The fourth trimester was not a term that I had heard until I had my children. In fact, I had had my second child before I even heard the term. I have always thought that there is so much information about pregnancy and labour, and then it’s like you’re on your own from the minute you give birth. So much changes instantly when you have a newborn and in the blink of an eye your life is never the same again.
So the fourth trimester is used to describe the first 3 months of a newborn babies life. Basically, babies are born too early so they continue to grow and develop outside the womb, rapidly, and this is what is know as the fourth trimester. Thank goodness they haven’t just discovered that women are pregnant for an extra 3 months. I know.. you probably panicked then! Given the option, babies would chose to spend an extra three months inside; but the human body has outvoted them and rejects them after 9 months so they have to continue their development in the big, wide world.
This is a time when you are meant to mimic the life of a baby inside, outside. So you’re meant to create the warm, fuzzy, noisy, swaying environment for your newborn through something apparently known as the 5 S’s – Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing, and Suck. This helps to mimic the environment of the womb, and helps your baby to feel safe and secure after being thrown into the bright, busy, loud place that is planet earth.
It’s so easy to expect too much during those first 3 months after your baby is born. Expectations of new mums are so high, and I wish that someone had told me not to expect so much when I had both of my babies. There’s the expectation that you’re going to spring back to your pre-pregnancy size, the expectation that your going to be able to put on a brave face and carry on normally (I mean, it’s not like you’ve just birthed a baby is it?!) and then there’s the expectations of the baby, the constant questions. “Has your baby figured out breast feeding?”, “Is your baby sleeping through the night”, “how often does your baby cry?”.. these are all questions that you can expect to hear as a new mum. And no one wants to be the mum who says, “yea my baby doesn’t sleep, we’re struggling with breast feeding and he/she pretty much cries for most of the day!” But the reality is, that you cannot expect too much of your baby, or yourself, during those first twelve weeks and that it’s going to be a massive learning curve for both of you. You need to remember to slow down, don’t stress and treasure these moments as much as possible.
So, what can you expect from the fourth trimester? Lots of crying, lots of fussing, lots of needing to be cuddled, and held, and rocked, and shhh-ed. And all of this is perfectly normal! It’s exhausting though, let me tell you. You can fully expect to feel like you never get any sleep, like you’re constantly walking around with your newborn attached to you and you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll be an emotional wreck. Having a newborn is hard work. Everyone will expect you to pretend like you enjoy every minute, but the truth is that you probably won’t (unless you birth some angel baby, in which case you might.. but it’ll most likely be a lie).
And then if that’s not enough you’ve also got routines to figure out, if this is your second, third, fourth baby or more then you’ve got to figure juggling your growing family, there’s feeds to learn about, nap schedules to keep to and on top of that people expect you to run a household and take care of yourself?! I honestly don’t know how us Mum’s do it, but we somehow manage. Yes, somehow we manage to juggle our way through life with a newborn and come out the other side; disheveled, knackered and somewhat a different person to the one we were before having children. But hey, life’s sweet because you’ve got a little bundle of joy to take care of.
So what is the fourth trimester really? Yes, it’s a time where you and your newborn can adjust to the new life which you are now going to lead. But it’s also a time to cut yourself some slack; binge watch rubbish day time TV, eat all the chocolate you want, read those ‘real life’ magazines.. hey you’ve just given birth and this is your excuse to do what you want (within reason). Don’t expect too much, spend time recovering and enjoy your baby.. because everything else can wait! After all, there’s years for your child to sleep through the night, to eat without being fussy and for you to slim back down into those pre-pregnancy jeans.
What do you make of the fourth trimester? Have you got any tips for helping other Mums get through those tough 12 weeks? Feel free to share your ideas/experiences below in the comments, or send us an email from our contact page – we love hearing from you!