As a first-time parent I quickly learned that people will tell you how to prepare for the baby and how to be a parent, but no one tells you what it's like after the baby arrives— especially for the mother. The fourth trimester is never talked about.
Elle is now 3.5 months which doesn't seem possible, but here we are. And while I wouldn't trade motherhood for anything, adjusting to it was really difficult for me, which I wasn't expecting.
From the moment she was born I was in love— I saw her while laying on the operating table and cried. It was surreal that she was finally here. A couple hours later she was sent to the NICU and that's when I fell apart. So much guilt started. I felt guilty that she wasn't with me. I felt guilty that I didn't have a name for her yet. I felt guilty that she needed to be on formula. I felt guilty that I only saw her a few times the entire NICU stay. I just felt guilty.
Prior to her arrival I felt prepared. I wasn't nervous, I was ready. But nothing felt right when she was here. Everything felt random. There was no schedule. I was exhausted. I felt lost. The entire pregnancy was rough and the birth was complicated and then I was flooded with hormones.
It took time to adjust to this new role of being a mother. It took me time to recognize that we are both going through this journey for the first time together. I'm learning about Elle and she's learning about me and the world around her. And even though I loved her when I met her for the first time, the bonding with her took time, and that's okay.
I am, by no means, an expert on being a mother. I'm learning something new every day. But if you're pregnant or in the first few weeks, let me share a few things that I've learning in hopes it will help you navigate the fourth trimester.
Ways to Help Navigate the Fourth Trimester
- It's extremely important to take care of yourself. Taking the time for yourself or doing something you love doesn't make you selfish— it makes you better. That time helps you re-charge so you can take care of your baby. Ask for help so you can step away to take the time.
- It's okay to cry. Having a baby is BIG life change and it's really hard and sometimes you just need to cry. You're a new mother and it's unrealistic to think that you and your baby will know everything overnight. There will always be a new lesson to learn, you will make makes and that's okay.
- Get outside as much as you can. I know it seems like a lot to get everything packed and out of the house, but it's worth it. Whether it's a car ride, a walk around the neighborhood, sitting in your backyard. The fresh air and fresh scenery makes a huge difference for not just you, but the baby as well.
- Learn to multi-task like you've never done before. Remember what it was like pre-baby when you could easily knock out a to-do list with zero interruptions? Those were the days. Now is the time that multi-tasking is at an all time high and it's where holding/carrying your baby can make things easier.
- Things do become more manageable. As the weeks go by things start to become more manageable and start to get better, though it doesn't seem like it. But really, it does. Their stomach gets bigger so they eat less frequently. They can hold their head up so holding them and bathing them is easier. They sleep longer. They smile, giggle, laugh, roll over (the best part!)
- It's okay if you need medication. Postpartum depression is real, very real. I knew about it but never thought it'd happen to me and it did. Do your research on "the baby blues" and postpartum depression— know the differences. Don't be ashamed for being on medication for PPD. It doesn't make you any less of a mother.
Everything postpartum was nothing like I expected. Don't put added pressure on yourself for expecting a certain something— no postpartum journey or baby are the same so keep an open mind.
Photos by Naomi Hopkins Photography.