The Fourth Trimester is defined as the first three months of a baby’s life after birth — and it gets a bad rap. This period of postpartum is plagued with the stigma of being a time of struggle and hardship for the mama.
The classes at the hospital educated me on postpartum depression, the baby blues, and what signs to look out for so I could get proper help if I needed it. What they didn’t discuss was what it’s like to experience everything else.
In general, I tend not to respond well to soft words of encouragement, and at this time could have used some tough love and hard truths about what was happening, why, and more importantly, how to handle it.
Here are 5 hard truths I wish I’d known as a postpartum mama:
The husband becomes the third wheel.
Our neat and clean two-wheeler became a wobbly tricycle, and the third wheel was not the newborn. I had the naive idea that parenting duties during this time would be 50/50. The reality was, especially as a nursing mom, I was the one who had the baby most of the time.
Additionally, early on for us, newborn life meant we had a new roommate, and at times even a new bedmate. This alone would be a hard adjustment for any guy.
When I wasn’t nursing the baby, I was holding the baby, dressing the baby, or talking about the baby, mostly stressing that I was doing everything right. Husband felt left out, understandably.
We both had to compromise. Me, giving him more attention, and him, being more understanding. We both ultimately had the realization that we had a solid, strong foundation, and it was nothing an 8-lb baby and a few sleepless nights was going to shake.
I wouldn’t feel or look like a beauty queen.
Although I don’t consider myself to be terribly high maintenance, like most adult women, I required the occasional hair appointment, eyebrow wax, and enjoyed a pedicure once in a while. After having a newborn, I realized that a lengthy shower sans phantom baby cries was a luxury.
Even though I was okay letting those things go temporarily, I found that I wasn’t feeling beautiful on the regular, which was uncomfortable to say the least. I learned to do what I could at home, and then as soon as the baby started taking bottles and I was comfortable leaving him, an occasional appointment did wonders, mentally, spiritually, and for my unibrow.
The weight would come off, eventually.
Not immediately, and maybe not easily, but eventually the weight comes off. As much as I envisioned myself looking like the lady in the Peloton commercial 8 weeks postpartum, that wasn’t my reality.
Yes, my standards were high, but also, I didn’t have a Peloton. It took me a couple of pregnancies to learn to shift concern to other things. And luckily, a newborn can be all-consuming.
Once I became more concerned about what was important for the baby’s health, and my own, and less concerned about the number on the scale, I found that as I got back into old, healthy habits, everything moved back into it’s pre-baby place.
The Postpartum Hormonal Rollercoaster is real.
Between the hormonal shift from pregnancy to postpartum, breastfeeding, and c-section recovery, my body was in full freak out mode. There were tears. There was hair-loss.
On my first trip out of my house without the baby around four weeks, there was profuse sweating in the undergarment section of Target. This was “normal.”
The raging hormones are real, but they weren’t forever. I knew that being aware of what to do or where to go for help if things were to shift to depression is key. Otherwise, I learned I just had to do my best to just get through these crazy changes. This meant dressing light and always carrying a cold water bottle.
It’s not about me.
For 28 years it was, but the moment I left the hospital with that baby, that all changed. Not that my mental or physical health wasn’t important, but it was no longer the sole concern, or my number one priority in that fourth trimester.
For me, the sooner I shifted my mindset to accept that, the better. And this is where some tough love needed to happen.
If I was tired, I needed to drink more coffee and take better advantage of opportunities to rest.
If I was hungry, I needed to take responsibility to make sure the fridge was stocked.
If I was hormonal or struggling with breastfeeding, I needed to schedule an appointment with my doctor or lactation consultant.
And if I needed help, I needed to ask for it.
It’s easy to say I wish someone had told me these things loud and clear. But if they had, I may not have heard it. This is a noisy time of adjustment.
However, like the other three, the fourth trimester comes to an end eventually. Gradually things do scale back to the direction of normal. And when that happens, Target will be waiting.