You may have heard that pregnancy is defined in 3 trimesters. The first trimester is from when you become pregnant through the 13th week, the second trimester is weeks 14-27 and the third trimester is from week 28 to week 40.
What you may not know is that there is actually a fourth trimester as well, although it’s less spoken about and this is the time period from birth until the baby is 3 months old.
The reason this term has been coined as such is because even though the birth of your baby may mark the literal end of your pregnancy, the emotional and physical symptoms and experiences around being pregnant will continue through the first 3 months postpartum at the minimum.
No, you won’t still be having to pee every second (or if you do, it’ll be because you’re keeping hydrated, not because baby is pushing on your bladder) and you won’t be getting leg cramps anymore. But, you will be waking up a lot with the baby and being on a constant schedule of changing and feeding the baby, you’ll be recovering from the birth, whether you had a C-Section or a vaginal delivery, and that will take time. Your organs will need to re-situate themselves and your milk will be developing and coming in (even if you don’t plan to breastfeed, the lactating process still happens).
Your baby will also be adjusting to the outside world. Your baby will be growing exponentially in those first three months, and as such, taking a lot of time getting used to learning how to eat, poop, sleep, soothe, be comforted. All of these things will take you and your baby time to learn.
Now, I’m not mentioning all of this to be overwhelming, but I am pointing it out to help you realize that the time spent postpartum is all about YOU and your BABY! It’s about learning all about yourself as a mother, your body as a newly not-pregnant body, as a mother’s body, and your baby as a new human with a separate personality, demeanor and way of communicating than you.
The postpartum period is NOT a time to: worry about your weight, diet, get back to your regular routines, do all the errands, take care of your in laws or parents, go back to work ‘like before’ or put pressure on yourself to ‘get back to regular life.’
The Fourth Trimester needs to be defined by rest, care, slowness, few obligations, asking for and accepting help, being okay with less cleanliness and standards of perfection (in as many areas as possible).
Let’s get real about what the first 0-4 months after you have a baby might look like:
Pajamas/Loungewear – all the time
Bleeding and bloating – lots of pads
Strange sensations from a healing C-section scar.
Stinging when you pee and poop.
Very little energy and alternating boosts of energy that last like 5 minutes
Leaking breast milk
Huge (or bigger than your usual) boobs
Messy and dirty hair and body
Weird smells – from you and your baby
Strong need for adult companionship while also NOT wanting to be SOCIAL
Desire to use your brain, but somehow not feeling like you’re really capable of doing much more than remembering which boob to nurse on.
Keeping track of baby’s poopy diapers and trying to make sure your baby burps and is eating well
Wondering how anyone survives this
Confusion on if you’re doing this whole taking care of a baby thing right
A floppy baby who squirms and is hard to hold and do anything with – more like an alien
Lots of googling at 2 am.
So….the moral of the story is, this new mom thing is a lot harder than people make it sound. If you’re in this stage of life, you are actually NOT alone, although I promise you every other new mom feels just as alone as you do. Yes, the time does pass, but when you’re in the thick of it, those hours sure do seem like the longest hours you’ve ever experienced in your life.
The important thing to remember right before and then after you have a baby, is that you AREN’T going to know how to do all of this on your own. You’ll NEED and WANT help and you may not even know what kind of help you need, but the first step is just knowing its OKAY to need help and the next step is just ASKING. At first you might worry, ‘what do i ask for?’ ‘who do i ask?’ or ‘how could anyone help me?’ but I promise all those answers will come in time and can even be prepared for before you have a baby. Family, friends, doulas, healthcare providers. This is a time in your life for you to rely on whatever village is closest and available to you! Make one up if you need. And if that seems too daunting, you can call me! I know how it feels and I promise I’m not gonna judge whatever stage of disarray you think you’re in.
Know that support and help is out there and LET IT IN! You’re worth it and you deserve it! Don’t give up!!