You’ve done your NCT or your hypnobirthing course. Read all the books. Been attending pregnancy yoga or pilates religiously for weeks. Been oiling that bump since you found out you were pregnant. Had your birth plan written to a T, and you dreamed of a waterbirth with no medical interventions. You’ve birthed your baby. It may not have gone to your plan, but you and your baby are safe and well. You’re home from the hospital. Now what….
You may have crash landed back into reality of looking after a baby with a bump. I know that I did. I felt like I had been hit by a bus after having my first child. I had my birth plan written out and yes it included a water birth in the birth centre of my local hospital, but in reality it ended up being a semi-emergency c-section. It left me second guessing whether the birth centre actually exists, and isn’t some mythical existence that people rarely get to see (true story – I know very few people who have used a birth centre).
Anyway back to the main topic here…..the fourth trimester. If you’re wondering what this is, this is the 12 week period following the birth of your child. The time of your life where you adjust to looking after a newborn baby and wondering what the f**k you’ve done with your life (excuse my language, but I’m pretty sure that all mums and dads feel that way).
The fourth trimester is something I never really prepared for. It certainly wasn’t something talked about in my NCT course which focused primarily on the birth and trying to breastfeed a baby from a knitted boob, and not forgetting the nappies filled with fake poo. I had very little preparation on what the hell I would expect or how I would feel once we got home from the hospital with our little bundle of joy.
In reality I felt like life had taken a side swipe at me. I was bruised, tender, sore, unable to walk and an emotional wreck. Luckily that didn’t last long, days in fact, but it can last for a much longer time for some ladies and dads too. I had no idea how to breastfeed a baby, how to bathe a baby, when a baby should sleep, how to hold a baby and ultimately how to be a mum. It was a terrifying time of my life that was coupled with our daughter loosing over 10% of her birth weight, so you can imagine the worry and anxiety that was causing.
We were, at the same time overwhelmed with gifts, cards, flowers, and people wanting to visit the baby. As a first time parent I wanted to invite them all in, whilst underneath I was thinking how I was going to feed a baby in front of people and could I hobble to kitchen to make a cup of tea.
I do really wish that someone had told me during my NCT course to pull up that drawbridge, to put your feet up, to rest, to sleep and more importantly to get to know your baby. And, also to recover.
The fourth trimester has its name for all those reasons. To get to know your baby, to get used to feeding and sleeping, and for you to self-care. I’m not saying shut the door to everyone for 12 weeks, what I’m saying is give yourself time, don’t feel the need to be supermum on day 1 of being home from the hospital. Having a baby is a LIFE CHANGING thing for you and your partner, and you both need to get used to that. Once you’ve reached the end of the fourth trimester you will feel like you’ve cracked most things, your house may still be untidy, but you should be getting by just fine and have adapted to a different life with a baby.
Having been through this with two children, my experiences of the fourth trimester are totally different for each child. With my first I felt compelled to get on and do stuff, to put on a brave face and to try to get back to normal as quick as possible. With my second I was far more relaxed and I took the time. I do look back on my first and wish I had taken more time in the early days, and I also wish that someone had told me to be easier on myself. All I can say is thank god for our NCT What’s App group.
So if you’re expecting a baby soon, don’t rush those first few weeks. Prepare your fourth trimester just as much as you plan your birth plan. You will have a baby to look after, but also make sure that someone is looking after you, and that you are also looking after you. Lastly enjoy it, and remember you’ve got plenty of time to be supermum afterwards.