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What is the Fourth Trimester?

And how to prepare for it...

If you're pregnant at the moment, it is very likely you have learnt all about the three trimesters of pregnancy. From those early days with your head in the toilet bowl, to the middle which is usually the part where the glowing (hopefully!) begins, to the end where you begin to come to terms with the fact that soon, a brand new human will be joining you earthside.


So...you have got the first three trimesters pretty much covered. But have you heard of the fourth trimester? This is the name given to those first 3-4 months after your baby arrives. It is thought that this arose from the belief that human babies are actually born a whole trimester early in order to be able to fit through our pelvises. But whether that is true or not, the reality is the fourth trimester absolutely exists and is a time that can be planned for with as much reverence as that of the birthing day.


For many, it is an exciting time that is spent getting to know your new baby. A time to be treasured and revered. Also it is a time that can be difficult, tiring and overwhelming. You have just brought an entire human being in to the world after all. 


One of the best things you can do for yourself in those last few weeks of pregnancy is to give yourself the opportunity to prepare for this time. 


Some things to think about include:


Visitors


Is there anyone in your life that you wouldn’t feel comfortable getting your boobs out in front of? Yes? Then you might not want to have those people visit in the first few weeks of your baby’s life. Even if you are not breastfeeding it is important to feel able to be and do whatever you need to in those early days postpartum. Want to not wash your hair for a week? Do it. Want to live in your pjs? That is your right. Want to not think about tidying up/making cups of tea for other people whilst smuggling an ice pack in your knickers? I don't blame you.


Visitors are wonderful but if you feel like it is going to add pressure to you or make you feel like you need to be anything other than your wonderful postpartum self in all your glory then perhaps consider asking them not to come straight away. Some people request no visitors at the hospital. Some suggest only extremely close family/friends and limit the visits to around 30 minutes. Others don't see anyone/only their partner/other children for a month. The point is trying your best not to worry about other people's feelings and knowing that it is ok to do what is best for you. You may be surprised by how understanding people can be that people with a newly acquired human may just wish to have quiet time with a select few (or none!) of their closest people. And if people aren't supportive, unfortunately they may just have to lump it. You're not doing this to intentionally upset anyone but you will never get those early days back. Postpartum life can be an adjustment and you deserve the time to settle. It can also help to remind people that there will be plenty of time for baby cuddles on the other side. Especially at 2am if they'd like to be really helpful.  


Food


Having something easy but nutritious to eat will be invaluable to you post baby. Your body needs fuel to recover well. Some options could include:

  • Organising a Meal train - you or a partner or friend can have the task of getting all of your family and friends together and getting each person to take a day or two in those first weeks to drop you a home cooked meal/takeaway off. Instead of ringing the bell (there may be a baby sleeping!) the food fairies drop the food at the door and text you once they have left so you can go and retrieve it without feeling the pressure to make small talk or invite people in before you are ready.

  • Batch cooking - You could also fill those nesting needs by batch cooking and freezing a whole load of your favourite meals. Again, this is something friends and family can also help with. Things that work well include anything saucy like spag bol or curry and things like chilli, soups, strews and broths.

  • Takeaway vouchers - If people are wondering what to buy you as a baby gift, request vouchers for some of your favourite food apps. You can have these in your back pocket for those days when you are simply too tired, fancy something tasty or your batch cooked meals have ran out.


Trust me, thinking about this one in advance will be a life saver. A full belly with a small baby is half the battle!


Overnight/daytime support


Once the initial new baby haze wears off and the visitors (if you're having them) stop coming, the following weeks with a newborn can be exhausting. If you have someone who you can ask in advance to give you some extra hands on or even overnight support during those weeks, it can be game changing. This can take the form of a trusted friend, family member or postnatal doula. Even though lots of people like to stay close to their newborn for obvious reasons, it is important you are also able to squeeze in some rest and do things like have a shower or go to the toilet in peace. Even if you have someone to hold the baby for half an hour whilst you or your partner (if you have one) grab a quick nap, those half an hours add up and can make all the difference. If you're keen to have your baby close, these helpers can also support you by doing things around the house. They can stay on top of the washing pile, run the hoover round or make you something to eat. There are many ways to be cared for so don't be afraid to let people know what will work for you.


Something else you may wish to consider is the care of other children you may have. If you have other children at home they may well need some extra support and nurturing whilst getting used to having a new baby in the house or even just the change in routine. Having an extra pair of hands means that they get some extra attention which can ease the transition. The extra person may also be able to support by holding your newborn whilst you get some snuggles and connection in with your other child/children which you will all benefit from.


All in all, an extra person you can trust and rely on during this time to take care of your needs so you can take care of your baby can be a truly wonderful thing. Sometimes we have to create the 'village' we hear so much about and you may be surprised by how happy people are to be given specific jobs that they know are going to make a real difference to your early postpartum life.


Bodywork


This is one that is often forgotten but, as a trained holistic therapist, it is one of the ones I am very passionate about. Massage, chiropractic work, seeing a women's physio, scar support/massage (for caesarean births) and gentle stretching. All of these things can be so important in those early weeks and months to support your body and mind to heal. You may need to consult with your medical professionals prior to certain activities and work with someone qualified to support people in the postnatal period but giving your body time, love and space to recover can be invaluable. And it needn’t be expensive. If these kind of treatments aren’t something you can stretch to, there are lots of things you can do at home too. Think warm sitz baths, rubbing nourishing oils in to your muscles and asking those around you to support you to gently move your body in ways that supports your recovery.


So, why bother?


We know that there are lots of things to think about in the run up to having your baby and what happens afterwards can be far from your mind. So, why would you want to bother considering all of the above?


Firstly, you will never regret taking some time to plan for the period after your birth. It will never be something you look back on and say “Oh god, what a waste of time making sure I was well looked after.” You have just brought an entire human in to the world and it is so important you take some time to think about your own recovery.


Motherhood can be a time when we learn very quickly to put our needs to one side but I am here to tell you, even though you now have a small human (or two...) - YOU STILL MATTER.


And in fact, self-care during this period is not just a nice to have it is essential for your own and your baby's wellbeing. After all, being well in yourself allows you to give to your baby from your overflow instead of scraping the bottom of an empty barrel.


Start your parenting journey as you mean to go on by showing yourself (and your new little human) just how much you deserve to be cared for. You wont regret it!


And of course, if you are at a loss of where to start, or you feel like you might need some extra back up - that’s what your friendly neighbourhood postnatal doula is for!


If you need any help making your postnatal plan please let me know, I would  be very happy to support you and help you be loved, looked after and prioritised like the absolute birthing badass you are. Perhaps you'd like to book a birthy power hour where we can come up with a complete postnatal plan or ask about my postnatal doula services where I come along and support you directly. Click the buttons below to find out more.


Happy Postnatal Planning!





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