The Fourth Trimester
This was something I heard about on & off when I was pregnant but I never really paid much attention to it. It wasn’t until Teddy was about a week old and I text my sister wondering what the fuck was going on. I had been up all night, holding a baby that wouldn’t be put down for love or money, breast milk in areas where one should never have breast milk and my hair in a top knot that I swear, if I had removed the bobble, it wouldn’t budge an inch.
I couldn’t get anything done that took longer than two minutes because Teddy would wail like a banshee until I picked him up and fed him. That goes for at night time too! He wouldn’t be put down so I found myself either walking around the bedroom or sat up in bed with the support of 100’s of cushions feeding for hours & hours on end. Only being able to put him down at the crack of dawn where he would sleep in between us until 9/10am. Those four or five hours of sleep where everything.
My Sister yet again reminded me that this behaviour is completely, 100% normal and forwarded me the link to Sarah Hockwell-Smiths article on The Fourth Trimester. This article literally saved my life and I finally looked at motherhood in a whole different light. I could completely relate to every single thing she said and I remember sitting in bed, sobbing whilst reading it because I realised I wasn’t alone and the things I had been experiencing & feeling where normal. Nothing was wrong with me or my baby, he wasn’t broke and I wasn’t imaging things.
The fourth trimester starts from the moment your baby is born until they are around three months old; so contrary to what you actually think at the time, it will not last forever! As Sarah put it, to empathise with our babies and understand how they are feeling, we need to put ourselves in their position. They have spent the past 9 months in their own little womb world. Secure and safe with their mummy. They are then suddenly out in our world and it’s a bloody huge shock. Basically.
They have gone from being somewhere dark, constantly warm and being in constant contact with their mummy to somewhere bright, fluctuating temperature and reduced contact with their mummy who, up until then, has literally been their whole world. It’s also important to remember that in the womb their life was exactly the same, everyday, for nine months to a world that is ever changing!
Your new baby has to completely rely on you for everything; care, attention and love. Your baby only has their instinct and reflexes to help them control their behaviour and movement. Contrary to what people say, you can NOT spoil a baby! It really pisses me off when people say you are making a ‘rod for your own back’ by always picking your baby up when they are crying or cuddling them to sleep. I personally think it’s a load of bollocks. If Teddy needs me to hold, snuggle and love him to help him sleep and feel safe..i’m sure as shit going to do it! I don’t care what anyone else says.
How We Survived The Fourth Trimester
Co-Sleeping; I will be doing a whole other post on this but for those of you who follow me on social media or have read my previous posts, you will know that we co-slept with Teddy from around one/two weeks old until he was about 8 weeks and it was a complete life saver. I know co-sleeping isn’t for everyone and a lot of people don’t feel comfortable but when your baby is cluster feeding and won’t be put down to sleep, you have to do what you have to do.
Feed On Demand; Teddy is still fed on demand and probably will be for a while. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, making sure that your baby gets nourishment as & when they need it- rather than sticking to a set schedule. Feeding to a schedule is possibly easier, especially when bottle feeding as you can plan and prepare your bottles in advance but as I am breastfeeding, I can just feed Teddy whenever and wherever he needs. Whether it’s every hour or every three.
Fuck The Routines; Don’t worry yourself with trying to get your baby into a routine. If your baby naturally falls into one then fine, but don’t stress if they don’t! Teddy is three months old and we still aren’t in any sort of permanent routine. Other than starting his bath, boob and bed routine at 7pm, we just wing it during the day. He naturally starts getting tired around 7pm which is why we have adapted to what works for him.
Mummy Club; Having a support network, especially during the early days, is essential. Whether it’s friends or family, just having people to talk to and get advice from when you need it most! My mummy club saved my life. I am the first person out of my circle of friends to have a baby so finding other pregnant gals’ or new mums to chat to in the middle of the night or during your 2000th feed of the day is one of the main reasons I survived the fourth trimester. Whether they are IRL friends or someone you can chat to online who you feel comfortable with; go for it! A problem shared and all that..
Relax; Easier said than done but honestly, take a breath and relax. You are doing, what I think, is one of the hardest things in the world. For some people motherhood happens naturally and they take everything in their stride. For me, it took a little while to adapt and realise that as long as I am doing whatever works best for me and Teddy, then bugger everyone else.
I hope you have found this post useful if you are pregnant or a new mummy, or if it brought back memories of your babies early days? My Dear Mama series is going to be a series of posts all about things I wish I had known more about or certain subjects that I would love to have heard from personal experience!