The fourth trimester is considered to be the first three months of the post-partum period. This time is especially important as it is when mother and baby learn each other, discover their new roles, and adjust to this new normal. It is why prenatal classes recommend new parents simplify their daily routine by meal prepping prior to delivery, limiting visitors, and resting as much as possible. While the newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb, the mother is adjusting to this new post-partum body, physical recovery from labor and delivery, a wave of emotions, and parenthood. This time of adjustment can be quite daunting.
My fourth trimester was no different. The first twelve weeks with my newborn seemed to fly by quickly yet left its toll on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. During the first few weeks, the fact that I had a baby still felt surreal. “We have a whole baby,” was the statement my husband and I both made several times. Knowing I was responsible as a mother to love, nurture, and raise this child seemed like a huge task that I was excited yet overwhelmed to take on. I want to make sure I do it right. My Mama Bear mentality kicked into gear almost immediately. I needed to make sure he was safe and taken care of. All. The. Time. Everything else can wait.
Other than caring for my child, my fourth trimester was filled with emotions regarding my healing process. I still had difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that I had a c section. My natural childbirth plans were foiled, and I had this recovery pain and scar to remind me of it. The physical limitations were also a stark adjustment. As someone who loves to be active and is always on the move, being told to only S.P.E.N.D. (sleep, pee, eat, nurse, drink water) and do nothing else was mentally difficult to process. I missed being able to walk outside and enjoy the fresh air. I missed being able to walk without pain…stand up without pain. It took some time for me to truly accept my childbirth experience and the healing process.
Looking back on my fourth trimester, I recognize that I largely focused on my baby’s adjustment into his new normal and not my own. When I did take time to self evaluate, it was mostly in relation to my son. I’m still not pumping enough milk. Let me make sure I don’t step away from my baby, because he will need to nurse soon. If I did go out for a while, I could not focus. I needed to get back to my son. “Let me make sure I eat and drink enough water so I have enough energy to produce milk.” “We need more snuggle time.” “Did I give him words of affirmation?” I was on track to becoming one of those moms–the ones who devoted the vast majority (if not all) of their attention to their children. They place themselves last in their lineup of care.
Thankfully, I have a strong support system who ensured I didn’t take the plunge. My husband was with me the entire way, getting up in the night to change diapers while I prepared to nurse. He reminded us to take it one day at a time, made sure I followed the S.P.E.N.D. method, and handled my hormonal mood swings like a champ. Our mamas would willingly (who doesn’t love Grandma duty?) come over and watch our son, so I could nap or run a few errands solo. They helped reassure me that I was doing a good job figuring out this motherhood thing. My numerous family and loving friends would come by to visit or give me a call and truly be concerned on how I was doing. Those few moments meant so much to me and reminded me that I am more than a mother.
If you know someone who is approaching or is within her fourth trimester, I encourage you to check in with her. Be a nonjudgmental, sounding board. Remind her that motherhood is but one part of her life-not the whole. Bring food. Watch the baby so she can shower and brush her teeth. Walk at her pace down the block as she is recovering. Encourage them to see their healthcare provider if depression is of concern. Just reassure her that everything is and will be okay.
Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Writer, Entrepreneur, Me
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