I do not know how to fully describe my experience of my morning sickness. It was truly unlike any other sickness I have ever felt.
The best I can do to sum it up, is say that it was like a combination of feeling car sick, having the flu on top of a hangover, and feeling like an alien had taken over my body.
I know it sounds dramatic, but it was!
Emotional Effects of Morning Sickness
I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy here and only focus on the bad, but let’s be real, morning sickness can really take over a life – not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
For me, it was the prolonged nature of it that really ate at my emotional wellbeing. Constantly feeling horrible is just plain old demoralizing.
I also felt like I was failing as a parent with my 2 year old son, because I simply had no energy to play with him. And I felt incredibly guilty that my husband was picking up all my slack, even though he never did or said anything to make me feel that way.
So to anyone who hates being pregnant and is struggling with morning sickness, and perhaps feelings of guilt on top of it as well, you are not alone.
Pregnancy can be an incredibly difficult experience on all levels.
And to anyone who just tells you to drink more water and eat better – just NO.
While those are certainly important elements to staying healthy and managing morning sickness, they are often not enough to battle raging hormones and whatever other evil forces are at work that make some women feel like death during early pregnancy.
Is Morning Sickness Different for Everyone?
Every pregnancy can be very different. Not only different from woman to woman, but different from one pregnancy to the next for the same woman.
Some women experience zero morning sickness, while others experience it for 9 months.
In my case, my first pregnancy was a breeze compared to my second. I had morning sickness and fatigue early on with my first, but nothing like what I experienced the second time around.
I also want to acknowledge that morning sickness is more than just vomiting. For some reason, people tend to think vomiting is the primary symptom of morning sickness. I did not vomit once during either of my pregnancies, but I assure you, I felt completely incapacitated and miserable.
What Causes Morning Sickness?
The fact that morning sickness is often misunderstood is really no surprise, given that we literally have not figured out exactly what causes morning sickness. Despite the fact that so many women experience it and it is a fundamental process that perpetuates the human race, it remains a mystery.
There are theories, but no one can say for sure what causes morning sickness for some women.
For example, Mayo Clinic explains that often times the severity of morning sickness is associated with higher HCG levels in pregnant women (a hormone your body makes when you are pregnant), but, not always.
There are also theories associating a healthy pregnancy with increased morning sickness. But again, this is not always the case. There are many women who have perfectly healthy pregnancies, and no morning sickness at all.
Resources to Help Women Struggling with Morning Sickness?
I imagine this lack of understanding is why there aren’t more resources and support for women experiencing morning sickness. It’s just accepted as something that women have to go through and deal with on their own, and nobody really understands it.
For example, how many work places have policies in place to support pregnant women with morning sickness? And what kinds of resources are there for stay at home moms who have morning sickness and are trying to take care of other children?
There are of course plenty of articles and brochures you can find online about morning sickness remedies and those can be helpful, but when it comes down to it, resources in terms of direct help are pretty limited outside of your immediate family/inner circle and medical provider. And if you happen to be someone who doesn’t have much support at home or in your surrounding community, it can be hard!
Online resources with information and tips on managing morning sickness;
- I also like the Peanut app for mamas/mamas to be. You can write posts in groups and ask questions, share your pregnancy experiences and make friends!
I will say that for myself, there is no way I would have been able to take care of my 2 year old during the height of my morning sickness if my husband had not been playing a huge role. By some wild stroke of luck, the worst of my morning sickness fell almost exactly between the dates my husband was in between jobs and we were moving to a new state.
My husband became our toddler’s main play buddy and took care of essentially all his basic care needs (brushing teeth, preparing meals, etc). I’m sure many stay at home moms who experience prolonged morning sickness do not have another adult taking care of their children all day.
And how they survive, I do not know. I also do not know how women who are working at paid jobs throughout their pregnancies manage. So kudos and hugs to all who are getting through the treacherous days of morning sickness.
Morning Sickness WILL End
So for all the women who are experiencing debilitating morning sickness, all I can say is that you are not alone and that it will eventually pass (even if it’s not until the end of a pregnancy). When it’s happening, it feels like years have passed and that you can’t possibly stand one minute more of it. But there is an end in sight and hopefully the horror of those first few months of pregnancy will be forgotten one day!
And women who are struggling with morning sickness, however it presents itself, need support and empathy. So if in the throes of morning sickness and you need to vent or have a space to be heard, please leave a comment below!
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