The fourth trimester is the part after you’ve had your baby. A lot of people talk about the first three trimesters but the fourth is equally important. The transition to becoming a mother can be huge, it’s a totally unprecedented event, just like the first trimesters. There’s loads to consider and explain about the forth trimester, there’s books written on the topic, so I couldn’t put it all in one blog but here’s a summary of a few things to consider, hopefully this’ll help make your time a little more pleasurable…
1. You are doing wonderfully; ok you may not do everything perfectly, but we don’t need perfection, it’s just a perception and is different to different people anyway. Who cares if you’ve not washed your hair or tidied the house, if you and your baby are healthy and well, then you ARE doing a great job. Remember that’s your main priority now, not the washing up, or being out of the house with a full face of make up by 9.30am…or any time!
2. Ignore anyone who asks silly questions, like, “Is he a good baby?”, “does she sleep through the night yet?” Both silly as no baby is good or bad, they don’t just cry to behave badly, if they’re crying a lot it’s because they need something. Just as silly is the question about sleep! Baby’s aren’t meant to sleep through the night straight away. In fact if a new born is sleeping through the night, this is a big cause for concern, they should be waking at regular intervals to feed.
3. Try to accept that you’re not going to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans any time soon, let the anxiety and pressure about this leave and concentrate on what really matters. There’s no need to “get back to normal”, now or ever. Having a baby is life changing, for your body and life in general. You may not been keen on some of the changes but it’s sooooooo worth it to have your beautiful baby by your side. Your body will be different for a while, you may get what is know as “after pains”, where your uterus is shrinking back to normal, milk filled boobs, bleeding, incontinence, sweating for a few days after birth. All of these things are “normal” but if you’re worried about anything please get a check up, speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP.
4. Some days you’ll feel like shit! If not shit, you might be exhausted, bored, lonely or overwhelmed. You won’t enjoy every minute or being a parent, in fact it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had to face, but it’s also the best thing in the world and most rewarding job. The days can be hard but there’s always happier and easier days to come, so ride the rollercoaster of motherhood and be mindful on those good days and remember ever second of them. It’s normal to have these ups and downs but if you feel you’re down too often please speak to your GP, or care provider in case you have postnatal depression.
5. Throughout your life you’ve been told that to succeed you need to pass your exams and climb the ladder in your chosen career, all the time working hard and striving for more. It’s a real contrast to what’s needed now but you can feel a sense of achievement still. A successful day might be getting in the shower and having clean hair, you may feel successful for going to a baby group with your friends or cooking a nice meal. If you do all of these things you definitely deserve a gold medal! You’ll also be on the look out for your baby milestones, which will make you feel that sense of achievement too, e.g. their first smile, giggle, rolling over.
6. Loneliness affects a lot of new mothers but there is a whole bunch of new mums out there feeling the same. It’s time to connect and meet some people in the same situation as you. When I was pregnant I enrolled in NCT classes. As a doula and pregnancy yoga teacher I’d actually be capable of teaching the class, I didn’t go for the knowledge, I went to make mummy mates. I’d recently moved to London, knew nobody and the people I met at NCT were an amazing group of women who supported me and vice versa for those first unprecedented months. If your reading this in your fourth trimester and you didn’t attend baby classes whilst pregnant, then fear not, there’s a huge amount of groups and get together out there for you and your baby. You’ll have to have a google and find out what’s close to you and when but you could have a starch for infant feeding or breastfeeding support groups, parenting classes, baby massage, baby or postnatal yoga. There will be a whole host of rhyme time, singing, signing and dancing groups for babies and toddlers as well. If you’re not sure where to start there’s apps like Mush, there will be local mums groups on Facebook (netmums and similar), check at your local library, church and coffee shop notice boards and ask your health visitor. It can take a bit of courage to go along to a group for the first time but remember everyone’s been in the same boat, and you all have one thing in common to chat about…your new baby!
7. Know that you are the person who knows your baby the best, remember this one as it’s important. If you think your baby is unwell take them for a check up. If a doctor tells you they’re fine then great, you’re not wasting anyone’s time and it’ll put your mind at ease. When Amelia was small she had a fretful night of screaming and “not being herself”. I had people tell me it’s because the weather was hot and I had the classic “well she’s a baby, of course she’s been crying”. My mother’s instinct kicked in and I knew this behaviour wasn’t right for my baby. It turned out she had meningitis. Every day I’m thankful that I listens to my gut feeling and got medical help when I did, a few hours later and things could have been very different. So remember you know best and better safe than sorry!
8. Be flexible! Babies are unpredictable and if you plan on going to a friends for 10am, you might go at midday instead….or not at all! Plans change a lot when you have a little one and that’s ok. Your relationship will change too, you’re unlikely to go out on as many date nights as before, particularly to start with. This isn’t always a bad thing, your relationship can still be strong, just different. As long as you spare some time for each other now and again and work as a team then things should be fine. This may take some getting used to if you like routine but please know that it’s ok to do things a bit differently, in a relaxed manner and not be so strict with your time.
9. Last but not least is self care! I should really have this point right up at the top, as it’s so important. I’ve recently written a social media post called Mums Matter Too, and it’s true. If you neglect your own physical and mental health you won’t be in any fit state to look after your baby. Remember that eating well, resting, sleep, having someone to talk to and the occasional treat (think massage, cream tea with a friend) isn’t actually a treat, or selfish, it’s essential to stay strong and healthy, to be there for your family, to be the best parent you can possibly be!