Teaming Up To
Raise Awesome Kids
Image description (alt text unavailable feature): Pregnant belly eclipsing sun forming a halo.
For our first birth, I ended up having an unplanned c-section due to stalled labor. We have decided to have another c-section for my second birth instead of trying for a VBAC. Preparing for a second c-section is much different than preparing for a first vaginal birth.
1. Deciding on a C-Section
For most of my second pregnancy, a vaginal birth hasn't been an option. My sons will be born about 15 months apart, making my risk of uterine rupture higher. Also, my younger son has been measuring at over the 90th percentile throughout the pregnancy. From early in the pregnancy, we thought we didn't have an option. So we prepared for a c-section without considering VBAC.
At my last ultrasound, the baby had dropped down to the 87th percentile. My OB informed us that this meant I was now allowed to try for VBAC if I wanted.
Attempting a VBAC has some great benefits. No new scar tissue is being created by additional surgery. Surgeries carry a risk of injury. VBAC also has a significantly better recovery. Even with all these benefits, we decided that a c-section was better for our family. We decided against a VBAC for a few reasons:
2. Writing the Birth Plan
During my first labor, c-section & recovery, a lot of things happened that I didn't like or were traumatic. (From what I've read, this is common. I now think that mental health care should be an included part of treatment for unplanned c-sections.) My goal for this birth is for it to be less stressful on me. To meet this goal, I thought through my first birth experience and made a list of what I wanted to avoid. Once I had my list, I tried to figure out how to change this birth to avoid those experiences. I made sure to include these very important changes in my birth plan. I will also discuss these wishes with my OR team and postpartum nurses.
3. Preparing Siblings
Our oldest son is currently 13 months old. We can't exactly have conversations about the new baby. He can't ask questions or understand detailed explanations. We have been trying to provide age appropriate explanations and to change routines now to account for the new baby.
To begin the process of learning about having a baby, we taught our son the word "baby". We looked at pictures, watched videos and discussed babies we met. He can say baby, and uses the word (mostly) appropriately. We then started pointing at my belly and saying "baby" and "bubba". I also tell him that he used to live in my belly when he was a little baby.
Recently, my mom bought my son a realistic baby doll to practice with. My son immediately explored the doll, and is especially fascinated by the eyes. We have practiced holding the baby and being gentle. He also watches me change the doll's diaper, outfit and swaddle. When we are not playing with the doll, it is sitting in our sturdiest newborn chair. In a week or so, we will set up the pack n play with the bassinet and place the baby there too. Once the baby is born, my son can mimic our behaviors by carrying and feeding his doll. I might even make him a wrap carrier.
To prepare for meeting his new little brother, we have been watching videos of siblings meeting on YouTube. As we watch these videos, I describe what is happening. I use the words "baby", "brother", "bubba", "nice" and "gentle". He is very interested in watching toddlers and babies together.
In watching videos together, we have also been practicing quiet, gentle activities we can do together postpartum. We have doubled our quiet reading time. Coloring is another activity that we've been focusing on because it's one we can do sitting on the sofa or laying in bed. To make this feasible, we got a couple lap desks. Paper can be taped to the desks and then we'll draw using a couple colors at a time. We use the large washable crayons. If crayon gets on the sofa, bedding or clothes, it easily washes off.
In pulling out our newborn gear & setting up, we have worked slowly. This has been to give our older son time to explore and get used to the new things. We pull out about one thing a week. Our goal has been to not have everything change at once. He has "helped" prep the nursery in the activities that are safe for him. He "helped" tape off the trim while prepping to paint. He also "helped" organize our smaller diapers. When we make changes to the nursery that he can't help with, we allow him to come in and see them. He has been very interested in the transformation as well as seeing his old gear. He doesn't seem to care about his old clothes and blankets, but he loves the newborn shoes!
Preparing for a new sibling also includes preparing to take care of both kids after a c-section. Since my mom will be here, she will pick up my older son for me when necessary. We have tried to reduce the amount of lifting that will be necessary in general. To do this, we have set up a portable changing station. Our old changing pad got damaged moving, the straps that secure it to the wall ripped off. Instead of throwing out the changing pad, we saved it to use as a portable pad. A king size pillow case fits on the pad perfectly. To accompany the pad, we have 2 baskets with diapers and supplies: one for each kid. I will be able to sit on the floor with the pad and change either boy.
Another way we've prepared for less lifting is by switching our older son to a big boy bed. He uses a twin mattress on the floor. By doing this, we will not need to buy a second crib. We started the transition very slowly. The mattress was placed on the floor with stuffed animals about 2 months before we actually expected him to sleep on it. This gave him time to get used to the idea. Then we started by having nap time in the big boy bed. We laid down with him to help him know that the bed was a place to sleep. After napping in the big boy bed for about a week, he started throwing a fit when placed in his crib. At this point, we put him in the big boy bed full time. We also added a night light and a white noise machine to our routine. At the initial nighttime switch, he cried for about 20 minutes before falling asleep. We let him "cry it out" because if we came in the room at all, he would start the crying all over again. After about 3 days, the crying mostly stopped. Sometimes, he gets up and plays for a few minutes before going to sleep. We have found that he actually stays asleep better now than he used to. The timing should mean that he won't be upset about sharing his crib. As long as baby #2 comes close to on time, we will have had 2 months before the crib will be used. And since we will mostly be using the pack n play bassinet, it will really be more like 3 months.
The third way we've reduced the need to lift is by getting a little sofa and chair for our older son. One of these can be scooted up to the coffee table to allow him to eat there instead of in his highchair. We have hardwood floors, so clean up is easy. He still sits in his highchair for dinner, but for breakfast and lunch, he eats at the coffee table.
4. Arranging Childcare
Since I am having a c-section, I will have to be in the hospital longer than for a vaginal birth. The general estimate on the length of the stay will be 3 days. This doesn't include the day I have the c-section. The surgery is scheduled for a Tuesday, so I will probably be going home on Friday. For my first birth, we were in the hospital for 5 days after the c-section. Including my labor, we were in the hospital for a total of a week!
Having a c-section means that I will need someone to be in the hospital with me. After a c-section, you can be a bit wobbly at first. I wouldn't trust myself to walk with a newborn until at least the day after the surgery. Not being able to bend at the waist also means that I will need help dressing for the first day or two. We're planning on Dadda staying with me in the hospital, and then going home to put our older son to bed every night. For the 2 hours or so that Dadda is gone, I will try to have other family help.
The majority of our childcare for our older son will be provided by my mom. She came to visit for a couple weeks over the summer to familiarize herself with our routines. She has learned how to use our cloth diapers, wash the diapers and other laundry, our son's schedule, etc. My mom will also be taking home our cloth diapers and washing them.
If my mom needs help or if she is not here and I go into labor, Dadda's niece has volunteered to help. She has 2 younger sisters aged 4 & 2. She has helped a lot in their care, and I know she is trustworthy and capable. At most, she would have to watch our son for a day while my mom travels. We have enough all in one and fitted diapers with snaps so that she can watch him for a day without having to learn to use prefolds or do any laundry at all.
5. Packing for the Hospital
Packing for the hospital has actually been a pretty fun step for me. I enjoy planning and organizing. Having had a previous c-section, I found that what I actually needed was a lot different than what I'd brought. I had originally been planning on a vaginal birth, so I'd packed accordingly. I also over packed, which I'm trying to avoid this time.
I started packing my bags by making a list of the things I thought I'd need. I thought back to what I actually used most and what I ended up not really needing. I've gone through the list a few times, looking with a critical eye and saying "Do I really need to bring this?"
I've decided that I don't really need to bring: