C-Section Birth Story: A Learning Opportunity for a Healthcare Provider

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Today I would like to introduce Stephanie. Stephanie is a mum to two furry kids and two human children. She is a physical therapist assistant working with the geriatric population helping them to regain daily functional skills. Stephanie has also recently started her own business as a freelance virtual assistant working to help busy business mommas. Stephanie will be sharing her c-section birth story.

What do you mean c-section?

It all started with a routine ultrasound to check my son’s size. I went into the little room with the technician excited to get to see my unborn child once more. That excitement soon turned to bewilderment when she told me that at 35 weeks, my son was still in a breech presentation.  Little did I know how this would turn into a whirlwind of emotion, fear, and learning. 

Immediately following the ultrasound, I had an appointment with my OB. We discussed what it meant for my son to still be breech at this many weeks gestation and my options going forward, primarily C-section. We agreed that we would do another ultrasound at 37 weeks to see if he had turned before moving forward. 

As I nervously awaited my next ultrasound, I of course did what any normal person would do, I Googled, “Breech baby 35 weeks”. I read all about the chances of him still turning at this point in my pregnancy, reasons why babies don’t turn, and the one that caught my eye, how to turn a breech baby. So, for the next 2 weeks I followed all of the advice the internet could provide on how to contort and invert myself in order to get my baby to flip head down. 

You see, this was my second pregnancy. With my daughter I had a straightforward vaginal delivery with no complications or tearing. I was lucky. I am also a physical therapist assistant. I knew how much harder this recovery would be from a medical stand point; all of the limitations, restrictions, and the careful journey to recover my abdominal muscles. I was nervous about the surgery. I was nervous about the recovery. I was nervous about my husband going back to work and me having to take care of a newborn and a 2 year old. I was nervous about actually having to ASK FOR HELP. As a healthcare provider, I am not the one that asks for help, I am the one that provides the help. A flood of emotions was happening. Never mind the feelings I had of inadequacy, and this strange sense of guilt for not being able to have him the “normal” way. Pregnancy causes a whole host of worries on its own; I didn’t need this to be added to the mix. 

Finally 37 weeks came, and so did my next ultrasound and OB appointment. Despite my best efforts and all of my inversions, my son was still breech. And so, my OB had “the talk” with me, and told me someone would be in touch to schedule my C-section. As much as I was trying to prepare myself for this outcome, I burst into tears the second I left the office.  All of my emotions and fears from the last 2 weeks finally escaped. I was called later that day and was told my C-section would be scheduled for March 9th, and the flood gates opened again. 

The Big Day

It’s a strange feeling knowing exactly when your child is going to be born. With my daughter my husband and I had an idea of when she was coming, but there was still that element of surprise when I went into labor and she was finally born. 

Having a scheduled C-section, you know exactly what is going to happen and when. We made plans with my in-laws ahead of time for them to watch our daughter overnight and take care of our dog. I kissed my daughter goodbye knowing it would be the last time she would be an only child. 

My husband and I drove to the hospital and checked in. All of the prep work happened, and then they said it was my turn, and I was taken into the operating room. There was no build up like when you’re in labor to the big moment of pushing and your child being born. It was a cold room, with a drape, and many people. I couldn’t feel anything except pressure, and some tugging. I remember saying to everyone, “this is the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced”. Soon enough, there was a light feeling in my abdomen, and I knew my son had been born. It was such a strange juxtaposition to having my daughter. It was at about this point that I started to not feel well. I started to get dizzy, hot and flushed. I managed to put all that to the side as soon they brought my son around the curtain so we could bond skin to skin for the first time.

However, that sick feeling soon returned. They asked if I wanted to hold him as I was wheeled to the recovery room. I had to decline. At this point, I knew that the anesthesia and I were not getting along. For the next 4-5 hours I laid in the recovery room, incredibly nauseous and dizzy, unable to hold or breastfeed my son for fear of dropping him. All of my fears and worries were coming true. It was not the rosy recovery I remembered from my daughter, it was a recovery that I barely remember from being medicated and asleep the majority of the time. And, the hardest part, I was unable to hold and bond with my son the first few hours he was born. 

The Hospital Stay

Once up to the unit, I discovered just what it was like to be on the other side of patient care. My first task assigned to me by the nurses the next morning was to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, and try to pee. I needed some help to get out of bed. I was thankful for my background in therapy at this point and my knowledge of bed mobility strategies, and attempted to walk to the bathroom. Those first few steps I was doubled over with pain and couldn’t imagine walking those 10 feet to the bathroom. I suddenly knew the pain and weakness my patients felt when I asked them to get up post surgery and walk down the hall. Luckily, one of my nurses suggested putting on my abdominal binder before we tried walking further. This was a tremendous help! No longer did I have searing pain when I tried to hold myself up. I made it to the bathroom and was able to pee successfully. Goal achieved. 

My husband stayed with me the first night, but after that, he had to return home to take care of our daughter. We didn’t want to disrupt her routine too much with our son’s arrival, as soon her whole world would turn upside down with her brother’s arrival home. 

A new wave of fear and trepidation overcame me. I had relied heavily on my husband the first night to help me lift our son and change him. Now I would have to rely on that little call bell I have told my patients hundreds of times to use to summon help. I could hear myself repeating the words, “please use your call bell when you need help. You won’t be a bother to us, this is our job.” But suddenly, I understood what my patients meant when they said they didn’t want to be a bother. I didn’t want to have to call the busy nurses to my room just to help me lift my son from the bassinet, a task I felt I should be able to do on my own, but couldn’t. I didn’t want to have to call them to get me more ice water. I didn’t want to have to call them to help me get out of bed. But I had to. Asking for help was probably the most difficult part of my whole recovery. 

Coming Home

Soon it was discharge day. Now I had to figure out how to recover at home and take care of myself and my kids. 

The first thing I discovered when I arrived home was I had nowhere to sit. My couch was too soft and caused too much discomfort and pain to try to get on and off of. My dining room chairs were too hard to sit on for long periods and they were difficult to feed my son from. Luckily, my in-laws were there to help and loaned us one of their recliners. What a godsend. 

Next, I learned how hard stairs were. I wasn’t allowed to carry my son up the stairs, so I had to wait for my husband to be able to travel with the baby. I couldn’t have imagined it being so difficult to lift my leg to put it up on the step in front of me. I once again had a flashback to doing stair training with my patients. I again gained an understanding of the effort it took to complete a daily task after a surgery or illness. 

Then came showering. Unable to bend or lift my leg easily, I had to ask for and employ my husband’s help in this matter. He was a champ and dutifully assisted me with showering, drying, and dressing for about a week before I was able to complete this routine on my own. I had to get creative in getting dressed and dried off by myself. Again, I was thankful for my training as a therapist and all of the sessions I had performed with the occupational therapists at work. 

Suddenly, asking for help was not as difficult as it had seemed at the beginning.

After coming home from hospital, you may be interested in tips for keeping sane in the newborn phase.

Take Away and Tips

My biggest take away from this ordeal is it is hard to ask for help, but a necessary thing in the recovery phase of an illness or surgery. As a therapist, I am always at the ready to lend a helping hand and am the first one to educate my patients it is ok and necessary for their safety to ask for help. I have found that giving the advice and taking it are two completely different things. After this experience as the patient, I have a new found respect for my patients and the difficulties faced post illness. I feel this will help me to be a better therapist, and will allow me to be more empathetic when they tell me the pain is too much, or they aren’t able to complete what I’m asking of them.

In the end, none of my initial fears and emotions mattered. All of those disappeared when my son was born healthy (8lbs 7oz and 20.5 inches long) and without major complication. 

As a mom and a therapist recovering from a c-section, here are my biggest tips:

  1. Ask for help. It may not be easy, but it is necessary for your health and safety.
  2. Use and wear the abdominal binder they give you post surgery. That was a life saver and I wore it 24/7 for 2 weeks straight. Without it, I don’t think I could have been as mobile as I was.
  3. Keep moving. It is hard, and at times hurts, but try to walk while in the hospital and try to take little walks when you return home. Movement really will help the recovery process along. Remember to listen to your body and stop if it hurts too much. 
  4. Keep a reacher, also sometimes called a grabber, nearby. This was another lifesaver. Knowing I would have trouble bending, I took this to the hospital with me. It saved me from having to use that call bell so much when I dropped almost everything on the floor. It also can be used to help put on pants and shoes. 
  5. Consider purchasing a bed rail for when you go home. I decided to purchase one, as I was still having difficulty moving in bed when I left the hospital. It definitely made bed mobility easier at home and had a convenient side pocket for putting baby necessities in so I didn’t have to reach far.  
  6. Lastly, listen to your doctor and your body. If the doctor tells you not to do something or lift something, don’t do it. No need to hurt yourself and cause your recovery to be longer.  And if something doesn’t feel right, stop what you’re doing and ask for help. 

In contrast, you can read about a mum’s labour and delivery story for her second baby.

Author Bio

Stephanie is a wife, a mum to two furry kids and two human children. She is a physical therapist assistant working with the geriatric population helping them to regain daily functional skills. Stephanie has also recently started her own business as a freelance virtual assistant working to help busy business mommas calm the chaos of motherhood and business ownership, freeing them to spend more time with their kiddos and grow their business. In what little free time she has, she enjoys jigsaw puzzles, reading, colouring with her daughter, and spending time in the sunshine. You can find Stephanie on Facebook.

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