I wanted to call this one of those “What no one tells you” blogs, but that would be a lie, albeit catchy. Truthfully, everyone heeded me with their warnings on those first few months postpartum, otherwise known as the infamous fourth trimester – problem was, I was too pregnant to take note. I just wanted to get through the birth, allowing the aftermath to come naturally.
Oh it came alright. It came like a freight train. A ton of bricks. A semi truck. Insert any other obnoxious analogy here.
And now that I have officially graduated from the fourth trimester, I am tossing up my invisible cap so high into the clouds as I bask in my hot showers once again. Adjusting to motherhood was by far the hardest transition I have ever had to go through.
While I could approach this newfound wisdom as “What you first-time pregnant moms should know,” you are busy with your birth plans, nurseries, showers and registries, and rightfully so. Besides, preparing for postpartum is a bit impossible. You can read about it all you want, but you can’t plan ahead for how you will feel physically or emotionally.
So, this one isn’t for you preggos; this one is for all my fragile new moms. The ones who have made it through the birth and are now grasping for glimmers of hope even though every ounce of energy is being squeezed from your soul. The ones who are grappling with all of the nevers – “I’m never going to sleep again, eat with two hands again, shower uninterrupted again, or go to the store without it being a giant production, am I?”
These nevers feel so daunting. They’re supposed to; this trimester is tumultuous. You are celebrating this new gift of life while simultaneously mourning the loss of your previous self. You are trying to figure out how to stop your newborn from crying while simultaneously wiping guilty tears from your own eyes. You are tapping into reserves of energy you never knew you had to ensure your little one is thriving while simultaneously sacrificing your own self-care. You are counting the minutes to any bout of alone time you can grasp to come up for air while simultaneously listening to everyone tell you to “enjoy every second” – as if every second is blissful.
You wonder, will I ever feel normal again? I promise you, the answer is yes.
To all of you new moms: cling to these words of wisdom. When you feel broken, know that you will heal. When you feel like you’re inadequate, know that you are everything to that baby. When you feel alone, know that every single one of us has been there. Know that this is the fourth trimester, and it will pass:
“The hardest part for me was giving every fiber of my being to a tiny, little blob who was incapable of demonstrating gratitude. I snuggled her through the throws of colic and nursed her until my nipples bled, all without getting so much as a smile in return. Once we graduated the fourth trimester, Lucy was a new person. Not just an adorable blob, but an actual person capable of demonstrating joy and excitement. I still breastfeed 24/7, but seeing her giggle every time she hears me unclip my nursing bra makes it all worthwhile.” – Sara
“The fourth trimester is survival mode. Take out for dinner, paper plates when you’re an avid hater of waste, too much TV when you’re usually a screen-free family – but it’s also a baby moon. You are getting to know the newest member of your family and yourself in an entirely new way. There is joy and tenderness in those early weeks that is so sweet, so full of aching love that you think your heart might actually burst. Focus on those moments. Give yourself permission to survive these months. ” – Amanda
“The hardest part was accepting that my daughter wanted to spend every waking moment touching me, usually nursing. I just wanted an hour to sit by myself or take a shower, but she was often crying to nurse before I could finish washing my hair. I also had this ridiculous idea that I needed to ‘do things’ … I wish I had just accepted that she would want to nurse non-stop and enjoy some netflix binging and couch sitting. My daughter is so fun now. She climbs and waves, expresses preferences and has the best laugh. She is endlessly entertaining and I am so grateful for her.” – Alycia
“It was hard on me and my husband not just because of our new baby and her dependence, but because my body turned on me. I ended up with preeclampsia a few days after giving birth to my beautiful girl, and so my recovery took the entire 4th trimester. When it passed, we were both new beings. I was no longer worried or anxious about dying because my blood pressure was finally steady, and I was able to focus on how my baby girl had become a person in her own right – not just an extension of me.” – Kat
“I wish I had known to give my fourth-trimester-self grace. Your body, mind and spirit will and can never be the same after birth. Accept help: meals, cleaning, errand runners, compliments. Allow yourself to heal while filling this most important role in your life and family. Bond, cuddle, stare at baby far longer than you think acceptable. This exhausted, nerve-wracking, selfless, sometimes chaotic phase will pass – even if you feel like it’s never ending. Also, you will wear a bra again … maybe even a thong, if Sisqo is your style!” – Heather
“Listen to your intuition; It’s there for a reason. For months I kept calling the doctor saying something was up, and I continually got the ‘It’s a phase, it’s a leap, it’s this, that, or the other’… I was eventually proven right, but it was a shallow win. It’s hard to feel vindicated when your kid’s health is compromised. At the end of the day, no one will fight for your child as hard as you and your spouse. Your gut is there for a reason. Don’t question it even when it seems crazy, because it will at times. “-LM
“My 4th trimester lasted pretty much the entire first year. She was an especially trying baby and nothing got better until she turned one. Part of that was probably my perception of things due to a difficult recovery, breastfeeding issues and PPD. Had I made a point to listen to myself, I probably would have gotten better (mentally and physically) much more quickly and been able to focus more energy on the baby. ” – Micah
“I had always wanted to be a mom, and I had a wonderful role model in my own mother. She never complained, never seemed frustrated, always had a song or game to share and has the patience of a saint. I figured I would follow in her footsteps. Ha! My son came out small, and he was determined to make up that weight by eating nonstop. Everyone kept saying things like ‘Enjoy every moment; it goes so fast’ and ‘love every snuggle’. I instantly began to feel guilty that I wasn’t. I felt like a failure because I wasn’t able to appreciate this miracle, and I felt like a bad mom when I would cry in frustration that he wanted to eat AGAIN. But then the smile came. Thank God for that smile because it showed me a tiny piece of personality. And then the laugh. I’m pretty sure I cried over that laugh … But what really helped was when I confided in my mom and she replied, ‘Oh my, I got frustrated too! I would hand you off to your dad as soon as he got home from work and walk away so I could take a break. And you slept four hours at a time! You are doing an amazing job!’
A burden was lifted. – Debbi
“The hardest part was feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing. All these other moms clearly were in on some secret. But then I learned that no one really knows what they’re doing. We’re all just trying to do the best for our babies. Surround yourself with other moms. They’re all asking questions. We’re all a bit lost, and that’s okay. Early on, motherhood is nothing but giving. You give your body to grow, birth and now feed a baby. You give your sleep; you give your sanity – and it seems endless. But your baby will change and grow and start to give back. That first real, truly-wasn’t-just-gas smile? Wow. Those first giggles? Magical. And then those first big baby hugs when they wrap their arms around you with their soft breath in your neck? So much love it almost hurts like heartbreak. It made me honest-to-goodness cry because I knew I would do anything for him.
Right now, you’re doing nothing but give, and the giving never stops, but very soon your baby will change and grow and show their love for you. They will start to give back.” -Sarah