The Fourth Trimester
Updated: Dec 7, 2019
You've survived the morning sickness of the first trimester. Delighted in the first kicks, glowing skin and glossy hair of the second trimester. And waddled your way through the third trimester while trying not to piss your pants every time you cough/sneeze or move too quickly. Now imagine running an entire marathon and then still having to show up at work the next day while enduring the worst period of your life and that's pretty much how the fourth trimester feels. The fourth trimester is the one that nobody tells you about, lasting from birth up until your baby is around 3 months old. It's a complete and utter whirlwind of roller-coaster hormones, sleep deprivation and changes that nobody can ever prepare you for. So here's a few important things to remember to help you along your way.
It's OK to not love every second of motherhood
All the magazines and perfectly edited social media posts can lead you to believe that all mothers are in a constant state of euphoric bliss and one I-just-love-my-baby-so-much moment after another, but let's be honest, having a newborn turns your world completely upside down. It can be relentless, stressful, overwhelming, all consuming and just a little bit shit at times. And you know what? It's OK (and totally normal) to feel like that.
Of course, if you ever feel like you're struggling or not enjoying your baby at all, then it's important to seek help and advice from your midwife, health visitor or GP about the possibility of postpartum depression. You will be surprised how quickly it can creep up on you. It's quite often said that 'everyone wants to hold the baby, but who holds the mother?' and that's true. You go 9 months of your pregnancy with everyone asking how you are, to all of a sudden feeling like nobody cares or notices once the baby arrives. Ask for help if you need it. Take care of yourself mama.
You're never alone, but you're lonely
Nobody ever tells you how lonely it can feel. Which is odd considering you are never alone. Once all the visitors die down and your partner goes back to work, it's then just you and your baby and at times that can feel like the loneliest place on Earth. Your days (and nights) revolve around feeds, nappy changes and constant irrational worries about whether or not your baby is feeding enough, sleeping enough or sleeping too much and whether or not you are doing things all wrong... You get the gist. It's easy to lose sight of who you were before you became a mother.
My best piece of advice to you is to get out of the house. I know it can feel scary and overwhelming at first but I promise you it will make the world of difference just going to a baby group or two. There's often free tea, coffee and biscuits there along with many other new mums who are probably feeling exactly the same way.
You will be forever changing nappies, and not just the baby
As if childbirth and sleep deprivation wasn't enough to contend with, you will also need to prepare yourself for quite possibly the worst period of your life. Your bathroom may as well resemble a scene from the film 'Carrie' and your sanitary pads look more like super-king size mattresses. After recently having my third child, I quickly realised there was no shame in skipping the maternity pads altogether in the beginning and just wearing the Tena Lady Pants AKA adult nappies. They were a game changer and a lot more comfortable than having a mattress between your legs!
Postpartum bleeding, or lochia can last up to 6 weeks however the amount of bleeding does begin to reduce after around 10 days. It's also normal to experience an increase in bleeding in the early days when you are moving around more and can be a sign that you are doing a bit too much. If this happens, try to take it easy - put your feet up mama and rest. You just birthed a tiny human after all.
The days are short but the nights are long
How many times have you heard this saying and not quite understood the meaning? If you decide to breastfeed, you will become all too familiar with 'cluster feeding'. Breastfed babies feed often, especially in the early weeks to months and so they need to teach your body exactly how much milk to make to enable them to grow and develop. Clever huh? Cluster feeding can often coincide with your babies 'fussy time' or them just wanting to be closer to you and unfortunately for your sleep, this often tends to be more frequent at night. It's easy to feel as though your baby is feeding constantly while you sit in silence at 3am seething at your snoring partners useless nipples. It's as if you are the only one on the planet still awake and with what feels like no chance to ever catch up on sleep, I have often sat and cried tears of sheer exhaustion as my baby stirred again just an hour later for another feed. But, it is not forever and it will pass. The days will indeed feel short and will fly by and before you know it, you will begin to miss those middle of the night feeds, the cuddles, the sharing of secrets. Your partner may not miss the endless invoices though from all the online shopping to keep yourself awake!
You've got this mama!
The most important thing above anything else to remember is, you can do this! You will most definitely have times when you will doubt yourself like never before and feel totally overwhelmed, frustrated and stressed, and that's normal. But please just remind yourself every once in a while that you are doing a great job. Even when you don't feel as though you are....trust me, you've got this mama! Your body grew and birthed a baby! You are a superhero!