Have you thought about the fourth trimester? The first 3 months of your baby’s life are known as this and wow, are they life changing.
I started writing this piece 6 days before Ernie arrived 8 days early. I had been thinking a lot about how I will approach the 4th trimester this time around in a balanced way to ensure I stay sane. A way so that I don’t lose myself and slow down enough to appreciate and enjoy my new baby and our bigger family. I was determined to savour every last minute before it flies too quick.
I’m halfway through said 4th trimester and I have tried very hard to follow my intentions but I cannot lie, it has been very tough.
I thankfully got the birth I wanted, all natural, quick and in the pool. Look out for my birth story post. I suffered really quite badly with the baby blues, something which I did not expect nor prepare for. And it truly has been harder than I remember, especially with two. I’d like to help you make the 4th trimester as good as it can be, with plenty of recovery time for you. Here are my tips for surviving the first 3 months of your baby’s life, and survival it truly is.
The best thing you can do in the first 3 months is not worry about a schedule, doing everything and having to control everything. You are not perfect. Life isn’t perfect. Your baby only wants you, so for this short time let them tell you what they need (and they will believe me) and try and relax, you’ll have a happier baby because of it. Also let go of expectations. You won’t have a routine yet, you will feed all the time, they will fuss, they will wake numerous times. If you expect all this then it will make it easier when the time comes. Just try and go with the flow, it doesn’t last forever. It is hard in the moment, so live day by day and try not to get ahead of yourself. And do not over-google problems!
This seems like an obvious one but I didn’t move off the couch or bed for the first 2 weeks. Let yourself be looked after and say yes to any help of any kind. Let your partner do all the cooking and cleaning. 6 weeks in and I don’t think I’ve made a meal yet!
Don’t succumb to the pressure to bounce back or get back on your feet quickly. There isn’t any rush and don’t put yourself under the pressure. Lock yourself in your baby bubble and be kind to yourself. It’s only now at nearly 6 weeks postpartum I am starting to want to move my body and get out and about more.
This time around I have been wearing the baby a lot more. After all if they want to be on you all the time, you might as well strap them to you and have your hands free. With a toddler, I can wear the baby and then still play, go to the park and play outside without letting the boy feel like he is playing second fiddle to a baby. I haven’t managed this so well I have to admit as Ernie has definitely taken up all my time and is always on me, but the sling has defintely helped.
Oh I know everyone wants to see the baby, but you don’t need to be performing so feel confident to turn people down or limit visiting time. Welcome people who have come to help make a cuppa, vacuum or clean the bathroom but if people are expecting tea and cake on arrival then tell them to do one. Also, your baby won’t like being passed around. Would you?! I really tried to limit visitors, in the first week I managed to limit visitors to one a day, in the second week we had none at all and my mental health was all the better for it.
I now can’t wait to get back into exercise after having so many months not being able to do anything much, due to back and pelvic pain in pregnancy, but I know not to rush this especially as I’m a runner. There is a recommendation to wait 6 weeks before you get back into exercise, once you have been checked out and I’ve read you should wait much longer to start to run after that. Sad face. I’ll probably wait 5 months until I run, once my abs and pelvic floor are stronger.
I’m not going to rush even though I want my body back. I’m taking it slow. I’ve been walking in the lovely spring fresh air and doing my pelvic floor exercises and that is it. Soon I will introduce some postnatal yoga, more pelvic floor work (this is now a lifelong thing mama) and ab exercises. Don’t push yourself too far, you can do more damage than good and always see a professional if you have pelvic floor or ab problems.
The 4th trimester is a time to be kind to yourself. Your body has done a huge thing, an amazing thing and you have your baby. It is hard; lots of crying, feeding, lack of sleep and getting used to being a mummy! Therefore, you must be kind to yourself. Don’t look at your body and think it should snap back, it won’t. Don’t worry that you have lost your marbles, you haven’t. Days will be tough and emotional. Don’t be harsh to yourself and don’t try too hard to get back to ‘normal’, physically or mentally. Give yourself time to adjust to this new life.
Oh yes the old adage ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’. I make myself do this, this time around. Naps make such a difference to you and go to sleep as soon as the baby does. You’ll feel refreshed and with a toddler around too, I’m better with him when he comes back from nursery!
I’ve had some really tough days mentally. Some days I think I cannot cope and other days I feel accomplished. Its a real rollercoaster. It’s really nice to have some mantras you can repeat to yourself when you are struggling. ‘I am calm, confident and capable’ is one of my favourites.
Your body has been through a lot and if you are breastfeeding you need to make sure you are feeding your body well. Make sure you have a lovely balanced diet with lots of veggies, carbs and protein but allow yourself some treats. If there ever is a time for cake, its in these first 3 months.
I’ve documented every day in a journal. Part for my sanity and part for the memory capture. I find it therapeutic to write how the day has been and what I’m grateful for and I hope to be able to read it back in years to come as a wonderful memory of my boy being so little.
These are the things that have helped me survive the first 6 weeks, and it truly is survival. It is intense and brutal, but know you are not alone. Hormones are a bitch. It does get better and it does get easier. And there’s always caffeine until that time.