What is the Fourth Trimester?
“Whenever you feel like you are failing, look in the eyes of your child, and know your value.”-Unknown
The fourth trimester is formally known as the transition period after your child is born, where you and your newborn adjust to a new life together. Your newborn is learning how to adapt to life outside the womb while you, the mother, are learning to live your life while being responsible for another one! This includes your postpartum recovery. And yes, it can be very exciting, but I don’t think enough mothers talk about how absolutely overwhelming it can feel.
The first three weeks after my daughter was born were extremely rough for me, physically and mentally. I had a very bad case of the baby blues which caused me to cry constantly, interchanging between feelings of sadness and happiness. There were complications during my labor and delivery which made this a difficult experience for me. Any time I would think or even attempt to speak about that experience, I was instantly in tears. With the change in hormones, the lack of sleep, and adjusting to a new identity as a mother, I felt completely out of control and unlike myself. It felt as if I was crumbling and there was nothing I could do about it. I thank my lucky stars for the support system I had during that time and continue to have. But I do wish I had a heads up of what to expect during postpartum.
Allow me to Elaborate…
Here are 10 things you should know about becoming a new mother (based on my personal experience):
- You will be extremely sore and bleed for weeks, if delivering the baby vaginally. I cannot speak on C-sections but I can imagine that takes a toll on the body as well. This is not to scare anyone, just setting the expectation. Delivering a child is hard work and possibly the most painful experience you will ever encounter in your life. Naturally, the healing process will be a bit slow. Make rest a priority, keep a balanced diet, and know that adult diapers, TUCKS pads, and sitz baths are your friends.
- You may not immediately bond with your child. Every mother is different. Some automatically establish a bond with their child and feel as if they are on cloud nine. It takes time for others. If I am being honest, I did not immediately bond with my daughter. I loved her, no question about it. But in all transparency, she terrified me. That strong bond came later after spending day in and day out with her, learning and getting to know her. I felt extremely guilty those first few weeks and questioned if I was even mother material. Don’t be me and give yourself some grace- this does not make you a terrible mother.
- If breastfeeding is affecting your mental health, then it is not worth it! I cannot stress this enough. Breastfeeding is extremely hard, tiring, and demanding. I tried breastfeeding but my daughter wouldn’t latch. Then I tried exclusively pumping until my milk supply started to dwindle. Then I tried supplementing with formula while keeping up with pumping. My experience with this made me feel less than a woman and a mother. I wanted to breastfeed my daughter so badly, but my circumstances didn’t allow for it, and I felt really guilty about this. I finally gave up after 4 weeks. A baby that is fed is what’s best. More importantly, a happy mother is what’s best to love and care for your child. Don’t beat yourself up over this.
- You will cry, A LOT. Oh, those baby blues are fierce. You will cry when you are happy. You will cry when you are sad. You will cry because you are exhausted. You will cry WITH your baby. Invest in tissues and ride the wave but also make it a priority to share those feelings with your loved ones. More importantly, know that the baby blues and postpartum depression are different. If you are feeling hopeless and depressed after those first initial weeks, please discuss this with your doctor.
- You will lose yourself. That person that existed before your little one came into your world is gone. That version of yourself needed to die for a new and improved version to be reborn. The 2.0 version of yourself that allows you to be a kick ass momma! The first few weeks, I grieved my former self. I cried for her, longed to be back with her, but ultimately, I had to let her go. To my new mommas and mommas to be, let her go and get to know this new version. Embrace and celebrate her and know that it is okay to feel whole and broken, simultaneously.
- Sleeping when your baby sleeps is much easier said than done. Seriously. I have yet to master this. You will have an intense desire to do other things such as shower, eat, clean up, etc. But if you can master this, then that is amazing. Get all the rest you can get!
- Self-care is more important now than ever. It can be as simple as going out for a drive and getting fresh air. Do something for yourself, by yourself. You are a mother but that is not all that you are. You’re still a person in need of nurturing. When you are in a good space mentally, your baby will thrive. On those days that I felt like I was reaching a mental breakdown, my husband would force me to leave the house. I would take a drive or run errands and believe me, those 1 or 2 hours away were a life saver.
- Unsolicited advice will be thrown your way constantly. Everyone will have an opinion on what they think you should, or should not do with your baby. I really don’t have much to say about this besides take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. What works for one does not work for all. Follow your gut, momma! The instincts are there.
- Mom guilt will rear its ugly head on almost a daily basis. You will constantly question if you are doing enough for your baby. And on the bad days when it seems your baby is inconsolable, you will blame yourself and wonder what you could have done differently. I am still learning that there is no handbook to motherhood, or even parenting. No one really knows what they are doing! It will always be trial and error and then sticking to what works.
- You are not alone in how you feel. No matter how shameful or embarrassing. What I have learned after being transparent with my experience so far is that there are many mothers who feel the same way I feel. The expectations of a new mother are extremely high and unrealistic. Some mothers can live up to those expectations but for most of us, it is a challenge and often, we are riding the Hot Mess Express.
Motherhood has been terrifying, exciting, chaotic, and blissful so far. I am learning and growing and laughing and crying through it all. My daughter is breaking me down and building me back up in ways I never knew I needed. And there is something so powerful and necessary about that. She is making me into a better version of myself, not only for others but for myself too.
To all my new and expecting mothers, know that this transition will challenge you in ways you never thought were possible. Know that there is beauty and strength in this transition. But above all, know that you can do this, and you have a whole community behind you, cheering you on!
To all new mommies, what are some challenges did you encounter as you entered motherhood? Did your postpartum experience go as expected? And to those who are not mothers, did any of these experiences mentioned come as a surprise to you? Let’s all have an open conversation (with respect and no judgement, of course)!