How much help will we need with C-section recovery?
November 20, 2014 10:40 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Awesome is having a baby very soon! Yay! At this point it's likely to be a C-section - not our first choice, but we'll roll with it if we have to. I understand the recovery can be a bit rough; I'll be around for a month or so after the birth, but will we need more help than just me?

Mrs. Awesome is nearly 38 weeks pregnant with our first child. She was all psyched to birth naturally, but due to a combination of a stubbornly breech baby, a narrow pelvis, and a pre-existing medical condition that I'd rather not get into, her OB has scheduled a C-section. It's not guaranteed that she'll deliver this way, but likely if the baby doesn't un-breech itself. We're going to be trying all sorts of stuff to turn the baby (including a bunch of random Internet-y advice that strikes me as dubious, but whatever), but we're now proceeding with the assumption that the C-section is happening.

I'll have the entire month of December off work. Our families are both eager to come see the baby, but they live a plane ride away and would be staying with us. We had these lovely plans of settling in for a few weeks, just the three of us, before hosting visitors. Personally, I'd like a little time to get to know my kid and learn to be a dad before the expert grandmas swoop in. The likelihood of a C-section throws all this into question.

Mrs. Awesome's mother has offered to come help right after the birth. She's lovely as mothers-in-law go, and I have no issues with her being here, but I'd be very sad to lose our alone-together time. The question is, should we accept the help? If we don't, I'm aware that most of the work of the household will fall on me for a bit; I'm more than cool with that and willing to do whatever needs doing to take care of my wife and child. But is it going to be too much for me?

We need to decide relatively soon, since she would need to book a plane ticket. If it matters, people from our church are going to provide us with a bunch of meals, so either way much of the cooking won't be necessary. Also, I'm aware of a bunch of previous questions relating to C-section recovery. I'm mostly interested in stories of how easy/difficult it can be, especially from the support partner's perspective. Unless you also have a foolproof baby turning method; we'd take that too.

posted by captainawesome to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is exactly why grandmothers come to visit: not just to meet the new baby (although that's certainly a perk), but to help the new parents through the first weeks or so. Let your MIL come and help; after all, she can take some of the burden of cleaning/cooking/grocery shopping/laundry/whatever off your shoulders, leaving you and your wife more time to concentrate on BabyAwesome. Just stagger your MIL and your own mother, don't have them come at the same time.

And congrats!
posted by easily confused at 10:48 AM on November 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

Everyone recovers from surgery at different speeds, but I will share what helped me the most: walking. Starting the moment they let you walk in the hospital and continuing at home with walks around the block. Seriously the best thing I did for myself was getting in frequent shortish walks. Somehow that helped a ton.

Congrats on the baby, and good luck!
posted by thatone at 10:49 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Speaking as a grandma:
Really helpful grandmas/relatives/friends do everything but take care of baby. Just make that clear to the grandmas, be bossy. Tell them you will ask for help with or advice about baby when and if you need it.
posted by mareli at 10:49 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

It depends on what it is you need to do. In the first couple of weeks, babies are pretty easy (assuming they're healthy). They sleep endlessly. They don't need much stimulation. They just want to be protected, fed, diapered, and loved.

That said, my wife had a C-section, and the recovery was not super easy--really, the only things she was suited to do were care for the baby and eat. It is, without a doubt, major surgery. Going up and down the stairs at our old apartment was a real trial, and she found it very difficult while holding the baby (much less holding the baby and anything else whatsoever). Don't count on your wife being able to do anything (though hopefully she will, and, I should add, 6 months out from her C-section, my wife is perfectly healthy).

So, again, it depends on what you need to do. If you live in a temperate area and can do all the cooking and cleaning, and food can get delivered, etc., then it's surely doable if you're off for so long. If it's freezing out and you need to shovel all the snow, and ten thousand other things, maybe not so much. I don't know what's on your to do list.

And, again, babies are easy in the first few weeks, so if you can take care of everything (really, everything) other than feeding the baby, it may be ideal to have your MIL come a few weeks after the birth, when babies start to need more attention and sleep less!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:50 AM on November 20, 2014

Seconding the good Admiral - have her come a week after the little one arrives. That's what I did, and it worked wonderfully. But definitely take the help... not for the C-section so much as the fact that new parenthood is insanely disorienting and having even a little help is such a comfort.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:58 AM on November 20, 2014

I TOTALLY disagree that "in the first couple of weeks, babies are pretty easy" based on my experience with my two kids. Breastfeeding can be painful, difficult, and exhausting. It seems like the baby never stops feeding. The sleep deprivation alone is really hard to deal with. (And you have your new cute cuddly baby! Yay!)

The good news is that everyone I know who has had a scheduled C-section said that their recovery was comparable to vaginal birth because they were rested, ready, and knew what to expect. With my emergency C, it took me about a month to be able to function (like, walk down the street and sleep in my own bed without a lot of pain). So I would absolutely take your MIL up on coming those first few weeks. It helps immensely to have one person taking care of mom and baby, and the other person taking care of the household.

Would it be possible to take two weeks off in December and schedule the rest of your lovely family togetherness time in another month or two after the family is gone? The first 6 weeks or so are more about surviving than cocooning, I've found.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:58 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

We asked my mom to wait a month to come out and help, and I'm so glad we did. It was nice to not have other people in the house when we were getting to know our baby and figuring out breastfeeding etc.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think it depends on how well you do with sleep deprivation and how much of a support structure outside of family you have. My mom was a huge help those first couple of weeks for both kids with the cooking and cleaning, especially b/c Mr. Snowymorningblues doesn't do sleep deprivation very well at all and had it been up to him to feed me I'm not sure what we would have eaten. I was glad my dad didn't come until about 3 weeks later for child 1. With child 2 my whole family was here, which I don't recommend. It was around xmas and they had booked their flights thinking I would do a scheduled c-sect before the holidays, but as we got closer my OB and I decided to go for a VBAC and so I had a bunch of people around the house expecting "CHRISTMAS!" and also asking me if they thought today was the day the baby would come. It totally sucked and was super stressful for all of us. Congratulations!
posted by snowymorninblues at 11:08 AM on November 20, 2014

Everyone is different, but I think you'll probably be fine. Though you will (should) (on preview as Admiral Haddock says) be doing everything other than feeding the baby. The big ones will be diapering, keeping your wife fed and hydrated, and all household chores, but there might be some more surgery related ones like, just for example, helping her put her knickers on (it can be surprisingly tricky in the first few days, what with the bending and all), getting out of bed/off the sofa, etc. And (also on preview) emotional or practical support if breastfeeding is difficult for her, this would include making all necessary arrangements to get a professional lactation consultant to help.

The first couple of weeks newborns are *usually* pretty sleepy easy little creatures, so the baby should leave you plenty of time to focus on caring for your wife.

As for recovery, I had an unplanned (though pre-labor) c-section the first time, and a planned one the second. My first recovery was easier and I was more mobile sooner. The second one was slower. But for both of them, I was pretty mobile (though still limited in range) by the two week mark.

A couple of bits of advice, ask for a compression band (giant elastic/velcro girdle thing) at the hospital, I felt much more comfortable (less pain and anxiety) walking around with it on. And help her manage her pain however she feels comfortable doing it. For me that meant taking the pain meds, all of them, regularly, and asking for more/different ones if they aren't working. Second time around they gave me a different cocktail and it DID not work as expected, if it hurts a lot, that's not right and she should talk to the nurses. There are no bonus points for hurting, and it actually slows your recovery. For me the NSAIDS were the critical piece, but the combo of those and the narcotics were necessary for keeping the pain at a manageable level. And walking is good, unless it's causing serious pain, then rest and give it more time.
posted by pennypiper at 11:13 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It definitely varies, so having to book the plane in advance makes things a little hard. We would have been happy to have some help around the house for the first couple of weeks as breastfeeding was a struggle and it meant sleep was a struggle.

One good thing we did: even though we didn't know suchatreat would be having a C-Section, my dad suggested moving the guest bed from upstairs to down to save her climbing the stairs. She felt that made a huge difference.
posted by yerfatma at 11:19 AM on November 20, 2014

Totally agree with rabbitrabbit. I wanted alone time with my husband and son after he was born. My mom was with us right away, and while my mom and I have a fantastic relationship, I felt like I just needed to be alone for a bit. Since you can stay home for a month, take advantage of her for the second month! Then your wife has help after you go back to work. I would've loved that!
posted by fresh-rn at 11:23 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Two adults is absolutely sufficient for to care for a newborn, even after a c-section. Your MIL is entirely optional. Whether you opt to invite her into the post-birth fold or not depends entirely on your wife's preferences (not yours). That will depends on if the kind of help your MIL will offer is likely to be a) helpful, and b) the kind of help your wife wants.

In other words, you do NOT need someone else to hold the baby and be a house guest who needs to be looked after. You DO need someone to shop, make meals, do laundry, and run out for impossibly small socks. Additionally, if your wife needs to know if she is going to be happy staring at cracked nipples, discussing her post-birth flow and crying spontaneously with her mum there. Every mother-daughter relationship is different.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:26 AM on November 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

How autonomous is Mrs. Awesome's mother in terms of doing stuff around your house? How autonomous are you willing to let her be? If she's the sort who will cook dinner for you without being asked or asking Mrs. Awesome a lot of questions, you'd be comfortable letting her do this, and the result would likely be something you'd like to eat, that's one thing. If she's going to pester Mrs. Awesome with tons of questions about what to do and need a fair bit of hand-holding to do stuff, that's quite another. It's even worse if she asks a lot of questions and has very different household priorities than you do- for instance, if she wants to organize your linen closet (this happened to me when my parents came after my baby was born). Traditional ideas of gender roles can hurt here, too- is she likely to be willing to ask you questions about laundry or cooking, or are all those questions going to go to Mrs. Awesome? I did NOT appreciate being peppered with questions about how to organize the linen closet while I was hormonal, sleep-deprived, and trying to figure out the whole parenting and breastfeeding thing. It was annoying and added to the general overwhelmedness. I know they were not sure what to do, either, and were trying to help, but it wasn't terribly helpful.

And my parents and I get along pretty well (as long as we are not living in the same house), despite different household priorities. If Mrs. Awesome and her mother don't get along, that's something else entirely.

Is her mother the type to be annoyed by being awoken by a baby crying? People who fit this description don't belong in a house with a baby. Babies cry, that's what they do. They don't have the whole day and night thing figured out yet, so they cry at night.

Are she and her mother on pretty much the same page when it comes to parenting? Breastfeeding? If she is going to breastfeed, how would she and her mother feel about her breastfeeding where her mother might see her? It made things difficult, especially in those first few months, to have someone in the house where they or I weren't comfortable with me breastfeeding around them. I wasn't able to breastfeed discreetly under a cover at first, that only came when the baby and I had gotten better at breastfeeding.

Is her mother OK with this not being much like visiting you pre-children? You probably aren't going to have the time or energy to be good hosts. If you spend a lot of time or energy being a good host, this may make Mrs. Awesome a little resentful that you're not spending that time helping her with the baby. You probably aren't going to want to go out and do stuff. It gets a LOT harder to go out once you have a baby. For one thing, after a C section, Mrs. Awesome probably won't be able to lift the baby in a car seat for a few weeks. If her mother is coming to help with the baby and see the city where you live, that's really only going to work if her mother is willing to go out without you or Mrs. Awesome to do her sightseeing.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:29 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it varies a lot. Mrs.Know-it-some was walking around within hours (3? 10? don't remember) and unlike some women had no problem with stairs, but still needed help moving from lying down to sitting up. Apparently that's hard without the use of stomach muscles.

Even if she ends up with a more difficult recovery, you can still handle the physical stuff without a third person. The real question isn't physical need, but whether you'd prefer to have alone time and for how long, vs. help after you go back to work if that's an option.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:35 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just had a c-section in August, and I didn't feel that recovery was terrible. I was up and walking around the next morning, carrying my (giant) baby, walked myself out of the hospital, and did not have trouble with stairs or whatever. I mean, I was slow and recovering for a few weeks, of course, but I could carry my baby easily, and I felt like I was in better shape than friends who had a vaginal delivery in the same timeframe.

I think the trick was the belly band/compression belt, as suggested by pennypiper above. They put one on me at the hospital the morning after an evening surgery and I wore it nonstop (morning & night) until 3-4 weeks postpartum. It gave my abdomen the support it needed.
If they don't offer one of these, request it! And have a second one ready at home so you can have one in the wash and one to wear. I had a Belly Bandit, which was a little less bulky than the one from the hospital but a lot more expensive, and is recommended even for those who have vaginal deliveries. It's just good support.

She'll want some clothes that won't irritate the scar, including high-waisted underwear, and you should help her remember to take her meds. I think that was the hardest thing- the hours in the first few days are crazy and she'll forget to do anything for herself. You will need to help her remember to eat, drink lots of water, and take her meds on time.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:43 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

With two Cs under my belt (pun, ha!), I agree that walking and meds are very important in the immediate aftermath. The surgery really messes up your digestive track; do not do not do not play it fast and loose with your Colace. Take it every single day for at LEAST six weeks. Walking really helps in the first few days with gas pain, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:48 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

In the first couple of weeks, babies are pretty easy

You know that television cliche where someone starts laughing and suddenly segues into uncontrollable bawling? That's my response to the assertion that newborns are easy. The first few weeks were pretty rough for me: my baby did not sleep very much, he was jaundiced, he wasn't gaining weight, we had to take him to the doctor several times, etc. Your baby may vary, of course, but don't expect an easy time.

My mother came to visit the day he was born and stayed for several days, and I'm so glad she did. She made a freezer's worth of meals, she helped with the baby when I got overwhelmed, and she was just a generally calming "you're doing okay" presence. I'm very close to my mom, though, and it would be hard for me not to enjoy having her around.

Personally, I'd like a little time to get to know my kid and learn to be a dad before the expert grandmas swoop in.

In my (limited but recent) experience, the first few weeks of having a baby are mostly troubleshooting. Sure, you want to bond with them from day one, but it takes about six to eight weeks before you really get into a groove and feel like you're starting to know them.

I don't think there's one definitive answer to when family should visit and help, or how much help you need. It depends on the new parents, the family members, and the baby (whose temperament is currently unknown). In the end you'll have to go with your gut.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:09 PM on November 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I did not have a c-section, but I do have a wonderful MIL and mother who are both generally thoughtful and with whom I have a good relationship, and it was HARD to have my MIL come out a week after the birth of our first because it's nearly impossible for experienced grandmas to not swoop in and "show you" how to do something while they are helping out.

For me (the mom), this was just kind of annoying, but it was much worse for my husband. My MIL had some idea that she needed to step back a little bit and not correct the new mom (and even so there was that annoying dynamic of her being like "let me show you how I always soothed my babies!" and me being like "GIVE ME BACK MY DAMN BABY"). But despite being very feminist she had a hard time realizing that she needed to step back and give her son the space to learn to care for our baby, and corrected him more than once about not holding the baby right, not being careful enough, and so on.

I think for women, it often ends up being more helpful than annoying to have grandmas come after the birth, because we have another 8 weeks (or more) of maternity leave where we're alone with the baby so the help doesn't end up leading to a persistent sense of not knowing how to care for our own child without someone else telling us what to do. I think the same is most definitely not the case for most men, and if you have the opportunity to spend 4 weeks learning to care for your child right at the beginning, I think you're wise to be hesitant about bringing a third adult in who has the potential to sideline you, even if unintentionally. The few weeks my husband took of paternity leave doing solo baby care have made huge and noticeable difference in his confidence (and hence competence) at caring for our son nearly a year later, and there are reams of research showing that for men, early involvement has effects on how involved they are as parents years down the line.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

A breech C-section is a more difficult recovery than a head-down C-section (I have had one of each), because they basically have to pull the baby out doubled over and there is a LOT MORE trauma/bruising to the incision area. I was up and walking the day after my head-down C-section; I could barely shuffle to the bathroom four days after my breech one. So keep that in mind. I don't want to make it sound scary, and I "caught up" with regular C-section healing speed after a week or so, but that first week was harder after the breech because of all the extra rummaging around in my insides.

The thing that was difficult for us was, I could only get up and down from the couch or my bed enough times a day to get to the bathroom, and at first I needed another adult to help me do so. This was hell during the nights when, although the baby was in a side-car bassinet and I could just reach over and grab him, after feeding he'd have a smelly poop and need changing and I couldn't get out of bed to do it. Which basically meant I had to wake up every two hours to feed the baby, and my husband had to wake up every two hours to help, and basically everyone wanted to die of sleep deprivation in VERY SHORT ORDER.

Anyway, grandma came (and then left after a week or so, and then came back because we did not have it adequately together to have just two adults and I called to beg). Grandma slept from 6 a.m. to noon, got up and made me a hot, zillion-calorie lunch, changed diapers so my husband and I could nap, went to run errands and pick up emergency baby supplies and prescriptions and zillions more calories (I ate like a linebacker when my milk came in), read her book while rocking a colicky baby so I could nap, made a hot, zillion-calorie dinner, and then we went to bed and she took the baby and brought the baby in to me when he needed to eat, and then took him out to change and burp him and sooth him back to sleep. At 6 a.m. she'd hand over to my husband and go to bed.

Basically she took care of the house and the food, and took an overnight shift with the baby, so my husband could focus on taking care of me and the baby and get a few hours of sleep in a row so he didn't die, and I could focus on producing milk and sleeping a lot.

For us it literally would not have been possible without a third adult. (For my second baby, who was the easier delivery, we could maybe have done it, because we were more experienced and I was moving around a lot better, but it was much more pleasant with grandma there to help out, and help with the toddler.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:24 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the first couple of weeks, babies are pretty easy

You know that television cliche where someone starts laughing and suddenly segues into uncontrollable bawling?

To be clear, my statement was my own personal experience. I guess not everyone is so lucky, but our daughter slept most of the time (and on command if you put her in one of those snuggabunny swings), and was bottle/breast/milk/formula agnostic.

Which just goes to show you should hedge your bets with this decision--it's going to be hard to do everything (including the snow shoveling (etc) in my example above) even if your baby was as easy as ours was in the first few weeks. It will be quite a bit more difficult if you don't have as cooperative a baby.

I should add that even with our cooperative baby, we had my MIL with us for a week after the first weekend, then my mother, then my MIL and FIL for TWO weeks after that. My paternity leave was not particularly generous, so I was there for only the first week.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:26 PM on November 20, 2014

I've had three. I feel qualified to state my expert opinion. Also, my husband, like you, preferred getting to know his babies without grandma hanging around.

If you are really, truly going to be around the house for one month seriously HELPING out mom and not say playing video games and destroying the house, then yes - totally doable! Remember, she's had major surgery - you really need to be doing stuff to make her life easier. Don't expect her to be cooking and cleaning for you once you arrive home from hospital, ahem.

Not knowing your wife and her relationship with her mom or your mom - I'll say I loved having my mom around.
posted by JacksonandFinch at 12:28 PM on November 20, 2014

Also, PS, my mom, a.k.a. the most opinionated woman in the world, offered literally no opinions other than, "You're doing great! You guys are so good with him!" unless we really, really, really begged her for tips. She did everything our way in terms of swaddling and soothing and so on, and offered not a single peep to the effect that she had done this four times and probably knew a few tricks, or that we were being hyper-anxious, or that we were AMUSINGLY new-parent-y. She was really, really aware of letting us have our own space to figure out being parents. Just as an antidote to stories of mothers and mothers-in-law who are overbearing and intrusive. It can go the other way!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

I had a c section in May due to my stubbornly breech baby. Your wife will be fine. My husband was home from work for less than two weeks afterward (and he works nights so he was gone all night then sleeping a lot of the day). Further, I had the added responsibility of my then-19 month old baby to care for as well. Nobody came to stay with us to help though I had a mother's helper come for a couple hours over my son's dinner and bedtime for a few weeks, but that was less about the c section and more about trying to juggle the needs of both kids. Oh, and I'm 38 if that matters (so no young and spry extra quick recovery time).
posted by amro at 12:43 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you think you have the cooking, cleaning, shopping and driving down for your wife in the first few weeks, I'd say just have some babymoon time with just the 3 of you. When I needed help was when my husband had to return to work and I was alone and still recovering from the c-section. It took me longer than the 6 weeks the tell you. My incision was still pretty sore and I was totally sleep deprived--no sleepy newborn at my house. That's when I was carrying a heavy carseat with a sleeping baby to the supermarket and lugging groceries, making our dinners, scrubbing poop out of onsies, etc. That's when I could have used a helper come swoop in, make dinner, hold the baby while I shower or nap or just go to the store for me. So, my recommendation is for mom to come at the 3 or 4 week mark, whenever you are going back to work.
posted by biscuits at 1:17 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I highly, highly recommend a belly bandit for recovery.
posted by goo at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2014

My mother came to visit after my c-section. Honestly, she was a burden. She cooked some meals but did no chores and was simply somebody else to entertain. If I had another child she would not be on the post-birth invite list.

My mother-in-law has a way of raising children that are totally incompatible with my beliefs. She would have been hands on the baby and my boobs and hands off scrubbing the bathroom, which is not what I need. She was not on the post-birth invite list until I was well enough to deal with the "you're doing it wrong" brand of help.

Your parents should stay in a hotel, please see if you can arrange this for just this one trip. I was pumping and crying and being post partum, I did not need people staying in my house. Your mother-in-law can do a short visit, maybe two days, then come back later if she proves helpful. Two days isn't that long.

The work load on you may not be too bad. I was driving and shopping (against medical advice, but whatever) 3 days after section. I was cooking reheated dinners a week later. My husband's job was to do dishes, laundry (oh the laundry!!!) and cleaning with some nappy-changing, baby-bathing, and screamy-baby-holding duties. He did not seem irked or stressed by this. He was helping full-time for 4 weeks or so before he started working at home again.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:52 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've had two emergency C's after long sleepless labors and I'm currently scheduling for my third CS in early May next year. Both times my husband had to go back to work within a day after getting home. I had my mom next door and my mother in law flew up what amounted to be a week after I got out of the hospital. Both times. Not at my behest. I say this to be very kind to my loving, supportive, very lovely Mother in law, but this was not nearly enough time for me. If she had come a month after the baby was born it would have been perfect, because by then I wouldn't have been totally exhausted and walking hunched over and feeling like I had to entertain her. That wasn't her intent, but being the way I am, I guess, it felt somewhat like that. I would have absolutely preferred, both times, even with the kids being two years apart, that I just took care of them myself, even with my husband at work, because the first few days by myself with my infant and then (second time around) a two year old and an infant were a cakewalk compared to the stress of having someone hovering around a few days later trying to find things to do to help me out. This time, with baby number three, we are adamantly insisting that we do not want outside help aside from my husband for at least a few weeks. This is not just to harp on my mother in law either - my mom lives in the house next door and she didn't come over at all except to occasionally bring milk or something like that because she knew I just really wanted some quiet bonding time with the baby and my husband. It seems like there might be a ton of stuff for a grandma to do, but I feel like it's really hard for them to not be hovering over the baby and offering anecdotes and JUST doing things like laundry/dishes/etc. It totally depends on your wife's personality too. I am the type who likes to do stuff for myself and it's really hard for me to accept some types of help, so that plus my own need for personal time and the stress of having someone stay at my house was just too much for me. This next time around, I'm personally investing in a ton of frozen tasty TJ's meals, a giant stack of paper plates and disposable flatware, and the luxury of a week alone with my husband and kids before everyone swarms in.
posted by takoukla at 3:25 PM on November 20, 2014

You can absolutely do it yourself. However! Whether or not your MIL will be a help depends on the type of MIL you have and how your wife feels post-surgery.

With my first c-section ("emergency," due to a failed induction for preeclampsia) I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I was on magnesium sulfate, had not prepared for the possibility of major surgery at all, and was completely devastated and blindsided by the surgery - I felt very ignored/irrelevant during the procedure. Your wife may or may not grieve for the natural birth she wanted; I certainly did, and cried anytime anybody mentioned the c-section for several weeks. This is okay! Everybody reacts differently.

My parents visited for a week, starting the day the baby was born, and my mother was immensely helpful to me during this time. I could ask my mom baby questions, breastfeeding questions, etc. and because she's a labor & delivery nurse, she wasn't squicked out by helping me on and off the toilet in the hospital or helping me change my pad (thanks, Mom!). I didn't feel like I had to entertain them, they stayed elsewhere, my dad is super comfortable with people breastfeeding, and it wasn't stressful to me at all. I thought I would want the "just the three of us" experience, but I was very glad they were around. Even just for the company!

For my second c-section (actually somewhat emergent; I had planned a homebirth VBAC and almost achieved it, but baby's heartrate was doing horrible things during pushing so we transferred to the hospital), I had just experienced 12 hrs of labor and all the lovely endorphins that go with it, so once the surgery was over, I felt ON TOP OF THE WORLD. I was super alert, and while I was sad about the surgery, I was thrilled I experienced labor and that my surgical team made me feel like I was part of the process.

(If your wife is into it, ask a nurse to narrate the procedure to her! They wouldn't lower the drape for me, but the nurse was happy to let me know when they were cutting, when they could see the baby, etc. and it made it feel much more like a happy birth occasion versus emergency surgery.)

This time, even though we now live in the same town as my parents and in-laws, nobody came daily to help postpartum and... I was actually okay with it. I didn't really feel the desperate need for outside help like I did the first time. I was much more mobile afterward, could get on and off the toilet myself just fine, was going on short walks at 1.5wks postpartum with the baby in a Moby wrap, and generally felt pretty good physically. I did have a four-year-old to take care of too, and I would have happily welcomed both the company and the help, but we did okay without.

All this to say, you can definitely do it without help, but it really truly does depend on your MIL, your wife's physical and emotional health, and her particular pattern of recovery. She might end up with an incision infection or something else that delays her recovery, and having extra people on hand would be nice in that case. You just can't tell in advance. But I'd say if your MIL is actually helpful and doesn't expect your or your wife to entertain or cook for them or something silly, I'd accept the help.

Also, if it's helpful: I asked a (super panicked!) question earlier this year about turning a breech baby; I also spent a LOT of time on following all their instructions.

Congratulations, and best of luck!
posted by meggan at 3:43 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have the entire month of December off from work, you can handle this on your own. Your wife's preferences take precedent but, if she's happy just having you around and you are happy to do it then, ask the grandma's to schedule their visits in January, when you go back to work, because that is when you will really need them. Two weeks for her mom and then two week for your mom.
posted by myselfasme at 3:54 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think one adult is sufficient to help a post c-section mom, so whether that's you or your MIL it doesn't really matter. But I wanted to agree with someone upthread that there isn't a lot of bonding with baby (or even each other) those first few weeks. It's just survival, and we did the bonding and lovely family time a bit later.

My emergency c-section happened without laboring and I had a fairly good recovery, but I was completely unable to drive, do laundry, cook meals (even making a sandwich was hard), or do anything else around the house for at least a week, closer to two. My husband would have been enough help during that time, except that our daughter was born very early and he hadn't arranged for paternity leave and I had to go to the NICU every day so it wasn't like we could stay home and rest. My mother was AMAZING. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry, made sure I took my meds, gave me a backrub every night, disappeared into the woodwork when she wasn't needed, encouraged me and my husband as we learned to parent a very sick baby, and made sure I was capable of driving and doing basic self-care and housework before she left. If you had asked me before the birth if I would have wanted her there, I would have said absolutely not, I wanted the bonding time and all that. But she was PERFECT.

So she's invited back in two weeks when I have my second (planned) c-section. My husband will take his leave after she leaves, so she gets to help with the major boring recovery stuff (and watching the toddler) and he will be around when things have settled down a little more and we can enjoy becoming a family of four. That should see me through to when I can safely drive and manage my own household again, and will ensure that it isn't three adults in the house driving each other nuts.

If your wife thinks your MIL has even the slightest ability to actually help and not be a guest or baby-holder, I say absolutely bring her in, but maybe stagger her visit with your leave so that you give your wife help for the longest amount of time possible.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:37 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It depends on how your/her parents are. Are they the type to really jump in with whatever needs to be done around the house while leaving mom and new baby alone to bond, or are they the type who expect to plunk their butts on the couch while feeding the baby the bottle and your or your wife cook all the meals and do all the cleaning? Because seriously, in scenario number two you are so so much better off without their "help".

When our son was born we didn't care too much about housework, but new moms are usually STARVING so cooking often and in large amounts is a must. If the moms are good for helping with that then by all means have them come. If not, you may think of engaging the help of a post-partum doula for a week or two.
posted by vignettist at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2014

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