How can you enjoy the fourth trimester when your whole life has been turned upside down? For some women this is a magical time of bonding and being in love, for others it can be a tough, lonely few months as you get the hang of becoming a parent.
It might sound strange to think of a trimester after your pregnancy, but this helps to indicate it’s a time of transition and growth.
There is little preparation before the birth for this time of your life, which can make it all the more of a shock for new mums.
How long is the fourth trimester?
The fourth trimester is a time from the birth of your baby, until around 12 weeks old.
It’s helpful if you think about this time as an extension to your pregnancy because during that time you took care of what you ate, looked after your body, and during the final trimester when baby got bigger and you felt heavier you had to slow down.
You might feel a resistance to the changes, despite wanting your baby, and to be a mum, perhaps you just don’t enjoy having to rest, or feeling like you’re being shut out of the world.
Remember this is only temporary, and your life will still be there when you’re ready to emerge from this period.
It’s also important to remember that it’s ok if you don’t enjoy the fourth trimester in it’s entirety, it’s normal to be up and down emotionally and physically.
How soon after the birth can I get back to normal?
It depends what you mean by normal. After you’ve had a baby your body has a huge amount of recovery to do, and if you had a traumatic labour and birth there will be some mental and emotional recovery too.
Many women find they also need some headspace to think about the new logistics of life. Taking time to consider how life has practically changed may help.
Getting out of the house with all the right equipment and dealing with car seats, nappies, nap and feed timings can feel tough when you’re very tired.
What do I ‘do’ with a new baby?
It can feel hard to slow down and just ‘be’ with your baby, but by spending time getting to know your new arrival you can help build a bond between you.
It may feel hard to open yourself up to someone so fully.
You might feel like you inadvertently back away from the need in your baby, or the power of the connection.
Consider how your own childhood relationships are influencing your mothering.
If you want to talk to Emma, our Mother’s Mentor, she can help work through some of these aspects of parenting.
If you’ve stayed in bed around all day with your baby, not really getting dressed or creating anything new or even putting some washing on, perhaps you feel you haven’t achieved anything.
But you have been working hard.
What you do every day as a new mum is amazing.
It might not feel like much. You might not be able to put it into words, but you’re helping this little person transition to the world by showing them love, caring for their physical needs and trying to tune into what they may communicate.
You don’t have to be perfect (read our post about being enough) but just trying is enough.
Your body needs time to rest. Allow yourself this time.
If you’re a first time mum won’t get this time again, if you have another child next time after the birth you’ll have a toddler in tow as well!
Your body needs to adjust hormone levels, your tummy muscles and the uterus are contracting back, as well as recovering from any scars and bruising.
If you love exercise then taking a walk with your baby in a sling or the pram can help get you out an about.
After a c-section you need to allow 12 weeks before exercise. The cross fit can wait until you’re back to full strength! You shouldn’t do anything too strenuous (including weight lifting or running until after the 12 week mark).
Four top tips for the 4th Trimester
- Focus on getting to know your baby, this is a job in itself. You don’t get immediate reward or recognition, but building any new relationship takes time.
- Massage your baby to help with digestive issues and supporting their transition to the world. Massage can be done gently from around 2 weeks at home (don’t use an oil before this time). We recommend attending a baby massage class from around 6 weeks. Book a baby massage class near me.
- Get help – ask for support from your family if they are close by. Accept offers to sit with your baby whilst you sleep, bring you food, or clean your house. Or buy in good quality frozen meals, a cleaner, our Mother’s Help.
- Be kind to yourself – this is a period of huge adjustment. Sometimes change can cause us to feel scared, angry, overwhelmed as well as excited, loving and happy. Reach out to friends if it helps.
If you’d like to read more of our guide to help you enjoy the fourth trimester it can be downloaded here
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