I want to shine some much needed light on the fourth trimester and encourage conversation and activate support. A conversation that meets the needs of, and speaks to, every woman and family who needs some love, care, and attention in the fourth trimester. I see you! I honour you!
The fourth trimester is approximately the 12 week period after you have had your baby. This is a time of huge physical and emotional change. We spend so much time planning for the arrival of the baby during the pregnancy. Why are we not spending time planning for the weeks after? Let’s talk about that.
Yay! You did it! You have done what is perceived to be the hardest part. Labor and delivery. Now you are home with your baby. Days or weeks go by. Sometimes, you do not feel like yourself. You are overwhelmed with your perfect little squishy newborn. Who you have been staring at, smelling, taking pictures of, counting every pee, poop, ounce, finger and toe, for approximately 22 out of 24 hours of the day. You find yourself confused. Maybe crying or disconnected. Thinking …….. I’m supposed to feel overwhelming gratitude and joy right now. Thoughts start to swirl. What’s happening? I’m not a good mom? I can’t love my baby enough? Is there something wrong with me?
I hear you. I have been here with you.
Here are some things you might find helpful as you ebb-and-flow through this transition. * I share these words with the most kindness, compassion, and support*
Your words. Please speak very kindly to yourself in this moment and all the moments after this and forever and ever. You are experiencing perfectly normal thoughts and feelings. You have just experienced one of life’s biggest transitions. You are trying to navigate this with hormones, and body changes, and exhaustion. You are learning to trust yourself in this new identity and journey. I want you to know: You got this! Please trust your instincts. You are the exact parent that child needs. You are more than enough.
Your partner. Your relationship with your partner has a new identity as well. Adulting was hard enough when it was the two of you. Now, you have another small human in the mix. I want you to know: Your partner is trying, in the way that they know how. You are each other’s life rafts. Speak to each other, often, and kindly. Ask for direct wants and needs. If you are not a words person, leave a list on the fridge or counter and explain this to your partner. Please do not be afraid to speak up. This is not selfish. This is necessary.
Your person. Find a likeminded friend who you can have real talk with. The person who meets your words with compassion, understanding, and humour. Comparison is impossible to avoid but please find good people to reassure you, ground you, and remind you that you are doing a good job.
Talk. Let’s be honest. Let’s be vulnerable. Let’s talk about all the things that feel scary, or isolating, or unfair. Let’s talk about the guilt for missing the moments of our ‘old life’. We all feel them and have them. Let’s talk about the 2 a.m. worries floating around your head. Your worries are valid. Let’s talk about boundaries with self and family members. Let’s talk about how you and your partner reconnected after baby arrived. Let’s celebrate that connection.
Celebrate. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments! Know and go where you feel safe, love, and comfort. Celebrate how you conquered the lonely days. We all have them! Celebrate bonding with a newborn. This is not always natural or immediate. Celebrate what and who is making you feel good and joyful.
Prioritize. Food, rest for the mind and body, joy, and connection.
Have a plan. In Kimberly Ann Johnson’s book ‘The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality’ she encourages having a practical plan for the fourth trimester and the transition into motherhood. I could not agree more. This is a fantastic read for so many reasons and I recommend it to any woman, mother and mother to be, and support people.
Lastly. If you are not feeling like yourself and you need help for your mental health, please ask. You are not alone. Talk to your family physician, public health nurse, 811, find a local support group, or call a counsellor. You are valuable and you are worth it.
Written by Nicole Wright, Registered Social Worker with Wildflowers