If you know anything about pregnancy, then you probably know that it consists of three trimesters. Have you ever heard of the fourth trimester, though? The fourth trimester is a concept that I think is fairly new (check origin dates), but the idea is basically that the baby has an adjustment period for the first three months after birth where they need to feel as if they are still in the womb. Swaddling, snuggling, and white noise can help them adjust gently. But what about the mother? How do we adjust to the fourth trimester? If you are pregnant or in the thick of the fourth trimester, read on to find out my tips and tricks to make things a little easier.
- Be aware of the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can read my suggested articles and even go through a checklist here. If you know the signs ahead of time, you might be able to identify if you are struggling sooner rather than later and get the help you need.
- Be willing to ask for and accept help. This is a hard one for me. My journey into motherhood wasn’t a pretty one. I didn’t want anyone seeing how much I was really struggling, how messy my house was, how little I was taking care of myself. If I had been willing to accept the help that was offered or ask for the help I needed early on, I may not have struggled so much. After each subsequent child, I have asked for a lot more help, and it has certainly helped the transition. After my last baby, I even set up my own meal train, which let people know when I needed a meal and even what our food allergies are.
- Set yourself up for self care and a rest period after baby is born. Make sure you are eating regularly, taking regular showers, and doing what makes your soul happy. While you are a new creature as a new mother, you are also still yourself. Make sure you do some of those things that you enjoy. And, for goodness’ sakes, don’t be like I was after my first and set basic needs aside out of stress of caring for a newborn. If you are not clean and cared for, it will be a whole lot harder for you to think straight enough to clean and care for your baby. One thing I did after my second was born was take a bath or shower every single day for the first 2 weeks and change into a new clean pair of pyjamas. It made me happy to have clean clothes on, smell good, and still be comfortable.
- Find some soothing music you can listen to while breastfeeding or going into new situations. When I was a new mother, I was so nervous to drive my son the 30 minutes into town by myself that I was shaking. I was afraid he would not be ok and I wouldn’t know it or that he would scream the whole time. I remember putting a CD in to soothe him on the drive, and it probably soothed me more than him. The calming lullabies calmed my shaking hands and gave me just the vibes I needed to take some deep breaths and make the drive with my little one.
- Freezer meals AND snacks. Lots and lots and lots of snacks. If you are choosing to breastfeed, your body is going to go into warp speed to make the nutritious superfood your baby needs, so you will need to fuel it a lot and often. The hunger I experience in the first week of breastfeeding is unlike any I have ever experienced at any other time. Having snacks that are easy to grab or put by your nursing station has been vital to me, especially on the days when no one was home with me to fetch me something from the kitchen. Granola bars, fruit, cheese sticks, nuts, and lactation cookies were among some of my favourites. And, of course, freezer meals are so helpful in the time following birth. If you can get your friends and family to hop on the meal train for you the first few weeks, then you can save your freezer meals for after that. You, your husband, and any other kids you may have will still be hungry at dinner time, and the last thing you want to think about is what to cook.
- Special shower gels that you only open after birth. We associate certain scents with different times and places in our lives, and the days of having a new baby are no different. I like to treat myself to a special (i.e. more expensive than I would normally spend) shower gel for the days and months after I have a baby. This not only gives me a treat that feels decadent, but it gives me a special aromatherapy type vibe to associate with the baby I have just had. Also, it gives me an incentive to actually have a shower when I am sleep deprived and grumpy.
So that’s it! The tips and tricks that I found vital and made sure to do for after each baby was born (besides my first - live and learn). What things are you doing or did you do to prepare for the fourth trimester?