How To Survive The 4th Trimester
Hey Mama to be
I’m guessing you want to be as prepared as you can be for the birth of your baby. You like to know that all bases are covered.
But have you thought about life after birth and the 4th trimester?
Say what?! – What the hell is the 4th Trimester?
Well, the 4th Trimester aka baby moon is actually the 6-12 weeks AFTER your baby is born where baby slowly becomes accustomed to life outside the womb and you get to know the tiny human you brought to life on planet earth.
I always thought a new baby that would be the easy bit. I was so fixated on the birth itself that short of a freezer full of batch cooked soups and stews. I hadn’t done very much to prepare for life after birth.
I do wish I had given some more thought to the babymoon
In my work as a Hypnobirthing teacher, I frequently get the chance to open our the conversation with expectant parents in Walthamstow about their plans for a positive postnatal period so through here are some hints and tips from personal experience and picked up along the way to share with you too.
Think about what you can do NOW to make your life easier when the baby is born.
- Getting a good nutritious diet is important for your recovery and especially if you are breastfeeding. Whether its batch cooking for the freezer, setting up online supermarket delivery or researching quick and easy nutritious meals that you can prepare in a couple of minutes. Healthy snacks are a life-saver too.
- Have an open conversation with your partner in crime about who’s going to go what around the house and where you might need help and what you will do (or not do) This can help to navigate tricky conversations further down the line when you are both surviving on very little sleep!
- Consider visitors in the early weeks, if you have all be it well-meaning friends who you sense will be knocking on the door 2 mins after baby is born for a welcome BBQ then it might be a good idea to manage their expectations and let them know that you will be in touch when you are ready for visitors and it might be a few weeks until you find your feet.
BUILD YOUR VILLAGE
In the not so distant past, we would be surrounded by sisters, mums, aunties and cousins who could all step in to help when baby was born. If not in the same house then in the same village or town. The reality for most of us nowadays is we live in very nuclear families and often far away from our nearest and dearest which makes mothering the mother a bit harder.
Think about your network, maybe it’s your immediate friendship circle or a neighbour is there anyone who can help if you need it?
Author of The first 40 days – Heng Ou draws from old Chinese customs in her book and suggests that visitors always come with something for you rather than you hosting them. Whether it’s dropping off some shopping or doing a load of washing. Their visit in one way or another helps to make your life a bit easier
Let’s get real here. Whether you have birthed naturally or by c section. Your body will have an insane amount of healing and recovery to do. In fact, hormonally it can take your body up to 2 years to get back to normal.
Either way, REST is paramount. Where sleep might be more of a challenge, get as much rest as you can.
A 20 minute guided relaxation can be as beneficial for the nervous system as 2-3 hours sleep.
Rest is a valuable time to connect and bond with your baby
Avoid exercise until at least after your 6 weeks check up with the GP or perhaps longer.
Even then, when you so startup, be kind to yourself and consider gentle strength building activities over pounding the pavements. Core strengthening exercises such as postnatal yoga or pilates are popular choices
As Rebecca Schiller, author of the no guilt pregnancy plan, so rightly puts it ‘’ You are not an elastic band, over the past 9 months, your body has mind blowingly grown a human inside it. Your body as gone through a phenomenal set of changes, you cannot and should not feel the need to ‘snap back’ “
I decided to go for a run at 6 weeks postpartum and I can honestly say it nearly fucking killed me. It felt like my insides were going to fall out from inside and I actually cried when I got back home, physically, emotionally and hormonally I was not ready for that.
Of course, we are all different and it really will be about tuning into the needs or your body but make sure it’s for the right reasons not because of some d list celeb on the cover of Heat magazine with access to a personal chef, trainer and airbrusher!
ASK FOR HELP
You might think that it’s easy to get things done with a newborn that sleeps a lot.
Babies like to be held a lot, they like to smell you, they like to feel you, they like to be close to you and hear the familiar sound of your beating heart, even while they sleep. Sarah Ockwell Smith has some great insights on why babies like to be held so much here
They also have teeny tiny tummies and like to feed, breast or bottle, potentially as frequently as once an hour in the first few days or when having a growth spurt.
This can make finding time to do even the little things like making a cup of tea or washing up hard to squeeze in.
It’s ok to ask for help to get through this bit
This could be one of your ‘village’ or it could be someone else external
La Leche league offer great local breastfeeding support if feeding as a challenge
Consider a cleaner for the first few weeks to help out or a postnatal doula who can come and help around the house with cooking and chores and hold the baby while you take a shower
This might feel like a luxury. I get it when you are unsure about how long you can survive on maternity pay or when you will go back to work and you have just bought all that STUFF.
Consider this, babies need very little in those first few months. Were they born with an instinctive need for a babyzen yoyo or a wardrobe full of Mini Rodini? No, they were born with an instinctive need for YOU and if you are happy then chances are you little one will be too.
Awareness of the 4th Trimester is gathering pace. Selected antenatal teachers are talking about it in their classes and you can even attend workshops solely with the postnatal period in mind. Doula Sarah Tessier runs her mothermoon workshops in South London
Her amazing half-day course will teach you what you need to know about resting and recovering after giving birth and adjusting to life as a new mother. You’ll know how to look after yourself in the days and weeks after birth and you’ll come away with your own personalised mother moon plan to help you give yourself the start to motherhood you deserve.
It’s ok if you stay in bed for a week… or even 2
It’s ok if you don’t shower for a day or 3
It’s ok to stay in your PJs all day
It’s ok to politely decline visitors until you feel more up to it
It’s ok to ask for help
And it’s ok not to be OK too