Mommy’s Corner is a weekly series exploring our journey in becoming parents, our love for our ShuGar baby, and general topics related to mommyhood.
I have wanted to write this post the minute I felt somewhat normal after my delivery of baby Camdie (well, almost the minute). As any first time mom would do, I read so many books about what happens in a pregnancy and how to prepare for baby, but really there is nothing I have seen about what parents, and specifically mamas, go through in the first three months after your baby is born. The term “The fourth trimester” is used by Dr. Harvey Karp to describe the first three months of a baby’s life as an extension of the womb; it’s during the fourth month and beyond (after the fourth trimester) where you see babies have more human-like characteristics.
I dedicate this post to all expectant mamas and future mamas out there. I hope this takes away the mystery of what happens after you birth your child.
So what can parents expect in the fourth trimester?
(1) You’re It
For many of us who have gotten pregnant, we believe we are mature adults and are ready (sort of) to be a parent. Well, let me tell you it doesn’t sink in quite as realistically until the moment you hold your little one. I remember the nurse asking me if I was going to vaccinate ShuGar baby with Hep B at birth. Of course I had already done my research (thankfully), but I was still overwhelmed by the decision I had to make about his health. There is no one you can turn to besides your partner when making such valuable decisions like this. I have never felt the weight of responsibility so heavy as the moment I officially became a mom.
(2) Labor isn’t the End of the Story
Although you may be thinking that once you deliver your baby you will be in baby bliss, I hate to disappoint but there is still a lot of discomfort days, weeks, and even months after you deliver. It really is different for everyone, but don’t expect to be back to your old self any time soon. Your body will feel like it went through war and you have no idea how you made it to the other end. Make preparations to give yourself self-love and don’t be afraid to look for ways you can ease the pain. For me, I couldn’t really sit down for a month without a doughnut. Ouch!
I do want to highlight that baby blues and postpartum depression are real. I had postpartum depression and I was embarrassed to admit it for a while. I was afraid people would think I didn’t love my baby. Just think about it. Your hormones are so out of whack and you are suffering from lack of sleep. Plus, you can probably add pain to your ailments. It’s only natural that you may feel some sort of depression. I sure did. Seek help and talk to someone about your feelings. It helps.
(3) Love Hurts
Who do you think you love more than anyone in this whole wide world? Do you have that person in mind? Now, picture that love and multiply that by a bagillion. Only then can you get an idea of how much you will adore your baby. Note, not everyone falls in love with their baby the minute they hold their baby. Some mothers take longer, even up to a year, while others like myself fell head over heels as soon as Camden came out of me. We were meant to be.
What I have found is that the love for your baby is like no other. If you are not a mom, it is hard to explain because there is nothing to compare it to. Not even the love for your mom is in the same galaxy. You will wonder how you have been blessed with such an angel. You may stare at him while he sleeps at night. You may want to hold him all day and never want to let him go. You may even cry because you love your baby so much. Yup, prepare for feeling a love that will overwhelm you in all the right ways. You love them so much it almost hurts your heart.
(4) Visitors Be Gone
Do you know how in the movies you see the new family happily holding the baby in the hospital while family and friends trickle in to congratulate the new parents? Well, really life may not be that pristine. In fact, you may feel so exhausted and be suffering from so much pain that having visitors over is absolutely the last thing you would want. All of a sudden you may become anti-social and just want to hibernate with your hubs and baby. Totally normal and perfectly understandable.
Warning: Some of your friends or family may be offended by your isolation. Especially if they are not parents, they may not get at all why you have absolutely no energy to entertain guests. Plus, you may have other reasons as to why you do not want people over. For us, I didn’t want Camdie to be exposed to any illness prior to his first vaccines. For whatever reason you decide you want to stay away from the world, know that not everyone may be sympathetic to your reasons. Guess what? Who cares! Follow your gut and prepare to stick to it.
(5) Lack of Sleep Torture
Once you have a newborn you will gain a true understanding as to why they use sleep deprivation as a torture device in times of war. It’s no joke. I will not be one of the many people who will tell you in your pregnancy, “Get rest now and sleep before you can’t.” What does that even mean? It’s not as if you can conserve your energy and bottle it up so that you can pop it open to help you in your many sleepless nights. As if! So, there really is no other way than living through the sleep torture and embracing it.
Your lack of sleep in the fourth trimester will be so hard. You will long for the days when you used to sleep in. However, do not despair. Eventually, your baby will sleep through the night. I am still waiting for Camden to do that. Crossing my fingers on that one. I’m exhausted.
Oh, and I will also not tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps because that is not realistic. When your little one is sleeping you will probably be rushing to the restroom, cleaning your dishes, paying bills, or preparing a meal. No rest for you!
One more thing about sleep – many moms will be telling you to cherish this time with your baby because it goes by so fast. Although it is true time flies, it’s hard to be in the moment and all smiles because you are a walking zombie. Don’t feel guilty that you are not appreciating everything. I think some moms forget how taxing the fourth trimester can be on your mind, body, and soul.
(6) Marriage on the Rocks
If you are a happy couple who never really fights, prepare to really go at it once the baby is born. Do not despair! This is normal and most couples go through this. Why is this so common? Well, think about it. You have just gone through what is probably a very arduous and painful delivery. Your partner is also suffering from lack of sleep. You are both stressed and overwhelmed with the responsibility of being parents. On top of that, your hormones are jumping up and down like dancing jelly beans. Plus, sleep is a rare commodity for you during this time. All of these factors create one toxic cocktail for your marriage.
I once had a mama tell me to prepare for this stress on our marriage. I never really gave it much thought. Well, give it thought I tell you. It’s real and you will feel like your spouse is more like a roommate. I too have heard this is also temporary so you just have to ride it out. Know you are not alone in this and it is perfectly normal to be at each other’s throats about the proper way to change your baby’s diaper. Do you use the wipes first or remove the diaper first? How much Desitin should you use? This is en example of an innocuous topic that can lead to some real hardcore disagreements in your marriage. Bad fireworks. Just don’t give up hope. Been there, done that.
(7) Say It
When you are ready to open your house to visitors, be prepared to express yourself when they ask you this question, “What can I do to help you?” You should answer with any of the following responses: clean the dishes, take out the trash, hold the baby while I take a shower, bring us food, go to the supermarket for us, take care of baby so I can nap, or babysit for a date night. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. Although you gladly accept clothes and toys as gifts, really these other non-wrappable gestures go a really long way, especially when you are drowning in sleep deprivation. All you have to do is ask and you may receive.
(8) Nice to Meet You
I alluded to this in one of the previous comments above, but it deserves its own number. The fourth trimester is really a time for you and baby to know each other. Don’t expect to know everything from the start. You cannot read your baby’s mind and don’t feel guilty if you don’t understand why they are crying. It’s much harder than you think, but try to let this time flow naturally as you both develop a life-long relationship. It may take longer for others, but give yourself the gift of time in this process. Sooner than you think, you will feel this strong connection to your baby. This is a bond that will stand the test of time.
(9) What sex?
Because of #5 and #6, sex may be the furthest thing from the menu. Of course, you always hear of these stories of a mom getting pregnant soon afterwards (how???), but I think the majority of mothers are not in the mood during the fourth trimester. How could you be when being a new mama is consuming every inch of your body? Remember this is normal since your body has been through a huge trauma. Give yourself time to rekindle this side of yourself. You’ll get there…eventually.
(10) Those firsts
Remember those annoying friends who used to bore you to death with pictures of their babies? Well, guess what? You will become one of those. Don’t try to resist it. It’s inevitable because the love you are experiencing is so profound that you want to share it with others. When they give you their first laugh, the first time they roll over or begin to crawl, or the very first words, each milestone will bring tears to your eyes.
During the fourth trimester, you will begin to experience these firsts and it’s so exciting. It makes #1-#9 worth everything. You realize you are madly in love and life just cannot get better than this.
What was your experience during the first three months after your baby was born? Was there anything that was shocking or unexpected? What advice would you give to expectant mamas about what they should expect?
Photo credit: Peter Shushtari