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I'm writing this in the middle of the night, right after a bottle feed and a nappy change coupled with incessant wailing piercing through my ears. I've often tried to seek solace on the internet hoping that I'm not alone in this situation and that someone out there has some answers to offer or, at the very least, is able to say that I'm not alone in this trying times.

My daughter was delivered via c-section just over 3 weeks ago due to unforeseen birth complications that arose during labour. Upon seeing the amount of pain, discomfort and immobility my wife had to endure in the first few hours and days post-op, I offered to sleep on the couch with the cot by my side during the night so that I can tend to my daughter (change her nappies, bottle feed her and rock her back to sleep) without her jolting my wife up from sleep with her crying. I made it my goal to ensure that she had at least 6 - 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep before she gets up to breast feed at intervals in the day. My mother-in-law also chips in to help during the day so that my wife wouldn't have to move about too much. All I wanted for her was to have a speedier recovery so that we could look after our child to the best we can.

3 weeks on, I endured with only an hour or 2 of sleep in the night before throttling off to work. I usually knock off around 5 - 6pm and get back home in less than an hour. I try to have my dinner as quickly as possible before starting my shift around 8pm by helping my wife to bathe and then tending to my baby. My mother in law is usually exhausted by then so she usually turns in early. The last breast feed my wife gives is at around 11 or 12 before she turns in and leaves everything else to me.

3 weeks in with the lack of sleep accumulating and work piling up, I'm beginning to feel increasingly frustrated that:

1) Despite making such quick recovery and being able to move around without assistance (the Gynae has even remarked that she has recovered extremely well), my wife doesn't seem to be getting herself involved as much as I would like her to be. I'm still running the same night shifts and my mother in law is still doing the bulk of the work in the day. My wife does chip on a few rare occasions when neither of us are available, but that usually amounts up to 1 or 2 nappy changes.

2) No one in the household seems to recognize that I still have a job to do in the day in order to pay for all my family's necessities. Not once has there ever been an offer to lighten my burden; somehow it has just become an expectation that I have to fulfill by default.

Does anyone know how I can cope with this? I understand that it generally takes 6 weeks for c-sect mothers to fully recuperate but by the 2nd week or so, most are able to tend to basic things.

Does basic things constitute of just breast feeding or is there more that c-sect mothers can and should do 3 weeks in?

It seems that fathers traditionally make up the half of parents that do not contribute enough or are unable to properly fulfill parental duties. The internet has no lack of advices on how mothers can "deal" with this. Is there something that fathers can do if they find themselves in a reversed situation like mine?

My night shifts are driving me nuts and it doesn't help that my daughter is showing signs of baby colic.

Can somebody point me in the right direction?

UPDATE

I wish I could mark all the responses I've gotten so far as an answer because every single one has so much truth in it.

I took the time to speak with my wife a little about my frustrations and limitations today. Although we haven't really gotten into the motion of working things out just yet, I certainly felt a lot better speaking and talking about it. I could tell that my wife appreciates the honesty as well. How things pan out at the end of the day remains to be seen, but I'm definitely a lot more optimistic than I was yesterday.

A big thank you for all the support and advices that I have received thus far. I'll be accepting the first response as the answer not because it is any better or worse than the others but because I should at the very least mark this thread with an "answered". I hope that I'm not stepping on any toes by doing so; please be assured that every single response I have gotten has really provided me with valuable insights and support.

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Wow, you've got some great answers already. That was fast! Did you know we have a chat room as well? It's useful if you just want to discuss things that isn't clear-cut Q&A material. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 18 '13 at 12:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

My wife, almost two weeks after a C-section, is able to do practically all work related to baby care. Only baths are left to me, and even then she does assist me. I'd like to think we do 50% of the work, but actually she probably does more. I am currently on a leave and soon I will go to work - and during the day she will have to take care of our baby on her own.

This does not seem like a physical problem. I'd say it's entirely psychological. And as with most psychological problems - you should try to talk it over. Try to learn what she feels, just let her talk - if she is willing. Listen carefully.

It is possible that she feels "unnecessary" - since you were handling the baby so well. I would try to ask her for help, even when you are perfectly capable of handling a situation on your own, so that she would feel more needed. That's just an idea.

Postpartum depression is a well documented and quite often happening illness. Consider seeking professional help.

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+1 for the mention of PPD. I also wanted to add that sometimes after a c-section delivery it takes longer for mom & baby to bond. With you handling most of the baby care, maybe she is feeling detached? In any case, I hope you'll be able to talk with her and get a night off soon. –  beansa Nov 17 '13 at 20:53
    
I do remember her being somewhat disappointed when I was correcting her on how to hold the baby shortly after she was discharged, but I made it a point to reassure her constantly that she'll get better with practice and that her priority was to get well first. in that regard, I do agree that she might be still stuck at the recovery state of mind despite already making good progress. I'd give a +1 to your comment if I could because that's almost like an epiphany for me. thank you! –  sadnewdad Nov 17 '13 at 21:04
    
@sadnewdad you should be able to upvote once you hit 15 rep. Anyway, keep us updated how things are working out. I'll keep my fingers crossed for a happy resolution. –  Dariusz Nov 17 '13 at 21:15
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@sadnewdad one more thing - each C-section is, supposedly, different. My wife has recovered quite swiftly, but it doesn't mean that yours had too. Ask her how she is doing, what hurts and when. You may then have a reason why she doesn't do some things. –  Dariusz Nov 17 '13 at 21:19
    
yup, I do discuss how she's doing every other day - just so I can be aware of her needs. but this is also why I'm quite confident that her recovery is progressing well. I recall her telling me that the dull pain in the abdominal muscles and the sharp sudden ones around the incision are largely gone. in any case, I appreciate the support and suggestions. thank you :) –  sadnewdad Nov 17 '13 at 22:19

Wow!! I feel for you. Being a new parent is exhausting, nerve-wracking and a little confusing = it really does take a village.

To anwer the question about what your wife can or cannot do, I'll share my experience (though everyone's is different and I don't know which complications she had etc, etc) I had a c-section and was up and moving around doing almost everything I had prior to the surgery within three weeks, but the doc remarked on me as a quick healer. I still needed help getting in and out of the tub (but could otherwise bathe myself) and needed help on the stairs or lifting heavy things (but not the baby).

In terms of coping - I'd say, maybe there are some ways to improve the situation rather than just cope.

First, talk to your wife. Tell her how sleep deprived you are and ask if she is ready to adjust the night shift part of things - even if it is just slightly. You one night, her the next, or you the 2:00 feeding, she, the 4:00 . . .

As @Dariusz mentions, Post Partum Depression can be a really big deal and you do need to have a talk, but if it is PPD, it is more serious than just a talk and getting back on track may require more support than that. It can last for months and make bonding between mom and baby extremely difficult and or delayed. It is not well understood, but there is most-likely a chemical component brought on by hormonal changes that occur during and after childbirth. Therefore, if you think it is more than just the baby blues, this should all probably also be mentioned to her doctor as PPD is an illness. If getting some help for possible depression can help jump-start her back out of apathy, then, get her some help and it will help you too.

Understand her sadness or apathy by asking her about it. I did not personally struggle with PPD, but I did get a bit of the baby blues. It can be common for moms (especially first-timers) to have a "plan" or very concrete idea about how they'd like childbirth to go. It is a pretty important rite of passage for women after-all. You probably have a lot of feelings about parenthood too. The whole point of marriage is so you can be a team. Let her tell you about it and listen to your concerns. You will both feel better.

Just being cooped up can get depressing pretty quickly. Once I was finally allowed to go home, I still wasn't moving really well and so it was a little while before I could really get out of the house. By the time we were into the second week, I was feeling fairly apathetic and definitely experiencing some cabin fever. We started going for really slow walks (this was actually encouraged as a way to help healing take place faster at the hospital too). If I only felt up to going 20 feet down the sidewalk - that was ok, but I'd gotten out. By the end of that second week and into the third, we were in the park during the slower part of the day (fewer people, less exposure for baby). Movement, activity and making an attempt to get back to a schedule helped tremendously to improve my mood and get me past it. Going on a quiet and carefully timed outing may make a huge difference for your wife.

Like you, she may also be feeling anxious. If you have taken over and had a few weeks to make a few mistakes and learn from those mistakes, some of your anxiety about how to do things may have passed while she hasn't had the chance to move through some of that. You mention correcting how she was holding the baby at one point. While you wouldn't want the baby hurt, the reality is there are tons of ways to hold a baby and still have that baby be perfectly safe. If baby's head is supported, baby probably isn't getting hurt. You might think about how often you are "correcting" or "instructing" and pick your battles a little - let her struggle a little more and see if it helps her confidence. She might be more willing to do more if some of that anxiety can go away, so let her struggle through a few imperfect diaper changes or whatever. At least, laugh over a few fumbles you may have already had yourself to let her know you're there for her and are learning along the way too.

It is early in the game to have a full-fledged date night, but perhaps you could squeeze in an hour for just the two of you in the near future. Go for a short drive, a take-home meal both of you go to pick up, or use the hour to just snuggle in a place that isn't the same four walls your wife is constantly looking at at this time. Maybe on a blanket at the nearest park, or an easy stroll at the mall and buy a "welcome to parenthood" charm bracelet, or go do some cloud watching just do it together.

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Firstly it's still early days after the c-section. Childbirth is a natural process and no one I would regard as physically traumatic, but a c-section (as a surgical procedure) is physically traumatic to the body. I, have not had a c-section, but have always thought society is a little unmerciful towards it's expectations upon women after c-sections. It's a reasonably extensive surgical procedure. Cutting through skin layers, skeletal muscle and the uterus. The doctor may say that your wife is doing well, which is good, it doesn't detract in any way from the trauma her body had been through.

Secondly, you cannot continue in a sleep deprived manner like this, and working and you are going to have to discuss this with your wife. You may be able to start by sharing the night shifts, alternating nights. If any discussion is not helpful, that is when you may need to talk to your mother in law (as she may not be aware of how sleep deprived you are) and investigate the possibility of post-natal depression.

The last thing is, this all sounds within the realm of normal and usual for having a new born in the house. Sleep deprivation is common. Whilst you are negotiating with your wife, nap whenever you can, especially on the weekends. Try not to rush your dinner. It's fabulous that you are being such an involved father, but remember to look after yourself along the way, as parents need to take care of themselves to be able to take care of their children.

In any case, it makes sense that when one person needs to work, the other parent generally takes the night shift, as they can nap during the day, when the baby sleeps.

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I have to agree that c-sect is indeed a traumatic experience - both physically and psychological. in fact, I was deeply disturbed myself when my wife was left with no choice but to go under the knife. I appreciate your suggestions and will definitely look into how I can go about them. it won't be a walk in the park for sure, but I suppose anything is worth a shot at this point! thanks once again :) –  sadnewdad Nov 17 '13 at 22:12
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@sadnewdad unfortunately this answer is only a dip of the toe in the water, these situations are complex and require time for new parents to get their groove and work out what is going on. It is the most confusing, stressful and beautiful time. Please feel free to keep us posted and ask more questions as the situation unfolds :) –  user4784 Nov 17 '13 at 22:16

To the other excellent answers, I would also add that many new mothers experience a lack of confidence, and sometimes this is made worse by the fact that they had to have a C-section (it is a bit irrational, but it can feel like you somehow failed at your first basic task of motherhood). As you have taken over much of the care, it may have made her feel more inept, especially as you have corrected her way of holding the baby and perhaps have given her other tips, thinking you were encouraging her involvement.

I would suggest you step back. Trust her to take care of the baby and give her a chance to rise to the challenge, to find her own way to hold and diaper and soothe baby. Show confidence in her, but avoid adjective-laden praise as it makes the work of caring for the baby something you need to approve of. Instead, you might comment on things she does well in a more neutral way:

  • You got her to sleep in less than an hour - it took me a lot longer than that.
  • I think I was making her nappy too tight - she looks more comfortable the way you do it.
  • I am so glad you are feeling a bit better from the surgery. I know you are not 100%, and you are managing amazingly well. I didn't even have surgery, and I was exhausted!

You will need to let her do things her own way even though she will do things differently than you and perhaps initially not as well as you. She needs to grow into this role by trying things and making her own successes.

Many new mums get a slow start, but with experience I am sure your wife will be great.

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