The Fourth Trimester - Adjusting to Motherhood
The Fourth Trimester is commonly used to describe the first 12 weeks after your baby’s birth. It is a time during which your baby is adjusting to life outside of the comfort and security of the womb.
Your baby has spent 9 months cosy and safe in your womb. Suddenly they enter a world where their senses are overloaded with sights, sounds, smells and new experiences. It is a time of huge adjustment, which is why it is perhaps understandable that babies tend to cry most during this time, starting to settle down once the 4th trimester has passed.
But it is not only your baby who experiences a huge adjustment in the 4th trimester. Nothing can truly prepare you for the absolute whirlwind that is motherhood, especially in the early weeks and months. Antenatal classes and chats with Mum friends can help prepare you practically, but emotionally…that is a whole different board game!
Your baby isn’t the only one who may be in need of a little TLC during the 4th trime
ster. Your body has just grown and birthed a small human - it has some recovering to do! On top of this, you suddenly have this new identity,“Mum”, that can at times feel all consuming. Your relationship with your partner and friends may feel different. The responsibility of looking after a baby and nurturing its development can feel overwhelming. You may feel under pressure to “prove yourself” as a good Mum. Your old life can feel like a distant memory and you may start to wonder what on earth you have done! Sleep deprivation, heightened emotions and hormones can combine to leave us feeling pretty overwhelmed and depleted, both physically and emotionally.
If this applies to you, it can be helpful to keep the concept of the 4th trimester in mind. Just like the trials and tribulations of each trimester of pregnancy - such as the nausea and discomfort - this too shall pass in time. Take the pressure off yourself during the 4th trimester. Remove the pressure to “return to normal”, to seem like the all-together-Mum, and don’t compare yourself to others - or at least your perceptions of others’ postnatal journeys.
Getting out to mother and baby groups can be daunting at first but it can help to share your experiences with other Mums and realise that you are not alone. Mum focussed classes, like Postnatal Pilates or Yoga, can also be hugely beneficial, allowing y
ou to take a little bit of time for you and helping to support you through your physical and emotional postnatal restoration.
Don't be afraid to speak out if you need support. To your partner, your family or your friends. If you don’t feel you can speak to those close to you, or need more professional support, don’t hesitate to seek it. Keep your goals and expectations modest in the early days and don’t beat yourself up if somedays you feel like you haven’t achieved much at all. Allow yourself to enjoy all the little things that make motherhood so special, and don’t beat yourself up when you feel tired, stressed or overwhelmed. Accept that somedays you will feel elated, tired, overjoyed, overwhelmed, stressed and blissful all in one day! Sometimes just in one morning! Give yourself time to settle into motherhood. To allow your body to recover, your emotions to settle, and your confidence to build day by day. Above all, remember you are not alone, you are a Mum and you have got this! x
Some sources of support for new Mums:
Local Mum and baby groups and classes
Your Health Visitor and/or Children and Families Centre
Specialist support organisations and charities such as:
Family Lives www.familylives.org.uk
The Association for Postnatal Illness www.apni.org
PANDAS Foundation (support and advice for parents experiencing perinatal illness) www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
Birth Trauma Association www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk
UK National Breastfeeding Helpline www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk
National Childbirth Trust www.nct.org.uk
Cry-sis (advice and information on dealing with a sleepless and/or crying baby) www.cry-sis.org.uk
Bliss (for families of premature or sick babies) www.bliss.org.uk
Twins and Multiple Births Association www.TAMBA.org.uk